10 vital selling tips for eBay success

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By in Make Money. Updated September 2016.

Everyone and their dog seems to be making money on eBay these days, but what does it take to work this online marketplace like a boss?ebayWhether you’re looking to set up your own mini online business or just want to shift some unwanted clothes and DVDs, selling on eBay can be a great way for students to make a bit of extra dosh.

Whatever your intentions, it’s always best to swot up on best practices before getting started so you can be sure you’re getting the most out of eBay, and not missing any tricks!

We’ve crammed as much info as we possibly can onto this page, so that by the time you’re done reading, you’ll have all the info you need to start raking in the big bucks!

Top 12 tips for working eBay like a pro

  1. Think before you sell

    confusedbritneyWhether it’s a pair of shoes you’ve accepted you cannot walk in, some old comic books, or your Pokemon card collection – it’s crucial that you take a bit of time to decided whether something is in the right nic to be sold on before you post it up on eBay.

    You might be keen to start making money on whatever you can get your hands on, but if you make the mistake of selling items that aren’t in good condition or missing crucial parts, you’ll get yourself a bad rating which is basically eBay suicide – you might as well just give up there and then.

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Would this sell for less than the postage and packaging costs (i.e. is it really worth the effort)?
    2. Does it look like the dog’s gotten hold of it?
    3. Would I have to tell any white lies about the condition of this item in order for it to sell?
    4. Is anything that the buyer needs in order to be able to enjoy the item, missing?

    If you answered ‘yes‘ to any of these questions, then the item doesn’t belong on eBay (it belongs in the bin)!

    Top tip: If you’re stumped on what to sell, use the ‘most popular’ tool on eBay to find out what the hottest items are at that time. Also check out what the most watched items are or whichever ones tend to have the most bids on them, and use this as guidance. This should give you an idea of what will sell and what won’t.

    Thinking seasonally is always a good idea too – you’re not likely to get many bids on a pair of sunglasses in the middle of winter, so put them somewhere safe until the time is right. Chances are you’ll make a lot more cash on them if you can be patient and wait until the time is right.

    Read more on how one savvy student sold items she bought at a car boot sale on eBay for ten times what she bought them for!
  2. Work on building up your profile before you start selling

    Getting OnlineIt would be great if you could just open an account and start selling stuff right away, but unfortunately if you want to do things properly on eBay, this just doesn’t work.

    We would recommend becoming a buyer first so that other users can see you have an eBay history. Even if you just purchase a couple of small items for a few quid each, pay for the items promptly and take the time to give feedback (be pleasant if you can!) so you can build up your eBay presence and get a good buyer rating.

    Another important step is choosing your username – remember that whatever you choose will effectively be the name of your mini business, so sweetiepiewithsugarxx021 probably isn’t going to instil a whole lot of trust in potential buyers!

    We’d recommend either going for something simple and professional like a variant of your name , or alternatively go for a name that’s relevant to the kind of things you plan to be selling (this might make you easier to find in eBay search too).

  3. Understand the costs of becoming an eBay seller before getting started

    budgetnowBefore you begin making any money you first need to work out exactly how much an item is worth and how much it’s going to cost you to sell it. Obviously you want to make a decent profit, but there are a lot of additional costs applied when selling on eBay that you need to be aware of.

    eBay seller costs to consider:

    1. You’re allowed to list 20 items per month free of charge, after which you’ll be charged 35p ‘insertion fee’ per item
    2. There are also charges for added extras like listing in two categories or having more than one photo per listing
    3. 10% of the total sale also goes to eBay
    4. If the sale is made through Paypal, they also charge 20p per transaction and will take an additional 3.4% of total sale price
    5. Depending on how much you sell on eBay, you might need to pay tax (although this is unlikely). Check out HMRC website for more details.

    As you can see, it’s not simply a case of posting your items online and watching the cash roll in. Ecal is a nifty little tool which works out how much you’ll pay for each sale, based on what you list it for and how much it sells for eventually. Try running your item through this to see what sort of profit you’ll make.

    Keep your eyes peeled for eBay’s free listings days and discounts too. We’ll often post these on our eBay Student Deals page, so sign up y’all!

    But how do I know what to charge for my item?

    A great tool to use that will help you work out how much similar items have recently been selling for is eBay Advanced Search. Just search for whatever it is you want to sell and tick the completed listings box to see heaps of similar items and get a better idea of what to charge.

    Also, make sure you price the postage correctly, or you could end up out of pocket. Use Royal Mail’s price finder to establish how much you will have to fork out for postage and apply this to the listing. Note that high postage fees can put some sellers off, so we’d recommend adding the cost of any jiffy bags or sellotape into the price to keep postage rates down.

  4. Start bids low to catch bargain-hunter eyes

    watchingvidesIt might be tempting to list your items quite high initially, but starting your bids at 99p will actually get you a better sale in the long run. A low starting bid will catch the attention of more potential buyers and encourage a competitive bid-off as the item reaches its last day of bidding.

    However, note that this tip doesn’t apply to really niche products – if it’s something that only an avid collector would be searching for, don’t set the initial bid too low as you’re less likely to get a lot of interest on these items.

    You can always add a minimum price if you’re worried about getting a rough deal (which means the item won’t be sold unless it reaches this minimum required amount).

  5. Take decent photos of what you’re selling

    photo Credit: Mish Sukharev – Flickr.comA photograph of the item you’re selling adds maximum credibility, and a user is much more likely to continue bidding if they feel they’ve been given a decent representation of what’s on offer.

    If there are extra components to the item you’re listing, you’ll want to get them in the photo too – including boxes, instruction manuals, batteries and whatever else you’ve mentioned in the description.

    You don’t have to have an amazing camera to do a good job of this, but do make use of the macro mode if you have one and use autofocus, both of which will work wonders for up close shots.

    Natural daylight is always the best option for offering the clearest pics possible, but a little extra lighting (for example, using your desk lamp) can also make a big difference if you don’t have much natural daylight where you are. Make sure you avoid any shadows – turn the lamp upside down if you have to.

    Also remember that 12 photos can be uploaded to your account for free at one time!

  6. Remember that timing is everything

    itsgotimedogBefore you jump straight in and post your listing, take some time to think about when you should start the biddings off.

    In general, the best time to end any auction is on a Sunday evening. This has been proven as the day most casual buyers go for a browse so is the time that things heat up at auction. Therefore, if you’re going for the maximum 10 day auction (which is always the best option as this increases the chances of getting more bids), list it on a Thursday evening for maximum exposure to potential buyers.

    As mentioned previously, if you’re selling a themed or seasonal product – think about when the right time would be to put it online. For example, the start of October would be the perfect time to start listing any fancy dress items you have as people start searching for their Halloween party outfits online.

  7. Take time with your product description

    rules customers ebayCredit: John Fischer – Flickr.com
    Now for the hard part: writing the descriptions that will sell your product. It’s crucial that you take your time over this, as a good description can really make or break a deal.

    eBay allows you up to 55 characters in your title, so do make the most of it. Make it clear, concise and pack that thing with keywords to help make your item as easy to find as possible.

    14 golden rules of eBay product descriptions

    1. Avoid using caps lock or symbols – you’ll make eBay angry and it will self combust. Kidding, but it does look unprofessional and a bit like you’re shouting
    2. Avoid spelling errors like the plague! Typos are the enemy in eBay listings as they prevent your items from being searchable. There are even search engines that have been built solely for the purpose of finding items that are getting no bids due to typos – this is a very real problem!
    3. Make the description concise, informative and accurate. Highlight the key features and top selling points
    4. Get up to speed with the eBay acronym world: use terms like VGC (very good condition), BN (brand new), BNIB (brand new in box) and BNWT (brand new with tags).
    5. Be extremely honest about any problems or defects. The more honest you are at this point about any issues with the condition of the item, the more confident your bidders will be that they know what they’re getting. Remember, buyers can even ask for their money back if the item appears in a different condition to what was written in the listing, so just be clear
    6. You might also want to mention how often it’s been used before or why your selling it
    7. You’ll also find your items will command a much higher price if you’ve got all the packaging, tags and instruction books so do try and fish them out and make sure to mention them in the listing.
    8. Invite potential buyers to contact you if they have any questions
    9. Make sure to list all of your terms and conditions including the deal with payment (see below), postage and packing and refunds – saves any quibbles later!
    10. eBay pros recommend using the HTML function to make your description look all snazzy. If you can’t quite manage that you can still use simple eye-catching fonts and colours. Just keep it looking profesh
    11. Make sure you list your item in the right category. If you don’t, the chance of a good sale drops a lot. If it’s not immediately obvious then do a search for what you’re selling and see where it has been most listed before
    12. if you’re selling a lot of similar items at once then use your description to link to your other sales. A bit of self-promotion never hurt anyone!
    13. Research how top sellers describe their items that sell at a high price to see what sort of language you should be using in your descriptions
    14. If you’ve got a load of items to list then it might be worth making use of eBay’s Turbo Lister. It’s free and lets you create auctions at your leisure and work offline.
  8. Promote Paypal for payments

    nomoneyWe’d recommend taking payments via PayPal – despite the annoying fact that Paypal charge 20p per transaction and 3.4% of your total sale, it is the safest and most preferred payment method in the eBay world.

    There’s also an added layer of security so people can’t scam you for your product.

  9. Remember the job ain’t done when the sale is made!

    relaxNo relaxing just yet! Once your sale has gone through (wahey!), be sure to send a confirmation email to your buyer as soon as possible and invoice them for the full amount, including the postage charge.

    You should then send them another email once you’ve received their payment and when you’ve dispatched the item. We know – this sounds like a lot of emailing, but buyers appreciate being kept in the loop, and if you’re too quiet there’s a chance they’ll get suspicious and report you. 

    Make sure you also dispatch the item as promptly as possible and beware of being too ambitious with your ‘handling time’ declaration. If you estimate that you’ll take 2 days to dispatch the item, but the buyer hasn’t received the item in the time specified, you’ll not only receive bad feedback but the buyer can even ask for a refund from eBay.

    After you’re all done, do remember to give your buyer some lovely feedback. It’s how the eBay world works after all, and as the saying goes – what goes around, comes around y’all!

  10. Always get proof of postage!

    scaredcatSend every item you sell by recorded delivery or at least get proof of postage. Unfortunately, there are eBay buyer scammers out there who cause trouble by telling eBay that items haven’t been received even when they actually have been delivered.

    Make sure you’re armed with proof in case you need to fight your corner!

    And we’re done! Hopefully you’re now be equipped with all of the super skills you’ll need to be a pro eBayer.

    Be sure to let us know how you get on, and if you think we’ve missed any tips – give us a heads up in the comments section below.

    Go to eBay.co.uk and start selling »

    For more ideas on how to start raking in the cash, head over to our make money quickly guide!

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2 Responses to “10 vital selling tips for eBay success”

  1. Paula Terkelsen

    06. Jul, 2016

    I’ve been in the habit of selling large numbers of items for 99p until I actually worked out all the fees charged by ebay and Paypal (final value fee on postage – that is outrageous!). However, I realise, having worked it out, that I am actually making a loss. Very disenchanted with ebay and very much so with Paypal.

  2. Steve

    10. Jun, 2016

    Some great ideas.

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned but i have recently found a very good money earner is on that you may off missed off your list but can be very lucrative
    CAR BOOT SALES. over the last 2 bank holidays it has been possible to earn £800 for each Sat and Sun and B/H Mon and is well worth digging out all your old stuff . You will be very surprised what others will buy.


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