How to sell on Ebay | For Beginners

Adoption is expensive.

Ways to fund your adoption is perhaps one of the most common concerns I hear from hopeful adoptive parents.

To address this concern, I enlisted the help of one of my good friends, brunch buddies, fellow Sassy and member of eBay’s Parent Panel. Her name is Emily Hill and she writes over at is this REALLY my She has had great success in making a little extra cash on eBay. In fact, this summer she decluttered her house, listed some of the items and made a cool $600!

In this post, Emily (or emihill on eBay) is going to answer the really basic questions I have about getting started with selling things on eBay. I came up with these questions as I was going through the motions of listing something (or trying anyway!) on eBay for the first time. I failed the first time (overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know), but Emily is here to save the day. So here we go!

How to sell on eBay for beginners.


eBay, Craigslist or local classifieds?

If I wanted to sell something on Ebay, would it be okay to list it on places like Craigslist as well? Or should I wait until it doesn’t sell on Ebay to try Craigslist, or vice versa? Basically, I am asking where I should try and sell things first.

If you have something listed on eBay, you really shouldn’t list it elsewhere until the auction is over. Once someone bids on your eBay item, consider it sold. If you list it on eBay and Craigslist, you might end up with two buyers and then one very unhappy customer!

As far as where to sell first, I find eBay great for smaller things like clothing, accessories, electronics, baby items and such. If it’s a larger item like furniture or a car, I’d go with the local classifies or Craigslist. eBay does offer a “local pickup only” option for listings, but I think you’d get a better–and quicker–response from the classifieds.

Of course, you can sell a larger item like a stroller or car seat on eBay and simply charge for shipping, but you’re talking a pretty hefty shipping charge! But some buyers are totally willing to pay a high shipping fee if they can’t find that specific item locally. A friend of mine recently sold his Bugaboo stroller for $415 plus a $100 shipping charge (for a total of $515). So yes, you can sell a larger item but make sure you know how much shipping will be before listing it. You’d hate to take a $100 hit on your sale if you underestimate the shipping.


eBay fees.

I know Ebay charges you for some listings options (additional photos, etc.), but do they also take a percentage of the sale? How much?

 They do take a percentage of the sale. For a detailed fee breakdown, check out their fees page. The general percentage is 9% of the final total cost to the buyer up to a maximum charge of $100. Of course, a $100 charge means you just sold something for over $1,000!

 If you have multiple items to sell, eBay will often run listing promotions. For example, your can list up to 50 items without paying an insertion fee. It’s a great time to sell when that promotion is running if you have quite a few items to list. Though the insertion fee starts at around $.10, it can add up if you add extra photos and other “perks” to your listing.

How do we find out about sales like the listing promotions you mentioned?

Okay, here’s what I think those interested in those announcements can do (without having an eBay account):

Go to eBay Announcements and then click on the RSS or email button (top right) to subscribe to the news feed.


eBay listing options.

When listing something on Ebay, should I go for the option of “more listing choices” or “keep it simple?”

 I have ALWAYS kept it simple with my listings and never had a problem. I think more people search rather than browse, so if you have great keywords in your title and description, buyers will find your listing no matter where you’ve put it!


Title tips.

Do you have any tips for writing a good title? Should I be using key words? Where would be a good place to find key words that apply to my item?

 Think of it like SEO for your listing. Definitely use great keywords in your title. You could do a search for an item similar to what you’re selling and then browse the various listings to get a good idea of what words work best. Be sure to include things like:

  • Brand (e.g., Bugaboo, Hudson, Coach)
  • Size (if you can fit specifics like inseam on pants, that’s a bonus!)
  • Style (e.g., long-sleeve, capri, wedge, stiletto, hobo, DS Lite, DSi)
  • Condition (new, new with tags (NWT), new in box (NIB), gently used)
  • Color
  • Store name (e.g., if it’s from Anthropologie, put that in the title)

Think about what you’d look for if you were to buy that item on eBay. What search terms would you use? Those are the keywords that need to be in your title!


Photos of items.

I noticed that my first photo of the listing is free and then there is a $0.15 charge for the each additional photo (up to 4), do you think it is worth it to pay the $0.45?

YES! I add as many photos as necessary. When I am looking to buy, I tend to gravitate toward listings that show an item from a variety of different angles. I usually include at least 2 and sometimes up to 4, especially if the item has a slight flaw. You want photos of anything irregular so buyers know exactly what they’re getting. I have listed an item with a single photo, but that would be something like a pair of NWT (new with tags) jeans in perfect condition.


Gallery Plus option.

Would you recommend using Gallery Plus for an additional $0.35? What’s the benefit of this option?

 Again, think of the listings you tend to click on first. Are they the ones with or without a photo in the listing? My guess is you’re clicking on ones with photos. I always do the Gallery Plus option. I want buyers to give my listing precedence over others on the page.



This is perhaps the weirdest part for me. How do you know a good place to start your bidding out at? How low do you start? How long do you let the bidding go?

My rule of thumb is to give the eBay listing the full 5 or 7 days unless you’re in a real hurry to sell. Most bidding will happen in the last 24 to 48 hours. Because I’ve been burned by selling an item way too low, I tend to start my bidding price at THE LOWEST possible amount I’m willing to take. Sometimes it’s $.99 if it’s a small item and I’m listing lots of things. That $.99 will cover a couple listing fees. But if you would be heartbroken if you sold something for, say, less than $7, either start the bidding at $6.99 or include a reserve price (the lowest price the item can sell for) for an added fee.


Buy It Now feature.

Would you recommend using the “Buy It Now” feature? Does that affect the bidding or is it in addition to the bidding?

 It is in addition to the bidding. For higher-priced items, I’ll include the BIN (Buy It Now) as an option. For me it’s basically the price at which I’d love to sell it without waiting for a 5- or 7-day auction to end. I’ve listed a pair of designer jeans for a starting bid of $19.99 and a BIN of $49.99. Within the first day or two, someone bought them at the BIN price. It was awesome! I don’t recommend BIN if it’s something that will sell for less than $5 or $10. I’m not sure the extra fee is worth it unless you’re in a major hurry.



Everyone I talk to about selling on Ebay says, “Be careful with the shipping!” This terrifies me. What should I know about shipping and Ebay selling? How do you guesstimate how much to charge? And always bill the buyer, right?

Though some people offer free shipping, I never do. I’d rather not end up losing money on a sale. You could sell something for $2 with free shipping and end up paying $2.75 to ship it! If you want to offer free shipping, I suggest figuring that cost into your minimum price, which a lot of sellers do. You’ll see listings for a similar item and one is being offered at $10 plus $5 shipping and the other is $15 plus free shipping, so be careful when buying as well as selling!

As far as shipping charges, I use a Priority Mail Flat Rate envelope ($5.25 to ship no matter the weight) as often as I can. It’s amazing what you can fit into one of those free envelopes with a little packing tape across the flap! I’ve fit men’s jeans in one of those before! If you’re not sure about the cost, weight the item and then check the USPS or UPS website to get an idea of how much it would cost to ship. (If the item is really light, weigh yourself without holding it and then weigh yourself while holding it–the weight is the difference!)

For pricier items, like the HP Netbook I sold, I’d totally go with UPS for tracking and insurance. Plus our local UPS store–and it may vary by location–offers a discount for eBay sellers. It’s awesome!


What else should we know?

 Hmmm…here are a couple other tips from one of my eBay posts.

  • Register for a PayPal account. This is the best and safest way to accept payments on eBay.
  • Write a detailed description. Include searchable keywords, the item’s condition, your terms of service, etc. Keep it positive and friendly.
  • Take good photos. Natural light is best. Eliminate background “noise” by placing the item on white poster board or foam board, or use those as a backdrop.
  • Set a competitive price. You can research pricing by searching eBay for similar items. You can even search completed listings to see what’s sold and at what price (a green price means the item sold).


What else should I be asking?

You’ve asked some of the very best questions! One of the other questions people often ask is about paying taxes. You should consider sales on eBay the same way you’d look at selling anything on the classifieds, Craigslist or anywhere else. Of course, if you’re a Power Seller on eBay, you’d look at your eBay listings as more of a business and the tax thing would get a bit more complicated. (That’s my excuse for not becoming a Power Seller; well, that and who has the time?)

Because PayPal handles the majority of transactions on eBay, they have a FAQ page to help answer this question. Basically PayPal has to send a 1099-K to the Internal Revenue Service IF you receive:

  • $20,000 USD in gross payment volume from sales of goods or services in a single year
  • 200 payments for goods or services in the same year


Most of us won’t be selling more than $20k of goods and services, so no worries there!


I have to thank Emily for taking the time to walk me (and you!) through all this.
I was so inspired, I already set up my eBay profile. I can’t wait to get selling! Emily has mentioned that she is more than willing to answer any questions you have in the comments section of this post. Go for it!


  1. says

    Thanks for letting me share all things eBay. If any of your readers have any questions, I’m more than happy to try and help answer them. :)

  2. says

    Hey there, can someone able to give information on good free eBay application that can bid automatically just as the auction finishes? (I cannot remember what this is called. thankyou