How to sell (anything) on eBay

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If you’re like me, the mere thought of participating in an auction conjures vivid images of a room full of pompous guests, each swiftly raising a numbered bidding flag as balding gentlemen rattles off a slew of prices in quick succession — spitting flying like a rabid dog hellbent on vengeance. Despite my severely-dated reservations however, selling your unwanted items and rag-and-bone wears on the Web looks nothing like the sort, thanks to the blazing-quick emergence of online auction sites like eBay during the dot-com boom of the late ’90s. And while mastering the subtle craft to selling on the aforementioned shopping giant might take a little trial-and-error in addition to a few veteran pointers, you need not be Catherine Keener a la the 40-Year-Old Virgin to make a bit of money.

Whereas the venerable Craigslist has become the undisputed king of online classifieds among those wishing to deal locally, eBay remains the go-to solution for selling all manner of new and used goods on an international scale — whether they be newfangled next-gen consoles, an autographed Bert Blyleven baseball card or hand-made, scale-male guinea pig armor. eBay seemingly knows no bounds, allowing users to post and edit listings for everything from fashion accessories to foreign cars, all within an easily-navigable Web interface and accompanying mobile app. However, there’s more to selling than merely pounding out some copy and posting a swatch of shoddy images at 3:30 a.m. on a Tuesday … or there ought to be anyway. A successful sale is a piece of art, one offered by a reputable seller and adorned with an excellent specifics to match.

Here’s our extensive guide on how to quickly, and efficiently, sell items on eBay. We can’t guarantee your 1976 Olympic stamps are going to net you a cool $142 million like Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud painting recently fetched at Christie’s, but at least you’ll have a little more in your wallet than before. Also, check out our comprehensive guide about how to sell on Craigslist and our hustler’s guide to selling used gear online.

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Getting up and running on eBay

While you may be able to peruse eBay listings without an eBay account, there are a few necessities and desirable actions you may want to take prior to selling those aforementioned stamps. Tasks such as creating an account and adding payment information are an absolute must, but even simple touches such as tailoring your profile page and boosting your rep with a hodgepodge of low-cost purchases can make you seem more eBay diligent than daft.

Step 1: Create an account

To begin, click the blue Sign in link in the upper-left corner while viewing any eBay homepage to access the account creation tool. Afterward, click the blue Register button the right-hand side of the page, enter the your personal information and select an eBay user ID prior to entering a password. Since your username is always visible when you bid, buy, and sell, choose something that is both professional and possibly speaks on behalf of what you intended to use your account for. Website names and email addresses are not allowed, along with most symbols and the word “ebay” to avoid confusion with official employees, but the possibilities are still essentially endless.

Review the User Agreement and Privacy Policy if desired, and click the blue Submit button at the bottom of the page once chosen. Again, user IDs such “babelicious420” and “spermcicle98”, although an entertaining throwback to your glory days on AOL Instant Messenger, are likely not overly appealing to buyers or indicative of serious or reputable sellers. 

eBay Signup

Step 2: Link your PayPal account

Anyone who’s anyone uses PayPal for their their transactions, and considering new sellers are required to offer either PayPal or a merchant account credit card as an accepted payment method, it’s really the only trusted way to go. PayPal is essentially an acquirer, overseeing electronic money transfers online and ensuring secure transactions between buyers and sellers. Users must possess a credit card or bank account in order to sign up for the service, but once done, it offers buyer and seller protection in addition to various options for printing shipping labels and packing slips. It’s quick, safe, and a far better alternative to many of eBay’s approved payment methods.

To set up a PayPal account, hover over your name in the top-left corner when viewing any page and click your blue Account settings link from the the resulting drop-down menu. Once there, select the PayPal Account option on the left-hand side and click the gray Sign Up button.

PayPal Sign up

Enter your personal information when prompted — i.e. your address, phone number and desired security question — and click the blue Continue button prior to filling out a variety of additional information on the main PayPal page. Click the yellow Agree & Create Account button when finished.

PayPal signup

Next, return to the eBay PayPal Account panel and click the gray Link My PayPal Account option on the right-hand side of the page, enter your PayPal login information on the resulting page and click the gray Link Your Account button in the bottom-right corner. Click the gray Return to eBay button when finished.

Link PayPal account

Once linked, add any bank accounts you’d like to utilize by clicking the Add your bank account link located on the right-hand side of the main PayPal interface, beneath the My Account tab. Enter the appropriate routing and account number for your bank account and confirm the two minor deposits the service places in your bank account to verify your PayPal account, thus passing key security checks and opening up additional payment options. Verifying your account is not required, but it’s a free way to boost your reputation as a merchant and help solidify your legitimacy. Keep in mind the first account you add will be set as your default account for carrying out transactions on eBay.

PayPal Account

Step 3: Spruce up your profile

Love it or hate, but eBay is a game of faith. When you bid or purchase an item on the site, you’re making the assumption the seller is a legitimate person, not one attempting to scam you from eastern Russia or the northern grasslands of the Serengeti. That being the case, it’s often best to bolster your account profile with a photo and bit of copy to make your profile appear more genuine and reassure potential buyers you’re a serious seller. It doesn’t need to be lengthy or overly-complex, but it should provide users with a little bit about yourself and your background — especially if you’re selling within a niche field such comics or taxidermied bear pelts.

To edit your profile, hover over your name in the top-left corner when viewing any page and click your blue eBay user ID from the the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, click the Edit profile button near the top of the resulting page and add an image and additional copy by clicking the pencil icons in the upper-right corner of the portrait and text fields. Click the blue Done editing button when finished.

eBay profile

Step 4: Boost your reputation

I’d love to tell you can quickly create an account and immediately sell that lime-green ’72 Corvette with absolutely zero reputation, however, that is not the case. Reputation is king on eBay, and being such, it’s best to at least somewhat boost your standing on the site with a few simple purchases. Your feedback score, the number directly right of your user ID, is based on the sum of your feedback ratings and serves as a reflection of your interactions with other users. A positive feedback rating adds an additional point to your score, a negative subtracts from it, and a neutral rating has no impact.

Buyers are typically hesitant of purchasing items from sellers with no rating, so purchase a few items to build your credibility within the community and prove you’re trustworthiness — no matter how small a transaction it may be. Users typically operate under the Golden Rule, meaning they will leave you positive feedback when a transaction is complete and you should reciprocate with the same (assuming it was a positive experience). Check out the ratings breakdown below to see how the different star icons stack up against their respective rating numbers.

Star Color Number of ratings
iconYellowStar_25x25 Yellow 10 to 49
iconBlueStar_25x25 Blue 50 to 99
iconTealStar_25x25 Turquoise 100 to 499
iconPurpleStar_25x25 Purple 500 to 999
iconRedStar_25x25 Red 1,000 to 4,999
iconGreenStar_25x25 Green 5,000 to 9,999
stars-11 Yellow shooting star 10,000 to 24,999
stars-12 Turquoise shooting star 25,000 to 49,999
stars-13 Purple shooting star 50,000 to 99,999
stars-14 Red shooting star 100,000 to 499,999
iconShootGrn_25x25 Green shooting star 500,000 to 999,999
iconShootSlvr_25x25 Silver shooting star 1,000,000 or more

Next Page: Crafting the perfect eBay listing

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