Registering as a Seller

Registering to sell on an online auction site usually is almost as simple as registering to buy. The process begins by clicking on the site's Sell or Sell Stuff or similar tab or button. If you don't already have a user's account on the site, your first task is to set up one. As discussed in Chapter 6, this is the account that allows you to bid and buy on the site. Your new account will likely be available immediately after you complete filling in a few online forms, and you will be able to continue registering as a seller.

To become a registered seller on most sites, you will have to supply the following types of information:

  • Name

  • Address

  • Telephone number

  • E-mail address

  • Credit card information

  • Bank account information

  • Shipping address (if different from address for bank account and credit card)

Some sites may require more information, including gender and age. As a rule, most sites require sellers to be at least eighteen years old.

I'm seventeen and on my own. Why can't I sell?

When someone bids on an auction item, they enter into a legally binding contract with the seller. In most parts of the world, persons under eighteen years old are not allowed to enter into such contracts.

Getting Ready to Go

Now you've registered to sell, but to sell what? Sell it where on the site? This is the right time to log out of your new seller account and start organizing the details of your first auction sale. Follow these steps:

  • Pick out the first item you want to sell. It doesn't have to be something rare, vintage, expensive, or big. Common items from your closet or kitchen, such as a camera, a hand-me-down water pitcher, or an out-of-style suit, may attract a surprising number of bidders. (Remember to review the auction site's restricted or banned items, if necessary.)

  • Research the item. Use search engines such as Google.com and an auction site's search tools and advanced search tools to find the item and determine what makes it special and desirable to bidders.

  • Take notes on how similar items are described, pictured, and priced in current and closed auctions. Make special note of the categories under which the items have been listed, such as Cameras & Photo or Collectibles > Pinbacks, Nodders, Lunchboxes > Lunchboxes or Collectibles > Cultures, Ethnicities. Knowing these categories will help you place your auction listing in the right area.

  • Clean your item carefully and make notes on its condition, including any blemishes, chips, cracks, dents, scrape marks, tears, or other flaws. (Don't damage it during the examination and cleaning process!)

  • Measure the item's length, width, height, and diameter — any essential dimensions. Refer to current and previous auction sales to find out which dimensions of the item are considered important for buyers.

  • Photograph the item from several angles, using a digital camera, if possible. Get help from a family member or friend, if necessary. A film camera can be used, but have the film processing lab put the pictures on a CD-ROM disk so you can view them and edit them in your computer. Alternately, film prints can be scanned and converted to digital files. Again, refer to current and previous auctions to find examples of good pictures. Use similar poses or combinations of overall views and close-ups for your pictures. Get your pictures into your computer. Use photo-editing software to crop the pictures for best appearance.

  • Find an appropriate shipping box and protective packing materials to protect your item. If you don't have any of these handy, go to an office-supply store and get them.

  • Pack the item securely in the box, but leave the top open. Weigh the package on a good postal scale and record the weight. Allow an extra ounce or so for labels and final shipping tape. Also, measure and write down the package's length, width, and height.

  • Use the U.S. Postal Service Web site (www.usps.com) to determine how much it will cost to mail the packaged item to the most distant Zip Codes from your location. (To keep your first sale simple, just focus on selling to domestic buyers.) If you prefer to use another carrier, such as UPS, go to the carrier's Web site and enter the appropriate weight, measurements, and sample destinations. Record the shipping charges.

  • Open your word processing software and start writing the description of your item. Refer to your notes on how other sellers have described similar items. Save your text file. You can copy from it and paste the text into the description box once you are listing your item for auction.

You are ready to click on the Sell, Sell Stuff, or similar tab once again and start creating your first listing. Take your time. Read every prompt and explanation carefully. If you become unsure or confused at any point while following the steps, you can get help, refer to online tutorials, or cancel and try again after you gather your thoughts. Nothing will happen or be posted until you reach the final step in the process, review your new listing, and click on the final confirmation button to post it.

Creating Your First Listing

On the Sell page, review the short tutorial beneath the heading, How do you sell on eBay? Under the Prepare heading, you can click on the Research Similar Items link, but you already should have done this if you are ready to post your first listing.

The List heading contains a link to Easy Steps. Click here and read the explanations of the following six steps:

  • Choose a format.

  • Select a category.

  • Enter title and description.

  • Add pictures and details, and select pricing and auction duration.

  • Choose payment and shipping options, and enter shipping fees.

  • Review your listing details and submit.

Choosing a format is easy. The Sell Your Item: Choose a Selling Format screen should have the Sell Item at Online Auction choice already set as the default. However, verify that it has been selected. For more information, click on the Learn More link. Otherwise, scroll down the page to the Continue box and click on it.

This will bring up the Sell Your Item: Select Category screen.

On the Select Category page, you will find the appropriate category for listing your item. Refer to your research notes and find the first entry, such as Collectibles, in the box under Main Category. Click on Continue. Scroll through the list of subcategories, if any. Choose the appropriate one, and then click on Continue. Next, you will see the Sell Your Item: Describe Your Item screen.

Your preselling preparations will continue to pay off when you reach the Sell Your Item: Describe Your Item screen. Here, you will click on the Title & Description option and start creating the description for your item.

Your first entry will be in the Item Title box. Once again, refer to your notes to see how others have titled an item similar to, or just like, the one you are selling. Create a new title using the other titles as a guide. Be sure your item is spelled correctly and includes identifiers such as brand name, type number, and style. Buyers will enter these terms when they are searching for an item such as yours, and using the right keywords will help them find it quickly.

Under the Item Descriptions heading on this page, you will enter your item's specific details. Open your word processor, find the description you previously wrote, copy the text, and paste it in the text box. Once the text is pasted, you can edit it, change fonts and type sizes, pick a type color, and do other formatting. However, you can also stick with the basic settings and continue to the next steps. Click on the Preview Description link to see how your item description will appear. When you are satisfied with your description, click on Continue. (You will have another opportunity later to change your description and other entries before posting the completed listing.)

The next screen that will appear is Sell Your Item: Enter Pictures & Item Details. Your first choice will be to select the Pricing & Duration of your auction. Choose a starting price for your auction. Many sellers start at $1, even for items that will sell for a lot more. Low starting prices often attract more bidders. And more bidders mean more competition, which can drive the final price higher than you expect. But you may be more comfortable setting the opening bid at the absolute lowest price you would accept for the item. Otherwise, if you begin at a dollar and only one bidder shows up, you will have to sell for a buck.

Seven days is the default duration for auctions on eBay, and experience shows that this duration works very well for most sellers. The default can be shorter or longer on other auction sites. For your first sales, however, stick with seven days. You can try longer or shorter durations later.

When you reach the Add Pictures prompt, you will again be glad you have done your advanced preparations. On eBay and some other sites, there is usually no charge for the first photograph. Then there will be a small charge for each additional photograph. A few items can be shown effectively with one photograph. But in most cases, two or three photographs are better. For expensive items, several more photographs may be needed to convince buyers that the merchandise really is of good quality.

The auction site will have online tools to help you upload your photographs and see how they will appear in the listing. Once you finish adding your pictures, click on the Continue button. You should be able to add photographs or delete photographs until you reach the point where you must make the final verification of your listing.

Clear photographs are often the most important part of an auction listing. Potential bidders typically examine pictures first, and then read descriptions and look at the photographs again. You want your item to look good in photographs, but you also want to reveal the flaws and blemishes that potential buyers must consider before bidding.

The next screen, Sell Your Item: Enter Payment & Shipping, will prompt you to choose which payment methods you will offer to buyers and which shipping methods will be available. You can also include flat shipping and handling fees or include an automatic shipping calculator that uses the buyer's mailing address to figure costs.

For most beginners, the easiest payment approach is to set up a PayPal account. With PayPal, which is owned by eBay, you can pay for items you buy, and you can accept credit card or debit card payments for items you sell. You also can create prepaid shipping labels with tracking information. You can print the labels with your computer and notify the postal service or UPS to stop by your house and pick up your package.

Generally, you will want buyers to pay shipping costs and to buy shipping insurance, if they want it. Be sure to include a delivery confirmation notice in the price of shipping. A few fraudulent buyers may try to dispute that you mailed an item, and then attempt to refuse to pay. Delivery confirmation will be proof that they received the item. Most buyers are trustworthy, but cover yourself at all times.

You should also post a very clear return policy with your shipping information. Some sellers post every item “as is” and refuse to accept any returns. Others are willing to refund the bid price if the item is returned in good shape, at the buyer's expense. Meanwhile, others will refund the bid price and the shipping price. Check the return policies of others that are selling similar items. If you find a policy that makes you comfortable, use a similar return policy in your own listing.

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