Sell It Now — how to make hundreds of dollars on eBay in 37 minutes
September 17th, 2009 - 65 Comments
Today, tips on how we’ve earned $1,000 over the last two months from selling things on eBay. Plus, we surveyed readers who make more than $1,000/month using eBay (including one who earned $50,000 over the last year), and we spoke to a senior executive at eBay to get insider tips.
Below, you’ll find:
- Specific tactics on how to make a significant amount of money on eBay (with screenshots)
- Tips from readers who make 4-5 figures from eBay every month: Why the same items can sell for dramatically different prices — and how to make sure your sale price tops the charts
- Case study: We sell something on eBay
- Expert interview (audio download below) with the dean of eBay University: Which items should you sell?
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a few projects with my friend Susan. (You’ll be seeing those projects soon.)
One day, I mentioned that I was going to be selling a few things on eBay and she looked at me skeptically. We’re both fans of Big Wins, so I understand the skepticism — can you really earn a lot using eBay?
But it also surprised me how reluctant she was to try it, since she’s a master of earning more money (she negotiated thousands of dollars for a new job and routinely receives freelance offers).
We decided to spend some time creating a useful guide to show how you can earn significant amounts of money using eBay. I’ve earned over $1,000 in the last 2 months by selling stuff there.
Rather than just writing generic advice, Susan went to the source: a senior executive at eBay. We also asked I Will Teach You To Be Rich readers who’ve earned over $1,000 on eBay to share their specific tactics for selling at higher prices.
Here’s an excerpt of what she learned.
* * *
eBay: too much work, too little gain.
True or false?
You’ve heard Ramit talk about the CEO model. Saving more money isn’t just about cutting spending, and your income ISN’T always fixed.
You probably already know that you can sell some stuff on eBay, but, like me, you probably also haven’t gotten around to doing it. What’s the point of learning and getting involved in a whole new system if all you’ll get out of it is $15 for a pair of your Sevens jeans?
I was thinking the same thing you’re thinking:
Too much work, too little gain
Then recently, I ended up having a phone conversation with Jim Griffith, the dean of eBay University. Griff teaches thousands of people how to use eBay as a platform to build their businesses, was personally hired by Pierre Omidyar (one of the eBay co-founders) as one of their earliest community / customer focused employees (15 years ago), and has been an expert seller since eBay got started.
After Griff shared a few really good tricks and tips with me, I started to feel bad about being such a hypocrite about eBay.
“Your income’s not fixed, earn more don’t just save” … I’d say these things to my friends all the time, but I never lifted a single finger towards it.
So, I decided I’d list something to see exactly how much work and how little gain it would be.
We ask the experts
Before setting up my listing, Ramit and I asked a few IWillTeach readers who’ve made upwards of $1,000 on eBay to share their secrets.
Here’s how they optimize their eBay sales, in order of importance:
- Quality: They use really good pictures – not blurry and not old-looking. They don’t have to be perfect, but should show NOT ONLY the item BUT ALSO that the item lives in a nice environment. I don’t care how much of a deal it is – I’m not buying a designer sweater that’s being photographed in a coal plant.
- Quantity: They use lots of pictures. If you’re buying something from an unknown eBay seller, your confidence goes up with the number of real photos of the item in question. One reader told us her secret was “LOTS of pictures. Use an outside app to manage listings (I use Garage Sale) and to upload photos to your own server so you don’t have to pay eBay’s prices for extra photos.”
- Completeness: Fill out all the fields in your listing, and make sure your textual description gives a LOT of information about the item. It’s just stupid not to, and yet SO many sellers don’t do this. Laziness I guess? Whatever the reason, don’t be like them.Think like your buyer – if I’m dropping $200 for a rare book on eBay, I want to know EVERY detail about it. I don’t care how mundane or even repetitive it is, I want every reason to have faith that my $200 will be well spent.
- Search optimization: Use targeted keywords in your item title AND description. You don’t have to be a tech wizard for this. It’s as simple as asking yourself, what would a potential buyer for this item type into the search box? The more closely your description matches that search query, the more visible your products will be. If it’s a brand name thing, then people will probably be typing in the brand, not just the name of the item itself, so make sure to include the brand –eg. [pottery barn queen duvet] versus [queen duvet]. One reader told us “Don’t misspell brand names” – who’s searching for Calfin Kline, anyway? Yeah, it’s obvious. But people still get it wrong. Just make sure you differentiate yourself from this:
- Is there a market for your item? Taking 5 minutes to Google your item and learn its true market value – on eBay AND on a bunch of other e-commerce sites – helps you to sell it more competitively because you’ll find out whether or not there’s a market for your item, you’ll see the right price, and you’ll figure out the right search keywords to write into your listing.
4. Timing + Reserves
- One reader gave us a good tip for timing your listing: “Use the 10 day listing starting on a thursday, that gives you two full weekends of eyeballs. Weekends typically have the highest traffic.”
- This same seller told us even more about reserve pricing: “99.999% of the time I never use a reserve price. My goal is to make as much money as I can, so I reduce the amount of upfront money I have to pay. I also do this by using a low starting price of $0.99. This keeps me competitive with everyone. I would rather get little for it than have it sit on my shelf and have it COSTING me money.”
5. What to sell
- The survey respondent who made the most money off of eBay ($50k+ in the past 12 months) gave us an interesting tip on what to sell: “Find a niche market, and go deep (do you have a hobby – if so, can you sell supplies for it? If selling hobby supplies, make sure your customer has purchased everything necessary for a successful project (i.e. provide fantastic customer svc/support. Selling “irregulars/seconds” can be lucrative.”
- This was also one of the key takeaways from my interview with eBay’s Jim Griffith. Keep reading for more on this point.
Case study: How to earn money on eBay
With all these tips in mind, I decided to go for it myself.
Here’s exactly how I did it (with screenshots):
Step 1: Sign up for an eBay account
This was very straightforward. If you know how to use email and read this blog, then you don’t need additional explanation.
Total time: 2 min
Step 2: Find something to sell
Almost everyone has something lying around for eBay. Last month, for example, Ramit sold his broken laptop (the one he ruined with a latte, of all things) for $661. (In fact, he used an assistant to do the market research, write the eBay page, and ship it, but that’s a story for another time).
Apparently, someone out there knew how to fix it. This highlights one of the greatest things about eBay – its wide reach means that you’re likely to find a buyer for almost anything that you have to sell. While most people don’t have tons of spare high-value electronics laying around, you probably do have something else. As for me, I had these too-big shoes in my closet that I’d never worn.
Remember, the point of this post to understand and optimize the process, so let’s use the shoes as an example.
Step 3: Research
I didn’t want to make the mistake of setting an arbitrary price based on emotions, or not knowing what the hot keywords are for describing these shoes.
Here’s how I researched:
- Searched for the product name with Google Product Search [ Seychelles Share the Wealth ]
- Looked at the top 5 ecommerce sites selling the product. This gave me the price AND, more important, lots of details about the shoe and the brand to put in the description to make it look super professional.
- Saw the item I have has one major distinction – a hard-to-find color. I’ll highlight this in the description.
Note: it’s hard to Google ‘value of broken laptop,’ but in this case, Ramit’s damaged computer was making $0 sitting on his shelf. Remember the tip about pricing at $0.99 we heard from our power seller-it’s always better to make some money from your item than to get all emotionally attached to it and not make any at all.
Time: 5 min
Step 4: Market it
Since I already did the research, this was the easy part. I took photos and then determined the title and description copy from the other sites I saw that were selling this product, making sure to highlight the major distinction (its color) along with the standard brand distinction.
I took the reader tip and decided to list on a Thursday, for a 10-day auction to get in two weekends’ worth of eyeballs.
Here’s what I did:
- Borrowed the title and best descriptions from the other sites I saw. (5 min)
- Took photos and did some minor editing. (10 min)
Note: when Ramit was trying to sell off his broken laptop, he used brand identification (it was an Apple Macbook), photos of the actual item being sold, and added an honest, thorough description – ‘this laptop has some damage, but it’s definitely reparable and it’s a steal if you know how.’ The brand name draws in lots of viewers, and the honest, thorough description targets the listing to just the right person who’ll end up loving the purchase.
Time: 15 min
Step 5: List it
eBay makes this really easy. I chose to offer free shipping because this attracts more buyers. I bundled the estimated shipping cost into the price of the item.
Time: 5 min
Step 6: Fulfillment
It’s really, really important to get those good seller ratings, even if you’re not quitting your day job. Fullfillment means being a reliable seller, packager, and shipper, and getting the item to your buyer ASAP.
Time: 10 min
Total time: 37 min
Bonus tip from my interview with Griff
When I asked Griff for any secrets on getting inventory to sell on eBay, he told me, “think local.”
Instead of thinking only about how to sell YOUR stuff on eBay (like your old stereo, computer, designer jeans), think about how to make a micro business selling OTHER stuff on eBay, that you obtain locally, such as….
- Stuff that’s on major sale at retail discount stores (TJ Maxx, etc, may be selling stuff for really cheap that’s actually going for full price in other marketplaces, like eBay. Griff has a great, real-life example of this.)
- Undervalued things you find at garage sales, swap meets, thrift stores
- Brand name stuff or items with a certain following that are being discontinued
- Items already listed on eBay that are undervalued (either badly marketed and not using any of the tactics discussed above, or just priced wrong). Ok this one is not local, but it’s a similar idea.
(Full interview is 23:01 — see below for instructions on getting it)
[ Running Time: 2:48 | Download File (Right-click, choose "Save as...") ]
If you liked this tip, we’ve put together an even MORE detailed guide to earn money using eBay
Get more tips to earn money on eBay. We’ve put together an even more in-depth article on earning money using eBay on Scrooge Strategy.
Want to learn more about how the power sellers make money on eBay? You’ll get the full 23:01 recording of Susan’s interview with eBay University Dean Jim Griffith, more in-depth tactical tips to earn more using eBay, and a premium tip on saving and earning money every week by subscribing to The Scrooge Strategy.
This was a guest post by Susan Su. Susan is a writer, marketer, designer, Twitterer, and Stanford alum. She wants bloggers to make beautiful ebooks, startups to make it big, and you to make more money. She can help with all that.
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