How To Successfully Sell on Ebay

So, you've decided you're done with the traditional 9-5 and you've decided you're going to begin your new venture or side-hustle selling on eBay. Firstly, I would like to say Congratulations on taking a risk! Maybe you've decided you're not quite ready to start diving head-first into selling, but you'd like to gain a little insight into the best way to navigate the e-commerce giant. If either of these cases hit home to you, you're in the right place.

In today's article, I'm going to get you started on how to sell on eBay successfully and provide to you the lessons I have learned throughout my eBay selling career that can help guide you! I will be going over why you should sell on eBay, my personal experiences selling on the platform, what things to avoid selling on eBay, and some of the Pro's and Con's to selling things online.

My History Selling on Ebay

I want to start this article by sharing a little information about my past experiences selling on eBay which has ultimately brought me to where I am today.

I began my eBay career in 2015, shortly after dropping out from college. At that time, I was in desperate need of a way to make some money to maintain my independence. I got a job across the street from the bedroom I was renting out at one of the 100 or so Dunkin' Donuts in the neighborhood. At that time, making Dunkie's coffee was really the only job I was qualified for. I had enrolled in nursing school around the same time to get myself involved in a potentially practical career. Juggling aggravatingly minimally paying work and long hours studying and going to classes became my new life.

I had always been a frugal shopper and my favorite brand to purchase at that time was Polo Ralph Lauren. I know, champagne taste on a beer budget. Luckily for me, I was always able to find my favorite brand hidden in the racks of my local Goodwill. $5 for a button down was all I needed to grow my wardrobe and trust me I grew my wardrobe. So much so, in fact, that I honestly had all the Polo I needed. My closet was full but the thrill of sifting through the racks to find my brand was left unnourished. That's when eBay entered into my life.

I thought to myself that if I could find this expensive brand for only $5 at the local thrift store, there must be a way to sell it for at least 1/4 of what it costs in the retail stores, right? I downloaded the eBay app one night after class and began searching for what a used Polo shirt would sell for and quickly realized that there was a lot of potential.

I used all of my tip money that I would get from working at DD and began buying shirts, listing them on the eBay app, and was surprised how quickly they sold. Shocked, I thought to myself, "If I do some research, there must be a whole bunch of brands that I'm not even aware of that I might be able to find on the racks as well." Days and days of research eventually opened an entire new world of second-hand fashion before my very eyes.

I eventually quit my job and finished nursing school, only to begin my thrifting career and go on to open multiple storefronts throughout the following years. I will save the minutia for my autobiography lol. The moral of the story is this: I utilized an e-commerce site to become an entrepreneur and so can you! The key is to find your own path and use some key insights. The things I wish I had known a lot earlier on in my career I will share with you today.

Why Choose Ebay to Sell?

There are many reasons why one would choose eBay as their primary means of selling. One reason may be that they allow you to sell used clothing (a category I took full advantage of). If clothing is your primary focus, the fact that you can sell used clothing on eBay is a huge bonus. I'm guessing that clothing is what has brought most of you to this article. ;)

Currently, eBay has one of the largest numbers of active shoppers out of all the online e-commerce giants. Reports show that there are over 180 million active buyers on eBay worldwide. That is a huge audience to reach as a prospective seller! Another shocking statistic is that there are over 1 billion active listings on the website! A whole lot of buyers mixed in with a whole lot of things available for sale. This can be both a positive and a negative respectively which we will get into more detail about further down in the article.

It doesn't have to be used clothing to get you to consider selling on eBay. Many people find success in a whole laundry list of categories: Auto Parts, Electronics, Accessories, games, and many more. The principles that I will share with you in this article will hold true no matter what your category may be.

What Should I Be Selling on Ebay?

Now that we have covered why you should consider selling on eBay, we can move on to what you should be selling on eBay. The following list should serve you in narrowing down your selections regardless of what category you invest in:

  1. Rare products within your niche
  2. Products you can source for very little up-front cost or even free
  3. Products within your category that aren't commonly listed
  4. Products that are sold at a high rate

I get that you may be saying to yourself, "Dude this is so general and obvious" but hear me out. I will give you some examples of each bullet point within the used clothing category.

  1. For example, rare products within the used clothing category may include certain eras of military clothing. Yes, they may be difficult to source and find, but the rarity itself makes them worth investing in; should you come across them.
  2. Many times you can find places that offer "by the pound" purchasing such as the "bins" at a Goodill outlet where you can get pounds of clothing for less than $1. Other times you may find people on Facebook Marketplace who are willing to give you things for free. It takes research, but these things do exist.
  3. An example of products within the category of clothing that aren't commonly sold would be suits. I, personally, sold thousands and thousands of suits and suit separates simply because it is not typically a product that most people think to thrift. Find your "suits" in whatever category you choose to sell within.
  4. An example of a brand that is sold at a high rate (at least for now in 2022) within the clothing category is Patagonia. Patagonia is hot and so whenever you, as a clothing seller, can get your hands on it for a reasonable price; buy it. Find your category's Patagonia.

What NOT To Sell on Ebay

Now that we have covered what types of things to research, let's go ahead and cover what to not look for or try and sell. The Following is a list of things, that in over 6 years of selling on eBay, I have learned to avoid:

  1. Products that have thousands of search results - You're simply going to get lost in the search results. Unless you are selling this product for the lowest price on all of eBay (people will search from Low-High for pricing). Most likely, if you have the lowest price point, people will either question the quality, or you will be losing out on profit margins. Don't waste your time.
  2. Products with poor conversion rates - Do a quick filter under the "sold" section when you search for an item you want to buy. If there are thousands of listings that are active, and only a handful that have sold; don't try to sell it. Low conversion can be subjective, but as a general rule of thumb, if you don't see 500 active and at least 250 sold; don't buy it to try to sell it.
  3. Custom made products or artwork - Ebay just doesn't have the following for custom made goods or artwork. You would have much better results by switching over to Etsy if you're looking to sell custom made goods or art.
  4. Inexpensive retail items - Why waste your time listing an item that you can realistically only sell for $5? Maybe if you have hundreds of them and do a bulk listing? Inexpensive retail items are better for huge eBay stores and most likely selling on Amazon.
  5. Generic Brands - People generally come to eBay in search of good deals on name brands. The platform has developed a reputation as a place where everything is heavily discounted. Generic brands don't have the resale value that name brands carry. Unless it is a specific part or style that is needed or on-trend I would avoid anything generic.
  6. Products that you, yourself, can't identify - If you don't know what it is or what the use for it is why would anyone be searching for it or even know what to type in to find it? You would have to be insanely good at writing a description of what you thought it might be in order to get someone who might be thinking along the same lines while shopping. Low likelihood.
  7. Products that you dislike sourcing - If you don't enjoy the process of the hunt, you're not going to enjoy the sale. It comes down to burnout and lack of interest. These two things will make the entire process unenjoyable, and you'll eventually give up.

Types of Tricks That Help Products Sell

The following is a list of some tried and true "tricks" that will help your listings sell:

  • The Title - This is easily the most important, frequently overlooked, and sure-fire way to get your listings into the eyes of prospective buyers. The title needs to have the following structure: Brand, Description, Type, Color, Size. Example: Hugo Boss Double Breasted Suit Jacket Brown Herringbone Size 42R. DO NOT just put "Hugo Boss Blazer" because you're narrowing it down to about 500 other listings with that also included in the title. People might be looking for all the specifics mentioned in the former title and land right on your listing.
  • The Description - To avoid hundreds of unnecessary messages you're going to want to create a pretty descriptive description. Always include measurements in the description. You'll also cut down on your return rate by providing extra details.
  • Lowball to gain exposure - The way that the eBay algorithm works is that when you sell, you sell again. I'm not sure exactly what it is but anytime I would do a clean out of my inventory (starting bid .99 or $4.99) and sell hundreds of things after the 10-day auction, I would also get ensuing sales on regularly priced inventory. You need to gain sales in order to make sales and one of the easiest ways to do that is to clean house.
  • Stay Active - Post new inventory every day and answer messages. The eBay algorithm loves activity. There is also a way to "refresh" your listings! Edit in bulk. You don't have to actually change anything about any of the listings, but by simply going through the process of "editing in bulk" you can create a whole mess of activity very quickly.
  • Free Shipping - This is a controversial one. It can be very smart to offer free shipping if you know your numbers and analyze your profit margins. Things sell quicker with free shipping. The downfall to free shipping is that people will take advantage of eBay's return policy and you'll be stuck paying return shipping regardless of your personal return policy. Those returns can add up to ruin your bottom-line the more you sell and the more that gets returned.

Conclusion

Ebay comes with a lot of fees. Be wary of what you are spending and sourcing and use the manager tools to track your profits and losses. Seriously, you need to treat this like a business if you want to be successful. Most people neglect this, and they wonder why they don't make any profits.

The flipping game is difficult, if you're doing it correctly you are hardly seeing any returns. You're constantly using your profits to buy more products. This can seem like a never-ending battle of accumulating inventory. At some point, you need to start taking profits out and paying yourself.

Over time you will get better and better at sourcing products that work for you. Do what works best and source the things that sell quickly. Don't hang on to inventory for too long in hopes that someone is just waiting 6 months to purchase it. Run a cleanout auction and get rid of it! You probably made your investment back on that haul anyway!

I have a love-hate relationship with eBay. The returns and messages overwhelmed me to the point where I finally gave up on it. I have love for eBay by helping me start my career, but I think it's not the answer for the long-haul. It is always better to own your own than to have to use a 3rd party selling platform that eats away at all your profits. Best Wishes to you all!

-Ian Drake, Diversity Consignment

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.