Getting Started on eBay

Chances are good that you've bought or sold something on eBay. After all, at any given moment, there are  between 15 and 20 million items  posted for sale there. No wonder eBay averages over  a billion dollars a quarter  in profits.But just as eBay profits, so do hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have grown from occasional eBay users into eBay businesses. In fact, over half a million  people  in the U.S. rely on eBay as a primary or secondary source of income. At least 10  percent  of eBay sellers have retired from their jobs to work full-time on eBay (and an additional 12 percent were con sidering doing so).

eBay offers you a great chance to increase  your income and provide you with more independence ...  but there’s a lot of work involved. As chief cook and bottle washer of your eBay business, you’ll have many other tasks besides buying and selling. Additionally, working from home can also become a challenge — especially when you’ve filled up the closets and bathrooms with excess inventory.

eBay Success

eBay success is based on two underlying factors: community and personality.

As you’ll see below, the key to eBay member loyalty is the site’s rich sense of community. And as you explore eBay, you will also discover that the eBay entrepreneurs who invest their personality into their business often have the best chance for success and longevity.

The eBay Community

Some might argue, the key to eBay's continuing success — is that eBay operates as a community of members, not as a store, franchise, or company. The site is  a self-policing, self-helping, and, to some extent, self-governing sales universe. The eBay community, which includes eBay members and eBay staff, abides by certain  community values, including simple principles such as "We believe people are basically good" and "We encourage you to treat others the way you want to be treated." This sense of community should never be taken lightly by users, because the power of eBay community opinion is substantial. Failing to abide by community rules can get you suspended or banned from eBay. Conversely, the eBay community is also supportive — eBay and its members offer a lot of free advice and help to those getting started, which in turn engenders more loyalty to the site. To get a sense of this support, review some of eBay's rich collection of resources and help, including the following:

eBay Community Resources
announcement boards Look here for general announcements.
answer center Look here for answers to eBay questions.
discussion boards Look here for posted discussions on hundreds of eBay topics.
community help boards Look here for help from other eBay members.
chat rooms Look here for live discussions among eBay members.
reviews and guides Look here for community-created handbooks on hundreds of eBay topics — for example,  Collecting Harry Potter books.
eBay Groups Look here to exchange information with like-minded eBay members.

Your eBay Business Is an Extension of You

Besides powerful community support and cohesion, the other underlying factor that contributes to the success of an eBay business is a strong sense of personality. As most bricks-and-mortar retailers quickly learn when they try to move their businesses online, eBay is a whole different ballgame. While it may seem counterintuitive, sales transactions on eBay tend to be more personal, and customers expect a heightened level of service and attention. However, the rewards from these personal interactions can be great, because those interactions lead to trust — and trust leads to increased business. As you peruse eBay stores and online auctions, you will see this personal touch over and over. Keep in mind that eBay is a global marketplace where many sellers have access to similar merchandise. When prices are similar, buyers rely on personal and sometimes intangible factors to distinguish among sellers.

Finally, many of the decisions you make when setting up your eBay business require a personal touch — for example, the name of your eBay store, the colors you choose for the background of a particular auction, the type of merchandise you sell, the size of the lettering in your listings, the quality of your images, and even your choice of username. From top to bottom, each eBay business is a unique mix of branding and personal identity. When in doubt as to what course to take with your eBay business, it's always best to choose the route that's most comfortable for your personality. Your choices may not always lead to short-term profits, but letting your business reflect who you are is more likely to provide personal satisfaction, steady income, and longevity as a business.

Get Started Now!

Go the  eBay homepage  and take a look around. Go ahead and start buying or selling if you feel comfortable (or adventurous).  If you’re registered, go ahead! Adam Ginsberg, eBay PowerSeller and author of  How to Buy, Sell and Profit on eBay  (Harper Collins) recommends buying something as soon as you register as a member of eBay. He says that a quick initial buy familiarizes you with the eBay site navigation.  Keep in mind that you will get the best deals on eBay by doing research — for example, checking what similar items are selling for, researching what similar items have  sold  for, and by reviewing the seller's feedback ratings.

I Want to Sell Something

If you're ready to sell something and have registered as a new member, you will then need to  establish a seller's account. That's as easy as furnishing eBay with some credit card information.  eBay has several  formats  for listing items for sale — Standard Auction, Standard Auction with Buy-It-Now, Fixed-Price Item, Multiple Item Auction, Fixed Price with Best Offer, and Store Inventory, to name a few. It may seem confusing to have so many formats — we explain most of them in more detail in  List an Item  (and you can find definitions in  eBay's glossary) — but keep in mind that the vast majority of transactions are completed by means of a Standard Auction listing. These auctions are open for fixed time periods — typically five to seven days — and the highest bidder at the end of that time period purchases the merchandise. (Note, you cannot sell  everything  on eBay; some items — for example, alcohol, firearms, lock-picking equipment, body parts (yes, it has been tried) — are  restricted.)

My eBay

Every eBay member has a private My eBay page, which tracks recent transactions and advises you when action is needed — for example, when you need to provide feedback or respond to a seller inquiry.  Consider the My eBay page a basic auction management tool. If you're a medium to high volume seller, you may find it limiting because it cannot automate common transactions. For example, it does not provide templates for email responses or allow you to print invoices in bulk. In that case, you may wish to subscribe to one of the management programs available amongst the online auction tools.

eBay Help

Whenever in doubt, click "Help." That will take you to eBay's  Help Home Page  where you can explore numerous eBay help topics. [

eBay Help Resources

learning center

Look here if you're starting out at eBay (or if you've been using eBay for a while and are starting a new activity).

search help

Look here for specific topics. Just type in your search query as you would with any search engine.

top questions

Look here for the most common questions at eBay, such as "Can I retract or cancel my bid?"

a-z index

Look here for an alphabetical listing of eBay topics.

eBay acronyms

Look here for an explanation of acronyms such as  BIN  and  FVF.

eBay glossary

Look here for an alphabetical listing of common eBay terms such as  proxy bidding  or  User ID.

contact us

Look here if you want to write a question or report a problem to eBay.

eBay university

Look here for courses on eBay subjects that you can attend at a nearby city or online, or learn using an instructional DVD.


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