Last updated: October 24, 2023
eBay selling is not as simple as just taking a few photos, writing a quick description and then waiting for the money to come rolling in. You want to make sure that your listing appears in as many people’s search results as possible (called an ‘impression’). You’ll also need to ensure people are enticed to click through to view your listing once it appears in the search results. You then need to really sell the item within the listing itself. On top of all this, you need to ensure that you are maximising profit on your listings and not leaving yourself out of pocket in any way. Optimising your eBay listings and watching your costs are key factors in turning a profit on eBay.
Here are tips for how to sell on eBay to ensure you maximise sales and reduce costs.
If you’re a complete newbie to selling on eBay, or you have some experience but want to know how to improve your listings for maximum exposure and sales, read on.
My experience with eBay
I have been selling on eBay since 2004. Before I became a business seller, I sold my own clothes, shoes, bags, and basically anything I hadn’t used for a few months or more. In other words, what I like to call ‘clutter’. It feels good to have a clear out every now and then and purge the house of things I don’t need and would rather have cash in the place of. Whenever I need to make some extra cash quickly, I raid my wardrobe, cupboards and shelves for anything I own that I can sell on eBay. What I like about eBay is that it’s a relatively easy and quick method to gain some extra cash in your account within a week, and this has come in handy for me more times than I care to think about.
Wondering what you can sell to make some extra money? Here are 10 Things You Could Be Selling On eBay Now.
This pile of shame was the result of a major declutter a few years ago. It took many, many hours of taking photographs, writing descriptions, answering questions, packing and posting.
But I ended up with a decent amount of money and I have not missed any of the above items once. I also learnt many tips about selling on eBay to boost sales and ensure you cover yourself financially. I am now a business seller on eBay, but these tips can help everyone wondering how to sell on eBay effectively, business seller or not.
Take decent photos
This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked. People won’t buy something they can’t see clearly. If you can, make sure colours are true. Take photos from all angles, and show close ups of any nice details or any defects.
When selling clothes, use a clothes dummy if possible. If not, lay them flat on a clean floor and take photos of front and back as well as close ups. If selling shoes, make sure you take photos of the bottoms to show the condition. Make sure the background is a neutral pale colour if selling a darker item so it stands out. If selling a beige top, try not to take a photo of it on a beige background – pick something that will make it stand out. Also, take many photos. You can add up to 12 photos for free, so make use of this to really show the item off.
If you want to sell clothes on eBay, read 12 Essential Tools For Selling Clothes On Ebay to ensure you are optimising your listings.
Create a good title
Some listing titles just aren’t specific enough. For example, you’ll sometimes come across a listing for a dress where the listing title is simply ‘women’s dress’. This is not nearly specific enough. Buyers are typing keywords into the search bar. It is worth spending some time crafting a title which will pick as many of these up as possible. Buyers will be searching for specific words, like the brand name, size or fabric.
If the item is new, use the well-known acronyms some people look for; BNIB (brand new in box), BNWT (brand new with tags), BNWOB (brand new without box). If in doubt, think about what you type into the search bar yourself when looking for something. A title like ‘Black Wallis dress 14 – BNWT’ is far more likely to come up as a best match in people’s search results because it includes specific search criteria many people will use.
Write a good description
I don’t go over the top but if something is really nice I will often really try to sell an item to a potential bidder through the description. Describing something as ‘beautifully soft’, ‘perfect for a wedding or summer party’, ‘better in real life than the photo suggests’ etc can help boost sales by allowing people to visualise their experience with the item. Of course don’t tell fibs about it; make sure you are accurate. With clothing, shoes and accessories, include the brand, size, material, colour, pattern, fit, and any special details like buttons or sequins. Include the amount of wear and the condition. You can apply these specifics to almost any type of item, however.
Don’t forget to include measurements where possible. Some people will not have the patience to ask a buyer a question and wait for the answer. If the details they are looking for are not there in the listing, some people just move on straight away without buying.
Start the listing at a sensible time
This applies if you are running an auction rather than listing an item as a Buy It Now. I like to start most of my auctions on a Sunday night. Research has shown that this is the most profitable time on eBay and most people are browsing the site then. I’m guessing this has something to do with Sunday night blues where you decide to do a little online shopping to cheer yourself up over the fact Monday has come round so quickly – speaking from experience here. If you list something for 7 days, start it on Sunday night so it finishes at the same time next Sunday night.
Try to avoid having anything finish on a Friday or Saturday night when many people won’t be looking. Bear in mind the start time too – try not to clash with popular TV programmes. I usually start my auctions between 8pm and 9pm.
You’re unlikely to sell a Christmas jumper for a good price in July, so keep in mind when items are in demand. For instance sell flip flops and sarongs just before and during Summer. BBQs and garden furniture sell well at the start of Spring, and jumpers and boots from October onwards. It’s worth hanging on to things for a few more weeks to get a better price.
Be aware of the fees
eBay fees have changed a great deal over the past few years. These days most sellers get charged an insertion fee, 10% of the final value of the item when it sells, and 10% of the postage cost you have applied to the item. Different fees apply to different categories however, such as eBay Motors, so be sure to check these. There are also PayPal fees to take into account, which are generally 3.4% of the entire transaction plus 20p.
If you start an auction at 99p this can attract a lot of potential buyers from the start, hoping to get a real bargain. This can be dangerous however when items actually sell for 99p plus postage. If you sell an item at 99p, plus £3.50 P&P, the costs are as follows:
Insertion fee: 29p
Final value fee: 10p
Final value fee on postage: 35p
Paypal fee: 35p
Cost to post the item using Royal Mail Second Class: £2.90
From a total payment from the buyer of £4.49 you end up with a dismal 50p. Not much to show for all your hard work after all the fees above are deducted. That also doesn’t include the cost of the packaging you send the item in.
Nowadays I run very few auctions and prefer to list my items using Buy It Now. That way you can set your minimum price and don’t risk your item selling for less than you want. If you have decent items and brands that you are sure will sell for more than 99p, an auction can be worth it, even if they only sell for £2 to £3 (I would rather have that than keep an item I don’t use). I find Buy It Now worked very well even when I wasn’t a business seller, but auctions have their place.
It can take some experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t so be prepared to be a little disappointed sometimes; it may turn out that you are better off taking many items to a car boot sale and selling each for £1. But eBay can be very profitable if you really think about what you are doing. eBay sometimes give sellers a number of free listings per month so you can skip the insertion fee if you only list a few items each time.
Don’t spend a lot on packaging
Gone are the days when I would walk into a Post Office and buy their jiffy bags at insane prices. I recommend you buy all your postage and packing materials on eBay! There are many sellers that specialise in these items; buy plastic mailing bags in bulk on there and also bubble wrap and jiffy bags if you need them. I send clothes in plastic mailing bags without bubble wrap – it makes them slimmer and weigh less, so they cost less to post. Also, save all the packaging you receive from anything you buy to post your own items in. If you know you are about to have a major eBay listing session, be prepared and order cheaper packaging materials a few days before.
Pack your items sensibly
By this I mean be aware of the Royal Mail’s parcel sizes and their associated costs. Royal Mail have categories like Letter, Large Letter, Small Parcel and Medium Parcel. They are based on weight and size, and they all have different costs associated with them. The smaller and flatter you can pack your parcels, the cheaper it will be to post them. The savings can be significant. Taking Second Class post as an example, a Large Letter weighing 250g – 500g costs £1.22 to post. A Small Parcel weighing the same amount costs £2.90. If you have a lot of parcels to post, it can really add up. I have my own size guide (which I bought cheaply on eBay – where else?!) and measure my own parcels with. If I can make something fit a smaller parcel size I always make the effort.
Always get a proof of postage
Over the past few months a few items of mine have gone missing in the post. Consequently I’ve needed to refund the buyer. Luckily I’ve kept postage receipts for all items and managed to claim the cost back from Royal Mail or Parcelforce. Ensure you get each parcel itemised. The Post Office worker should record the postcode of each item on the proof of postage receipts. It’s inevitable that occasionally things will get lost, or even damaged in the post. You will need the proof of postage for a claim in either case.
Don’t withdraw everything out of PayPal at once
Before you withdraw all that lovely cash from Paypal, pay your eBay fees out of it. This way you don’t get a surprise bill from them a month later when you’ve possibly already spent the money elsewhere! eBay invoices sellers once a month but you can make one-off payments against your seller account in the seller dashboard. I always recommend too that you leave some money in your PayPal account. This is just in case something goes missing in the post. If a buyer opens a case saying they have not received their item, then the full amount they paid you is deducted from your PayPal account and held in reserve until the case if resolved. I like to leave a little money in PayPal to cover this.
These starter tips will hopefully be helpful if you want to make a profit on eBay and unsure how to go about it. It is all about maximising visibility of your listings, increasing the likelihood of a sale, and ensuring your costs are kept to the absolute minimum.
Are you an eBay seller? If so I would love for you to add any of your own tips in the comment below.