How To — List an Item and Make a Sale on eBay

 Before attempting to list your first item for sale on eBay, you should have completed the following tasks:

Once these things are done, you're ready to create an eBay listing and sell your item.

Before You List: Take Product Photos

Before you list your item for sale, you should create several high-quality photos that you'll include in your listing to entice shoppers to purchase. As you photograph your item, keep the following in mind. Your photos should be:

  • High in quality. This does not mean an expensive or specialized camera; many smartphones now take high-quality photos. It simply means that your photos should not be grainy, fuzzy, strangely colored, out-of-focus or difficult to make out.

  • Large. You should take your photos at the largest size your camera is able to produce. Do not resize them to be smaller, or shoppers won't be able to "zoom in" on your product when viewing your listing.

  • Uncluttered. To take your photos, place your item in an uncluttered space, preferably against either a uniformly light or uniformly dark background or surface. For the most professional results, consider making and using your own lightbox.

  • Well-illuminated. Your photos should be light enough to make your item clearly and easily visible, but not so bright that light reflections create white spots or blank spots in your image or details are rendered invisible.

  • Informative. Take photos of your product from several angles. If your product is used and has blemishes, take photos specifically to illustrate the blemishes so that shoppers understand what they're buying. If selling clothing, show it on models or mannequins so that cut and fit are clearly illustrated.

  • Complete. When possible, position your product and camera so that the image frame is nearly full, but at the same time the product remains entirely inside the frame.

Photos are a key component of a successful listing; take your time, particularly for your first few listings, to practice and get them right. Additional, inexpensive equipment like tripods and multiple lamps can help if you're struggling.

Before You List: Identify Shipping Costs

The shipping costs that will be charged to your buyer are a part of the listing that you'll create, and you're bound following the sale by the shipping costs that you specify—you will not be able to change them after the fact.

For this reason, it's important to get shipping costs right. If you're a first-time seller, consider doing one of the following:

  • Use a fixed-rate shipping service. This makes things very simple for you—your shipping costs will be known in advance, so you can either offer free shipping (understanding how the actual costs that you pay will affect your price and profit) or charge your buyer actual shipping costs relatively accurately.

  • Prepackage and weigh your item. If you plan to charge actual shipping costs for a calculated-cost service, consider pre-packaging your item for shipment. Then, weigh it, measure it, and visit a carrier website to calculate what the shipping cost will be, so that you can accurately include it in your listing. If costs vary by distance and destination, for your first few sales simply try several destinations and note, then use, the highest cost(s) in your listing(s).

This can be a confusing decision for first-time sellers to make, but once you begin to understand the related advantages and disadvantages of each option, one or the other choice will generally seem preferable to you.

Remember not to skimp on packaging; select packaging materials that are appropriate to the cost and fragility of your item. Box and tape well. Ensure that there is a minimum of one to two inches of padded space on all sides between your item and the box for fragile items.

Before You List: Settle on a Listing Format and Price

As you create an eBay listing, you'll be asked for the following items:

  • The format of your listing—either an auction-based sale or a fixed-price sale
  • The price at which you are selling your item (for fixed price listings)
  • The lowest starting bid you're willing to accept (for auction format listings)

For your first few sales, fixed-price listings are likely a better choice, as they're easier to understand and their outcomes are easier to predict.

Use Terapeak to determine either the new or used value of your product on eBay.

If you are eager to make a sale, decide on a sale price somewhat lower than the value that you found using Terapeak. If you're willing to be patient, decide on a sale price either at or above the value that you found using Terapeak.

List Your Item on eBay

With photos, shipping costs, and prices in hand, you're ready to list your item for sale on eBay. Follow these general steps for your first item(s):

  1. Sign in to your eBay seller account and click "Sell" to open eBay's listing flow.

  2. If given the choice, indicate that you want to create your own listing.

  3. Enter an initial plausible title that clearly represents your product. Make, model, and type of goods ("Apple iPhone 6s 64GB Space Gray Mobile Phone") should all be included.

  4. When prompted, select the appropriate product or category, or indicate that you were unable to locate a match in the suggested results.

  5. Continue to complete the eBay listing form step(s) as they are presented to you (these vary by product category). Whenever prompted, indicate that you prefer to create your own listing rather than use other services.

  6. When given the opportunity to do so, upload the photos that you created for your item.

  7. When given the opportunity to do so, enter a title and description for your listing. Use Terapeak SEO to help you to refine your initial title for the best chance of sale.

  8. When given the opportunity to do so, enter shipping terms and costs and return or exchange terms and costs.

  9.  When all required items have been submitted or configured, submit your listing. You will receive an email confirmation that your listing is now "live" and you will see your active listing in the relevant section of your "My eBay" area.

As you complete these steps, which vary in their details by product, category, and region, you may be offered the opportunity to:

  • Sell and ship items globally
  • Specify return or restocking fees
  • Provide complex shipping or tax collection details

These are options to which you'll eventually need to attend as you continue selling, but for your first sale or handful of sales, you can safely avoid them or leave them at their default options to enable you to get started more quickly.

Monitor Your Listing and Your Inbox

With your item now up for sale on eBay, it is important that you monitor your eBay account and your email inbox for a sale; once a buyer purchases and pays for your item, you are expected to promptly deliver it.

While your listing is live, you should:

  • Check at least once per day for a possible sale
  • Visit your My eBay area and note the number of shoppers "watching" your item
  • Use your MySales Dashboard to monitor the amount of search and view traffic your listing receives

If after several days you find that you have no shoppers watching your listing and are seeing little or no search and view traffic, consider editing your listing in order to:

  • Refine your listing title with more marketable keywords
  • Improve your item description to provide additional details about the item
  • Reduce your sale price or shipping costs

Note that for new sellers, the first few sales can be slow to arrive. eBay's feedback system makes clear to shoppers that you're new at this; new sellers must often wait for brave and trusting shoppers that are willing to take a chance on them.

Deliver the Product

Once you receive notification by email or in your eBay account that a buyer has purchased your item, it's time to act—the more promptly, the better. Follow these steps:

  1. Verify payment. Log into your PayPal account to verify receipt of payment and that no further conditions attach to the shopper's payment.*

  2. Print a label. Visit the sold listing in your "My eBay" area and opt to print a shipping label. All address information (yours and the shopper's) will be automatically included. Select the shipping method that you indicated when creating your listing and print the label. The cost of the shipping label will be automatically deducted from your PayPal balance.

  3. Affix the label. If using label stock, peel and stick the label on your package. If using standard paper, tape the label to your package taking care that it isn't wrinkled or damaged. As a best practice, consider applying a layer of clear tape over the entire label to prevent water damage and wear.

  4. Drop the package at the carrier. Take the labeled parcel to the carrier in question and drop it off for shipment. For your first few packages, stand in line and get a label scan (receipt) to prove that you've dropped the package off promptly. Later on you'll be able to simply leave labeled parcels and the drop counter.

  5. Monitor your shipment. Use the tracking information that you have on hand to ensure that the parcel makes good progress and arrives at its destination.

* In rare cases, PayPal may hold or delay funds for several days. Wait at Step 1 until the shopper's payment has cleared with no problems.

If there are any problems during this stage (called "fulfillment" in the e-commerce industry) of the transaction, proactively contact your buyer and let them know of the difficulty and delay and of the fact that you're aware of the problem.

Then, follow up with your carrier to identify appropriate steps to ensure that the product arrives at its destination. Remember, you are the seller and have been paid—it is now your responsibility to ensure that they buyer receives their purchase.

Leave and Request Feedback

Once payment has been received and the item has been delivered with no problems or delays, ensure that an exchange of feedback occurs if possible:

  1. Log in to eBay and leave positive feedback for your buyer indicating that you enjoyed a problem-free transaction.

  2. Send a message to your buyer assuring them that you want them to be satisfied with their purchase and requesting that they also leave positive feedback for you if they are satisfied with the transaction.

  3. Send at most one-follow up if no feedback is received within a week, again requesting positive feedback.

Don't skip the feedback process—your sales will be slower than average and your sale prices lower than average until you earn at least 10-15 positive instances of feedback, so the longer you wait to solicit positive feedback, the harder it will be for you to get rolling as a repeat and profitable seller.

If Something Goes Wrong

At every step along the way, be prepared to use your wits and your best customer service attitude to ensure that any problems are handled promptly and to the buyer's satisfaction. Keep these things in mind:

  • It's your responsibility. As the seller, once you have received payment, delivery of goods according to the terms of the sale is your job and legal responsibility.

  • If you're new, you're on probation. As a new seller, it is particularly important that your first few buyers be completely satisfied. Negative eBay feedback is always damaging to a seller, but negative feedback for a brand new seller is often an impossible hurdle to overcome. Repeat negatives for new sellers can even result in exclusion from future sales on eBay.

  • Give the buyer the benefit of the doubt. In practice, these things mean that for your first few sales in particular, you should give the buyer the benefit of the doubt up to and including partial or complete refunds or exchanges if something goes terribly wrong. Remember, your goal in early sales is to get up and running with a viable business; beginning with dissatisfied customers makes your future climb a much steeper one.

If you've read this far and are feeling nervous, don't—the vast majority of eBay transactions go off without a hitch.

Instead, return to the top of this article, begin to get your prerequisites together, and make your first sale on eBay!

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