7 Tips for Successful Selling on eBay

We’ve all spent time shopping on eBay or researching items we’ve just found to see what they’re worth. But when it comes time to sell our own stuff, it can be a little intimidating. Having spent much of the past weekend preparing items to sell, I can tell you it can be a little bit of work, but with a little preparedness and organization, it can be just as much fun as snagging the stuff in the first place. Here are a few quick tips for selling with success that I’ve picked up over the years.


I may have been saving things up for awhile.

1. RESEARCH. This is key. The more information you have about an item, the better you can evaluate and describe it. This will help you know if your item is rare and valuable or commonplace. For information, look to the internet for sites with credible information. You can’t always rely on information provided by sellers on eBay for accuracy. For pricing guidelines, look no further than eBay. You’ll see all kinds of wild numbers on the internet in general, but only searching completed eBay auctions will tell you what you can expect your item to sell for. As you peruse completed auctions, be sure to note any particular details that increase or decrease the value, such as a color or model number.

2. TAKE GREAT PICTURES. Nothing kills a sale like a blurry, yellow camera phone snapshot. Take your pictures outside in daylight or in a sun-filled room. Try to take pictures against a white wall or neutral background. If you plan on selling a larger volume of items, consider an inexpensive set of studio lights. I purchased this set from Amazon a few years ago for less than $150, bulbs included. They replicate sunlight for accurate colors and break down to store in a convenient bag. If you’re selling clothing, use a dressmaker’s dummy or have a friend model them. Take as many pictures as you need and include detail shots. Usually eBay allows up to 12 images per auction, depending on the category.


OK, the DSLR and studio lights might be overkill, but good pictures = more bids

3. INVENTORY AND PACKAGE. Take a minute to get organized. Scrutinize your item and make notes about its condition and any other useful information you’ll need for a description. If you’re selling several items, assign them inventory numbers to help keep track. Package the item and prepare it for shipping in advance. Pack it carefully and note the weight and dimensions of the box. I purchased a shipping scale that weighs up to 100 pounds to have exact weights, but you can also simply weigh yourself on a bathroom scale and then weigh yourself with the package and subtract the difference. Knowing this information up front will help you give buyers an exact shipping quote.


Where to find a precision Fairbanks shipping scale? Try eBay.

4. KEYWORDS. Using certain words in your listing title may get your auction noticed faster. It’s a good idea to note keywords that other sellers have had success with for the same item. That being said, make sure your keywords are accurate and not misleading. Sellers often use deceptive keywords to make a false association between their item and similar items of much greater value. Every other run-of-the-mill vintage item seems to say “Eames era” in the listing hoping to infiltrate searches for authentic designs by Charles Eames. Although these sellers aren’t technically lying, they are creating market confusion and opening themselves up to disgruntled buyers.

Use keywords that describe condition correctly. Phrases like mint, new old stock (NOS) and new in box (NIB) are collector terms with no room for interpretation. Mint means perfect original condition with no flaws. New old stock means the item was found in unsold inventory. New in box means the item was never used. Just because an item has its box doesn’t mean it’s new in box. Just because an item is in excellent condition doesn’t mean it is in mint condition.

Neither Charles nor Ray Eames had anything to do with this green monstrosity

Neither Charles nor Ray Eames had anything to do with this green monstrosity

5. BE CLEAR AND HONEST. Bidder confidence is key. When you describe an item in a way that leaves no doubt in a buyer’s mind what they’re buying, you’ll get more bids. Don’t hold back. Provide measurements and serial numbers. Note any flaws and let buyers know if something works or not. Don’t use vague wording like “excellent vintage condition.” This implies that there are undisclosed flaws. Listing an item as “untested” or “as-is” is often just an attempt to avoid revealing that something doesn’t work. Anything that introduces doubt translates into fewer bids.

6. AUCTION OR BUY IT NOW? Uncommon items with a specific audience may not get noticed by the right buyer before an auction ends and there may not be enough bidding competition to get the price up. For these items, you’ll do better with Buy It Now. For items that are in extremely high demand, an auction is a safe bet—especially if your item is an ideal specimen of its kind. Often these items will sell far above retail as the result of a bidding war.

7. STAY POSITIVE AND SERVICE ORIENTED. Nothing turns a buyer off like a listing filled with negative disclaimers about shipping or returns. Word your policies as user-friendly as possible. Know that eBay’s Buyer Protection will allow a customer to return an item that was not as described regardless of your personal return policy, so there is no need to put NO RETURNS. NO EXCEPTIONS. It just frightens away buyers. Don’t drop the ball when your item sells. Communicate with the buyer. Let them know when their purchase ships and provide tracking info.

Selling on eBay can be a little work, but it’s worth the effort. With these tips in your back pocket, you’ll be selling circles around others and, most importantly, you’ll have a nice cushion of cash handy for garage sale season.


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  1. Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    This is a fantastic list! Very succinct but detailed. Thanks for all the great tips!

  2. Posted August 9, 2013 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Realy a great blog. Amazing tips to sell your valuable products on ebay. Thanks for this useful information.

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