So you wanna sell on eBay? Part 1 – The Basics

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So You Wanna Sell on eBay?


I know this is probably the eleventeith billionth article on ‘how to sell on ebay” And honestly, there’s no mind-blowing info here. Just me recounting how I started and what I have learned along the way.

This article will address how to start, what to sell, supplies needed, how to determine selling price and eBay selling fees.




Start an eBay account. With a new eBay sellers account, you’ll get about 10-50 listings to work with. As you sell your items, eBay may increase the number of listings available to you.

What to sell - The best things to start with are items from around your house that you no longer use. An item that you hesitate to donate (because you think there is some value there) or don’t want to hold on to for the next yard sale is a good item to resell.

Some ideas….

  • Gently used clean clothing w/ brand appeal. (Or those pieces you bought that still have the tags attached!)
  • Handbags/small leather goods
  • Sealed cosmetics
  • Household decor
  • Electronic items and videogames
  • Kitchen items
  • Sports items

Try to limit your listings to small, lightweight items to start out, or until you get some shipping experience.


Supplies you’ll need.

  • Inkjet printer (to print out labels)
  • 8.5″ x 11″ half sheet adhesive labels or plain printer paper (securely taping the shipping label printed on plain paper to the box is fine.)
  • USPS Shipping Boxes/Envelopes – These are free to order – although if you use USPS supplies, you’ll need to ship by Priority Mail, which is more expensive and unnecessary if the package is under 15 ounces.
  • Postal Scale – this is an absolute must-have.
  • Amazon or other retailers boxes that you receive from online purchases. Also, keep any CLEAN packing materials you find. Padded envelopes, peanuts, air bags, bubble wrap can all be reused for your eBay orders. Just make sure to open your initial packages carefully so that the recycled packing materials doesn’t look like trash to your buyer. You can also check with friends and neighbors for boxes and packing materials or check w/ local stores.
  • Packing tape/ tape gun (A tape gun is not a necessity, but it’s much easier to seal a box w/ a tape gun, rather than having to cut from a roll of packing tape)
  • Tri-fold presentation board (available at Dollar Tree and similar stores.) This can be used to present a clean and distraction-free background when you photograph your items.
  • To photograph clothing, hang garment against a clean white uncluttered wall or do a nice flat-lay on a clean bedsheet on a well-lit surface.
  • A lamp with a bright light (these clamp-on lights at Home Depot or Lowes sell for around $10 and are easy to move around)
  • A camera (or the camera on your smartphone – that’s what I use)
  • A Lint Roller 

Of course, these are just the basics. If you’re planning to sell mainly clothes, a dress form or half body form will be beneficial and will show the garment better and appear more professional. (I found my dress form mannequin at a yard sale for $10.)

Large Binder Clips are a really easy way to fit the garment to a body form without using pins.

I would not recommend using an actual mannequin (the kind that you would see in a department store). They are expensive, very cumbersome to move around and you’ll spend too much time disassembling/reassembling when you change outfits.

Non-clothing items will benefit from a photo lightbox (don’t bother with the tiny ones under 16″ x 16″, they are crap.)

There are many other supplies that will make your eBay listings/shipping easier, but stick to the basics as you are starting out.


How much should I sell my item for?

To find out what your potential item might sell for, it is important to do research on comparables or “comps”.

On eBay, check out the eBay Completed/Sold Listings –  this shows how often the item sells and the price it sells for. You can also Google the item to see what it sells for on other platforms (Mercari, Poshmark, etc)

For example, let’s use a Voluspa Candle.  Let’s say you received a Voluspa Santiago Huckleberry 3 wick candle as a gift and never used it.

  • Start by doing a search for “Voluspa Huckleberry 3 wick
  • Tap the “FILTER” option (top right on the eBay mobile app/or scroll down and on the left sidebar if using the full eBay website)
  • Tap “SOLD” (on iPhones this will also select COMPLETED. I haven’t been able to slide it so that only SOLD shows, but that’s fine)
  • For our example item, recent sales show that it is selling for $18 + $6 shipping or $22-23 with free shipping. So basically $23 – $24. (Whether to list with free shipping vs including a shipping charge is a discussion for another post)
  • Using these comps, decide what you want to price your item at.


voluspa draft


PRO TIP: When you find a listing that most draws your eye, scroll down and tap “SELL ONE LIKE THIS”.  On the next page, scroll down and enter your desired selling price and tap “SAVE” 

BOOM!  You have a draft for your first listing! Now, all you have to do is take some pictures, change up the title, body text, shipping and tap LIST!


Should I list my item as an auction or Buy It Now? 

This decision is yours. When you create a listing and get to the selling price field, eBay will note that most buyers prefer an auction format, rather than a fixed price listing. In my experience (off and on for about 12 years and now full time since 2017) I have only run about 5 auctions and that was only to move stale inventory. The items did end up selling via the auction format, but with disappointing results. (I’m sure the buyers were thrilled with their score!) Needless to say, as a seller, I am not a fan of auctions.  The majority of my 2000+ sales have sold with “Buy It Now” (BIN) with a Best Offer (BO) option.

I have heard it discussed among eBay sellers that auctions are only advisable if you have a lot of followers. I don’t know if this is true, but with less than 20 followers after 2,000 sales, I’m sticking w/ fixed price listings. 


What About Best Offer?

You have checked the comps and have a good idea of what your item should sell for. But, ask yourself, “what is the absolute lowest price I am willing to get for this item?” That’s where Best Offer comes into play.

Best Offer will motivate buyers that are looking for a deal. You can check each Best Offer as it comes in, but when you have a few active listings running, it can get to be a bit much. Not to mention, somewhat discouraging having to deal with low-ball offers.

If you decide to use the Best Offer option, I recommend using the 2 checkboxes underneath the Best Offer field that let you weed out low-ball offers.

In the “Automatically accept offers of at least” field put the lowest price you’re willing to sell for. As an example, let’s say you’ve listed the candle for $24.00 with free shipping but are willing to sell the candle for as low as $22.00 (and don’t forget, in this example, you’re offering free shipping – make sure to that into account)

Then, make the “Automatically decline offers lower than” field a penny less (or, in this example $21.99)

ebay BO


This way, if someone offers you $10, eBay will automatically generate a “no, thank you” message to the user. If someone offers you anything over $21.99, eBay will automatically accept the offer and ask for payment!


How much does it cost to sell on eBay?

eBay selling fees vary depending on listing format, category, and other criteria. The official eBay fee breakdown is here. 

If you’re using your free listings, there will be no insertion fee (after your free listings are used up, it’s usually about $0.25 per listing)

Keep an eye on your eBay messages, because if you are actively selling and maintaining service levels, eBay will often grant you additional free/discounted listings, but you have to activate the offer to get them added to your account.

I would advise NOT to use any of the listing upgrade options (Gallery Plus, 2nd category, subtitle, etc), especially on low value items because the fees can really add up fast. With 12 photos at your disposal and by creating a clear and enticing title, you should be fine.

The next fee to consider is the Final Value Fee (FVF). This is a percentage that eBay and PayPal take when your item sells. Currently, in most categories, eBay will collect 10% of the sale price and shipping charge as a Final Value Fee.

And PayPal gets their cut, too! Currently, PayPal collects about 3% of the sale + shipping charge.

The final value fee for shipping began when unscrupulous sellers would sell an item for pennies and charge a huge shipping charge to avoid the items’ FVF. You’ll still see that every once in awhile, but its rare.


In our Voluspa Candle Example, let’s say you list it as a Buy It Now (BIN) for $24 and offer free shipping. Once it sells for full price:

  • Your cost is $0.00 (it was a gift)
  • Your insertion fee was $0.00 (you used a free listing)
  • You didn’t use any listing upgrades = $0.00
  • It sells for $24 = $2.40 FVF to eBay
  • PayPal get 3% of the $24 selling price = $0.72
  • That amounts to $3.12 total in fees to eBay and PayPal
  • To ship the candle, you carefully wrap in your recycled bubble wrap and box it in a recycled Amazon box.
  • Using your scale, you find that it weighs 15 oz (Yay! It can ship USPS First Class!) = $5.50
  • After paying the actual cost of shipping, you’ll see approximately $15.38 in your Paypal account for the sale.*

(*all of this is subject to change and costs/percentages are approximate, in part due to my fledgling math skills ;) )


In the next installment, we’ll discuss how to get great photos and how to create an effective listing.


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