What started as trying to make a few bucks from cleaning out my closet has turned into a steadily growing side income. I now look for pieces to sell on eBay when I’m thrift store shopping. Even when I’m not buying something for myself, I love the thrill of a good deal. And when I resell a dress or blouse and ship it off, I make that money back, plus a little extra! Although eBay does take a significant portion — 10% of the selling price of any item plus 10% of the shipping price — it is the largest online marketplace out there. If I have a piece of clothing to sell, I know I’ll sell it for a higher price on eBay than on Craigslist, in consignment stores, or resale shops.
After a few bumps in the road and my fair share of mistakes, I finally have a good handle on how to find, prepare, and sell clothes on eBay.
Select your merchandise carefully
If you’re hunting through thrift stores, be thorough when selecting items to sell. Although there are plenty of sellable pieces in great condition (and even brand new clothing with original tags), a missing button, snagged seam, or other imperfection can significantly lower an item’s value. You should always wash thrift store clothing before selling it, so check the care instructions. If a piece requires special cleaning, I’ll usually take a pass because I would have to invest more money at the dry cleaners or time at home to bring it up to sellable condition. Also check the placement of the price tag. Some materials don’t take so well to the hurried tagging process common at thrift stores. I’ve encountered this issue most frequently at Goodwill, where stapled-on price tags leave holes no matter how carefully you try to remove them!
Research your item on eBay and elsewhere
To determine if something is worth selling, see what the market is like first. I’ve learned the hard way that just because something is name brand doesn’t mean it will sell well. Check online retailers like Amazon and department store websites to find similar items. It’s also very helpful to see if other sellers are selling something like it on eBay. eBay’s search feature allows you to filter by sold listings, completed listings (this includes recently sold items and items that didn’t sell) and condition, which can be a good indicator of what the going price is for something.
Save your goods to sell at the right time
There’s a better market for sundresses in the spring and for scarves in the winter. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy these items year-round. In fact, it’s best to buy seasonal pieces in the off-season because you’ll likely get them for a lower price. Then you can hold on to them and sell them on eBay when more people are searching for them. Think about the timing of holidays, too. A fancy dress might sell better at the beginning of December as people prepare for holiday parties and events. A green scarf for St. Patrick’s day or wacky red, white, and blue pants for Independence Day… you get the idea. Just make sure to factor in length of the auction and shipping time so that the item will arrive in time for the holiday it’s meant to be worn for!
Determine the right price to start bidding
By searching completed listings on eBay, you can see what other sellers have charged for similar items. But keep in mind that the selling price of a piece does not necessarily reflect the first bid price. Often sellers start the bidding below the item’s value to attract potential buyers. Sometimes items do sell at the bidding price, though, so it’s up to you to determine how low you want to go. My rule of thumb is to never start the bidding price below the amount I paid for the item. If no one bids and it doesn’t sell by the end of the auction, it’s extremely easy to repost a listing and start a new auction. I’ve sold many items that I’ve reposted twice or even three times. That’s the great thing about eBay; there are so many different people shopping on the site every day that the market and customers are always changing.
Determine shipping cost
When I started selling on eBay, shipping was one of my biggest headaches because the prices are far from standard. A lot of factors contribute to complicating the price scale, such as the type of shipping, the item’s weight, and the delivery location. eBay can estimate a shipping cost for you based on similar items that have sold, or you can enter your own. Fortunately, clothing is not breakable and doesn’t need additional packaging, and it’s lightweight. So the listed shipping price is rarely off from the final cost by a dollar or two. To avoid this headache completely, consider offering free shipping. This is attractive to buyers because many consider the shipping cost as part of the price of the item. In that case, you might be able to get a little more money for what you’re selling.
Show off your item with strong photos
Photos are extremely important to being a successful eBay seller. Although you can get away with posting just one photo, it’s better to take as many as possible to show off different aspects of what makes the piece you’re selling so great. Take photos of the front and back as well as any details. If the brand name is an important selling point of a particular piece, I always include a photo of the tag so buyers can be assured that the item is genuine. If you plan on selling a lot of clothing on eBay, invest in a mannequin to help customers envision how a piece of clothing will look when worn or styled.
Support your photos with descriptive title and description
Since customers can’t touch or try on anything you’re selling online, it’s up to you to be as descriptive as possible with your language so they can imagine exactly how something looks and feels. A detailed title is also important so your item appears in search results, so consider the brand name, style, size, condition, and color. It’s okay to get a little personal in the description. For example, I sold a dress on eBay and mentioned that although it was not brand new, it had only been worn once. It’s also worth noting if you’re selling from a smoke-free or pet-free home. And always be honest about what you’re selling. If an item has a defect, stain, or imperfection, display it in the photos and call it out in your description.
Be polite and personable throughout the selling process
To be truly successful selling anything on eBay, you need to build a reputation as a trustworthy seller. eBay allows sellers and buyers to rate each other, and the best way to build a good rating is simply to be respectful, polite, and hold up your end of the deal. Respond quickly to any questions a potential buyer might have about something you’re selling. Ship immediately upon receiving payment. Always leave feedback for your buyers. You could also include a short handwritten thank you note with your shipments to further personalize the transaction.