How to Effectively Sell Your Stuff on eBay

by Jamie Simmerman · 14 comments

If you’ve ever hosted a yard sale, you know how much work goes into preparing, labeling, displaying, and selling your unwanted items. At the end of the day, you’re exhausted and the few hundred dollars you’ll earn (if you’re lucky) hardly seems worth the amount effort required.

An easier alternative is to sell your quality items on eBay instead of hosting a yard sale. I have a friend who even uses this method to supplement her income quite nicely by visiting estate sales and selling her purchases on auction sites. eBay is a great way to make a little side income. Here are a few tips to help you sell more effectively.

Tips for Selling on eBay

  1. Take quality pictures and put the most favorable picture on top. Use a neutral background or at least an area of your home free from distracting clutter and decorations. If you’re selling clothes, include a shot of the item’s clothing tag and any intricate details such as close-ups of beading or embroidery. Include a shot of the serial number or identification tags if applicable. Use natural lighting to help consumers see the product’s colors and details as accurately as possible. Take as many pictures as necessary to fully depict the item. Consider including a shot of the item in use, such as someone typing on the laptop or wearing the shirt for sale.
  2. Be generous with your description. List the product’s uses, its benefits, and a link to the manufacturer website info if available.  Include all pertinent information and double check for typos and spelling errors. Read your description out loud before making your last edit.
  3. Be honest. If the product has scratches, is well-used, or sometimes gets glitchy, be sure to mention this up front. Most consumers will not hesitate to file a complaint if the product fails to meet their expectations once it arrives.
  4. Consider shipping costs carefully. Go to your local post office to find out how much it will cost to ship the item anywhere in the continental U.S. Calculate the cost of packaging, and travel expenses to and from the post office as well. You can also include a small handling fee for your trouble if you desire, but keep it reasonable. Many consumers don’t check the shipping costs until after they’ve bid on an item and see they are winning. You don’t want to foot the bill for shipping, but you don’t want to gouge the buyer either.
  5. Promote your items for sale on local online discussion groups and communities. Our county has a County Buyers United website that allows people to post ads for free and our local paper has freebie classified ad days on occasion. Mention your listing on Facebook as well to help get the word out about your sale.  (Local buyers can have their shipping rates refunded if you so choose.) Include a favorable picture with any ad when possible.

Experienced eBay sellers, what tips do you have the newbie seller?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • amanda says:

    I tried to sell something on ebay before and I have a paypal acoount. The item sold but I never received money, so I never shipped the item. How do you get paid for what you sell? Does it go onto the card you register through paypal?

  • Jillian says:

    Thoughts on Craigslist?

  • suresh says:

    One more point to add is to look for merchants who do shipping directly to customers with a small charge. This way we don’t need to take delivery of the product and re-send it to customer.

  • Marbella says:

    Try to find as many similar objects that you will sell on eBay and put your price among the lowest to get the object sold easily and quickly.

  • Great tips! Though I do not have any plan of putting up an online store yet, I know this post will help a lot of people who would like to venture into selling in eBay. I will admit I learned a lot, too, both from the article and other readers’ comments. Thanks for sharing!

  • Robert says:

    E-bay has lots of tutorials on its website for new sellers. The fees will eat you up if you are not careful: fees to list, fees for pictures, fees to sell, fees to set a reserve price, fees for big font, fees for buy-it-now, you get the idea. Those nickels and dimes add up to lots of dollars by the end of the month. All of these fees except the selling fees are charged even if the item does not sell. You will receive an invoice from e-bay each month with the amount they are deducting from your paypal account. Ebay owns paypal. Also, e-bay does have a feature that allows you to check what similar items sold for so you can set a reasonable opening bid. An opening bid of 99 cents might be fine if you know you have something popular for sale like an iphone 4, but if you have a Nascar die-cast, you should set your opening bid expecting only one bid. Items are normally listed for a week (you can change that for a fee!) but the last minute is when most of the bidding takes place. That is why you want to list on Friday evening & Saturday. My son was outbid on a pickup truck with 6 seconds left in the auction. It’s free to sign up and make a watch list to watch items sell, so I would start with that first.

    • Owen Glendower says:

      “It’s free to sign up and make a watch list to watch items sell, so I would start with that first.”

      Excellent advice. You cannot effectively sell on ebay unless you educate yourself about the item you’re selling.

      Certainly study the tutorials, look at other sellers’ terms & conditions, etc., but it’s not enough to know the MECHANICS of selling on ebay. Before you list an item, search ebay for similar items. It won’t take long to learn what it’s worth, but also read the item descriptions and learn what the important “points” are for the item you’re selling. Also, what are the important keywords you should use in your title and description? STUDY BEFORE YOU SELL.

      You might learn that there are several versions of your item, and that some versions are worth more than others. Hallmark ornaments are a good example, as are books and cameras.

      I bought a Leica M-3 camera at an auction for $200. I ran a roll of film through it and determined that it was in good working order. I then educated myself about this particular camera, since I’m a Nikon guy. Looked at a lot of ebay auctions and other internet sites. Shot a lot of good close-up photos and took the time to write a good, detailed description. All of that took at least 8 hours. Sold it on ebay for $1499–because I knew what I was doing.

    • Kiwikid says:

      All those fees is why e-bay ended up dead in the water in NZ. A local start up called Trade Me and its associated sites now generates about 60% of all internet traffic originating within the country.

      They have a fees for a variety of mechanisms, but I believe that they are far cheaper than anything e-bay offers. See: http://www.trademe.co.nz/help/18/fees-and-fee-calculator

      I’ve never sold anything on Trade Me, although perhaps I should. Bought a few things but you only pay the price plus shipping, if any.

      Also, auctions auto extend, which means any bids placed in the final 2 minutes will extend the closing time by 2 minutes from the time the bid was placed. Auctions will only close if there are no bids for 2 minutes.

  • jim says:

    Harry,
    Could you please give me more details re: how you do this? I’ve got a house full of stuff I want to get rid of and a son who’s looking at law school. I told him he could pocket all the $ he could make selling the stuff I want to get rid of to help pay for law school. I haven’t a clue how to even get started and would really appreciate any input you could give me. I am vehemently opposed to school loans unless they are absolutely necessary and I think my son could avoid a lot of loans if he could master this skill. Thanks much.

  • I use ebay all the time for buying and selling. In fact, I actually bought a small postage scale(on ebay haha) for ~$10 bucks. I sell literally anything that I don’t want that won’t have too high of shipping costs. It’s really easy to list with the mobile app, you snap a photo, write a quick description and it’s up!

    As far as postage, if it’s under 13 oz you can print a label and ship first class for really cheap. Or you can use PM and pay a little more. The good thing about PM is you can track the package and there is free delivery confirmation, which could help in the event the buyer claims they didn’t receive the item.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    I think that taking multiple pictures helps a lot too! You can never have too many pictures of an item from multiple angles!

  • I have been on eBay since the early days and have used it for both buying and selling. I can second the “honest” thing. I’ve found that when I post close-ups of defects, I actually get better bids.

    Also, it’s easy and free to get an online account with the Post Office. Priority Mail became popular because of eBay more than perhaps any other factor. It’s extremely easy to ship stuff with Priority Mail, and you know the cost ahead of time. Buyers (at least for the hobby related stuff I buy and sell form time to time) know PM and prefer it, because delivery is usually in two or three days and it’s trackable online. You get the packaging from the Post Office for free, so you can see ahead of time what size is needed. You print the labels on your printer and you can get a small discount on shipping if you do it this way.

    I’m not sure that eBay is a good venue for actually running a business, unless your margins are sufficient to cover the expenses. But for casual yard-sale type stuff, I’ve found you get better prices, even after the fees, than a yard sale would bring, simply because many more people see it. Furthermore, they get to bid on it, whereas with a yard sale you have to set a low price, with no upside potential.

  • KM says:

    I would add to this: keep in mind the fees that eBay charges, as well as the PayPal fees if you are using that option for payment. For some items, eBay will charge close to 9% of the final sale, and PayPal will take another 3% or so for the payment transfer. Be sure to check what the fees are for the type of item you are selling so you don’t run into actually losing money if you are buying and reselling.

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