Last week’s post was the third of the three-part series on downsizing. It focused on internet-based options for selling your stuff.  By far, my favorite way of downsizing has been eBay. I like not having face-to-face interactions. I like that I can do it on my own time.  And I like that once the item is posted it stays active and hands-off for 30 days, or until it sells. If this appeals to you too, I wanted to write an eBay-specific post about some of what I learned in the two years I’ve been using the auction site. I wanted to offer tips and tricks for selling on eBay.  I hope you will find them helpful.

Remember last week how I talked about the ratings on eBay? Those are like gold.  You want to do everything you can to maintain 100% positive reviews.

Getting Good Ratings

  1. Be honest. This might sound obvious but it needs to be stated. Your items don’t have to be perfect. Much of what’s sold on the site is used. If there are flaws, imperfections and damage describe those in detail. And photograph them. Yes, you might have to put in a lower price than if it were near-new, but the payoff will be happy customers who receive exactly the item they expect.

    Add plenty of photos to show off your item.

  2. Speaking of photos. Make sure you add plenty.  eBay allows you to put up to 12.
  3. I figure it takes me about an hour to post each item I sell. It takes time to research the item to help determine a good starting price point. It takes time to photograph the item. And it takes time to write a good description.  I often will say how much use an item has had, give background on the manufacturer and sometimes I will say why I’m getting rid of the item. It’s all part of the narrative to selling. Some may say it’s a waste of time and maybe it is. But I still do it for every item, hoping it is not.
  4. Potential buyers may contact you with questions about the item. Be responsive. If their question is a general question that would be of use to others, when you reply you can check a box so all potential buyers can see both the question and the answer.

Shipping Your Sold Items

When you set up your account, you’ll answer the question of how fast you will ship. I said I’d do it within two business days, though my goal is always one. Don’t set yourself up for failure (and potentially a bad rating) by saying you’ll ship fast if you can’t.  Be realistic and then stick to that commitment.

First class shipping costs less than priority. However, first class items can only be used for items up to 13 ounces. For items over 13 ounces, it must go priority. I only post things that will fit into one of the four one-priced priority boxes, the large Tyvek priority envelope or the legal or letter document-type priority envelopes. Shipping the envelopes all require entering the weight so you will need a good scale.

Every few months, I move the money I’ve made on eBay out of the PayPal account and into my own bank account. When you do this, it’s a good idea to leave funds in the account to be able to cover future shipping costs. Also eBay takes their 10% fee once a month. Be sure you have calculated in that expense prior to taking out funds.

What Sells and What Doesn’t

Name brand athletic wear has been a good seller for me.

You may have to figure this out for yourself based on the category of items you are selling.  But if my experience is any indication, the things that sell well are coins, jewelry (either name brand like Silpada or high-quality silver and gold), brand name athletic wear and clothes in general.

Books didn’t sell. At all. I didn’t have luck with them at my garage sales either. I love love love books so I took this a bit personally…but that’s another story.

Books have been a terrible seller for me.

The other thing I found hard to sell was items without a name brand. The reason, I believe, is that without a brand the item is hard to find in a search. Brand name items can have upward of 50 views while non-brand name items get less than 10. Recently a Dooney Bourke handbag I posted got 300 views.

It is frustrating. And I don’t know the solution for getting more views to good items that don’t have a recognizable name brand. I wish I did. In my case, I imagine I’ll end up giving those items to friends or family as gifts. Or donating them to charity for the tax write-off.  These downsizing options were discussed in the non-internet downsizing options post.

When You Get Really Serious About eBay

If you decide to get serious about eBay, you might find these suggestions helpful. By serious, I mean you will be posting, say, 20 plus items month after month.

The eBay shipping station set up in my living room.

Be organized. This makes it easy:

  1. I have a portion of a closet where I keep every item I have actively posted on eBay. The reason? When the item sells, I want to get it in the mail fast. You can’t do that if it takes you three days to remember where you put it.
  2. I set up an eBay shipping station. It’s just a card table in my living room but it has everything I need. My station includes a kitchen scale to determine the weight of items and a measuring tape for dimensions. It’s also a good idea to have a loop or magnifying glass to read tiny imprints on jewelry. Then I have lots of US mail priority boxes and envelopes, first class envelopes, packing material, thank you notes I put in each order and strapping tape.
  3. The US Post Office will ship you, for free, their priority mail products. It can be easier than heading to the post office each time you run out of supplies. Keep plenty of every size box and envelope handy so you are always ready when your item sells. I also keep one of each priority box size made up (since they come flat) to make it easy to figure out what shipping option is best for each new item I post.

eBay, like many companies you sign up with, will send you tons of emails you couldn’t care less about. Easy to delete. But, if you are hitting your maximum free posts or think you will, do keep an eye out for their specials that come via email. Two or three times a year, I will have the opportunity to get more posts for free.  Remember from last week’s post, eBay allows you to post 50 items each month at no charge. If you want to post more, there is a thirty cents per post fee.

I’m not sure why they don’t just give you the extra free posts automatically but they don’t. Maybe they are testing to see if you are reading their emails. To activate the additional free posts, you have to hit the “activate now” or similar button.  Even if you don’t end up using them, better to activate and have the option. So keep an eye out for the opportunities.

A Few More Words About Ratings

You already understand how important it is to do everything you can to ensure a good rating so I won’t say more on that.

Do everything you can to get and maintain an A+ rating from your buyers.

However, if you are new (or even if you aren’t) and you want to increase the number of ratings you receive, you can contact your buyer directly and request he or she rate you. I have never done this. It just feels like one more thing to do. Without prompting, about 60% of my buyers rate their experience with me. I have no way to know if this is average but I would think it is.

Interestingly, the seller can also rate the buyer. I’ve never done this. Except once when I had a buyer write me multiple email requests asking for me to rate her. It’s so strange because what can you say about a buyer? She bought my item? He paid for my item?

And, one more word about rating. eBay doesn’t allow you to only give a positive rating. Every rating has to be accompanied by a few words. If you are doing well and need a mini ego boost, go in and look to see what buyers have to say about you. However, it makes rating a buyer even weirder.  What do you say?  She bought my item? He paid for my item? Good job.

Be Patient

Keep listing the item. I’ve had items take a year before they sold. You can relist every 30 days once a listing expires. Try changing which pic is the main one; change the price, etc.

The two things my buyers consistently say about me are that I ship fast and that the item was exactly as described. Knock on wood and all that, but right now the more than 60 buyers who have rated me have given me a 100% positive review. So I think I know what I’m talking about as I impart tips and tricks.

If you have experience with eBay—as a buyer or seller—please share in the comments.