eBay Selling Advice From a 10 Year Veteran!
...and why right now is a great time to sell your stuff!
I've been selling on eBay for over 10 years and at times it was my sole means of financial support. eBay has gone though many changes in that time, and now the site is better than ever for sellers and buyers alike! Look to the left and check out my cool pile of junk that I'm turning into money!
eBay has limitless potential, and is actually really fun. These are my top tips for making the most out of your eBay experience!
Note: I have assumed at least partial familiarity with the eBay site and basic functions, so this is more of an intermediate guide. It is from the perspective of the eBay US site.
Dos & Don'ts - advice at-a-glance
- Do have lots of photos of your item. Make sure the photos are clear and well-lit.
- Don't assume that the "photos say it all". You need to also write a thorough description of your item including size and condition.
- Do write a clear, concise, relevant keyword rich title.
- Don't make your title or description spammy or include the word "L@@K" or excessive exclamation marks at any time ever.
- Do sell what you know. You are going to be way more successful selling items you are passionate and knowledgeable about rather than trying to sell something unfamiliar. By all means, sell out of your niche if you happen to find a great item, but be sure to do plenty of research!
- Don't forget to do research on your item. Year and country of origin can be very important when it comes to collector's items. Is your item an original or a reproduction? The difference can be huge! Luckily there are tons of sites out there that should help you get the exact details on your stuff.
- Do fill out your My World page, including avatar. Nobody wants to buy from Anonymousy McNoface.
- Do learn some basic html/css to style your listings (if you aren't familiar with web coding already.) Keep in mind that eBay only lets you style the description part of the listing. You cannot change anything on the top of the page.
- Don't use a bunch of crazy colors, animated gifs, or any other obnoxious graphics. This isn't 1999. Clean and simple is the way to go.
- Do read and abide by eBay's rules and policies at all times. Know what is and is not allowed for sale, and what is and isn't allowed in auction text.
- Don't try to be sneaky by attempting to circumvent eBay's rules. Cheating is no way to play, and having your auctions closed by eBay is really not fun!
You may already have a few items around your house you want to sell. That's awesome! If not, it's closet-cleaning time. The best items for your first listings are items you already own and would like to get rid of. Think about it: you're already familiar with the item, you know its history, and if it doesn't sell right away, at least you didn't lose any money buying something new to sell.
Tip: If you aren't ready to sell now, or are just entertaining the idea of maybe selling in the future, you should make an eBay account now (if you don't already have one.) "Brand new" accounts are seen as less trustworthy, especially if you have no feedback. Try buying a few cheap items (and paying right away, of course) so you'll get some good feedback to start out with.
Prepare Your Workspace
If you have a home office that's collecting dust, now is the time to use it! If not, try to set aside some space to work. Listing auctions can get messy!
I find it really helps to use boxes and bins to sort your items. Make a box for items you plan to sell, a box for items that are ready to list, and a box for items you've finished listing. Then when you're ready to ship the sold items, everything will be in one spot.
Stay organized on the computer, too. Make a folder just for eBay stuff. I organize mine by date. It is also a good idea to make a text file of your auction details and/or html so you can copy and paste it when you need to.
Prep Your Items
Once you've picked out a few things you'd like to sell, the first step is determining their condition and possible value. Be sure to check all items thoroughly for cracks, tears, stains, etc. Clean and repair the item if necessary. A bit of damage will not usually deter buyers, but you must make sure to mention it in the listing. No one likes unpleasant surprises.
A quick way to "price" your item (and get ideas for the kinds of keywords you should be using) is to look it up in eBay's search. Get a feel for the average price other people are bringing in for items similar to yours.
The next step is taking photos of your item. A simple digital camera will do. Choose a well-lit area (or bring in all your lamps) and use a white sheet (ironed!) or other solid color backdrop for the background. Take lots of photos, getting different views of your item. Use the macro setting on your camera to get detailed close-ups.
This is a good time to take measurements of your item: size, height, width, etc. Jot the details down on a notepad. You can also note any flaws or special characteristics you plan on highlighting at this time.
It's a good idea to crop and edit your photos. eBay gives you the basic tools to do this in their photo uploaded, so don't worry if you aren't familiar with a photo editing program.
Write Your Auction
eBay has really improved on its auction listing form recently. In just two pages, your item will be ready to go!
First, pick a category. These are usually pretty easy to figure out, but if you want to save time, just search a few keywords and it will give you some suggestions.
Your title is one of the most important parts of your listing. Write a *good* title. Use keywords, but don't be spammy. (And seriously, don't ever use stupid things like "L@@K!". No one searches for that.) A simple, clear, concise title is best. Imagine you're the buyer: what words are you going to type into the search bar to find your item? Use those words!
eBay lets you upload up to 12 photos, but they aren't always free. Certain categories let you have 12 free pictures, others let you have only 1 freebie. Use html and a photo hosting service to put images directly into your listing for free.
Use bold tags and paragraphs to make your listing easier to read. Don't go nuts with styling, but you also don't want to have all your item details in one giant wall of text.
Pricing your item can be tough. The general rule is to price it at the lowest price you are willing to sell your item for. If you don't care what the item sells for, price it at 99 cents: people love getting deals, so a lower price will get your item more exposure.
Note: I never use reserves (they discourage bidding), and very rarely do I use Buy it Now. In general, no matter what you price your item at, it will sell for around the current market value, so don't worry too much.
Calculate shipping enough to cover the actual shipping and basic supplies ("handling fees") if you want. Keep it as low as possible, or offer free shipping if you're cool like that (and the item isn't too heavy!) Buyers LOVE free shipping.
The general auction duration is 7 days. I've never found any reason to deviate from that. Double-check all your item details and you're ready to finalize the listing! And now it's time to play the waiting game. Or Hungry Hungry Hippos, your choice.
Your item sold! Now what?
Congrats! Time to collect your money and ship the items! Many buyers pay with Paypal right away, which is always nice. You should send eBay invoices to everyone who hasn't paid yet, especially those who have bought multiple items from you: they are waiting to get your combined shipping total.
Packing the items carefully is very important. Make sure to use lots of padding for breakable items, and back flat packages with cardboard to prevent bends and dents.
I always include a handwritten thank you note and some extra bonus items with my packages. Customers love getting bonuses (who doesn't!) and it goes a long way in making a great impression. Many of my customers mention how much they enjoyed the extra items and note when they write feedback! :)
If you're really clever, print up some cards that have your info on them so buyers will come back. You could even offer free shipping or discounts to repeat buyers.
USPS and 3rd party services offer online postage printing and package pick up, which is a great way to save time. I still take my packages to the post office the old fashioned way (hey, I could use the fresh air), so it's up to you. Either way, make sure to ship promptly. You can state a handling time in your auction, so be sure to ship within that window.
It's always a good idea to follow up with your buyer after you've shipped the item. You can send them an email or leave feedback stating that they will receive the item soon. If you used a tracking number, email that to them so they will be able to track their package.
What about fees?
Ah, eBay fees. Oh, and Paypal fees. Don't let potential fees deter you from enjoying selling on eBay. They tweaked their fee structure recently to be a lot clearer and, in my opinion, easier on both the buyer and seller.
eBay used to charge for every listing no matter what, even if it didn't sell. It recently revised this to let each seller have up to 50 free auction listings a month! They also simplified their final value fee structure: it is now 9% no matter what the item sold for, with a maximum for $100 fee per item sold.
The other major change eBay made recently was to start applying the final value fee to the *total* cost to the buyer, including shipping. This sounds lame, but many unscrupulous sellers were *way* overcharging on shipping in order to circumvent eBay's fees and hurt buyers. This practise has tempered out since the change, and buyers are coming back to eBay with renewed vigor!
Remember that you are not allowed to charge your buyers extra for the fees. You can ask for "shipping and handling" in a reasonable amount, but you will get your auctions closed and possibly banned if you try to charge for eBay or Paypal fees.
My eBay Secrets
I guess they aren't really secrets if I'm just going to publish them online, but anyway, these are my best tips for writing great auctions and getting great sales, as well as loyal customers!
- Ship internationally
It always drives me nuts when sellers refuse to ship to other countries. They have all kinds of excuses: "It's too risky", "It's too expensive". Bah, whatever. Simple fact: many other countries are better off financially than the US right now. And they know this. And they are totally willing to pay the extra shipping to buy American stuff, because it's still a good deal to them!
Not only that, but American stuff is surprisingly popular in some parts of the world. (There are many collectors in Asia who LOVE Snoopy!) You can make a ton of money from other countries, plus it's exciting to see your stuff find a new home on a new continent! Around 30-40% of my business comes from places outside the US!
Keep in mind that international prices at USPS are pretty pricey. Be sure to quote accurate shipping costs in your auction. Trust me, international bidders are fine with paying for accurate shipping!
- Write a very thorough description
I've mentioned this several times because it's really important. It takes a little longer, but it's really worth it. Remember that buyers can't see or hold your item: they need accurate photos and measurements to judge if they want to buy it.
At the same time, don't give any negative or unnecessary information (but be sure to point out any damage for honesty/liability's sake). You don't need to say where or how you got the item unless it's from an interesting place. (Hint: Tokyo Disneyland: interesting. Comic Con 2009: interesting. Your basement: not interesting.) Also do not say why you're selling it: no one cares, and it paints your item as something unwanted.
- Have some personality
Writing nice descriptions also gives you a chance to "sell" your item: be enthusiastic. Talk about how cool your item is, why it's special, why the buyer should want it. Keep a friendly tone in your listing as well as in your feedback and communications with customers. No one wants to buy from a jerk, so...don't come across as a jerk.
Free Resources for Creating Better Listings
eBay can be limited in the extra goodies it offers you (unless you're willing to pay which...you should not be.) Never fear, for there are plenty of free resources you can use to make your listing awesome!
Free unlimited photo hosting that lets you use the images for sales (some sites, like Flickr, do not allow you to use your uploaded images for sales. Always check terms of service!)
- GIMP free photo editing software
GIMP is a great, 100% free alternative to Photoshop. It has many of the same capabilities, plus some other cool stuff! If can take a bit of learning to be able to use it to its fullest, but simple photo editing (cropping, rotating, adding watermarks,
check out my auctions!
I know you're dying to get an example of what I can do with eBay...right? These are my current auctions. Hmm, I hope they're selling well!