My eBay Selling Guide: How to Make Money as an eBay Seller
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Have you ever been curious about selling on eBay but didn’t know where to start? My eBay selling guide will take you through everything you need to know in order to start a successful eBay business and make money fast.
That’s right, without relying solely on your car! 🙂
I’ve been selling on eBay for several years and have made all the mistakes in the book. Thankfully, with these tips, you’ll be able to avoid the common mistakes and ensure that you’re achieving maximum profit from day one.
My Ebay Selling: Essential Items to Get Started
If you’re only selling one or two items on email, you may not need a lot of equipment. If your goal is to become a serious eBay’er, here’s what you’ll need:
You won’t need anything expensive. In fact, a cell phone that was made within the past couple of years should be fine. You can use a high-quality camera but using a separate camera from your phone will add additional steps to the process. You just want the pictures to show the item as it looks in real life.
When you take pictures with a camera that isn’t your phone, you’ll have to upload them to your computer and add them to the listing from there. When you take the pictures on your smartphone, you’ll be able to upload them directly from it and that will save time. I use the free Google photos app to back up my photos in case something were to happen to them.
You don’t need a computer to list your items, but eBay is an old website and some of the features are only available through the desktop browser version. For instance, to make any changes to your account, you’ll need to access eBay on a computer.
It’s also easier to make bulk edits to your listings by going through the eBay seller hub in the browser version. Sometimes, you’ll need to send the customer an invoice and that can only be done on the eBay website. Any computer with an internet connection will do.
Here are Amazon’s current best-selling laptops
Printer and Labels
If you’ve already got a printer, you don’t necessarily need to buy another. I recently purchased a laser printer at a yard sale because laser printers give you a lot more prints per cartridge vs inkjet. Switching from an inkjet to a laser printer will save you money over time. If you are going to stick with an inkjet, buy your cartridges refurbished on eBay and you’ll save a lot of money.
You don’t have to buy shipping labels when you’re just starting out, but they will save you time when you start selling a lot. I started out just using printer paper and it was taking me extra time to take scissors and cut the label out and tape them to the packages. I bought 1,000 sticker labels for less than $30 on eBay and now I can just print off the labels and stick them right to the package without using any tape.
Another tip is to set it to not print the shipping receipt when you print the label. This uses up more paper/extra labels and is redundant because the receipt is emailed to you.
There might be times when you need to print an extra label because you lost the first label, or it was damaged somehow. You can get another label by going to your eBay seller hub and clicking shipping labels in the drop-down menu then finding the label, voiding it, and printing another. Doing this prevents you from being charged for two labels.
You’ll be using a lot of packing tape, so buying in bulk is the cheapest option. You don’t necessarily want to purchase the cheapest tape you find. Having nice and sturdy tape will ensure the package is more secure and you won’t have to worry about the tape coming unstuck. It’s also a good idea to invest in a high-quality tape gun. I found one used on eBay for half the price it would cost to buy one new.
The types of boxes
Another option for boxes is to use the free, flat rate boxes provided by USPS. These boxes require you to use the shipping services specific to the box and if you have large items, there might not be a box big enough. The only time that these free boxes are a better option than using your own packaging is if you’ve got a smaller item that weighs a lot. Since it’s a flat rate, you won’t be charged any more for a 10-pound item than you would be for a 2-pound item.
Poly Mailers and Bubble mailers
These are the only types of packages I purchase. There’s a multitude of different sizes you can choose from, but typical sizes are 6”×9”, 9”×12”, 14”×17” and 19”×24”. You don’t have to buy all the sizes when you’re starting out. Just buy the sizes that work best with the types of items you sell.
The difference in bubble mailers and poly mailers
If you’re selling fragile items, bubble wrap, packing peanuts and paper will be your best friends. I save any packing material I get from purchases I make and let friends and family know I’ll take anything they got. It’s worth purchasing this stuff if you can’t get it for free. Items breaking during shipping is the worst.
Scissors and razor knife
You’ll find yourself needing to cut things all the time, and a good pair of scissors is essential. Razor knives come in handy when you need to resize a box. Sometimes, you’ll need to ship something, but all of your boxes will be way too big. You don’t want to waste packing material just to fill empty space in a box.
You can easily resize a box by setting the sold item in it, taking a razor knife and cutting the corners all the way through down to a little bit above the item. Then, you take the knife and lightly drag it horizontally across the box at the level where you cut the corners down to. This scores the box, and you’ll be able to fold it down to a tighter fit.
A lot of times, you’ll find something cool, but it’s really dirty. Part of the fun of selling on eBay is taking something that has been forgotten about and cleaning it up to give it new life. Cleaning dust off your items will probably be the most common form of cleaning you do. A good dust rag and feather duster are great things to keep around.
If you’re buying used shoes, getting a horsehair brush might be a good investment. Most of the shoes I get, I’m able to clean with a wet rag. Goo Gone and a Scotty peeler will come in handy for getting sticky labels off things.
Some type of measuring tape is essential. You’ll need to put in your box measurements when you’re listing your items. It’s also a good practice to include measurements of your items in your listings. People may not be able to tell how big an item is just by looking at the pictures. If you’re going to sell clothes, you’ll need to include the measurements in the listing for sure.
You can get a good scale that weighs things from 1oz to 60lbs for a reasonable price on eBay. Having accurate weights on the items you list is a critical part of factoring how much the shipping will cost. Always add a couple of ounces for the box and any packing material you might pack the item with.
Once you start shopping for items to sell, you may be surprised how much stuff you start buying. Your storage space will fill up quickly! Having sturdy shelves and some storage containers will help you stay organized.
I was able to find someone giving away some shelves, so I didn’t have to pay anything for them. Check places like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and you may be able to get shelving for free or cheap.
Creating eBay and PayPal accounts
You’ll need an eBay and PayPal account to sell on the platform. It’s been announced that eBay is moving away from PayPal, but for the time being, PayPal is still what the majority of eBay seller use to process payments. You can choose to only accept credit/debit cards as forms of payment, but this will reduce the number of people that will be willing to buy from you.
You don’t need a business account with PayPal to sell on eBay. A personal account will work fine. You’ll just need to add a bank account to PayPal so you can transfer the money you receive to your bank.
I suggest creating a separate bank account just for your eBay business because this makes things simpler. When you have a designated bank account for eBay, you can use it for all of your expenses and be able to track your income and outflow much easier.
Finding items to sell
There are millions, if not billions of different things that are sold on eBay each week. From thimbles to pickup trucks, you can buy and sell just about anything. There are some exceptions though.
While you may find almost anything under the sun listed on eBay, that doesn’t always mean it will sell. A good rule of thumb is to do a search for an item you’re interested in and then set the filter to “sold”. This will show you if the item has sold recently and you’ll be able to see what it sold for.
What items sell
When you’re just starting out, one of the more popular categories to sell in is clothing. Clothing is good because you can find it all over the place for cheap and you don’t have to worry about it breaking in shipping.
Here are 10 men’s clothing brands that sell for good money on eBay:
- Tommy Bahama
- Harley Davidson
- Brooks Brothers
- Hugo Boss
- Tommy Hilfiger
Here are 10 women’s clothing brands that sell:
- Eileen Fisher
- Free People
- Dale of Norway
- Diane Von Furstenberg
- Victoria’s Secret
- Michael Kors
- Tory Burch
- St. John
And that’s not even scratching the surface on just ONE category you can sell in! Other good items are vintage/antique items, video games, vintage electronics, collectibles, art, jewelry, fabrics like curtains and sheets, Computer accessories, vintage perfume/cologne, rare mugs/kitchenware, appliance parts… It would take me months to write out all the categories to sell in.
Basically, if you’re out shopping and something catches your eye, look it up and see what it’s selling for. You can also find all kinds of good videos on YouTube and blog series that show what sells on eBay.
Where to Find Items
The types of items you’ll find depends on where you’re able to get your items from. Pretty much anywhere in the U.S. should have at least one good place you can find items for cheap within an hour drive of your house.
My favorite place to find items is yard sales. Most of the time, people are just wanting to get rid of their stuff and will be thrilled when you show up with a pocket full of cash.
Apps like Yard Sale Treasure Map make it easy to find yard sales, but most of the time, you’ll just need to drive around and look for signs. If you’ve got an area near you with a lot of houses, that will probably be the best place to look for yard sales.
It’s good to be friendly with the people who are hosting the sales because they’ll be more likely to give you deals. It might be hard to look up items on your phone when you’re standing right in front of someone, so sometimes you’ll just have to decide if you want to buy an item without knowing if it’s worth anything.
Another thing to do is ask the seller if they have anything else for sale. They might take you into their attic and have all kinds of valuable stuff that they didn’t feel like pulling out.
My second favorite place to buy things is local thrift stores. I don’t like Goodwill very much because they seem to be expensive. Small independent stores, usually run by a church or nonprofit organization are better. I rarely leave a thrift store without a handful of stuff that I can make a nice profit on.
If you’ve got one near you, Goodwill outlets are much better than the Goodwill retail stores. They usually price items by the pound and lots of people get their entire eBay inventory from these outlets.
Estate sales are great places to find things, but sometimes the estate sale companies try to charge an arm and a leg for stuff. You have to be selective with what you buy, but I can usually find something I can make good money on at each sale I go to. EstateSales.net is a great way to find estate sales in your area.
Auctions are a great place to find cool items. A lot of times, you can buy a whole table full of stuff for cheap and make serious money on the stuff you get. Most of the time, auctions are an all-day event, so you’ll have to have an open schedule to go to one.
Yes, believe it or not, you can buy items on eBay, and resell them for more on eBay. Sometimes a seller will have something listed for a really cheap auction price and you’ll be the only one to find the listing. The more common way to buy things for cheap on eBay is to buy lots of stuff together and then piece them out and sell them separately. eBay isn’t the best place to find things for cheap, but it’s a way to get items without having to physically go anywhere.
Other online marketplaces
Sometimes, you can find things for cheap or even free on places like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There are a couple of other popular selling apps like LetGo and OfferUp that are similar to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
What does it cost to sell on eBay?
There are a few different fees you can be hit with when selling on eBay. There are insertion fees, final value fees, subscription fees, and PayPal fees. If you’re paying for a store subscription, you shouldn’t have to pay any insertion fees if you’re sticking to the subscription guidelines.
Final value fees are the biggest expense and are usually around 10% of what your item sells for. PayPal takes about 3% of the sales, so you’re looking at paying about 15% of the price your item sells for the total. If you charge for shipping, eBay charges a final value fee on shipping, but they give you a shipping discount so that should cover the fee.
Listing the Items for Sale on eBay
Now you’ve got your equipment ready to go, your eBay and PayPal account setup and an item to sell. It’s time to start listing! Listing is definitely the most time-consuming part of the process, but don’t let that stop you. You can’t sell anything if you don’t list, so the more work you put in, the more money you’ll make.
Should you list on your phone or on a computer?
Do whatever works best for you, I personally do my entire listings on my phone. It’s easier to type out descriptions on the computer keyboard, but it would take me more time to do part of the listing on my phone and then switch to my computer. I like listing on my phone because I can take pictures and instantly upload them through the eBay app.
Search for the item on eBay
The quickest way to start a listing is to search for the item on eBay and set the filter to “sold”. If you’re able to find a sold listing of the item you want to list, you can click on it and scroll down on the page until you see a button that says “sell one like this”. I like doing this because I know that someone was able to get the listing sold using the title and information they provided in the listing.
If you can’t find your item in the “sold” filter, turn the filter off and see if there are any active listings of it. If there is, you can click on it and hit the same “sell one like this button”. When you use the “sell one like this” function, it will automatically pull a lot of information into the listing for you. You’ll still have to upload your own pictures, but the item specifics should already be filled out.
If you can’t find the item you want to sell anywhere on eBay, you’ll have to start a listing from scratch. You might be able to find more information by searching on google. Sometimes you’ll find old pages with information about the item. I’ve found the quickest way to find an item on google is to search google images.
Write a good title
The title is one of the most important parts of the listing. 99.99% of the time, people are going to find your item by searching eBay with a certain phrase. You need to fill out the title with as much relevant information as you can think of. I try to completely fill the title character limit with every listing I post.
Here’s a title of something I recently sold:
“VTG Gatorade Duffle Bag Green Orange 19″ x 10″ Gym Tote Zipper Blue Handles.”
VTG stands for vintage. You’ll find there are a few acronyms like NOS (new old stock) and EUC (excellent used condition). I’m not sure how much using these acronyms helps with making sales, but I try to use them when I can.
For something to be vintage, it has to be 20 years old or older. For something to be an antique, it has to be 100 years old or older. If I can’t think of enough words to put in the title and it’s a vintage item, I’ll just write the word “vintage” instead of using the acronym VTG.
Selecting the right category
Making sure you’re listing is in the right category is critical. If you’re selling a vintage coffee mug, and the category is women’s shoes, you’re not going to get as many views on the listing. You’ll have to pay attention to the category when you use the “sell one like this” option on preexisting listings. Sometimes, the category won’t be correct, and you’ll need to change it.
Selecting the item condition
Depending on the category, you’ll have the option to list your item as new with tags, new without tags, new other and preowned. These options are self-explanatory, but the one you might be wondering about is new other. New other means an item is new and has never been used but may have defects of some kind.
Other than the title, I’d say photos are the most important part of the listing. A lot of times, people won’t read the title or the description and just purchase the item based on the picture. They may not even click on the pictures to look at more than the main one. I’ve had people complaining about an item they purchased when I clearly stated the issue they’re complaining about in the title and description.
You can go a little overboard when it comes to taking photos. The better your photos are, the more likely your item will sell, but you’ll need to portray the item as realistically as possible. If the item looks much better in the pictures than it does in real life, you’re probably going to hear about it when the customer gets it.
The best practice for taking photos is to take them in natural lighting with a blank canvas as the background. Preferably, a white background if you can come up with something. You get 12 free photos with your listings, and it’s a good idea to use all of them if you can.
Sometimes, I don’t use all 12 photo slots because I don’t feel like it’s necessary to depict everything about the item. You’ll want to take clear pictures of any defects the item might have so the buyer knows what they’re buying.
The item specifics section is where you’ll put all the specific details about the item. You don’t have to fill out every section of this, just put enough information so the buyer has a good idea of the details.
Writing the description
The description is where you’ll put any information about the item that you weren’t able to provide in the item specifics. You don’t need to write an entire story in the description, just put as much information about the item to explain it well and list any defects. Most of the time, my descriptions are only a couple of sentences long.
I don’t think people spend much time reading the description, buts it’s important to put details in it in case a buyer tries to say the item was not as described.
Deciding if you should sell your item as buy it now or auction is one of the most common questions I see with new sellers. I’d say 99% of the time, I list my items as buy it now with the best offer option on.
The reason I sell my items as buy it now is that most of the time, you will only get one bid on the item when you list it as an auction. There are some cases where you’ll have a bidding war, but those are becoming more and rarer. Most people want to be able to purchase the item as soon as they see it.
I like listing my buy it now items with the best offer option because I usually have a big profit margin in the listing and the item will sell quicker when people can make offers. The buyer will feel like you’re giving them a great deal and you’ll be making money quicker.
If I search for an item and notice that almost all the solds have sold as an auction, I’ll list my item as an auction. For some reason, certain items sell better in an auction format. You’ll just have to do your due diligence and decide for yourself.
I also like selling as buy it now because the item will automatically be relisted every 30 days if it doesn’t sell. That allows me to not have to worry about checking my listings constantly to see if there are items that need to be relisted. eBay recently made all of the buy it now listings set to “good til canceled” so that means your listings will relist until you stop the listing or the item sells.
Setting the price
If you’ve decided to list your item as an auction, I would make sure you list it at a price at which you’re comfortable with it selling. Don’t be surprised if you list something worth $100 and it only sells for $1 if that’s what you start the bid at.
If you list the item as buy it now and were able to find previous listings where the item sold, whatever it sold for is probably what you can expect to get for it. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes people underprice their items, so if you know an item is worth more than what you’re seeing it has sold for, list it at the price you think it’s worth and choose the best offer option.
I like to list my items at a high price since I have the best offer option on. People aren’t afraid to send low ball offers, so having a higher price will help you sell your items for more money. Sometimes, you just have to be patient until the right buyer comes along and pays what the item is worth.
If you’re using PayPal as your payment option (and I suggest you do), you’ll need to have the email address associated with your PayPal account as the payment option for your listing. You shouldn’t have to do this with every listing once you’ve got your PayPal and eBay accounts connected. It will automatically set the PayPal email address as your payment preference.
In order to become a top-rated seller, you will need to offer free returns on your listings. Free returns mean that you will have to pay for return shipping if the buyer decides to return the item. I have my return policy set to 30 days after the buyer has made the purchase.
Offering free returns is a pain, but you most likely won’t get a ton of returns if you list your items as best you can.
I keep things simple when it comes to shipping. I always charge the buyer for shipping and I only use two shipping services for all my listings. If an item is under a pound, I use USPS First Class Package. If it weighs more than a pound, I use USPS Priority Mail. These two options allow me to use any package I want, and they tend to be the cheapest option for the buyer.
On some items, you may find that you need to offer free shipping to be competitive with other sellers. Most sellers factor in shipping when they price their items with free shipping, so the buyer is always paying for shipping anyways.
For some reason, if an item is listed as $29.99 with free shipping, it will usually sell quicker than a listing for the same item at $19.99 with $9.99 shipping. Even though this is the case, I still don’t ever do free shipping as I know someone will eventually buy my item and I’m able to keep my listing process simpler.
The reason my shipping process is so simple is that I use the calculated shipping option. eBay will automatically calculate the shipping cost depending on the buyer’s location.
Having a short handling time will help you sell your items quicker. I have mine set to 1-day. Just make sure you’re able to get the item shipped in the handling time you have set, or you’ll get a defect on your account. Get too many defects and you could end up as a below standard seller or even get banned.
Packing and Shipping your Items
Not packing my items securely enough is one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started selling on eBay. If you’re selling something fragile, like a mug, you’ll need to wrap it in bubble wrap and then fill in the box around it with either packing peanuts or paper. You don’t want your items to be able to slide around in the box as that will almost always ensure that it gets damaged.
If you’ve got any doubts if the item is secure enough, you probably haven’t packed it securely enough. Selling on eBay isn’t worth it if you don’t secure your items and they break in shipping.
If you’re selling something heavy, it’s probably best to put the item in a box and then put that box inside a box then fill it with paper and bubble wrap. Double boxing heavy items is a great way to keep the items safe.
Every now and then, you’ll get a customer that buys multiple items from you at the same time. If they pay for all the items separately, then you’ll need to ship them separately. They may ask you to ship the items together to save on shipping costs.
If a buyer asks you to combine shipping, you’ll need to put the items together in a box and weigh it. Then, you can go to the USPS website and calculate the shipping costs. Once you know how much the shipping is going to cost, you can send the buyer an invoice for the total of the items plus the shipping amount.
Scheduling a package pickup
USPS provides a cool service where they’ll pick up your package right from your house (if the service is available in your area). To schedule a pickup, just go to this link and set it up. Not having to go to the post office every day saves me so much time and gas money!
Keeping Track of your Numbers
Staying on top of your expenses and profits is important to do for tax purposes. Whenever I buy something to sell, I immediately put a description of the item and what I paid for it into a google spreadsheet.
Once the item sells, I use Final Fee Calc to see what I’m going to profit. I punch in all of the numbers into my google sheet and then I’m able to total everything up and see how I’m doing each month.
I also add any expenses (like packing supplies, ink and eBay store subscription) to my monthly google sheet so I can get the true amount of what I’m profiting.
Keeping a simple spreadsheet like this will make it much easier when you go to do your taxes. I’m not a tax professional, so I won’t go into ways you can save on taxes, but it’s a good idea to find an accountant that can help you minimize taxes as much as possible.
Starting a store subscription
If you don’t have a store subscription, you’ll only be able to list 50 items a month for free. Any items you want to list after you reach 50 listings will cost somewhere around $.30 per listing. These fees can really add up quick, so most serious sellers sign up for a store.
If you’re selling your items as buy it now, whenever the listings automatically relist, this will count towards your 50 free listings, so keep that in mind.
To sign up for a subscription, go to my eBay and click account. You’ll see a menu with a link titled “subscriptions”. Click on that link and it will take you to a page where you can choose the store subscription you want. The eBay starter store is $4.95 a month and you get 100 free listings per month.
There’s a subscription plan for stores of all sizes and you can always upgrade your subscription as you go. I’m currently on the premium plan which is $59.95 a month and I get 1,000 free listings every month. You’ll also get other benefits from a store subscription, so be sure to read about them on the subscriptions page.
Building My Ebay Selling Reputation
Having a good reputation on eBay is crucial to your success as a seller. If you get too much bad feedback, you won’t sell as many items or could even end up getting banned from selling. If you follow the tips in this guide, getting negative feedback should be a rare occurrence for you.
Getting positive feedback when you’re just starting out
One way to get positive feedback when you’re just starting out is to buy some items on eBay using your seller account. The sellers will leave you positive feedback when you buy their items and that feedback will show up in your seller profile.
I wouldn’t worry too much about getting good feedback for every item you sell because most buyers aren’t going to leave anything. Obviously, the more positive feedback you have, the better, but I think a lot of people stress out about their profiles too much. When you get over 99% positive feedback, your feedback shouldn’t affect your sales.
When a buyer leaves you negative feedback without having a good reason to do so, call eBay and see if they can remove the feedback from your profile. If you haven’t done anything wrong, they should remove it for you.
Becoming a top-rated seller
To become a top rated seller, you’ll need to meet these requirements. When you’re a top-rated seller, you get a badge on your listings that makes you look more professional and a 10% discount on final value fees.
Dealing with customer issues
You’ll get difficult customers from time to time and it’s just part of selling stuff online. If a customer is being difficult and you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t hesitate to call eBay and explain what’s going on. A lot of times they will take your side and be able to help you get the problem solved.
Pro tip – when you call eBay, it will be a recording. To speak with an actual human just say “speak with representative” and it will direct your call to a person.
Unpaid item cases are probably the most common issue you will have with customers. For some reason, eBay doesn’t require the buyer to pay immediately for the item once they’ve purchased it.
You can ease the pain of unpaid item cases by turning on unpaid item assistant. I’ve got my account set up to where unpaid item assistant opens a case after the buyer hasn’t paid for 4 days.
Once the case closes, it automatically relists the item, so I don’t have to do that myself. You can set up unpaid item assistant on your account by going to my eBay and click account, then go to site preferences.
If you get a customer that’s just being ridiculous, you can block them. To block someone, go to my eBay, account, site preferences and scroll down to buyer requirements and click edit. You’ll see a link that says “blocked list”. Click on this link and add the buyer to the list. This will stop them from being able to buy anything from you or contact you.
Organizing your Inventory
You don’t have to organize your inventory, but it will make things easier and will save you time. If you come up with an organization strategy when you’re just starting out, it will be easier on you than when you’ve got a big inventory and try to set up a system. Here’s a good guide on organizing your inventory.
Taking Time Off
Once you get your eBay business off the ground, you’ll eventually want, or need to take breaks from time to time. The good news? You can take time off and STILL SELL STUFF! I’ve heard of people taking a couple of months off at a time and still selling a lot of things during their time off. All you have to do is set the handling time to however long you’re going to be away for.
To change handling time on all your listings, go to my eBay – selling and then click on active listings. From there, click edit all listings and you’ll be taken to the bulk listing editor. From there, you can make all kinds of changes to your listings. You’ll just need to change the handling time on everything and then submit the changes.
Your eBay store will still stay open and people will still be able to buy things while you’re gone. You’ll just need to message the buyers and let them know you won’t be able to ship the item until you get back. Some buyers might decide they don’t want the item anymore and some will be fine with waiting. When you get back, you’ll need to change the handling time back to a short amount of time so you can stay a top-rated seller.
And that should cover everything you need in order to be a successful eBay seller. I hope this guide was helpful!
This article was expertly crafted by Nathan at Millionaire Dojo, for The Money Mix. Nathan writes about personal finance and his journey to accumulate a million bucks. The article was originally published on The Money Mix
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