Selling on eBay - tips and tales from a decluttering expert
Updated: Oct 12
Seven hundred and ninety transactions, how did that happen?
I've been using eBay since 2004 for selling (and maybe just a little bit of buying!).
It's listed on my "Don't Let It Go to Waste" blog as an option for re homing unwanted items, so I thought I'd share my eBay experience and a few tips with you.
Please don't take this as a comprehensive "How to" guide, eBay is very easy to use these days with everything you need to know to get started, covered on the site. This blog is intended for people who either haven't used it before, people who could use a few tips to get better results, or people who simply like stories about buying and selling!
Why use it? - my decluttering & organising clients often ask me if they should bother using eBay, "shouldn't they should just donate to charity shops?". This generally comes down to money, motivation and/or time (or a mixture of all of those!). First I have to say that I absolutely love supporting charity shops and do so on a regular basis, as do my clients (a lot!). Sometimes though, if we have items that either we've paid a significant amount of money for, or we've been particularly attached to in the past, it's easier to let them go if we know that we are going to get something in return. It doesn't even have to be for your own personal gain, you can eBay to raise money for charity, you could put the money gained into "a pot" for a good cause such as kids university fees, to fund a year out, or simply to treat someone you love.
You do have to be motivated to sell on eBay, because just like anything in life, you get out of it what you put it in. Although it's quicker and easier to use now, compared to when it first started, you do need to set a certain amount of time aside for it, not least packaging things up and taking them to the post office (although these days having the parcels collected by a courier would also be an option).
I started using it (for buying), because I was living abroad and I couldn't always get the things I wanted locally and appreciated the huge variety of what's on offer. Actually if I'm totally honest I've always been interested in finding second hand treasures, but that brings me on to why I love it...
Why I love it - the fact that you can immediately search for and find anything (old or new, mundane or totally obscure), really appeals to me! Let me give you an example. On our siblings What's App chat the other day we were talking about the fact that one of my sisters used to play a green and white melodica. I put this into an eBay search and there it was, the exact "Vintage 1960s Hohner Soprano Melodica and Case Great Condition", exactly as I remembered it! If my sister wanted to refresh her Melodica skills, she could for £34.99 (Free postage!).
I absolutely love the idea that it can put unwanted items into the hands of the people that REALLY want them, wherever they are in the world, quickly and easily. I think that's amazing!
At this point I should stress that eBay isn't paying me to write this! My best "selling" story and example of this was a silver plated napkin ring commemorating the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 which was bought by a certain Lady McAlpine for her husband (search British Empire Exhibition McAlpine to see the connection!).
I have another story to illustrate this, this time as a buyer. In 2002 we went to Vietnam on a second honeymoon (first honeymoon was short due to husband starting new job in Paris). We stayed a few nights at the Victoria Can Tho Hotel and in the gift shop there, they had the most beautiful book of photographs, Postcards from Vietnam by Hans Kemp. Rather than carry it around South East Asia with us we decided to buy a copy when we got back to Europe. Bad decision, we couldn't find it anywhere!
We were so disappointed, but I decided to save the book title as a search on eBay. Years later it popped up as a listing, I bid for it and won! When it arrived I messaged the seller, telling him how pleased I was to receive it and this was his reply "I too travelled in Vietnam with a friend and stayed at the Victoria Can Tho Hotel, we both bought a copy of the book and now that friend is my wife - we don't need two copies, enjoy!".
What I do/don't use it to sell
Good quality/branded clothes - in very good condition (particularly kids clothes), items that are a bit different (eye catching) sell best. Make sure that you are selling for the appropriate season, otherwise store to sell later.
Specific sports kit or other activities kit where items are highly sought after, but only lightly used eg. D of E kit (for this sort of kit it is worth researching the best time of year to sell).
Books,CDs & games - but only if there are not hundreds of copies of the same tittle listed (check this by doing a quick search before listing yours), if not worth selling on eBay consider grouping items together to sell via Ziffit or Music Magpie.
Miscellaneous items - but nothing breakable, even with the best packaging accidents can happen and for me it's just not worth the hassle. I also avoid listing anything of great value which is to be sent through the post, I had my fingers burnt with this some years ago, with an item of value that I sent to the US. The recipient claimed that he didn't receive it and I was obliged to issue a refund. If you're going to sell these sorts of items, make sure the item is insured and opt for tracked and signed for postage. Personally I can't be bothered with going to these lengths with eBay and prefer to sell these sort of items via a specialist dealer.
My top tips
1. Great condition - make sure that items are clean, ironed if necessary and mended or complete if there are multiple parts.
2. Photos - take and upload as many photos as possible. You used to have to pay to upload multiple photos, not any more, so make the most of this. Pay attention to the background in your photo, make it plain so as not to detract from the item you're photographing. Hang clothes nicely on wooden or covered hangers instead of cheap metal ones. Take your photos from every possible angle. Consider the detail you'd like to see if you were buying.
3. Research which items sell and what price they tend to sell for (does that price include postage or is that normally extra?)
4. Good description - make sure your description is comprehensive (include at least some measurements for clothing) and accurate, you must highlight any issues with your item in your text and clearly in a photograph eg. there's a small scratch on one shoe which can be seen in the fourth photo.
5. List several items together - this tends to be an advantage because if someone is browsing and they like the look of one of your items, the chances are they'll be interested in what else you have to sell, particularly if you offer to "combine the postage cost" for multiple items. It's worth reminding them by writing "please see my other items listed in size X" etc.
6. List items for as long as possible - I normally opt for ten days, starting on a Thursday and ending on a Sunday (so that people are generally around and have time to place bids towards the end of the auction). Make sure the listing isn't going to end in the middle of the night when everyone's asleep.
7. Realistic posting - my sure you set realistic expectations in terms of how many days after the listing ends you will post.
8. Return or not to return - personally I don't accept returns as once an item has left my house I don't want it back!
The views expressed in this blog are based on personal experience only and are in no way intended to be taken as representative of, or used in place of, official eBay usage guidance.
Jo Hall is a Professional Home Organiser and Clutter Free Living expert 🏠
If you would love to have a really good sort out but don't know where to start, or maybe you've made a great start with it, but have since lost your way, Jo can help!
Jo works online with clients worldwide 🌍 via 1:1 sessions, DIY resources and group courses 👩💻 Guiding overwhelmed people to break free from the burden of stuff.
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