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Selling old clothes on Ebay is a side hustle that I’ve used to pay many a bill, fund many a holiday and put many an otherwise lost pound back into my own pocket.
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and over the past few years, I’ve realised that never has an old saying been more true.
Given that last Christmas, the average Brit carried £636 in credit card debt into the new year, now’s a pretty good time to start thinking about trading in the unloved items in the back of your wardrobe for a tidy little sum of cash.
Because what’s more appealing? Hanging on to those jeans that you know you’ll never wear again, or starting 2018 with less of a financial hangover?
Ebay gives its users 20 free listings per month, so armed only with the contents of our wardrobe, we can be off to the races with a mini online empire in hardly any time at all. Here’s how to make the best possible use of those listings…
There’s a ton of advice that will have you believe that the quickest way to eBay riches is to start all your auctions at 99p.
The thinking goes that it’ll gain a load of interest in the first few days when people can’t quite believe you’re offering such a bargain then, by the time the price starts to creep up, a load of people have convinced themselves that they can’t live without your item, and a frenzied bidding war ensues.
It’s a nice idea, but I’ve found that it rarely works out like that.
After I ended up selling a beautiful coat for £1.50 that I’d hoped to get at least £50 for, I started giving auctions a wide berth in favour of Buy It Now listings.
These let you state the exact price that you want, and your buyer can take it there and then, or leave it. If you want to make sure that you’re not letting your clothes sell for peanuts, stick with Buy It Now.
Just because you paid £90 for that River Island coat and it’s never been worn, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can expect to get anywhere near the same amount when you sell it.
You might get £20, or you might hit lucky and realise you’ve got a sold out item that some celebrity was spotted in, driving the value up to ridiculous levels.
Ebay is a little economy in its own right and there are trends and supply and demand factors unique to the platform that will ultimately determine how much cash you stand to make.
The good news here though is that you don’t have to play a guessing game.
You can use the site’s advanced search function to check out sold listings, and work out exactly how much similar items have sold for, and how regularly, over any given time-frame. This gives you a load of insight into what price you should ask for, and how long you can expect to wait for it to sell.
The title that you choose when you’re creating your listing is what will determine whether it’s going to get seen by the people who are on Ebay searching for exactly what you’ve got. So this isn’t something that you want to be slacking with.
Now’s the time to reverse engineer that search process, and give some thought to exactly what your buyers will be typing into the search box.
Are they looking for a ‘lovely party frock’, or a ‘Monsoon Size 12 Evening Occasion Dress – Gold Sequin Detail’? Probably the latter.
Equally, if a blazer you’re selling could also be described as a jacket, stick that in the title too.
Be descriptive and make sure that you’re covering the brand, size, style, colour, and any other seasonal trends that might be getting searched for. You’ve got 80 characters to play with, so use them wisely.
Some great pictures let your buyers know exactly what to expect, and they can give you the edge over other people trying to sell the same item.
Ebay lets you include up to 12 pictures for free in each listing so make the most of them. I typically take shots from the front, back, and sides, I zoom in for close-ups of any special detailing like buttons, and I include a picture of the inside labels.
You don’t need amazing photography skills or any special equipment – an iPhone will do the job – but do take a little time to make sure your snaps really showcase what you’re selling. Natural lighting usually works best, and get rid of any background clutter.
I honest-to-God once saw a dress that was advertised as being from a ‘smoke and pet free home’, and there was a cat and a packet of fags in the background of the picture.
Needless to say, don’t do that.
High street sizing can be inconsistent at best.
You might waltz into M&S and fit into a pair of size 8 skinny jeans and still have sufficient room left to breathe, only to discover later the same day that you can’t even get a size 14 Topshop dress over your head.
I could bang on all day long about the perils of being a woman in a clothes shop but I won’t because it’s not entirely relevant.
My point here is that your potential buyers probably have the same issues, and are likely to be in two minds about your item – particularly if you decide that you won’t accept returns – because they just don’t know if it’ll fit.
The simplest solution is to include some measurements. It takes just a couple of minutes to size things up, and I noticed a huge increase in sales when I started doing this.
Plus, it’ll save you a ton of time replying to buyers individually when the measurement requests inevitably start to roll into your inbox.
Like we’ve already said, you get 20 free listings a month and you won’t pay a single penny until you sell an item.
Even then, there are some costs that you need to keep in mind. You’ll be charged a final value fee as a percentage of the transaction, including postage, and that’s 10% when you’re selling clothing, shoes, and accessories. Then PayPal will typically take 3.4%, plus 20p.
Plenty of people complain about the fees but Ebay is giving you access to millions of potential buyers and PayPal is instantly and securely taking your payments.
It’s a small price to pay. Just make sure that you’re keeping track of your incomings and outgoings to avoid things descending into chaos.
Remember too that you’ve got postage to pay for. You can charge your buyer for this but don’t miscalculate and run the risk of leaving yourself out of pocket.
All the main delivery companies have prices listed on their websites so it’s just a case of boxing up your item and sticking it on a set of scales, and you’ll know exactly how much you’ll pay.
Sophia Amoruso famously made millions from the Nasty Gal business that she started on Ebay, and in 2016 was crowned one of the richest self-made women in the world by Forbes.
While she did step down as CEO in 2015, the Nasty Gal company filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2016, which does ruin the story a bit.
It offers a piece of advice though – don’t stretch yourself too thin and don’t do things you can’t afford like buying really expensive items to try and sell on.
Still, start now, and you could realistically rake in a few hundred quid before Christmas.
This article is part of Money Month, our month-long series of features, advice, and experiences about our tricky relationship with all things money.