So, you've discovered the wonderful world of eBay, welcome friend! With more than 18 million users, eBay is the country’s largest online marketplace, and with good reason.
This second-hand e-commerce site has become a huge game changer for millions who would have previously tossed their unwanted threads or given away unused gadgets, some have even made a career out of it!
You've decided you want a slice of the pie, but where do you start?
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Where to start
For some, eBay is a minefield. Fear not, eBay novices, I'll take you to eBay guru in no time with my easy-to-follow guide. Let's get started!
Consider what your goals are
Is this a one-time decluttering thing? A part-time hobby? Or are you hoping to make it your regular source of income? Deciding how much cash you want to make and how you're going to use eBay is a great starting point.
BEWARE - You might think you're only selling a couple of dresses or that old Xbox, but it's so easy to catch the eBay selling bug like I did, especially when the bids start rolling in.
Create an eBay & a PayPal account
First things first, you'll need an eBay and a PayPal account. Both are free to join and will get you started on your eBay journey. Most buyers and sellers only accept PayPal payments so it's basically your eBay currency and bank, all rolled into one.
Once you've set up your eBay account you need to link up your PayPal account to your eBay account which literally takes seconds:
- Click My eBay at the top of most eBay pages.
- Click the Account tab.
- Click the 'PayPal Account' link on the left side of the page.
- Click the Link My PayPal Account button.
- You'll be asked to log into PayPal to finish linking your accounts.
Buy items first to build feedback
One of the first things your sellers will look for is your profile and feedback. You might have fantastic items for sale but if you don't have any feedback, it might deter them from buying from you. It doesn't sound like a big deal but trust me, it matters.
The best and quickest way to gain feedback is by buying from brands or 'drop shippers' on eBay. These are established sellers with stores and are more likely to give automated, instant feedback.
You can literally buy anything - how about a 99p LED light-up phone charger? It's such a small price to pay and it will help you build up your score before you get started selling, every little helps.
Spy on other sellers
If you want to have a sneak peek at what's selling and how much your item sold for, you can search for completed listings on eBay.
Just click 'advanced' to the right of the search bar and see what has been recently sold. Remember to select 'completed' to help you figure out if it's worth selling your item and for how much.
Consider the cost & fees
Yes, it's great if you're looking at selling a dress you wore once to your cousin's wedding to make some quick cash. However, let's do some boring maths here:
Say you sell your dress for £10 plus standard second class postage - £2.80 so:
- £10 + 2.80 = 12.80
Kerching! But wait...
- eBay takes 10% of that (£1.28)
- Then PayPal swoops in and takes 5% (64p)
Then you have to take it to postie. Depending on your shipment method the average cost is £2.80 for a second class small parcel.
- So £12.80 - 4.72 = £8.08 profit.
It still sounds pretty decent for something that would otherwise gather dust in your closet, but it's important to keep in mind before committing to selling a top or dress at a 99p auction.
If you're just starting off, you only get 10 listings for free, which isn't much at all. If you go over that it's only 35p per listing but it can soon add up. Oh and also eBay sends you an invoice every month for your fees so be prepared.
If you're unsure how to price your items, there are lots of eBay calculators out there to help you figure out your fees, here are some of my favourites:
- Pigflog's Instant eBay Calculator - this is a great tool because it gives you option to look at Amazon in comparison, which is also another great site to sell your things online
- Free Seller Tools - these guys have a nifty little tool which calculates your eBay profits instantly
- Andrew Minalto - this guy a fabulous excel spreadsheet with automated formulas to help get you started on figuring out budgets, it's so intuitive and easy to use!
Dedicate a workspace
Find your happy place in your house where you can focus completely on listing your items and wrapping them up ready to send. If you have lots of items this is extra important, you don't want to send the wrong item to the wrong person, oops!
Planning is key
Let's get to the fun stage, sorting your items and decluttering! Just me that finds that exciting? Ok, anyway...
Set aside a night to organise your items...
Ok so now it's time to figure out what to sell. Remember what sold from spying on other sellers and get everything out and chuck it on the bed.
Go through everything with a fine toothcomb. If you're selling an electrical item, does it definitely work? Have you still got the box and/or instructions?
If you're selling a top or jacket, what condition is it in? Could you sell it or is it more for donating? Wow, all that sorting is exhausting! Treat yourself to a nice brew.
...and another to photograph them
This is arguably the most important part of the eBaying process for sellers. Buyers are fickle and I personally sit for hours scrolling through thousands of listings and might not even buy anything, but I know I'll definitely skip the listings with poor quality or no photos.
You get 12 free photos on your listings so try to use as many as you can. Don't just rely on retail images, people want to see what condition the item is currently in.
Take images from multiple angles including tags, length, close-ups, warts and all so people are getting a true picture of the item. It also helps to take photos of the details e.g. clothes tags with material information, or the spec on your fancy gadgets to give the potential buyer maximum information.
This will also help you too. If you store your items away before you list, you don't want to have to pull them all out again, do you? Of course not. You can use the photos to help you remember essential details.
Don't have a fancy camera? Don't worry, iPhone pics will suffice. And rest...
Dedicate one more night to listing them
Finally, you want to dedicate a night to list your items, but more on this later.
Pre-package your items & store them in a useful place
This is completely optional but I have a box under my bed that is packed with all my items that have been listed and may sell at any point. I tuck these inside jiffy bags but don't seal them so I can peek inside and double check them first before I post.
Items that I haven't listed yet I fold in a cupboard away from my normal everyday stuff so I can keep track of what I need to list.
Listing your first item(s)
Hurrah! You're ready to post your first item. eBay is super user-friendly and the process is fairly simple.
Learn the eBay lingo & selling buzz words
Words like 'authentic' 'vintage' and 'genuine' will glam up your title and people are more likely to look at 'Vintage Topshop Dress Size 10' than 'Used Blue Dress'. Abbreviations and acronyms are also pretty useful to get to grips with, here are a few popular ones:
BNWT: Brand new with tags
BNWOT: Brand new without tags
EUC: Excellent used condition
NIB: New in box
Be honest with your descriptions
This goes without saying, but try to include as much detail as possible. If you're selling a piece of clothing, what fabric is it? What are the measurements? Including more details generates more interest, as you are included in a lot more searches.
Take advantage of photos
Upload the super detailed photos you took and wait for the bids to roll in. eBay does offer editing functionality but try not to manipulate them too much, it really puts buyers off.
Use 'Sell one yourself' functionality to save time
If you're unsure about the technical specifics of your item, depending what it is, you can often find a similar one selling on eBay.
If you do find one, click 'Have something similar? Sell it yourself' and it all you have to do is fill in the description box and add your own images, pretty cool time saver, right?
Bid vs Buy it now
I like both of these, as they both have their advantages. Personally, with clothes I always choose bidding, with electronic items or any other household items I opt for 'Buy it now' with the 'accepts offers' option. It's completely up to you on this one.
With bids, people (like me) tend to panic bid in the last few minutes so your item could skyrocket if bidders end up in a bidding war, such a satisfying feeling!
Lower your starting price to attract more bidders
eBay recommends that you lower your starting prices to 99p to attract more bidders on most bid items. A starting price is the absolute minimum price that you will accept for any items. This is quite a risk and one I only usually do if I have a really popular item that I am sure is going to be bid up.
It's best to do your homework on this one and take into account the condition and how precious you are about making a huge profit.
Batch together similar items
You can save tonnes of time by batching items together in the same lot. This works really well for items like magazines, baby clothes, sports gear, etc.
Make sure you take a photo of the items together, then singular photos so that buyers can see what's included. Also use key terms like 'bundle' 'job lot' and so on.
List on a Thursday for 10 days
It's a well-known fact that eBay auctions ending on a Sunday evening are usually the most profitable and popular time to schedule your listings to end. Trust me, this is the best thing you can do if you want to maximise bids.
Listing on a Thursday for 10 days at around 7pm means you will get ultimate exposure over two weekends and weeknights when most people browse, winning!
Schedule vs Save drafts
Once you've been selling for a while, eBay rewards you with 20 scheduled listings per month. This is a great way to schedule for the time mentioned above or anytime you want, but if you run out or want to save your scheduled listings, you can also opt for eBay's 'save for later' option and then return to it on your desired time and just click 'list'.
Avoid selling during graveyard hours
It's probably not a good idea to sell any time past 9pm. So if you can't sleep and get the sudden urge to post your items at 2am, probably give it a miss. However, some people do post stuff late at night so if you're looking to resell a job lot, this is the best time to look for bargains.
Local or Global Shipping?
If you offer global shipping you might have more chance of getting a better deal on your items. I know what you're thinking, this will cost a fortune! Luckily, eBay has a Global Shipping Centre. Just post to them and they take care of the rest.
If you're really not keen on posting at all, you can also offer local collection only where people can pick it up from you directly.
Place a reserve on valuable items
If you are selling a huge item or something really valuable like a watch or designer handbag and you are conscious about losing out, you can always add a reserve to make sure you get minimum what you think it is worth.
Auto re-list your items
Don't worry if your item doesn't sell, when you're listing it just make sure you tick 'automatically re-list my item' and eBay will relist it for you. The good folks there also send you tips on how you can improve your listing to make sure it sells next time round, nice one guys!
Posting your items
Congrats! You've sold your first item. Now it's time to post it. My advice? Post as soon as you receive payment via PayPal. Nothing promotes poor feedback scores more than a seller that doesn't ship on time.
Consider all of your options
Royal Mail is the most popular choice and one that I use regularly, but it might not be the best option for you. Do you have time to make it to the post office if you work full-time?
Or would you prefer to drop it off at a Collect + stop or have a courier pick it up? All things to consider before you send.
Purchase packaging in advance
I use mailing bags like these 100 grey mailing posting bags from Amazon which come in a variety of sizes and saves faffing about in the post office. I package everything up and if I'm running low, I always buy more in advance.
Use scales to predict costs
If you have any scales you can weigh them to predict the cost. A lot of courier services will ask you in advance about the weight so it's best to know before you get stung with pricey, unexpected estimations.
Buy & print postal labels to save time
eBay lets you purchase and print your labels in advance. Again, this is why it's great to know your exact weight in advance.
If you get the post office and the information is wrong you could end up doubling your postage costs. Buying your labels in advance is also a great time-saver.
Customer service is everything
Make sure your customer service skills are top notch to ensure you receive the best feedback.
Offer combined postage for buyers purchasing multiple items
This is just a nice way to let your buyers know you're doing them a favour so they are more likely to leave nice feedback. If you have two tops and post them up separately, it's going to cost you more to post and they will be upset to discover you have charged them twice.
Don't bid up your own items (or ask someone else to)
Tut tut, I know so many people do this, and it's known as shill bidding. It's illegal to push up a price artificially by bidding against yourself or by getting family or friends to do so, not really worth jail time, right?
Be prepared to refund (even if you don't offer it on your listing)
Here's one huge mistake I learnt to avoid the hard way. Never spend your dollar before your buyer has received their item. If they don't contact you or leave feedback within two weeks of you sending, then it's ok to assume that they have received it and everything's fine.
Sometimes an item will arrive broken because you packaged it poorly or the buyer will be disgruntled by an inaccurate description.
If you're in the wrong, it's fair to give a refund, whether or not you're legally obliged to. If payment was made by PayPal in the first place, be sure to refund that way too.
Don't overcharge for postage
If you try and overcharge your potential buyers, you are seriously insulting their intelligence. I'm not going to pay you £4.50 to deliver a poster 2nd class.
Either offer free P&P and factor it into your price for the item or stick to eBay's recommended postage prices.
Download the eBay app to keep up to date
If you have a smartphone or a tablet then the eBay app makes listing and keeping up to date super easy! You can take photos and upload directly to the app, or even connect to your desktop version via the app to make the process seamless.
So basically, you can add photos on your phone while writing your description on your computer, score.
You can also track live bids and respond to offers and messages straight away while you're on the move.
Reply to messages instantly
This one counts as a major customer service essential, especially when they are not happy. If you wait around or forget to respond, chances are, buyers will open a case against you on eBay which is just not what you want. Be approachable and polite, even if they are wrong...
Protecting yourself as a seller
Just as you would cover yourself as a consumer, make sure you cover all your bases as a seller online.
Block 'dodgy' buyers
This sounds crazy, why would you want to block buyers? Who's going to buy all of your stuff? There are different levels of this depending on what you want to protect yourself from.
For example, lots of sellers don't accept bids from anyone who has a feedback score of less than 100.
This shows they are committed eBayers and will not mess them about with not paying or not logging in regularly to check their eBay account.
Lots of 'dodgy' buyers also have dummy accounts to just bid up their own items or have cases open against them so operate multiple accounts.
Avoid those who give negative feedback
eBay even lets you block people who have given a certain amount of negative feedback. Basically, you can block people who just like to moan in the hope they will get a refund from bidding.
Always send to the address PayPal gives you
If you don't want to ship internally, always make sure you ship to the address on PayPal. A lot of bidders will buy an item and then message you asking to send to a different address abroad.
This has happened to me a few times and it's SUPER annoying. Don't agree to this, as you won't be covered if they claim they didn't get it. Only agree to send it to their address linked to their PayPal account.
Pay your fees on time
eBay sends you fees monthly and if you don't want to risk being banned for not paying your invoice, it's best to automate the process by hooking up your PayPal account with your bank account to make sure they're not chasing you for unpaid fees.
ALWAYS get proof of postage & store in a safe place
Hopefully, this won't happen to you, but just in case, don't get stung by crafty people saying their item 'never showed up' if they're just unsatisfied with their purchase, or just don't fancy paying out.
Chances are, eBay will take the side of the buyer, unfortunately, but if you can show your proof of postage to the Royal Mail or your chosen courier, they can track it or will refund your losses for any inconvenience.
And most importantly...
Don't take it personally
Not everyone will be as passionate as you about your items, and it's important to remember that most people are on the lookout for a bargain, so don't get offended or disheartened if you don't get the results you want every time.
You get out what you put in
Some of my friends have tried to sell on eBay, but they have not bothered to post the things off or they give up straightaway if an item doesn't instantly sell. Sometimes you don’t make a profit, but it’s worth it in the grand scheme of things. It won't make you rich overnight, but it might help with the bills!
Don't make it a chore
I'm not going to lie to you and say that eBay doesn't require a little time, energy and patience because it does. However, it's so rewarding when you start to make cash.
If you do find yourself getting frustrated, which I sometimes do, I like to put a film on in the background and allocate that time to getting my listings complete by the time the film has ended. That way it's more relaxing and although I've given myself a time limit, there's less chance I feel burnt out afterwards. Don't forget to reward yourself for finding your eBay super stardom!
Thanks for reading! I hope you're all set and ready to make some cash from eBay. Please get in touch if you have any of your own tips or if you have any questions. Good luck!