Selling more on eBay is a concept that sounds simple enough. But it actually takes a mix of business acumen, psychology, and good old elbow grease.
Years ago, I sold thousands of items – everything from antiques to yard sale items – and became a Power Seller with a 100% feedback rating. More recently, my wife and I decided to sell a few items from around the house. The eBay sales tricks that worked back then continue to work today, with a few small caveats.
You may be a seasoned seller. Or, you may have just started with your eBay seller career. Either way, the following tips can help you boost your profits.
1. Establish a Reputable Account
If you’re hoping to get started selling on eBay and you think you’re going to earn a fortune starting from day one, I have a wake-up call for you.
New sellers always earn less than seasoned sellers, even when selling the exact same items and everything else is the same. Buyers on eBay highly trust sellers who’ve been around a while and have proven that they can be trusted.
eBay’s measure of “trust” is the feedback rating system.
The feedback rating that you receive as a seller comes from your customers, following your sales. Ratings used to be only positive, negative, or neutral. Later, eBay added the “detailed seller ratings”. Now, buyers could rank specific areas where the seller does (or doesn’t) do well. Buyers are also ranked by sellers, in terms of how quickly they pay and how well they communicate.
Here are some quick tips to boost your feedback rating as quickly as possible if you’re just getting started with selling on eBay:
- Start out selling a lot of small, inexpensive things quickly. This will let you rack up a lot of positive feedback in a short period of time. People often start out selling old toys from around the house. You might also jump in with the best-selling items on eBay.
- Don’t wait more than 24 to 48 hours to ship an item that you’ve sold.
- Carefully package items you sell so that they arrive at the seller’s location in perfect condition.
- If buyers message you on eBay, always respond promptly and politely.
- Always require shipping insurance. It’s very inexpensive and if things are broken in transit you can refund the buyer and not lose profit.
- If buyers are unhappy with an item (if they claim it smells or is in poor condition), don’t argue. Simply offer to refund. If the value was very valuable, require that the buyer return the item to you first. This filters out the scam artists.
One thing to keep in mind is that recently eBay changed its feedback process so that negative ratings are no longer an option. Buyers can only provide positive feedback, or file a report to eBay. This is a good change for sellers, but buyers are not required to leave positive feedback – so if you want a high feedback rating, you still have to earn it.
Highly rated sellers get more bids, and more bids mean a higher final sale price. The work you put into boosting your rank at the beginning will reap very large profits in the future.
2. Learn to Capture Great Photos
One of the most valuable skills you can develop to sell not only more items at higher prices is photography. A well-staged photo, and capturing several photos of the item, have the potential to boost the final price of an item significantly.
Some basic elements of a good photo include good lighting, a nice background, and capturing as much detail as possible.
It’s best not to try and do it yourself. MakeUseOf has lots of great advice on taking better photos, and even how to take better photos specifically for eBay. Reading our digital photography guide is a great place to start.
If there’s any single thing that’s worth your time investment to boost eBay sales, this one should be your top priority.
3. Properly Research Sold Items
Another way to improve your odds of selling an item for a good price is to do thorough research about what other similar items have sold for on eBay.
Just search for the item you’re selling, and then in the left menu, click on the checkbox for “Sold listings”. This will filter all of the search results for all of the identical items that have already sold on eBay.
Once you have listing results, look for items that are as identical to the item you’re selling as possible.
Here are a few items to record from these highest-price sales to help you better price your own auction:
- Try to list your item with a starting price that’s similar to the sold item with the highest final bid.
- Capture similar photos from the same angles.
- Make a note of the description and try to describe your item similarly.
- Check what day of the week the highest selling items ended on, and schedule your item accordingly
Remember that past sales on eBay are a pretty good indication of what future items will sell for. This may be higher or lower than what your item sells for depending on your seller feedback rating, but it’s still a pretty good indication of your odds.
It’s also important to keep in mind that if people haven’t bid on similar items as yours in the past on eBay, then the chances are pretty good that they won’t bid on yours either. Don’t waste your time listing items that aren’t likely to sell.
4. Accurately Price Shipping
In a world where most businesses offer free shipping on products, trying to charge for shipping on your eBay listings is a hard sell. It’s isn’t impossible though, so long as you’re smart about it.
The most important thing is to take advantage of the shipping calculator that eBay offers as part of your listing. This calculator lets your buyers see accurate shipping costs based on package weight and dimensions and the buyer’s location.
This way both you and your buyer know that they won’t be overpaid for shipping. You also have the option to include a small fee for packaging costs, but use this sparingly. Buyers used to abuse this feature and overcharge for shipping to try and boost profits. This rarely works, and only reduces the odds that your item will sell at all.
If you’re feeling really brave, consider offering free shipping for locations within your own country. Most often, this will increase the number of bidders for your auction, and it’ll usually boost the final sale price as well.
5. Increase Profit by Avoiding Fees
Over the years, eBay has constantly changed its fee structure. For many years you had to pay anything from 25 cents and up for “insertion fees”. That is the basic price just for publishing a listing on eBay.
eBay smartened up and finally realized that it would attract more sellers if the cost to entry was much lower, so they started offering a set amount of “free insertion fee” listings every month.
- Standard users get 50 free fixed price or auction listings
- Basic Store users get 250 fixed priced and 250 auction listings
- Premium Store users get 1,000 fixed price and 500 auction listings
- Anchor Store users get 10,000 fixed price and 1,000 auction listings
You pay your fees when your item finally sells. If the item sells for anywhere from $0.99-$50.00, eBay will take 8% of the final sale price. If it sells anywhere from $50.01 – $1000, eBay will take 8% of first $50, and 5% of the rest.
These fees are set for every listing, so how can you cut down overall eBay costs? You can do that by avoiding the options under “more options” in the item listing form.
When you change anything from default settings, you will likely incur additional fees on top of the normal final value fees when your item sells.
Here are some of the additional services you might select that could boost your eBay costs.
- Using 1 or 3 day “special duration” for auction listings
- Listing in more than one category will double your insertion fees
- Promoted listings are a way to advertise your listings on eBay, but you’ll pay extra fees for this
- The Global Shipping Program
- Setting certain customized Returns options can incur additional fees
Make sure you understand all of the fees your selections incur so that you can keep your eBay listing costs as low as possible, and your final profits as high as they can be.
6. Schedule Auctions Based on Product Type
Another thing that can have an effect on how high your final sales price goes is what day of the week you have your auction end. You’ll find a lot of people searching online for the best day to end an eBay auction. They’re actually asking the wrong question.
The question you should be asking is which day of the week is best to end an auction for the type of item you’re selling. The reality is that an office worker shopping for office equipment will be shopping on different days of the week than a person who may be an antique collector. These different shoppers have different lifestyles and different online shopping habits.
When you’re looking to list an item, first search for the type of items you are planning to sell. Make sure you filter by “sold” items only as described above. Then select to sort the results by highest price first.
Browse through the results and see if you can pick a pattern that shows the most common days that these kinds of items sell for the highest price.
Most of the time you will actually discover a common pattern depending on the category of items you’re selling. This is the day (or days) of the week you should focus on when listing your own items for sale.
7. Use Barcodes to Prepopulate Fields
If you sell a lot on eBay, typing descriptions can take a lot of time. It’s a lot easier to extract most of the details about an item from information in the barcode if the item you’re selling has a barcode. The eBay app on your mobile phone lets you do this quickly and easily.
Boosting your profits on eBay is all about how much you can list in as little amount of time as possible. Making use of product barcodes is probably one of the fastest ways to do this.
8. Offer Many Online Payment Options
Most sellers on eBay offer PayPal as a payment option. The nice thing about PayPal is that buyers can also use a credit card to make payments if they want to.
Accepting checks or money orders can help boost your bids and your final purchase price, but it can also be a hassle.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
- If you will accept checks, make sure to include a disclaimer that there will be a delay in shipping so that you (the seller) can wait for the check to clear. This protects you from “bad check” scams.
- If you accept money orders, make sure only to accept payments from your own country. There is a common money order scam from international buyers that involves an overpayment via money order from the buyer. The buyer will ask you to send the extra money to an expensive shipper who will handle the overseas shipping transaction. Often, the money order turns out to be fake, and you lose not only your merchandise but also the extra money you sent.
- If you have your own internet merchant account, you can accept credit card payments (without using PayPal) by going to the Payment Preferences page, and then select the option to accept credit or debit cards via your Internet merchant account. Just keep in mind you will incur the usual merchant account fees on top of the normal eBay fees.
9. Save Time By Rewording Descriptions
If barcodes aren’t an option and you find yourself in a situation where you need to write your description from scratch, usually you don’t have to.
As part of your research on eBay for similar items that have sold, make a note of the highest price sales, and take a close look at how that seller described their item. There’s nothing wrong with copying their description into your description field and using it as a template for your own item description.
Just make sure to completely rewrite the description so that it accurately describes your own item, including all of the imperfections and flaws. You shouldn’t plagiarize writing, but using a successful seller’s formatting template will give you a great head start, and it’ll save you a lot of time.
10. Use a Template Disclaimer
There are several mistakes that new sellers make at the start that ends up costing a lot of money.
- Always examine your item for any little imperfection, including scuff marks, torn fabric, imperfect stitching, or anything else the buyer will notice when they open up the shipping box at their end.
- Always include a disclaimer about wear and tear. It should go without saying that “used” items will appear used. Unfortunately, there are some buyers who have unrealistic expectations.
If you fail to mention imperfections or fail to mention that your used item will have normal wear and tear, you open yourself up to buyers who will complain about it and request a refund. A safe defense against this is having it in writing up front, as part of your sales template, that all used items have the expected imperfections that come with age.
These statements in your listing will keep away most of the buyers who are just looking to get an item for free. Also, a good, fair return policy that requires the buyer to pay for return shipping costs in order to get a full refund is also often an excellent deterrent for scam artists.
There are a lot of scams on eBay you should actually take the time to make yourself aware of.
11. Become a Power Seller
Becoming an eBay “PowerSeller” is a fast track to boosting profits on eBay, but it isn’t easy. PowerSeller status is hard earned and much coveted by all sellers on eBay. It means that you’re serious about selling and that you provide a top quality experience to buyers.
You don’t actually apply to become a PowerSeller, eBay simply recognizes you as one due to your statistics. It isn’t like Twitter Verification where the status depends on the whims or the personal biases of the verification team. PowerSeller status on eBay comes from three key behaviors.
- You’ve maintained a positive rating status of over 98%
- You’ve sold over 100 items and had over $3000 in sales in the last 12 months
- You’ve been on eBay for at least 90 days.
You can learn all about achieving PowerSeller status at the eBay support page for PowerSellers.
Get on eBay and Make Real Money
There are a lot of people out there who sell a few things around the house on eBay, and then let their accounts go dormant for many months. But if you’re one of those people who want to try and make a real living on eBay, it is possible if you know where to get inexpensive things to sell at wholesale prices.
Once you start selling a lot of items, you’ll discover how all of the tips above play into your bottom line, and how tweaking things can significantly boost your overall profit.
Play it smart and plan ahead. But also remember that selling on eBay is supposed to be fun, so make sure you enjoy the selling process too. Because what job is worth doing, if it isn’t fun, right?
And here are some smart shopping tips to follow, for when you’re on the other end of the eBay equation.