I’ve always looked to make money with eBay as part of my home working strategy.
In fact, going back some years, eBay was key to my ability to make money from home. I don’t rely on it anymore, but having it there provides a pleasing sense of security. I know that if I ever find myself struggling to pay the bills at the end of the month I just have to grab my computer, log on, and get listing.
Is it easy? No, not really. When you tot up how much time it takes to make money with eBay (including all the photography, wrapping, and time at the post office) the hourly rate can come out pretty low. But I get really quite irritated when people turn their noses up at eBay.
At the very least, eBay turns clutter into cash – and it’s possible to make it do far more than that.
But is it really possible to make money with eBay?
A better question is whether it’s possible to make big money.
To that, I’d have to be honest and say that eBay wouldn’t be my first port of call if I was keen to become a millionaire! But it’s great as a way to supplement income. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say the following:
If I had no other work to do, I could confidently bring in a four figure sum within a month (in excess of UK£1000), from clearing clutter and investing in some things to sell on.
My 10 Point eBay Strategy
There’s nothing secretive about my way of doing eBay, so I happily share it below.
Before I start, however, I must emphasise that this isn’t easy money. My wife and I have a good system going for eBay. I tend to do the listing, picking and photographing, and she does the customer service and the posting.
At times, we only have a few items listed at a time, and use it for pocket money. At other (leaner) times, we ramp it up to make “real” money. Either way, it’s money we wouldn’t have if we didn’t do it.
1. Maintain an eBay pile
We always have an “eBay pile” on the go. It’s located in our office / spare room / junk area. The photo of the eBay pile below shows a small sample of the things we are currently waiting to list. The actual pile is far bigger and messier.
The point of the eBay pile is that you put everything on it that you don’t need anymore.
Ours includes completed video games, CDs we don’t want, books we’ve finished with, leads we only needed once and even perfumes and cosmetics that we’ve used a little of.
All of this stuff sells. We’ve sold half bottles of perfume in the past.
Yes, there are things that may not fetch enough to be worth the hassle, but anything from unwanted Christmas presents to equipment from abandoned hobbies is fair game for the eBay pile.
The other really important thing is that we always maintain the eBay pile – even when we have freelance work piling in and we don’t need the income. This means that whenever we hit a lean time, our “stock” is sitting there waiting for us.
2. Keep your boxes
Our garage is stacked with empty boxes from everything remotely valuable we’ve purchased over the last decade.
The reason for this is that we always try to eBay (or otherwise sell on) things we don’t need any more.
Unless we buy something we intend to keep forever, we keep the box, because everything on eBay fetches better money when it’s boxed.
3. eBay for other people
If you live a minimalist lifestyle, you may be saying “well, this is all very well if you actually have stuff to sell…”
If you really don’t (and are being honest with yourself about your clutter), you have the option of eBaying for other people. Many people don’t have the time, the computer skills or the inclination to eBay their clutter – so offer to do it for them.
You can do this for family and friends, or even take it further and offer it as a service. I’ve personally done this with computer equipment as a sideline to running an IT support business.
You’ll need to agree a rate, but charging 50% of the sale price, less any fees, is an agreement people have always been happy with in my experience.
4. Find a speciality
To make money with eBay reliably, it makes sense to specialise in certain items. Ideally, these should be items you know about and have a passion for.
My personal favourite eBay niche is vintage computing and gaming items. I love playing around with the retro kit, so cleaning it up, photographing it, writing about it and making sure it works is all part of the fun. I also keep some of the best bits for my personal collection!
Knowing your market in a specific area also means you will see things in your day-to-day life and know that there’s money to be made on them. Several years back ago I used to buy several copies of certain printed UK Nintendo magazines, because I knew the bundled giveaway gifts would be collectable in other countries.
I made some decent money from this and similar “hustles.” Buying low and selling high is always a bit of a buzz – even on eBay!
5. Learn eBay’s advanced search
eBay’s Advanced Search is central to making decent money on the platform. It allows you to see what items typically sell for, how rare they are and (most importantly) how much you can expect to make.
In addition, using this feature can also highlight when it’s NOT worth selling something on eBay. There have been times when I’ve found out a much-loved game or record is only worth a tiny amount, and decided to hang onto it rather than sell it for so little.
6. Make use of Gumtree
Gumtree (and other classified ad sites) can prove a rich source of items to resell.
As a specific example, I have some saved searches for specific items that I collect and resell, and receive an email notification is anyone lists one. Usually people on these sites only allow people to collect the items and won’t box them up and send them, so nine times out of ten the item is out of reach.
However, on the odd occasion I find something for sale just down the road, the price is often far lower than it would be on eBay, allowing me to sell it on for a healthy profit – simply because I’m willing to deal with the listing and posting.
7. Hit the car boot sales
Similarly, another option is to buy things at car boot sales and resell them on eBay.
We need to be honest here, however: People have been doing this for years, so really profitable items are more of a once a year lucky find than a regular occurrence.
That said, there are people who go to car boot sales for a one-off clear-out, often selling things they don’t appreciate the true value of. If you stick to searching for items you genuinely know about (as per point four), you can cash in here. But be aware you won’t be the only person trying to do so!
As a quick aside, it’s perhaps worth mentioning we have a “car boot sale pile” as well as an eBay pile. We haven’t actually visited a sale as a seller for a long while, but it’s always nice to know we could if we needed some emergency cash.
We know from past experience that certain things do well at car boot sales / garage sales. These include electrical adaptors and chargers of all kinds (don’t ask me why!) clothes (must be ironed!) and books.
These sales aren’t the place for high value items, but for things too cheap / bulky / impractical for eBay, they’re another good way to swap clutter for cash.
8. Know when NOT to use eBay
Over time, you come to learn not to use eBay for certain things.
We never have much luck with books, as an example. The combination of low selling prices plus high postage costs makes selling them there rather thankless and not very lucrative.
9. Keep packaging for EVERYTHING
Continually buying postage boxes and rolls of bubble wrap can quickly eat into the money you make from eBay.
As such, we don’t waste any packaging – everything from Amazon boxes to jiffy bags get reused in our house. It seems a little over-frugal at times but it means you don’t just make money with eBay, you make a tiny bit of profit on the packaging too – and it all adds up.
10. Improve your IT skills
There’s very little in the way of home working that’s not made easier with better computer skills.
The ability to quickly process photographs, copy and paste regularly used snippets of text, and respond to queries from your phone (just three examples) are all things that will speed up your eBay business.
If you want to make money with eBay, your computer skills will help you make it much faster.
Are you making money with eBay? Do you think my strategies are good? Do you have any of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!