Too many new eBay sellers begin with tremendous optimism but end up burned out, frustrated, or financially worse off than when they began. Many of these sellers try to lay the blame at eBay's feet, or at buyers' feet (yes, they often blame "unreasonable" customers) when in fact a little common sense and some awareness of common mistakes could have helped them to get off on the right foot.
Here are some of the most common eBay mistakes made by new sellers and the best ways to avoid making them.
- Not treating their eBay selling like a business. New eBay sellers
often imagine that eBay is a chance to "start slow and grow," by which they
secretly mean to avoid thinking of their selling as a business until
they are making good money with it. This kind of thinking puts the cart
before the horse. In order to make good money on eBay, you will need to
think of eBay as a business from the start and behave that wayyou will have to
set yourself up as a money-making enterprise, using all of the other
money-making enterprises on the planet as a model. Period.
Avoid this mistake by: Carefully selecting a business model and outfitting an office, taking accounting and bookkeeping seriously, working hard on sourcing and market awareness, and avoiding the pitfalls associated with starting a business only to not take it seriously enough to help it to succeed.
- Trying to "strike it rich quick" with drop-shipping. If getting
rich were as easy as buying a subscription to a Google-promoted "drop
shipper" and then letting the drop shipper and eBay "do the rest" in a
business that "runs itself," everyone in the world would be rich. The truth
is that there are so many sellers on eBay trying to use the same handful of
drop shippers to sell the same goods in a very crowded marketplace that it
can be very difficult to survive this way, much less grow or make a good
profit. Chances are that failing to do your homework this way is a great way
to get burned out (and have your pocketbook emptied) through eBay selling,
rather than to succeed.
Avoid this mistake by: Carefully studying drop-shipping options if you're inclined to think along those lines, but only after also understanding and consciously choosing an eBay business model that will work for you and the many sourcing options that are likely available to you if you can think locally and creatively.
- Not keeping a clear picture of eBay fees owed. Small sellers in
particular can struggle with what is, ultimately, the drudgery of
calculating and recording fees that eBay charges, both for listing items and
as a cut of items that have already sold. The same goes for PayPal fees,
which are charged in addition to eBay fees. Too many sellers start out by
putting in lots of hours and earning lots of sales only to feel as though
they aren't making much money or to find that their net sales amounts aren't
covering their actual costssomething that can drive a seller out of business very, very quickly.
Avoid this mistake by: Using fee calculators and basic accounting techniques to keep careful tabs on and control your eBay fees, so that you know whether all that selling you're doing is actually contributing to your bottom line or hurting it.
- Setting starting bid or fixed prices too high and/or setting a
reserve price. If your item and item listing are in good shape, your
item will sell for something approximating market value—unless you
kill interest with a high starting bid price, a high fixed price, or a
reserve price. On eBay, reserve-free auction items that start at $1.00 earn
more bids and finish at higher prices than identical auctions with "stop
loss" starting bids or reserve prices. Too many sellers are so
trust the market that they set either set a bid/sale price that's far too
high or a bid-killing reserve price, in all cases ultimately leaving money
on the table that they otherwise would have earned. New sellers of used
items also tend to overestimate the values of their goods. Too many new
sellers of used items include the language "Cost $N.NN when new several
years ago, our loss is your gain!" in their listings. Truth is, a used item
is worth a fraction of what the new item was worth, no matter how high its
Avoid this mistake by: Starting auctions at well below fair market value (ideally at $1.00), without reserve prices, and trying not to think of eBay selling as a way to recoup the "original value" or local retail value of an item.
- Skimping on item descriptions. Since most of what's sold on eBay
are standard consumer goods, since eBay offers a
catalog system that has the
specifications and a stock photo for most of these, and since eBay asks for
item condition (variations on new, refurbished, used, or not working),
many new eBay sellers assume that there's no reason to supply "their own"
description when listing an item for sale. Nothing could be farther from the
truth! eBay buyers are a picky bunch and generally want to see your
description of the item. Why are you selling it? Even if new, what is the
condition of the packaging? Are all the accessories included? Is this a
resale after a private purchase, or are you a liquidator? Is it still under
warranty? Scratches? Dents? Dings? Why are you selling it? Items without
good descriptions sell for measurably less on eBay auctions than items with
Avoid this mistake by: Crafting an item description that is unique to you and to the item(s) that you are selling, and that looks and reads like the kind of item description that eBay buyers have come to expect and understand.
- Skimping on item photos. Listings without photos or with only
eBay-supplied stock photos also tend to seriously underperform, particularly
in auction format listings, than listings with photos that you took of the
actual item(s) you're selling. eBay shoppers tend to want to see (a) that
you actually have the item in question, and are not a reseller or
drop-shipper without any stock of your own, (b) that you are a conscientious
enough seller to be willing to spend a little time marketing your goods
yourself, and (c) what the item's condition actually seems to bewhen
it is seen with their own eyes.
Avoid this mistake by: Taking multiple good-quality photos of any item(s) that you sell on eBay and including these in each of your eBay listings.
- Charging too much for shipping. It can be tempting to try to
increase shipping costs slightly in order to make an item's sale price
appear lower, but this strategy only serves to hurt you in the long run. For
one thing, price conscious consumers that sort their search results by price
will see items sorted according to their total cost (including shipping), so
"making up the difference" in shipping actually tends to lead to decreased
sales amongst price-conscious buyers. More importantly, though, eBay
shoppers increasingly seek out and are willing to pay more for "free
shipping" listings, and eBay's
best match system tends to promote listings
that offer it to higher search result placement. Perhaps most importantly of
all, eBay shoppers these days are notoriously touchy about shipping costs
and may quickly ding you with a one, two, or three-star
rating for shipping costs. A few of these and you can kiss your eBay
Avoid this mistake by: Selecting a carrier, packaging and weighing your goods, and charging for the actual shipping you'll owe the shipper in order to have the item deliveredor doing what many other sellers are doing and simply offering free shipping, even if the item's price has to be adjusted accordingly.
- Having friends and family bid on auctions, or using another account
to do so. Many novice sellers mistakenly assume that it's a smart
strategy to have friends, family, or even a second account bidding on their
auctions in order to raise auction closing prices and "ensure" a fairly
priced sale. In fact, all of these kinds of activities are classified as
shill bidding, and shill bidding is the kind of offense that gets you banned
from eBay for life.
Avoid this mistake by: Listing items with a high starting price or reserve price if you're really worried about not getting enough for a sale.
- Being unresponsive to customer complaints and/or not allowing
returns. If your goal is to sell as much or more on eBay in the long run
than you are selling right now, failing to address customer concerns in a
prompt, positive, professional manner is not what you want to do.
eBay's feedback and detailed seller ratings systems guarantee that each new
shopper that considers buying from you will have some idea about how you
have treated past buyers, and you'll find that shoppers will tend to
evaluate your feedback to decide whether or not you're the person they want
to do business with. More to the point, eBay also watches the number
of disputes that have been filed against you and the number of complaints
that they've received about you that they end up having to fix with
Avoid this mistake by: Always answering customer email and phone calls in a cheerful, timely manner even if the customer is upset, and offering the opportunity to return items to customers when they are truly dissatisfied with a purchase they have made from you.
- Not using all available tools to grow and prosper. Too many new
and eager sellers plod along with the "base" eBay, wasting their time and
selling inefficiently and using guesswork, even as their competitors list
more items and make more sales in less time and with better final margins
sell-through rates. It is nuts for you to allow this to happen to your
business, particularly when so many free and inexpensive tools are available
Avoid this mistake by: Evaluating and using a combination of Selling Manager, Listing Analytics, Sales Reports, Terapeak or one of its competitors, eBay Stores, Turbo Lister, and other time- and money-saving tools and services.
These aren't all the mistakes that new sellers tend to make, but these are many of the most common. All of them are easy to avoid, particularly once you understand the impact that they can have on your business and its viability in the long run.