Choosing What to Sell on eBay: a New Sellers Guide

One of the most common unspoken questions for new eBay sellers is, without a doubt, ‘what should I sell on eBay?’ The real question, however, is what to sell on eBay to make money. Sure, anyone can make a little pocket money here and there by selling unwanted items from around the house, but to make an eBay business viable, a strategy is required. And deciding what to sell on eBay is an integral stage for building this plan of action. Start yours today with this seven-point guide.

1. Interest and knowledge

While it is crucial to make sure there is a market for the type of items you wish to sell (discussed next), it is first ideal to consider personal interest. Quite simply, having a connection makes selling a little more fun. Having an interest in a product usually goes hand in hand with knowledge too. This can save some research time and show authority to the buyer when listing and selling. If you happen to be a collector already, the move to become an eBay seller may be easier than initially thought.

Take action: To start brainstorming, make a list of your own interests and hobbies. If you feel your list to be looking a little short, think about daily activities and chores that you prefer such as cooking, clothes shopping, car maintenance or garden work. Still having trouble? Hop onto eBay and start typing some of your ideas into the search bar. Check the keyword suggestions for more ideas to expand your initial list.

2. Market research

To narrow down what kind of items you may want to sell on eBay, the next step is market research. While it may seem like a slow start to your selling business, research is so important to creating a solid foundation for future success. Think of it as an investment. Consider the following:

  • Learn what sells: What kind of items are sold on eBay? What kind of products are in demand? Consider trends and seasonal products (e.g. snowblowers in winter, swimwear in summer).
  • Competition: How crowded is the market already? Too much competition can mean prices are driven down, leading to narrow profit margins. Is there any less competitive niches (a smaller sub-category) that may work instead?
  • Profit margins: Would you prefer to work with higher item volumes with low profit per sale or a smaller amount of items with higher profit margins? High volume eBay businesses require a great deal more logistical work.

Take action: There are a number of eBay tools that help make market research easier. First, take a glance at the ‘What To Sell’ guide and Trending Now page for inspiration. Next, use the advanced search tool to see recently completed sales. Finally, use the appraisal tool see the value of items bought and sold in specific categories on eBay. While these are helpful, don’t limit your research to eBay. Check Amazon’s Best Sellers List or the AliExpress Popular list.

3. Sourcing

Availability of products is key to being a successful seller. If you can’t find items to sell, potential buyers have nothing to purchase. Many people get started on eBay by selling unwanted items around the house. This is an ideal place to start (especially if finances are limited), but in the long term, outside sourcing will likely be necessary. Keep in mind that it is not essential to build a large inventory when first starting.

Here are some sourcing ideas:

  • Thrift stores
  • Flea markets
  • Yard sales
  • Estate sales
  • Auctions
  • Junkyards
  • Newspaper classifieds
  • Online – Facebook groups, Craigslist, local classifieds
  • Neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers with unwanted ‘junk’
  • Items sold in your local area that unavailable elsewhere (domestically or internationally)
  • Wholesale stores
  • Direct from the manufacturer

Take action: Investigate and test which product sources would be the most convenient and cost-effective for your business. Trial and error are essential for many elements of eBay selling and this is definitely one of them!

4. Packaging and shipping

Though it may seem like a small consideration initially, there are two important reasons to keep packaging and shipping costs in mind when choosing what to sell on eBay:

  • Sellers must pay Final Value Fees on the combined shipping and item price after the item is purchased. The higher the shipping cost, the higher the fee the seller must pay to eBay.
  • Items need to arrive to the buyer in the same condition that they were described as in the listing. If not, buyers can claim under the Money Back Guarantee rules that the item was ‘not as described.’

Take action: Have a go at packaging the kind of items you plan on selling, ensuring that each item is well protected from theoretical shipping damage. Carefully note the cost of the materials used (bubble wrap, tape etc) while doing so. Then, measure the item and mock up the shipping costs.

5. Think outside the box

Don’t be afraid to try selling items that seem a little unusual. After all, the first item to sell on eBay was a broken laser pointer! Over the years, many more strange items have been listed and sold, including:

Some regularly sold items on eBay that are slightly less weird but equally offbeat are:

  • Four leaf clovers
  • Dentures
  • Mystery boxes
  • Driftwood
  • Product samples
  • Broken or defective items
  • Empty toilet paper rolls

Take action: Check the ‘Slightly Unusual Stuff’ category for more ideas!

6. Top items to avoid

With all of this in mind, there are a few types of items best avoided to sell on eBay, at least when first starting out selling. Of course, plenty of eBay sellers run successful businesses in these categories but new sellers should try to gain selling experience elsewhere first.

  • Electronics – A very popular category on eBay to say the least, but also one with the biggest reputation for attracting fraudulent buyers. High-value items most at risk include cameras, smartphones and computers.
  • Designer clothes and handbags – In the designer clothes and handbags industry, it is notoriously difficult to prove authenticity. For this reason, eBay has a zero-tolerance policy for counterfeit items. Misrepresentation of a designer item (whether intentionally or not) can be subject to an automatic ban from eBay.
  • Jewelry – Another category of items popular with less than scrupulous buyers is jewelry of the gold, silver and gemstone variety. Like electronics, jewelry is high value and is vulnerable to scams, even if you have the receipt and/or appraisal. Costume jewelry is generally fine to sell.

Take action: Aside from these high-risk categories, also keep in mind the most recently updated list of prohibited items before deciding what to sell on eBay. You may be surprised what is listed!

7. Research, experiment, research

By this point, you should have a good idea of where to start. As previously mentioned, a bit of trial and error is essential with eBay and it may take a bit of experimentation to develop your own selling strategy. Don’t be discouraged if this takes a little time.

Take action: Keep researching, be willing to learn and experiment some more.

Experienced sellers, how did you decide what to sell on eBay?

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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