4 mistakes you may not even know you are making on eBay

Just one tiny innocent mistake, one you might not even know about, can turn an otherwise promising business into a nightmare waiting to happen.

But we all make mistakes – don’t we? And from these mistakes, most of us quickly bounce back…

But what about mistakes with serious consequences or which you never realise are happening and either get you in trouble with government officials or restrict your profits for days or weeks, or possibly for the lifetime of your existence as a seller on eBay? What can you do about those?

Well, as they say, to be forewarned is to be forearmed and knowing what mistakes most commonly happen to eBay sellers is a great way to avoid making those same mistakes yourself.

So let’s be forewarned about four of the most common mistakes made on eBay…

1. Assuming just because the seller likes a product that other people will like it too

Achieving regular profits on eBay means listing products appealing to a wide audience and attracting regular, preferably repeat, buyers.

Obviously, you need to know which products fit the bill before investing heavily in stock that might never sell.

That is why product research is an essential prerequisite for every item you list on eBay.

As an example, I made a few hundred keyrings with inserts cut from Victorian maps. They took a full week to make and another two days to list individually on eBay, since they didn’t qualify for a multiple-product listing. They didn’t cost much to make and each would earn me £6 pure profit per sale.

Now who wouldn’t like to own a keyring bearing a portion of a map more than 100 years old, or buy them as gifts for loved ones and friends?

After hundreds of unsuccessful listings, the obvious answer to my question was nobody but me wanted one of my own unique creations. They just didn’t sell: they didn’t even get visitors.

Had I checked before making and listing my keyrings, I would have found other sellers achieving few or no sales for similar items superior to my own.

When you’ve done your research and found several items selling daily without heavy competition on eBay, that’s the time to do your own test listing – for one item, not several hundred!

When your product sells you can invest your profits in more stock and do another few test listings. Only buy or make products in bulk when your first six or seven test products are returning a profit.

2. Assuming so much money going into your bank account means your listings are problem free

Similarly, spending so much time sourcing and listing new products leaves you no time to look for mistakes in your current listings.

The fact is just one mistake can add pounds to your listing fees every month or deplete your profits by hundreds of pounds every year.

As happened to me recently when I discovered more than 200 long-term listings with delivery prices that hadn’t been updated in years and for which every order cost me 50p more to deliver than buyers were paying.

Another problem: I’ve just discovered more than 300 of my own listings left to continue unchanged for more than 12 months for products I no longer stock and which have not been getting orders anyway.

Important: One of the most common mistakes happens where sellers create one template to suit all products listed today, tomorrow, forever – and not spotting a mistake that’s losing them money on every sale.

At best, a mistake made on your initial template used to list 20 or more relevant items over a couple of days might simply mean opening and revising all 20 listings – to correct a spelling mistake, for example, or choose a more appropriate selling category – so all you’ll really be wasting is time.

At worst, you may find the fixed price set for your best-selling products two or three years ago is way below their current wholesale price today. And you’ve sold hundreds of those products at a loss.

That’s why sellers should check all their fixed price, specified term or good ‘til cancelled listings every few weeks to spot and correct expensive mistakes and oversights.

3. Not registering as a business seller on eBay as soon as they begin acquiring goods with the purpose of generating profits

Listing unwanted household and personal items rarely requires people to register as business sellers on eBay, but registration is required, legally, as soon as goods are acquired and listed for the purpose of making a profit.

Business sellers intentionally masquerading as private sellers can be suspended or expelled from eBay.

Even worse is not letting the tax man know you are running a business or claiming unemployment and other government benefits to which you are no longer entitled. Penalties can involve fines, loss of such benefits, and even imprisonment.

So let the tax man know you are selling for profit and check how any benefits you receive might be affected. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will tell you how to proceed.

4. Setting your prices too high and setting your prices too low

Charge more than people selling similar products and guess where people visiting your listing will go next? To your least expensive rival seller, of course.

All things being equal, knowing how much to charge on a product others are also selling is usually a case of checking the opposition, studying their prices and charging a penny or two below their lowest-priced offer.

But some sellers can afford to price low, because they are buying goods in bulk at big discounts and using low profit margins. Using the same or a slightly lower price than those sellers could decimate your own business.

Instead, charge a middle-of-the-road price or ask the same as your highest-priced competitor. Do so by adding a unique bonus item to your offer; one that can’t be obtained except with your main product. Make the bonus item at least as popular, preferably more so, than the main product.

Idea: As well as looking for best-selling products on eBay with a view to selling similar items yourself, consider how well those items might work as free incentives for buying more of your products, notably any for which demand is stagnating or which have become over-competitive on eBay.

Setting your prices too low can be just as problematic as setting them too high. The fact is some people associate low prices with poor quality and high prices with superior quality: that’s why some sellers report an increase in sales when prices are increased on poorly performing products.

Test the theory by sorting your listings, priced lowest first down to highest, inside your eBay account. Do so by entering your eBay account, then click on ‘Active’ at the left side of the page. At the right side of the next page, click on ‘Sort By’ and choose ‘Price: Lowest First’ from the dropdown menu. That will return all of your listings, ranging lowest price down to highest.

Locate poorly performing low-price items and add a pound or so to their prices. If they still don’t sell, consider dropping those listings to cut your overheads and help you focus your time on better-selling products.

Now read this article again, identifying and correcting any mistakes you might be making and see just how much extra money you stand to make or save.

Last, but not least, my promised free guide to unusual product sources is ready for you to download now: it’s attached to this eletter.

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here