How To Make Money on eBay: Your Guide to Selling

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In September 1995, Pierre Omidyar launched AuctionWeb, a site “dedicated to bringing together buyers and sellers in an honest and open marketplace.” Two years later, AuctionWeb was rebranded as eBay, and by the first quarter of 2021, the global online auction giant had grown to 187 million active buyers.

And although other online sites have cropped up to challenge eBay — think Facebook Marketplace — it remains the top dog in the genre. And if you’re not selling and making money on eBay, why not? You’re missing out on a piece of a very big pie. The gross value of goods sold on eBay in the United States in 2020 was $37.5 billion, up 22.1% from the year before, Digital Commerce 360 reported.

There’s an opportunity to make big money on eBay if you know what to sell and when to sell it. Here’s how to get started.

1. Take Inventory

Chances are that you have things in the back of your closet or in your garage that you haven’t pulled out for a year — or more — that people are looking to buy. On its website, eBay lists about three dozen categories of merchandise that are the most popular, and sellers are making money on eBay from them.

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Did you buy golf clubs or a guitar, determined to learn to play, only to decide it wasn’t your thing? There’s a market for those. The old VHS tapes your kids watched over and over? Tapes are listed among the popular categories, as are DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Cameras, jewelry, video game consoles, auto parts, women’s clothing and men’s sneakers also make the list. Even nonworking items, such as electronics, have a market, with buyers seeking to repair them or use them for parts.

So as you clean out your closets or cupboards and find something you bought that you used sparingly and no longer want, don’t trash it. Try making money on eBay. The vast reach means someone might just be looking for something you have. And you’ll be diverting it from the landfill, too.

2. Sign Up and Buy

With that like-new guitar and those Air Jordans that your parents gave you but you never wore because they were a size too small, try your hand on eBay. Register for a free account to start the process.

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The most successful eBay sellers are those with high feedback ratings. Every transaction you take part in can be rated. The seller may leave feedback about you as a buyer — how quickly you paid to complete a transaction, typically — and a buyer can rate a seller on how fast an item was shipped, how well the seller communicated, and the quality of the item and whether it was as advertised.

Buyers might be hesitant to bid on an item from a seller with no feedback, so eBay veterans recommend making a few small purchases before you start selling. That’s a way to build your feedback rating, and it will give buyers more confidence that you have experience navigating the ins and outs of eBay before buying from you.

3. Set Your Price

Now that you’re signed up for eBay, poke around the site and check out your competition. Are there other Air Jordans like yours being offered? But don’t stop there. Do a Google search of your item to find out the asking price of similar items on other online sites to help inform your price.

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By using eBay’s advanced search function, you can search for completed auctions on similar items to find out the selling price. While you’re perusing those listings and others you find online, take note of the descriptions the seller attached to each item. (More on that later.)

EBay offers some options for selling goods in most categories:

As you set your price, remember these three things:

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4. Grab Buyers’ Interest

A good sale begins with a great product description — and sharp pictures. That’s how to make the best money on eBay.

The way you spell out the facts about the item you’re selling will give prospective buyers the details they need to decide whether to buy. If you’re selling those Air Jordan shoes, for example, you’ll want to list the size, whether they are for men or women, the brand and color, and if they’re new in the box. The description should be concise and accurate.

It’s crucial that you spell the brand name and other pertinent information correctly. You can write the greatest product description for your Air Jordan shoes, but if you mistakenly type “Air Jordon,” they won’t show up in the buyer’s search. The best eBay users know how to search for the misspellings, and they can snatch your shoes at a ridiculously low price because no one else can find them to place a bid.

You’ll also want to snap several high-resolution pictures of those shoes to give buyers the best images possible. EBay will allow you to post a main photo and several side pictures. For the main photo, eBay recommends you use a white background to increase visibility. Other photos should be taken without flashes or filters, and your item should fill the entire frame. Be sure to photograph from multiple angles to show details of both features such as logos and any blemishes there might be.

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5. Sold Out? Source More Items

At some point, you’ll run out of things from your closets, cupboards and garage to sell. But if you’ve been a successful seller and made some good pocket money, you don’t need to stop. You just need to source more merchandise to sell. Devote some time to poring over eBay to see what people are buying — and for how much — and finding similar items to sell. But where do you start?

You might have seen the news story in March 2021 about the sale of a rare porcelain bowl from 15th century China that sold at auction for nearly $722,000 — after a smart shopper snapped it up for $35 at a yard sale in Connecticut. And while you shouldn’t expect such a return, yard sales and garage sales are a great place to spot potential eBay items at rock-bottom prices.

That’s just the start. Other places to source your treasures and make money on eBay include:

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There’s a lot of unsellable stuff to sift through, for sure. But the best resellers are skilled at sorting out the trash from the treasures for big returns.

Good To Know

One cautionary note: As you collect items to sell, make sure you have a place to store them. You won’t be able to sell everything immediately for top price. Those Christmas lights you bought for 90% off in January won’t bring you a profit if you list them in February. Instead, eBay sellers recommend listing Christmas items in September, and summer items as the snowy season winds down.

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