Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
How to Sell Your Stuff on eBay
I sold my old briefcase on eBay for over $150! I considered selling it at a consignment shop but thought to check out eBay auctions for similar briefcases. I'm glad I did. I noticed that some briefcases that looked like mine were selling for around $100. At a consignment shop. my briefcase probably would have sold for under $30.
I once had an old cell phone that I tried to "trade-in" at Best Buy. They told me that the phone had no value, but offered to recycle it for me. I passed on this offer, and ended up selling my old cell phone for $100 on eBay!
How can you make money selling your stuff on eBay?
Tip 1. Identify Good eBay Items to Sell
Some items sell well on eBay and others do not. I have tried selling old books with little success. Other items sell well, such as electronics.
I try to screen my items and take many items to a consignment store to sell. With the cost of shipping, it doesn't make much sense to sell low-cost items such as used dishes and curtains on eBay. Sometimes taking a box of stuff to a consignment store is an easy way to get it sold and get some money. Consignment stores typically pay 40 to 50% of the sale price.
Other items will bring much higher money on eBay. Search eBay to see if you can find similar items for sale—if not, it is probably not a good eBay item.
If you have a large item that would be expensive to ship, such as furniture, large power tools, building materials, etc. you may be better off selling on craigslist. I recently sold an old pile of shingles in my yard for $300 on craigslist! It would have made no sense to try to sell shingles on eBay since shipping for a heavy item is so expensive. Sell heavy items locally on craigslist, at garage sales, or at consignment shops.
Tip 2. Build Your eBay Feedback Score
If you want to sell on eBay, you will sell more if you have a good feedback score. When you have a successful transaction and your buyer leaves positive feedback, your feedback score improves. Most eBay buyers are reluctant to buy from a seller with no feedback score.
You can build your feedback score by selling a few items that are not necessarily big money-makers for you. Communicate with the buyer, ship promptly, pack a note or invoice, leave any feedback on eBay. These things increase your chances of getting positive feedback from your buyer. Once you have a feedback score of more than 10 or so, it gets easier to sell things on eBay.
Tip 3. Use eBay Reserve Prices Carefully
Many eBay buyers are reluctant to bid in an auction with a reserve. I recently bid on an item using a sniping technique that I plan to describe in a future article. I won the item at the last second. I was the high bidder, but I did not get the item. Why not? Since the reserve price was not met, the item was not sold.
One problem with reserves on eBay is that buyers don't want to waste their time bidding on an item that may not actually sell. Sometimes, an item will start off at a low price and get bid up to a high price—this is what you want when selling on eBay. With a reserve, you may not even get that first bid.
I would hold off on using a reserve price unless you are certain your item has resale value. A reserve price may make sense if your item is specialized and you are not sure the right buyers will see your item during the typical 1-week auction. For most items, a reserve price is not necessary or useful.
Tip 4. Describe Your Item Clearly and Accurately
eBay Buyers want to bid with confidence—that is, they want to be confident that the seller will deliver the item that was advertised and confident that they know what item they will get. The more detail and description of the item you provide, the more valuable it is to someone who is bidding.
If you are looking at items on eBay, and one is clearly described and another is vague in the description—which would you bid on? Virtually anyone bidding on an item on eBay wants to know exactly what they are getting. This means you should include details such as make, model, color, dimensions, and condition in your eBay description of the item.
Tip 5. Include Good Pictures of Your eBay Item
Since eBay buyers are deciding whether to buy your item and how much to pay for it without ever seeing the item, good pictures are essential. I try to use good natural lighting in my pictures—this literally makes my item shine!
Since you can have a dozen or so photos for free on an eBay listing, it makes sense to take pictures of all sides of your item to reassure buyers that your item is not damaged. For example, on my briefcase listing, I took pictures of all sides. This allows buyers to access the condition of the item and bid accordingly.
Some sellers zoom in and take close-ups of any defects or damage to items that they are selling. I think this is a good idea and will help protect your feedback score. If the buyer knows what they are getting, they are less likely to leave negative feedback. If a buyer is surprised by unexpected damage, you are not likely to receive a good feedback score. This will hurt your ability to sell on eBay in the future.
Start Selling on eBay Today!
You might as well get started selling on eBay to build your feedback score. Find something around the house that you don't use anymore to sell on eBay. Search on eBay for items similar to the one you want to sell, and keep looking until you find a good eBay item. Describe your item clearly and take good pictures of your listing. Do everything you can to get a good feedback score—this will help you sell more eBay items in the future. As you sell more eBay items, it gets easier. Your feedback score will increase, and you will get experience shipping your sold eBay items quickly.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher
Aidan C on January 16, 2018:
Really good advice helped me a lot.
Jeff Zod from Nairobi on September 09, 2017:
I really appreciate the insights on your article. I am a newbie on eBay and I will definitely implement your ideas.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on May 10, 2017:
Karen Hellier from Georgia on May 08, 2017:
This is a very good article. I have been selling on eBay for a few tears now and love it. I am going to check out your blog.
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on January 16, 2015:
MarloByDesign, when selling on eBay, I set the shipping price separately. Sometimes I use the option where the buyer pays actual shipping cost in addition to the selling price. Other times I make a little profit and charge a fixed rate for shipping that is high enough to cover all the shipping costs and then some. eBay also has an option for free shipping- this would mean that the shipping expense comes out of your profit. In the end, your item has to compete with the other items for sale- so if other items have free shipping and yours does not, then the bidding on your item will reflect this. Thanks for your comment.
MarloByDesign from United States on January 16, 2015:
Do you keep the shipping cost in mind when you post a price on ebay? Very useful tips. Thank you for sharing!
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on September 05, 2014:
goatfury, thanks for the comment and the tip!
Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on September 04, 2014:
Very good advice. I had a great deal of success selling books (and especially comic books) in lots. Kind of a follow up idea, how to sell lots on ebay.