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11 vital selling tips for eBay success

Everyone and their dog seems to be making money on eBay these days, but what does it take to work this online marketplace like a boss?

Whether you’re looking to set up your own mini online business or just want to shift some unwanted books and DVDs, selling on eBay can be a great way for students to make a bit of extra cash.

But whatever your intentions, it’s always best to learn the ropes before getting started so you can be sure you’re not missing any tricks!

We’ve crammed as much info as we possibly can onto this page, so by the time you’re done reading you’ll have all the info you need to start raking in the big bucks!

How to make the most money on eBay

Here are the 11 best eBay selling tips:

  1. Think before you sell

    Whether it’s a pair of shoes you’ve finally accepted have walked their last steps, some old text books, or your Pokémon card collection – it’s crucial that you take a bit of time to decide whether something is in the right condition to be sold.

    You might be keen to start making money on whatever you can get your hands on, but if you make the mistake of selling items that aren’t in good condition or missing crucial parts, you’ll get yourself a bad rating. This is basically eBay suicide, and you might as well just give up there and then.

    What to consider before selling on eBay

    1. Would this sell for less than the postage and packaging costs (i.e. is it really worth the effort)?
    2. Does it look like the dog’s gotten hold of it?
    3. Would I have to tell any white lies about the condition of this item in order to sell it?
    4. Is anything missing that the buyer would need in order to enjoy (or even use) the item?

    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the item probably doesn’t belong on eBay (although in some cases a product in poor condition or with parts missing can be sold for spares – just be honest about the condition!).

    Top tip: If you’re stumped on what to sell, use the ‘Marketplace Research’ tool on eBay to find out what the hottest items are at that time. Also check out what the most watched items are or whichever ones tend to have the most bids on them, and use this as a guide. This should give you an idea of what will sell and what won’t.

    Thinking seasonally is always a good idea too – you’re not likely to get many bids on a pair of sunglasses in the middle of winter, so put them somewhere safe until the time is right. Chances are you’ll make a lot more cash on them if you can be patient and wait until the time is right!

  1. How to improve your eBay profile

    It would be great if you could just open an account and start selling stuff right away. But unfortunately if you want to do things properly on eBay, this just doesn’t work. We would recommend becoming a buyer first so that other users can see you have an eBay history.

    Even if you just purchase a couple of small items for a few quid each, paying for the items promptly and taking the time to give feedback (positive if possible!) can really build up your eBay presence and get a good buyer rating.

    Another important step is choosing your username. Remember that whatever you choose will effectively be the name of your mini business, so jessglynnefan103xx probably won’t instil a whole lot of confidence in potential buyers.

    We’d recommend either going for something simple and professional, like a variant of your name, or a name that’s relevant to the kind of things you plan to be selling (this might make you easier to find in eBay searches too).

  2. Understand the costs of becoming an eBay seller before getting started

    Before you begin making any money you first need to work out exactly how much an item is worth and how much it’s going to cost you to sell it. Obviously you want to make a decent profit, but there are a lot of additional costs applied when selling on eBay that you need to be aware of.

    eBay seller costs to consider

    1. As of March 2019, you’re now allowed to list 1,000 per month free of charge (when the item is listed for five or more days), after which you’ll be charged 35p ‘insertion fee’ per item
    2. There are also charges for added extras like listing in two categories or having more than one photo per listing
    3. 10% of the first £2,500 of the total transaction (including postage) also goes to eBay
    4. If the sale is made through PayPal, they also charge 20p per transaction and will take an additional percentage based on how much you receive into your PayPal account each month
    5. Depending on how much you sell on eBay, you might need to pay tax. Check out HMRC’s badges of trade, and if you meet some or all of them, you may need to pay tax.

    As you can see, it’s not simply a case of posting your items online and watching the cash roll in. Ecal is a nifty little tool which works out how much you’ll pay for each sale, based on what you list it for and how much it sells for eventually. Try running your item through this to see what sort of profit you’ll make.

  1. How much to charge for your item

    Use the eBay advanced search tool to discover how much similar items have been selling for lately. Just search for whatever it is you want to sell and tick the ‘completed listings’ box to see heaps of similar items and get a better idea of what to charge.

    Also, make sure you price the postage correctly, or you could end up out of pocket. Royal Mail’s price finder will tell you how much you’ll have to fork out for postage so you can add this to the listing.

    Note that high postage fees can put some sellers off, so we’d recommend adding the cost of any jiffy bags or sellotape into the price of the product itself to keep the postage figure down.

  2. Start bids low to catch bargain-hunter eyes

    It might be tempting give your listings a high initial price, but starting your bids at 99p (or something similar) will actually get you a better sale in the long run.

    A low starting bid will catch the attention of more potential buyers and encourage a competitive bidding war as the item reaches its last day of bidding.

    However, note that this tip doesn’t apply to really niche products – if it’s something that only an avid collector would be searching for, don’t set the initial bid too low as you’re less likely to get a lot of bids on these items.

    You can always add a minimum price (the reserve) if you’re worried about getting a rough deal, which means the item won’t be sold unless it reaches this minimum required amount.

  3. Take decent photos of what you’re selling

    A photograph of the item you’re selling adds maximum credibility, and a user is much more likely to continue bidding if they feel they’ve been given a decent representation of what’s on offer.

    If there are extra components to the item you’re listing, you’ll want to get them in the photo too – we’re talking boxes, instruction manuals, batteries and whatever else you’ve mentioned in the description.

    You don’t have to have an amazing camera to do a good job of this, but do make use of the macro mode if you have one and use autofocus, both of which will work wonders for up close shots.

    Natural daylight is always the best option for offering the clearest pics possible, but a little extra lighting (like a desk lamp) can also make a big difference if you’re in a naturally dark room. Just make sure you avoid any shadows (turn the lamp upside down if you have to!).

    Also remember that 12 photos can be uploaded to your account for free at one time!

  4. Remember that timing is everything

    when to end an ebay auction

    Before you jump straight in and post your listing, take some time to think about when you should open the bidding.

    In general, the best time to end any auction is on a Sunday evening. This has been proven to be the time when most casual buyers go for a browse, so it’s the time that auctions really start to heat up.

    So, if you’re going for the maximum 10 day auction (which is always the best option as this increases the chances of getting more bids), list it on a Thursday evening for maximum exposure to potential buyers.

    As mentioned previously, if you’re selling a themed or seasonal product, think about when the right time would be to put it online.

    For example, the start of October would be the perfect time to start listing any fancy dress items you have as people start searching for their Halloween party outfits online.

  5. Take time with your product description

    Now for the hard part: writing the descriptions that will sell your product. It’s crucial that you take your time over this, as a good description can really make or break a deal.

    eBay allows you to use up to 55 characters in your title, so make the most of it. Make it clear, concise and pack that thing with keywords to help make your item as easy to find as possible.

    13 golden rules of eBay product descriptions

    1. Avoid using caps lock or symbols – you’ll make eBay angry and it will self combust. Kidding obv, but it does look unprofessional and a bit like you’re shouting
    2. Avoid spelling errors like the plague! Typos are the enemy in eBay listings as they prevent your items from being searchable. There are even search engines dedicated to finding items that are getting no bids due to typos – that’s how big an issue it is!
    3. Make the description concise, informative and accurate. Highlight the key features and top selling points
    4. Get up to speed with the eBay acronym world: use terms like VGC (very good condition), BN (brand new), BNIB (brand new in box) and BNWT (brand new with tags)
    5. Be extremely honest about any problems or defects. The more honest you are at this point, the more confident your bidders will be that they know what they’re getting. Remember, buyers can ask for their money back if the item appears in a different condition to what was written in the listing, so honesty really is the best policy
    6. If applicable, mention how often the product’s been used before or why you’re selling it
    7. Your items will command a much higher price if you’ve got all the packaging, tags and instruction books, so try to fish them out and mention them in the listing
    8. Invite potential buyers to contact you if they have any questions
    9. Make sure to list all of your terms and conditions, including the payment situation, postage and packing, and refunds. This should save any arguments later!
    10. eBay pros recommend using the HTML function to make your description look all snazzy. If you can’t quite manage that, you can still use simple eye-catching fonts and colours. Just keep it looking profesh
    11. Make sure you list your item in the right category. If you don’t, the chance of a good sale drops a lot. If it’s not immediately obvious then do a search for what you’re selling and see where it’s most commonly been listed before
    12. If you’re selling a lot of similar items at once then use your description to link to your other sales. A bit of self-promotion never hurt anyone!
    13. To see what sort of language you should be using in your descriptions, look at how top sellers describe their items that sell at a high price 
  6. Promote PayPal for payments

    We’d recommend taking payments via PayPal – despite the annoying fact that Paypal charge 20p per transaction and a percentage of your total sale, it’s the safest and most preferred payment method in the eBay world.

    There’s also an added layer of security so people can’t scam you for your product.

  7. Remember the job isn’t done when the sale is made

    use energy efficient products save money

    No relaxing just yet! Once your sale has gone through (wahey!), be sure to send a confirmation email to your buyer as soon as possible and invoice them for the full amount, including the postage charge.

    You should then send them another email once you’ve received their payment and when you’ve dispatched the item. We know, this sounds like a lot of emailing – but buyers appreciate being kept in the loop, and if you’re too quiet there’s a chance they’ll get suspicious and report you. 

    Make sure you also dispatch the item as promptly as possible and beware of being too ambitious with your ‘handling time’ declaration. If you estimate that you’ll take 2 days to dispatch the item, but the buyer hasn’t received it later than that, you could receive negative feedback and the buyer may ask eBay for a refund.

    After you’re all done, do remember to give your buyer some lovely feedback. It’s how the eBay world works, and as the saying goes: what goes around, comes around!

  8. ALWAYS get proof of postage!

    Send every item you sell by recorded delivery or at least get proof of postage. Particular because, unfortunately, there are eBay buyer scammers out there who cause trouble by telling eBay that items haven’t been received, even when they actually have been delivered.

    So just make sure you’re armed with proof in case you need to fight your corner!

And we’re done! Hopefully you’re now equipped with all of the super skills you’ll need to be a pro eBayer.

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For more ideas on how to start raking in the cash, head over to our make money quickly guide!