There’s nothing small about small businesses, which represent approximately 99.7% of all employer firms across the country, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. And increasingly, more and more of these businesses are leveraging the power of eBay (EBAY) to sell goods and services.
According to A.C. Nielson, over 1.3 million Americans derive income by selling goods over eBay – everything from Barbie dolls to baseball cards to bowling balls – to an eBay audience of 157.3 million. All told, 50,000 Americans use eBay as a “primary” means of income, with the rest being hobbyists, moonlighters, and other second-income generators (eBay breaks down its sellers into categories; including bronze, silver, gold and titanium, by how much money they earn).
But either way, there’s an art to selling on eBay. First, know that it’s hard work. eBay sellers need to take quality product photos, manage realistic and profitable auctions, be quick with email responses, and handle all the packing and shipping.
But that’s not all.
Get to Know eBay
Take some time to look through the site (www.ebay.com) and familiarize yourself with its interface (that is, the series of buttons, links, search options, etc. that help users navigate around – much like the index and headlines of a newspaper.) Browse through different categories and products to get an idea of how people describe their items and how things are priced.
Plan for payment
While some sellers accept personal checks (small businesses normally take phone orders with credit cards), the most commonly payment method used by small business owners is PayPal, an e-commerce subsidiary of eBay that allows buyers to pay with credit cards, and sellers to be reimbursed, at minimal risk for both parties. Before you can buy or sell anything, you’ll need to fill out a registration form. Create a username and enter your email and contact information. You’ll then need to verify your information by submitting bank account information (this step can take three to five days).
Prepare your pitch
Check to see how previously sold products were described, and at what price point (you’ll find previously offered items by checking ‘Completed Listings’ in the Customize Search Options section of the item listings). Be sure to include a clear, high-resolution image of your item. Make your description succinct, accurate, and detailed. If it’s an autographed baseball or a limited edition print, say so.
Post an item
When you’re ready to list an item, eBay will let you preview your listing, to check for typos or errors before it goes live. By now you’ll have considered your starting bid, and determined whether you wish to include a “buy it now” price, which means you agree to sell the item to the first person who offers that amount (regardless of whether the auction has officially closed). eBay charges sellers an “insertion” fee for listing their items, which is non-refundable and varies according to the opening bid amount (fees range from 10 cents to $4.00 (down from $4.80 prior to February, 2008). Once your item is sold, eBay charges a "final value fee," again based on the value of your transaction, and there is no final value fee if your item doesn’t sell.
After you sell an item, your buyer is expected to pay for it promptly. Because PayPal establishes a connection to your bank when you register, payment can be quickly transferred into your account after your listed item closes.
With a few clicks, eBay has turned thousands of individuals into eBay entrepreneurs, and given countless small businesses access to potential customers worldwide.
It also gives new life to the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.