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How to sell successfully on eBay

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Last updated on

15 February 2013

If you want to get the most for your items when selling on eBay here are a few tips to boost your profits and sell successfully.

Start auctions at 99p

This is the highest you can set an item starting price without eBay charging you a listing fee.

I once listed 28 items at 99p and made around £500. I saved myself between £2.80 and £36.40 by not using starting prices above this mark.

You might feel a bit exposed using this method, as you can’t use a reserve, but in my experience it really does encourage people to make that first bid and saves you paying anything if your item doesn’t sell.

Obviously if you have something valuable to sell you shouldn’t take this risk and should put a reserve, a higher starting price or buy-it-now option to ensure you don't lose out.

But for unwanted high-street clothes, games, toys, books, shoes and CDs it’s perfect to get people interested and stop you paying over the odds to sell.

For valuable items like an iPad or designer goods you could wait for free listing days when eBay lets you list things for free. But generally that means more sellers on the scene, reducing your chance of making a good profit.  

End on a weekend

You may have worked into the early hours to list all your items but if you end the auction at the same time, buyers are unlikely to be around to battle it out for your goods.

Ending auctions early in the morning during the week or during business working hours is a bad move because buyers aren’t generally online. I know quite a few people who have lost out on a good final selling price because they ended the auction at 3am on a Tuesday.

eBay gets its most traffic at weekends so this is the best time to end your auction. I have found a Sunday afternoon works best. This is when people tend to stay in and have lazy days browsing the internet. It’s the perfect time for people to get obsessed with your listings and battle for them until bedtime.

Optimise searches

You need to use key words people will search for in the title of your auction in order to get your listing seen.

‘Toy Jail’ might come up in a few searches but ‘Fisher Price Batman Gotham City Jail’ will definitely get you more views.

Be specific, clear and precise including things like brand, size, colour and product name.

A good way to think about it is to try to imagine what you would search for if you were looking for the item yourself. Or take a look at what other people have used in the title of a similar listing - especially those that have lots of bids!

Whatever you do, make sure you check the spelling. People lose out by misspelling key words in their title so possible buyers don’t ever come across the items. Websites like Fat Fingers will hone in on your mistakes to give buyers a bargain.

Get descriptive

There’s nothing worse than getting to a listing and finding a lack of information. It makes the buyer work harder by having to ask questions and wait for an answer. Most don’t even bother to go that far.

Use your listing to write a bit of sales copy which is evocative enough to entice a few bids. For clothing you can really sell something by saying something like: ‘Got lots of compliments in this dress’ or ‘perfect for a summer BBQ’.  

Put as much detail as you can about the condition and even why you’re selling the item. This way a buyer will spend less time questioning and more time bidding.


Don’t leave questions unanswered. It won’t help you make a sale if people doubt your ability to communicate and be trusted.

If you have a smartphone get the eBay app to keep up with your listings.

If you do receive a lot of questions about the same thing update your listing as this is obviously something that is important to your prospective buyers.

Be picture perfect

A clear image will attract more buyers.

Take pictures of the item on a blank backdrop using natural light if possible.

Also make sure the item is in tip top condition –that might mean getting out the iron or giving a few things a polish before taking your snaps. With designer products like Ugg boots and technology like an iPad it’s good to have a picture proving they work or are genuine rather than a generic picture from the internet.

eBay will allow you to upload one image for free and additional images usually cost 12p each. But on items that fall into certain categories eBay will allow you to add up to 12 images free. I have found this to be the case on things like furniture – so keep an eye out and take advantage when this happens.

Cover delivery

Some think lowering the price of delivery will get more people interested. It might, but I think this sort of tactic should be reserved for the people that actually trade on eBay not sellers who use it intermittently.

Instead I think when it comes to deciding the cost of delivery you should cover yourself so you don’t make a loss. That way if you do sell something for just 99p you don't have to pay more just to get rid of it.

By calculating postage effectively you can avoid this situation. You can calculate postage costs using Royal Mail’s Price Finder . Larger items might need a courier in which case this will have to be calculated later when you have the buyer's address.

List internationally

Listing items internationally will increase the number of potential buyers.

I have had people in Germany, America, France, Amsterdam and Spain purchase items in my auctions. 

All you need to do is adjust your postage for international delivery when you send the invoice.

Get paid in cash

PayPal is a quick and safe way to get paid online and is usually the payment method of choice for most eBayers. But as a seller you pay a fee on the money you receive, usually around 3.4% plus a standard 20p charge.

So when you can it’s good to get paid in cash. This way you avoid paying PayPal fees on top of eBay fees (currently 10% of the final selling price).  

This is only an option if you can get the goods collected though. I got paid in cash for all the furniture I sold when moving house and it really made a difference not having to pay the PayPal fees.

Luckily I didn't experience any trouble, but you could get someone dodgy that is trying to pass on fake notes.There are ways to spot this with counterfeit note checking devices  or by taking a look at the Bank of England's guide to spotting a fake.

Save on packaging

I know a lot of people that make good money on eBay, but spend most of it on packaging.

You can cut the cost of sending your items by getting packaging materials from pound shops.

Parcel paper, bubble wrap and padded envelopes are available much cheaper here than places like WH Smith or the Post Office and the quality is just as good.

Build up your feedback

When you’re selling big ticket items like a car or designer goods it helps to have some good feedback and star ratings to give buyers some confidence.

A lot of the time people are too lazy to do it. But if you make it a habit to leave feedback for a buyer or seller yourself they are more likely to return the favour and build you up as a trusted member of the community.

Try elsewhere

Ebay won’t be for everyone and if the fees are still too much take a look at this article: Sell for less: the alternatives to eBay.

What are your tips?

Please share any tips you have for getting more out of selling on eBay in the comment box below.

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