After reading a few EHow guides and an e-book on how to sell on Ebay, I started looking around for a few items to sell as part of my Ebay experiment to see if I could turn my clutter into cash. I felt that items would be a good candidate for sale on Ebay if they were small enough to ship easily and held enough value (meaning over $5) to make the effort worthwhile. I realized that my time investment on selling each item would be larger in the beginning, until I figured out how to take the pictures, write the descriptions, and determine how I would ship them to the buyer.
Selecting Items for Sale in my Ebay Experiment
Knowing that I had a closet full of suits to clear out, and after doing some research and finding out that local consignment ships are really only interested in couture and designer brands (none of which were in my wardrobe) from collections that were less than 3 years old (again, not what I had to sell), I decided to see if one of my suits could fetch at least $5 on Ebay. I also selected two dressy dresses from my younger daughter's closet that no longer fit her- one of which she had worn once, and the other was actually a hand-me down given to us by friends that still had the tags on it, and had never been worn. (Which begs the question, if I sell this dress with the tags, should I split the sale with my friend that gave me the dress? No? I don't think so either!) I listed each of my suits with a starting bid of $4.99 and the girls dresses at $4.99 and $14.99 (the new one with the tags).
I wanted to try a few more items as part of this experiment… so I found a 3 piece child's china set that had been given to us as a new-baby gift (can't remember by whom, or for which child) that had been gathering dust in our basement. It was made of bone china and was from Tiffany & Co…. quite lovely- but really, was I really going to ever use it? I did a little Googling on this item, and found some auction listings for some similar sets ranging from $39-$120! This could really be worth something! Which then made me want to keep it…. kind of….a little….. until I thought about it and decided that it still, was just clutter for me. So I listed it on Ebay with a starting bid of $19.99.
I dug around a bit more in the basement, and found a bunch of Wilton shaped cake pans that I had used for the kids birthday parties when they were younger. I have quite a stash of them….. and I think I purchased several of them on Ebay to begin with! I decided to take 5 of them, and list them individually for $2.99-$3.99 each.
I could have kept digging through and found lots of other categories of merchandise (um, I mean clutter) to test as part of this experiment….. but I decided that I was getting carried away, and 10 items would be a good enough start for me to determine whether going through the process of taking pictures, writing descriptions, and determining shipping requirements was worth the effort.
Getting Started on Ebay
Since I already had an Ebay account, having purchased an item or two in the past, I didn't need to do too much to get started selling items. And fortunately I had been a prompt-payer of all of my prior Ebay purchases, so I had a perfect “feedback rating” which I hoped would give me some credibility as a seller.
Ebay makes it very simple to set up an item for sale…. you start by identifying the category of merchandise that you plan to sell (such as a toddler dress), and then Ebay presents you with the correct form to fill out. I entered all of the pertinent information such as color, brand, fabric, and that it has been previously owned. I uploaded my picture(s), set my starting price, and set the time length of the auction (selecting from 3, 5 or 7 days). Next I had to determine the shipping cost of the item…. and this turned out to be a challenge. I looked at the flat rate shipment options from the US Postal Service, but I would need to ship the suits in a medium-sized flat rate box, and that would cost $10.95. Would anyone object to paying that kind of a shipping fee on an item that they would likely be buying for less than $10? I wasn't too sure. And the cake pans turned out to be even more of a challenge because they weren't going to fit in any kind of a flat rate box, and they weigh almost nothing…. so I wasn't sure at all how to plan for their shipping costs. I slapped $5.95 as the shipping fee on the cake plans, because it felt sort-of reasonable.
After you fill out the form, you have a chance to preview it before you commit to listing the item for sale. If everything looks okay- then you press confirm- and you are off and running. This process took me a little while the first time, while I researched shipping options and rates, and went back to the “merchandise” a few times to look over information for the listing and take some measurements. Next time I would make this process go a bit faster by making all of my notes at the same time that I take the picture!
5 days later….. how did I do?
Of the 10 items that I listed for sale on Ebay with a collective starting bid of $65.90 (excluding shipping), I sold 8 of them, for a total of $93.21 -not too bad! The item that fetched the greatest price was the Tiffany china set ($45.05), one of the suits sold for $10.50, a toddler dress for $9.00, and the cake pans sold for $3.99-$10.50!
Of the 8 buyers, 6 of them paid immediately using Paypal instant funds transfer, so I received payment right away into my Paypal account. Two of the buyers used Paypal's e-check, which means that it will take 3-5 days for the e-check to clear, and I need to hold off on shipping the item until the payment shows as complete in my account. To ship the merchandise via USPS as I had planned, everything can be done very easily within Ebay's website. You select the item you wish to ship and your shipping method, and Ebay automatically uploads of the address information onto the shipping label- no typing required! In addition, you can take advantage of Ebay's (slightly) discounted shipping rates with USPS (which I wasn't aware of in advance when I set my shipping prices). When you print your label, a message is automatically sent to the buyer (if you wish) alerting them to the fact that you are shipping the package. The shipping costs can then be paid for using your Paypal account (which is handy).
And then there are the fees…. Ebay charges you a fee to list your item (called an “insertion fee”), and then another fee once it sells (called the final value fee which is a % of the sale price), and Paypal charges you a fee to process the payment. All told, my fees amounted to $18.97 or 20% of the sale price paid by the buyer (excluding shipping). The one thing that I can do differently next time is stick with just the basic 25 cent listing, and not add additional pictures or pay more money for a “Gallery plus”listing (not even sure what that was anyway- I accidentally selected it for two of my listings)…. sticking with a basic one-picture listing would have saved me a whopping 95 cents!
Here is a spreadsheet that I created that shows all of the details on each item (you can click on it to open it in a larger window).
So I ended up with a “profit” of $74.30 on these items. I probably spent 3-4 hours of my time gathering and cleaning up/dusting off, photographing, entering listing information into Ebay, packaging and shipping…. but that whole process will speed up significantly if I decide to do this again, now that I know what I am doing. Overall I feel pretty good about my Ebay experience, and think it is a good way to turn “clutter into cash”! I will be listing more items soon…. just as soon as I find some time to clean out my closet!