Warning: The article below is over five years old. It may be badly written, poorly considered, immature, obsolete, no longer my opinion, or simply flat-out wrong.

Everything I know about selling on eBay

I've been selling a lot of stuff on eBay as part of an ongoing decluttering/minimalism drive lately. I've given a few people this braindump in person, but it's probably more useful as a written list. All of these tips apply to eBay auctions – I've got little experience with "Buy it Now" items.

Make sure it's worth it.

By the time you've photographed, uploaded, form-filled, written about your item, packed it, addressed it, and taken it to the post office you will have spent at least an hour per item. This isn't a good use of your time if it sells for 99p. (I sometimes list stuff that I know isn't going to perform well if it's not suitable for charity shops and/or I'll feel guilty about throwing it away.)

What does and doesn't sell?

Things that sell well:

  • Photographic equipment
  • Computer equipment
  • Anything that would make you go "Oooooh" at a jumble sale.

Things that sell OK:

  • CDs
  • DVD boxed sets
  • Actually collectible collectibles
  • obsolete computer hardware
  • small organisational things (wallets, purses, folders, cases). I don't understand why, but they seem to.

Things that don't sell:

  • Books
  • DVDs
  • Chargers and cables
  • Small furniture.

Don't get your hopes up.

Searching eBay for completed listings similar to your item will give you an idea about what it's really worth. You may think it's worth £100 but if everyone else's sold for £40, yours will sell for £40. A good listing and a bit of luck might help you do a bit better, but it might also do a bit worse.

Buy a scale, and use eBay's postage calculator.

I bought a small hanging scale for £5 and weigh everything I'm selling. If you weigh the item with a jiffy bag you'll get an exact cost for postage. I recycle envelopes and boxes from other purchases, but you can also buy packaging from pound shops and on eBay itself. Don't buy from the post office – it's really expensive.

List items for free.

If you your listing starts at 99p and only has one photo then you don't pay anything. You can use custom HTML in the description and include extra photos that way, presuming you have somewhere to host them. Beware! Flickr explicitly blocks image links from eBay referers.

Place 10 day listings and start them on Thursday evening.

It's worth spending 6p per item to schedule all your listings to start on Thursday evening. They'll finish on Sunday evening – a time when people are at home and likely to be looking at the computer. It also gets two weekends to attract bidders and watchers. Theoretically you only have to go to the post office once, on Monday, but there's always one arsehole who won't pay you until Tuesday evening.

Buy it Now probably isn't worth it.

The Buy it Now option disappears as soon as you get your first bidder. People will make a 99p bid in to stop other people buying it outright.

Good pictures help, lots of pictures help.

If it's just a book or a DVD this isn't important, but if you want to sell something that's worth more than £50 then photograph it from every angle and write a lot about it. You'll get more watchers and bidders that way. If you can include photos of your item working, then do so.

Cross-link if you like, but it doesn't work.

If I'm selling a bunch of similar items then I add links to the others in each listing. Other books by the same author, a laptop case for a laptop, or a keyboard that matches a mouse; that kind of thing. I've also got a standard boilerplate that links through to my other items for sale. Despite this, it's very rare to sell more than one thing to anyone. It's probably not worth the hassle.

Most bids happen in the last few minutes.

It's not unusual for bids to trickle in for the first 9 days and only pick up in the last few minutes/seconds. If you've got a lot of watchers – say, more than 15 – then this becomes more likely. Don't panic if you've not hit your expected price before the last day.

Fill out the proof of postage certificate at home.

You can save yourself some time at the Post Office by filling out the certificate at home. Sometimes the counter staff will give you a pad for free, but you can also order over the phone or online. I've also managed to order via email but I've seen suggestions that this only works for business addresses. So far I've never had to use the proof of postage, but it's reassuring and definitely worth doing for larger trades. PayPal and eBay are biased towards the buyer, so if there is a dispute all documentation helps you.

Take a book to the post office.

There will be queues. You will be bored. Take a book.