How to Sell on eBay

By Published by
How to Sell on eBay
. Views . Comments Comment . 273 Votes

Back in 2002, I was aware that eBay existed, but I never used the site.  Then one day I was trying to decorate my daughters room with "The Little Mermaid" theme, and I bought a lightplate switch from eBay.  My wife was curious about the site and she started buying a few things too.   I determined that it would be nice to make enough selling on eBay to pay for the things I wanted to buy in eBay.  Now years later, I have tracking to have annual sales of $50,000 per year.  If I can reach sales of $300,000 a year, I can quit my job and do eBay full-time.

How did I grow?

Very slowly, and through the school of hard knocks.  Here are 15 very good tip from the lessons I learned:

1) Better to sell new items than used items.    With new items, you won't get buyers disappointed that the item was in worse shape than they expected.

2) Sell Brand name items.  People search for a brand name, like "Tempur-pedic pillow" but not "memory foam pillow"  They search for "Disney Little Mermaid" not "mermaid girl."   Don't get stuck with a bunch of cheap junk from China that nobody wants.

3) Photographs are essential.  Take pictures of items outside with sunlight.  Then crop the parts of the picture that don't include the item so your actual item will be as big as possible.  There are websites out there that allow you to create your eBay listings with more pictures and bigger pictures for free.  I am not allowed to mention their sites here, but a search of the internet should turn them up pretty easily. 

4) Use all 55 characters in your title.  That's how your item will be found and sold.  For example, I was selling Blockbuster free rental coupons.   Other sellers were getting $15 for 10 with the titles "10 Free Blockbuster Movie Rentals" but I wrote "10 Free Blockbuster Movie Rentals gift certificates" and my hits went way up causing my prices to go to $25 for 10.  Because anyone that does a search for Blockbuster gift certificate" only gets my listings and not the others!!!

5) Find a good wholesale source.  This is the hardest part of eBay.   Don't trust all the websites and eBay listings offering you sources.  They are all a bunch of scams.  The only sources you will find on-line are for curio items that won't really sell well because they don't have brand names (see tip #2).  You need to know someone that owns a brick and mortar business that will let you buy through them at wholesale, or if they are a sales rep for a company.  Because most brand names don't actually want to be listed on eBay, they will not sell you their product unless you have a real retail outlet.

6) Buy new items in bulk.  You can then take one picture, write one listing, and then just keep "relisting" week after week until everything is sold.   That's way better than taking a picture and writing a listing of every item, like used items.

7) Are you really making money???   Some sellers are working on eBay and losing money, but they don't even know it.   Here is the formula for calculating your profits, using a sample of an actual item I sold:

Item: H2S5 Flood Carrier Form

  • Item Cost : ($13.33)
  • Listing Fee: ($0.55)
  • Final Value Fee: ($1.75)
  • Paypal fee: ($1.17)
  • Ship Cost: ($7.50)
  • Sell Price: $19.95
  • Ship Charge: $9.95
  • Insurance: $0.00
  • TOTAL PROFIT!!!: $5.61

First subtract out your costs.  They are Item cost, listing fee, final value fee, paypal fee, and actual shipping cost.   Then add in what you got paid which is sell price, ship fee charged, and insurance.   I self-insure because I don't want to do all the paperwork to make a claim with the post office.  So if the buyer pays fort insurance and the item never arrives, then I refund their money at my expense.

Don't look at what percentage you are making.  Like "hey, I just doubled my money."   Buying an item at the dollar store may look like this:

Dollar Store Item

  • Item Costt: ($1.00)
  • Listing Fee: ($0.35)
  • Final Value Fee: ($0.18)
  • Paypal fee: ($0.47)
  • Ship Cost: ($2.75)
  • Sell Price: $2.00
  • Ship Charge: $3.95
  • Insurance: $0.00
  • TOTAL PROFIT!!!: $1.20

Doubling your money with 100% profit sounds good until you have to take pictures, write descriptions, wrap packages, and drive to the post office, all to make $1.20 profit.

Instead, just consider how many dollars you can make on an item and is that money worth your time?

This example below offers 20% profit instead of 100% profit, yet making $10.26 is better than making $1.20

Higher end Item

  • Item Cost ($50.00)
  • Listing Fee ($0.35)
  • Final Value Fee ($3.57)
  • Paypal fee ($2.52)
  • Ship Cost ($9.75)
  • Sell Price $63.50
  • Ship Charge $12.95
  • Insurance $0.00
  • TOTAL PROFIT!!! $10.26

Are you in business to make margin percentages or are you in business to make money?

8) Check completed listings.  Before you spend money on an item, check completed listings for similar items using the advanced search options on eBay.  You will know how often that item gets sold, for how much, and how much competition you have.

9) Patience is a virtue...sometimes.   If the item you have is something that you believe will still be popular in a year from now, you may want to wait until your competition is sold out.  Like I said, there are plenty of idiots out there selling stuff for as loss because they don't know what they are doing, and they will drive your price down with their stupidity.   Just store your item and wait for the other sellers to run out.   I often have items that other sellers flood the market with for $2 or $3 each, like some Garfield Pet food Bowls.  I wait until they are out, then I am the only one on eBay with the item...I have listed for $10!   And I always end up selling out anyway.    Just don't hold back fad or trendy items, like high-tech items that will become obsolete, or the latest teen craze items "i.e. Jonas Brothers Merchandise" due to the risk of a popular item becoming unpopular in the future.

10) Selling slowly is fine fine fine.   In the early days, I sold at small margins.  I sold a lot and spent a lot of hours wrapping items and dealing with emails.  Once I worked out the profit formulas in tip #7, I learned that I could just sell less items, but for more money, and in the end I would make more profits with less work.

11) Reinvest your profits.   Start with $100, $1000, or whatever you can tie up in inventory.   Then as you make money, use that money to buy even more stuff to sell.  You will slowly grow your business as long as you don't spend your profits.

12) Accurate descriptions.  Point out any flaws, mention every strength.  It's better that someone didn't buy your item because you said it was scratched, then to sell it, ship it, and then have them complain that they want to return it because it is scratched.  trying to rip off people is a short term plan that will not allow you to grow on eBay.  Plus it's immoral. 

13) Take pride in your business.  Create an "about me page"  Create a logo picture for your business, and add the logo to listings and on packing slips.  Let people know that your are a good seller.  They will add you to their favorite sellers list and come back later to buy again.

14) Have a range of items with different goals.  Some items you may choose to sell not to make money on that item, but to drive traffic to your store for your other items.  Some examples include selling something you can mail for a 42 cent first class stamp, like a gift certificate, but offering free shipping.  You may only break even on the item, but your detailed seller rating will benefit from the 5 star reviews on low shipping costs, plus your store will benefit from extra feedback points.  Then you can use your good reputation to sell other, more profitable items.

15) Don't Panic.  If you list an item and it isn't selling, check completed listings again.  You may need to lower your price.  But more likely, you just need to change the auction title, add more to the description, take a better picture, or store the item until later when other sellers are out.   Don't be too willing to give up your profits, but also sometimes you will get stuck with an item that doesn't sell as well as you hoped.  I bought some 5 packs of Halo figures and was making good money selling them.  But then I bought a bunch of them that are clear colored and no one seems to like that color.  People are buying the other sets for $50, but not my clear (or camo) set.  So I sell the camo set for $15, and basically break even, just to slowly get my money back.  It does suck to have to wrap and ship packages for no profit, but on that item I made a bad buy, so I must suffer for that bad decision.


Explore More
Choose a template