1: Only work on it once a week
I tend to list items on Saturday or Sunday and list them for 7 day listings so they all close together on the next weekend. That way I can handle packaging and shipping at the same time as I am listing new items for the next week.
2. Keep all the tools you need handy in one place next to your computer.
When I first started this project, I was working on the kitchen table. Since we also wanted to use the table for, well, eating, I was constantly moving things around and it seemed like such a hassle. Since then, I’ve set up a little “eBay station” on a desk in a spare room. I’ve got everything I need in a drawer right next to where I sit and everything is close at hand.
For tools, these are the must-haves: A small kitchen scale, a pair of scissors, a roll of packing tape, a tape measure, and some scotch tape. That’s it!
3. Batch Processing!
This is the most valuable thing I do to minimize my time investment on this project. Rather than take one item end-to-end and then starting on the next item, I do one task for all items, then move on to the next task.
For example, I photograph all the items I’m going to list in a day at once. Then I weigh and measure them all. Then I go through and create listings.
The same goes for packing and shipping. I sit down and print all my packing slips and postage at once. Then I wrap everything in bubble wrap and stack items with their paperwork. Then I box and label them all.
I know it may not sound like a lot of efficiency, but grouping tasks in this way definitely saves me a lot of time. I list on average about 10 items per weekend and in most cases I can get this done (including photographing) in about 90 minutes.
4. Stage items during the week
During the week, I collect things I want to sell as I notice them, and stage them all on my desk to handle on the weekend. That way when I sit down to start listing, I don’t have to start by wandering around finding things to sell.
More importantly, I don’t get distracted by interesting stuff in the middle of collecting items to sell.
5. Save packing materials from things you buy
It didn’t take much prodding to start saving boxes, since I do that as a matter of habit anyway. But through this project I’ve realized that saving the packing materials is equally important!
I’ve started saving tissue paper, those inflated pouches, crumpled paper, and cardboard inserts. When it comes to packaging up the items I’ve sold, having these things on hand saves me a lot of time.
6. Don’t go crazy with pictures
I know that probably every “How to Sell on eBay” guide will probably give you the exact opposite advice than what I’m about to tell you. While I’m sure that awesome, high-quality photos will help you sell more product at higher prices, that kind of investment in photos takes time and costs money (since in most categories you pay an extra 15 cents for every picture after the first one).
I’ve found that as long as I do a basically good job with my pictures, that usually one is enough. I take all my pictures with my iPhone and I take them right on my desk next to a window for natural light (no fancy lighting setup for me).
Here’s what I think are the minimum requirements for effective eBay photography: Not blurry, close up, and decent lighting. I decided early on not to let photography be a barrier to keeping this project moving.
My theory is: good enough to get it sold is good enough!
7. Re-list items that had watchers but didn’t sell
One thing I’ve started doing recently seems to be working pretty well. When I have an item that closes without selling, if it had any watchers, I go ahead and re-list it a second time.
I’ve been getting about a 50% close rate on items I’ve re-listed this way, and these are basically free from a time investment perspective since I’ve already done the work to list them the first time.
Often when I re-list an item for the second time, I drop the minimum starting bid for the second go around. This is sometimes enough to get one of those watchers to take the bait.
8. Have a plan for the stuff that doesn’t sell
One thing I didn’t consider at the beginning was the fact that almost half the items I list won’t sell. This is most likely because I’m listing a huge range of stuff, much of it garage-sale type items.
At first, the unsold items just collected in my work space and eventually they started to get in my way and slow me down. So finally I instituted a “Three Strikes and You’re Out” policy for handling my stuff.
Strike one: eBay
Strike two: Garage Sale
Strike three: Goodwill
This really helps me keep things moving in a straight line out of my house and not back into closets or the basement!
Everything that doesn’t sell now goes straight into a box marked Garage Sale. This has the added bonus of getting me organized for a garage sale without really lifting a finger. If summer ever arrives in chilly Minnesota, I’ll be ready to whip up a garage sale with a minimum of fuss.
9. Use really low minimum bids
I try to start all my items at crazy low starting bids. This is kind of reverse psychology but here’s how I think it works. The first bidder says “wow, I could buy that cool thing for only 99 cents? What do I have to lose?” The next bidder sees something that will sell for such a ridiculously low price that they want to get in on the game.
I’ve sold 38 of my first 100 items for $5 or less. I know that doesn’t sound like a big money maker, but then again those are 38 things that no longer live in my house. Win!
10. Keep track
Maybe I’m a geek, but keeping track of what I’m selling and making little graphs and running statistics on the project is strangely motivating for me. I’ve built a nice little spreadsheet to track and categorize all my sales and now it is super easy to log my sales and see the graph climb. If anyone is contemplating a similar project and wants a copy, just leave me a comment on this post.
So is it all worth it?
You bet. I estimate I’ve spent an average of 4 hours a week on this project. For this modest investment in time, I’ve raised $1890 so far. That’s over $33 per hour!
Plus, I’ve got 100 fewer things to Own Less of and a “just add sunshine” garage sale waiting for a convenient summer weekend.
This is not to mention the pleasure I get every time I walk into a room that looks clean and orderly, or open a closet door and find what I need right there on the shelf in plain sight.
So yes, definitely worth it for me!