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How to sell successfully on eBay

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Last updated on

21 August 2014

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.

List up to 20 items a month

eBay allows sellers to list up to 20 items for free each month (apart from listings in the Motors or Classified Ads categories). After that they cost 35p each.

So if you’ve got a load of items to sell you might want to spread them out over a few months in order to save on the fees.

Not only will this self-imposed limit save you money, it's a good way to help manage the workflow involved with selling, like packaging and posting items.

Start auctions at 99p

In the past starting auction listings on eBay for 99p was a way of avoiding any listing fees. But  the rules have now changed. For more read: eBay changes private seller listing fees.

However,  starting your auctions at 99p is still a good way to attract buyers.

You might feel a bit exposed using this method, as you can’t use a reserve, but  it can encourage people to take a look at your item and make that first bid.

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 the perfect bargain price to get people interested.

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. You're almost certainly going to lose out on a decent final selling price if you end an auction at 3am on a Tuesday.

eBay gets its most traffic at weekends so this is the best time to end your auction. Sunday afternoon tends to work 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 it.

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.

So try and take pictures of your items on a blank backdrop using natural light.

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 web.

eBay usually allows you to add up to 12 images to a listing for free so you should be able to highlight all the details of what you are selling, including any damage.

Cover delivery

When it comes to deciding the cost of delivery you should cover yourself so you don’t make a loss and charge accurately for each item you list. That way if you do sell something for just 99p you don't have to pay more just to get rid of it.

You should also bear in mind that eBay now includes postage when calculating the final value fee it will charge, so essentially it will take a 10% cut of what you charge for postage as well as the final price of your item. For more read: Private eBay sellers now face fees on postage.

If you’re accepting payments by PayPal the whole amount you get from the buyer is also liable for its fees. So the money you charge for postage is further diminished.

By calculating postage effectively you can avoid a situation where you haven’t charged enough. 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.

Open up to international buyers

You can choose to allow international buyers to browse your listing.

Going for this option instead of limiting your listing to UK buyers could boost what you make as it increases the amount of people competing for your item.

If you end up selling to someone in another country, you just need to adjust your postage for international delivery when you send the invoice.

As you are still listing on eBay.co.uk, you will only be liable for fees associated with UK listings, however PayPal may charge you differently for the currency conversion.

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 plus postage).  

However, this method carries the risk of being exposed to fake money.

But there are ways to prevent this happening with counterfeit note checking devices  or by taking a look at the Bank of England's guide to spotting a fake.

Save on packaging

There's no point making good money on eBay, but then spending 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.

You can also save by setting aside and reusing packaging you get from your own online orders. Amazon for example often sends items in boxes, which are perfectly fine to reuse with a different label.


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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