Starting an eBay business may at first seems like an easy task, but when you set out to actually do it you are faced with the first and hardest question you need to answer — “What do I sell?”
Sadly, most people can’t answer this question and soon find their business only existing in their head. Others will grab the first thing they see on sale, buy it up and pray that they can sell it at a profit. Most of these people lose money, and again, their business winds up as just an illusion.
You have to start out on the right track from the very beginning if you want to make a successful career on eBay. Finding the right products to sell is the first step.
First, you need to know what categories are the most popular and profitable. Broadly speaking the best categories of things to sell on eBay are as follows:
Understanding what segments of those categories will have the most buyers and offer you the best opportunity to make a profit is what will make you successful. Rather than just buying anything in that category, be choosy and only pick the best items in each category. The best things to sell on eBay are often in niche segments within a category.
Electronics: small, portable electronics like iPods, and cell phones, particularly iPhones and BlackBerrys. Items that are easily lost, stolen, broken, etc. and accessories for those products. Computer cables, adapters, and small accessories. Also, refurbished laptops and discounted flat panel monitors.
Clothes: Children’s clothes and discount designer label items (NO KNOCKOFFS!). Unique T-shirts, new or old. Used jeans. Accessories, jewelry, etc.
Books: Niche specific non-fiction and 1st editions. Children’s books in good condition.
Collectibles: Coins, stamps, comic books, sports memorabilia, pretty much anything that can be identified and has a published price guide that is updated yearly.
Where do you get all this stuff?
The obvious first place to look for things to sell on eBay is your garage or attic. You can clear out space for new stock and get valuable experience selling on eBay. One of the most important things you’ll accomplish in this initial phase is the building of your eBay feedback rating. If you try to sell a big ticket item with a feedback score below 25, you’re going to lose money.
Don’t rush this phase, and try to become rich. Your main focus is a high volume of transactions and good customer service. List these first items at a price less than what you think you want for them and when they do sell, ship them out the same day if possible.
Now that your garage is empty and you have feedback rating over 25, it’s time to go shopping. Your first stop should be at your local discount clothing store. Places like Ross or Nordstrom’s Rack sell designer label clothes for a fraction of the retail value.
Only buy women’s clothes. You want basics, something a woman needs frequently for work, or ultra-trendy, something that everyone has to have, but can’t necessarily afford. It’s easier to go with the basics.
Warning : Never try to sell knockoffs on eBay. You will get a lifetime ban. Additionally, they can ban anyone at your address or IP, for life. While eBay itself is not that vigilant on watching out for copyright or trademark infringement, the corporate lawyers are. There are people whose sole job is to surf eBay looking for infringing items and notifying eBay.
Also, never use someone else’s pictures, either from a listing or anywhere on the web. If you didn’t take the picture yourself, someone else holds the copyright. A seller can get you banned from eBay if they report you as using their listing images, or even copying their html or text from a listing.
Garage sales are a good place for children’s clothes. You can often get a discount if you show up early and offer to buy all their children’s clothes at once. Children’s books can easily be found at garage sales to, in varying conditions. It’s possible to find collectibles here too, but they are often overpriced or in very bad condition. Most people have the idea that if it looks old, it must be worth a lot and aren’t very open to negotiating a lower price.
Local thrift stores have a wide selection of children’s clothes and used books, often for pennies on the dollar. Make it a habit to stop by once a week to each one in your area.
You can find things to sell on eBay itself. It takes some work and know-how, but searching for misspelled listings or items listed in the wrong category can often lead to some very good finds.
If you want to sell collectables, make sure it is something that you are actually interested in yourself. If you don’t know the details of that market, it’s easy to lose a lot of money. Buy every relevant price guide for your chosen hobby (on eBay of course), select a niche segment of that market and learn as much as you can about it. This works well if you live in or near a large metropolitan area that will have shops, fairs, and events specific to that collectable market.
With collectables and books, you must be able to speak the language. Each hobby has its own terminology and if you don’t know it, people won’t trust you. Even if you are selling an item at a fair price, if it sounds like you don’t know what you’re talking about – somehow, it seems overpriced and people won’t want to buy from you.
A good place to find your chosen collectibles are at events tailored to that hobby. Most events will have a listing of sellers at the event, along with their specialty. DON’T go to the person who specializes in your particular niche. Try someone who is more interested in the complete opposite. Often they will have items you are looking for and not know the value of them. Sometimes they might over-value the item, but most often, they list it cheap just to get it out of their inventory.
Books can be excellent things to sell on eBay. A good first edition book can be worth a lot of money. Usually they can only be bought from someone who knows what they have, but I have had a lot of luck at discount used book stores and at larger used book fairs. Again, you have to know what you’re looking for and what you’re talking about or you could overpay for something worth only a few dollars.
Non-fiction books in niche markets sell excellent. How-to books will always be sellers. Make sure you don’t go to broad with the categories or you might have too much competition to make a profit. For example: “How to Make an Adirondack chair,” is better than “Woodworking at Home.” Home repair guides, sports training manuals, self-help books, are all good things to sell on eBay. All books should be listed for the longest auction time that you can, or be placed in an eBay store.
A note on selling : Don’t try to squeeze every last cent out of a sale. Leave a little bit on the table so that the buyer has a good feeling about their purchase and in turn, you, the seller. If you build a reputation for quality items at a good price, you’ll have a long future as an eBay seller.
Make sure the buyer feels that they got a great deal. Always try to create a higher perceived value for your items than what you are selling it for. With books, clothes, and some collectibles, putting items in a set and then “discounting” the price will often get you a better profit than trying to sell each item individually.
Wholesale / Drop Shipping
Last but not least, we have the most mysterious method of acquiring things to sell on eBay – Wholesalers. This is how the big boys find things to sell on eBay. If you have enough money and enough storage space you can buy pretty much anything in large quantities at a discount, either direct from the manufacturer or from one of the many middlemen that come between them and their final destination.
This method can be intimidating if you’re not accustomed to wheeling and dealing on the phone, but it is possible. The Los Angeles Harbor brings in just about everything that is bought in the U.S. Most manufacturers have wholesale offices near downtown LA that are open for making deals. You can either meet with them in person, or deal with them over the phone. Clothes, toys, electronics, pretty much anything can be bought from these offices.
If you live in LA, going to the wholesale district in person is a great idea, because often the people working in the office are willing to sell you a very small volume of items at a wholesale price, usually a dozen of any one item, or a box, whatever is easier for them. Sometimes you need a wholesale license (for tax purposes) and sometimes you don’t.
Wholesalers are a great source for electronics, electronic accessories, clothing, and clothing accessories, jewelry, etc.
Warning : Do not buy “wholesale” DVDs, CDs, PC software, etc. 99% of the time it will be counterfeit – And saying “I didn’t know,” won’t protect you if you get caught selling counterfeit goods.
If you don’t live in LA and can’t afford to buy $10,000 worth of electronics and keep them in your garage, you still have options. There are smaller wholesale companies, usually a middleman who has contracted with multiple manufacturers, which can offer you a wide selection of items at wholesale prices in small volume. Sometimes they will even be able to ship the item direct to your buyer without you ever having to touch the item. This is called drop shipping.
Drop shipping is one of the best ways to sell electronics on eBay. You make the sale, and they ship the product. If anything is wrong with the item, usually, the manufacturer is responsible for replacing or repairing the item and dealing with the buyer.
I personally don’t have a lot of experience dealing with wholesalers outside of the LA area, but there are resources available that list a good selection of world-wide wholesalers and drop shippers.
Now that we’ve gone from selling out of your garage to contracting with international wholesalers, you should have a good sense of where you can find things to sell on eBay, and what items you should be looking for. The tips I’ve offered on selling should help you get up and running fast, while avoiding a few major pitfalls that can easily destroy your business.
I wish you good luck and hope this information places you on the path to building your own eBay Empire.