Let the Bidding Begin

How Do You Sell on eBay

eBay is not a one-size-fits-all site--you can choose among several different types of auctions and fixed-priced ways to sell your merchandise. In a basic eBay auction, you post your item with a starting price (the amount at which bidding starts) and wait for bidders to drive the price up. You are then obligated to sell to the highest bidder when the auction closes.

You can also set a reserve price, which is a hidden minimum price that is the lowest amount you're willing to accept. Buyers are not shown what the reserve price is, and if it is not met, you are not obligated to sell the item.

eBay offers a "Buy It Now" feature that gives bidders the option to buy your item immediately for a set price. Or you can choose a fixed-price listing, which simply puts the item up for sale at a set price, with no bidding allowed.

If you have two or more identical items for sale, you can post them in the same auction by using a Dutch (or multiple-item) auction. In addition, eBay offers restricted-access auctions, which can be used for a variety of reasons, but primarily to make it easy for buyers and sellers to find or avoid adult-only merchandise.

In addition to auctions, you can also set up your own eBay store, which will allow you to sell auction and fixed-price merchandise from your special location on eBay. You'll pay a monthly fee based on the level of store services you want, plus additional fees for items listed and sold.

The Technical Side of eBay
eBay has evolved into one of the most user-friendly sites on the Internet. Getting set up as a user is a simple process that you can complete in just a few minutes. You'll be required to provide your name, address, e-mail and telephone number, as well as a credit card number and your checking account information. eBay uses this information to confirm your identity--which protects the integrity of its operation--and to collect auction fees. If your contact information changes, be sure to notify eBay immediately.

You must register in order to buy or sell on eBay, but you can browse around the site without registering. Before you do any business on eBay, be sure to take some time to get to know the site. Set aside several hours to get online and browse around, study listings, read the help pages, understand the various tools and how you can use them, check out the forums, and get comfortable with how the site works.

Once your business is up and running, you'll probably want to consider using supplemental auction management software, which will save time and money, make you more efficient, and improve the level of customer service you offer.

Post With the Most
With more than 61 million registered users, eBay offers a huge field of prospective customers for your business. But don't just throw up an auction and expect to get top dollar without any effort. Some tips for marketing your eBay listings include:
  • Grab your customers' attention with a sharp headline. You get 45 characters for your headline; make each one count. Your headline should clearly indicate what you're auctioning.
  • Write great descriptions. Take the time to compose complete descriptions that fully describe the item and your sales terms. Think about what you like about the item and would want to know about it, and put that in your description.
  • Post high-quality photographs. eBay customers can't see or touch your featured item. The picture is all they have to go on, so be sure to make it sharp and clear, with a neutral, uncluttered background that doesn't distract from the image.
  • Use eBay's tools. eBay offers a vast array of handy tools to make your auctions stand out. Consider using highlighted and bolded text in the headline, adding a gallery photograph (that appears next to your listing in search results), marking your item as a gift, or designating your auction as a featured auction. eBay charges fees for these and other promotional tools, so keep the costs in mind as you decide which ones to use.

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This article was originally published in the September 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Let the Bidding Begin.

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