How to Sell on Ebay

Tips for Intermediate level selling on Ebay UK.

There are plenty of starter guides to selling on Ebay, I don't want to repeat all that advice. This guide is aimed at private sellers who sell more than a few times a year, and who think they have some idea how to sell, but want to learn more. Some different strategies apply for business sellers. Once you've gone beyond the basics, there are plenty of other tricks and clever things you can do to improve your selling experience.

What to Sell, and for how much?

Almost anything, in theory. One good seller I found out about recently was beach driftwood (who knew?). Use Advanced search to check that the item has been selling recently. I sort the completed listings by price and find the middle (median) price (actual sold for price, have to ignore all the items that didn't sell). I usually start my listing at or just below that median value of actual prices, however postage and something to cover fees may need to be added on top. But wait until you can list for free (below). Do not try to sell items that Ebay bans (long list).

When to list an Ebay auction

Try to aim for Free-Listing weekends or days. Ebay lets people start auctions at 99p with no listing fees, but will you be happy to sell for 99p? Free-listing days are so frequent that it's best to wait for one of them rather than risk 99p finish unless you think the item will definitely attract lots of interest.

When to finish an Ebay auction?

Everyone agrees that evenings (6-11pm) are best, and vastly better than day time finishes, but no one agrees about which evening is best. Sunday is often touted as best, but I see no evidence to prove that. In my year-long observations, Friday and Saturday nights got the best prices for a desirable item (Islabikes).


Clean the item up. Be honest about its defects. Use lots of the best photos you can (simple, uncluttered, clean, clear, high resolution) and as many as you can, particularly of any defects when selling 2nd hand goods. This won't help you win if buyer opens a Not-As-Described case, but the pictures can make sure Buyer doesn't open such a case at all.


Potentially contentious topic. Figuring out what postage you'll pay is an art in itself, ever changing as couriers and Royal Mail adjust their parcel sizes and tariffs. New Ebay rules from September 2013 mean that except for 99p auctions with postage only within the UK, there is no advantage in listing postage separately. Anything you list for > 99p within the UK should be listed with "Free" postage. Add postage and anything extra for packing, your time, etc. to the start price. Most Ebayers will be doing same, which will make it easier to find the median price you can realistically sell for.

Protecting your Seller Account

People who have had an Ebay account for yonks or who don't read the fine print may not realise that Ebay is pretty strict on sellers. Sellers can no longer leave any kind of negative feedback for Buyers, whereas Buyers are supposed to rate sellers in at least 5 different ways. It can take as few as 2-3 poor ratings from buyers for Ebay to shut down a seller's account "indefinitely" (ie,forever). This is a particular risk for low-volume private sellers.

To protect your account:

  • Offer postage included within the purchase price (guaranteed 5* on the detailed star ratings).
  • Do not communicate directly unless buyer contacts you. Perversely, this guarantees 5* because Ebay deems there wasn't enough cause for the buyer to be able to rate you for comms. However do mark the item as dispatched as soon as it's sent (some buyers will mark you down if you don't).
  • Read online discussion boards, scanning for stories of perverse buyers. If you suspect a buyer is awkward, check the feedback they leave for others. If this reads as cranky & difficult then add them to your Blocked Buyers List. Any buyer that directly gives you grief should go onto the BBL.
  • Do not offer next day dispatch unless you can go to the Post Office at any time, with no notice. Unless you only sell a very small number of items per year, do not offer dispatch above 5 days, either. Buyers do not have to be fair to you. Some can and will mark you down for slow dispatch even if you stated clearly that you could only offer 5+ day dispatch.
  • Include clear pictures of all defects in the listing.
  • For very well-used items or with complicated defects, even if perfectly useable, either sell them for spares OR collection only so that buyers can inspect well before purchase. Consider other ways of advertising your item(s), such as Gumtree or Adsense.


Key things Sellers forget!
  • The only forms of leverage that Sellers have on buyers is to block those with a record of non-payment or to block and cancel bids. After payment the Buyer has all the rights & power, while sellers have none. Sellers must bend over backwards to keep buyers happy.
  • Only send messages thru Ebay's messaging system.
  • If anyone doesn't pay for an auction or BIN listing they won, then file a case against them (Unpaid Item Dispute). You can file a UID after 2 days without payment, but keep in mind: some people will not pay without an invoice, and they can still leave you feedback if they pay up. So I would invoice after 1-2 days, then send a nice message asking when they will pay, and I try to wait at least 4 days before opening an UID. The UID usually closes after 4 days, unless Buyer pays. It is risky to leave feedback to warn other sellers (Ebay can put strikes against your account for it). Do be professional at all times. However, buyers have no right to mess you about, don't give anyone more than a 8-10 days to pay.
  • Do make your auction settings such that Ebayers with 2 or more unpaid strikes against them are blocked from bidding.
  • Set your auction so that only bidders in places you post to can bid.
  • Put "Collection Only" in the title if the item is collection only. If you don't want to post internationally, make sure to offer no international postage options, too.
  • Ebay postage printing is notorious for unreliability. Some sellers are very happy with it but it has always flaked out on me (advertised discount tarriffs simply not on offer!). Especially their freight services (parcel force). I would never rely on supposed Ebay discount postage being available when estimating shipping costs. By the time you discover the rate isn't available you don't have time for Ebay to get it sorted, you have to go with other (more consistent & expensive) options.
  • Returns or Fighting a case: don't, if you can help it. Never escalate. If buyer raises issues offer partial or full refund, especially after return. Seller will have to refund original postage for sure and probably cost of return postage, too, if seller wants to protect their feedback. It's not impossible for seller to lose a dispute, but very difficult.
  • Customer Service is poor for sellers. The rumour is that sellers can only get genuine help if they repeatedly phone and actually get thru to Dublin Ebay office and talk nicely. Live Chat is generally rated as useless.


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