Auction sites like eBay can be a great way to make some extra income by selling your unwanted belongings. You can go down the road of just slapping up a basic listing and hoping for the best, but personal experience has taught me that being proactive can pay dividends when it comes to improving your success rate.

When to Sell

Before you even start putting together a listing, think about whether it’s the right time to put your items up for sale. Sometimes, the best time to sell items will be a no-brainer -- after all, who will be looking for patio sets in November? Even if an item isn’t tied to a specific time of year, there can still be benefits to not just slapping up a listing as soon as you decide to sell (more on this in the next section).

When To Start and End an Auction

Timing can make all the difference for clinching an eBay sale. For example, there’s no point planning to end an auction in the middle of the night when hardly anyone will be around to place bids. In my early days on eBay, my enthusiasm to get the auction started as soon as possible cost me sales when I found myself in direct competition with auctions that were going to end at much more civilized times of the day (whereas mine were scheduled to end in the middle of the night). My items were often in the same condition and similarly priced but weren't selling as well, so I knew it was timing that was to blame. A friend who is a long-time eBay seller advised that things can get hectic in the last hour of an auction, which is to your advantage, but not if everyone is asleep!

If I come across similar listings that have some big advantage of mine (for example, they’re going for a ridiculously low price or they’re brand new), I’ll often plan my listing to start when the their auctions have finished so that we’re not in competition at all.  That way, anyone searching for that item is more likely to bid on mine and there is the added possibility of drawing in bidders who didn’t come out on top during the previous auction.

Setting a Price

Contrary to what you might expect, I’ve had some good success when starting with a low price. The advantage to a lower price is that it attracts more bidders at the beginning who, if the auction is timed right, will bid against each other in the last hours and you'll leave with a legitimate price.

If you want to have control over the price, a fixed price auction is your best bet. If you’re open to negotiation but don’t want to give the buyer too much say, a Best Offer auction can work well too. For a regular auction that still gives you some control over the price, you can set a reserve price to make sure that you don’t sell to anyone who doesn’t meet this.

You can forgo the auction aspect of eBay altogether with the Buy It Now option. Buyers taking advantage of this option can buy your item straight away without having to wait for the auction to end. It’s worth setting a Buy It Now price if you’ve got a definite price in mind or you’re happy to sell at a lower price (perhaps lower than competitors) if it means that you can sell the item quickly. However, it’s probably not the best option if you’re hoping for a bidding war to pump up the price. You can choose between having the Buy It Now price alongside a normal auction or just having the Buy It Now price with no option for bids. Personally, I’ve never had anyone buy through the Buy It Now option in either scenario.

Getting Your Listings to the Top of eBay

Getting your listing higher up in the Best Match results increases the chances that it will be seen by the right people. There’s no foolproof way to do this but you can help your cause by having a good track record as a seller, pricing your items competitively, creating accurate and descriptive titles, and listings with good photos.

Uploading Photographs

It’s not impossible to sell items without uploading photographs but you can increase your chances to sell by doing so. It’s not surprising that prospective buyers will want to see what they’re getting before they put in a bid given that they can’t handle an item like they could in a shop. While it’s no definitive gauge on condition and appearance, you can at least partially put their minds at rest that it’s not a sub-standard offering. I try to take photos from as many angles as possible, especially if I’m hoping to fetch a decent price for it.

What are your tips for becoming a successful eBay seller? Do you have any other tips that you'd like to share with us?

2 comments

  1. Matthew // October 19, 2010 at 9:32 AM  

    These are very good tips to sell your product. But I think you should consider bartering as a further method to get what you want for something you don't need. I barter on BarterQuest.com and it's working. I barter not only stuff, I also barter services. It saves money and time!

  2. Car Negotiation Coach // October 20, 2010 at 12:25 AM  

    I like to look at similar closed listings that have sold for the most money. Then I take the elements from their description or photos and use that in my ad, knowing that they've created a listing that works.