How to make money selling on Ebay

Introduction- In the last article on selling, I covered selling your old things to raise extra money. In this piece I will be discussing what you can sell once you have depleted your own furniture stock! I find that eBay can be quite addictive and when I first started selling, I got so absorbed in the site that I started selling things that I actually wanted. I can remember going to my wardrobe one day and looking for a specific top only to discover I had sold it a few weeks ago. It was at this point that I realised that if I wanted my Paypal balance to continuously increase I needed to buy more things (cheap) to sell on eBay (profit). I have had about 10 years of selling experience on eBay and I feel qualified to advise you on what to sell and how to sell it. I believe that you can sell anything on eBay as long as you market it well.

How to sell

Photographs -Taking good quality photographs is a necessity. “A picture speaks 1000 words!” A good picture ensures the customer can clearly see the item. If you need to, use more than one picture and take photographs from different angles. Make sure you do not have clutter in the background or people as this will distract the buyer from your amazing product. If you are selling clothes the best tip I can give you is to avoid modelling the clothes. Buyers do not like to think of their ‘new’ clothes as pre-worn so the best way of taking a photograph is to hang them on a nice wooden coat hanger then hang somewhere with a plain background. If there are any defects, photograph them as this will protect you against any complaints.

Timing- When you sell your items you need to consider your audience and when your audience will most likely buy. There are always so many clothes for sale on eBay that it is very unlikely that people will even view your items let alone bid on them until the last day. You will have the most activity on listings in the last couple of hours. With this in mind, you need to make sure you time your listings to run out at an appropriate time. Most people do their eBay buying after work so I always ensure the majority of my listings run out between 7pm and 10pm Monday to Friday. I also find that listings that run out on weekend are quite successful as people are not at work and therefore they can spend more time buying things.

Pricing – EBay states that you should start your listings at 99 pence to encourage more interest. This is true, however you do not want everything selling for 99p. Specialised items that will only appeal to a small number of people should be priced higher as you may not get as much interest in these pieces. Auctions are more successful than buy it now prices as people like to think they are getting a bargain and ‘beating other people.’ You should also avoid high p&p fees as this will discourage people from buying.

Postage –Your postage costs should include your petrol money to and from the post office, the cost of the envelope/packaging and the cost of the actual postage. Do not package anything up until you have sold it as often people will ask you specific questions and you may want to refer back to the item. Whilst waiting for your items to sell, store them away from your cats/dogs/smoke and fold it up. People do not appreciate opening a parcel to discover their ‘new’ jumper covered in dog hair and/or creased! Be aware of what can be posted as a large letter or a small packet. There is a massive price difference and sometimes a bit of creative folding/packaging can save you money on postage.

Make a punchy heading – Buyers search on certain key words so you need to get these in your heading, for example: the colour, the brand and the size.

  • Bad example of a title: “Black dress from Topshop”
  • Good example of a title: “Sexy black dress TOPSHOP size 10 hardly worn!

People do not like to think of clothes as second hand however as a responsible seller you need to be truthful about the item’s condition. Rather than stating “second hand” you could use descriptive words such as: ‘nearly new’, ‘worn once’, ‘excellent condition’ and so on. If items are older and well worn, you could describe them as ‘vintage’ or ‘retro.’ If you can roughly date them to a decade then do this, for example, ‘80s cocktail dress’. eBay only allows a certain amount of characters per title so once you have your keywords (Recap: brand, colour, condition, size) you can flower up the title with an awesome description to create demand for your products. Words that work well for me are: ‘chic’, ‘elegant’, ‘sexy’ and ‘flattering’. Key descriptive words for men’s clothes include: ‘smart’, ‘sharp, ‘stylish’, ‘well designed’ and ‘original’. Be creative and reel them in.

Description field – This is where you are pitching your product to the buyer to seal the sale. In this section it is just as important to add buzz words and descriptive phrases. A description should tell the buyer a little extra about the item and how it is of benefit to them. To save time I tend to have a template and a bank of phrases for similar items. For example, if I am selling tops and jumpers, I usually write something generic like, “team this gorgeous top with jeans or a skirt for a casual, sophisticated day look and then add heels to make it the perfect evening outfit. Effortless style!” It is an old sales trick but people love to be flattered so go ahead and tell them they will look good in it. I also always add the following to my listings, “All items are from a pet free / smoke free home. I do not accept returns and please no time wasters.”

Feedback – Negative feedback has two implications; it can put future buyers off and eBay can impose selling restrictions. You need to have a happy buyer! This does not take too much effort, simply be honest with them, describe the item properly, dispatch on time and sort out any complaints as quickly as possible.

Fees – you can’t sell for free so factor the fees into your pricing strategy. Use this link for a fees calculator to work out exactly what you will owe eBay. To work out your paypal fees use this link.

Making a living by trading on eBay – 

What to sell – Clothes sell well on eBay, especially items from branded shops. River Island and Topshop are amongst some of the top brands on eBay. People like buying branded products because they are familiar with the quality. One summer, I spent time visiting car boot sales specifically targeting the stalls that were selling clothes. I would raid the rails and select all the clothes that had a recognised brand name: Next, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and then I would haggle for a bargain with the seller. To make a good profit, I would not pay more than £1 per item with the ideal price being 50 pence. You can usually then sell each item of clothing on eBay for approximately £3/£4.

I made a lot of money selling second hand clothes and I loved it. I loved the thrill of seeing something I had bought for £1 sell for a tenner! I loved rooting through racks of clothes and finding the gems. Car boot sales were the best option for me but I also found some good items to sell on in charity shops. I have bought some cheap jewellery from charity shops, board games, toiletries etc and sold them for a good profit.

On my first charity shop visit, I came across a VHS (no one buys these!) of the Spice Girls movie in a presentation tin. It was priced at £1 so I bought it as I know that tins are often very collectable. I listed it for sale on eBay and it sold for £25! Visits to wholesalers can also be great places to buy things, hairdressing wholesalers are big money spinners as hair products sell very well. I personally find that books and DVDs sell better on Amazon but eBay is a good place for selling electronics and items for the home. Home stuff is a real winner.

Adding value – People love buying individual and kitsch items for their homes on eBay. Second hand furniture sells however you can make more money if you ‘upcycle’ them, for example, adding fancy new handles, sanding it down and giving it a lick of paint. I will be covering upselling in another article so I will not spend too much time on it here.

If you have a skill why not capitalise on it?! Why shouldn’t you make cash from something you enjoy doing. If you sew, knit, paint or draw then sell your wares on eBay. Make candles, dog collars,  anything! Add small details to an existing cheap cushion covers, customise mirrors, distress picture frames; these products will  be unique and one of a kind as they are hand made by you. The secret to adding value is simple: buy cheap, make it desirable and contemporary then sell for a profit! This is how you can make a living selling on eBay.


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