Running a small business on eBay

Ordinary people are making big profits using the online auction house.
Learn more
  • Updated:26 Feb 2008

02.Getting started

Creating an account

There are free courses and online tutorials to help sellers find their way around eBay on the site itself — but here are our tips.

  • First you need to register with eBay before buying or selling anything. You can follow the prompts and click on 'sell' on any page to create a seller’s account. Once there, you’ll need to choose a user ID, a password and provide your email address.
  • Choose a secure password to protect yourself against identity theft — pick one of at least eight characters, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols and avoid common passwords such as your user ID or your email address.
  • You'll also be asked to submit personal details such as your mailing address and your credit card details to verify your identity — these won’t be misused by eBay, and no other eBay users can get access to them without your permission.
  • When you’ve created a seller's account, you can choose to use credit or debit card to pay sellers' fees or you can set up an alternative payment option — the site will take you through these options.

Listing your wares

Before you start, research listings of similar items to the ones you’re selling. This will give you an idea of how much people are selling their items at, what format they use (auction or fixed price), what details to include in your item description and what category or categories to list your items in.

As a rule of thumb, always take well-lit photographs that let the potential buyer get a good look at the item. Avoid background clutter that can distract buyers and include as much detail as possible in your description.

One experienced seller suggests taking photos as if there were no descriptions and writing descriptions as if there were no photos. When it comes to online browsing, first impressions count — they’re often the only chance you get to grab the buyer’s attention.

If there are any flaws or missing parts in your product, mention it in your listing description. Sellers have an obligation to provide a true representation of the item for sale. Many customers don’t mind the odd chip or stain, because they might be getting the goods at a bargain price. Buyers will know exactly what to expect and you won’t risk negative feedback — which can gravely affect your selling reputation

Prices and payments

When it comes to setting the right starting price, eBay displays a 90-day history of sold items, so potential sellers can check how much similar items were selling for.

If you’re selling a high-value product — for example, a prized antique — consider getting a professional valuation. Auction houses can often do it for free.

From 21 May 2008, all eBay sellers will be required to offer eBay's PayPal service on their listings on The new changes also means buyers will no longer have the option to pay via money orders or direct bank deposits from 17 June 2008. The only payment options will be through PayPal (which accepts bank deposits, Visa or Mastercard payments) or by cash-on-delivery.

eBay argues the main reason behind the move is to reduce the risk of fraud and the number of potential disputes. It also notes that many people already prefer to use eBay's Paypal payment system ( because it allows you to trade with other buyers and sellers without having to pass on your bank or credit card details. The payment is also directly deposited into your account, substantially cutting down processing time.

However, for all its convenience, Paypal does charge sellers a fairly hefty fee. It varies depending on your Paypal account and the method of payment, but personal account holders can pay up to 3.4 percent of the selling price plus $0.30 for domestic transactions and 4.4 percent plus a small flat fee (depending on the currency) for overseas transactions.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments