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Tips for Selling Services and Intangible Goods on eBay

Don't repeat mistakes commonly made by sellers of intangibles


Tips for Selling Services and Intangible Goods on eBay

Whatever the service or intangible good you're offering, be sure you're selling on eBay in a way that's effective, low-risk, and that plays by the rules.

Image: Andreypopov / Dreamstime

Not every eBay seller uses eBay to sell tangible consumer products of one kind or another. Some eBay sellers specialize instead in non-tangible goods (information, software, or data of various kinds that's delivered entirely virtually) while others still are sellers of services (their time, expertise, and/or labor.

Selling intangible goods can pose special problems for sellers and their feedback and seller performance ratings because it's often tough to keep buyers and sellers on the same page without a recognizable brand name, product, and/or photo to clarify what the listing is offering. Here are eight tips to help sellers of non-tangible goods to perform on eBay.

  • Be very clear about what you're selling. This is often a big problem for service sellers, who often fail to get the title right by using ambiguous titles ("My expertise in home remodeling at your service!" or "Professional real estate investor can help inspire your group!") that don't tell buyers what they're purchasing or bidding on before compounding the problem with descriptions that don't make this clear either. Before posting a listing for intangible goods, ask yourself what, exactly, are you offering to deliver or to do, where will you deliver or do this, for how long, and precisely what is included so that you can be clear about this to your buyer ("Home Remodeling: Five hours expert consulting by phone or Skype!" or "Real Estate Investing: Expert one-hour onsite lecture for your group")
  • Don't lead with personal hype. There is a place in your listing for bullet lists of your personal qualifications and accolades, but it's not at the beginning, where this can turn into a soup of superlatives that leave your buyer wondering what's actually on offer and why they should care whether or not you're so great. At most, include one brief and very general statement of qualifications to start your description or listing ("I have 20 years experience in home remodeling and have won awards at dozens of regional expos" or "Thousands of audience members have now heard me describe my successful career in real estate investing") before spending the next several paragraphs on the actual product you're offering (your time, your service, etc.) rather than talking about yourself.
  • Be very clear about what you're not selling. Service sellers often get themselves into trouble by not clearly spelling out what's excluded from the sale, leading to disputes later on when buyers expect more than the seller was prepared to deliver. In your item description, use disclaimers to spell out those things that might commonly be desired by buyers but that you don't want to include in this sale ("Your purchase here does not include additional labor time doing design work or other tasks; you are purchasing only the telephone or Skype time, which will occur only during normal business hours, as they are compatible with my existing schedule" or "Note that the price you pay here does not include the printed materials and access to my website that accompany my presentation; your audience members will have to buy these individually").
  • Be very clear about terms. There is a space in the listing form to answer this question, but it's also important to spell it out. Under what conditions will you give your buyers a refund? Under what conditions won't you give them a refund? If you offer a "satisfaction guarantee" of some kind, who gets to determine when the terms of this guarantee are met and what are you willing you do to attempt to ensure that they are met? Particularly if your labor time or other similar open-ended resources are on the hook, it's important not to open yourself to an ongoing commitment for what you thought was the price of a small, one-time job.

So far, so good. To some, these things will seem obvious—but there are some less obvious pointers that can be make-or-break as well. Read on to see them.

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