Birth of a Salesman


Seasoned eBay trader Zoë Coleman tells us how she makes money and updates her wardrobe at the same time


Like Google and YouTube, eBay has become an integral part of online culture. With eBay, anyone can become a part of the world’s marketplace from the comfort of their armchair, or even their bed. You can exchange old for new, collect rare and hard-to-find items, and buy unusual gifts without having to waste hours in the shops.

Do not expect, however, to be turning over big profits with the click of a mouse. eBay is a global profit-making enterprise; its millions are gleaned from the fees imposed on all sellers. Despite this, it is possible to make a small amount of money; enough to please any student.

The most obvious and most popular items that sell on eBay are clothes. As trends fluctuate on the high street, the same applies on eBay. Higher prices are paid for more desirable items; an ‘on-trend’ item that graced the pages of Look magazine will most likely sell out in the stores and find a new spotlight on eBay selling for twice the price. Don’t try this approach; instead, clear out your wardrobe and assess what you think would be profitable. Look for classic, timeless items that you simply don’t wear anymore but that you would consider worth buying. The secret to successful selling on eBay is knowing what’s worth something, and what you’re better off bagging up for the charity shop.

I began using eBay in 2005, the same way as many before me by selling off an unwanted Oxegen ticket. It sold successfully, because I set it at a fair price (face value) and offered to mail it by registered post. Once a buyer is assured that the postage method is safe and reliable, the more likely they are to bid. Over the years I’ve made some and lost some. eBay is unpredictable – everyone is looking for a bargain, considering that a substantial number of items, particularly clothes, are sold as second hand. I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks over the years, through mistakes I’ve made and observing other sellers who sell the same items as I do.

The first things a prospective buyer notices are photographs. eBay is littered with grainy, poor-quality photos of an item carelessly tossed on a floor – and unsurprisingly, these are the items that fail to sell or sell for low prices. Have at least two good quality photos of your item: if it’s clothing, then photograph the item hung up on a plain background, and in clear lighting. Include a concise description of the item in the caption – mention its condition, where it’s from, and its measurements. Always try to be imaginative with your listing – you don’t need to pay extra for the garish backgrounds eBay provides. From experience, these are distracting and don’t encourage sales.

Buying and selling on eBay is a worthwhile experience. You can pick up a bargain, make some money, update your wardrobe for less, and maybe get that textbook for half the price you’ll pay in-store. Once you start selling, you’ll find it’s a great way to make some extra money to fund your social life, and as a buyer it’s perfect to update your wardrobe and find that unique item that you wouldn’t find in-store.

Once you start selling you won’t look back. Make it a resolution for the New Year to clear out your wardrobe and make a profit. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t succeed the first time around – learn from experience and persevere. Reduce and reuse your unwanted clothes! It’s a greener way to influence your style and update your look.

– Provide a clear photo and a simple, concise description.
– Offer fair P&P conditions, and stick to them (“I will post item within 3 days of receiving cleared payment”).
– Accept PayPal payments! They’re the safest and most secure way to buy and sell online.
– Start small – sell smaller, cheaper items to build up positive feedback so that sellers see you as more reliable.
– Use – a site that generates common misspellings in listings that could secure you a cheaper find.
– Use a sniper to guarantee that purchase: can bid on your behalf just as the auction closes.
– Sell internationally. There are more buyers in Europe than in Ireland!

– Set your minimum selling price as your cost price – People shop on eBay for bargains. Make it worth their while. Remember too that you have no use for the item you’re selling, and everything you make is a profit.
– Overbid – Think carefully about your maximum bid. What value will you get from the product?
– Take careless photos – Webcam and phone camera shots won’t attract buyers.
– Overcharge on postage – if you think your item won’t sell, and attempt to make up the shortfall with inflated postage costs, buyers will suss you out and avoid you.