Ready to start or grow your eBay business? These tips and tools from eBay Certified Providers will help you reach your business goals.

EBay Certified Providers
EBay Certified Providers are eBay-qualified experts able to help sellers with proven tools and techniques. Certified Providers have highly sophisticated offerings for expert sellers--and easy-to-use services and solutions for people just starting their businesses on eBay.

There are two types. Certified Service Providers give nontechnical help with listing strategy, template design and similar matters. Certified Solution Providers can help with software and technical services, including listing management software, custom software development and integrating your business with the eBay platform. Between the two, you can get assistance with marketplace strategy, merchandising design, financing, customer support, sourcing, fulfillment, managing inventory or transactions, sales reporting and more.

For an example of a Certified Service Provider, consider As Was. This service, provided by an experienced eBay seller, can help you launch your business on eBay with custom templates, logo design, strategies for sales and marketing, vendor recommendations, operations management, training, copywriting and more. To learn more about the company's services and costs, visit www.aswas.com.

Receller is one Certified Solution Provider that makes listing an item for sale on eBay as simple as snapping a picture with your camera phone. You photograph an item, send it to Receller using your phone, and a listing coach calls you back to take the information for your listing. This service is a boon to new eBay sellers because their coaches apply eBay selling best practices to help you get the best results from your listing. Learn more about Receller's range of services at www.receller.com.

There are many more Certified Providers (see "Helping Hands" on page 75), and more expert solution and service providers are being certified all the time. To find the right Certified Provider for you, visit http://solutions.ebay.com, and look for the Certified Provider logo.

Education Specialists are another type of eBay-qualified expert specializing in training. There are more than 1,000 Education Specialists in communities all across the United States. All are trained by eBay and teach using the official eBay University curriculum. You can learn more about the Education Specialists program or find one in your area at www. ebay.com/esp.

Digital Photo Tips
Pictures are vital to creating effective listings--the better your pictures, the better your listings will work. Start with the right camera. You don't need large prints. The large files created by many high-resolution digital cameras are too bulky to upload easily and use in listings; small 72 dpi images are fine.

One solution is to use one of the Casio cameras with the "eBay Best Shot" mode; these cameras cost between $250 and $400 (all prices street). This feature automatically reduces the size of the picture and overall file size. If your camera does not do this, you will often need to resize your photo and perhaps change the quality to me-dium or so to make it easier to load in your listing. If you're listing small items, you'll need the ability to use a macro lens for tight close-ups. It's also a good idea to choose a camera that lets you use external flashes for better lighting. Control over white balance helps if you photograph in light other than daylight. Finally, you'll want a camera that's easy to connect to your computer for uploading images.

When you're shooting an item, try to use natural light. If you can't, consider an external flash rather than one built into the camera. Focus carefully--soft-focus pictures look fuzzy and unappealing. Also think about the scale of the item. Consider putting an item of known size, such as a penny for small items, next to your item in the picture. A ruler helps give more precise size indications.

Don't neglect the background. The best is white seamless paper, available from professional camera shops.

Sell Your Item

The "Sell Your Item" form is the eBay seller's gateway to the 193 million registered eBay users. The newest version of the "Sell Your Item" form features a simplified listing process with fewer pages and fields, cuting down on the time it takes to create a listing. You enter all your details on one page, and you can review it before completing the listing. You can also customize the form to hide options you don't use, showing only the ones you do use.

You can create attractive and colorful item descriptions with more than 120 colors and twice as many fonts as the form's previous version. The new form also supports the Firefox browser. There is a "category suggestions" feature that gives you advice on listing your item in the best category for maximum exposure. Other additions are dynamic help and personalized tips, which automatically provide guidance and best practices as you make your way through the form.

The new form also offers a listing preview section that helps you see in advance what your listing will look like when potential buyers see it. Finally, there are reusable listing templates to make it easier for you to list additional items. Learn more about the new "Sell Your Item" form at http://pages.ebay.com/syi/newform.

What Would You Sell?
Before you can sell on eBay, you need to have something to sell. The good news is, you almost certainly already do. What Would You Sell? is an eBay feature that helps you identify items you own that you could sell on eBay. It also helps you see how similar items have fared, decide whether to sell yours and get help in listing them.

Here's how it works: What Would You Sell? displays mock-ups of rooms in a typical house, such as the living room, bedroom, kitchen and garage. Clicking on a tab naming one of these areas switches you to the appropriate mock-up. Then click on one of the items in the picture--for example, a painting on the living room wall. A small window will pop up with information about similar items on eBay; for instance, art sells on eBay every 14 seconds. Clicking a link in the pop-up takes you to recently completed listings for items in that category.

Another link on the What Would You Sell? page takes you directly to a "Sell Your Item" form so you can instantly begin the process of turning your unwanted items into cash. If you need selling tips, another link takes you to Seller Central. Learn more about What Would You Sell? at http://pages.ebay.com/sellercentral/whatwouldyousell/what_to_sell_house.html.

Shipping Center
Fulfillment is a vital part of eBay selling, and the Shipping Center is your eBay tool for handling logistics cost- and time-effectively. The shipping tools available here let you do things such as include a flat shipping rate in your listings or use the eBay Shipping Calculator so that buyers can use their own ZIP codes to figure out their shipping cost.

When it comes time to ship a customer's purchase, the Shipping Center helps you buy and print labels for both domestic and international UPS and U.S. Postal Service shipments. You can also use the Shipping Center to request a pickup from UPS or USPS, saving you time and gas money on a trip to the drop-off location. Finally, you can track shipments using either My eBay or PayPal's "Account Overview" feature.

Links from the Shipping Center take you to sources for shipping supplies on eBay, a helpful video to save you time on shipping, and eBay's Freight Resource Center, where you will find tools to calculate shipping rates and arrange shipment for items over 150 pounds.

eBay charges no fees for Shipping Center services, and you can pay carriers for the cost of shipping and insurance through PayPal. Learn more about the Shipping Center at www.ebay.com/shipping.

Marketplace Research

One thing differentiating businesses on eBay that grow from those that don't is the owners' level of eBay market knowledge. A number of market-place data and software tools from eBay and third parties can help businesses on eBay research their markets to improve results.

eBay's own Marketplace Research is a recent introduction that provides consolidated metrics on up to 90 days of completed items and allows for sophisticated analysis. Marketplace Research is priced in three tiers: Fast Pass for the casual user; Basic for those who want to handle variables such as starting price ranges and number of successful sales; and Pro, which allows for research by related keywords, among other advanced features.

Third-party provider Terapeak uses data licensed from eBay. The web-based service lets sellers and buyers look back through extended time periods to find price trends for completed listings on specific products, along with other sophisticated research tools. Costs range from $9.95 a month to $16.95 a month. Learn more about Terapeak at www.terapeak.com.

DeepAnalysis market research software from HammerTap can do a number of powerful analyses, such as studying how starting price compares to bids. You can also use it to figure out the best category for your items by looking at the number of bids or selling prices for similar items. Learn more about HammerTap and get cost information at www.hammertap.com.

Andale's Research tools help eBay sellers find the success rate and average selling price of any item and identify the price most likely to increase your sales volume. Research services can be purchased a la carte; learn more at www.andale.com.

Seller Central
If you want to build your business, you should become familiar with Seller Central. It's the mother lode for tips, tools, information and other resources for eBay sellers.

Seller Central is organized into sections. Best Practices presents time-tested approaches for selling on eBay. Its recommendations are based on the techniques used by eBay's most successful sellers. Advanced Selling is for those who are ready to go beyond the basics. Category Tips directs you to specific resources arranged by category to help you fine-tune your approach to fit your category.

What's Hot gives you a look at the items and categories that are in demand, and also provides you with a preview of eBay's merchandising calendar so you'll know about upcoming promotions in time to prepare for them. News & Updates gives you a link to sign up for the PowerUp newsletter, a monthly e-mail with the insider's view of new selling features, promotions and tools.

The "In Demand" section within Category Tips is especially helpful. This shows you the top 10 items in your category and the top 10 buyer search words.

What's left? The catchall "Resources" link takes you to a page with scores of tools and links on topics from deciding what to sell to eBay's Giving Works charity tool. Learn more about Seller Central at http://pages.ebay.com/sellercentral.

What Buyers Want
You can find out what buyers are looking for by using several eBay resources for sellers who want to build their businesses on eBay. Reviews & Guides is a tool buyers can use to decide what to buy and sellers can use to look inside buyers' minds. The "Reviews" section contains eBay user-written comments and ratings for specific products, such as books and CDs. The "Guides" section consists of hand-books written by experts, collectors and other members to give you insight into topics ranging from collectible dolls to caring for antiques. Learn more about Reviews & Guides at http://reviews.ebay.com.

You can browse the Want It Now listings to find out exactly what buyers are looking for, in their own words. Buyers can create Want It Now posts to tell millions of sellers, including you, what they want to purchase. Learn more about this free service at http://pages.ebay.com/wantitnow.

Part of the "What's Hot" portion of Seller Central is the "Hot Categories Report," a monthly listing of categories that meet certain criteria for month-to-month growth in bids and conversion rates. Find out which categories are Super Hot--boasting at least a

35-percentage point spread between bid growth rate and listing growth--to identify your most promising categories. Learn more about the "Hot Categories Report" at http://pages.ebay.com/sellercentral/whatshot.html.

Picture Manager
eBay's new Picture Manager is a fully integrated service to help you post pictures for your listings. With Picture Manager, you save time by tapping into all your pictures from the "Sell Your Item" form or My eBay. You won't have to leave eBay to change, add or remove pictures. You won't have to upload pictures for each individual listing, and you can add multiple pictures to any listing without paying an extra fee.

You can transfer all the pictures you already have on eBay to Picture Manager with a single click. Once you do so, Picture Manager gives you a single place to host all your pictures for About Me and eBay Stores as well as listings. Security tools allow you to add your User ID to your pictures as a watermark. Picture Manager is priced in several levels, from $9.99 a month for 50MB to $24.99 a month for 1GB. Featured Store sellers get discounted rates, and Anchor Store sellers can subscribe to Picture Manager at any level for no fee. Learn more about Picture Manager at http://pages.ebay.com/picture_manager.

Shopping Comparison Sites

Did you know that more than half of online shoppers use a shopping comparison site to make their buying decisions? And the comparison site they use most is Shopping.com, a part of eBay since August 2005. Shopping.com is a place shoppers can go to compare prices, availability and shipping costs from thousands of vendors in a single location. When shoppers make their selections, they're directed to the chosen vendor to complete their purchase. Using shopping comparison sites effectively is an excellent way to expand an offline business on eBay.

You can join the merchants listed on Shopping.com, including some of the world's largest as well as many much smaller vendors, by providing the site with a listing of your products in a format specified by the service. Shopping.com will create your list for a fee, but there is no fee if you create the list yourself. After you enroll, Shopping.com gives you directions for uploading your list to the site. After that, you pay only when shoppers click on your product listing to go to your buying page from within the Shopping.com search results. Learn more about Shopping.com, including fees, at www.shopping.com.

Paypal Merchant Tools
PayPal is the preferred way to pay and to be paid for online transactions. This eBay-owned service gives you the ability to cost-effectively handle credit and debit cards as well as bank transfers and PayPal account balances. Your customers don't need to have PayPal accounts to pay you, and there are four service levels to meet the specific needs of your business.

PayPal Website Payments Standard lets you start accepting payments today without delays for approval. You don't need a shopping cart or any annual commitment, and there are no monthly fees or charges for startup or cancellation of the standard service. However, there are transaction fees. If you want to upgrade to an extra level of services, you can pay a monthly fee to be able to accept credit cards by phone, fax, mail or in person.

PayPal Website Payments Pro gives U.S.-based merchants the features of merchant accounts without the same high costs. After you complete an application and receive approval, your customers can pay you by credit card directly on your website as well as by phone, fax, mail or in person. PayPal Website Payments Pro costs $20 a month in addition to transaction fees.

PayPal Email Payments lets you get paid quickly by e-mail. It's fast and easy to set up--just 10 minutes, and you don't need to have a website. You can e-mail out invoices and be paid through PayPal. Customers don't need a PayPal account to send funds to your account--they can do so when they receive your e-mailed invoice. And the optional "Virtual Terminal" feature lets you accept credit cards via phone, fax, mail or in person.

PayPal as an Additional Payment Option is a way for merchants who already have a merchant account to add PayPal and give customers another way to pay. Learn more about PayPal Merchant Tools at www.paypal.com.

Merchant eCommerce Solutions Center
Established offline businesses looking to expand to eBay can get an all-points introduction to the world of eBay Stores at the Merchant eCommerce. With a single click, you can pull up a matrix comparing eBay's e-commerce solutions, including selling on eBay with an eBay Store, selling online with a ProStores web store and selling on eBay without an eBay Store.

Additional links take you to articles on e-commerce and other eBay merchant resources, including PayPal. If you have slow-moving inventory you want to get rid of or a local presence you'd like to expand worldwide, or you simply want to explore the potential of eBay to drive online shoppers to your business, the Merchant eCommerce should be your first stop.

The site also gives you a code for a free customized phone consultation with an eBay Seller OnRamp Advisor. Learn more about the Merchant eCommerce by visiting www.ebay.com/merchant solutions.

For a complete list of Certified Providers' services to boost your business on eBay, click here.