18 May 2020

Sell Your Stuff on eBay

OK, we’re back to the subject of how to generate cash from the stuff you’ve got laying around the house, stuffed into the attic, or shoved at the back of the closet.

In the last blog, we talked about selling things to local buyers on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp. I also gave you a link to someone else’s article that suggested 26 online marketplaces you might like to try. Here is the link again if you missed it.

Today we’re talking about eBay, the mother of all auction sites.

(Does the word “auction” intimidate you? Don’t let it. You don’t have to run an auction to sell something on eBay. You can sell anything you want on eBay as a “Buy It Now” listing. That means it’s listed for immediate sale. I sell most of my items as Buy It Now listings.)

Read This Section or Don’t

First off, if you’re wondering about my credentials for writing about selling on eBay, read this section. If you couldn’t care less about them, skip down to the next section.

I’ve sold stuff on eBay for 20 years and have had my own eBay store for most of that time. Some years I’ve been very active and other years I’ve hardly done anything. For 15 years, I’ve sold other people’s stuff in my store and have earned commissions by doing that.

I’ve sold all kinds of things over the years and have shipped them all over the world. I’ve sold bass guitars, a metal detector, a bidet, an antique French baby bonnet, a giant quilting frame, silver, furniture, collectibles, tools, jewelry, crystal, cameras, artifacts, and just about everything else you can imagine.

I’ve also sold tons of mundane, ho-hum items that I made $10-$20 on but that have added up to literally thousands of dollars over the years. Selling stuff on eBay has gotten me through several financially tight periods, including in 2008-2010 after I lost a business and had to pay bills and feed three kids.

Benefits of Selling on eBay

Whole books have been written on how to sell on eBay, so this article is just the proverbial dip of the toe in the water. But I want to leave you with the assurance that eBay is an accessible site, easy to use, and easy to make money on.

What I love about eBay is that I can do the entire process from home. I find my item, take a picture, create and publish a listing, get notified that someone has bought it, package up the item, create a shipping label, print it out, stick it on the box, hand the box to the postperson, transfer the money from Paypal to my bank account, and BOOM, I’m done.

From start to finish, I’ve only left the house to see the mail carrier. I love that. (I’ve lived in places where I had to take packages to the post office. But I still created the shipping labels at home, which meant no waiting in line at the p.o.)

I also appreciate that eBay is a nationwide marketplace (worldwide if I want), so it greatly expands my pool of potential buyers.

One reason I prefer eBay over local marketplaces for some items is that I can get more money. For example, I got $600 for that French bonnet on eBay, and I would not have made that amount on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Now about fees, accounts, finding stuff to sell, and how to price things.

eBay Isn’t Free

You should know upfront that eBay charges you to use their site for your sales. It charges an “insertion fee,” which is the cost to publish your listing on the site. Then it charges a “final value fee” calculated as a percentage of the sale price. It also charges a final value fee on what the buyer pays for shipping, which bugs me a LOT, but eBay’s CFO never asked my opinion on that, so here we are.

Paypal also charges a fee for its services. Currently, it’s 2.99% of the total you receive from a buyer. Ebay’s final value fees vary according to the category of item you’re selling. Basically, I figure that I’ll have to hand over 12% of my received payments to eBay and Paypal for all fees combined. Using 12% as a guideline helps me know if it’s worth it to sell something.

To Sell on eBay, First Set Up an Account

To sell stuff on eBay, you need to have an account/profile. It’s easy to set one up.

When you look at other sellers’ profiles, you’ll see a number in parentheses after their seller name. This is their feedback score. The higher the feedback score, the more established that seller is. If you haven’t had an eBay account before, your feedback score will be zero. That’s ok, but potential buyers will see that you’re new and you have no track record that will give them confidence in buying from you.

For this reason, I suggest setting up an eBay account and buying some super cheap things for the specific purpose of getting those sellers to leave you positive feedback and get that number up from zero.

What Kinds of Things Can You Sell?

Start by looking around for things you haven’t used in forever or things you use once in a while but don’t really need.

Think about the fact that you’ll be shipping it (the buyer will pay for the shipping), so consider what that will involve, including finding the right size of box and getting the thing packed. Start with the plastic Pampered Chef measuring cup rather than the broadcast fertilizer spreader or the 60-piece china set.

Consider selling toys, old cell phones, cookware, gadgets and gizmos, small working appliances, craft items, phone and computer accessories, car things, tools, décor items, antiques, collectibles, and small electronics.

Unless they’re higher-end items in great condition, don’t bother trying to sell used clothes, books, CDs, and DVDs. Forget about cassettes and VHS tapes.

What’s Your Stuff Worth?

Do a little research. Poke around eBay to learn what items like yours have sold for.

Note: I don’t mean what they are listed for, I mean what they have SOLD for. This requires going into the filters (you’ll find them on the left side of the page) and applying the filter that says, “Completed Items.”  Sold items show their prices in green. Unsold items display their prices in black.

The Completed Items filter gives you helpful information. You can see quickly how much demand there is for your item. I had a WWII sextant to sell. When I checked the Completed Items filter, I saw that every sextant like mine had sold in the last six months. And I could see what they had sold for, so I priced mine accordingly, and, as I expected, it sold within a few days.

The lenses on the sextant I sold recently.

On the other hand, I had a book that I thought about selling. I searched for it on eBay with the Completed Items filter applied. I instantly saw that there were tons of books like mine that had been listed and either no one had bought them (i.e. there was no demand) or their sold price was very low. That told me that it wasn’t worth trying to sell mine, and I just donated it.

Create Your Listing and Publish It

Look on eBay for other items like yours. In those listings, you’ll see a line that says, “Have one to sell?” Followed by a button that says, “Sell Now.”

Click on that button and it will open a listing template. Work your way down that template, filling in all the fields.

You’ll come to a section where you can add photos. You can use your phone camera, but don’t half-ass this part of the listing process. Take good, clear pictures in great light. You can upload up to twelve photos. Take pics of the whole item and take closeups of things like the brand name, the tag, buttons, labels, details, etc. For sure, take pictures of damage or spots or blemishes.

In the description section, furnish all the important details. Dimensions, specs, weight, brands, sizes, colors, identifying features, etc. If there’s damage or a flaw, say so. If it’s in perfect condition, say so. Describe it as accurately as you can so there are no bad surprises when your buyer gets it. Remember, your buyer will leave you feedback.

In the shipping section, be ready to weigh your item in its box or envelope. You’ll need to provide the shipping box dimensions plus its weight with the item in it.

At the bottom of the listing template, click the button to save it as a draft and then click the Preview button. That shows you how your listing will appear when it’s published.

If you’re happy with how it looks, go ahead and publish it. Boom. Your listing is now live and out there in eBay land waiting to be seen by potential buyers.

What to Do When Your Stuff Sells

Ebay lets you know via email when your item has sold. The email contains links for getting going with the shipping part of the process.

You can also go to your eBay seller page dashboard for the same information. Simply follow the prompts to complete the transaction by shipping the sold item.

You’ll need a printer to print out a shipping label, a box or mailing envelope for your sold item, and tape to adhere the label to the box or envelope. (BTW, I rarely buy shipping materials. They’re expensive. I re-use boxes and mailers that I’ve saved.)

Pack your item well inside the box or mailer. If it’s breakable, be sure to put Styrofoam or potato starch packing peanuts around it, or crumpled newspaper, or tissue paper, or something. Use lightweight padding, though, because it will add to the weight of the box.

Then go through the shipping section prompts, providing box dimensions and weight. Print out the generated label, tape it to the box, and give the package to your mail carrier. Or drop it off at the post office.

Put Those Dollars in the Bank

Final step: transfer the proceeds of your sale from your Paypal account to your bank account.

Rinse and repeat with everything else that you can sell!

If you read all the way to here, I’m impressed.

Thanks for reading, and go sell your stuff!



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