You’ve bought things on eBay and every so often, you think, “How hard could it be to sell my own stuff?” And, more importantly, is it worth it?
When my son outgrew his Thomas the Tank Engine collection, I sold the whole lot on eBay for over $350. Considering I picked up most of the trains at yard sales and consignment sales, I made a nice profit. Over the years, my husband and I have sold books, clothes, toys, kids’ costumes, knick-knacks, art, signed photos, make-up and more on eBay.
Unlike Craigslist, with eBay, you have access to billions of potential buyers all over the world. Is it a big hassle? Not once you’ve got it down.
Your guide for Selling on eBay 101.
Here’s how to get started:
Keep in mind that depending on the item you are listing, the order of steps may be slightly different. But overall, it’s user-friendly and not too difficult to figure out.
- Register with eBay. Although it’s free, to register, you’ll need either a bank account and/credit card.
- Sign up for PayPal. PayPal is the preferred way for most sellers to pay. It’s easy. You can also accept credit and debit payments through PayPal.
- Take photos. You need to have either a scanner or a digital camera to capture an image. eBay has a photo database for some items (ex. CDs, DVDs, in-print books), but it’s better to provide a photo of your particular item, not a stock photo. People prefer to see the actual item they are planning to bid on. Take photos or scans of the item you want to sell. eBay will let you use 12 photos for free now. Photograph the item from various angles. If there are any defects or special things about it (ex. a signature in a book), take a photo of that. You want to represent the item as accurately as you can. Show what makes the item desirable (ex. a label in a designer dress). If you’re selling a book or magazine, take a few photos of the inside. If it’s a first edition book, take a photo of the copyright page. Create a folder on your desktop to put the photos in and name them in such a way that you can easily find them (ex. Pink Dress A, Pink Dress B). Manipulate the images through Photoshop, or a similar software. Make sure the color and contrast are accurate. Crop for a tighter image so people can clearly see what you’re selling. Make the image size 600×900 pixels minimum. Any larger than that and picture gets too large, which means it will longer for the potential buyer to load and scroll through.
- List your item. Log in to your eBay account. Click on “Sell” at the top of the page. This will take you to the selling page. Choose a category: ex. collectibles, furniture, sporting goods, etc. Then there are subcategories. It’s pretty user-friendly. Title of item. This is how people will find your item. Think in terms of keywords. Put the most important words first. Be as detailed as possible. For example, if you are selling children’s clothes, don’t just type in “girl’s sweater, size 4.” It’s more effective to type in: “Gymboree pink sweater, girl’s, size 4T, kitty design, NEW.” The more specific you are, the more people are likely to find your item. For fifty cents extra, you can pay for a subtitle, but people can’t search by subtitles. Only use this option if there’s really something important to add that would make your item more salable. You will then be asked for more information, ex. what is the condition of the item — is it new or used — etc. Then it will ask for the item description in your own words. Provide as much detail as possible. Are you the original owner? If it’s collectible, what makes it collectible (ex., it’s a limited edition. If you’re selling printed matter, it’s good to mention if it’s from a smoke-free home. If the item is not as described, the buyer may ask for their money back, so be sure to describe the item accurately.
- Add your photos. There are two ways to do this, both work and are fairly easy to use. eBay will walk you through it.
- Determine your listing price. Look at current and completed auctions to determine what similar items have sold for. What is the minimum you will accept for this item? Do you want a Reserve price? That means it won’t sell for less than you indicate. Most people do not set Reserves. Use the Reserve only for items you absolutely do not want to sell for less than a certain price. In my opinion, it’s better forgo the Reserve price and start the bidding low and let the market determine the price. People are turned off by higher prices – they want a deal. Wouldn’t you? Also, the higher you start the minimum bid, the bigger the fees are.
- eBay extras. Listing Designer will enhance your display. It is really just window dressing that costs extra. Depending on what you’re selling, you can determine if you want to add a fancy frame to your image. You can also add a Gallery Photo to make your item stand out (I don’t bother with this).
- Duration of auction. How long do you want the auction to go? The minimum is 1 day. Most people do a one-week auction. Also, you can do a Buy it Now and you pick the price you would be happy it sold for.
- Shipping. You have the option of shipping anywhere in the world, within the U.S. only or local pick up (ex. heavy items). Choices for shipping include USPS and FedEx (these are the most popular). With USPS, you have the option to print your postage from home (which saves you some money) and you can arrange to have it picked up from your home instead of waiting in line at the post office. I believe FedEx is similar, but I have not used it. Many buyers are turned off by high shipping prices. Try to keep shipping as low as possible, adding only what is necessary to cover your expenses. Or offer Free Shipping if the item isn’t that heavy (you can start the item a couple of dollars higher to cover the cost). A Flat Rate to all buyers is easiest. There is also an option where the Buyer or Seller can calculate shipping per individual shipping address. When determining shipping cost, don’t just weigh your item – weight it in the box or packaging you will be sending it in. Packing materials add weight! eBay will ask you for package details, ex. letter, large envelope, package, etc. They also will ask the dimensions of the package and the weight. Invest in a basic postage scale. They are not much money and are fairly accurate. There are various classes of shipping: Media rate is for books, records, DVDs and CDs) First Class is for items that weigh less than 13 oz., Priority Mail, which can be in a Flat Rate Envelope/Box or any packaging, and Parcel Post, which is slightly less expensive than Priority and is longer.
- Sales tax. I ignore this because it is not required by individual sellers at this point.
- Return policy. Do your best to keep buyers happy. If you describe the item accurately and send it out promptly and well-packaged so it arrives undamaged, you shouldn’t need to worry about returns. If things don’t work out (ex. a seller doesn’t pay), you can open a Dispute and eBay will help you resolve the issue.
- “Review Your Listing.” This page gives you a chance to preview your listing and how it will appear to others.
- Start time of auction. Think about what time the auction will be up. Schedule it end at a prime time when people are bidding, for instance, when people get home from work, not in the middle of the night.
- Keep in mind: eBay will now report your earnings to the government IF you gross over $20k a year AND have had over 200 transactions. If you’re going to do that much activity, keep records of your expenses, packing supplies, postage, original cost of the item, mileage to the post office, etc. Also keep track of your receipts and what you made.
- Sales book. If you’re going to sell more than a couple of odd items, it pays to invest in a sales book from an office supply store so you can have a record of your transactions. It is always wise to have a hard copy record of the sale, when it went out, who it went to, etc. Plus the buyer gets a receipt.
- Listing fees/selling fees. If any item doesn’t sell, you still have to pay a listing fee. If the item doesn’t sell and you relist, it can be free to relist. eBay takes a percentage of each sale. The more expensive the item, the less they take. eBay provides detailed information on these fees on their site.
- “Sell a Similar Item.” This is a great option. It makes sense, if you have a lot of items, to group similar ones together and list one after another. The template will stay on the computer and you won’t have to start from scratch.