Simple Side Hustles to Fund Financial Independence: Sell Stuff on eBay
In this article, I’ll be focusing on selling stuff with eBay as a side hustle. eBay can be an efficient way to make a little extra cash on the side. It’s also a great way to rid yourself of stuff you don’t need, downsize, and simplify your life as you approach financial independence.
This post is the first in a series explaining ways I’ve made some extra cash on the side. Some have been more lucrative than others. None have had as much impact on our financial lives as downsizing our home and getting serious with our investing. However, every little bit helps as you work your way to financial independence (FI). Every dollar saved and invested in low cost index funds puts you several dollars closer to FI.
Make Extra Cash with Stuff you Don’t Need
I’ve been selling stuff on eBay for quite some time. I started by selling collectible die cast cars I no longer wanted. It went well enough that it inspired me to sell other unnecessary stuff I had laying around. One thing led to another and I was selling on eBay fairly regularly.
Honestly, eBay is straight up fun for me. I love hearing that “cha-ching” sound from my mobile app when I get a bid or sell an item. I’m not making mad cash on eBay because I have a full time job and don’t take it seriously enough. It’s mainly a hobby that makes me a little extra cash on the side.
When I actually buckle down and get stuff listed, I can easily make several hundred dollars a month. Not bad really, when we are talking a little extra money to invest toward our goal of financial independence. You can, however, make a good living from selling on eBay if you chose to do it full time.
You can sell just about anything on eBay. I’ve sold hub caps found while doing community clean ups, old magazines, and even empty beer bottles (Yes, I emptied them myself). Yard sale finds, stuff in grandma’s attic, and the most obscure stuff that has been laying in your basement for years. It’s all fair game. Chances are someone on ebay collects it or wants it.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the good folks at Scavenger Life. They regularly create videos displaying all of the random stuff they sell on eBay, as well as how much it sold for.
Tips to Get you Selling on eBay Successfully and Efficiently
Use the eBay Mobile App
Listing items on eBay can be time consuming, especially if you aren’t familiar with eBay. However, with a little experience, you get pretty efficient. The eBay mobile app is an efficient way to list and monitor your auctions. Taking photos from your phone and listing them right into the app is a huge time saver. Snap a few photos with the phone, load the photos into the listing, write a little description, set the price and shipping… boom, you are done.
These days, I do most of my eBay business from my mobile phone. When I’m feeling like I want to be extra efficient, I’ll take the photos ahead of time. I then use the mobile app to create the listings when I have time to kill. Sitting in the barber shop waiting for a cut, sitting in the airport waiting for a flight, dropping a deuce… all good times to get some auctions listed.
Take Great Photos
Great images sell an item. Most modern mobile phones have decent cameras that are good enough for Internet images. Good lighting is the most critical factor when taking photos. I find natural lighting to work very well when available. Using more than one light source to cut down on shadows can be helpful.
Make sure the images are well focused and clear. Take photos from multiple angles and be sure to photograph any blemishes or damage to the item. eBay allows you to upload up to 12 images for free. Take advantage of it.
Write Great Descriptions
Photos are the most important feature of your auction. However, writing a great description will help make the sale. Describe any important and desirable features, including rarity. List any damage and reconditioning. Use upbeat language in your description.
Copy and paste the recurring part of your description. On every listing you should describe your terms and conditions of the sale, as well as any other important general information. This includes how and when you expect to be paid, the amount of time it will take you to ship the item, whether or not you accept returns, the fact that your items come from a smoke free home, etc. Save this information in a word processing document, then copy and paste it at the end of every listing. This saves you a ton of time.
Honesty is the best policy to avoid problems and maintain good feedback ratings. I’m extremely honest and have had very little problems as a result. Always detail any damage or issues with your items. Trust me, you want to maintain a good feedback rating on eBay. Poor feedback can seriously hurt your sales.
Yes, there are fees involved with using PayPal. However, it makes the whole process safer, convenient, and more efficient. It also attracts more buyers and bidders. Many eBay users prefer to use PayPal.
Use the eBay Search Function as a Reference
Do you need to know what your items are worth? No problem. Just do an eBay search for the item you want to sell and use the filter function to choose “Sold Items”. This will provide you with a listing of items similar to yours and what they sold for. This information provides you with a great starting point when deciding how to price your items.
Use Competitive Pricing
List your items at very good prices if you want to sell them quickly. Listing an auction at a starting bid of 99 cents will attract a lot of attention. Obviously, there is some risk involved when pricing items this low, so do your homework. Do some research with the eBay search function mentioned previously to ascertain the popularity of your item. If it’s desirable, a low starting bid can get some bidding wars going and drive the price up. If you aren’t willing to take the risk, then just list the item at a starting price you are comfortable with. The lower the price, the more attention your listing gets.
Most of the hot bidding occurs within the last couple of minutes of an auction. It’s not necessarily a bad sign if your auction doesn’t get a ton of action initially. It’s amazing how much the bidding price of an item can shoot up even in the last few seconds of the auction.
Use “Buy it Now” and “Best Offer” Listings
Using the “Buy it Now” and “Best Offer” functions can be an easy and efficient way to sell your stuff if you are willing to forgo the excitement of an auction style listing. Just set the “Buy it Now” price at something that is acceptable to you and wait for someone to buy it. You can set the listing duration for up to 30 days. This decreases the number of times you need to re-list your items which saves you some time. Adding the “Best Offer” feature can attract even more buyers as eBay users love to haggle.
Use a Scale to Weigh your Items
Having your own weight scale makes listing and shipping so much easier. By weighing your product ahead of time, it provides you with an idea of what you should be charging for shipping. Charge too little for shipping and you are losing money. Charge too much for shipping and you may turn off buyers.
Weighing your product at home also makes it easy for you to print a shipping label through the eBay system. You just plug in the weight of your package (dimensions if necessary) and choose your shipping service. You can print a shipping label right from your home computer. Apply it to your package and drop it off at your carrier of choice. Serious ebay sellers use adhesive backed labels. I just print the shipping label on regular paper and apply it with packing tape.
I have used this Escali brand scale for years with no problems. The frugal FI-er in me has noticed that there are suspiciously similar looking products for less money available now. They get good ratings and should suit you well.
Pack your Items Securely and Carefully
Shipping service is part of your eBay feedback score, so you want to make sure your items get to their destinations in nice shape. I typically I use cardboard boxes for shipping. If items are fragile, take great care in using appropriate packing materials to keep them safe. I also use water resistant padded mailers with stiff cardboard inserted when shipping literature. If you do this, be sure to write “Do Not Bend” very clearly on the package.
I pick up boxes and packing materials at work before they go in the trash. I’m getting free boxes and recycling, Win-Win! The US postal service will provide you with free boxes if you go with Priority Mail.
Ship your Items in a Timely Manner
eBay users love speedy shipping. I indicate in my listings that shipping will occur within three business days of receiving payment. I typically get packages out much quicker than that. I just drop them off at the post office on my way home from work. The post office is along the way home, so it makes shipping efficient.
Great communication is key to successful selling and good feedback. If a potential buyer asks a question, answer it in a timely fashion. If there is a problem with shipping and you get an item out later than expected, contact the buyer and let them know. Communicate problems in a timely manner and most buyers will be understanding.
Don’t be offended by low ball offers. People use eBay to find great deals. If you get crazy low ball offers, just counter offer or politely decline. Snide comments regarding how offended you are will do you no good.
So there you have it. eBay as a side hustle. I highly encourage you to give eBay selling a try, especially if you are looking to de-clutter and downsize your life. You might as well make a little extra cash with the stuff you no longer need. There are other seller options available out there, such as Amazon, Etsy, etc. However, I don’t have experience with these. If you have any experience or tips for other selling sites, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.