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10 Tips for Being a Great eBay Seller

by on November 01, 2011
in Computers and Software, Internet & Networking, Tips & How-Tos, Shopping, Tech 101 :: 13 comments

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laptop showing auction gavelLooking to turn your unused stuff into cash? eBay can bring millions of eyeballs to your online auction. For the basics of setting up an eBay seller account, check the official site. Then follow my ten time-tested tips (based on a dozen years of drawer-clearing and basement triage) to make your auction a success.

  1. Do Your Research. Find out as much as possible about the item you want to sell – features, material, size, and so on. Then search eBay to find out if there are similar items already on sale, how they’re described, and how much they’re selling for. Finally, go to the Advanced Search function and check the box for “Completed listings” to see if similar items have sold in the past and, if so, at what price.
  2. Provide Top-Notch Photos. Buyers are understandably nervous about buying anything sight unseen, but sharp, well-lit photos – preferably your own, rather than the official stock shot, to show the condition of the particular item on sale – go a long way toward bridging this gap.

    For small- to medium-sized items, I tape a piece of craft paper to the wall and drape it over a table to form a neat-looking seamless background. Then I position ordinary house lamps left and right, or sometimes use a handheld utility lamp to experiment with minimizing shadows. Turn off your camera's flash to avoid the harsh light, dark shadows and reflections it can cause. And if you’re somewhat digital-camera-savvy, using a manual white balance setting will deliver truer color reproduction, particularly with light-bulb illumination.

    How many photos are the right number? It depends on the item, but you want to show off all relevant features, and the 15 cents you’ll pay after the first free photo is often a worthwhile investment.
  3. Work the Title. You get 80 characters to compose a headline for your listing – make each one of them count. Remember that most eBay buyers find items using search, so work in the key terms you’d use if you were hunting for your offering. Is there a brand name? A distinctive material? A relevant size or weight? A model number? Here again, take a cue from sellers of similar goods who’ve succeeded according to your completed listings search.
  4. Provide Lots of Detail. A detailed description is mandatory if you’re going to create a high comfort level for online shoppers. If you’re selling a name brand item, eBay may be able to help. They have stock information about many products, with dimensions and other particulars already filled out, that add depth to your listing. You’ll find these by entering the UPC code, ISBN number or the product name in the selling wizard.
  5. Avoid Heavy Blocks of Text. You want to dish up the details, but it should be in a browsable form, not a short story. Brief bulleted paragraphs work well, with boldface type to indicate especially important features. As for writing in ALL CAPS, it’s OK for a heading if you must, but blocks of capitalized text are difficult to read, and THERE’S NO NEED TO SHOUT.
  6. Spellcheck! You’re trying to build trust – offering a wafle iron or a hand maid sweater isn’t going to make you seem like a careful seller. I write my description in Microsoft Word and use spellcheck before pasting it into eBay’s waiting text box.
  7. Time the End of Your Auction. Inevitably, people wait till the last minute to place bids on eBay auctions, hoping their bid will squeak in without getting topped before time runs out. Your goal is to end the auction when as many people as possible will be available to fight over your goods, which generally means evenings, and preferably on the weekend. And be sure you’re around as the time runs out, to answer any last-minute questions quickly.
  8. Try Short Auctions. In search results, eBay lists the auctions that are ending soonest at the top. You could reach that valuable on-screen real estate twice with two three-day auctions versus the default seven-day choice. Of course, the flip side is leaving enough time for potential buyers to discover your listing, so rare and unusual items may benefit from a longer ramp-up than more commonly available, easily searched-for goods.
  9. Use Buyer Requirements. Toward the end of the online listing creation process, hiding under the “Other things you’d like buyers to know” heading, is the option to add buyer requirements. To protect yourself from troublesome bidders and slow- or no-payers, I heartily recommend you use this feature to block those with a history of non-payment, policy violations, and poor feedback.
  10. Build Your Feedback Rating. One of the features that made eBay successful is the feedback system that lets the user community police itself by rating both buyers and sellers. Obviously, any Techlicious reader is a trustworthy and responsible individual, but potential eBay buyers will look to the prominently displayed “Positive feedback” percentage for proof.

    To develop a strong rating, respond to all questions and communications quickly, and ship as soon as possible after receiving payment. When you do ship, get a tracking number (UPS provides one automatically, the Post Office charges 80 cents) and use the Contact Buyer option to send that number (along with a thanks for the order) to the buyer. Finally, you can boost your feedback rating by being a good eBay buyer.

Discussion loading

more tips

From Meteka O'Toole on November 02, 2011 :: 12:52 pm

if you’re going to do this more regularly, both your eBay & PayPal accounts offer the Delivery Confirmation option for $.-19 if buying the postage on line, course you need to have a printer - also, it obligatory to have a PayPal account to sell on eBay


Thank you.

From Jeana K. on November 03, 2011 :: 1:39 am

Thank you for all of the helpful information. I am just beginning to sell those unused items. 

I understand the importance of feedback but it tends to hurt those of us that are new.  I’ve noticed the same item that I am selling actually selling for significantly more than my item/s (both new, my shipping price was less) while my item goes unsold.


New eBayers trying to get a foothold

From Judi on November 06, 2011 :: 10:51 am

Just plan on your first 10 items selling for no profit to build your rep and to learn the process.
An easy way to start is with some books, sell them cheap and get through the process of invoicing and shipping.
Save your higher-value items for when you have built up a little feedback.
Don’t sell anything that is very fragile, or sell electronics until you are feeling more confident as these are the most troublesome sales.
Have some fun and put some personality into your listings…


Update your content--Point #3 is wrong

From Judi on November 06, 2011 :: 10:45 am

This article was posted on Nov 1, 2011 yet the eBay title has been using 80 characters since mid-September.


Thanks, Judi! Fixed.

From Josh Kirschner on November 06, 2011 :: 2:52 pm

Thanks, Judi! Fixed.


a little more info for Jeana K.

From Meteka O'Toole on November 06, 2011 :: 11:57 am

you’ve brought up a good point: your lower priced item didn’t sell, while a same item with higher price/shipping fee did sell: those sellers probably had good feedback numbers and you stood out in two ways: no feedback and too cheap, both red flags.
If you list for less than comparable, explain that in your listing, be frank about building good feedback & relationships with future buyers. Also, very important: eBay charges a fee on your shipping, yes really, so, don’t lower the cost of your item and up the shipping, it won’t balance out, use the shipping calculator and do use the option to add handling fee & disclose that in your listing - I state that I don’t charge a handling fee but do enclose $.-19 for delivery confirmation - also, be careful about international shipping: the extra paperwork etc. for a beginner, I wouldn’t ship overseas just yet - good luck & have fun


Try this tool for accurate pricing of items:

From Beate on May 23, 2012 :: 11:18 pm

Great guide with lots of useful tips for people looking to earn some extra cash on eBay smile I especially like your comment about not “SHOUTING”, I find that to be most annoying and makes me not wanting to deal with the seller at all.
I just wanted to add another tip for you that I think can be most useful for your readers.
I’ve just signed up to be a beta user for a startup called Statricks, and I see myself using this site in online marketplace trading. You can get price trends and fair market values for almost all used goods (based on classified statistics it seems like), so you’ll know what the going price is for an item. I find this very useful and reassuring, as I’ll know I’m not overpaying or underselling my stuff.

You should check it out, I highly recommend this site!



Beate, thank you so much

From Marlene on June 01, 2012 :: 8:22 am

Beate, thank you so much for the helpful tip! As a college student, this seems to be a great tool. just signed up and I’m waiting for an invitation:)


More tips

From Kelly on November 06, 2012 :: 11:00 am

Very useful information for every seller! Thanks!
Great thanks to Beate. Following your advice, I’ve checked this tool as well)
I’d like to add a piece of advice too. Recently, I’ve signed up for comosale beta. It’s a listing tool for ebay, which is simple to use an offers a variety of features. I thought you might also like it.
You can check it out at and find there more details.
Good luck!



From Shirley Maneli on June 15, 2013 :: 10:28 am

When I list an item, eBay suggests to start the bidding at 0.99 to attract more buyers. That sounds good but you also take the chance of loosing money on your item. If there are not enough bidders you for sure will take a hit. On the other hand, setting a price with a Best Offer does not always work either. I research the price of every item I put on line, so I know my prices are fair, but I have given away more jewelry with this 99 cents beginning bid than I care to, but because of all these sales I am a Power Seller with no money. Please advise. Thanks


Make your listings more attractive

From Josh Kirschner on June 15, 2013 :: 11:00 am

Perhaps you can make your listings more attractive beyond price. DO you have hi-res photos from multiple angles? Are you SELLING the piece in your description? Take a look at other sellers who have similar listings that are more successful. What are they doing differently?

As far as pricing, $.99 can attract more initial bidders, but these may just be bottom scrapers. And why would I pay, say, $15 for a piece of jewelry you were willing to sell for $.99? Setting a low starting bid also can put a low perceived value in the minds of buyers.

So, instead of $.99, start at a price perhaps right around your cost. Or just pick a higher price, like $9.99, to at least imply some value to what you’re selling.


Thank you

From Shirley Maneli on June 15, 2013 :: 1:48 pm

Since I am studying to be a certified gemologist, I describe the gemstone, where it comes from the properties of the gemstone and the proper way to take care of it, and they thank me. I have been told my pictures are beautiful, and you are right, buyers look at the 0.99 and it is the bottom scrappers. I went back to putting a price on it or 9.99 for auction and items sold. for months I put a fair price and people bought at the price I charged, and then overnight nothing sold, which led me to do the 99centsf for a week or two but no more. I mail the same day if I can, and I am told I have excellent customer service. I think my friend said people buy as the spirit moves them, Thank you for helping me, and taking the time to help me, it is truly appreciated.


Great implements described....

From fair-trade provisions on July 02, 2020 :: 4:40 pm

I found these tips in research to be a successful seller on Ebay. Excellent tips offered in this write up. Thank you for the motivation and insight to offer better services and pave the way to happy seller/buyer relations.


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