How to Sell Stuff on eBay to Make Extra Money

How to Sell Stuff on eBay to Make Extra Money

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  • Post last modified:May 26, 2020
8 minute read

Pokémon cards, Beanie Babies, Pez Dispensers – oh my! In the early days, eBay was all the rage. But things have changed, and in this post, I’ll discuss how to sell stuff on eBay to make extra money today.

You might even wonder whether it’s still worth it to sell stuff on eBay. Of course, I wouldn’t spend time writing this post if it weren’t possible.

Indeed, you can still make money on eBay, but the game has changed. You need to know the new rules if you want to play the game.

And that’s what we’ll talk about in this post.

1. Know When to Use Buy It Now vs. Auction

The rarer the item, the more sense it makes sense to put the item up for auction rather than just as a buy-it-now. The reasons for this are twofold:

  • People aren’t always patient. If you list something for auction but there are several listings for the same item as a buy-it-now, most people won’t bid on your item and wait for the auction to end.
  • Rarer items don’t sell nearly as often, so it’s more difficult to know what a fair price should be. In that case, it can be useful to let bidders determine what the value of that item really is.

2. Know What to Sell

This only applies if you intend to sell items on eBay as a business. If you are only selling as a one-time deal, you can probably skip ahead.

That said, there are certain items that sell better and are more desirable on eBay. These include items such as:

  • Cell phones & accessories
  • Clothing & accessories
  • Video games
  • Gardening tools
  • Sporting goods
  • Books
  • Jewelry and watches

I have also heard of people flipping items such as guitars and furniture. Of course, it’s probably a good idea to spend time just browsing the site and get a feel for all the different categories.

3. Use Professional Photos

If you want to know how to sell stuff on eBay, you need good photos.

In this scenario, professional doesn’t mean going out and buying a professional DLSR camera. If you have one, you should absolutely use it, but don’t worry if you don’t have one.

In the early days of smartphones (or even flip phones!), these devices did have cameras, but they weren’t very good. They were okay for taking photos on the go, but certainly not for something you would use to sell products.

However, today’s smartphones are vastly better. DSLR cameras might be slightly better, but they may not be worth buying for the average user anymore.

If you have smartphone that was released in the past two or three years, its camera is probably good enough for taking photos of the products you’re selling.

But there are a couple of things you can do to be sure your photos look good:

  • Good lighting. If possible, use natural light – and plenty of it. Photos that are purely lit or blurry simply don’t look the best.
  • Good composition. Try to make your item(s) the only thing highlighted in the photo. Place them against a white background or one with warm, neutral colors. Avoid taking photos with a lot going on in the frame other than the thing you’re selling.
  • Above all, use real photos. No one wants to see stock photos. They want to see the actual thing they’re buying! That’s what your photos should contain.

4. SEO Matters – Even on eBay

If you don’t have a website, you may not know what search engine optimization (SEO) is. In short, SEO is the strategy you use to be sure that when someone searches for a certain keyword, they are able to find your listing.

So for example, if someone searches “laptop,” and you are selling a Dell XPS laptop, your listing should appear.

That means that if you are selling a Dell XPS 13, you would want to also be sure to include “laptop” in the title. The title is the most important part when optimizing your listing for search.

That said, in this example, you may also want to include keywords such as “notebook” and “business” in the listing as these are keywords that could also be searched.

You can also use Google related searches at the bottom of search pages for more keyword ideas. The goal, though, it to be sure you are including most relevant search terms.

5. Learn How to Stand Out

In addition to making sure buyers can find your listing, you also want to be sure your listing stand out. I mentioned good photos, but there are other things you can do, too:

  • Completely fill out your listing. Don’t leave anything out. That includes item condition, what’s included (esp. if item is not new), and any other applicable details about the item.
  • Have a clear shipping policy. Even if shipping is a small component of the total cost, it’s still very important to users. Amazon has proven this.
  • Entice buyers. This will mostly apply to rare items, but remember that you are selling your item! That means you should make the item sound as good as possible (without being deceiving, of course).

6. Always Put the Customer First

One of the most important parts of successfully making a sale is putting the customer first. Even if you don’t totally agree with them, it’s important to meet their demands (within reason).

Here are some tips for having great customer service:

  • Respond promptly. Same-day responses are ideal, but I would recommend responding to all messages within 24 hours.
  • Treat customers with respect. Again, even if you don’t necessarily agree with a customer, it’s important to be kind in your messages.
  • Ask for feedback. People won’t always speak up when they are happy with the buying experience. Ask for feedback if you don’t receive a review within a few days to be sure you are getting your positive feedback.

7. Minimize Shipping Costs

Huge retailers have the ability to absorb shipping costs for the sake of more volume. But if you’re a smaller seller, shipping costs can really eat into your profits.

That’s why you should try to minimize your shipping costs as much as possible. There are a few ways to do this, such as:

  • Negotiate with multiple shipping carriers. Or, you may simply choose to shop around. Compare FedEx, USPS, UPS, and any regional couriers that may be available in your area.
  • Consider using prepaid shipping. If you plan to sell items regularly, you might want to consider prepaid shipping. This means paying for shipping for several items up-front; you’ll receive a bulk discount.
  • Use local-only pickup. Local pickup makes the most sense for large items that would be expensive to ship, such as furniture. But if you live in a large city, you can try local-only pickup and not offer shipping.

One thing to keep in mind about shipping is that while you should try to keep shipping costs down for yourself, you should also keep them down for your customers.

Thanks in large part to Amazon, many buyers expect free shipping these days. They might be more understanding since you aren’t a huge operation like Amazon, but shipping should still be reasonable.

In other words, don’t use it to try to increase how much you make. Don’t charge customers more than it costs you to ship the item. If possible, consider offering free shipping on smaller items.

8. Maintain a High Rating

In addition to helping buyers decide which sellers they can trust, these ratings can have other benefits for you. For example, eBay Top Rated Sellers (eTRS) receive significant discounts on USPS shipping.

In order to become a Top Rated Seller, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Been active for at least 90 days
  • At least 100 or more transactions with a minimum of $1000 in sales (US buyers only) over the last 12 months
  • Less than 0.30% of Money Back Guarantee and PayPal Purchase Protection cases closed without seller resolution
  • A maximum 0.5% of transactions with one or more transaction-related defects for last 3 months (12 months for sellers with less than 400 transactions)
  • Less than 3% of transactions with late shipping

Top Rated Seller status has other benefits, too, such as 10% discounts on final value fees (FVF). Basically, an FVF is the fee eBay assesses when you successfully make a sale.

As you can see, it pays to maintain a high rating!

9. Take Advantage of Free Listings

In addition to the final value fee, eBay normally charges 35 cents per listing. However, you get 50 zero insertion fee listings per month, so take advantage of those.

Also note that eBay has subscription options which offer more zero insertion fee listings. There are several subscription tiers, and each offers more free listings than the last.

How to Sell Stuff on eBay: Conclusion

Running an online store isn’t exactly easy. There are lots of things to keep in mind, and it can be demanding. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to keep costs down and maximize profits.

Just be sure to always put the customer first. Customer service is key to success with any online store, and eBay is no exception.

Have you had success selling on eBay? Are there any tips I left out? Let us know in the comments.

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Hey there. My name is Bob Haegele and I'm an expert at frugal living and saving money. I’m also an EV enthusiast and have recently become mostly-vegetarian. Another thing I started doing recently? Dog walking. I’m working toward financial independence making money via my own ventures. Interested in starting a blog of your own? Check out my post on starting a blog.

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