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eBay Selling Tricks Easily declutter, flog & make money

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30 ebay tricksGot it and don't need it? Flog it! Yet to really get the eBay cash rolling in, you need to know the etiquette and shortcuts.

This is a crash course on how to sell on eBay. It includes how to cut fees, bulk-upload listings with special tools, profiting from bizarre items you never thought you'd sell, and more.

30+ selling on eBay tricks


where to start

As well as bringing in extra cash, eBay* can help declutter your home and is environmentally friendly too. After all, people are re-using your goods, rather than flinging them into the tip, so everyone gains.

Most people don't realise their home has hidden value tucked away in it, and there's serious money to be had. This isn't just from the first flushes of a major declutter either – continuing to get rid of things you no longer use can provide ready money.

For those who've got the eBay bug, it's addictive watching the bids flow in. The pounds can quickly add up, especially as you're profiting from stuff that was just picking up dust.

Committed MoneySavers on this site's eBay board can make £100s a year upwards, though, of course, this depends on whether you're just flogging a few cast-offs or trading full-time. For more ways to bring in extra loot, read the Boost Your Income guide.


Not used it for a year? Flog it

The first task is to sort through those bulging drawers and messy cupboards, finding stuff to flog. Get a big eBay box to stash your wares in, and systematically clear out wardrobes, DVD and CD piles, the loft and garage.

Use the easy 12-month rule of thumb to help you decide what to offload: Haven't used it for a year? Flog it.

Here's what sells best. Of course, if it doesn't fit into these categories, the pounds will still add up, and you'll benefit from a more ordered home.

  • New items. Cellophane-wrapped DVDs and frocks with tags fetch a higher price.
  • Branded goods. People are more likely to trust a 'Black & Decker drill', rather than just a 'drill'.

  • Items with keywords. One question to ask is “will someone search for this?” People are more likely to seach for a Ted Baker shirt than just a shirt.

  • Rare commodities. Rare or difficult to get hold of sell well. The petrol cap on a 1974 special version Beetle may take time to sell, but someone who wants it should be willing to pay. Set start prices higher for items a few specialist buyers may be interested in.

  • Job lots. If you've little time and heaps of similar small items, consider selling them as a bundle. This works especially well with baby clothes. Yet sell expensive branded goods individually – don't bung Prada in with Primark.


Free bulk listing tool

Usually there's no way to save draft listings without actually starting the auction. Free bulk listing tool Turbo Lister lets you create auctions in advance. You can save and edit at leisure. You could write the description now, then upload pictures the next week.

The tool is eBay's own software, which you download to your computer. It creates auctions offline, and offers templates for slicker-looking auctions. To make auctions live, simply click 'upload'.

This does mean that to upload auctions at a specific time, you need to be around then to click the upload button. It's still possible to upload in advance and schedule listings, but eBay charges 6p for the privilege.

The catch is Turbo Lister doesn't work with eBay free listing days or other free listing promotions. If you want to take advange of these, consider just preparing descriptions in a Word document and keeping photos in a special eBay folder.


Don't bin it, 'bay it

Don't be quick to cry "that's rubbish". Sell everything. When it comes to eBay, one man's junk is another's dream, and it's astounding what people will fight for. Faulty electrical items, for example, shift well, as clever bods fix or use them for spares. Of course, always be upfront about an item's condition.

MoneySavers have made a quick buck selling used carrier bags, magazine cosmetic samples and even a broken Game Boy that had fallen down the toilet. For more bonkers sales, read the forum's brilliant Things you never thought you could sell thread.


Buy to build your profile

Before flogging cast-offs on eBay, buy a few small items you need. You can buy everything from tights and toothpaste on eBay, and may well save cash to boot (see the eBay Buying guide).

This gives you an insight into how the site works and builds up your feedback rating. Few buyers will do business with zero feedback sellers, and even if they do, your item is unlikely to fetch true market value.

The worst mistake you can make is logging on for the first time to sell a pricey item, such as an iPhone, when you've no feedback.


for buyers... super-cheap local bargains

Whether they're designer sofas, dishwashers, Wiis or children's books, sellers on eBay often specify items must be collected in person. As this often means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.

Our free tool locates them for you. Tell the Local eBay Deals Mapper your postcode, how far you're prepared to schlep, and it maps the gems nearby.


Spy on what others have done

The joy of eBay is you can see exactly how much other items have sold for, and how other sellers have described their wares. Just fill in the search box and tick 'completed items' on the left hand grey bar.

This reveals which descriptions or chosen categories get the most bids. If the price is listed in red, it means it did not sell.

Spotted a product identical to yours? Click 'sell one like this' at the top of the listing to automatically fill in most of the details. Never copy descriptions or pictures wholesale, as this infringes other sellers' copyright.


don't pay for info

Some Del Boy types try to sell web addresses as 'exclusive info/tools of great interest'. Yet often they're available free elsewhere.

For example, some sellers sell mobile phone Sim unlocking codes for as much as £20, when you can do this for nowt (see Mobile Phone Unlocking).

To our great distaste, links to this site are constantly sold to the highest bidder. In the past, people have sold bank charge reclaiming template letters and links to the FlightChecker, as well as other tools from the site.

Use Google to check exactly what you're bidding for. If it's just 'information', you'll usually find the same elsewhere for free.


Compose the perfect title

Ensure your item's title is searchable. When buyers search, eBay automatically searches for words in the item's title only, so every word counts. Though buyers can opt to search the title and description.

Imagine what you would search for. Take "stylish plunging neckline plum dress". No one's going to search for "stylish", "plunging" or "plum". Instead, try “new size 10 purple silk Whistles dress”, and you'll cram in tons more search terms.

Alternatively, “driving video game, not had it long” isn't going to come up as often as “New Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA V) for PS3”.


ebay jargon buster

eBay pros use certain initials to get their message across. These are useful for cramming extra info into titles without exceeding the character limit. Don't go overboard though, or newbies won't have the foggiest what you're on about.

Here's the most commonly used eBay jargon. BN: Brand new. BNWT: Brand new with tags. BNIB: Brand new in box. BIN: Buy it now. VGC: Very good condition.


describe your item - warts and all

Now it's time to sell and market your product. To write a good description, think about what you‘d like to know if you were buying the product yourself. Include information such as brand name, condition (new or used), item specifics, model numbers, size, precise dimensions, style and colour.

While you want to big up the product, ensure the description's accurate. It might be tempting to describe a shirt as like new. But if it turns up with kebab stains down the front, the buyer will leave bad feedback. Plus if it's not as described, they may have recourse to action.

Always run your description through a spellchecker. To show how important spelling is, entire sites, such as Goofbid (formerly Goofbay) and Fatfingers, are dedicated to profiting from people's slip-ups. Listings with spelling errors, especially in the title, go for lower amounts.


upload your snaps

A decent picture's paramount. You might get away with not including a Harry Potter DVD's image, but no one pays good cash for a painting they've never laid eyes on.

eBay used to charge for pictures but now lets you upload 12 for free. Uploading is easy, just click 'add photo' on the selling page.

Most digital cameras these days will take a snap good enough to upload. Ensure there's enough light, and if you're taking outdoor pics - for a car, perhaps - then plan for a sunny day. If it's an expensive item, take shots from different angles, as well as close-ups and distance shots.

Use a plain background. Buyers won't be enticed by a mirror reflecting you in your Y-fronts.

Love your flaws

Take close-up photos of slight imperfections – ideally next to a ruler to show size – so buyers can inspect. They might be more likely to buy if the flaw's not as bad as they thought, and may leave you good feedback for honesty.


Pick your start price

It's a delicate balance. Set the start price too high and no one will bid, set it low and there's a risk it will sell for the knock-down price.

As described above, searching completed items gives a list of prices similar auctions have already fetched - a useful guide to how much you're likely to make.

Lower your start price

Not only will it slash the initial listing fee, but your listing may attract more attention. Boffins at London University did some research on this topic, and found auctions with modest start prices sparked more bidding and fetched higher final prices. Of course, there is always the risk it will end up selling for the knock-down price.


Time it right

Avoid ending auctions at 4am, when nobody's about. Often bidders prefer to swoop in in the last few minutes, hoping others won't fight back.

According to eBaying MoneySavers, the best time to close an auction is between 7pm and 9pm, Sundays to Thursdays. If listing an expensive item, check TV listings to ensure you don't clash with the Downton Abbey season finale.

Though remember if you're selling to another country, such as the US, you'll want to tweak your end time accordingly.

Prior engagement? eBay lets you list auctions and schedule a start time for 6p. There are tons more tips on this Best time to close eBay auctions forum thread.


sell in high season

Think about seasonality. Sell stuff at the right time of year. Few will search for barbecues in December or Christmas crackers in July.

The more precise, the better. If you're flogging an air-conditioning unit, wait for a hot spell to pump up the price.


Use eBay as a free removal service

Don't pay the council to collect old sofas or broken washing machines. Just put them on eBay for 1p (or see Freecycle later) and people will collect them. People with fixing skills often buy broken washing machines and TVs.


Go global

Selling to overseas bidders boosts the number of potential bidders. When expanding your empire abroad, you have two options: sell to overseas bidders via eBay UK, or listing your auction on that country's eBay site.

If you think an item will be more popular in a specific country, such as the USA, it may be worth listing on that country's eBay site. This way locals take it more seriously, as the item appears in their currency and come higher up in searches.

Whichever you choose, always add a higher postage charge, or the extra cost eats your profits. This isn't worth it for big bulky items, as high postage costs outweigh buyers' gains.

See a full how-to.


Smash eBay seller fees

Auction-style listing insertion seller fees starting at 99p or under are free for private sellers (you're allowed 100 free listings per month). For other auction-style listings, eBay usually charges a listing fee of up to £1.30, depending on your start price. Media items cost a flat 10p.

Buy-it-now items cost a flat 40p initial listing charge, except media items, which cost 20p.

There are a few little words every eBayer loves to hear: 'free listing weekend'. On these days, initial listing fees are waved. So list an Xbox 360 with a starting price of £50, and the listing will be free, instead of £1.

These weekends are especially good for items with high start prices, as you'll save more.

Don't forget closing fees

If your item sells, you're charged an additional 'final value' fee, which for auctions is 10% of the final sale price and postage cost, up to a maximum of £75. For example, start an auction for a dress at £50 and, if it fetches £150, the total fee would be £16 including the insertion fee. See eBay's fee chart for a full breakdown.

eBay users should be aware of new rules that mean the site takes a cut of postage costs, which could leave some users out of pocket. See Ebay fee eats into postage costs news.

Sadly, there's no way to cut the closing fee, apart from using a different auction website (see alternative auction sites for more details).

eBay fees can be hard to fathom, but handy eBay fee calculator Ecal does the maths for you. Just type in a start price and final value and it whizzes back with the costs.


Use eBay selling instead of renting

The economics of trading are fascinating. The fluidity of eBay as a marketplace means stuff often moves quickly and at a reasonable price. This has a bizarre effect on some purchases.

Imagine you're intending to keep something for a limited time. Your flat needs a small TV for a few months or you want a computer game for three weeks. In the past, renting was cheaper than buying. With eBay, buying it in, using it, ensuring it stays in good nick, then flogging it can actually undercut renting.

In fact, more powerfully, buy something for the cheapest possible amount (see the Cheap Online Shopping and eBay Buying Secrets guides), then re-flog when you're done. It's perfectly possible to get as much as you paid for it, so the period you're using it doesn't actually cost anything.


paypal doesn't pay

The standard way to pay on eBay is using its online payment system PayPal. This works well for buyers, as it's free and affords extra protection.

When selling, the argument's reversed. PayPal wallops sellers with a fee of 3.4% of the amount paid (slightly less for £1,500+ payments), plus 20p for each transaction. On an £100 sale, you'd pay £3.60. Add this to eBay's other fees, and it's a fair whack.

Unfortunately eBay requires all sellers to offer PayPal as an option, but if anyone does pay you by cheque, you save. If you're selling a bulky item that must be picked up in person, ask to be paid in cash.


be wary of paypal for pick-up only items

When selling collection-only items, consider asking the buyer to pay with cash, rather than PayPal – especially if it's a big-ticket item like a laptop.

An increasing number of buyers claim they haven't collected an item when they have, then claim the money back.

eBay only protects sellers if they use a postal service that gives online proof of delivery (for items valued over £150, it also requires signature confirmation). If the buyer collects in person, you won't have this, so are at risk of losing your cash AND your item.

Bizarrely, eBay still forces you to list PayPal in your list of accepted payment options (except if it's a car, motorcycle, aircraft, boat, caravan, trailers, truck or property). There's no real way round this, apart from posting high value items, instead of letting people pick them up.

You could write in bold in your listing "Please note I will accept cash on collection only, not Paypal". Yet this is against eBay's policies and could mean your listing's taken down.

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Free photo manipulation software

If you want to smarten your photos, top-end graphics software can easily cost £1,000s. But blockbuster free photo editing programs, such as Gimp, are available.

In fact, whether it’s antivirus or office suites, firewalls or spreadsheets - professional-quality programs are downloadable from the web for FREE. See a full guide to Free Office Software. However be careful not to mask any flaws and scratches.


ebay tax warning

If you’re flogging old unwanted stuff such as cast-off clothing or second-hand stereos, there’s NO tax to pay. But become a trader, making or selling goods bought with the intention of resale, and it IS taxable.

There are some grey areas, so read this HMRC guide to work out if you need to tell it about income made from online sales.


trading and the law

If you're a trader – a person who makes or sells goods bought with the intention of resale – the buyer has the same statutory rights as when buying from a shop. This applies to both new and second-hand items. See the Consumer Rights guide for more info. Traders are also required to register as business sellers with eBay.

If you're a trader and sell using the buy-it-now button, rather than just a standard auction format, then distance selling regulations apply.

Under the regulations, buyers have seven working days after the date of receipt to get their money back, including the original postage and packing charges. In September 2013, eBay extended this to 14 working days, to reflect changes to UK distance selling regulations that come into effect in June 2014 .

It's worth reading eBay's Returns & the law section for more help.

Be careful with descriptions

With private sellers it's caveat emptor, or 'let the buyer beware'. Buyers' only rights under law are that the product is fairly described and the owner has the right to sell it. (Under eBay's own rules buyers are also eligible for a refund if the item's "not as described", ie, it doesn't match the seller's description.)

Yet business traders' sales are covered by the Sale of Goods Act – whether or not they use buy-it-now. This means your goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described. Therefore you need to be more careful with your descriptions than private sellers. Visit the OFT's Guide to the Sale of Goods Act for more details.


build your rep

To build a sparkling feedback profile, you need to deliver goods speedily and in the condition advertised. While not a legal obligation, offering good customer service will boost feedback and protect you from problems.

The key is to put yourself in the buyers' shoes – how would you like to be treated? Describe the item accurately, reply to questions promptly and try to dispatch within 48 hours. Let the buyer know when you've dispatched, email them the postal tracking number and include an invoice in the package.


don't bid on your own auctions

Never bid on your own auctions with another account to boost prices – this is known as shill bidding. It's illegal to push up a price artificially by bidding against yourself or by getting family or friends to do so.


show off your package

Hoard all brown envelopes and packaging materials. Big brown carrier bags are a good substitute for brown paper.

Make sure the items are secure and nicely packaged. Often traders like to add a personal touch by including a business card, or wrapping designer clothes in tissue paper.

Some eBayers even use popcorn instead of polystyrene to pack around fragile goods (buy kernels in bulk, cook the popcorn without oil and let it cool). If you're sending internationally, watch out as some countries have tight controls on importing food, so always check this before you package this way.


price the postage right

The buyer pays for postage, and when listing goods, you must specify a postage cost. Try to be as accurate as possible, as if the price specified is too low, you'll have to make up the difference. If it's too high, the buyer may leave bad feedback.

Don't forget to factor in packaging costs when calculating postage charges. Though buyers often don't expect to pay much more than the stamp price, so you may wish to factor this into your sale price.

To get an idea of prices, weigh the item and use Royal Mail's price finder. If you're posting anything weighing more than 2kg, it may be cheaper to use a courier. Read the Cheap Parcel Delivery guide for full details.


you need proof of delivery

It's not just buyers who get caught out by unscrupulous sellers – buyers get up to skullduggery too. One problem is buyers winning a mega-pricey item such as an iPhone and claiming it never arrived, then claiming the cash back - even though they have the item.

To qualify for eBay's seller protection, you must use a service that comes with "online trackable proof of delivery", such as Royal Mail's Recorded Delivery. For items valued over £150, it also requires signature confirmation.

You must also have sent the item within the number of days you promised in your listing, which eBay calls your 'handling time'. Read eBay's full postage rules for sellers.


ship to the address paypal gives you

Always post to the buyer's address provided in the 'Details' link in your account history. Otherwise, you won't be covered by eBay's seller protection.

A common scam is a buyer who claims to be in the UK, but wants the item to shipped to a friend or relative in another country. Only ship to the address eBay gives you.


block dodgy buyers

Discourage dodgy buyers by adding a requirement that you'll only accept bids from buyers with a certain feedback score. To do this, in My eBay, under the Account, click the Site Preferences link. In the Selling Preferences section, scroll to Buyer requirements.

You can also block specific buyers. So if you get enquiries from a buyer before your auction ends and don't like the cut of their jib, just add 'em to the blocked list.

Of course, much negative feedback is justified. But one issue is buyers who casually leave negative and neutral feedback for sellers most people would consider decent. To check if you're dealing with a cranky curmudgeon, go to their feedback profile and click 'feedback left for others'.


Be prepared to refund

Sometimes an item will arrive broken because you packaged it poorly or the buyer'll be disgruntled by an inaccurate description. Try to negotiate with the eBayer.

If you're in the wrong, it's fair to give a refund, whether or not you're legally obliged to. If payment was made by PayPal in the first place, be sure to refund that way too.


Set up an ebay bank account

Consider setting up a specific bank account to pay your eBay earnings into. That way you'll see the cash pile up, rather than just disappearing into your current account.

Some MoneySavers then spend the fund on Christmas or a holiday. See the Top Savings Accounts guide for best buys.


alternative Auction Sites

While eBay is massively dominant, eBid and CQout* are decent-sized auction sites. Their advantage is they charge sellers less than eBay, which means some prefer them. On the downside, your auctions are likely to get less exposure than they would on eBay, so could get fewer bids.

Comparing charges is tricky, because all auction sites have different fee structures. With eBid and CQout, there's no initial listing fee. They only charge you once your item sells. Therefore, it's well worth putting a few items up, with a high start price – you never know.

If the item does sell, eBid charges 3% of the items final sale price. CQout is more expensive: it charges up to 5.4% of your closing price.


Profit from old books

Listing books one-by-one on eBay* may get the most cash, but it'll take some time. One of the best options for selling old books is Amazon* Marketplace, as you only need to search for the book and write a short description. Your listing will stay up until it sells.

Amazon provides full reviews of most books from its database - if you're listing a few in one go, this saves time. It automatically adds £2.80 for delivery, so ensure your sale price covers postage if it's a heavy tome. Amazon charges 86p when your book sells, plus an extra 17.25% on top (see a full list of Amazon fees).

Also popular with MoneySavers is online second-hand bookshop Green Metropolis, which is especially good for old paperbacks. All books cost £3.75, of which the site pays sellers £3. The £3 must cover your postage costs too, although you're allowed to add an extra fee for heavy books.

Use trade-in sites for less hassle. If you need speed and ease, trade-in websites let you enter details, they offer a price, and you post goods free. For books, two of the best are and Amazon Trade-In*.

But prices are usually lower than selling them yourself. For more on how Amazon Trade-In prices compare to other methods, see the Amazon Trade-In launches MSE News story. See the Quicker cash for old CDs, books, etc section for a full list of trade-in sites.


Quicker cash for old CDs, DVDs & games

Easy-to-use site Music Magpie* pays cash for your old CDs, DVDs, computer games, Blu-rays (plus some tech and clothing items). The site gives instant quotes. Someone with loads to get rid of could speedily make extra money this way.

Where Music Magpie websites win is on convenience. Though hoarders of '90s CD relics and games could make £100s on the side, for more recent items you may be better off selling 'em individually on eBay*. You may do better trading in computer games at high street game shops – check these too.


flog old gold

“Sell unwanted gold for CASH!” TV, mags and billboard ads pulse with promises, yet rarely seem to live up to them.

However, amid the scrap are shining examples – meaning £100s for old jewellery is possible. Full tips on avoiding rip-offs and making the most cash in Gold Selling.


Up to £300 for an old mobile

Whether you've recently upgraded or fancy a rummage through your drawers, old handsets can be worth serious cash.

Flogging via eBay usually pays best; but if you need speed and ease, several websites let you enter details, offer a price, and send a jiffy bag to mail your old goods in.

To find any handset's mega-payer, use our MobileValuer comparison. There are huge differences between best and worst. With selling iPhones, it's even bigger.


give it away

Top-quality goodies are available daily across the country for FREE. It's all about web communities, and the big names are Freecycle and Freegle.

Instead of binning goods or trying to eBay them, people offer them to their local community. In return, they often hope they can grab back something when they want. For a full guide, see the Freecycle & Giveaway guide.

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