You’ve done your research. You’ve taken great pictures. You’ve written a detailed description of your item. Now it’s time to sit back and watch the money roll in, right? Wrong! You still have a little work left to do.

By the time you get to the payment and shipping forms when putting together an eBay auction, it’s tempting to check the most convenient boxes without putting much thought into your terms. Don’t make this mistake.

Payment Options

You have two issues when choosing your payment options. The first is that you want to make the buyer comfortable paying you. If buyers aren’t comfortable with the methods of payment you accept, they won’t bid. On the other hand, you need to protect yourself. You don’t want to let a fraudulent buyer walk away with your item…and the money.

There are no perfect methods of payment, but Paypal is pretty close. It’s quick, it offers protection for buyers and sellers, and most eBay shoppers are familiar with it. Though Paypal will take a cut of your payment, the very fact that you accept Paypal will cause more people to bid. Despite the fees, more than likely you will be money ahead to accept Paypal.

On my auctions, I require payments to be made within three days of auction end. Paypal is the only method of payment I accept, so I shouldn’t have to wait for payment. In reality, though, I wait a week before filing a non-paying bidder report with eBay. 99% of my buyers have paid within a week. In reality, I might gain more bidders by having a more lenient policy.

Shipping Options

Setting your shipping options is a tricky thing. People don’t like to pay a lot for shipping. On the other hand, shipping can cost a lot. Here are some things to consider.

Flat Rate vs. Actual Shipping ~ The first thing you need to decide is whether to choose flat rate or actual shipping costs. This is really up to you. If you’re on either coast, though, you’re better off charging actual shipping, as costs can vary dramatically, depending on where your package is going.

Domestic vs. International Shipping ~ Again, this is personal preference. I prefer not to deal with the hoops included with international shipping, but you may get a few more bids if you agree to ship internationally.

Handling Fees ~ Make sure you have a plan to recoup your packaging costs. You can either do this by charging a small handling fee or by figuring the amount of your packing materials into your opening bid. I prefer the latter, as a lot of people hate to see handling fees tacked on to shipping charges, no matter how reasonable the cost.

Insurance and Delivery Confirmation ~ No matter what you say in your auction, it is the seller’s responsibility to get the item to the buyer. You have three options with regard to insurance. You can require the buyer to pay, you can offer it to the buyer and let them decide, or you can just not offer it (which I don’t recommend).

But remember, it’s your responsibility to get the item to the buyer, so if something goes wrong, you’ll be on the hook, whether or not they buy insurance.

I handle this dilemma by offering insurance. If the buyer pays for it, great. If not, I weigh whether or not I can take the loss if the package is lost in the mail. For items under $50, I usually take the risk and figure I’ll pay out of pocket if the item doesn’t arrive. For items over $50, I buy insurance, even if I have to pay out of pocket.

Delivery confirmation is a must. You will not be protected through Paypal if you don’t have a way to prove your package was delivered. Don’t pinch pennies and skip delivery confirmation!

If you like, you can ship via UPS or Fedex, which will give you both insurance and delivery confirmation. I’ve always found it’s less expensive to go through the postal service, though.

A Word About Packaging

Be careful when wrapping up your package. Make sure you use enough filler that the item doesn’t shift or break. There’s nothing worse than a beautiful transaction gone bad, because the item arrives broken (more on that in the next post).

Also, it’s a good idea to wrap the item in some kind of sealed, waterproof packaging before placing it in the box or envelope. This is important for two reasons. The first is obvious. If the mailman leaves the box on the porch and it’s raining, you don’t want the item to be ruined.

The second reason is to avoid a smoky smell. I’ve actually seen complaints from buyers that items smelled like smoke when they received the package. The reason was that the postal carrier smoked. If you place your item in a sealed plastic bag, you can avoid the dispute as to whether your item really came from a non-smoking household or not.

In my next and final post on How to Create the Perfect eBay Listing, we’ll look at return policies and problem transactions. For previous posts in the series, check out:

Photos by Andres Rueda and meddygarnet.