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Starting Smart

Jim Griffith, eBay author and educator, answers your burning questions about starting a business on eBay.

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Question: I have always wanted my own business, and eBay seems like a good place to start. Where do I begin?

Answer: Start by selling something you own that has little financial or sentimental value. Ideally, the item should be easy to ship, and it should be something new, preferably in its original packaging.

Next, go to and click the "Register" link at the top of the page. After you register, you'll have access to all eBay features; however, you must create a Seller's Account in order to sell. Click the "Sell" link at the top of any eBay page, and follow the instructions to register as a seller.

Then sign up for PayPal by going to PayPal, an eBay company, allows you to accept online payments from your buyers for any eBay items. This is the safest and fastest way to get paid on eBay.

Question: How do I list my item?

Answer: Click the "Sell" link at the top of any eBay page. Here, you'll find a host of information on successful selling. After you learn all about listing an item, click the "Sell Your Item" button and follow the instructions. It's very easy to add your item to eBay, and it gets easier each time.

Question: How do I know what I should charge for my items?

Answer: Once registered, you can use eBay's Advanced Search (Completed Listings Only) feature to view recently closed items similar to the one you have selected as your test item. Scan the list, and view a few that sold and some that did not sell. This will give you an idea of what the item might sell for on eBay, as well as show examples of "best listing practices."

Question: How do I post pictures of my item?

Answer: The easiest way is to use a digital camera, or use a scanner for flat items, such as books and baseball cards. Save the picture to your computer, and when you use the "Sell Your Item" form to list your item, you'll be prompted to upload your picture to eBay. The first picture is free!

Question: What are common mistakes to avoid when first starting out?

Answer: There are four common mistakes specific to eBay selling and new sellers: overpricing items (starting auction-format listings with a starting bid that's too high for the market); listing too many items right out of the gate; not paying close attention to the competition; and not adopting some of the time- and labor-saving tools and features eBay makes available to all sellers. These include My eBay and other tools and features found by clicking the "Services" link at the top of any eBay page.

Question: How do I convince buyers to trust me as a new seller if I have no feedback reputation on eBay?

Answer: Even with little or no feedback, you can instill buyer confidence by the way you present your new business on eBay. Some tips:

  • Start with inexpensive items.
  • Make sure your listings have a professional look and feel.
  • Clearly state shipping charges, and provide a detailed return and refund policy.
  • Accept PayPal.
  • Build your feedback by purchasing a few items on eBay. To become a better seller, note what you look for as a buyer.

Question: Do I need a business license or a tax resale number to sell on eBay?

Answer: These are not required by eBay, but you may need either a business license or a tax resale number if your local or state laws require them. Your state's tax website and local chamber of commerce would be two good places to start.

Jim "Griff" Griffith is author of The Official eBay Bibleand dean of eBay Education.

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