Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What I've learned selling on Ebay

As part of my goal to make $1,000 in "side hustle" (loosely defined as anything outside of my normal paycheck), I've experimented with a few different options:

1)Selling books on Amazon (the shipping killed me). I ended up canceling all of my listings & taking everything to the used bookstore.
2) Craigslist - great for heavy items with a low price point, or items that would be difficult to ship.
3) Ebay.

I'm admittedly a complete novice when it comes to Ebay (I've completed my initial round of auctions, & have ten more that are active right now), but here are a few Ebay tips and tricks I've picked up.

  1. The pictures really count. I had one very high value item (a pair of designer shoes) & took the time to have M set up a photo area (sheets as backdrop), got out the big camera, & spent 30 minutes or so setting things up for the right shot. I do not do this for smaller items, but for the shoes, it made a huge difference.
  2. Research the postage! Postage is a killer for me. On my first round of auctions, I tried hard to keep the postage costs reasonable to encourage bidding. What happened? I lost money on several of the auctions, because the postage ended up being substantially more than I expected. I'd prefer to have something not sell than lose money because of postage.
  3. Pre-package the items you have listed. See #2. Part of the reason that I underestimated the postage was that I didn't take the time to find appropriately sized packages/boxes before listing the items. Multiple items were light, but large (hats, for example) & required large boxes that were quite expensive to ship. If you take the time to pre-package your items, you can weigh them at home and get a very good estimate for the final shipping price.
  4. Fully describe all flaws. I typically don't sell anything that isn't new, new without tags, or in excellent condition, because it's hard to get the value out of those items. However, I do have a few purses that have minimal leather wear on the bottom, and describing that wear & taking multiple pictures allows the buyer to know exactly what they are getting. Many buyers will decide that minor wear on the bottom of the purse doesn't bother them, and they will bid anyway, but hiding/not fully disclosing a flaw in your original listing isn't going to do you any favors. What happens when the buyer receives your packages & finds flaws they weren't expecting? My goal is to have satisfied buyers at the end of each transaction, and while not always entirely possible, describing and photographing any and all flaws in detail goes a long way towards avoiding surprises.
  5. Be prepared for the unexpected. I'm still learning how listings work, but I've definitely had to pass up money because I didn't understand all of the rules. Once someone bids on an auction, you are limited in what you can change in the listing. Also, there will be buyers who don't follow through with their end of the purchase. I had an item in my last round (shoes, again :-)) that received 20+ bids, and the high bidder never paid. Rather than accepting the Second Chance offer, I chose to relist. I'm not sure if that was the right strategy, but will soon find out.
  6. Think about seasons. I had a bunch of expensive ski stuff to list, and realized that if I didn't get it listed last week, I needed to wait until next season. No one wants to bid on an item and put it in their closet until next year. I have a stack of Halloween items ready to go for next fall.
  7. Start small. I started with ten relatively small listings, and learned a bunch about the process. I gave myself a week off, because it was pretty time consuming, and now have another batch listed. In my experience, it's always best to give yourself time to learn the ropes before you fully commit with an enormous list of expensive items.
  8. It's a risk! You have to be prepared to sell an item for your minimum bid price. I start off all of my auctions at $.99 to encourage bidding. And, two of my items sold in the last round for under $3.00. Now, did I think they were worth more? Of course, or I wouldn't have gone through the trouble of listing them. Could I have thought of other ways to use the items if I knew how little I would make (or, in some cases, that I would lose money)? Yes again. But, with some items, it really is difficult to predict their value until you list them.
  9. Do your research. On the other hand, it's very helpful to research similar items and get a sense for what your listing might sell for. This is helpful for two reasons. 1) You may look at the sell price of similar items and determine that it's not worth listing. 2) If you receive a message for a buyer looking to buy it & end the auction, you'll know the appropriate value to charge.
  10. Communicate. I try to respond to each and every buyer question within a few hours (barring time zone issues). Even if I'm not interested in their offer, it's important to let them know that right away. I also invoice a buyer as soon as an auction closes, contact them as soon as I've shipped something, and leave them feedback. Doing this is important for your own selling reputation, but helps make the Ebay community work as well.

That's it so far. As I said, I'm truly a beginner at this, but thought I would share what I've learned so far.

What about you? Do you sell on Ebay? What tips & tricks have you learned along the way? Any big wins or success stories?


  1. Great advice!! :) I generally don't use Ebay (well, I buy, just don't sell) as the shipping process takes too much time and Canada Post rates are disgustingly high. :( You should link up to your sales when you have them going!

    1. THe postage (and now the fees on the postage!) are so hard to predict & really the killer for me as well.

  2. I sold a couple of items on Ebay before but I rarely do it, again, because of the shipping costs. But I recently discovered local Facebook classifieds (search by your city). Because it's local, there is no shipping, and I actually sold 4 things out of 5 that I listed so far, and all within a few days! I also got some Disney DVDs there for $1 a piece!!

    1. I've never heard of FB classifieds, but will check it out! Thanks.

  3. I agree with Carla! Let us in on your sales!
    I used facebook to sell my stuff when we moved, and that worked well, because my friends liked my stuff, knew it's condition, and felt good about helping me empty my apartment before we left. Granted, I didn't get AS much per item as I might have got on ebay, but I didn't have to ship anything, and Im sure I moved a greater volume of items in a shorter time than I would have, had I sold online.
    I did start selling things in exchange for a hug, or manual labour. I "sold" my TV to my coworker who sent her daughters over to shampoo the carpets once my place was empty.

  4. I'm a little embarassed to even share this, but I tell you guys (almost!) everything, so here goes. :-) I used to (say, before kids) buy lots of designer stuff. Most of the things I have are: designer clothes, shoes, ski wear, hand bags, etc. I wish I could rewind the clock & slap myself & spend that money on savings, traveling more, & other worthwhile things, but you can't change the past. :-)

  5. I've sold a few things, but to be honest, the fees are discouraging, so now I calculate them before I sell or price anything. Though I would loke most bids at .99, if the item is priced at 20 or 40, I start it at 10 or 20 to make sure I am not shorted. I also think timing is important, and to consider your audience. If you're targetting the US market, try to go for auctions that end at between 4pm EST and 11pm EST, as this captures most of the population, hence increases chances you will get more bids.

    However, I will say. Since Ebay started charging fees on the shipping portion, I havent really sold anything. Why do we have to get charged on shipping when it doesn't really concern eBay? I am not a fan of their nickle and dime'ing people.

  6. I've been selling on eBay since 1999. I've seen it all!lol
    That being said, here is "Why I hate eBay".....

    They haven't cared about protecting sellers for many years...what's the point of a feedback system where a seller can NOT leave an honest negative comment about a buyer?...they require you take payment thru Paypal(which they own)and you are charged fees on the shipping amount your buyer sends you. Let me repeat this--you are charged money for the amount you have to pay the USPS to ship their item, so you are subsidizing your buyers shipping costs, which amounts to an additional selling fee on you.
    Shipping rates are insanely high for an individual seller. You can't possibly compete with large corporation who now sell on eBay and can avoid to offer free shipping or they(the corps.)get reduced shipping rate deals with UPS/Fedex/USPS/etc.
    Yet, eBay is always pushing you, the little guy, to offer free shipping to buyers. Unless you are shipping very lightweight items only, do NOT fall for this!....you will lose your shirt.
    While I detest the shipping rates as compared with what they were years ago on eBay, I do feel that current shipping rates are MORE in line with the cost of things now.

    You can buy books on how to do eBay, written by people who think they have it all figures out(the supposed authorities on everything eBay)....things like how to sell, what to sell, when to end auctions, sell in a store vs. auction, and on and on. Take everything they say with a grain of salt because when it comes down to it, and you can quote me on this....."eBay is a crapshoot!" 10 people could follow the same advice on eBay, sell the same items, etc. and each would have a totally difference experience.
    There is no "right" time to end an auction or store listing. There is no "right" price to start an auction at. What happends all depends on who happens to be online when your listing goes live and when it ends.


  7. 4 things to help you sell successfully.
    1-Know your item. Do completed listings searches to see if it has sold in the last 30 days and for how much. Timing is everything. Don't waste your money trying to sell stuff that has little change of selling for a profitable amount.

    2-Start it at a price you can live with. If you don't want to let it go for .99¢, don't start it there. Your item might be better off in a Buy It Now listing for the full amount you want for it. eBay is becoming a shopping venue of 2 types of shoppers---those who shop their for the thrill of the auction format and then there are those who just want to buy something and get a good deal. eBay isn't a game for them and they just want a good deal and the item in their hands asap. I tend to think nowadays that the latter of those 2 types of buyers is a larger crowd of potential customers.

    3-Know your shipping costs and make sure you put the full amount out there for your buyer to pay. NEVER offer flat rate Priority mail unless you've figured that it would be cheaper than reg. Priority mail for the item to their location. Be sure to figure into your shipping costs any handling fee(if the item is complicated to ship and requires special packaging of materials AND extra time!). Also factor in the cost of any shipping materials you need to purchase(bubble wrap, packing tape, etc.)
    Additionally, ALWAYS insure a package. Buyers get clever and say in their listing, "I am not responsible once the post office gets your package." Well technically, you ARE responsible until the package is delivered into your Buyer's hands. And when a buyer tells eBay they never got their package, eBay will yank their payment from your account. So if you are going to not insurance, at least insist on Delivery Confirmation so you have some protection. I've been involved in a couple of scam artists deals on eBay through the years, learning once the hard way, but I'm glad I wised up and always cover my a$$. ;-)

    4-Sell internationally. Being in the US and selling overseas will open up a much larger pool of potential buyers. With the much higher shipping costs nowadays, it will discourage some, but overall, I've had great success selling overseas over the years. 80% or higher of US sellers refuse to ship out of the country. So if 40 people are selling the same thing you are and only 1 of them will ship outside the US, anyone wanting this item who lives overseas only has 2 choices-1 or that 1 other person. Your odds of making a sale have just shot way up. You can elect to only ship to certain other countries(some countries have very corrupt mail services-Italy and Jamaica come to mind)and only ship to Verified users, but if you want a bigger chance to sell, go global. And again, if you do, start small, and make sure you charge correct shipping amounts.

    1. Awesome, awesome tips! You need to write a book on ebay! :-) You're the pro!

  8. Great tips from both you and Sluggy! :)!

  9. I used to sell on E-bay until I got an invoice for trying to sell items that didn't sell. At least that's how I remember it.

  10. I'm starting to wonder if a garage sale might be the better choice.
    I'm having my 2nd ever garage sale this summer. I have asked a neighbor, my BFF and my inlaws to join me. I have been stashing everything in the garage. Well not stashing-stacking. I thought it was a wreck before, I had no idea.

  11. Great tips! The postage is a big one - getting it right can make or break your 'profit'

    I used to use eBay a.lot. but my recent experiences have put me off - it's not like it used be, unfortunately.

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