In 1995, when Pierre Omidyar introduced an online business venue that was essentially a virtual garage sale with auction pricing, no one knew a retailing revolution was about to occur. That site became known as eBay, and it's hard to find someone today who hasn't at least heard about the popular online auction company.
What's important to understand from the start is that eBay is a sales channel that you can use exclusively or in addition to selling through a retail operation, mail order catalog, independent Web site, or network of direct salespeople. You decide the type of business you want to have, what type of merchandise you're going to sell, and how you're going to operate.
To sell on eBay, you'll pay a listing fee to post your merchandise and a final value fee (a small percentage of the sale price) when the item sells. For the current eBay fee schedule, check the eBay site.
What can you sell on eBay?
Though eBay is a popular place for the sale of used items ranging from high-dollar antiques to second-hand junk, it's also a venue for brand-new, up-to-the-minute merchandise of all types and in all price ranges. Deciding what to sell on eBay can be particularly challenging because your options are virtually limitless. Some of the more popular categories of items are cars, computers, consumer electronics, books, movies, music, sports items, collectibles, clothing and accessories.
As you take the first step of deciding what to sell on eBay, keep these points in mind:
? Have an interest in the product. Don't choose a product based on potential profits alone; be sure it's something you'll enjoy working with.
? Cost and sale price. How much will the item cost you and how much can you reasonably expect to sell it for?
? Availability. Is the merchandise readily available or will you risk having to deal with supply problems?
? Storage. Do you have room to store the merchandise?
? Packing and shipping. Consider what is involved in packing and shipping the merchandise. Even though the buyer typically pays the shipping costs, think about your labor, time, and potential breakage.
? Seasonal issues. Will the item sell year-round or be subject to seasonal fluctuations?
How do you sell on eBay?
You have a variety of ways to sell on eBay. In addition to the traditional basic auction, where you post your item with a starting price and wait for bidders to drive the price up, you can use a number of other pricing features and auction types.
In addition to auctions, you can also set up your own eBay store, which will allow you to sell auction and fixed-price merchandise from your special location on eBay. You'll pay a monthly fee based on the level of store services you want, plus additional fees for items listed and sold.
The technical side of eBay
eBay has evolved into one of the most user-friendly sites on the Internet. Getting set up as a user is a simple process that you can complete in just a few minutes. You will be required to provide your name, address, e-mail, and telephone number, as well as a credit card number and your checking account information. eBay uses this information to confirm your identity, which protects the integrity of their operation, and to collect auction fees. If your contact information changes, be sure to notify eBay immediately.
You must register to buy or sell on eBay, but you can browse around the site without registering. Before you do any business on eBay, take the time to get to know the site. Set aside several hours to get online and browse around, study listings, read the help pages, understand the various tools and how you can use them, check out the forums, and get comfortable with how the site works.
Once your business is up and running, you'll probably want to consider using supplemental auction management software, which will save time and money, make you more efficient, and improve the level of customer service you offer.
Getting started as an eBay seller
Start off by buying a few things, then start selling, posting just one or two auctions at a time until you're comfortable with how the process works. You'll make mistakes, especially in the beginning, but if you learn from them they'll be worth the cost.
Keep in mind that eBay is ever-changing. As the economy cycles, you'll experience changes in pricing and demand. And as more people start operating on eBay, the competition will increase and prices may decline slightly (great when you're buying, but not when you're selling).
If you plan to make selling on eBay a full-time business, expect to work hard. Though there is plenty of money to be made on eBay, it's not a get-rich-quick or easy deal. You'll invest as much time and energy as you would in a traditional retail operation--but your potential for profits is greater.
Don't be intimated by the sheer size of the operation, and keep in mind that eBay has reached less than ten percent of its potential market-which means there is plenty of room for you. So find your eBay niche, get online, and watch your business grow.
Jacquelyn Lynn is the co-author of Make Big Profits on eBay: Start Your Own Million $ Business (with Charlene Davis, Entrepreneur Press, 2005) and the author of Start Your Own Business on eBay, plus nine other titles in Entrepreneur's Start-Up Guide Series. For more information, visit http://www.jacquelynlynn.com