Selling On Ebay : My Surprising Year

One of the biggest surprises over the past twelve months has been my venture into selling on Ebay. I stumbled upon it quite  by accident in the spring of 2016, and while I still have so much to learn, I thought I would share a bit of my own experience of selling on Ebay now that it has been a full year.

For sure: my sales increase as my time investment increases, but the fact that I can take breaks as various seasons require is invaluable to me! In fact, the past 8 months I have not been as diligent in listing as I was my first 4 months due to a variety of reasons. I even went 4 months without listing anything, but still maintained my store with 150+ items, and sold a couple items a week even without adding to my store.

My (brief) History with Selling on Ebay

Over a decade ago I did sell on Ebay. I had no idea what I was doing then, and really have very few memories of it. I remember being very confused by the shipping process. I probably sold less than a handful of items over the span of a year and then gave it up.

I have always been an avid thrift store and yard sale shopper and would often find items and think “I could make money off of this.” But it always seemed too overwhelming to try to jump back in to Ebay, so I just ignored it and did nothing about it.

Selling on Ebay

Fast forward to 2016. In the Spring of that year a new Goodwill opened in our area. It was a unique set up – it was open three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday, and on the first day everything was $1.25, on the second day everything was $1, and on the final day everything was .75! On Friday they would empty the store and on Monday they would refill it. (I speak of it in the past tense as it unfortunately closed in the summer.)

I started to show up each week and would discover incredible items. One week, on a whim, I grabbed a sports jersey for .75. I went home, curious about whether I could make this work or not … I listed in on Ebay and within a few days it sold internationally for $50. That was the motivation I needed to determine to make this work.

Shipping the Items I Sold on Ebay

I already owned a kitchen scale that would weigh up to 6lbs, but at the very beginning I would just pack up my sold items and take them to the post office up the street from us. After a few such visits the man working there started to encourage me to figure out how to print my postage from home and schedule at home pick ups. It took a couple more visits to the friendly post man, but eventually I became brave enough to try printing my own postage from home. Now it is the simplest and easiest process, but then it was a bit of a challenge to figure out and I would take each package in to the post man to make sure I had done it correctly – once or twice I had to go home and do it again. (You will get a refund if you cancel a purchased postage label.)

Eventually I figured out the matrix:

under 16 ounces (be sure to include packaging supplies) can ship First Class for approx $4. (Note: if you take it in to the post office it is only up to 13 oz that can be sent first class!)

over 1lb you can do either Priority Mail or Flat Rate Priority Mail. The best bet is a Padded Flat Rate Envelope for approx $7, if the item will fit inside it. Often the Flat Rate boxes cost more than simply using Priority Mail. Scales and Ebays postage calculator are invaluable tools.

books can ship via Media Mail, but do not come with insurance and are treated roughly through the post, so use caution.

Packing Materials for the Items Sold on Ebay 

All Priority Mail packaging is provided free of charge from the USPS. You can request them via their online store and they will be delivered to you free of charge, or you can pick some up at your local Post Office.
If you start an Ebay store Ebay provides credit (the value of which depends upon which store level you purchase) for you to purchase supplies, and while it is not enough to cover all needed supplies, it is a help. I use it to purchase boxes.
Poly Mailer Bags are wonderful for clothing items that will be shipping first class. They are my most oft used packaging material, next to tape.
Packing Tape is a necessity – rolls and rolls of it!
The final item I have found useful is a roll of bubble wrap. Walmart had the best price I could find when I was researching.

Neither of these are necessary, but I do enjoy wrapping my items in tissue paper and adding a little hand written note to each and every item purchased. I am postive this is why I quickly got up to 188 positive feedbacks, as well as why, with the couple of items people have had problems with, they have been extremely pleasant to deal with even when it was my oversight that caused the issue.

On Returns

This is something that concerns many people, as a return is both a hassle and a loss of money. However, if you’re offering a quality item that you can proudly stand behind you greatly reduce your risk. But buyers can be picky, and sellers can make mistakes (I have had both) – and the greatest piece of advice I stumbled upon in regards to this is simply to treat others as I would want to be treated. Go above and beyond and be kind. I have had a couple of returns and it’s hard to not take it personally – but you cannot let it get you down! Refund the buyer once you have the returned item, relist the item and move on!

Listing Items on Ebay

One of my memories of selling on Ebay a decade ago was the hassle it was to take pictures and then put the memory card in my computer and load the images … it was so much work! I was happy to discover how straight forward and simple the Ebay App is and use it almost exclusively to list my items. I will sit with my laptop open for research purposes, and use my phone to photograph (in app), list, and post. It is super easy, but I do know many people prefer the camera and computer method. If you are starting out I would recommend the app on your phone for sure! The most important thing is to have good pictures detailing everything as well as accurate and detailed descriptions. Keep in mind that buyers will often consider pictures OR the written description, so make sure both are a true representation of your item.

Sourcing Items to Sell on Ebay

My initial source was the Goodwill I mentioned above, but yard sale season proved to be quite the treasure trove and would be up at the crack of dawn to hit up yard sales. Another surprise was the items laying around my house! It is so easy to overlook our own things. A couple weeks ago I sold a necklace for $21. I had purchased it 8 years ago for $5 and worn it many times but had tired of it.
Note: If you start selling on Ebay friends will come out of the woodwork asking if you’ll sell their items for them and give you some of the profit. Until you have a good feel for the ins and outs of this business politely decline. I have happily done it as a favor for one friend, but would never do it as a business practice because of the time, energy, and low profit margin.

My next post on this subject will cover some of the items I have sold on Ebay, and how I decide what to buy!
For more on this subject, see my first post on How to Make Money as a Homeschool Mom