How To Sell On eBay For Beginners [The Definitive Guide]
Estimated reading time: 22 minutes 30 seconds.
This year, eBay will be 26 years old.
A lot has happened in 26 years. With technological advances taking trillions of dollars off the streets and into the digital space, ecommerce has exploded. And going into 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping us indoors, the ability to buy online has never been more essential.
With a wealth of tools now available to beginners, it’s difficult to know where to start and how to get the best out of the eBay platform.
What are the basics of a successful eBay store today, how do you optimize them, and what can you leave for later?
If you are wondering any or all of these things, this guide is for you.
We will go through how to sell on eBay for beginners, step by step, covering:
- Why eBay?
- The 10 things all new sellers need to know up front
- How to sell on eBay guide: getting set up
- Choosing what to sell
- Choosing how to sell it
- Setting up your account
- Listing your products
- Understanding your payment methods
- Managing customer relationships
- Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro
- How to sell more on eBay
- Selling on eBay FAQs
- Why eBay sellers need A2X
Let’s get stuck in.
Anyone can start selling on eBay in minutes, and they can sell almost anything. With these open parameters, eBay has earned a reputation for being the marketplace of all things weird and wonderful: a market full of hidden treasures.
Over the years, eBay has become more than a place to flog your spring cleaning rejects. It’s not as big as Amazon, but eBay remains one of the major ecommerce players out there with nearly 200 million users worldwide.
And despite beginning life as an auction platform in 1995, 90% of its gross merchandise volume today comes from “Buy It Now” listings.
Typically, eBay sellers pay less in fees, have more options to customize their stores and selling formats, and still have access to millions of customers worldwide. With quick setup and almost no requirements to get started, it’s easy to see the attraction of selling on eBay.
An Overview: 10 Things to Know for eBay Newbies
Before we get stuck in with the practical steps to opening your eBay store, let’s throw on the breaks for a moment. There are a few things that anyone new to selling on eBay should be aware of up front:
There are restrictions on eBay newbies
As a new seller, you are able to sell up to 10 items per month or $500, whichever comes first. Your seller limits can be found and tracked in My eBay > Activity > Sell > All Selling > Monthly Limits. These restrictions protect buyers against fraud, and prevent you from making costly errors as you learn the ropes.
There are restrictions on everyone
Aside from newbie restrictions, eBay also prohibits and restricts certain products. You can find the list of prohibited and restricted items and eBay’s policies on them here.
There are fees - you can’t avoid them
Lots of people search “how to sell on eBay for free”, but the truth is, unless eBay runs a promotion you will always need to pay to list an item. Fees can go down as your seller rating goes up, so over time you can strategize how to lower your eBay fees. Basic selling fees consist of a listing fee and a final value fee.
You don’t need a PayPal account
If you want to sell on eBay, you don’t have to open a PayPal account. You still can, and PayPal is still a good payment gateway option, but it is not a requirement. eBay Managed Payments was introduced last year as the platform’s own integrated solution, and all sellers will be required to use it eventually.
eBay has a Global Shipping Program
Once you have earned the Above Average seller rating, you can utilize eBay’s Global Shipping Program to reach the rest of the world. It doesn’t cost any extra, and gives you more freedom to get your products out there. Check out our guide on everything you need to know here.
Sales tax needs to be a priority from day one
A few years ago, sales tax laws weren’t really applicable to ecommerce sellers without physical addresses. They could avoid collecting and paying tax - but that is far from the case today. Start safe and learn everything you need to know now. Use our guide on eBay sales tax here for help.
Don’t get caught shill-bidding
Shill-bidding is when a seller or their friends/family pose as a buyer and bid on items with no intention of buying them. This hikes up their value, and it is illegal. eBay is always looking for this too, so don’t risk it.
Don’t dropship your products from Amazon
If you are considering the popular ecommerce business model of dropshipping, don’t plan to do it between marketplaces. This is referred to as retail arbitrage. The platforms don’t like it, neither do customers, and you’ll probably get kicked off if you’re found out. Find out more about the kinds of dropshipping you can and can’t do.
Automation will set you free
There’s a lot to selling well on eBay, and if you’re a one (wo)man-band, it might feel daunting. You can have technology take over a huge range of the steps and tasks that we’ll discuss below for the long-term, giving you time to continue building and growing.
Get accounting software
The first piece of automation you need is for your accounts. If your goal is to be a professional seller and build a business through eBay, you need proper accounting software. Quickbooks, Xero and Sage are some of the best on the market, and they all integrate with A2X for top notch, seamless accounting. Find out more about simple eBay bookkeeping here.
How to Start eBay Selling: The Framework
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to maximizing your potential on eBay.
Here, we’ll take you through the journey of setup and for each step, let you know the best practice to optimize it. This way, you can build your basic framework first and go back to enhance steps or tackle it all in one go. The choice is yours.
If you are keen to give your business the best shot at success, check out our eBay Business Plan Template for sellers. Armed with this level of planning, you can ensure any decisions you make in the setup process will work towards your goals.
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
Step 1: What do you want to sell?
Don’t skimp on this crucial first step: there’s no point listing an item that won’t sell. You’ll need to do your research here.
When figuring out what to sell, consider these three things:
- Profitability: Product categories carry different eBay fees and these may change based on thresholds too. Run the numbers before investing in stock using an eBay fees calculator tool like SaleCalc.
- Demand: To figure out how much demand there is for products like yours, get familiar with sell-through rates. Search your item and filter the search by “sold” and “completed” listings. Divide this number by the amount of active listings for the same product, times it by 10 and you have a sell-through rate percentage. Any less than 40% is pretty low, and indicates you may be waiting months to sell the item.
- Competition: It may be a good place to start to check eBay’s top selling categories when choosing what to sell. You will have heavy competition at the top, but plenty of customers too, so they could be considered a safe place to start. For further inspiration, you could keep an eye on the Global Deals page with special offers on popular products.
Tools like Terapeak help eBay sellers track industry trends and market reports so that you can make an informed decision about your product choices. See more tools for eBay seller product research here.
Step 2: How do you want to sell it?
It may be music to your ears to hear that you don’t necessarily need to buy stock before you sell it. Not all ecommerce sellers start with warehouses of space, plenty of inventory and a fully-fledged fulfilment plan - in fact, that’s probably the minority of cases.
But if you plan to grow, then it’s important to plan your fulfilment strategy early on. Firstly, you need to figure out where you will get your stock and store it. This should help you make the second decision: how to ship your products.
Ecommerce business models
- Traditional: You buy stock and then sell and send it off yourself. This manual option gives you the greatest control but it will chew up a lot of your time. If you are looking to scale your business, you will need infrastructure (i.e., warehousing and probably staff) to help you.
- White Label: This involves buying products which you add your branding to. Sellers often manufacture or buy their products overseas to import for higher margins. The same product might also be branded and sold by another retailer too. Find out more about selling white label products on eBay here.
- Private Label: Similar to white label style, but you are the exclusive retailer for the product. Find out more about the comparison between white label and private label selling, what’s involved and which to pick.
- Dropshipping: A popular ecommerce model, dropshipping involves selling items that are manufactured, stored and shipped by another supplier. Find out more about the dropshipping model for eBay, its policies and how to get started here.
- Manual: As it sounds, this is all you. If you want to start small and ship all of your own orders, you are perfectly able to do so. With this method comes the greatest level of control over freight times and costs, as well as the unboxing experience for customers. The main limitation to manual fulfilment is scalability.
- Third Party: This involves storing your inventory with another supplier who packs and ships product orders for you. There was talk in 2019-20 of eBay introducing a Managed Delivery program, but this appears to have dissolved. Sellers need to look elsewhere for suppliers. Selling on Amazon FBA too? You may be able to send your eBay stock to their warehouses through the Multi-channel FBA program. Check out sites like Webretailer to look for third-party fulfilment suppliers.
- Dropshipping: If you have chosen the dropshipping route then your fulfilment is taken care of.
Step 3: Setting up your store
Once you have a solid plan in place, it’s time to take action!
Check out this helpful video from Zik Analytics for setting up an eBay store, or if you prefer written steps, scroll down.
*NB: You do not need to integrate a PayPal account, so if you don’t have one and don’t want one, ignore that step in the video and skip to 6m02s.*
- Navigate to the top left of the eBay homepage and select “register”.
- You will need to create an account. You can choose here to “create a business account”, but your business will need to already be registered to do this. Otherwise, you can start with a personal account and switch later on.
- Enter your business details and click “Register”. You will then be asked for a username. Enter this to continue.
- You should be sent back to the eBay homepage, logged in with your new username:
- Navigate to My eBay to customize your store. To see and select store subscription options, head to My eBay > Summary > Account > Subscriptions (under Selling).
- Select “choose a store” and you will see the various subscription options along with a comparison of each:
Optional additions to help your store stand out:
- Spending time on an About Me page. See this guide for tips on these.
- Change your Display Settings so you can control how buyers see your store. You can pick a theme, colors and fonts, as well as upload your own logo.
- Improve the user experience of your store. You can add search boxes or your own categories and departments. You can choose how your items are displayed and filtered. Think about how your customers would behave on your site and optimize accordingly.
- Experiment with custom pages. These give you the opportunity to talk more about your business, promote your products and make your store your own. You could add blogs, guides, FAQs, testimonials - anything to help customers trust and remember you. See these ideas for more personal touches.
Pro tip: Remember to keep SEO top of mind when writing any content for your eBay store, whether that’s information about your business or listing descriptions. eBay’s search engine looks for keywords just like Google does, so leverage that organic traffic. See our guide on eBay SEO tips and tricks for more on this and actionable steps to take.
Step 4: Listing a product
Optimized listings take work. Below are the steps to take to ensure that yours are top-notch.
If this becomes a particularly time-consuming area of your business, there are listing automation tools available to eBay sellers to help save time without sacrificing quality.
Our eBay SEO guide goes into optimizing the below for eBay’s search engine, so use this for extra detail and more background on SEO best practice.
Great product titles give buyers the key information they need upfront, including SEO keywords, in a reader-friendly fashion. Rather than listing features, e.g. “Lavender Oil, 15ml, New”, try “Fragrant Lavender Essential Oil for Diffusers, New 15ml Bottle”. See more examples of this in our SEO guide.
As with your titles, you want your descriptions to be easy to read, skim, and tell a story about the benefits of your products. Features can be saved to last or included in the Item Specifics. Paint a picture for your buyers of their lives with your product. Make sure to optimize these for SEO too.
Don’t rush getting good photos of your products. Buying online feels somewhat blind, so reassure buyers with lots of great quality images. If you skimp on this step, buyers might think you skimp on other aspects of your business, too.
eBay is unique in its huge range of categories. The benefit of this is that customers who have found you are more likely to convert, since they searched for something fairly specific to get to your store. That is, if you have picked only the most relevant categories to your products. How to choose the right categories for your items.
Auction or Buy It Now
eBay gives you the option to sell via either format or both. Although it has a reputation for being an auction platform, the vast majority of its items sell today by the fixed price or “Buy It Now” options. Research your competitors and products to see which format might suit best.
Get smart about your pricing. Make sure you look at completed listings for inspiration and take into account the overheads you will accrue when selling, i.e. the costs involved like fees, storage etc. Check out Sellbrite’s guide to pricing your items on eBay for help.
Use shipping calculators to list realistic charges. If you want to use eBay’s Global Shipping Program, you can opt into this too (as long as you have an Above Average seller rating). If you use GSP, you will still have one shipping cost to include: getting the item to the program’s center.
By spending time on each of these listing elements, you indicate to buyers that you are trustworthy, transparent and committed to their experience. These trust signals will help you convert and build brand loyalty.
They will also help eBay trust you too, and better ratings on eBay gets you greater visibility and lower fees.
Step 5: Activating payment gateways
Last year eBay launched Managed Payments, an integrated solution to simplify the payment process, consolidate fees and help sellers save time.
This is how it was introduced to users:
eBay will eventually require all of its sellers to use Managed Payments on the platform. Payment gateways will be chosen for you automatically, and payments sent straight to your bank account - no third parties.
There is some choice for payment gateways of non-Managed Payments sellers, but with eBay transitioning all onto the new system anyway, it would make sense to start using it straight away.
Step 6: Customer relationships and feedback
When a customer buys your product, their experience with you has only just begun. To foster brand loyalty, see their purchase as an investment in your company. Take care of them.
Building great customer relationships will positively impact your store exponentially. The better their experience, the more likely they are to give you stellar feedback and buy from you again.
The higher your feedback score, the better your seller rating. And you know what great seller ratings mean: priority in search results and less fees.
So what are some top tips for excellent customer service and drumming up feedback? Let’s see:
Keep them informed
Once your item has sold, let the buyer know what their wait times look like for shipping. Even if you have done this on your listing already, buyers will appreciate a prompt update and reassurance that the order will be completed. If anything goes wrong in transit or is delayed, make sure you let them know this too.
Give too much info rather than not enough
If a customer asks you a question, go above and beyond to answer it, as well as offering any additional resources or helpful insights on top. The more you invest your time in them, the better they’ll feel about buying from you.
Reply fast and friendly
Get back to them quickly and politely, no matter how polite they are (or aren’t). They may have contacted a few of your competitors too, so don’t delay!
Ask for reviews
If your customer had a good experience with you, don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. These are what will earn you better ratings and more sales, so are hugely important. You can automate this process to ensure you don’t miss any, and save as much time as possible. Selling Manager Pro offers this feature.
Add a personal touch
If you can, adding a personal touch to your orders offers a level of authenticity and familiarity that is otherwise lost in ecommerce. It shows extra care and attention to your buyers, and could help you stand out. This could be something as small as hand-written thank you note, beautiful wrapping inside for a special unboxing experience, or free samples of your other similar products.
A solid foundation
If you have implemented each of the steps above, you have an incredibly established eBay store for a beginner and solid foundation for success.
Not many sellers optimize every tool at their disposal, so by learning what’s out there and taking advantage, you can stand out from the crowd and wow your new customers.
Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro
eBay offers tools to its medium-large businesses to help them streamline and automate aspects of their ecommerce operations.
These include Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro.
Basic store subscribers can pay to use the tools, or Premium subscribers get them free.
They allow you to:
- Create listings in bulk
- View your listings based on status
- Bulk tasks on post-sales, like asking for feedback, emailing buyers or printing labels
- See records of your selling history
The pro version also allows you to:
- Manage inventory
- Use listing templates
- Download sales reports on your history
- Schedule listings and relist unsold items
As you grow your store, you may want to explore these further and sign up for them.
How to Sell More on eBay
In our guide 34 eBay Tips to Help You Sell More Products, we give you the low-down on best practice (and beyond) that you can leverage to smash your sales goals.
Check it out for detailed tips on everything from your listings to supplies, SEO and everything in between. Here are five tips to get you going:
1. Start strong
Get your foundations right first: great photos, strong titles, and descriptions with complete information. Buy and sell a few small things to get your feedback score up and get familiar with your competition and industry.
2. Use the eBay app for on-the-go product research
The eBay app allows you to scan barcodes and search relevant listings to see how much you could sell something for on the platform. You can also select “sell one like this” and have a lot of the listing information filled in for you - that’s peak efficiency.
3. Spread out listings rather than bulk drops
Bulk drops sound more efficient - and they are - but when it comes to scheduling your listings, spread them out. Regular content improves your SEO and your customer experience; those loyal to you will know to keep checking back in for new drops.
4. Pay attention to time
There are peak times during the day, week and year to open and close your auctions. Plan your listings around when your customers will be online looking for your item, and capture their attention then.
5. Get to know your suppliers
You can’t sell more or guarantee great customer experience without efficient fulfilment. If you have no stock, you have no sales. Get to know your suppliers in person if you can, their business, industry and its quirks. There may be slower seasons, freight obstacles or other specific issues that knowing ahead of time could save you a lot of time and money.
How to Sell on eBay FAQs:
Is it hard to sell on eBay?
It’s very easy to sell on eBay, and almost anyone can do it. It takes a few minutes to get set up, and more if you want to optimize your store, but the initial process is straightforward.
Selling on eBay only gets more complicated as you grow, but with plenty of guides out there like this one to help you, you have the resources at your fingertips.
Is it safe to sell on eBay?
The safest way to sell on eBay is to be transparent on your listings, understand your seller limits and avoid any prohibited or restricted items. As long as you sell within eBay’s rules and are honest with your buyers, you shouldn’t have problems on the platform.
Is it profitable to sell on eBay?
Of course! If you have a solid business model, sell profitable items at decent margins and have the fulfilment network to support growth, you can make good money on eBay.
There are plenty of free ways to increase your sales and drive profit too - this guide gives you a great place to start, with this one on tips to increase sales as a good next step.
Can I sell on eBay without a PayPal account?
Yes, you can sell on eBay without using PayPal. eBay launched Managed Payments last year, their integrated payments solution to help streamline the process and consolidate seller fees. To find out how to sell on eBay without PayPal, learn more about this alternative program here (which eBay will eventually require all sellers to use anyway).
Where can I find more eBay guidelines for sellers?
Great news! You’re in the right place. A2X has been working with ecommerce sellers and their accountants for years and on our blog, you can find detailed guides sharing the insights we have collected over the years.
As a new eBay seller, here’s a few you might be interested in:
- eBay Taxes: Answers to Your Questions (FAQ)
- eBay Managed Payments: Everything You Need to Know
- eBay Bookkeeping Made Simple with A2X
- The Best eBay Accounting Software for Sellers
What is the average selling time on eBay?
There is no one average selling time on eBay. This would depend on product, category and maybe even the country of origin. With such a range of items on the platform, to find out how long it could take you to sell something, you need to research your specific item.
To figure out how quickly you might sell an item, you need to calculate its sell-through rate. Compare completed versus active listings for products similar to or the same as yours.
Divide the number of sold or completed listings by the number of active and times it by 10 to get your percentage. Anything less than 40-50% could take weeks to sell.
How do I sell on eBay without fees?
Selling on eBay involves two base fees with any subscription-related costs on top, a listing insertion fee, plus a final value fee. You can’t sell on eBay and avoid fees entirely, however eBay does run seller promotions occasionally, often wiping listing fees for a limited time.
How do I sell on eBay without inventory?
A popular ecommerce fulfilment model is dropshipping. This allows sellers to list items without having them in stock. Orders are sent to and fulfilled by another supplier, with you as the middleman. This is a way to sell on eBay without buying inventory up front.
How do I sell on eBay without getting scammed?
Unfortunately, there are plenty of ecommerce scammers out there. This can look like a lot of different things on eBay because of the huge range of products sold there. The best way to avoid scams on eBay is to get to know your competitors and industry well. What are the scammers in your category after?
There are also some other basic signals to look out for, discussed in this blog.
Can I sell on eBay without using the auction format?
Yes, you can use the fixed price or “Buy It Now” listing format. Incidentally, this is proving more popular on eBay these days too, so it’s worth exploring for your products. Find out more about the pros and cons of auction vs. fixed-price listings in this article.
A2X: The eBay’s Seller’s Best Friend
Whether you’re a total ecommerce amateur or professional six-figure seller, accurate accounting should be your top priority. You can’t grow, or even survive without it.
This is what A2X does for eBay sellers:
How could manually reconciling the individual eBay orders in your accounting software be conducive to growth and maximum profitability? Well, with great difficulty.
It doesn’t leave you much time to strategize and lay the foundations to grow. Plus, you might make a costly mistake - humans are not built for repetitive tasks.
Accounting software should come first for any ecommerce seller, and with that, A2X. A2X organizes your accounts for you automatically so that you understand every fee you have paid, tax you have collected, costs you have incurred and all in the relevant month. None of this data would be laid out for you without it.
Psst… it also grows with you. So if you want to sell on eBay globally, or even on another platform, A2X has your back.
Also on the blog:
- eBay Business Plan Template
- eBay Managed Payments: Everything You Need to Know
- eBay Global Shipping Program: Everything You Need to Know
- The Best eBay Accounting Software for Sellers
- eBay Taxes: Answers to Your Questions (FAQ)
- eBay Bookkeeping Made Simple with A2X
Ready to get started?
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