TinyHouseBigSolution is a personal finance and lifestyle blog for people who dream of working from home. The main focus includes building a Tiny House in order to lower monthly bills and live debt free, travel full time, master social media marketing, how to start online businesses, and motivation for fulfilling personal goals.
There are a lot of people who make millions of dollars every single day on eBay. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should think of eBay as a get-rich-quick scheme where you can just list your bubble gum wrapper up with some wordy story and all of a sudden you are a millionaire (sure it happened a couple of times a decade ago, but if that is going to happen, it’s pure chance!) However, eBay can be a get-some-money-quickly scheme if you play it out right.
Here are some basic rules of the road when it comes to selling on eBay and how to maximize that success. I can’t promise you millions on your first try, but what I can promise is that these are tools to help you maximize the success of your eBay sales. My eBay store was our main income source for several years. We made about 3x minimum wage at the time, putting in 1-2 work days per week. EBay can be an excellent tool for making money from home.
1. The items
I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make, the one that holds them back from actually listing on eBay, is the fact that they think what they choose to list matters. Now, don’t get me wrong… you shouldn’t be posting actual trash on eBay. However, anything thing else goes. And I genuinely do mean anything!
The phrase, “one person’s junk is another treasure” was basically created for eBay! You have an old rubber ducky from the 50s? You can sell that. A box full of costume jewelry from high school. Sold! There is someone looking to buy with any interest on the planet.
Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t sell the first time. There is a relist button for a re ason. Sometimes your item just didn’t reach the right audience that week. So just keep giving it a try. My personal rule of thumb is if something doesn’t sell after my third time listing, it goes into a thrift store box and is donated. Some folks do the same thing, except try to sell it again at yard sales or flea markets.
Either way you look at it, worrying about what items to sell is something that holds people back. But there are two ways to make a million dollars: By selling one million dollar item or by selling lots of little items until you reach a million dollars. The truth is, if you are diligent with eBay, you can create a sustainable business and it is one that many people end up turning into their full time careers.
PRO-TIP: be sure to pay attention to which items sell better than others. Sometimes you can end up finding items of particular interest to people. This will give you the opportunity to search out these items during your treasure hunting!
If I could isolate one thing where people genuinely drop the ball in the eBay process, it is in the area of photos. Now, nobody is asking you to be a professional photographer or implying that you should go purchase a professional camera out of the starting gate (though this will eventually be a really good idea. Amazon has some great package deals on cameras: We have the Canon 70d and the much less expensive Canon T5i).
That being said, the most important thing you can do during your listing process is making sure you have good quality photos, and this can be accomplished with just about any smartphone and a few easy techniques.
A) Don’t use flash. EVER! One of the easiest ways to make your photo look really bad is to take it during the night, inside your house, with a flash. Flash tends to highlight flaws and it looks very unprofessional. Yes, there are professionals who use flash and additional lighting. However, there are lots of ways this can go wrong. It takes professionals a long time to learn how to properly set up lighting! So instead of going to college for the art of photography… just use natural lighting. The best time to take a photo is when the lighting outside is even: dawn, dusk, or on an overcast day.
B) Don’t over crop. Take your photos as close to your item as you can. If you take a photo far way and then crop it down, you lose quality. Also, be sure and look up the dimensions of eBay photos and make sure you stay within those parameters. Nothing looks as bad as large white borders around your photo. It just becomes distracting.
C) Don’t over edit. Remember that you are usually selling a used product. You need to be honest with your buyers. There is no problem with adjusting lighting settings or cleaning things up a bit. But don’t go in there and clean your product up so much that its a lie. Your customers will appreciate the honesty and it will highly limit the amount of returns you get.
One great way to make sure you always get perfect lighting any time of the day (and this is a cheat I like to use when I’m traveling!) is to use a lighting box. If you are going to get serious about your eBaying beyond just selling random stuff in your house, this is a great investment that can really take you photos to the next level. This is the one I use.
Your title is your tags. This was a very difficult thing for me to learn. If you don’t know what tags are, basically they are key words that draw people to your product. This is true across all social media outlets from blogging, Instagram, Facebook, etc. However, in most settings you have a separate tagging area. With eBay, your title is also your tagging area. This is the reason eBay titles don’t read exactly like a newspaper headline. Let me give you an example:
Instead of, “Maytag washing machine in good condition with manual.” you should say, “Maytag washer washing machine electronic used warranty home stackable clothing.”
I know it might feel a bit odd and unnatural, but remember, this isn’t about feelings! This is about taking stuff that’s just wasting space in your house and turning it into cash.
Because eBay is a peer rated system, meaning that your customers can leave positive or negative feedback, it is important that you are being genuine with your customers. Now, that means it’s alright to say things like, “I don’t know.” or “buy at your own risk.” But these shouldn’t be your default. It is always best to give a thorough description of the item.
Whatever you do, don’t lie, don’t be a downer, and don’t say too little. It is important to always tell the truth. It is alright if you are selling an antique statute that is missing a hand, it could still have value to someone this way. But what you don’t want to do is not mention that fact. Be sure a photo of the crack or scrape is visible. Also mention it in your description.
However, don’t be a downer about it! Always say something like, “This piece has had a lot of love and it really adds to the unique character!” instead of, “This is broken and that’s why I am selling it.” Everything has value to someone and there are plenty of reasons why someone might want a piece that has been loved a little extra.
Be sure and make certain that your description is accurate, warm, and detailed. Sometimes a short description can do the trick. But people do want to know everything you know about the item. Plus, the more information you give upfront, the less direct message questions you’ll have to respond to later. Be sure and explain not only what the item looks like, but also the measurements, weight, etc.
Whereas having good photos is probably one of the most important things, pricing is probably one of the most confusing. Some days I wonder if there is even any rhyme or reason to it at all. There have been times I listed something really high, because that’s what it was worth, and it didn’t sell. So I resisted it for .99 and then it sold for more than my original list price. Other times, I’ve listed something well under value and it sold for that. I think its important to remember that this is an auction site and a lot of that has to do with chance.
If you are selling something that has a specific value you, and you have to receive a certain amount for the item and nothing less, there are two options that are great for this. One is set pricing and the other is setting a reserve.
A reserve is typical in auctions. You can start the bidding low and then those who just love the whole process of bidding still get their thrills from that. But it also protects you by setting a “no lower than” price and that way you don’t lose everything. This isn’t a good idea for every item. You don’t want to put up a vintage coffee mug with a reserve price. However, a reserve is perfect for certain items that are just of a particular value and quality.
Another way to make sure you get what you want out of an item is putting it up at a set price. This means your item won’t go out as an auction, it will just have a set price and be up for a set amount of days.
One good method to use when setting your price is see what others are SELLING their similar items for. Now, I emphasize that you should use prices from items that are selling, not just ones that are listed at that price. There are plenty of folks out there listing things for ridiculous prices. Don’t go off them, go off the ones who are succeeding.
6. Customer Service
Whether you are just wanting to get rid of excess items that are taking up space, or you are planning to use eBay as a permanent additional income stream, you are starting a business. Even if it is just a temporary one. That means you are going to have customers that will have questions, concerns, comments, and might even want returns.
Responding to questions quickly is important! Especially during the last few days and hours of your products being up. Potential customers will want to know stuff you didn’t think about. Sometimes they want to know things you’ve already mentioned in your original listing. Don’t ever say, “I already answered that in the listing.” Be sure to answer the question quickly and kindly! This person might be the one who is willing to fight over your item and bring big success for you. Every moment is a moment to sell.
And as we’ve already mentioned, your customers can leave feedback and they will.
Another thing to consider is returns. This is a difficult one. If you are setting up an eBay to essentially use it as a yard sale because you are moving or just wanna get rid of some items, I wouldn’t offer returns. That is an option you have! I would also suggest this if you deal only in antique or vintage items.
However, offering returns as an option makes customers feel better and even though few of them will ever use, it creates a sense for them of professionalism. Would you shop at a store where you had zero option to be reimbursed if something went wrong? Doubtful. There are a few exceptions and most of them are in product areas where it is logical to assume risk. So you’ll want to opt in or out of returns at your own discretion.
Now, you’ve mastered photos, descriptions, and pricing… you’ve just sold your first few items and now now time to send it out to a happy (and hopefully repeat) customer. Here are two realities about shipping that first timers often mess up. I know I did!
You need to do your research on what it will actually cost you to ship something. Many years ago, I sold an item for way over the value I expected to get for it and was really excited! Only to later find out that the shipping cost had been severely under estimated and I ended up coming out even on the whole sale. It was a pretty embarrassing thing to have happen, but it made me realize that there is a lot more that goes into shipping prices than you think.
Almost every shipping company, from USPS to FedEx, offers shipping estimations on their websites. You should be careful to have already weighed the item in the box you will send it in. The dimensions of the packaging matters a lot! That item I messed up on was because it was exceptionally long. Just be fair and honest in your shipping cost and always calculate in any extras you are spending such as if you are purchasing a box, tape, bubble wrap, etc.
It is also important to make sure your items are secure when you ship them. One time, I had a major sale of three items that all went to the same person. They were very large and ceramic. I didn’t take into account everything that I should have and all three items broke. I did have shipping insurance, but ultimately they ruled that my packaging was at fault. That was not a fun return to have to process.
A lot of people end up losing on the shipping end and that can be a real downer after having a great week of sales! So just be cautious and if you don’t know how to properly package something, there is a lot of helpful advice online.
Well, you’ve just sold a lot of stuff online using eBay! This is a wonderful feeling. You took items from around your house or found some amazing deals somewhere and you converted that into real cash. That extra money can be used to go on amazing vacation, help you pay off debt, or might be the start of a new full time business. No matter which direction you go, the best thing to do is keep the momentum!
The more you post on eBay, you will begin to find ways to make the process unique to you and your style. What are some unique things you do to keep your customers intrigued? Let us know in the comments and if you have any questions let us know as well! It might be the basis of a future blog.