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Getting Started on eBay

Behind every eBay success story is a tale of trial and error. We'll help you skip straight ahead to the success part.

You've heard the eBay success stories, and you want to become one of them. Great! eBay has created some of the most incredible entrepreneurial success stories in the history of commerce, and the surface has barely been scratched when it comes to the profit-building potential of this popular online marketplace. There's plenty of room for you.

Whether you're starting a brand-new business or just looking for ways to grow an existing operation, you can do it on eBay. Business experience is helpful but not necessary. You'll learn as you go, and you'll be part of an extremely supportive community where people are eager to help you succeed.

So where do you begin? If you haven't done so already, start by logging on to to explore the site. "You really need to experience it," says Randy Smythe, 44, co-owner of Glacier Bay DVD (eBay User ID: glacierbaydvd) in Anaheim, California. Smythe and his partner, Michael Lehman, 41, sell DVDs exclusively on eBay. Last year, their revenue was $3.6 million; they expect to hit $7 million this year.

Set aside several hours to browse around the site. Click on all the different buttons to access and learn about eBay's various features. Read the news announcements, check out the help pages, surf the discussion boards, take the online guided tours, and study the listings. A great place to begin is with the eBay Learning Center , which offers free audio tours and online courses.

Learn all about eBay University ; with sessions held across the country 30 weekends a year, eBay University is likely to come to an area near you soon. (Read more about eBay University in our "Up Front" section on page 6.) eBay is a huge site, but it's well-organized and easy to navigate. Take the time to get familiar with it before you get started, when you're not under any pressure to buy or sell.

You don't need to be registered on eBay if you just want to browse the site, but you do if you're planning to buy or sell. Registration on eBay is free, so go ahead and sign up. The most important part of the registration process is choosing your eBay User ID, which is the name by which you'll be known on eBay.

Jim "Griff" Griffith, dean of eBay Education and author of The Official eBay Bible, advises that because your User ID will be your official "handle" (you may actually become famous by it), it is crucial that you pick one that is perfect for you as well as reflective of your business. (To avoid trademark infringements, don't use eBay in your User ID.)

Time to Shop

Once you've registered, go shopping. There is no faster, easier or better way to learn how to sell on eBay than actually buying things from eBay sellers. Pay attention to everything they do-what you like, what you don't like, what appears to work and what doesn't.

eBay sellers accept a variety of payment methods, including debit and credit cards, electronic checks, money orders and personal checks. The most popular payment method is PayPal, which is an online payment service owned by eBay. There is no charge to open a PayPal Account, to pay for goods with a credit card or to debit your bank account through PayPal. Log on to for more information and to open your account.

As you explore eBay, you'll get to know some of the site's helpful features, including:

  • Icons: those little pictures in listings that indicate important things, such as whether the seller is new or a PowerSeller, or that the item would make a good gift, or that the seller accepts PayPal. (eBay icons and their meanings are listed in " Every Picture on eBay Tells a Story ".)
  • Feedback: eBay's buyer and seller rating system; your feedback profile is your eBay reputation.
  • Proxy Bidding: an automatic bidding system that allows you to enter the maximum amount you are willing to pay for an item; the system monitors the item and bids on your behalf, increasing your bid by eBay's bid increment schedule until you have won the item or until another bidder places a bid higher than the maximum you set in the system.

Every page has a link to eBay's Help Center, "Policies" page and Security Center so you can get your questions answered quickly and enjoy a safe, secure trading experience.

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