A Helping Hand

All the information you need to build a successful business on ebay is right at your fingertips.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Got a question about something on eBay? The resources on the following pages should help you find the answer.

If there's something you can't find in this crash course, you'll find "Help" at the top of every page on eBay. There are several different ways you can use the Help feature. First, you can check a list of the most frequently asked questions. Alternatively, browse the topics, do a search, or click on "A-Z Index" to easily find answers to your specific question. Learn more at http://pages.ebay.com/help/index.html.--Mark Henricks

eBay Learning Center

To find audio tours on topics such as "How Does eBay Work?" "How to Register," "How to Sell," "Successful Selling" and more, visit eBay's Learning Center at www.ebay.com/education. You can also access tutorials on a variety of topics. Check in often as you progress.

eBay Radio

Get all the eBay advice you crave on eBay Radio with host Jim "Griff" Griffith. The show features great guests and listener calls. It airs every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pacific time at www.wsradio.com/ebayradio, and is archived for easy listening 24/7.

eBay University

Anyone can learn to sell on eBay with the help of eBay University. You get two ways to learn: face-to-face classroom sessions or convenient online courses.

eBay University classroom learning puts you face-to-face with expert instructors. You'll get to ask questions and take home a workbook for more study. Plus, you'll get to network with other eBay users. Classes are held regularly across the nation, with prices starting at $59.

Similar courses are also available online or on CD-ROM--which lets you learn at your own pace. The cost for the CD is $19.95 plus shipping. Learn more about eBay University at www.ebay.com/university, or visit the Learning Center.--M.H.

Making More Money

Want to increase your income from eBay? Take advantage of these special programs.

1. Education Specialist Program:If you like the idea of helping others learn how to be better eBay buyers and sellers--and supplementing your income in the process--then the Education Specialist Program is for you. This self-paced, online training course will show you how to become an independent trainer, teaching others how to buy and sell on eBay. Even if you're already teaching a class, you can make sure you have the best materials--the same curriculum is used at eBay University--and hone your expertise through the Education Specialist Program.--M.H.

2. Trading Assistant Program:Many small businesses see the potential of selling on eBay, but struggle to find the time necessary to take pictures, list an item and then ship it to the purchaser. Through the Trading Assistant Program, entrepreneurs can implement their own eBay sales force.

Trading Assistants are experienced eBay sellers who handle every aspect of selling items on eBay for an agreed-upon fee. Some Assistants add the fees charged by eBay into their overall service costs. For sellers to become Trading Assistants, they must be experienced and active eBay sellers, have a feedback score of at least 50 and at have least 97 percent positive feedback.

3. Certified Provider Program:There are two types of certified providers--Certified Service Providers and Certified Solution Providers. Service Providers offer nontechnical services, such as helping with listing strategy, responding to buyer inquiries, providing recommendations on the best way to sell on eBay and designing templates. Solution Providers help with technical issues, such as integration with the eBay platform and custom software development. By participating in the Certified Provider Program, members increase their visibility by serving as a sales channel, consultant or development team.

How do you know if your expertise fits with what eBay is looking for in its certified providers? eBay has a list on its site at http://developer.ebay.com/certifiedprovider, which includes marketplace strategy consulting, product sourcing, inventory management, fulfillment and logistics, transaction management, outsourced customer support, merchandising design and creative services, plus many others.--Steve Cooper


Ready to do some recommended reading? These books are chock-full of helpful tips.

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting an eBay Business ( www.idiotsguides.com) by Barbara Weltman
  • eBay Business All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies ( www.dummies.comor www.wiley.com) by Marsha Collier
  • eBay Hacks: Tips & Tools for Bidding, Buying and Selling ( www.oreilly.com) by David A. Karp
  • The eBay Millionaire: Titanium Powerseller Secrets for Building a Big Online Business ( www.wiley.com) by Amy Joyner
  • eBay Photos That Sell: Taking Great Product Shots for eBay and Beyond ( www.sybex.com) by Dan Gookin and Robert Birnbach
  • eBay Timesaving Techniques for Dummies ( www.dummies.comor www.wiley.com) by Marsha Collier
  • eBay Your Business: Maximize Profits and Get Results ( www.osborne.com) by Janelle Elms, Michael Bellomo and Joel Elad
  • Paypal Hacks: 100 Industrial Strength Tips & Tools ( www.oreilly.com) by Shannon Sofield, Dave Nielsen and Dave Burchell
  • The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing ( www.osborne.com) by Janelle Elms, Amy Balsbaugh and Phil Dunn
  • Starting an eBay Business for Dummies, 2nd Edition ( www.dummies.comor www.wiley.com) by Marsha Collier

The Latest Tools

eBay continues to improve the end-user experience by introducing tools that enhance and streamline the buying and selling process.

Accounting Assistant:Since the rest of your business most likely runs on QuickBooks, why not your eBay accounting? With Accounting Assistant, you can quickly and effortlessly export your eBay and PayPal transactions into QuickBooks, including eBay and PayPal fees. Accounting Assistant is free to all Stores sellers and subscribers to Selling Manager or eBay Blackthorne products. It also works with QuickBooks Pro, Premier or Enterprise editions 2002, 2003, 2004 or 2005.

Blackthorne:A comprehensive listing- and sales-management tool that helps medium- and high-volume vendors sell more efficiently. Dubbed the next generation of Seller's Assistant, Blackthorne is still in the test phase, and only subscribers to Seller's Assistant are able to download the beta pre-release. Blackthorne offers sellers greater customization through bulk functionality such as lists and feedback, and also lends a hand in e-mail templates, sales tracking, P&L reports and more. Blackthorne comes in two versions: Basic, for those listing 25 to 100 items per month, and Pro, for high-volume sellers listing more than 100 items per month. Basic and Pro versions have monthly flat fees of $9.99 and $24.99, respectively.

eBay Sales Reports:eBay Sales Reports come in two varieties: Sales Reports and Sales Reports Plus. Basic reports offer information on sales, successful listing percentage, average sales price and eBay and PayPal fees. Plus reports provide more in-depth analysis of the information given in basic reports, including buyer counts, Unpaid Item credits requested, metrics by category and format, download capabilities and more. The basic Sales Reports are free, while the Plus reports are $4.99 per month (but free for eBay Stores).

eBay Wireless:Mobile eBay users with an internet-enabled cell phone or PDA can access eBay without being tethered to a desktop. You can access a mobile version of eBay, sign up for real-time notifications and get other developer solutions aimed toward specific mobile carriers at http://bonfiremedia.com/ebay. If your phone is not Java-enabled, you can access eBay Wireless on your cell phone at http://wap.ebay.com.

File Exchange:High-volume sellers can use their current inventory software, such as Microsoft Excel, Access and others, to submit listings to eBay with a single file. File Exchange also permits users to receive sales status information from eBay in the supported file format of their choosing and even creates a file template for users based on the categories they want to list. File Exchange is currently offered free to qualified users.

My eBay:My eBay is like your car's dashboard--a central location to keep up with your eBay activities and maintain your account. The "My Summary" page gives you an overview of your recent purchases and sales, any pressing news alerts, and eBay announcements. You can customize your summary page to show the most relevant information. Sellers can view their selling reminders, scheduled items, selling totals, and sold and unsold items, all at a glance.

My eBay is also the place to manage your accounts. You can update your personal information, access your Half.com or PayPal accounts, and track and leave feedback. Some tools for sellers in the "My Account" section include cross-promotion management, fee summaries and payment options. And don't overlook the Subscriptions feature. You can sign up for free Sales Reports to help you track your sales performance. Several selling programs--such as the eBay Selling Manager and eBay Stores--can be accessed through My eBay as well.

In an online world where e-mail can't always be trusted, there is a safe haven at My Messages-accessible through My eBay. If you ever wonder about the legitimacy of a message you receive in your regular e-mail inbox, double-check it at My Messages. Questions and answers from eBay members, account alerts and other communications from eBay will all show up here. --Amanda C. Kooser

PayPal:There's no smoother way to complete an eBay transaction than through PayPal. Just ask Mark Newton (eBay User ID: isoldit.mi004), a Trading Assistant who opened an iSold Itstore in Novi, Michigan, in 2004. "It helps my business because it helps people pay [quickly]. I'm not waiting for money orders," says Newton, 38, who estimates that more than 80 percent of his transactions involve PayPal. PayPal integrates tightly with eBay and lets sellers accept credit cards, debit cards and bank account payments for a small transaction fee.

PayPal is especially important for new sellers. "Using PayPal saves a lot of hassle, and you can start taking credit cards right off the bat," says Newton. Take the time to become PayPal Verified, and your buyers will appreciate the security it gives them. A recent survey of eBay buyers showed that five out of six preferred PayPal to other payment methods.

With fraud concerns plaguing the internet, PayPal is a trusted service for secure online payments. Newton also appreciates the comprehensive payment history that PayPal maintains for his business, as well as its ability to verify buyers' addresses. Once money has changed hands, PayPal's Shipping Center can help you create prepaid shipping labels, take care of customs forms for international shipping, and keep track of everything in one central location. --A.K.

Picture Manager:Save time and money by letting eBay host all your pictures for as long as you want. Picture Manager is a subscription service (prices vary depending on storage demand) that allows the seller to upload images in bulk, rename pictures, move pictures to customized folders and view pictures in thumbnail sheets. For security, Picture Manager enables users to watermark their images.

Seller Central:Not sure how to start selling? Looking for the latest selling news? Just need a little good advice? Go to Seller Central. If you have a question about selling, chances are it can be answered here. This portal is divided into a handful of main categories, including Getting Started, Best Practices, Advanced Selling and News & Updates.

The Best Practices section, for example, is a smart place to go if you need help refining your eBay listings. Here's something you might not know: Statistics show that items listed without a Reserve Price (the lowest price a seller is willing to accept) tend to sell for more than comparable items with a Reserve Price. Also, a high opening bid price on your listing can deter buyers from considering your item--even if you think the opening bid price is below the item's value. Buyers like the thrill of getting a bargain--even if they end up paying more than retail! And whether you're selling pottery or wallpaper, you can also get advice from Seller Central on how to best package and ship those tricky items. --A.K.

Seller OnRamp:If you're ready to get your business online with eBay, call the Seller OnRamp Consultants. With Seller OnRamp, your business gets free customized guidance for selling your products on eBay. All you have to do is call (866) 304-EBAY, and you'll reach an eBay expert who will teach you everything you need to find success on eBay in free phone consultations. Remember to mention offer code "Startup06." --A.K.

Promotional financing through paypal buyer credit:Allows sellers of high-priced items to offer buyers financing options such as low monthly payments or deferred-interest payments. Promotional financing makes high-priced items on eBay more affordable for buyers. For more information, visit www.paypal.com/buyercredit.

Want It Now:For those truly hard-to-find or really specific items, buyers turn to Want It Now. Savvy sellers can augment their businesses on eBay by searching through buyers' requests and responding to those requests with their eBay listings. Here's how it works: A buyer creates a Want It Now post describing what he or she is looking for. Sellers can then browse these want ads by category or search them using specific keywords. If the seller has an item that matches the description, he or she can respond to the Want It Now post with a listing. eBay will then send the buyer an e-mail with a link to the listing. So what are buyers looking for on Want It Now? Recently, one user asked for framed art depicting dachshunds. Another was searching for a certain Bruce Springsteen poster from 1976. Still another was trying to find a vintage folding Coleman camp oven. If you can meet such unique needs, you can add a powerful extra dimension to your business on eBay. --A.K.

For more information to help sellers, eBay has launched a "Selling Resources" page for all their services at http://pages.ebay.com/sell/resources.html.--S.C.

Shipping Solutions

When determining shipping costs, sellers can either offer three different flat-rate charges to the buyer (using the Flat Rate tool during the listing process) or they can let the buyer calculate the shipping costs based on ZIP code by including the eBay Shipping Calculator. The Calculator is a free tool that can help sellers attract more business because it gives buyers the comfort of knowing their precise shipping costs. Handling and insurance costs can be factored in, and the Calculator can also compute international rates.

Once the price of shipping has been handled and the item has sold, it's time to ship the item. eBay has teamed with two main shipping providers for regular-size packages: the U.S. Postal Service and UPS. For really heavy items (over 150 pounds), they also offer freight solutions through eBay's Freight Resource Center, which is powered by Freightquote.com.

Both USPS and UPS offer free label printing through My eBay and PayPal--neither requires any software to download. Other benefits to purchasing shipping labels online are free Delivery Confirmation for Priority Mail and Express Mail packages, and discounted Delivery Confirmation for First Class Mail, Parcel Post and Media Mail packages.

The last process you need to consider is package tracking. Through My eBay, you can track the delivery status for USPS packages, and get detailed tracking information from initial scan to final delivery for UPS packages.

For more shipping information, eBay offers a helpful demo in their Shipping Center located at www.ebay.com/shipping.--S.C.

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