Selling on eBay

Everyone knows that eBay is an auction site and has probably sold or bought a few items on it. What if you are trying to use it to make money? This page will provide some simple tips to get you top dollar for the items you are selling. eBay is an auction site based on feedback. If you have good feedback you are more likely to achieve a better selling price. To ensure good feedback (and success) observe the tips below.


Respond to questions quickly, politely, and accurately. When you sell your item send the buyer an invoice if it hasn’t been paid in a few hours. Don’t get upset, many buyers use last minute sniping programs to place their bids, such as esnipe. Then they come back and pay later. When you ship the item communicate with the buyer same day and let them know it has been shipped, the tracking number, and to contact you if there are any problems.


Have good photos of the item you are selling from every angle. Use a good quality camera if possible. Try to ensure you have good lighting on the item you are photographing with out shadows. Try not to use the flash as it will give the photo a shallow look. If you have an external flash on your camera and can point it at the ceiling and bounce the light back, this will give you a great quality photo. Even if you are not skilled in photography, try to ensure you background is all one color and uncluttered. Placing a sheet of paper or a white cloth down makes your item stand out. If you feel comfortable doing some simple photo editing, the free downloadable photo editor ‘Gimp’ is great. You can crop your photo to the right size, and then use ‘auto white balance’ to get the colors bright. Bumping the contrast up usually makes the photo a bit better too.

Once you have your photos in a folder, it is good to resize them. The free software ‘Faststone Photo Resizer’ allows you to do all your resizing in one batch. If you create another folder and set it as your output folder, you can resize all your photos at once, and add a border if you desire. For eBay having your photos about 1400 pixels for the longest size allows a quick upload and views well.

The Listing

Be accurate and honest in your listing. Describe all the features of the item, and also list all the defects. This way a buyer won’t be disappointed after receiving it. If you are not knowledgeable about the item don’t be afraid to say so. A good description that has all the information you know about the item in a clear easy to read format assists you in getting the top price.

The Title

The title is how the eBay search engine finds your item. Nothing in the listing will show up in the search, so be sure to have all your key words in your title. For instance - if you are selling an older Minolta auto focus camera lens that fits the new Sony Alpha cameras, ensure you list as much detail about the lens and the cameras it will fit in your title.

Example: Minolta 50mm f1.7 AF Lens fits Sony Alpha DSLR A100, A200, A300, A700, A330, A550, A580

The above example will catch people who are searching for a Minolta lens, a Minolta AF lens, a Sony lens, or anyone searching for a particular camera model.


Be accurate in your shipping costs. If you are unsure how to use the shipping wizard, find out the maximum cost to ship within your country. Set the shipping price at that and state that you will refund any amount over $1 difference from the quoted price.

International Shipping

This is where it gets a bit trickier but it’s important to learn how to do it if you want to maximize your sales. Many sellers don’t want international orders as it is extra work. I was of that school but soon opened my auctions to international bidders as it increased my total sales. It is true that it will be slightly more work. Consider listing your item and in the listing description ask that international bidders contact you first for a shipping quote and to allow bidding from their country. This way you can asses the risk of their bid. Obviously you never want to sell anything to anyone from Nigeria.

The Shipping Wizard

This is the best tool for you to calculate shipping with a absolute minimum of fuss. Once you have your item photographed, find a good sturdy box, and place the item with lots of packing material inside. Measure the boxes dimensions and place it on a kitchen scale to get the weight. Enter this information into eBay shipping wizard (in the listing set up) and it will calculate the cost for any shipping methods you enable, to whatever countries you allow. As you go through the setup of your listing, if you are not interested in international orders, you can select the drop down menu that will deselect that option. Note that should you do this, you will not be able to allow international orders once it has been listed. You also have a buyer criteria box near the bottom of the first page when you are setting up your listing. You can block buyers who have several unpaid items (always check this one) and you can disable shipping top countries not listed in your shipping wizard. Always check this second option. The last thing you want is some one in Nigeria winning your item and you don’t offer shipping there.

Tip for international shipping – enable shipping to one country you feel comfortable shipping to. If your listing description says to contact you for shipping quotes, and you are comfortable shipping to that country, just enable that country in your listing (by editing it) and they can order. Ensure that your listing specifies that the buyer is responsible for any applicable duties, taxes, or other expenses associate with their importing the item into their country. Always ensure that tracking is available to the country you are shipping to, and always make any item you ship trackable. Obviously any buyer can say it didn’t arrive and if it’s not trackable you will probably end up with a negative balance in your PayPal account.

Once you have received payment you should ship immediately, don’t wait for the funds to arrive in your bank, or the shipping will be delayed and your feedback could well reflect that. Some people think they are being smart and covering them selves ny doing this, but in fact they are not enjoying any type of protection. If you are eBaying you will be making constant use of your PayPal account and if a buyer does stop the payment as they open a dispute, your PayPal account will go negative anyways.


Pack your item well. Consider wrapping your item in bubble wrap and taping it up, then add another layer of bubble wrap and tape that shut. Make sure your box can take being thrown around without falling apart. Use balled up newspaper to fill all the space around your item so there can be no movement of the item during transport. Use a good quality packing tape to secure your box. Tape every seam and side of the box. When your shipping label is on, tape over it so it can’t get smudged or ripped. It’s all about getting the item to the customer safely, and so he or she will be impressed with your effort and give you positive feedback.

Return Period

To ensure a buyer feels protected, you should offer a return period, but you don’t want to make it too long a time. Consider offering refunds for three days after they receive the ite. This allows them to check it out and ensure it’s OK but doesn’t give them a lot of time to become unhappy or break it. Always specify that return shipping is at their expense and that refunds only apply to the purchase price.

If the item is damaged in shipping, or the customer is not happy, accept the return graciously. Don’t get hung up on bad feelings about one sale, if you are eBaying your reputation is important, and even an unhappy customer could leave positive feedback if you handle it right. On the other hand, if they are unhappy because you misrepresented the item, or overlooked an important detail, or hadn’t noticed some type of damage, you should just suck it up and offer to reimburse them the shipping cost back (once the item is received) and a full refund including the shipping costs. This is just good business and the way you would like to be treated.


If you are eBaying this will happen periodically. Don’t get bent out of shape over it. You should be saving all your eBay communications so you can copy paste your communications with the seller into the PayPal dispute. Give PayPal the tracking info in the dispute and be honest and non offensive. The way you handle the dispute will greatly influence the way that PayPal deals with you in future disputes.

Non Payments

Some buyers change their minds or buy something else and may not pay. This is not very ethical and not many people do it, but it does happen. In your listing state that payment must be completed within three days or the item will be relisted an unopened item case initiated. By eBay rules you can’t actually open case until day four. I have found that sending the invoice the first day to be good policy. At the end of the second day, if the item hasn’t been paid for, considering sending a friendly email to the buyer letting them know that the item is packed for them and you wanted to ensure they still wanted it, as you don’t want them to miss out. People have busy lives and it can slip by them, a gentle reminder often makes the transaction complete.

If some one tells you they have opted out for whatever reason, advise them that in order for you to recoup your fees, you will send them a sale cancellation request. Once they accept this your fees are cancelled. Yes you will have to relist your item but that’s just part of eBaying. If they don’t respond or pay and it gets to day four go ahead and open an unpaid item case. After a period of time the transaction will be cancelled by eBay and your fees will be waived.


You have the option of sending a message to the next bidder down the line offering it to them at their bid for a period of time. I have sold hundreds of items and never once has this worked for me. I just relist the item and let it run its course.


If you want the best odds of a good sale price ensure that your item gets listed in the evening. Friday nights are bad as people got out and could miss bidding. Sunday nights, Monday nights, Tuesday nights, Wednesday nights, and Thursday nights are good times to start and end your listing.

Cancelling your Listing

You may want to cancel your listing as you’ve put too low a price on it, or the description is wrong, etc, and you can cancel your listing at anytime except for within the last 24 hours.

Finding Items to Sell

Stuff around the house that is unused is an easy sell. You can even do ‘local pickup only’ if it’s a large or heavy item. I have sold piles of rocks, old pool fencing, and many more items that you have a hard time disposing of on eBay.

Specializing in items you know is a very good way to be successful. At one time when I moved countries I noticed that camera lenses were going for triple the cost in my new country. I used to buy lenses in my old country (on eBay or from a used camera dealer) and shipping them in bulk to me. I ensured the total value was less than the amount at which duties were charged. Sometimes I received a defective lens or item not as described. Due to the amount of time it took me to receive the items, and the cost involved in shipping a lens back, I would just list them as damaged and sold ‘as is’.

Selling an item ‘as is’ and with no returns allowed is a good way to sell items you don’t know anything about or suspect to be faulty in some way.


Done successfully, eBaying can be a great hobby providing a second source of income. Sell what you know and have fun doing it. The above tips should be considered as a guide, and you should know when to change your strategy, or come up with your own rules.

Have fun and wishing you great success!


1. eBay 101: Understanding the World's Single Largest Marketplace

2. eBay Made Easy

3. 77 Tips and Tools for Selling on The New eBay

Commerce | Business

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