Learning how to sell on ebay can be a great way to both reduce the amount of trash you create and increase one of the main types of income – passive income.
What’s that one saying? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…
I think ebay built it’s whole business model off of that saying. And now you can profit from it!
I mean, it’s a great business model. It allows sellers to make a little cash off things they don’t want anymore. And buyers can find what they’re looking for at a discounted price because it’s used. And yes, ebay takes a little cut in the middle, as expected.
Below, you’ll get definitive guide on how to sell on ebay. Including everything from what you need to get started to how to set the right price.
your car! 🙂
Essential items to get started selling on eBayIf you’re only selling one or two items on email, you may not need a lot of equipment. If your goal is to become a serious eBay’er, here’s what you’ll need:
- A camera
- A computer
- A printer and labels
- Packing material
- Cleaning equipment
- Measuring tape
- Scale, and
- Storage equipment
CameraYou won’t need anything expensive. In fact, a smartphone that was made within the past couple of years should be fine. You can use a high-quality camera but using a separate camera from your phone will add additional steps to the process. You just want the pictures to show the item as it looks in real life. When you take pictures with a camera that isn’t your phone, you’ll have to upload them to your computer and add them to the listing from there. When you take the pictures on your smartphone, you’ll be able to upload them directly from it and that will save time. I use the free Google photos app to back up my photos in case something were to happen to them.
ComputerYou don’t need a computer to list your items, but eBay is an old website and some of the features are only available through the desktop browser version. For instance, to make any changes to your account, you’ll need to access eBay on a computer.
Printer and LabelsIf you’ve already got a printer, you don’t necessarily need to buy another. I recently purchased a laser printer at a yard sale because laser printers give you a lot more prints per cartridge vs inkjet. Switching from an inkjet to a laser printer will save you money over time. If you are going to stick with an inkjet, buy your cartridges refurbished on eBay and you’ll save a lot of money. You don’t have to buy shipping labels when you’re just starting out, but they will save you time when you start selling a lot. I started out just using printer paper and it was taking me extra time to take scissors and cut the label out and tape them to the packages. I bought 1,000 sticker labels for less than $30 on eBay and now I can just print off the labels and stick them right to the package without using any tape. Another tip is to set it to not print the shipping receipt when you print the label. This uses up more paper/extra labels and is redundant because the receipt is emailed to you.
TapeYou’ll be using a lot of packing tape, so buying in bulk is the cheapest option. You don’t necessarily want to purchase the cheapest tape you find. Having nice and sturdy tape will ensure the package is more secure and you won’t have to worry about the tape coming unstuck. It’s also a good idea to invest in a high-quality tape gun. I found one used on eBay for half the price it would cost to buy one new.
BoxesThe types of boxes you use will depend on the type of shipping service you select. I choose to use shipping services that allow me to use my own boxes – USPS Priority Mail and USPS First Class Package. I go around to retail stores and see if they have any they can give me. A lot of times, you can go behind the stores and there will be a bunch of boxes next to the dumpster. You shouldn’t ever have to pay for a box if you use your own packaging. Another option for boxes is to use the free, flat rate boxes provided by USPS. These boxes require you to use the shipping services specific to the box and if you have large items, there might not be a box big enough. The only time that these free boxes are a better option than using your own packaging is if you’ve got a smaller item that weighs a lot. Since it’s a flat rate, you won’t be charged any more for a 10-pound item than you would be for a 2-pound item.
Poly Mailers and Bubble mailersThese are the only types of packages I purchase. There’s a multitude of different sizes you can choose from, but typical sizes are 6”×9”, 9”×12”, 14”×17” and 19”×24”. You don’t have to buy all the sizes when you’re starting out. Just buy the sizes that work best with the types of items you sell. The difference in bubble mailers and poly mailers is that bubble mailers provide a little bit of padding. If you’re selling something hard that you aren’t worried about breaking, bubble mailers should work perfectly. I use poly mailers for all of my clothing sales as well as anything that is made out of cloth.
Packing materialsIf you’re selling fragile items, bubble wrap, packing peanuts and paper will be your best friends. I save any packing material I get from purchases I make and let friends and family know I’ll take anything they got. It’s worth purchasing this stuff if you can’t get it for free. Items breaking during shipping is the worst.
Scissors and razor knifeYou’ll find yourself needing to cut things all the time, and a good pair of scissors is essential. Razor knives come in handy when you need to resize a box. Sometimes, you’ll need to ship something, but all of your boxes will be way too big. You don’t want to waste packing material just to fill empty space in a box.
Cleaning equipmentA lot of times, you’ll find something cool, but it’s really dirty. Part of the fun of selling on eBay is taking something that has been forgotten about and cleaning it up to give it new life. Cleaning dust off your items will probably be the most common form of cleaning you do. A good dust rag and feather duster are great things to keep around. If you’re buying used shoes, getting a horsehair brush might be a good investment. Most of the shoes I get, I’m able to clean with a wet rag. Goo Gone and a Scotty peeler will come in handy for getting sticky labels off things.
Measuring tapeSome type of measuring tape is essential. You’ll need to put in your box measurements when you’re listing your items. It’s also a good practice to include measurements of your items in your listings. People may not be able to tell how big an item is just by looking at the pictures. If you’re going to sell clothes, you’ll need to include the measurements in the listing for sure.
Small ScaleYou can get a good scale that weighs things from 1oz to 60lbs for a reasonable price on eBay. Having accurate weights on the items you list is a critical part of factoring how much the shipping will cost. Always add a couple of ounces for the box and any packing material you might pack the item with.
Storage equipmentOnce you start shopping for items to sell, you may be surprised how much stuff you start buying. Your storage space will fill up quickly! Having sturdy shelves and some storage containers will help you stay organized.
Creating eBay and PayPal accountsYou’ll need an eBay and PayPal account to sell on the platform. It’s been announced that eBay is moving away from PayPal, but for the time being, PayPal is still what the majority of eBay seller use to process payments. You can choose to only accept credit/debit cards as forms of payment, but this will reduce the number of people that will be willing to buy from you. You don’t need a business account with PayPal to sell on eBay. A personal account will work fine. You’ll just need to add a bank account to PayPal so you can transfer the money you receive to your bank.
Finding items to sellThere are millions, if not billions of different things that are sold on eBay each week. From thimbles to pickup trucks, you can buy and sell just about anything. There are some exceptions though. While you may find almost anything under the sun listed on eBay, that doesn’t always mean it will sell. A good rule of thumb is to do a search for an item you’re interested in and then set the filter to “sold”. This will show you if the item has sold recently and you’ll be able to see what it sold for.
What items sellWhen you’re just starting out, one of the more popular categories to sell in is clothing. Clothing is good because you can find it all over the place for cheap and you don’t have to worry about it breaking in shipping. Here are 10 men’s clothing brands that sell for good money on eBay:
- Tommy Bahama
- Harley Davidson
- Brooks Brothers
- Hugo Boss
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Eileen Fisher
- Lulu Lemon
- Free People
- Dale of Norway
- Diane Von Furstenberg
- Victoria’s Secret
- Michael Kors
- Tory Burch
- St. John
Where to find itemsThe types of items you’ll find depends on where you’re able to get your items from. Pretty much anywhere in the U.S. should have at least one good place you can find items for cheap within an hour drive of your house.
Yard salesMy favorite place to find items is yard sales. Most of the time, people are just wanting to get rid of their stuff and will be thrilled when you show up with a pocket full of cash. Apps like Yard Sale Treasure Map make it easy to find yard sales, but most of the time, you’ll just need to drive around and look for signs. If you’ve got an area near you with a lot of houses, that will probably be the best place to look for yard sales. It’s good to be friendly with the people who are hosting the sales because they’ll be more likely to give you deals. It might be hard to look up items on your phone when you’re standing right in front of someone, so sometimes you’ll just have to decide if you want to buy an item without knowing if it’s worth anything.
Thrift storesMy second favorite place to buy things is local thrift stores. I don’t like Goodwill very much because they seem to be expensive. Small independent stores, usually run by a church or nonprofit organization are better. I rarely leave a thrift store without a handful of stuff that I can make a nice profit on. If you’ve got one near you, Goodwill outlets are much better than the Goodwill retail stores. They usually price items by the pound and lots of people get their entire eBay inventory from these outlets.
Estate salesEstate sales are great places to find things, but sometimes the estate sale companies try to charge an arm and a leg for stuff. You have to be selective with what you buy, but I can usually find something I can make good money on at each sale I go to. EstateSales.net is a great way to find estate sales in your area.
AuctionsAuctions are a great place to find cool items. A lot of times, you can buy a whole table full of stuff for cheap and make serious money on the stuff you get. Most of the time, auctions are an all-day event, so you’ll have to have an open schedule to go to one.
Flea marketsIf you’ve got a flea market near you, you’ll want to go to it to find items! Flea markets are kind of like a place where you go to have a yard sale away from your house. A lot of the people that sell at flea markets are there every week with new items. I don’t know why the people selling there don’t choose to sell their stuff on eBay, but you can buy their stuff and sell it for more!
eBayYes, believe it or not, you can buy items on eBay, and resell them for more on eBay. Sometimes a seller will have something listed for a really cheap auction price and you’ll be the only one to find the listing. The more common way to buy things for cheap on eBay is to buy lots of stuff together and then piece them out and sell them separately. eBay isn’t the best place to find things for cheap, but it’s a way to get items without having to physically go anywhere.
Other online marketplacesSometimes, you can find things for cheap or even free on places like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There are a couple of other popular selling apps like LetGo and OfferUp that are similar to Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
What does it cost to sell on eBay?There are a few different fees you can be hit with when selling on eBay. There are insertion fees, final value fees, subscription fees, and PayPal fees. If you’re paying for a store subscription, you shouldn’t have to pay any insertion fees if you’re sticking to the subscription guidelines. Final value fees are the biggest expense and are usually around 10% of what your item sells for. PayPal takes about 3% of the sales, so you’re looking at paying about 15% of the price your item sells for the total. If you charge for shipping, eBay charges a final value fee on shipping, but they give you a shipping discount so that should cover the fee.
Listing the itemsNow you’ve got your equipment ready to go, your eBay and PayPal account setup and an item to sell. It’s time to start listing! Listing is definitely the most time-consuming part of the process, but don’t let that stop you. You can’t sell anything if you don’t list, so the more work you put in, the more money you’ll make.
Should you list on your phone or on a computer?Do whatever works best for you, I personally do my entire listings on my phone. It’s easier to type out descriptions on the computer keyboard, but it would take me more time to do part of the listing on my phone and then switch to my computer. I like listing on my phone because I can take pictures and instantly upload them through the eBay app.
Search for the item on eBayThe quickest way to start a listing is to search for the item on eBay and set the filter to “sold”. If you’re able to find a sold listing of the item you want to list, you can click on it and scroll down on the page until you see a button that says “sell one like this”. I like doing this because I know that someone was able to get the listing sold using the title and information they provided in the listing.
Write a good titleThe title is one of the most important parts of the listing. 99.99% of the time, people are going to find your item by searching eBay with a certain phrase. You need to fill out the title with as much relevant information as you can think of. I try to completely fill the title character limit with every listing I post. Here’s a title of something I recently sold:
Selecting the right categoryMaking sure you’re listing is in the right category is critical. If you’re selling a vintage coffee mug, and the category is women’s shoes, you’re not going to get as many views on the listing. You’ll have to pay attention to the category when you use the “sell one like this” option on preexisting listings. Sometimes, the category won’t be correct, and you’ll need to change it.
Selecting the item conditionDepending on the category, you’ll have the option to list your item as new with tags, new without tags, new other and preowned. These options are self-explanatory, but the one you might be wondering about is new other. New other means an item is new and has never been used but may have defects of some kind.
Taking photosOther than the title, I’d say photos are the most important part of the listing. A lot of times, people won’t read the title or the description and just purchase the item based on the picture. They may not even click on the pictures to look at more than the main one. I’ve had people complaining about an item they purchased when I clearly stated the issue they’re complaining about in the title and description.
Item specificsThe item specifics section is where you’ll put all the specific details about the item. You don’t have to fill out every section of this, just put enough information so the buyer has a good idea of the details.
Writing the descriptionThe description is where you’ll put any information about the item that you weren’t able to provide in the item specifics. You don’t need to write an entire story in the description, just put as much information about the item to explain it well and list any defects. Most of the time, my descriptions are only a couple of sentences long. I don’t think people spend much time reading the description, buts it’s important to put details in it in case a buyer tries to say the item was not as described.
Selling formatDeciding if you should sell your item as buy it now or auction is one of the most common questions I see with new sellers. I’d say 99% of the time, I list my items as buy it now with the best offer option on. The reason I sell my items as buy it now is that most of the time, you will only get one bid on the item when you list it as an auction. There are some cases where you’ll have a bidding war, but those are becoming more and rarer. Most people want to be able to purchase the item as soon as they see it.
Setting the priceIf you’ve decided to list your item as an auction, I would make sure you list it at a price at which you’re comfortable with it selling. Don’t be surprised if you list something worth $100 and it only sells for $1 if that’s what you start the bid at.
Payment optionsIf you’re using PayPal as your payment option (and I suggest you do), you’ll need to have the email address associated with your PayPal account as the payment option for your listing. You shouldn’t have to do this with every listing once you’ve got your PayPal and eBay accounts connected. It will automatically set the PayPal email address as your payment preference.
Return optionsIn order to become a top-rated seller, you will need to offer free returns on your listings. Free returns mean that you will have to pay for return shipping if the buyer decides to return the item. I have my return policy set to 30 days after the buyer has made the purchase. Offering free returns is a pain, but you most likely won’t get a ton of returns if you list your items as best you can.
Shipping detailsI keep things simple when it comes to shipping. I always charge the buyer for shipping and I only use two shipping services for all my listings. If an item is under a pound, I use USPS First Class Package. If it weighs more than a pound, I use USPS Priority Mail. These two options allow me to use any package I want, and they tend to be the cheapest option for the buyer.
Packing and shipping your itemsNot packing my items securely enough is one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started selling on eBay. If you’re selling something fragile, like a mug, you’ll need to wrap it in bubble wrap and then fill in the box around it with either packing peanuts or paper. You don’t want your items to be able to slide around in the box as that will almost always ensure that it gets damaged. If you’ve got any doubts if the item is secure enough, you probably haven’t packed it securely enough. Selling on eBay isn’t worth it if you don’t secure your items and they break in shipping. If you’re selling something heavy, it’s probably best to put the item in a box and then put that box inside a box then fill it with paper and bubble wrap. Double boxing heavy items is a great way to keep the items safe.
Combining shippingEvery now and then, you’ll get a customer that buys multiple items from you at the same time. If they pay for all the items separately, then you’ll need to ship them separately. They may ask you to ship the items together to save on shipping costs.
Scheduling a package pickupUSPS provides a cool service where they’ll pick up your package right from your house (if the service is available in your area). To schedule a pickup, just go to this link and set it up. Not having to go to the post office every day saves me so much time and gas money!
Keeping track of your numbersStaying on top of your expenses and profits is important to do for tax purposes. Whenever I buy something to sell, I immediately put a description of the item and what I paid for it into a google spreadsheet. Once the item sells, I use Final Fee Calc to see what I’m going to profit. I punch in all of the numbers into my google sheet and then I’m able to total everything up and see how I’m doing each month. I also add any expenses (like packing supplies, ink and eBay store subscription) to my monthly google sheet so I can get the true amount of what I’m profiting.
Starting a store subscriptionIf you don’t have a store subscription, you’ll only be able to list 50 items a month for free. Any items you want to list after you reach 50 listings will cost somewhere around $.30 per listing. These fees can really add up quick, so most serious sellers sign up for a store. If you’re selling your items as buy it now, whenever the listings automatically relist, this will count towards your 50 free listings, so keep that in mind. To sign up for a subscription, go to my eBay and click account. You’ll see a menu with a link titled “subscriptions”. Click on that link and it will take you to a page where you can choose the store subscription you want. The eBay starter store is $4.95 a month and you get 100 free listings per month.
Building your reputationHaving a good reputation on eBay is crucial to your success as a seller. If you get too much bad feedback, you won’t sell as many items or could even end up getting banned from selling. If you follow the tips in this guide, getting negative feedback should be a rare occurrence for you.
Getting positive feedback when you’re just starting outOne way to get positive feedback when you’re just starting out is to buy some items on eBay using your seller account. The sellers will leave you positive feedback when you buy their items and that feedback will show up in your seller profile. I wouldn’t worry too much about getting good feedback for every item you sell because most buyers aren’t going to leave anything. Obviously, the more positive feedback you have, the better, but I think a lot of people stress out about their profiles too much. When you get over 99% positive feedback, your feedback shouldn’t affect your sales. When a buyer leaves you negative feedback without having a good reason to do so, call eBay and see if they can remove the feedback from your profile. If you haven’t done anything wrong, they should remove it for you.
Becoming a top-rated sellerTo become a top rated seller, you’ll need to meet these requirements. When you’re a top-rated seller, you get a badge on your listings that makes you look more professional and a 10% discount on final value fees.
Dealing with customer issuesYou’ll get difficult customers from time to time and it’s just part of selling stuff online. If a customer is being difficult and you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t hesitate to call eBay and explain what’s going on. A lot of times they will take your side and be able to help you get the problem solved.
Unpaid itemsUnpaid item cases are probably the most common issue you will have with customers. For some reason, eBay doesn’t require the buyer to pay immediately for the item once they’ve purchased it. You can ease the pain of unpaid item cases by turning on unpaid item assistant. I’ve got my account set up to where unpaid item assistant opens a case after the buyer hasn’t paid for 4 days. Once the case closes, it automatically relists the item, so I don’t have to do that myself. You can set up unpaid item assistant on your account by going to my eBay and click account, then go to site preferences.
Blocking customersIf you get a customer that’s just being ridiculous, you can block them. To block someone, go to my eBay, account, site preferences and scroll down to buyer requirements and click edit. You’ll see a link that says “blocked list”. Click on this link and add the buyer to the list. This will stop them from being able to buy anything from you or contact you.
Organizing your inventoryYou don’t have to organize your inventory, but it will make things easier and will save you time. If you come up with an organization strategy when you’re just starting out, it will be easier on you than when you’ve got a big inventory and try to set up a system. Here’s a good guide on organizing your inventory.
Taking time offOnce you get your eBay business off the ground, you’ll eventually want, or need to take breaks from time to time. The good news? You can take time off and STILL SELL STUFF! I’ve heard of people taking a couple of months off at a time and still selling a lot of things during their time off. All you have to do is set the handling time to however long you’re going to be away for.
Nathan Clarke from Millionaire Dojo
Nathan is the founder of Millionaire Dojo – a website that documents his journey to reaching a million dollar net worth so that others may be inspired to follow the same path. He and his wife reached a net worth of one hundred thousand by the age of 25 and has been featured in Business Insider. His blog focuses on practical advice that can be implemented immediately in the form of saving money, earning more, and investing to create passive income.