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Sell It Now — how to make hundreds of dollars on eBay in 37 minutes

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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?

How to make money on eBay

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 make a lot of money selling on 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 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:

1. Pictures

  • 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.”

2. Description

  • 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:BAD
    Bad eBay listing title - this is NOT how to make money on eBayto this:GOOD
    Good eBay listing title - THIS is how to make money on eBay!

3. Research

  • 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 make 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

Sign up for an eBay account to make money on eBay

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

Selling my Seychelles shoes on eBay

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

Under 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:

  1. Searched for the product name with Google Product Search [ Seychelles Share the Wealth ]
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Borrowed the title and best descriptions from the other sites I saw. (5 min)
  2. 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

Listing my first eBay item

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

My completed eBay seller's listing

Bonus tip from my interview with Jim Griffith, from eBay University

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.

Audio excerpt

(Full interview is 23:01 — see below for instructions on getting it)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


[ 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.

If you want to learn more about making extra money, including materials, scripts, tactics, and techniques that you won’t see on the blog, join my private Earn1K insider’s list below.

 

(Can’t see the form? Click here.)

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118 Comments

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  1. Great article!
    I sold about $100,000 on ebay in 2008.

    You can make money selling just about anything but you have to know your product. Otherwise you won’t be able to spot the great deal when it comes along (they always do).

    If you don’t know about anything in particular, just jump in selling something that interests you. You will make mistakes at first and possibly even lose some money but eventually you will be a pro as you learn from those mistakes.

    • Can i sell any thing…jst like hardware products and games??

    • I made my first million using popularonebay.com, best resource of what to sell online period, hope it helps 🙂

    • Hey, I use PopularOnEbay.com, tells you Exactly what sold most, million dollar sales, keyword searched most, inside data, this cheat sheet is simply amazing, hope it helps, know what to sell and get to the point 🙂

    • I have been very successful with PopularOnEbay.com, plain and simple actual data as to exactly what is selling the most, tripled my profits, and you’ll be surprised at the items, just sharing the knowledge, hope it helps 🙂

  2. Very thorough article. This is the type of stuff that I crave.

    While we haven’t done a business buying & selling, etc… We did have plenty of success selling the majority of our possessions in the year leading up to moving overseas.

    The research part of this is important. It doesn’t take long, but you can quickly find which items sell better on Ebay and which are better to sell on other online vendors or even in person, newspapers, etc…

  3. For someone so smart I find it absolutely shocking that you use a Mac, especially after such a lovely insult to the a-holes who drive 2 door Beemers. Go read Steve Jobs Wiki for god sakes. How could anyone support that, not to mention the complete lack of functionality offered by a Mac Book. I thought you favored functionality over price?

    • Im 15 you know my name ^, I just read all this and subscribed to the scrooge thing and everything. I am a soon to be “aspiring” millionaire. I agree apple is controlling and ridiculously over priced (only because they are smart marketers), but extremely simple. Its all you need if you just sell stuff on eBay, and have a email, and contact people. Microsoft is a lot more customizable, but harder and way more complicated and intricate. You sir though are a dick I met a great guy (hard working as well) the other day that drives a 2 door Beemer. I also don’t like your smart ass (if your so smart) comment. That man may have had a Mac but he made a lot of his money back off of it I’m sure, and I’m sure he made more money from business things on his apple pc than you have made all your life (just a wild guess). Also you shouldn’t comment complaints about stuff that doesn’t change a thing (like I just did cause your a dick and I’m 15 with no job and you are a grown ass man that should be doing something better with his life than bitching at someone who wont even see your comment).

  4. Really good article! And really, what people need to take away is that you can literally sell ANYTHING on ebay and make a few bucks – as long as you’re upfront about what the hell the item is. In fact the more obscure the item almost the better. As a few examples I sold a collection of scratched up CDs without covers/liners at one point and made good money; I sold a collection of beermats I’d accumulated in pubs a decade ago in my drinking/bartending student life in Ireland for several hundred dollars; and almost to my own disbelief I sold some newspaper clippings at one point too. (I also found that almost anything however ridiculous really Irish has serious cachet in the US which equates to dollars. I’m sure there are other examples).

    It occurs to me too that you could use the misspelling to score some great deals as a buyer – ie if you want calvin klein searching for calvin kline may mean you have no competition?

  5. This might be a dumb question, but how do you estimate shipping costs?

  6. I made a few hundred selling my old Lego sets. Some of them went for $80-100 for one complete set. I was really surprised at how much some of them went for. The only drawback was the time it took to build them up and photograph them completed, but it took me back to my childhood for a while.

    I’d say any older collectible item that you are knowledgeable about can make you money. Don’t forget about Craigslist ads. Post up a “want to buy” ad for any item that you want to sell. Most people don’t know the value of their old items and you will have people contacting you wanting to get rid of their stuff for cheap.

  7. This is great for ebay, but most of what I see are textbooks. Any specific strategies for half.com where marketing, etc are structured differently?

  8. I assume you will be emailing the full interview to scrooge strategy members? I don’t see it yet.

  9. Your shock headlines are getting a little OLD and STALE….

  10. Seriously, eBay? Why not use craigslist? We used to sell stuff on eBay. With the listing time, seller’s fees & shipping hassle, we started using craigslist. People will say that craigslist is local and you don’t get exposure outside your city. I saw baloney. We have sold stuff to people all over the US on craigslist. eBay is sooo 2000.

    • Craigslist is good too, but in my experience, CL people are largely looking for extreme deals (which is why I use it as a buyer, not a seller). As a seller, I’ve been able to sell things on eBay for a LOT, while people on CL laugh if you’re charging over something like $25.

      As always, I encourage you to experiment and use what works best for you.

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