The complete beginners guide to selling items online
Ever wonder how to sell your stuff online?
The purpose of this article is to serve as a beginner’s guide meant to show beginners what they need to know to put their stuff on ebay.
I have been selling stuff on online for about 5 years. Most of what I have sold online has been on Ebay – which I believe is one of the easiest, most profitable, and fun ways to sell stuff online out there. So, for this tutorial I will focus on selling stuff on ebay.
I do have an ebay business that really is only in existence when I need some extra cash. Mostly I just put stuff from around my house on ebay when I am trying to eliminate some clutter. These are some of the things I have learned in the process.
Putting stuff on ebay is much more profitable that garage sales.
Think about it how much smaller of an audience you have for your garage sale – maybe 100 visitors and they are looking to get your item at a ridiculous price. Ebay is much more profitable because you are selling to the entire world. So, rather than having maybe 1 in your 100 visitors at your garage sale interested in your item, you have your item on display for anyone in the world to buy.
Surely you remember the Economics classes you took- the more people who want your item, the higher the selling price will be. And that is why you should put your stuff on ebay rather than having a garage sale.
So, let’s get started.
Creating an ebay account
If you haven’t created an ebay account yet, go ahead and right click here and select “open in a new window”. This guide will be more helpful if you are following along each step of the way.
The window with ebay in it should look like this…
You will click on the big red button that says “Register.” Once you click that it will take you to this screen…
Fill in the above information and they will ask you a few more questions and once you have finished, ebay will send a confirmation email to the email address that you provided. The email should hit your inbox immediately, so go find the email from ebay and click the link in the email to activate your membership.
Create a Payment Account
If you are going to be selling much on ebay at all, you probably will want to get a paypal account. Paypal is basically just an electronic way for ebay buyers and sellers to exchange money. It is very easy to use and probably the most secure option for receiving payment from your buyers.
You can accept checks, money orders, and probably nickels if you really wanted to, but technology has really simplified the process of exchanging money.
One last thing about paypal before we move on. Using paypal provides buyers and sellers protection if there are any disputes.
Paypal does charge a small fee for their services (a % of the sale price), but for most casual sellers the convenience of paypal is worth the small change paid to paypal.
You can open a PayPal account here. Since you are going to be selling you will need to select “Premier.”
Before you put your items on Ebay
Before you start selling your stuff on ebay there are a few things to consider.
Ebay is a good-faith community
Ebay was founded on the idea that buyers and sellers will be honest and will do what they promise. From my experience I have found that almost all ebayers are reliable. Of all the things I have sold over the years, I have only had one buyer not pay me for the item he bought. I let ebay know and they refunded my listing fees, so it really wasn’t a big deal at all.
That said, your reputation is created by the ebay feedback system. It has become better and better over the years and it now allows you to leave detailed feedback for transactions. This feedback follows the ebayer to provide other ebayers with a good idea of how reliable he/she is. This is why it is important to pay when you buy and deliver when you sell.
Get some feedback first
Since your ebay reputation is so critical, you should consider buying a few small items to get some feedback. If you do not, you still may be able to sell your items, but buyers are going to be wary of you since you have no feedback. Your selling prices will likely be lower since buyers are taking on additional risk by purchasing from a brand new user with no feedback.
Research your item
I don’t know about you, but I like to know how much I can get for the items I am selling. Lucky for us, ebay makes it very easy to see what similar (or the same) items have sold for.
This is particularly useful to determine which items may or may not be worth the time. I mean is it really worth listing, packing an item, driving to the post office, etc only to make $1.00. Not to me, but that is why you should check.
If you look to the right of the ebay search box you will see “advanced search.” Click this link.
Then you can enter the item you are looking for and make sure you click the box that says “Show completed listings only.”
You can now scroll through and see what price your item has been selling for. Don’t just look at the highest price, nor the lowest. It will probably be somewhere in between the two. To make this simpler you can sort the items by price.
There are some things that can not be sold on ebay
Actually there are lots of things. I think ebay has to constantly keep updating their lists because people are so creative. I am sure you have heard of people selling potato chips that look like Jesus or a grilled cheese sandwich with the Starbucks logo on it. If you haven’t – believe me it’s true people sell stuff like that.
Some of the more interesting things I have heard that are NOT legal: a husband trying to sell his wife, someone trying to sell a baby, and a someone trying to sell his vote in the presidential election.
Just in case you are unsure whether or not your item is legal to sell on ebay you can check out their list of prohibited and restricted items.
So, how do you sell stuff on ebay?
Taking Photos of your ebay items
This is one of the mistakes that I see a lot of new ebayers make: not taking a photo at all or only taking one. From my experience the quantity and quality of my photos has a lot to do with the final selling price. I have tried both. I used to only include one photo just to save time listing. Since I started adding more photos I make a lot more from each sale than I did before.
Here are a couple pointers:
- Use good lighting
- Take close ups of the items
- Take pictures from different angles
- Use the pictures to show the flaws – not to hide them
- Only include the item you are selling in the picture
- Use a blank background for the picture to make your item stand out
Ebay allows you to post 1 picture for free, but charges a few pennies for each additional picture. You can avoid this fee by using a free hosting service like Photobucket or TinyPic. When listing your item you will have to click on the “self-hosting” tab to tell ebay where your pictures are located.
Having lots of pictures is a key to getting lots of bids.
Use descriptive titles for your ebay listings
When you put items on ebay it is critical that you use a very descriptive title for your item. Since there are so many ebayers who use the search box to search for what they are looking for, it is extremely important that you put as much detail about the item into that little box.
So, for example if you are selling a guitar – you wouldn’t want to have a title of “nice guitar.” It would be much better to use something like “Used Black American Standard Fender Telecaster guitar.” Think of all the details about the product and use as many of those as possible in your title. Imagine if you were wanting to buy this item yourself. What would you type? What would your mother or daughter type?
Use a low starting bid
You will have lower ebay fees
Ebay charges the seller a fee based on the amount of the starting bid. If the starting bid is $5, you are going to pay a smaller fee than if it is $400. There are lots of variations in between, so this is a good reason to use lower starting bid.
Another benefit of starting lower is that it will encourage more ebayers to bid. A lot of ebayers are bargain shoppers, so they are looking for the best deal possible as they are skimming the items. If the starting price is too high, they will just keep looking.
If the starting price is low enough to entice a bid, then you are potentially reaching buyers that you would have otherwise missed.
Time the ending of your ebay auction
Ending your auction at the right time is important
Generally, the best time to end an ebay auction is from 6-11pm EST. A normal ebay auction runs for 7 days. So, if you start it on a Tuesday at 5:00am, it will end the next Tuesday at 5:00am. You can schedule it to go live in advance for a small fee.
Ebay offers 10 day auctions which provide you with more face-time for your items.
If you are willing to pay the extra pennies for the 10-day auction you can start it on Thursday evening. This will allow the item to be visible to buyers for 2 weekends. I have also read articles that suggest that selling prices are a lot higher for 10-day auctions.
Create a detailed description of the items you are selling
The item description is very important. Once they find your item a good description can mean the difference between a no-sale and a sale and an easy sale and a difficult one.
Make sure you list all the flaws (if it is used) as well as the features of your item.
Don’t try to trick people into buying your junk. If it is torn or has a stain, let them know about it. It is going to be much more beneficial for you to get less money from the sale than to sell it only to have it returned because you weren’t truthful with the description.
Find every detail you can about the product
Go to the product’s website and copy as many details, specs, technical info about it and add it to your description. Amazon.com is also often a good resource for product details.
Answer the buyer’s questions
I used to get frustrated every time I got questions from my buyers about the products. Then it dawned on me that each one of these questions represented a person who must be seriously interested in my item. If not, they wouldn’t waste the time emailing me!
I now look at the questions as part of my job as the seller. Depending on what you are selling you may or may not get a lot of questions. But regardless you should answer them quickly and with as much detail as possible. There is a good chance you will find a buyer behind one of the questions.
Also, always use the ebay internal email system for responding with buyers. This will provide some good documentation for you if there is ever a dispute.
Ebay: After the sale
Shipping your item
Great! You sold your first item – but now what? Well, don’t just sit back and relax. Try to ship the item as soon you receive payment. Part of the feedback you will receive from the buyer is based on how quickly you ship the item!
- Use a sturdy cardboard box to keep the item safe
- Pack it up carefully using newspaper, bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, or something else to keep it safe during transit.
Leave Feedback for the buyer
Once the seller leaves feedback for you, go ahead and leave feedback for them. If they don’t leave feedback for you within a week or two, you can leave it for them.
Ebay selling FAQS:
Is there someone I can pay to sell my stuff on ebay?
There are trading assistants who can greatly simplify the process of putting stuff on ebay. You can also use a service like i Sold It who does all the work for you for a little bit less than half of your commission.
What is the most time effective way of putting my stuff on ebay?
This is an article that shows you how to sell your stuff on ebay quicker to increase your ROI.
How can I increase my profits on my Ebay sales?
I have a bunch of items to sell on ebay. Is there any way to save time?