Tuesday, June 14, 2011

eBay 101 - How to sell your clothes

As you know, I love me some eBay.  I've been buying random things from strangers since 2001, but only recently selling my own stuff once I realized that my wardrobe had gotten out of hand and some of the items were (excuse my candor) too good for Goodwill.  There, I said it.  I don't mind donating clothes, but if something was fairly expensive and hardly worn I would rather it go to someone willing to pay more than 50 cents. 

Since so many of you were interested in a guide to selling your old stuff for Paypal money, I've put together this little post in hopes that some of you will be inspired to purge the closet and reap the benefits!

Warning, this is the longest post ever!!  (Please also note that I'm not a professional, and all advice here is merely what works for me and you can take it or leave it)


Step 1 - Create an account and buy some stuff
Before you start selling, you need to start buying.  Every eBay transaction you make earns you positive feedback so long as you pay/ship on time.  People take feedback ratings very seriously on eBay, and they're unlikely to bid on your items if you don't have at least a few positive ratings from other people.  You'll also need a Paypal account, since that's how you'll be paid.

Step 2 - Sort your stuff (honestly)
Once you purge your closet, go back through all the items and realistically pull out the things that you'd be happy to buy yourself.  If the garment is faded, stretched out or pilling you will need to disclose it and unless it was originally quite expensive, it's unlikely to make you enough money to be worth the trouble.  I only sell things that are in great condition and donate the rest.  Name brand clothes obviously sell best, especially J.Crew and Banana Republic and any other brand that you see a lot in  magazines.

Step 3 - Take pictures and measurements of everything
I like to sell lots of things at the same time so I will put a Command hook on a white wall and photograph every item on a hanger, with close ups of any detail that I'd want to see if I were the buyer.  I photograph the front and back of pants, I do a close up shot of the label for dresses that I know people will to verify as name brand, if there are any interesting details on the garment I'll include a shot of them (like roll tab sleeves or epaulette detail).

I also lay the item flat and take measurements of the following: inseam, inches across waist/bust/leg opening, and distance from shoulder to hem or waist to hem.  Again, think of what you'd want to know if you were buying clothes sight unseen for $5.99.

Step 4 - Create your listings, with detail!
When you're logged in to eBay, you'll see the option to create a listing.  You'll be prompted to determine the category of your listing, such as Womens Dresses, and then you'll end up at the main listing form.  You'll need to fill out these categories:

Title: Although it sounds easy, this is critical.  You have 55 characters and will need to convey brand name, size, description, and whether the item is new or not.  If you're vague, a lot of people will not click through.  The acronym NWT means "new with tags" and NWOT means "new without tags".  If your item is not one of these, you don't need to specify.  An example of a good title is:  Banana Republic Wrap Dress - Fall 2010 Mad Men - Sz L. 

Pictures:  Your item will not sell if you don't supply good photos.  The first photo upload is free, and there is a 15 cent charge for additional photos.  Upload your best photo first, since it will show in the search results, and then add the others you think people would want to see before buying.

Category Info: You'll see a series of drop downs where you can select features that describe your item, such as sleeve length, size, brand name and color.  These aren't mandatory, but they help people find your item in searches.  Fill them in.

Description: Now you'll describe your item in detail, conveying everything you'd want to know if you were shopping.  I don't pretend to be a professional seller, and mention that I'm cleaning the closet and selling lots of clothes.  I state when I bought the item (if I remember) and how little it was worn,  include all measurements that I took in Step 3, and anything else I can think of.  I like to note that my clothes aren't faded or stretched out, and that I'm available to answer questions if needed.  I also mention that I accept Paypal only (who wants a check these days?) and mention that I ship "via USPS" and provide a flat rate (more on that later).  Finally, I thank the viewer for looking and invite them to check out my other auctions, if I have any.

Price and shipping: Now you need to decide on a price. Some sellers will start their listings off at 99 cents and watch it rise, confident that the item will sell for it's true value.  I like to start my auction at the lowest price I am willing to accept for the item.  I determine this number by searching for similar listings and seeing what the going rate appears to be, and then I chop off a dollar or two because I want to sell quickly. You can also set a Buy It Now price that will let people purchase your item immediately for the price you specify.  I sometimes do this if eBay is offering it for free, but I always set it at way more than I expect to get, like $8.99 for a shirt from 3 years ago.

When it comes to shipping, I will admit I am lazy.  I have learned that if something is less than 13 ounces, I can ship it via First Class Mail (2-3 days) for around $3.  I also know that a padded envelope from Target is about $1, so I charge a flat rate of $4 for shirts and skirts.    If the item weighs more than 13 ounces, you'll need to ship via Priority Mail and that will cost about $5-7 for things like dresses and jeans.  I add a dollar to my cost to cover the envelope, but usually charge a flat $5 for dresses and $7 for jeans and anything that's kinda heavy like a sweater.

When filling out the listing form, be sure you fill out the check boxes accordingly:

Finally, you'll specify your Paypal account and that you are not interested in foreign buyers.

Step 5 - Profit!

Step 6 - Pack and Ship
Once your items sell, you can log in to your My eBay dashboard and send an invoice for each item to request payment.  Most people will pay immediately, but send the invoice anyway.  Once you receive your money, you'll see the option to print a shipping label.  I do this instead of going to the post office because again, I am lazy, and also it's cheaper.  Clicking the link will take you to a page where you put in the weight of your package and then you can generate a label and pay for it out of the Paypal account.  Tape the label to your envelope, seal it up, and you're done!  Be sure you leave positive feedback for your buyers, and they'll do the same for you.

Now repeat it all every season.  :)


  1. This is so helpful! It sounds like a lot of work but definitely worth it :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for this post!!! Extremely helpful and I can't wait to give it a try. I'll let you know how it goes. :)


  3. Thanks for the advice! Maybe you and I should get together and have a clothes swap party! I have so many designer clothes that I don't want to sit anymore and collect dust.



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