Can you still make money on eBay?

The secrets to selling your stuff online

If there’s one company that has shaped the way the modern consumer shops, it’s eBay. Before the Internet became the ultimate shopping center and a thriving e-commerce marketplace, eBay presented shoppers with a unique concept: an auction platform that enabled businesses and individuals the freedom to buy and sell a wide variety of items online.

While it’s a common concept today, 15 years ago eBay offered a disruptive commerce model that was unlike anything else. The fact that the site still maintains a base of some 112.3 million active users is a clear testament to the company’s competitive edge and user-friendly design.

According to Mashable, eBay buyers purchase an average of $1,900 worth of goods every minute. From vintage motorcycles to trendy clothing, eBay sellers hawk it all - and you can too. Whether you’re looking to build an e-commerce empire or simply hoping to offload some stuff from your storage unit, eBay has all the tools you need to become a successful online entrepreneur.


Getting started

Before you build your eBay account, take some time to research the platform and make sure that it’s right for you. Commonly referred to as an ‘online flea market’, eBay is the perfect place for selling merchandise that’s somewhat distressed…but there’s a catch. When it comes to selling used and secondhand items, eBay sellers can expect to encounter an extremely competitive price environment. Unless you have something that is rare, unique, or priced lower than the average retailer, you’re going to have trouble closing a lot of profitable sales.

What’s more, you’ll want to carefully consider which account type is right for you. If you’re hoping to leverage the site as a true e-commerce platform, you’ll likely want to register with a business account.

Business accounts are designated for users who are looking to sell:

  • items that they have bought to resell;
  • items that they have produced themselves to sell;
  • a large amount of goods on a regular basis; and/ or
  • new items that they have not acquired for personal use.

Business seller accounts come with a number of built-in benefits, like branded storefronts, company names, and handy tax tools. If you aren’t sure whether you should register as a business or an individual, eBay recommends contacting your legal advisor. He or she will help you better understand your legal obligations as an online seller.


Get your feet wet

Managing an online store and auction can be a tricky job, especially if you’ve never done it before. As such, it’s important to start out slow when listing items in your account. Customer service is key on a platform like eBay, so take your time populating your store. If you’re slow to respond to buyer questions or sales requests, you risk receiving negative reviews that could ultimately hurt your store’s credibility.


It pays to be polite

Customer service isn’t just important when it comes to maintaining relationships with your current customers; courteous service also contributes to your ability to find new clients on the platform. Sellers who regularly receive high customer reviews turn up higher in product search results than competitors with lower ratings. They also earn a higher public feedback profile, which helps build trust within the community.

Finally, sellers who consistently collect positive reviews can also become part of the top-rated seller program. Program benefits include discounts on UPS shipping rates and eBay’s final value fees.


Think like a consumer

A basic listing on eBay is made up of three parts: photos, a product description, and terms. If you’re going to be successful on the platform, you’re going to want to spend some time perfecting these elements.

First, remember to take as many quality photos of your product as possible. eBay allows up to 12 photos for each listing posted to the site, so feel free to take advantage of this. You should also make an effort to keep your terms as simple as possible. Consider using a bulleted list to display your shipping, handling, payment, and return policies. Leave the robust copy for your product descriptions.


Get strategic

Once you’ve mastered the basics of listing and managing your eBay items, it’s time to dig deeper and really leverage the platform. Here are some insider tips to help you get the most out of your postings:

  • List your product on a Thursday afternoon or evening. This gives it time to run for ten days with visibility over two weekends (when lots of sales action and traffic occurs).
  • Offer free shipping. Including the cost of shipping in your product builds goodwill with your customers and makes the buying process easier.
  • Be honest about any flaws. The more truthful you are in your product description, the happier your customers will be with their purchase and the more likely they will be to leave a positive customer review.
  • Do some keyword research. Include important terms in the title and description of your item. For example, if you’re selling a movie, try and include the movie title, names of the lead actors, and information on the director in the listing.

Trash or treasure?

A garage sale for the 21st century, eBay is an easy way to purge your life of stuff while making a little money on the side. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

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