The other day, I found myself asking this question: can I make money on eBay? It’s not something I usually think about, but ever since I took on my challenge to pay off my credit card debt, I’ve been learning a lot about personal finance first-hand. (For example, last week, I wrote about the process of checking my credit score and how I plan to improve it)
To help with my challenge, I’ve been using our 9-week Action Plan – and I was ready for Week 4 , which teaches you ways of generating extra income using three specific methods honed by our friends at MoneyCrashers:
1) Maximize current income potential
2) Utilize your current assets
3) Sell your old stuff online
(If you want to try our tips for each of these methods, you can sign-up here)
After looking at the three options above, I decided to start with the third one: selling my old stuff online. As I planned out my strategy in advance, I was hoping to see some quick results. That’s when I asked myself “Can I make money on eBay?” All I had to do was find an item laying around my house, then list it on eBay and hope that someone placed a bid…
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Finding an item to sell
In some ways, finding an item was the easiest part. These days we all seem to have more stuff than we really need, and as I looked around my apartment, my eyes settled on a couple of possibilities (as seen in the photo above):
1) My old snowboarding boots
2) A lightly worn 49ers jersey
3) An almost brand new electric grill
Quickly, I went through the pros and cons for each of these potential money-makers: I hadn’t used the snowboarding boots for over a year, and I figured I could probably get a pretty good price for them – but only if the right buyer found the eBay listing (after all, the shoe size would have to be correct). I also worried about whether I’d miss the boots over the next month and a half, especially if I got a sudden urge to hit the slopes. More importantly, I realized that the boots would be difficult to pack up and ship, due to their size, shape, and weight.
As for the 49ers jersey, a quick search of eBay’s completed listings showed a few used jerseys similar to mine that didn’t sell for very much. However, the electric grill presented a better option. I knew I would not need it anytime soon (it had been in my closet for several months), and when I looked at eBay’s completed listings, I saw that recent buyers had paid anywhere from $25 to $60 for models very similar to mine. That seemed promising. Another advantage was that I still had the original box – so it would be fairly simple to ship it.
Selling the item on eBay
Once I had decided to sell my Hamilton Beach Indoor/Outdoor Grill, I went through the following steps to create the eBay listing.
Step 1: Find your category and product type
The first thing eBay asks you to do when creating a new listing is to identify the category of product you’re selling. That helps them provide relevant information to potential buyers. In this case, I first typed in “grills” and, after looking at the categories listed, I eventually selected the category called “Small Kitchen Appliances: Indoor Grills.”
Step 2: Add a photo
Including a photo is one of the most important things you can do to increase your success when selling on eBay. I took a picture of my grill (in its original box) and added it to the listing.
Step 3: Create a title and description
You want your title and text description of the item to be very detailed and to include the right words. This article describes the importance of using the right keywords to get the attention of buyers. The title I chose was:
Hamilton Beach Gourmet Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill 31603 – Dishwasher safe!
For the text description, I copied down all the features mentioned on the box:
–Variable Heat Dial
–Heat resistant handles
I was hoping all of these terms would be enough to draw some buyers to look at my listing. In general, it’s important to use good descriptive words in your listing – words that people would be likely to search for.
Step 4: Set your price and auction length
Obviously, setting the price is one of the most important and difficult parts of listing an item. If you set the price too low, you risk losing money. If you set the price too high, you might not receive any bids. I decided to set the price for the grill at $24.50 – just below the range of $25 to $60 that I had seen similar items priced at on eBay. I also added a “Buy It Now” option at $49.95, meaning someone could end the auction immediately if they agreed to pay that price to buy the item.
The length of the auction must play into your price calculation as well, because a longer auction generally gives more people a chance to see the listing and and place bids – meaning a higher sale price. Since it was my first time selling something on eBay, I was excited to see if my item would sell (and to share the experience with you!) so I chose a 1-day auction. As you’ll see in a moment, this was probably a mistake. However, I did pick a good time to have my auction end: 7:00 p.m. PST (10:00 EST), which meant that it would be getting views from both coasts during the crucial final minutes of the auction.
Step 5: Watch and wait
About 10 minutes before the auction was scheduled to end, I checked up on it. My eBay seller’s page informed me that during the course of the day, the listing had gotten 5 views. And yet… no one had bid. There were still 10 minutes left, so I waited hopefully, wondering if perhaps someone was going to leap into action right before the auction closed to place the winning bid. Soon there were 3 minutes left… then 1… then 20 seconds… and then… it was over. No bids, no glory, no sale.
An example of a successful eBay sale
Despite the fact that my humble electric grill did not attract any buyers, I’m still really excited by the experience of selling something on eBay for the first time. That’s because I learned the following lessons:
1) It’s really simple to list an item
2) You don’t have to pay if your item doesn’t sell
3) Longer auctions really are better
4) If you need money fast, you can’t set your opening price too high
I’m going to take these lessons and give it another shot. Based on my initial experience, generating some extra cash from unused belongings found around the house is definitely possible. We can answer the question “Can I make money on eBay” with a “Yes.”
What about you? Have you ever had success selling items on eBay? If so, what did you sell?