Tips for selling on eBay

I’ve decided to give selling on eBay a try to make some extra money, but am pretty clueless as to the process. Specifically, I’m wondering what kinds of items sell the best, and where do sellers get the stuff to sell (garage sales, thrift shops…). I have tons of DVDs, CDs, and books that I would like to get rid of, and maybe make some money in the meantime. Any hints and tips are much appreciated.

First of all, you will need a digital camera for most any item. Things just don’t sell well without pictures. There are some exceptions, but overall, this is true.

Second, I would try your hand selling your own stuff first. Do you like the process? Boxing and mailing stuff, waiting for payments, etc. can get tedious.

That being said I made several hundred dollars while unemployed by selling off my stuff. When I ran out of stuff, I would go to garage sales and pick up things on the cheap, and sell things that I ended up not wanting, or just bought things I thought would sell. I would advise sticking to things that you know about – for me, it was video games, books (in certain genres), VHS/DVDs, and small electronics.

To be honest with you, though, nowadays it’s pretty cutthroat. There are lots of eBay resellers out there. It’s also not really that lucrative, though once in awhile you get a good ‘find’, most of the time you don’t make that big a profit. You go to lots of sales that have nothing at all.

If you’re not in a hurry, books sell for higher prices on in my experience, especially books of limited general interest (i.e. textbooks). You set a price and wait for a buyer.

A few things that I would recommend:

-Do not set a “reserve” price unless it’s completely necessary. It will turn some buyers off.
-Start your bid price low. Like $.99 or $1. Don’t worry…it will almost assuredly come up to a reasonable price (reasonable being fair market).
-Make sure you are timely with shipping and communication, because your feedback will affect whether or not people will bid on your item.
-Research some of your items before you decide to put them up. See if there is precedent for the items you’re selling. Create a “lot” of items that are similary-themed if you don’t think you’ll get enough on a single item to make it worth it.
-Make sure you calculate fees and shipping before deciding to sell your item to make sure it will be profitable.
-Represent the item as thoroughly and honestly as possible. This will prevent negative feedback.
-Make your description concise, but with all pertinent details, and as previously mentioned, include at least one picture. If there is something on the item that makes it unique or special, make sure you describe and/or image it.

I think that’s all for now. Good luck!

I haven’t used eBay itself but I sold quite a few things on another auction site when I left Japan. A few random thoughts (some are repeats of what others said but take that as an added emphasis):
[li]Packing, shipping, responding to inquiries, etc., can take a lot of time. Be sure you’re prepared for it.[/li][li]Shipping cost, eBay charges, cost of boxes and packaging material - these add up too. Make sure you take everything into account and check you’re not actually losing money. (Or, getting more money than you would through easier, simpler methods.)[/li][li]Be upfront and honest in your description. List everything that’s wrong with the item. The listing will sound more sincere that way, and you have less chance of a return or negative feedback.[/li][li]A good photo is everything. Use a decent digital camera. Go to a camera shop and buy a big background - or at least go to an art or office supply shop and buy a big piece of paper to use as background. Provide good lighting. [/li][li]The ending time of the auction is very important. Make sure it ends at a time when the most people are awake and at the computer. Evenings seem to work best.[/li][li]Nobody likes reserve price. If it’s a low-demand item and there’s a big risk of having it sold too cheap, just set the starting price higher.[/li][li]Rare, hard-to-find items fetch very good prices. For mundane items, eBay may not be the best place to sell them.[/li][li]Start out slow and accumulate feedback. People find it suspicious when a new user lists a large number of items.[/li][li]If someone complains of shipping damage or item condition, just refund the money and take it back. It’s not worth it to try to work out a deal (reduced price, etc).[/li][/ul]

A lot of good advice here. I want to emphasize getting some good feedback before selling (just buy a few rinky-dink things off eBay for a month or two—get 10 or so feedbacks—more if you can).

Photos and a good description are everything. I keep on buying (and selling) used computers on eBay (my specialty is iMacs, apparently ;)) and I try to make a good, personalized ad. I tell about how nice a Mac it was, how reliable and useful it was. People will have confidence that I know something about the item I am selling. I’m not just some impersonal warehouse, selling 100 iMacs a day, not really sure of all its quirks (or if it has any).

I always look up completed auctions for the same thing I’m selling (like iMacs) and I see a connection between those iMacs that sell for high prices, and those that sell for lower prices. Having a specific, “personalized” description often sells better. Sometimes a template-driven auction page is okay, (especially on things like ink jet cartridges and stuff like that), but if you have a more expensive, unique item, putting some time into the ad will result in a higher price.

PayPal. You’ve got to have PayPal. I’ve seen iMacs sell for $50 (or more) less than similar iMacs, just because the seller doesn’t take credit cards or PayPal (PayPal is best). I know some people have a problem with PayPal and I am not going to address that—only the observation that auctions that don’t take PayPal often get lower prices.

I’ll second the advice to be as upfront and honest as you can about the item. Cover your ass and point out anything that might be an issue. If you are selling something mechanical (like an iMac ;)) you might want to consider including the phrase, “This is a used item and therefore is being sold as-is.” Be as detailed as you can, as honest as you can, offer shipping insurance, pack it very well (or have UPS Store or whoever pack it for you), but cover your ass with a disclaimer that it’s a used item. Used items can develop problems at any time, even though when you sold them they were working perfectly. The “as-is” phrase may not get through to everyone, but putting it in there is better than not.

Check out other auctions and if you believe that only a few select people might be interested in your item, don’t start at a $1 bid. You might only get one bid (no one will fight for your item) and then you’ll have to sell it for $1. Start your price at a low-but-acceptable price and leave it at that. Don’t hope that several people will fight over your item. They might not. (I’ve learned this on a first-hand basis. Trust me on this one.)

The Art of Choosing the Perfect Buy It Now Price:
Check finished auctions of the same thing you are selling. See how popular (or rare, common, etc.) this item is. Look at the highest price and look at the lowest price, and find something that is reasonably below the highest price (but not too much). Try to put yourself in the place of the buyer—make your Buy it Now price high enough so that you feel it’s reasonable, but not so high that someone might say, “Forget it. I’ll just take my chances and fight for it in the auction.” The biggest errors I see with sellers is that they put their Buy It Now prices too high—they should have not bothered. Buy It Now buyers are willing to pay a little more than they might pay in a regular auction, just so they know they can have it now without having to dick around for it. The secret is finding this “sweet spot.” Not too high, but not too low.

Some things are not appropriate for Buy it Now and are better in just a regular auction—you just don’t know how high it might go. Use your personal discretion to decide when something is good for Buy it Now.