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7 tips for successful selling on eBay

Updated on December 30, 2007

If you're like most people, you've got closets and desks full of old ‘junk' that you never even knew you had!

Through personal experience, I've found eBay to be one of the most efficient and profitable means of reducing your clutter and increasing your "Mad Money" stash.

Over the past 2 years I have significantly reduce my ‘useless' clutter and increased my spending cash through eBay. I've sold old PC software and games I thought long ago were rendered obsolete. I've sold old science fiction magazines I subscribed to, but never read. I've sold Baby clothes, Jolly Jumpers, VHS videotapes, records, and just about anything else you can think of. In the past two months alone I've made over $200 selling stuff I was considering taking to the dump because I thought no one wanted it. I couldn't have been more wrong!

These tips have worked for me, and they will work for you too. All it takes is persistence, practice and a little research and you'll turn your collection of junk into someone else's treasure, and make some extra money along the way.

Tip 1: Use pictures.

On eBay, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Consider this: a potential buyer is more likely to bid on your item if they have a question that can be answered by browsing a picture, rather than sending an email and awaiting a response. Besides, we humans are visual creatures and respond much better to images than words. So use pictures in your listing - lots of pictures.

But don't just include a lot of pictures for the sake of including pictures. Make sure you use pictures intelligently. Use images to show details of the item as well as the condition. If you're selling a book, magazine, DVD, etc and there is a blemish on the spine be sure to remark on it in the description AND include a picture showing the blemish. Also, use a Gallery photo. It's true that listings with Gallery photos sell more often and more a higher price.

Tip 2: Use external hosting for pictures to keep costs down.

Being a successful seller on eBay is as much a factor of fees as it is final sale price. I can't stress enough to keep your fees down. Most times, the items you're selling are not one of a kind collectables that will fetch top dollar, so your profit margin is already tight.

One of the biggest things you can do to keep fees down is host your images on a site other than eBay. Some ISP's provide free server space (I know Road Runner does), but there are also a number of free sites out there. One such site that I've used with success is ImageShack®.

One final note on image hosting - I recommend using your 1 free image on eBay for your Gallery photo. This is just to ensure that your Gallery picture will display as long as the eBay server is running. Besides, if the eBay server goes down, it won't matter where your image is stored.

Tip 3: Start your listing at $0.99.

Unless you have a big-ticket item, you'll get more interest and bidding activity on your item if you start at $0.99. It doesn't matter how much you think your item is worth, people are shopping on eBay for a bargain, and it's best to let them think they are getting one. To be honest, sometimes they will. Some items do sell for more and some sell for the initial $0.99, but in the free market of eBay that's what they're worth and you have to respect that.

Tip 4: Use the “Buy It Now” feature.

I've had great success with this one. For some items, it enforces the bidder's perception that they're getting a deal. When a bidder sees an item with a Buy It Now price of $19.99, but it's at a $0.99 bid they see a bargain! This perception will likely carry through to even higher bids as well.

The second effect of the Buy It Now price is that people do Buy It Now, as in buy it outright on the spot.

Either way, Buy It Now often results in a win for you, the seller. The trick however is to set it at the right value. To get an idea of what the right value is, research other purchasing options to know what your item is really worth. If you're selling a used digital camera, for instance, search Google products or online stores and get an idea of what the same (or comparable) camera would be new and discount it 10-15%.

Another factor in establishing the Buy It Now price is eBay fees. For example, using the Buy It Now feature will cost more for prices over $9.99. So if the figure you've calculated for the Buy It Now price is $11.00, it may make sense to use $9.99 instead and save on the fees.

Of course another factor in the Buy It Now feature is the time-tested practice of ending your price in ".99", simply because "$9.99" looks better psychologically than "$10.00".

Tip 5: Use keywords in your description.

Success at selling on eBay can be thought of as direct relation to the amount of traffic your listing receives. To maximize the page views (traffic) on your listing, use as many keywords as you can think of in the description of the item. But use them intelligently and correctly! Don't just fill your description with a list of keywords to spam the item searches.

I usually create a list of keywords that might be associated with a listing, and spread them throughout the description. You also want to be sure to include common abbreviations as well. For instance, if you are selling an autographed copy of Doctor Zhivago, be sure to include the phrases: "Doctor Zhivago" and "Dr Zhivago".

Tip 6: Charge only enough for shipping to cover your expenses.

I see lots of people charge $1 for an item and twice as much as the true shipping costs for shipping with the idea that all they need is 1 bid and they can soak the buyer on the shipping costs. I can't emphasize enough how wrong this is.

It's not deceitful, but it is incredibly bad form. Don't do it. As I buyer, I avoid these items and sellers at all costs.

Tip 7: Protect your reputation.

On eBay, your reputation is priceless. Protect it at all costs. This means following that old adage: "The customer is always right." Work for the positive feedback. Communicate with your buyers. Tell them when their item has shipped and when they can expect to receive it. Give them honest and accurate descriptions.

The more a potential buyer can trust you, the more they will be willing to spend on your auctions.

(BONUS) Tip 8: Time your listing to end on Sunday.

EBay traffic in the U.S. is heaviest on Sunday evenings. It's not an exact science, but the ideal timeslot is probably something around 9:00PM Eastern Time. This means that people on the East coast are still awake and surfing before bed or during prime time television viewing. It also means that you'll get people in the Midwest and west coast just before dinner or finishing dinner and checking their latest eBay searches. Maximum exposure.

This leaves you have 2 options: List on Sunday night for a 7-day listing, or List on Tuesday for a 5-day listing. You could also use a 3-day listing on a Friday, but you won't get as much overall exposure in just 3 days.

Happy selling!


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    • profile image 6 years ago

      Great tips thank you so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      pepper 7 years ago

      Some good points here, but I always up the postage a bit to assist me with huge fees incurred. Ebay is a service for both sellers and buyers, so why does the buyer get all of the perks and protection?

      Without the seller's items, there is no Ebay!

    • profile image

      Martha Castillo 7 years ago from San Diego CA

      Great tips-- I will put them to use.

    • M. Beck profile image

      M. Beck 10 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Very true, ink...

    • profile image

      ink 10 years ago

      Maybe... but that's life, right? :P

    • M. Beck profile image

      M. Beck 10 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Thanks ink.

      I had to include the "Buy it Now" tip, because quite frankly almost half of my eBay sales are through that feature. It's been a great success, but it sometimes leads to second guessing whether I could have set it a little bit higher! ;-)


    • profile image

      ink 10 years ago

      Good tips, especially pointing out why you should use "Buy it Now." Thanks.