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Running an eBay shop

Set up on the auction site and get in on the action

Everybody has heard of the eBay phenomenon. Whether it's Baywatch sand going up for sale, or someone making a mint from selling bottled Loch Ness water, eBay has captured the imagination of the online public - more than 3.5 million items are listed on eBay every day. Even the Toronto police are auctioning off seized property on the auction site. So how can you get in on the action?

It's not just parents dispatching goods they've sold in between feeding the kids. Your business can now set up its own dedicated shop on eBay. Essentially, eBay shop sellers get their own slice of eBay. Each shop receives a unique internet address (URL) that includes the shop's name (e.g. www.stores.ebay.co.uk/Shopname). You can customise your shop's appearance, upload your logo, and add custom categories for your items. Your shop also gets inclusion in eBay's shop directory.

The most successful shop sellers create a balanced inventory of auction and shop items and cross-reference to help drive traffic to their shop. You can either set a minimum bid price and a reserve, or give your items 'buy it now' status, where goods are sold like an ordinary shop instead of auctioned, allowing you to sell a line continuously.

Setting up shop

Brian Blair of The High BidderDecide what to sell. "If you are buying things to sell on eBay for profit then the most important thing is how much you buy for and not what you sell at," explains Brian Blair of The High Bidder, who once bought three Lilliput Lane collectable cottages from an auctioneers for �6.00 and sold them for a total of �1645.00 on his eBay shop.

eBay's comprehensive instructions will take you through the process of setting up your own shop. Find out what it will cost to post your items in the UK and Worldwide. "Include these postage costs in your listings. This gets more bids and you avoid the subsequent questions. Get some decent scales to weigh packaging," advises Brian.

The it's time to get selling. You receive payment and send the items on receipt. Once delivery is complete you invite the buyer to give you feedback to build your reputation as a good seller. Good feedback is crucial to your success.

Once you have a shop and are ready to start selling, remember these wise words from experienced eBay sellers:

Be Honest and Direct. "Tell people right up front what you sell in detail, why buying from you will benefit them, and who you are," advises Brian. "It sounds so basic but more often than not you arrive at an eBay shop and it has no identity, no reason to buy and no immediate benefits. People have so much choice on eBay that you have to strike immediately or the chance is lost," adds Brian, who regularly sells 10 items a day from his eBay Shop.

Understand Your Margins. "Make sure that you know how much it costs you to list items, eBay fees, PayPal fees, postage costs, time etc. Buying something for �5.00 and selling it for �20 does not give you a profit of �15.00. Selling items for under �10 you need to know your margins very well."

Use PayPal. It's a credit intermediary system which handles all aspects of payment, from credit cards to identity checking. It's particularly useful if selling abroad as "it speeds up the total transaction time by as much as two weeks."

Tell stories. That doesn’t mean lying - it means painting a good picture about your product. "Sell the sizzle as well as the sausage," says Brian.

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Brian Ball Brian Ball, a 37 year old Aberdeenshire sales manager, did just that when he started selling water from Loch Ness to Americans. What started as a joke has netted Brian over �2,000 and a contract with an American company. "Every product needs a good line or story to help sell it. I'm not saying this is an amazing product, but it has caught the imagination of a lot of people."

Include good quality photographs with your item descriptions. "Never settle for a blurred or dark photograph," says Brian Blair. "Ideally use daylight and plain backgrounds as photos make or break your auction."

Concentrate on sending items fast, very fast. Customers like efficiency.

Don't necessarily try and make your listings look too professional. The aim is not to pretend you are a shop or a big business, but to give value and show that the buyer is getting a big bargain. That is why eBay exists and why people buy there.

The costs

Fees are low and include a monthly subscription fee (for shop owners), a listing fee (usually between 5 - 15p) and a final value fee for items that sell successfully (3 - 5.25%).

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to set up an eBay shop, try Auctioning4u – a UK eBay facilitator. Its customers can sell items via eBay without the hassle of writing descriptions, monitoring the auction process or dealing with payments and shipping.

So is there anything else you should know about running a shop on eBay? "Yes," says Brian. "If you have allergies to the following products - sellotape, bubble wrap or brown paper - then do not proceed!"

What next?

Keeping customers happy and coming back – free marketing training with Microsoft Small Business+. Sign up and try it now >>

You can buy and sell practically anything on eBay - including software. Read about how to make sure cheap software isn't a false economy.

Visit eBay to sign up and get selling.

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