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It's free listings on eBay for the next week, so private sellers can cash in on 0% insertion fees. If you're yet to join the hordes flocking to buy and sell on eBay, you're missing a fantastic opportunity. There are bargains galore and a huge market of buyers happy to take unwanted belongings off your hands.

But where to start? As a seasoned eBayer here are my 10 top tips on how to set up and start making cash from your trash.

1. Open an account
Before using eBay for the first time you have to open an account. You'll need to enter your name, address and email, and decide on a username and password. Think carefully about your username – it is your identity on eBay and will be shown when you buy or sell on eBay or communicate with other eBay members.

Avoid anything provocative or silly, and don't include personal information, such as your full name, date of birth or town where you live. Instead, link it to what you may be selling 'fashiongal_23' for example, or 'DIYbloke_7' – or something professional sounding it you're selling miscellaneous items.

2. Research the competition
Before creating your first sales listing, search as a buyer to see how other sellers are marketing the same or similar items to yours. Look at the title, price and postage costs, photography and descriptions. It is useful to add items to your 'watch list' so you can track how many bids they receive and the final sale price.

Consider which listings attract you and why, and which ones put you off. Remember similar listings are your competition, so think about how to make yours stand out.

3. Take quality photos
Photography is incredibly important on eBay so it is important to set aside time to take quality pictures. Without the ability to see and touch your item, buyers only have a picture to go by and want see exactly what they are bidding on.

Make sure the area is well lit – in natural daylight if possible - and take photos straight on and at different angles, including close-ups of any details. It is important to be open and honest in your listing – misleading customers will lead to bad feedback and the hassle of dealing with returns – so always include photos of imperfections.

If you are selling a used item that is for sale new elsewhere online – for example, a designer handbag or digital gadget from a highstreet retailer – avoid using commercial images that you have not taken. This can mislead buyers into thinking they are buying brand new, or give the impression you are hiding the true condition and put bidders off.

4. Create your listing
The title you give your sales listing is key to ensure people find your item. You have 80 characters to play with and they should include keywords that buyers would type in if they were looking for your item.

Keep it precise but detailed and include relevant details such as the brand, size and colour. For example, the title for one of my recent sales read: Muubaa Limited Edition buttery soft grey leather jacket, women's size 10/12. If you have space after including essential details, throw in tempting words like 'beautiful' or 'great condition' – don't let those 80 characters go to waste.

5. Describe your item
A detailed, well written description is key to give customers the confidence they need to place a bid. Be honest about the age and condition of the item, and always explains any imperfections. It may sound minor, but good grammar and spelling all show you've put thought into the listing, which can only be a good thing from the buyer's perspective.

Think about what you would want to know if you were buying and if in doubt – always err on the side of too much information rather than not enough. To soothe any cynical buyers, it can be helpful to give the reason that you're selling too. Remember that the more details you give, the less likely you will have buyers asking questions during the auction.

6. Choose the right category
Help buyers find your items by selecting the category that best describes your item. There are so many categories on eBay that selecting the most relevant one for you item might not be as simple as it sounds. For example, a piece of furniture might suit more than one room, so how do you decide between bedroom, living room or dining room?

When it isn't immediately clear, it is worth searching to see which categories other sellers have used. Enter the keywords for your item in the search box (such as 'pine side table') and 'All categories' in the drop down menu.

In the resulting listings, look at which categories and subcategories have been used, the number of bids and the page-view counter (if shown) in each category. Select the category with highest bid and page-view counts.

7. Take account of fees
When you list an item on eBay, you're charged an insertion fee. If the item sells, you're also charged a final value fee. For an auction-style sale, you can avoid the insertion fee by choosing the minimum start price for your sale (£0.01-£0.99), otherwise the insertion fee increases from £0.15p to £1.30 depending how high you set your start price.

If you opt for the 'Buy-it-now' sale route, which allows you to set a fixed price, you are charged a flat fee of £0.40 regardless of price. If your item sells in either type of listing, you will pay 10% of the final selling price, up to a maximum £40.

As you move through the listing set-up you will have the option to include marketing tools for an additional small fee. It is up to you to decide if they are worth it, but bear in mind that fees will eat into your profit and it is clear photos, a great description and good customer service that will ultimately make a sale.

8. Payment and postage
You need to specify your postage costs so customers can factor it into their final payment price. You don't need to visit the Post Office – simply visit the eBay Postage Centre and you can work it out from your computer using quotes from Royal Mail and Parcel Force (depending on weight).

For particularly bulky, heavy or fragile items, 'pick-up only' is usually the best option, but consider also giving buyers the option to arrange courier collection at their own time and expense.

All sellers on must offer PayPal as a payment method and therefore open a PayPal account. It is a secure online payment system and offers protection if anything goes wrong, for example if items do not arrive or aren't as described in the listing. PayPal is free for buyers, but sellers will be charged a fee of 3.4% + £0.20 for receiving funds – which will be automatically deducted from the payment.

You may also offer several other payment options, including payment by cheque, postal order, credit card (if you have your own processing capabilities), or payment on collection. Be sure to detail your accepted payment methods in your item description.

9. Customer service
Just like any other buyer/seller relationship, good customer service is key to encourage repeat custom and good feedback. Most eBayers are genuine, but there are some tricky characters out there so feedback is an important tool to build your reputation as a good honest trader.

Answer questions politely and as soon as you can, and indicate your method of postage so winning bidders know soon to expect the item.

While the majority of transactions are harmonious, hiccups do happen and it is often how you deal with an issue that counts more than the problem itself. You will need to decide what your returns policy is and include it the set-up process. Under eBay rules, sellers are always required to accept a return if eBay determines that the item doesn't match what was described in the listing – otherwise, it is generally up to you.

Buyers are more comfortable shopping from sellers who offer clear return policies - even though most buyers will never return an item - so it is worth including it in your description as well.

10. Go live
When you are completely happy with your listing, it's time to go live and start the auction. A good tip is to time your listing so that it ends during a busy period for eBay, such as an Sunday evening when lots of people are online, instead of a weekday morning when many are occupied at work.

Don't panic if you don't receive bids straight away – most buyers watch items but don't bid until the final hours and minutes or even the last seconds. If your item sells, contact the seller with the standard invoice and aim to post the item promptly after payment is received.

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