I am not going to devote a lot of time in this document to the subject of beginning to sell items online, only because the websites themselves have done such an excellent job of making it easy for anybody to understand the process of listing items.
Both eBay and Amazon have intentionally designed their listing pages so that you can list items regardless of your internet skills and writing abilities. You will typically only have to type a paragraph or two at the most to describe your items, and simple descriptions often are better than profuse flourishing praise for your items, so do not feel bad if you are not a wordsmith.
Both websites also provide tutorials and FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) that are linked to the beginning listing pages. These documents are designed so that even if it you have never turned on a computer, you can still figure out how to get an item listed on their sites. Then, once you have listed your first item, it is very easy to list in subsequent sessions. Once you are signed in, eBay provides you with a link from the initial listing page that allows you to bring up several of the last auctions that you designed to use as a template for listing other auctions.
First, we will discuss how to begin selling on eBay. The only equipment that you will need is: A computer with internet access (high speed internet is a huge advantage, but not required), a digital camera, and a scale for weighing items.
We are going to go step-by-step, and list a collectible book that we will pretend that you found in a free box at a garage sale.
First, look at your book. Can you improve its desirability in an auction setting? People bid on items in EBay listings based on two things; the image(s) of the item and your item description. So, if you can make the digital pictures that you take look better by cleaning up your item a bit before taking the photos, by all means, do so. If the book has a vinyl dust jacket, carefully wipe the outer surface to remove any dust and dirt build-up. If there are price stickers that can be peeled off without damaging the surface of the cover, remove them.
Take several pictures of your book, including several photos of the cover, any nice interior illustrations, interesting text, and any condition issues that the bidder will want to see.
Upload the digital photos to your computer. If you have never uploaded photos, EBay provides directions on the process.
When you upload, start a folder for the items you are going to be selling in your ‘My Pictures’ Folder on your computer, or put it on your desktop, so that you can find the folder easily when you go to download photos to auctions or listing pages.
Go to your computer and log on to the internet, and go to the eBay site. At the top of the page, there is a link for ‘Sell’. Click on the link. If you have never sold on eBay, you will need to register, and provide personal and financial information so that you can get paid for your sales through PayPal. PayPal is EBay’s payment collection site.
After you have registered or signed in, go the listing page. You may elect to complete the tutorial the first time you sell. It walks you through each segment of the listing page. It is very user-friendly and allows you to quickly move through the listing page.
Make sure that you weigh your item accurately, so that you can provide the weight of the item for shipping purposes. Don’t try to estimate the weight, or you will end up either paying for part of the shipping out of your own pocket, or charging too much for shipping and making your customers angry. You may also elect to allow ‘Free U.S. shipping’ for your item, which alleviates all of these issues altogether. Just make sure that you pick a starting price that is high enough that you make a minimum profit on the item after you add in the shipping costs that you are going to have to pay for.
Everything else in the listing page is self-explanatory. There are also links next to each heading on the listing page, in case you do not understand something.
Two of the most important things to consider when building an auction are the item’s title and the cover photograph. These are what potential bidders use to determine whether they are going to click on your auction and hopefully bid on your item. Ensure that your image is clear and you can tell what the item is. Remember, the image boxes are fairly small on the EBay auctions pages. Also, anything that makes your image stand out is helpful. Make your photo as colorful or distinct as possible. If your item is not very exciting, you may decide to give your item a colorful backdrop or background.
The item’s title should also accurately and completely describe it, without sounding “over-the-top”. Make sure that you include brand names and dates if you know them. With books, make sure that you have the title, author, and edition number.
In the item description, describe the condition of the item as accurately as possible. Do not try to make your item sound better than it is so that you can make a couple of extra dollars on it. Also, list any other description detractions that are not visible in the photographs that you provided.
List your item. When the auction ends in seven days (unless you specified fewer days), EBay notifies the winning bidder by e-mail that they have won your auction. Payment is made through PayPal, and then you are notified, along with the winner’s shipping information.
Securely package the item, and ship to the address provided. It is as easy as that.
Another very easy website to sell on is Amazon. If the item that you want to sell is a media item or has a bar code, it is probably available to sell on Amazon. Selling on Amazon is extremely fast and easy. It is also profitable.
All you have to do to sell on Amazon is open a selling account. You will have to provide a checking or savings account for Amazon to deposit your money into, but it is a huge secure marketplace with thousands of sellers. Don’t worry about providing your financial information.
Before signing up, determine how many items you will be selling on the site. When you get to the point that you will be consistently selling at least 40 individual items a month on Amazon, you should upgrade to a premium sellers account. The upgraded account eliminates a $1 fee that is charged on each item sold for sellers with a normal seller account. It also allows you to sell some items that normal sellers cannot, and you can also make your own item pages, which I use regularly for selling rare collectible items. The price for the premium account is currently $39.95.
To list your items on Amazon, all you have to do is locate the item within the marketplace by doing a search for that item. For instance, if you wanted to sell a copy of the Nirvana ‘Nevermind’ CD, you would search for it in the ‘Music’ category. You can either type in ‘Nirvana Nevermind’ into the search bar at the top of the page, or if you have the CD in hand, you can type in the bar code number on the back of the CD. It is always found below the bar code, and includes the smaller numbers at the beginning and end of the bar code. For U.S. items, the bar code has 10 numbers, and for European items, there are 13 numbers.
For books and media items, there is usually an ISBN number provided on the title page or on the item cover that you can type in.
When you find the correct item page, there is a link that says ‘Sell Your Item’ on the right side of the page. You click on that button, and then simply type in your description of the condition of the item, enter your asking price, and then click ‘complete’, and your item is for sale on Amazon. It is very quick and easy.
When a potential buyer goes to the Nirvana ‘Nevermind’ page to buy the CD, they see a number of individual listings for that CD, along with your listing. The buyer chooses the copy that they want to buy, based on the price and condition description provided. The buyer clicks ‘buy’ to complete the sale. There is no bidding, as on eBay.
You do not have to take photographs for your item, or making time consuming listings. If the buyer picks your item, Amazon takes a closing fee from your selling price, gives you a shipping credit and then deposits the balance into your account.
When you get enough money in your Amazon balance, you can then deposit it directly into your personal bank account, or Amazon does it automatically for you every two weeks.
You can see that there are advantages to selling on Amazon versus eBay. First, it is much easier and faster to list items. A box full of CDs can be listed in about a half an hour on Amazon. It is also free to list items. You don’t get charged until someone buys your item through the Amazon marketplace. You can build an inventory without any upfront cost. On eBay, you are charged a listing fee for each individual auction listed, whether the item sells at auction, or ends without a bid.
Amazon can be a catch-22 proposition for selling items, in that you may sell your item the same day you list it for more than you can sell it for at auction on EBay. However, you could also list a great $100 collectible book on Amazon, and it may sit there on your shelf for over a year before the right buyer comes along and buys it from you, or it may never sell at all.
You are also constantly competing with other sellers’ prices listed on Amazon. You could have the only copy of a collectible item available on the Amazon marketplace for months for $250, and then have another Amazon seller list the same item for significantly less than your price, and then steal your sale when it is purchased several days later from that other seller.
Amazon also charges what I would consider exorbitant selling fees when your item sells; significantly higher than eBay’s closing and listing fees combined. Amazon knows that they have very little competition in their niche, and they take advantage of that.
The seller has a number of things to weigh when determining where to sell online. How quickly do you want your money? Do you have room to store items for a period of time? Is it more important for you to maximize profit per item, or sell items fast for a bit less money? Is your item collectible and therefore may do better on EBay, where bidders can see photos of your cool looking item, and also let you tell them about the item in your description?
There are also other places to sell online, and after you determine your own niche, you may decide to build a website, but to begin with, eBay and Amazon are the two easiest online sites to begin selling on.
There are also many physical stores that you can sell items to. Collectible items can be sold to stores that specialize in selling collectibles, such as sports collectibles shops. They can also be sold to pawn shops, antique stores, etc. The most important thing about selling your item to these people is YOU HAVE TO KNOW HOW MUCH YOUR ITEM IS WORTH BEFORE you go the store to sell it. Period. Do your research online and find current values for commodities with spot prices, like gold and silver items, or search completed listings on eBay for similar items. Do NOT allow a pawn shop owner to swindle you. You have to realize that while you will get cash in hand at these types of places, you will not get full value for your items. The shop owner has to make a profit when he or she sells your item again. You will almost always get more for your item online than at a physical store. You have to weigh ease of selling and immediate sales against maximum profit and more prep time selling online.