8 Easy Steps to Improve Your eBay Sales and Income Immediately!

For those of you who don’t know, I worked for a small independent music store for about 7 years during my teens and early 20’s.  One of my major jobs at this store was to sell as much store inventory on eBay as possible.  After spending a few years listing and selling items on eBay day in and day out, you get pretty good at listing and selling. When my wife and I got on the Dave Ramsey plan and went through Financial Peace University, we decided to sell a lot of the items we no longer wanted or needed on eBay, and still have great success buying items specifically to sell. After having several friends and relatives ask me for some advice on how to maximize their sales and profits, I decided to share these  8 Easy Steps to Improve Your eBay Sales and Income Immediately!

1.     Keep the title simple, but descriptive.

Far too often I see products listed with lots of fluff in their item description.  When I see these items I just keep browsing and never look at the product.  Simply put, you want a title that gives an accurate name of the product you are selling and a very brief description of it’s condition.  For example, I would not click on a title such as AMAZING APPLE IPHONE GREAT DEAL DON’T MISS IT!  But I would consider a listing as follows: AS IS Apple iPhone 3G – 8GB – Black (AT&T) Smartphone.  The product description is completely informative as to the cell network, memory capacity, model, and condition (AS IS usually indicates there is something wrong with the item.)

Also, avoid spelling mistakes.  Not to many people search for Aple computers, or iFones.  So test your title: if you can tell what you are about to see before you click on the link, you’re probably doing fine in this area.

2.     Choose your category listing carefully.

eBay has gotten much better with helping you choose a good category to list your product, but this still escapes some people.  A while back I sold an antique trumpet on eBay.  Now while this item is an antique that would appeal to some antique collectors, it is still a trumpet that would appeal to musicians, including those who usually care nothing about antiques.  If I were to list the trumpet in antiques I’d miss a large portion of the interested buyers, and the same is true for listing the item only in musical instruments.  So I listed the item in both categories so that all potential buyers would get an opportunity to see and bid on my antique trumpet.  Product exposure is very important!
It is important to know that listing in multiple categories does cost extra money at listing time, but it can be well worth the cost.  Just don’t get stupid with double listings.  Yes an iPhone plays MP3’s, but don’t list your iPhone under MP3 Players.  Someone searching for MP3 players is looking for an iPod, not an iPhone so you’d be completely wasting your money doing this!  So ask yourself, “Who would want to buy this product?”  Once you are convinced on a category (or possibly two), then list your product accordingly.

3.     Take clear pictures of what you would want to see.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  If you were trying to buy a piece of fine China, such as a bowl, would you want only one blurry picture taken from directly above?  If you answered “yes” to the preceding question, please donate your computer and camera to the poor and never think about eBay again.  If you answered “no” to the question, then be sure you don’t make the same mistake.  If you were buying a used item, you would want to know just how used it is.  With the example of the bowl, take a wide picture of the entire item followed by detailed pictures of the sides, the inside, the bottom label (clear enough to read!) and any chips, cracks, or scratches the bowl might have.  You don’t want the buyer surprised by these things once they’ve already purchased the bowl because it’s likely they will ship it back to you and demand a full refund (eBay will help them do this too!).
And please don’t take the pictures with your cell phone. With today’s technology even the cheapest pawn shop digital camera has the ability to take clearer and higher quality eBay pictures.  Use the camera’s close-up settings, and avoid using the camera flash unless it’s absolutely necessary to show a blemish.  I usually turn all the lights in the room on, and leave the flash turned off.  This allows indirect light to show the item as your eyes would normally see it.  Also try placing the product on a white background, such as a white sheet, blanket, or towel.  This will help your product stand out in the pictures.
Again, sometimes you do have to take one picture with the flash to help a scratch, or crack show up that otherwise will not.  In most cases you are looking at a max of 3 to 5 pictures.  Some people go overboard and list 20 pictures of the same post card sized item.  Go through and delete any duplicates, or pictures that didn’t really show what you wanted.  Just be sure that any problem areas are well documented in your pictures.

4.     Save money by avoiding unnecessary features and fees!

While they may look really cool, eBay does offer some unnecessary options on listings that simply don’t help much.  I never pay the extra $2 for a Bold or Highlighted listing.  The theory is that it somehow attracts the eyes of buyers, but in the long run the quality of the content in the listing is what sells the item.
Avoid the listing “themes” that give your pictures frames, or the picture slideshow.  I know how to click on a different picture when I want to see a different picture.  eBay charges you to have all these options on your listing, and many are simply not necessary. And please whatever you do, don’t do the silly graphics like showing dancing reindeer around the screen at Christmas.  Just don’t waste your time and money doing this sort of stuff!  I have never once had someone say “Hey Matt, I bought that $5000 dollar guitar from you because of the dancing elf you included in your listing!”
Pretty much the one exception that I make to this rule is the Gallery Picture listing option (about $0.35).  This feature includes a thumbnail sized picture to the left of your item description so the potential buyer can actually see what they are about to click on.  While it’s not necessary to do, I am personally more likely to click on that link than one without the Gallery Picture listing.

5.     Give accurate, but positive descriptions.

When you are typing up your description (this is different from listing title) be sure that you are accurate.  Tell us about the chip in the finish.  Tell us to check out the photo that shows the crack and scratches.  A buyer wants you to be honest and wants to feel like they are getting an accurate description.  Trying to avoid mentioning flaws doesn’t go over too well.
On the other hand, don’t come off sounding like Eeyore in your listing.  If the item has a crack but is still fully functional then tell us.  If we go back to the AS IS iPhone listing from earlier, I included in the description a list of what was wrong (the screen and back cover) but then pointed out that these problems were completely fixable and that the buyer could end up getting a great deal on a great phone that just needed a little fixing up.  The most important thing here is to be honest, and be positive in the way you describe your items.

6.     Know the true value of your item.

Just because you like a particular item doesn’t mean that people are going to pay more for it.  If Taylor Swift used your Sharpie to sign your arm, the fact remains it’s just a Sharpie and has no increased value!  We often place great sentimental value on items that we own which means if we had to buy that item from ourselves, we would be willing to pay more for them than the average eBay buyer will.  Just realize that except for in rare cases, you probably won’t make more on your item than other people are on theirs simply because it’s yours.
That being said, if you do all of these 8 steps completely and correctly then you should be able as much as much profit as possible out of an product you sell.  But have the realistic price of what items like yours are selling for on eBay.  Search for products like yours before you list and look at only the completed listings.  If the items like yours are selling for around $5, it’s a safe assumption that yours will do the same.  If the products like yours are not selling at $10, yours probably won’t either.  eBay simply doesn’t work that way.  Know what your product is worth and list it accordingly.
Avoid the Buy It Now feature unless you are selling something at a huge discount and want the money today instead of 5 days from today.  If you are going to ask the same amount for the Buy It Now at which most auction items will end, it simply isn’t worth the price because it likely won’t be used by a buyer.  Most people like the thrill of the auction and the belief that they will come out ahead if they don’t use the Buy It Now.  And don’t mess with the reserve price.  Just start your auction at the lowest price you are willing to take for the item.
Ask yourself the following question:  If someone was standing right in front of me with cash, what is the smallest amount they could put in my hand before I would let them leave with this item?” Answer that question and use that as your starting price.  If it sells then you came out ahead.  If it doesn’t then you aren’t really willing to sell the item for what it’s worth.

7.     Timing is everything.

How much time do you spend browsing eBay at 9:00am.  How about 3:00am, or 11:30pm?  These are times of the day where eBay’s traffic is not at its peak.  You want your item to end during Prime Time viewing, which means you need to list your item during the same time, or use the scheduling feature to automatically list your item during Prime Time (just another non-recommended fee).  You want your item to end during Prime Time because auctions will usually increase drastically in price during the last few minutes.  Excited buyers get into bidding wars over your product, unless they are asleep at 1am.  Make sure you list, or that the auction will end during your favorite Prime Time TV shows.
Also stick with a 5 day listing for most items.  7 and 10 day options are available, but unless you are selling a very rare or high dollar item such as a car, the longer auction just doesn’t benefit you much.  1 and 3 day auctions are available as well, but I don’t feel that they give enough time for your item to be seen by as many potential buyers.  eBay purchases are not usually impulse buys.  Most people look at a product they want to buy several times before they bid so give them the adequate time of a 5 day auction.

8.     Do your shipping through eBay.

eBay usually gives you a discount if you print your shipping label through them, and will automatically send your buyer a tracking number (one less thing you have to do).  My recommendation is to use the USPS flat rate shipping boxes if at all possible with your item, and include a few extra dollars for your “handling charge.”  This is not unethical in any way because you will burn gas going to get the box, and don’t forget that tape, bubble wrap, printer ink, and paper costs all come out of your pocket as well.  If I’m using the $5 flat rate box, I will probably charge $7 flat rate shipping to ship the item so that my expenses are covered.

At any rate (please pardon poorly placed puns and alliteration) try to stick to flat rate shipping.  If this is not an option, then completely package your item before the listing.  This is to ensure that you can accurately determine weight and dimensions to use in the shipping calculator that eBay provides to figure shipping costs.  This also helps you avoid shipping costs won’t exceed the amount you are charging the customer for shipping.

I hope these tips will help you with your next eBay listing.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll try to help you out as best as I can.  Good luck, and Happy Selling!

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One thought on “8 Easy Steps to Improve Your eBay Sales and Income Immediately!

  1. Thanks for writing this. Now I can reference this instead of just texting you all the time! Pesky neighbors. So far, I’ve made $10 by selling a pillow. Baby steps, baby steps.

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