The best of broadband - eBay for beginners
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Date: 10 February, 2005



'It only costs a few pennies per item to sell goods on eBay and the potential returns are massive.'

Ray Hatley guides you through the process of selling on eBay

From the earliest days of the internet, and particularly since Broadband has been available, online selling has been a dream for many entrepreneurs.

Although a few notable businesses such as Amazon have developed and prospered, many people have now realized that basing a business solely on online sales is an expensive and inefficient pipedream.

Fortunately there is a low cost alternative to running your own ecommerce operation. The online auctioneer website eBay is taking the world by storm and offers ordinary people the opportunity to sell their unwanted ‘stuff’ online to a huge community of eager buyers.

So what makes eBay so popular and why has it become an online selling phenomenon?

Broadband has obviously made eBay available to many more people in the UK and browsing a site as big as this is not expensive anymore but the real answer lies in its uncomplicated and inexpensive approach to selling.

It only costs a few pennies per item to sell goods on eBay and the potential returns are massive.

Let me give you an example: Last week I turned out my spare room and put ten unwanted items on eBay. The basic listing fee for this was less than £3. By Sunday night I had sold all but two items and had a return of around £100 and even when I deducted eBay’s extremely reasonable commission (yes they do charge you twice!) I was very happy with the outcome and had around £90 in my pocket.

Now please understand, eBay isn’t for everyone. Some people are simply too greedy to understand that a business like eBay is set up to make money and begrudge paying for the service.

And that is fine. Other people have goods that wouldn’t sell in a back street flea market – and that is fine too. You just need to remember that eBay works best for people with sensible expectations and good quality ‘stuff’ to sell.

So how do you get started?

Despite any optimistic claims, setting up an eBbay account actually takes about half an hour. It is very easy and just needs to be approached with both eyes open. Take time to read each section and then you won’t get any surprises later.

Whilst you are about it, I suggest you also set up a Paypal account to handle your eBay finances. You will need to have some way of paying for purchases and somewhere to hold your incoming funds and Paypal works very well with eBay – not surprising really as they are both part of the same organization.

I have been using eBay and Paypal regularly for more than a year now and have never had a problem. I do take my time when paying for items and make sure I don’t enter the wrong amounts – all the obvious stuff – and frankly I find it a pleasure to use.

Okay, occasionally Paypal is not available for an hour or two as work is carried out on the website but this can be expected with any online service. Live with it!

The thing to remember is that when you bid in an eBay auction you are making a legally binding offer for goods and will be expected to pay for those goods if you win the auction. So don’t bid unless you are prepared to pay – obvious isn’t it?

If you find eBay and Paypal works for you then you may decide you would like to run your own online shop where you can sell your wares in a ‘branded’ environment. I started my own shop a few months ago and it is slowly building momentum.


It certainly isn’t a paying business but it does provide a inexpensive and enjoyable opportunity to sell assorted bits and pieces as I decide I don’t want them anymore. Take a look you never know what you might find!

eBay offers a number of free software ‘tools’ designed to help people to sell online. I personally favour a very simple programme called TurboLister that allows me to list multiple items extremely quickly.

This means that if I want to list twenty different books I don’t have to fill in a complicated online form for each one.

All my personal information is pre-loaded into TurboLister so all I have to do is to put in specific information about each book. Having added information for all twenty books I simply click a button to upload the whole lot to eBay. Easy.

If you haven’t tried eBay yet then do take a few minutes to explore the site. Be warned it is great fun and can become extremely compulsive – which reminds me - I must just go and check my auctions…

Ray Hatley is a freelance journalist working for a number of national newspapers ands magazines.

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