By Jack Sheppard - Last updated:
Over four million people in the UK list items on eBay every month. With so many people taking advantage of the unique auction site, many of them professional businesses, it can be hard for casual sellers to get their listings noticed. The following tips will help you navigate the complex world of eBay and allow you to get a good price for whatever it is you’re selling.
eBay is a great way to sell unwanted clutter, or rare gems you didn’t know you had, but its not perfect for everything. If you have anything you want to sell in bulk, which won’t net much profit when sold individually, it’s probably better to sell elsewhere as it will save you a lot of time, without affecting your profit too much.
Amazon Marketplace is a great place to sell your second-hand books, although any rare, collectable, or expensive books, such as university textbooks, will probably make more money on eBay. There are also multiple sites across the web, such as Computer Exchange and Music Magpie that give you a good price for your used DVDs and CDs. You can see our earlier article on selling second-hand goods for more details.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t be conservative with what you sell. Someone on eBay will probably buy whatever it is you’re putting up for sale. Faulty or broken goods often sell well, as computer experts will repair or strip them for spare parts. Ripped clothing, false teeth and plastic bags have all also been sold before! Check eBay before you discount listing something to see if it’s worth selling - you may be surprised.
Before you think about selling anything, you should buy a few small items. By buying before you sell, you’ll be able to gain a basic understanding of how eBay works, and build up your feedback rating.
Very few people on eBay will buy from sellers that do not have any feedback, and even if you do make a sale, it probably won’t be for the best price. People sell absolutely everything on eBay so you don’t necessarily have to buy anything expensive or pointless, and you may actually find something that’s better value for money than if you bought elsewhere.
No one said that you have to be completely original. Before selling anything, search for the item you want to sell. This will give you an idea of the value of it. If you do an advanced search, and click the “complete listings” box, you will be able to see past listings, how many bids each item has got and what the final selling prices were. This should then give you an idea on how best to market your item.
Probably the most important thing when selling on eBay is the way you present your item. When doing a basic search, eBay only bases results on an item’s title, so it’s important that this stands out.
Use popular key terms and specific details rather than long descriptions in the title - you’ll have plenty of room to describe your item later on. There are no set keywords that will guarantee you attention, as it’ll obviously depend on what you’re trying to sell, but as a general rule, using sophisticated language and good grammar will often get you a higher price.
For example, instead of selling “genuine mens aftershave”, describe it as “authentic gent’s aftershave”. A lot of eBay users also use initials in order to convey more information without going over the word limit. For example, “BN” means brand new, and “VTG” means vintage. Be careful though, many of these terms may alienate some buyers unfamiliar with the eBay format.
No matter how well you describe your item, it’s the photos that will make all the difference. eBay allows you to upload up to 12 photos for each item you list, although it’s unlikely you’ll actually need that many - remember its quality that’s important, not quantity.
Take your photos in good light and from lots of different angles, ensure they’re taken on a plain and ideally white background. If the size of your item is important, photograph them next to a ruler or tape measure so that any bidders can see that you are being honest with your measurements.
If there are any flaws on your item, it might be worth taking a photo of these too. Your item may sell for less than you would like, but you’ll probably receive good feedback for your thoroughness and honesty, and in the long run, that’s often more important.
When describing a item, it’s important to think about what the customer will want to know, there’s no point writing an eloquent novel if it doesn’t actually contain any useful information!
Above anything else, it’s essential to include the brand name, condition, dimensions, style and colour, even if you can see these from the photos. Also ensure that you are completely honest with your description. There’s no point in describing a TV as “like new” when you picked it up from a skip. If the customer complains, you’ll have to provide a refund and you’ll probably be left with bad feedback, which will damage your ability to sell in the future.
It’s not unusual to find expensive items such as TVs and furniture with a starting price of 99p. Research shows that items with a low starting price will often fetch the highest final prices. Just as it stands to reason that if your starting price is too high it won’t attract many buyers, if your starting price is too low, you risk selling your item for less than you would like.
If you’re selling a niche item that is only likely to attract a small number of bids, you should probably set the starting price closer to what you’re hoping to sell it for. Again, this requires research- see how well similar items have done, and base your starting price on that.
You can list anything you put on eBay for up to ten days. Unless the sale is time-senstive, ensure you list your item for the full period to attract the highest number of bidders possible.
The length of time your item is listed for isn’t the only thing that’s important though, you should also be aware of when your auction will end. There’s no point ending it in the middle of the night when no one will be awake to make a bid. According to eBay itself, the website’s busiest times are on Sunday evenings, so aim to end your listing then in order to attract the most bids possible. Many bidders put in an offer at the last minute so that others don’t have time to respond; therefore you obviously want the listing to end when more people can bid.
You should also think about the time of year you’re selling. Obviously if you’re selling seasonal items, you should only list them when they’re likely to be used- there’s no point trying to flog a winter coat in the middle of August!
There are certain times of year, such as Christmas, when eBay is more popular and those will, therefore, will be a better time to sell. If you’re a regular seller, you should also take advantage of eBay’s free listing days. The company allows you to list 20 items a month for free, but charges 35p a listing after this, on a free listing day, this extra fee is waived. Keep your eyes out for these and list as many items as possible when they occur. Not only will you then have to give less money to eBay, but the popularity of these days will ensure your listed items will be seen by more people.
eBay makes all sellers offer PayPal as a payment option. This is a quick, free, and simple way to pay when you’re a buyer, but has many disadvantages for sellers. PayPal takes 3.4% of the amount paid plus a 20p transaction fee. When added to eBay’s 3.5%, that’s a significant amount of your sale that you won’t receive.
It is far better to ask your buyer to pay using another method, such as cheque, or if you are selling an item that needs to be picked up in person, ask for cash-in-hand, so you don’t give more profit away than you need to.
In order to get the best feedback, you need to deliver your items speedily and keep your customers updated. Think about how you would like to be treated if you were the customer. Ensure you dispatch your items within 48 hours and promptly answer any questions or requests you are sent.
Send all your items using recorded delivery and email your customers with a tracking number. You could also send a follow-up email after the item has arrived, politely asking the customer to leave you a good review, which will help your profile get more attention in the future.
The customer pays for the cost of shipping when you’re selling on eBay, however, its important to be as accurate as possible. If the cost of the P&P is too low, you’ll have to make up the difference in price yourself, and if it’s too high, your customer may leave bad feedback.
The Royal Mail price finder will calculate the rough cost of postage for you, so you can ensure the price you put on eBay is accurate. You should also always send using recorded delivery so that your customers can track their parcels. Royal Mail may not always be the cheapest option when sending your items, especially if your parcel weighs over 2kg.
It’s therefore important to check other courier websites, such as UPS, DPD and DHL to see if they will be cheaper. Bear in mind that you also need to pay for packaging so you should charge slightly more for P&P than you have to pay for delivery.
To ensure that you only receive offers from trusted buyers, you can edit your selling preferences in your account’s settings and block any users with negative feedback. You can also block specific buyers if they make an offer or send you a message that you consider to be suspect.