Here are the exact steps I’ve taken over the past 4 years to consistently make an extra $1,000 to $3,000 a month on eBay.
My eBay Story
I first became interested in learning how to make money with eBay when I discovered the site in 1999. I set up my account and bought some things from other sellers. I’ve always loved scrapbooking and all types of paper crafting (including making cards and things with rubber stamps – I’ll get to the importance of this in a minute). I had some extra scrapbooking supplies lying around the house so I initially listed a few lots of scrapbooking paper, etc. in the auction format. Back then, it was less expensive and got you way more exposure on the platform to use auctions vs. the store feature.
My stuff sold and I made a few dollars. I even tried some retail arbitrage (retail arbitrage is the art & science of finding items locally on retail store shelves that you can flip and sell for a profit online) when I found scrapbooking supplies at the Dollar Store and resold the items on eBay for a small profit.
Even with my initial small amount of success, I was finding it a bit risky to buy things at thrift stores and yard sales (my true love) to resell because I basically had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about antiques, or what items people wanted to buy. Research was tough and I often thought that someone needed to create some kind of database where you could look up the current value of an item you were considering purchasing while you were out shopping (this is something you can do right now on eBay in about 10 seconds flat).
I stopped selling for several years and just supported the site as a buyer while I focused on building my career in social services.
A couple of things happened a few years after I met my husband to get me thinking about trying out the whole selling stuff on EBay again. I had discovered American Girl dolls at the end of 2003 and randomly bought the girl of the year, Kailey one day. I’m not exactly sure why I bought her. I didn’t especially like dolls at the time, nor did I have children. I think it just spoke to my “but it’s a LIMITED EDITION” spot deep in my subconscious where things like beanie babies secretly lived back then. Kailey retired shortly after and I was curious one day and looked her up on EBay. She was now selling for $100 more then what I had bought her for, and I had just bought her a short time before, like a week earlier. When I met my husband in 2005, I told him about the Kailey doll and he immediately invested his money in 10 American Girl Marisol dolls and then 6 Jess dolls the following year. We held onto the dolls for many years; those dolls were basically a small piece of our retirement plan :). All the American Girl catalogs that come to our house have my husband’s name on them to this day. Ha! The next thing that happened was several rubber stamp companies went out of business along with the crumbling economy in 2008. Since around 1990, I had been buying inexpensive rubber stamps at yard sales and thrift stores and continued to grow and grow my collection.
My job hit a rough patch in 2004. My once small, family like company, had been purchased by an investment group, we had a new CEO who did not seem to share the same value of quality care over finances as the prior leadership team and most of the people who I had worked with since starting in 1998, the people I trusted and had grown to love and deeply respect, began to be systematically let go by the company. I wasn’t sure I could make it and started to review my options.
What were my options? Well, I had a stack of American Girl dolls hanging out in my basement that I knew had increased in value, and I had been amassing a large amount of other stuff over the years due to my love of thrifting and shopping at yard sales.. And I had a huge amount of rubber stamps. I mean HUGE. Like it would be an embarrassing amount to admit to owning. Rubber stamps are small…they are easy to list and they are easy to ship. I decided to look a few up.
And holy cow rubber stamps were selling for a ton of money! I listed five stamps, went to bed and had sold a single stamp, purchased for .25 cents at a yard sale, for $40.00 overnight. I was hooked! I decided then and there that I would hoard them no more and that I would SELL ALL THE STAMPS. **I think it’s important to note right now that rubber stamps have dropped in value a bit since that time, although there are still a few brands and single stamps that are selling for a good amount. The great thing is they are still cheap to buy so I will pick them up if I come across the right ones.**
How I Find Things to Sell on eBay
I love thrift stores and I love to shop, so the easiest things to sell on EBay for me are secondhand items that are all just waiting to be discovered at thrift stores, yard sales and estate sales. It’s truly a treasure hunt and nothing can beat that feeling of seeing an interesting item, looking up the completed/sold listings on eBay and finding out that someone else wants that item too and will pay a large sum for it.
So this is what I do; I go to thrift stores and I look things up on my phone. That’s it, that’s the secret. It’s so low risk this way. You should actually know if the item that you are looking at will sell at a profit prior to you ever purchasing the item. I have gotten better at identifying things that may sell on eBay with experience. The only shortcut to this step would be to watch videos on YouTube to find out what other people are having success selling, or to join Facebook groups where people discuss what they’ve sold and to get an idea of the value of certain classes of items. The Thrifting Board is a Facebook group that I can highly recommend. The community is super helpful and the moderators work hard to maintain a positive group.
How to Get Started Selling on eBay:
- You will first need to set up an eBay account if you don’t have one already. Click here to register for your free account. You will have to choose between a Personal or Business account to get started, however, if you select Personal account you can switch to a Business account at any time. Click here for more information on the difference between account types. I do recommend either starting with a business account or upgrading to a business account as soon as possible if you are serious about selling as there are benefits to a business account, including eligibility for eBay’s seller protection.
- As part of the registration process, you will be asked to select a user ID. Your user ID will be visible to those across the platform and can be an important part of building a brand as you move forward with your business. Don’t worry too much though about choosing the perfect name right away, it’s more important to get started and you can always change your user ID in the future.
- Set up a PayPal account (it’s free). PayPal will prompt you to choose either a Personal or Business account as well when you first sign up. You’re allowed two accounts, one personal and one business; but I do recommend linking your eBay account to a business PayPal account. You’ll be able to use your business name for sending invoices and you’ll qualify for lower fees if you ever want to accept offline credit card payments (such as selling at a flea market setting).
- Link your PayPal account to your eBay account. EBay makes this step super easy! Depending on whether you started with an eBay account or a PayPal account you have a couple of options on how to link your accounts. Here is a simple guide outlining the two options.
- Start selling. You can list items from your computer or from the eBay app that is available to download from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. I recommend finding something to sell that you already have sitting at home first. I find using the app to be very straightforward and easy to navigate. You can take photos and enter information about the item right from your phone. For future listings, I then find that starting with a current listing and clicking the sell similar option is the easiest way to get started, regardless of whether the item is actually similar to the one I’m listing. Just remember to check all the sections; particularly shipping and item quantity information before you post to avoid issues later on.
- Be prepared to ship items quickly. You can stock up with free shipping supplies for shipping priority by going to the USPS site here. USPS will even ship the boxes to you for free. I recommend getting a good starting supply of boxes and padded bubble mailers before you list your first item. You will set your own shipping timelines when you list your items so make sure that you pick a reasonable amount of time for you to ship the item, but I recommend shipping as quickly as you are able to do so in order to increase your positive feedback ratings.
Tips for Selling on eBay:
- Stay off the negative eBay boards. This is my number one tip because nothing can douse your passion for something like going on an eBay board and reading posts from grouchy sellers who love to complain about everything from fees and eBay siding with the buyer to changes in how the platform works. The truth is that eBay makes it’s money off items being sold by people like you and I and they want to make it the best platform that it can be. I also believe that it’s hard to stay positive when surrounded by negativity so I choose to just stay off the boards period.
- Set up 2 accounts – one for buying and one for selling. As a seller, there will be times when you will be doing research on eBay and will come upon an item or lot of items that are highly under priced. I like to bid on/make offers on items for resale under another account. While it’s not necessary, I feel it may make a difference if I make an offer on something that the seller isn’t able to see that I also sell the same items and may help increase my odds that I get an accepted offer. I don’t have proof but I do know that it would make me question more an offer from a buyer if they themselves were selling the item they were making an offer on.
- Use the eBay app. Do this – go to the Apple app store or the Google play store and download the eBay app right now. It makes it super slick to list items right from your phone and makes the research process so much easier when you are standing in the thrift store wondering whether to buy an item.
- Come up with a system for storing your listed items right away so you can easily find them later. I use the Custom Label feature under selling tools to make a note where all of my listed items are sold. I place each item in a labeled banker box after listing and then update the Custom Label section with the items location (this part must be done from a computer). I initially just put everything in a box and had to search through a bunch of boxes to find something after it sold. This worked okay, not great, when I had 100 items listed, but would not work with my current 1,500 item inventory.
Recommended Resources – Learn to Sell on eBay
Another thing that led to my initial success in making money with eBay was the invaluable information and inspiration shared every week by Jay and Ryanne on their incredible Scavenger Life podcast. I can’t recommend their podcast highly enough. Selling stuff online is fun and rewarding, but it can also be isolating. I find it so helpful to have a weekly place to go and listen to tips and gain inspiration from other people in the community who have a passion for finding hidden treasure and selling via the eBay platform.
As noted above, I also recommend joining eBay focused Facebook groups (sticking to those with a positive vibe only). My highest recommendation at this time is The Thrifting Board group. Popping in a few times a day will help start to train your eye to items of value that you later come across on your thrifting adventures.
The time is right to get started on your eBay adventure. List something, it’s super easy and you never know what it may lead to. Worse case scenario you can clean out your closet, best case scenario you may find a new passion and discover a fun way to supplement your income!
Comment below and let me know if you’ve ever taken the plunge to sell on eBay and if so, what are your best eBay tips?