Using eBay to Launch Your Business

In This Chapter

Getting serious about your business
Making decisions about what to sell
Having what it takes to make a living online
Running an efficient auction
You’ve decided to get serious about your sales on, so now you have to decide how much time you have to devote to your eBay business. We talk about all kinds of eBay businesses in this topic. Even though you’re not quitting your day job and selling on eBay full time (yet!), we still think you’re serious. A large portion of sellers, even eBay PowerSellers (those who gross more than £750 a month in sales), work on eBay only part time.
eBay sellers come from all walks of life. A good number of stay-at-home mums are out there selling on eBay. And so many retirees are finding eBay a great place to supplement their income that we wouldn’t be surprised if the Pensions Service creates a special eBay arm for them. If you’re pulled out of your normal work routine and faced with a new lifestyle, you can easily make the transition to selling on eBay.
In this chapter, we talk about planning just how much time you can devote to your eBay business – and how to budget that time. We also talk here about working out what to sell. eBay businesses don’t grow overnight, but with dedication and persistence, you may just form your own online empire.

Getting Down to Business

Before launching any business, including an business, you need to set your priorities. And to be successful at that business, you must apply some clear level of discipline.
We won’t bore you with the now-legendary story of how Pierre Omidyar started eBay to help fulfil his girlfriend’s Pez dispenser habit, blah, blah, blah. We will tell you that he started AuctionWeb with a laptop, a regular Internet Service Provider (ISP), and an old school desk. Omidyar and his friend Jeff Skoll (a Stanford MBA) ran the 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week AuctionWeb all by themselves. When we began using the service, we had a lot of questions and we always got prompt, friendly answers to our e-mails. When the site started attracting more traffic, Pierre’s ISP began to complain about all the traffic and raised his monthly fees. To cover the higher costs, Pierre and Jeff began charging 25 cents to list an auction. Pierre was so busy running the site that the envelopes full of cheques began to pile up – he didn’t even have time to open the post.
When Pierre and Jeff incorporated eBay AuctionWeb in 1996, they were each drawing a salary of $25,000. Their first office consisted of one room, and they had one part-time employee to handle the payments. Pierre and Jeff started small and grew.

Choosing as a part-time money maker

A part-time business can be very profitable. We stress repeatedly in this topic that the more time and energy you spend on your eBay business, the more money you can make, but for now we move on to the lowest possible level of time that you should devote to your business.
Maybe you enjoy finding miscellaneous items to sell on eBay. You can find these items somehow in your day-to-day life. Suppose that you can spend at least a few hours (maybe three) a day on eBay. Now you must include the time you take to write up your auctions. If you’re not selling only one type of item, allow about 15 minutes to write your auction, take your picture or scan your image, and, of course, upload it to or a photo-hosting site.
How much time it takes to perform these tasks varies from person to person and improves according to your level of expertise. Every task in your eBay auction business takes time, however, and you must budget for that time. See the sidebar ‘Some handy time-saving tips’ for pointers.
Only you can decide how much time you want to spend researching going rates for items on and deciding which day or time your item will sell for the highest price. You can take great photos and write brilliant descriptions, but cashmere cardigans don’t sell for as much in the heat of summer as they do in winter. Doing your research can take up a good deal of time when you’re selling a varied group of items.

Some handy time-saving tips

Stuck for time? Following are some features that you’re sure to find useful and handy:

HTML templates: In Chapter 11, I give you some tips on finding basic HTML format templates for attractive auctions. These templates cut your auction design time to a few minutes. Most experienced eBay sellers use preset templates to speed up the task of listing auctions, and this should be your goal.
Turbo Lister program: When you want to list a lot of auctions at once, use the eBay Turbo Lister program- it enables you to put together and upload ten auctions in just 15 minutes. Chapter 9 tells you how to use this very cool tool.
Re-listing (or Sell Similar) feature: When you sell the same item time after time, you can use Turbo Lister (it archives your old listings so you can repeat them) or the handy eBay re-listing or Sell Similar features. When your auction ends on eBay, links pop up offering to re-list your listing or to Sell Similar. If you want to run a different auction with a similar HTML format to the one that just ended, simply select the Sell Similar option and cut and paste the new title and description into the Sell Your Item page of your new listing.
Auction management software: See the ‘Software you can use’ section in this chapter and see also Chapter 9, which details various programs to integrate into your eBay business.
Consider also how much time shopping for your merchandise takes. You may have to travel to dealers, go to auctions, or spend time online discovering new ways to find your auction merchandise. Many sellers set aside a full day each week for this undertaking. Your merchandise is what makes you money, so don’t skimp on the time you spend identifying products. The time you spend on resourcing your products comes back to you in higher profits.

Here’s a list of various activities that you must perform when doing business on

Photograph the item.
Clean up and resize the images in a photo editor (if necessary).
Upload the images to eBay Picture Services when you list or before listing to your ISP or third-party hosting service.
Weigh the item and determine the shipping cost.
Choose an auction title with keywords.
Write a concise and creative description.
List the auction on
Answer bidder questions.
Send end-of-auction e-mails.
Carry out banking.
Perform keeping.
Pack the item safely and securely.
Address the label and affix postage.
Go to the post office.
Time yourself to see how long you take to accomplish each of these tasks. The time varies when you list multiple items, so think of the figures that you come up with as your baseline, a minimum amount of time that you must set aside for these tasks. Use this information to help you decide how many hours per month you need to devote to running your part-time eBay business.

Jumping in with both feet: Making a full-time job

The tasks required for your eBay business can be time consuming. But careful planning and scheduling can turn your business into a money-spinning empire.
The best way to go full time on eBay is to first run your business part time for a while to iron out the wrinkles. After you become comfortable with uk as a business, you’re ready to make the transition to full-time seller. The minimum gross monthly sales for a Bronze-level PowerSeller is £750. If you plan your time efficiently, you can easily attain this goal. Head to Chapter 3 for more information on the PowerSeller programme.
Running a full-time business on eBay is the perfect option for working parents who prefer staying at home with their children, retirees looking for something to do, or those who’d just rather do something else than work for their boss. Read some real-life profiles of happy full-time sellers in Chapter 18.
See Figure 1-1 for an example of the home page, the first stop for most buyers on Note how eBay makes an effort to reflect some sort of promotion to better market the items you put up for sale.
The home page, where it all starts!
Figure 1-1:
The home page, where it all starts!

Deciding What to Sell

What should I sell? That is the million-dollar question! In your quest for merchandise, you’re bound to hear about soft goods and hard goods. Soft, or non-durable, goods are generally textile products, such as clothing, fabrics, and bedding. Hard goods are computer equipment, homewares, and anything else that’s basically non-disposable.

Following are just a few points to consider when you’re deciding what to sell:

Shipping costs: Some differences exist between shipping hard and soft goods. Soft goods can fold up and be packed in standard box sizes or (better yet) in bubble wrap or jiffy bags for much lower shipping costs. Most hard goods come in their own boxes, which may or may not be individually shippable. You also need to use Styrofoam peanuts or bubble cushioning or double package items in oddly sized boxes. See Chapter 17 for the low-down on shipping and packing.
Other shipping considerations: Do you want to handle large boxes and deal with the hassles of shipping them?
Possible storage problems: Do you have the room to store enough merchandise to keep you going? Soft goods can take up considerably less space than hard goods.
You don’t always have to buy your items in bulk to make money on eBay. The first things you sell may be items you find in your garage or loft. To find out about some other fun ways to acquire goods to sell, check out the next section.

Turning your hobby into a business

Admit it, you’ve got a hobby; everyone does! Did you collect stamps or coins as a kid? Play with Barbie dolls? Maybe your hobby is cars? Did you inherit a load of antiques? Been collecting figurines for a few years? has a market for almost anything.
You can’t possibly be an expert on everything. You need to keep up-to-date on the market for your items, and following more than four or five basic item groups may divert your attention from selling.
Selling within a particular category or two can be a good idea for repeat business. Should you decide to major in miscellany and sell anything and everything, you may not realise the highest possible prices for your items. If you have a source that permits you to buy items at dirt-cheap pricing, however, you may not mind selling at a lower price.

Collectibles: Big business on eBay

The story goes that Pierre Omidyar started eBay with the idea to trade collectible Pez dispensers (actually, the first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer). now lists countless categories of collectibles (see Figure 1-2), and those categories are divided into many times more categories, sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories. Almost anything that you’d want to collect is here, from advertising memorabilia to Girl Scout badges to Zippo lighters!
If you have a collection of your own, is a great way to find rare items. Because your collection is something dear to your heart and you’ve studied it on and off for years, you can probably call yourself an expert. Bingo – you’re an expert at something! Hone your skills to find things in your area of expertise at discount prices (you’re liking this more and more, aren’t you?) and then sell them on eBay for a profit. Start small and start with something you know.

If there’s one thing you know, it’s fashion!

Are you one of those people who just knows how to put together a great outfit? Do you find bargains at charity shops but people think you’ve spent hundreds on your garb? Do you know where to get hold of end-of-line designer gear? Looks like you’ve found your market (see Figure 1-3).
The Collectibles hub with links to categories.
Figure 1-2:
The Collectibles hub with links to categories.
Buy as many of those stylish designer dresses as you can, and set them up on the mannequin you’ve bought to model your fashions for eBay photos. (For more on setting up fashion photos on eBay, check out Chapter 11.) Within a week, you just may be doubling your money – ’cause sweetie-darling, who knows fashion better than you? area for clothing, shoes, and accessories.
Figure 1-3: area for clothing, shoes, and accessories.

If a ball, a wheel, or competition is involved – it’s for you

Many men like to watch sport, play sport, and look good while they’re doing it – opening up venues for a profitable empire on We don’t want to leave out all the women out there who excel and participate in many sports. Women may have even more discriminating needs for their sporting endeavours! Your golf game may stink – but you do make a point to at least look good when you go out there, with respectable equipment and a fabulous outfit. has an amazing market for football, rugby and tennis equipment -and that’s the tip of the iceberg. The last time we looked, golf items totalled almost 20,000 listings! What a bonanza! New stuff, used stuff – it’s all selling on eBay (see Figure 1-4). All this selling is enough to put your local pro shop out of business – or perhaps put you in business.

Including the whole family in the business

Sometimes just the idea of a part-time business can throw you into a tizzy. Don’t you have enough to do already? School, work, football practice, kids glued to the TV – you may sometimes feel as if you’ve no time for family time. However, the importance of family time is what brought us to eBay in the first place. We were working long hours in our own businesses, and at the end of the day, when the kids wanted to go shopping, perhaps for some Hello Kitty toys or a Barbie doll, we were often just too tired.
Sporting goods on
Figure 1-4:
Sporting goods on

One of us, has a great story:

I’d heard about AuctionWeb from a friend and had bought some things online for my own collections. (Okay, you got me; I collected Star Trek stuff- call me geek with a capital G.) I’d also browsed around the site and found some popular toys selling for reasonable prices. So one evening I introduced my daughter to eBay, and life has never been the same. We’d go to toy shops together immediately they opened on Saturday morning, so we’d get first dibs on shipments of the hottest, newest toys. My daughter headed for dolls, and I’d go to the action figures. After buying several items, we’d go home, and post them for sale on eBay. We made money, yes, but the best part was our toy runs -they will always remain a special memory.
My daughter has since graduated from university (she majored in business and marketing – must have been inspired by our eBay enterprise) but she still phones home when she finds a hot CD or a closing-down sale. My daughter and I still purchase and list items together. The family that eBays together . . . always does.
This short trip down memory lane has a point: A family business can succeed, and everyone can enjoy it. An adult can be in charge of the financing and the packing while a youngster can look up postcodes on the Internet and put pins in a 4′ x 5′ map showing every town that we bought or sold from. Children can learn some excellent lessons in marketing, advertising, and geography, all in one go.

Toys, topics, and music

Having children in your home brings you closer to the latest trends than you can ever imagine. We remember sitting in a cafe a couple of years ago watching some dads and their sons pouring over notebooks full of Pokemon cards. (Actually, the kids were off playing somewhere, and the dads were coveting the cards.)
And what about Star Wars? Star Trek? Men in Black? Can you say action figures? (If boys have them, they’re not dolls – they’re action figures.) If you have access to the latest and greatest toys, buy them up and sell them to those who can’t find them in their neck of the woods.
Is your home one of those where topics pile up all over the place? If your children have outgrown educational topics (even university topics), they can be turned into a profit. Remember that not every topic is a classic that needs to be part of your library forever. Let another family get the pleasure of sharing children’s tales!
If anything piles up faster than topics, it’s CDs, videos, and DVDs. Somehow the old lambada or macarena music doesn’t hold the magic it once did and those pre-school videos drive you insane. You can get rid of your own items and find plenty of stock at car boot sales – buy them cheap and make a couple of quid.

Selling children’s clothes

Last time we looked there were more than 42,000 baby clothes auctions in progress – and the bidding was hot and heavy. For stay-at-home parents, selling baby and children’s clothing is a great way to pick up extra income.
If you’ve had a baby, you know all too well that friends and relatives shower new mums with lots of cute outfits. If you’re lucky, your baby gets to wear one or two of these outfits (maybe only for a special picture) before outgrowing them. These adorable clothes can earn you a profit on Many parents, with children a few steps behind yours, are looking for bargain clothing on eBay – a profitable hand-me-down community. As your children grow up (and out of their old clothes), earn some money while helping out another parent.

Bringing your business to

Do you already have a business? isn’t only a marketplace where you’re able to unload slow or out-of-season merchandise. You can also set up your shop on eBay (see Figure 1-5). An eBay shop allows you to list a fixed-price item at a reduced fee and keep the item online until it sells. When you run your regular auctions for special items, they have a link to your shop, thereby drawing in new shoppers to see your merchandise. shops central.
Figure 1-5: shops central.

Here are a few ways you can expand your current business with

Opening a second shop on How many people run shops that sell every item, every time? If you’re a retailer, you’ve probably made a buying mistake. Maybe the item that isn’t selling in your shop is selling like hotcakes in similar shops elsewhere in the country. eBay gives you the tools to sell those extra items to make room for more of what sells at your home base.
Perhaps you just need to raise some cash quickly. eBay has tens of thousands of categories in which you can sell regular stock or speciality items. For a caveat on items you’re forbidden to sell, check out Chapter 4.
Selling by mail order: If you’ve been selling by mail order, what’s been holding you back from selling on eBay? Listing your item on eBay is much cheaper than running an ad in any publication. Plus, on eBay, you get built-in buyers from every walk of life. If your item sells through mail order, it will sell through eBay.
Licensed estate agents: Plenty of land, houses, and flats are selling on right now. List your properties online so that you can draw from a nationwide audience and get more action. You can read more about selling property on eBay in Chapter 2.
You won’t find a cheaper landlord than eBay. Jump over to Chapter 5 if you really can’t wait for more information about how to set up your eBay shop.

Getting Ready to Sell

We’ve heard many sellers-to-be say they want to start a business on eBay so that they can relax. Since when is running any business a way to relax? Granted, you don’t need a whole lot of money to get started on and you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck. But to run a successful eBay business, you need drive, determination, and your conscience to guide you, as well as a few solid tools, such as a computer and an Internet connection. In this section, we give you the low-down on these things and more.

Computer hardware

First, you need a computer. In our basic assumptions about you (see this topics Introduction), we think that you have one and know how to use it. Your computer doesn’t have to be the latest, fastest, and best available – but it does help if it has a good deal of memory to process your Web browsing and image touch-ups. One of our eBay selling computers is an antique Pentium 3, an absolute dinosaur next to my new 4.3GHz model. But combined with a speedy Internet connection, my little machine enables me to run many eBay auctions easily.
Hard drives are getting cheaper by the minute and the bigger your hard drive, the more space you have to store images for your auctions. (Individual pictures shouldn’t take up much space because each should max at 50K.) A warning: The bigger your hard drive, the more chance for making a mess of it by losing files. When you get started, set up a sensible filing system by using folders and sub-directories.
Check out Chapter 11 for details of the other stuff you may need, such as a scanner and a digital camera.

Connecting to the Internet

If you’ve been on eBay for any length of time, you know that your Internet connection turns into an appendage of your body. If your connection is down or you can’t log on due to a power cut, you can’t function and instead flounder around, babbling to yourself. I understand because I’ve been there. If you’re selling in earnest, pull the plug on your dial-up connection unless you have no choice.
Before investing in any broadband connection, visit www.broadband (see Figure 1-6) and check out details of ISPs in your area. Alternatively, allows you to compare and contrast the connections available. You can also find a broadband beginners’ guide at, in case you’re not sure about the ins and outs of high-speed Internet connections.

Dial-up connections

If you must use a dial-up connection, avail yourself of the many free trials that different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer to see which one gives your computer the fastest connection. After you find the fastest, be sure that the connection is reliable and has at least a 99 per cent uptime rate – otherwise you could be in for frustrating delays.
Most of the UK still logs on to the Internet with a dial-up connection, so what can be so wrong? Yet, this type of connection is painfully slow. An auction with lots of images can take minutes to load. The average eBay user wants to browse many auctions and doesn’t wait while your images load; he or she just goes to the next auction.
The search page on www. broadband checker.
Figure 1-6:
The search page on www. broadband checker.
To make the best use of your time when running your auctions and conducting research, you need to blast through the Internet – answering e-mails, loading images, and conducting your business without waiting around for snail-pace connections. Common quibbles from dial-up users are that transfer speeds are too slow and that their telephone lines are tied up during a session, so they can’t even use the phone! Although a modem is supposed to link up at 56K, the highest connection I’ve ever experienced on a dial-up was 44K – much too slow!


A confusing number of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) flavours (ASDL, IDSL, SDSL, and more) are available nowadays, ranging from reasonably priced to out of sight. DSL, when it works as advertised, is fast and reliable. A DSL line depends on the reliability of your telephone service: Crackling or unreliable phone lines can be a barrier to using it.
The main problem with a DSL connection is that your home or office needs to be within a certain distance from your local exchange. This distance is usually several thousand feet and shouldn’t be a problem for most people, but it might be worth checking with your chosen ISP if you live in a more remote area. The service runs from about £10 a month, but it usually costs more, especially if you get DSL through a booster that boosts the signal to a location farther away than the minimum 18,000-foot border.
If you can get it, true DSL service can give you a connection as fast as 1.5MB per second download. (IDSL is only 144K.)
We had DSL for about a year and was initially blown away by the speed. Unfortunately, every time it rained our service went out. We had to call time after time to get a service call. Sadly, this is a well-known drawback of DSL. Your local telephone company (Telco in DSL-speak) owns your home or office phone lines. Because DSL goes over POTS (plain old telephone service), your DSL provider has to negotiate connection problems with the people at your telephone company. As you can guess, one company often blames the other for your problems.
A friend of ours tried to get around this issue by getting DSL from the local phone company, which sounded great to us. Unfortunately, this arrangement turned out to be not so great because local phone companies tend to form companies to handle high-speed connections. So even though the two companies are technically the same, the two still argue about who’s responsible for your problems. Broadband with this much difficulty can be too much trouble.

Digital cable

Eureka, we think we’ve found the mother lode of connections: cable. If you can get cable television, you can probably get a blazingly fast cable Internet connection. Your cable company is probably replacing old cable lines with newfangled digital fibre optic lines. These new lines carry a crisp digital TV signal and an Internet connection as well. (These fancy new lines have plenty of room to carry even more stuff, and hot new services are being introduced all the time.)
Digital cable Internet connections are generally fast and reliable – you can download data at 1844 kilobauds per second. Compare that speed to the old-fashioned baud rate of dial-up (remember the old 300 baud modems?). And, the service is usually very reliable. Digital cable usually comes as a package with Internet, a phone line, and multi-channel digital TV, so prices vary and it’s worth browsing for deals that suit your particular needs.
As far as the myth about more users on the line degrading the speed, a cable connection is more than capable of a 10Mbps transfer – that’s already about 10 times faster than DSL. A lot of degrading would be necessary to noticeably slow down your connection. (Your computer still has to load the browser.)

Choosing your user ID

‘What’s in a name?’ On eBay, there’s a whole lot in your name! When you choose your eBay user ID, it becomes your name – your identity – to all those who transact with you online. These people don’t know who you are; they know you only by the name they read in the seller’s or bidder’s spot.
The low-down on user IDs
When choosing your user ID, keep the following points in mind:
Your ID must contain at least two characters.
eBay displays your ID in all lowercase letters.
You may use letters, numbers, and any symbol except  and &.
You can’t use URLs as your ID.
You can’t use the word eBay in your user ID; that privilege is reserved for eBay employees.
You can change your ID every 30 days if you want to. When you do, you get a special
icon next to your name, signifying that you’ve changed to a new ID. Your feedback profile (permanent record) follows you to your new ID.
Spaces aren’t allowed; if you want to use two words, you can separate them by using the underscore key (press Shift+hyphen to type the underscore key). You may not use consecutive underscores.
Don’t use a name that’s hateful or obscene; eBay (and the community) just doesn’t permit it.
Ever wonder why you don’t see many banks named Joe and Fred’s Savings and Investments? Even if Joe is the president and Fred is the chairman of the board, the casual attitude portrayed by their given names doesn’t instil much confidence in the stability of the bank. Joe and Fred might be a better name for a plumbing supply company – or a great name for blokes who sell plumbing tools on eBay! Joe and Fred strike us as the kind of friendly, trustworthy fellas who might know something about plumbing.
Does your retail business have a name? If you don’t have your own business (yet), have you always known what you’d call it if you did? Your opportunity to set up your business can start with a good, solid respectable sounding business name. If you don’t like respectable (it’s too staid for you), go for trendy. Who knew what a Napster was? Or a Kelkoo? Or a Bubblefast, which is a popular shipping supplier among eBay users in the US.
Are you selling flamingo-themed items? How about pink flamingos for your selling identity? Be creative; you know what name best describes your product.
Stay away from negative sounding names. If you really can’t think up a good user ID, using your own name is fine. protects and does not reveal your e-mail address. If another user wants to contact you, he or she can do so by clicking your user ID. The e-mail is sent to you through eBay’s e-mail system.
If you decide to change your user ID, don’t do it too often. Customers recognise you by name, and you may miss some repeat sales by changing it. Besides, eBay places a special icon next to your user ID on the site to show others that you’ve changed your ID. This icon sticks with you for 30 days.

Finding your feedback

The number that eBay lists next to your name is your feedback rating; see Figure 1-7 for a sample rating. Anyone on the Internet has only to click this number to know how you do business on eBay – and what other eBay users think of you. At the top of every user’s feedback page is an excellent snapshot of all your eBay transactions for the past six months. For the low-down on feedback, go to Chapter 3.
Sample eBay feedback rating.
Figure 1-7:
Sample eBay feedback rating.
If you’re really serious about this business thing, and your feedback rating isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, go online and buy some stuff. Even though now distinguishes between Buyer and Seller feedback, the numbers still grow. Feedback should always be posted for both buyers and sellers. Every positive feedback increases your rating by +1; a negative decreases it by -1. To get a high rating, rack up those positives.

Making Your Auctions Run More Smoothly

In this section, we discuss a few more niceties you need to round out your home base. The following tools are important, but you must decide which ones you’ll use. Some people prefer a totally automated office while others like to do things the old-fashioned way. One of our favourite eBay PowerSellers works with file folders, a hand-written ledger topic, and hand-written labels. If pen and paper make you happy, do it your way. I’m going to suggest a few options that ease the pain of paperwork.

Software you can use

Software is now available to accomplish just about anything. An all-encompassing software package exists that can help you with your auction, right? Well, maybe. Whether you use it depends on how much you want your software to do and how much of your business you want to fully control. In this section, we describe some software examples that you may find useful.

Auction management

Auction management software can be a very good thing. This software can automate tasks and make your record keeping easy. You can keep track of inventory, launch auctions, and print labels using one program. Unfortunately, most of these programs can be daunting when you first look at them (and even when you take a second look).
You have choices to make regarding the software: How much are you willing to spend, and do you want to keep your inventory and information online? Maintaining your listing information online enables you to run your business from anywhere; you just log on and see your inventory. Online management software is tempting and professional, and may be worth your time and money.
A good many sellers prefer to keep their auction information on their own computers. This method is convenient and allows sellers to add a closer, more personal touch to their auctions and correspondence. Some people say that keeping information local, on their own computer, is more suited to the small-time seller, but we think it’s a matter of preference.
In Chapter 9, we discuss the wide selection of management software available, including, Auction Wizard 2000, and the eBay-owned Selling Manager.

HTML software

You may want to try some basic HTML software to practise your ad layouts. We tell you where to find some templates in Chapter 11, but you’ll want to preview your auctions before you launch them.
You can use a full-blown Web page software package, such as FrontPage, to check out how your auction will look, or you may want to keep things simple. We use software called CuteHTML because it’s about as simple as it gets. Go to the following to download a 30-day free trial:
If you like this software package, you can buy it for around £15.

Spreadsheets and keeping

Many sellers keep their information in a simple spreadsheet program such as Excel. The program has all the functionality you need to handle inventory management and sales info.
For keeping topic, we use Quick topics. This program is straightforward, but only if you have a basic knowledge of accounting. Quick topics also integrates with spreadsheets. In Chapter 16, we discuss accounting software such as Quick topics and Microsoft Money in some detail.

Collecting the cash

Credit cards are the way to go for the bulk of your auctions. Often, credit cards make the difference between a sale and no sale. People are getting savvy (and more comfortable) about using their credit cards online because they’re becoming better informed about the security of online transactions and certain guarantees against fraud. So although you may truly love money orders, you need to take credit cards as well. In this section, we discuss another decision you need to make: Do you want your own private merchant account or would you rather run your credit card sales through an online payment service? For more about these options, read on.

Online payment services

Until you hit the big time, you may want to go with the services of an online payment service such as the eBay-owned PayPal. PayPal offers excellent services, and their rates are on a sliding scale, according to your monthly cash volume. Online payment services accept credit cards for you; they charge you a small fee and process the transaction with the credit card company. The auction payment is deposited in an account for you. Unless your sales go into tens of thousands of pounds a month, an online payment service can be more economical than your own merchant account. For more about these services and accounts, see Chapter 13.

Your own merchant account

As you may or may not know (depending on the amount of spam in your e-mail), thousands of merchant credit card brokers guarantee that they can set you up so that you can take credit cards yourself. These people are merely middlemen. You have to pay for the brokers’ services and it is wise to keep in mind that some of these brokers are dependable businesses while others are nothing more than hustlers. If you have decent credit, you don’t need these people: Go straight to your bank!
Your bank knows your financial standing and credit worthiness better than anybody. Your bank is, therefore, the best place to start to get your own merchant account – an account in which your business accepts credit cards directly from your buyers. You pay a small percentage to the bank, but it’s considerably less than you pay to an online payment service. Some banks don’t offer merchant accounts for Internet transactions because ultimately the bank is responsible for the merchandise related to the account if you fail to deliver the goods. Remember that your credit history and time with the bank play a part in whether or not you can get a merchant account.

The costs involved in opening a merchant account can vary, but you need at least £200 to get started.

Nine banks currently offer Internet merchant accounts. You need to set up an Internet merchant account even if you already have an account for face-to-face transactions. On top of the £200-ish sign-up fee, expect to pay additional day-to-day charges based on either a fixed fee or a percentage of your sales. For example, credit card payments often attract a commission fee, while fixed fees often apply to debit card transactions.
Setting up a merchant account is quite an investment in time and effort. In Chapter 13, we get into the details of a merchant account and explain exactly where all these costs go.

Home base: Your Web site offers you a free page – the About Me page – that’s the most important link to your business on eBay (see Chapter 3 for more information). The About Me page is part of your shop if you have one. You can insert a link on your About Me page that takes bidders to your auctions. You can link also to your own Web site from the About Me page!
If you don’t have your own Web site, I recommend that you get one, especially if you’re serious about running an eBay business. Check out Chapter 8, where I provide some tips on finding a Web host and a simple way to put up your own Web site.
You can keep your complete inventory of items on your Web site and list them as auctions or in your shop as their selling season comes around. No listing or final value fee is due when you have repeat customers on your Web site.

Setting up your shop

Office and storage space are a must if you plan to get big. Many a business was started at the kitchen table (that’s how Pierre started eBay), but to be serious with a business, you must draw definite lines between your home life and your online ventures. Concentrating when you have a lot of noise in the background is difficult, so when I say draw a line, I mean a physical line as well as an environmental one.

Your dedicated office

You must first separate the family from the hub of your business. Many eBay sellers use a spare bedroom As time progresses and your business grows, you may have to move, maybe into your garage. Remember, you’ll need electricity and phone lines, lighting and furniture. And don’t forget storage space for your saleable items.
One PowerSeller that we know moved all the junk out of his cellar and set up shop there. He now has three computers and employs his wife and a part-time lister (who put his auctions up on eBay) to run the show. This guy’s cellar office is networked and is as professional as any office.

Your eBay room

If you’re able to set up an office, your storage space should be ensured for a while. For a real business, a cupboard just won’t do. Seclude your stuff from your pets and family by moving it into another room and get shelving to organise your merchandise and admin properly. We talk more about organising your business in Chapter 17.

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