What is eBay to you?
A lucrative hobby? An easy part-time income? A serious business?
When we first started out we though we’d wait until we had some success until we started purchasing things to streamline our business….but we were backward. It is the streamlining that allows your business to grow! We put a ton of thought into this list because we wanted to recommend only the best items, the ones that we use every single day in our business. While there are other items that might help you take cuter Instagram photos, the following tools are hardworking items that will help the rubber meet the road. So if you’re serious about selling on eBay, don’t be caught without these!
We often find that the main measure for how successful someone is, is how much they have invested in their business. eBay is an incredible opportunity because you can start making money with absolutely no investment. You can find something in you house, take pictures on your phone, and have it for sale within minutes. While this is a great starting point, you always get out of things what you put in and having the right tools for a job will make you much more effective!
1. A Thermal Printer
If you are serious about eBay, you should be shipping all of your orders from home. Not only is it cheaper, but you don’t have to wear pants. Buying a thermal printer and shipping straight from eBay has saved us a ton of money and time. Printing with an ink printer is both expensive (ink prices are out of control) and time-consuming (we hate taping paper labels to boxes). Using a thermal printer costs less than $0.02 a label and ours is still going strong after almost 10,000 orders.
For under $200 you can get a thermal printer and several thousand labels. When we picked ours up a couple of years ago prices were still over $300 and I felt like it was well worth it!
We have written about our favorite thermal printers on this site a couple on times but, if you don’t have time to read our full reviews here is the spoiler: The Rollo Label Printer won by a landslide. It is the best printer available (and among the cheapest). While it won’t win any beauty contests, if it’s still on sale, don’t wait until tomorrow to pick on up!
If you have a bit more time to read, finish this article and then hop over to one of our thermal printer reviews to see what would be the best fit for you!
2. Shipping Scale
Whether you decide to invest in a thermal printer or not, a good shipping scale is integral to any eBay business. Guessing wrong on the weight can leave you with either a buyer who is angry to have overpaid, or leave you out money when you have to make up the difference. The scale we use can be powered either by a cord or by battery (useful when you need to set in the middle of the kitchen floor to weigh something large), and has a detached screen. A detached screen is important as you still need to be able to see the readout when there is a large box on the scale!
It’s cheap, it’s super durable, and it’s the best home shipping scale for eBay. We’ve actually bought 6 of them now because we like adding shipping stations as we go! (and I stepped on the readout of one and dropped another on concrete…)
If you’re less accident-prone than I am, you can find a great scale for about the price of 34 dollar menu hamburgers!
If you are unfamiliar with the Frankenbox, it is time you became a true eBayer! A Frankenbox is what occurs when you don’t have a box that is the right size for whatever you are shipping, so you cobble together several boxes into one ambiguous tape-covered shape to hold your item. While making a Frankenstein box may make you feel accomplished and clever, your buyer can’t help but be a little bummed when they receive something that looks like a bomb in the mail.
The alternative to this is using a box sizer like the one pictured. It will help you cut any box down to size beautifully and uniformly. Not only will your box look better but it ships cheaper (it will be smaller) but it will require less void fill (more savings) and it will be handled better by the shipping company!
Be professional and get one!
4. Label & Sticker Remover
One of our local thrift stores (which we visit at least once a week) seems to put super glue on their labels. Removing the labels leaves pieces behind, tears, or sometimes even stains the item. Enter the Label Scraper. This handy dandy little guy easily removes labels from all of our eBay items! It can’t help with the stains, but for once in our lives, the Goo Gone can stay on the shelf because our labels are all coming off in one piece!
There are many options available (go for metal ones instead of plastic) but there is one we have found that these ones give us the best bang for our buck
5. FREE PACKING SUPPLIES!
Packing materials are one of the most overlooked costs in eBay selling. We have spend almost $50 for supplies to ship a single order (it was a huge set of china and needed lots of bubble wrap) and, if you don’t have a cheap supplier, you might loose your shorts! The best supplies are free supplies so check out some of our favorite sources:
- USPS. You can get free boxes and mailers from USPS delivered straight to your door! Just be sure to order them ahead of time as it can take a week or two to recieve them.
- Dumpsters. While it’s not as much a hobby for us anymore, there was a time when we would stop at dumpsters and pull out boxes and bubble wrap (and saved a ton of money doing so). We routinely found large rolls of bubble wrap, excellent shipping boxes, and even sellable inventory! Just be sure that you’re being safe and not trespassing if you go down this route.
- Local Newspapers and Grocery Stores. Newspapers printers are notorious for creating huge amounts of waste. Whether they are misprints or just leftovers, large bales or newspaper gets recycled or thrown away all the time. In conjunction with this, grocery stores that stock free newspapers/classifieds/etc. end up throwing away all the extras when they get new stock. Reach out to your local stores or Newspapers and ask if they have a day when they toss things and offer to take it off their hands for free!
- Stores. If you are shipping a speciality item, odds are you can score a free box from a friendly local store. When we ship bikes or guitars we head down to our local bike or guitar shop and ask if they have any leftover boxes. More often than not the answer is yes and you can get a box meant for you item for nothing!
- Craigslist/FB Marketplace. After people move they typically end up with tons of boxes as well as packing material. You can either put an ad up saying you’re looking for packing materials or simply search for ads of people trying to give their away!
- Friends & Fam. We have a spot in our garage for random boxes and the pile grows and changes slightly every time I look at it. Family members and friends know not to throw their boxes away and make regular drop offs to our garage stash!
6. CHEAP PACKING TAPE THAT DOESN’T SUCK
We have had our share of mishaps when it comes to buying packing tape and, since we typically buy in bulk, we have ended up with bunches of useless tape more than one. Two specific instances come to mind:
- We like 3″ wide tape as it bridges gaps better and we don’t have to double tape boxes together. We bought a box of 12 rolls of 3″ tape from an eBay seller only to find out that they had deceptively described it as 3″ tape because the inside hole measured 3″ (it all does). The actual width of the tape was barely over 2″. We still used the tape but were pretty bummed out.
- Another time, we found a great deal on tape that really was 3″. Unfortunately, when we got it it was so thin that it would tear when going on boxes and barley stuck enough to keep boxes closed. In this instant we didn’t actually use any of it because we didn’t trust it to get our packages to our buyers safely!
These days, we buy tape from a single source while is a great deal and sticks like glue! Trust us, don’t bother buying inferior tape, you’ll regret it.
The day we made the shift to poly-mailers was one of the happiest of our life. There are better than boxes in so many ways:
- Lower weight reduces shipping cost
- They are much faster to pack things in
- They are much cheaper than boxes
- They are easy to store and take up very little space
We ship almost all of our clothing items in polymailers and figure it saves us around $1 an order, not to mention all the time saved!
Not all poly mailers on the market are created equal. There are many versions that are thin (they tear easily) and have a very weak adhesive. We typically buy from SJPack on Amazon and get our mailers in 10″x13″ and 14.5″x19“
*If you have an eBay store subscription be sure to use your quarterly shipping supplies credit before buying extra
8. THE PERFECT PICTURE TAKING HANGERS
There was a time when we took almost all of our clothing pictures using mannequins. We had 3 different sizes on hand and thought it really made us stand out from the crowd. These days, I firmly believe that a mannequin is unnecessary for the majority of sellers and we only use our for 10% or so of the clothing we picture. Flat-lays and hangers allow you to picture items much faster and, in my opinion, is easier to make look nice.
Cute Hangers: This should be obvious. If you’re trying to sell cute clothes, hang them on a cute hanger. These have the added benefit of adding color to any picture which can give you a more accurate color balance.
Extra Wide Hangers: One of the main errors that eBay seller’s make when taking pictures of clothing is that they use too narrow of a hanger. If the hanger is narrow, the clothing has no shape and the body/arms just drape down in a mass. Wide hangers, on the other hand, mimic much closer a flat-lay.
9. LIGHT KIT & SOFT BOX
The fine print for the idea that you can take nice pictures on hangers would read, “as long as you have good light. If you work at unusual times (like us) or in places without good natural light (like us) you’ll want to invest in a good lighting kit. Do not get suckered into buying anything overboard. Pretty much any kit that doesn’t catch on fire will provide adequate lighting to set you items apart.
Before we bought a lighting system, there were be whole days that we couldn’t take a single picture because we couldn’t get the lighting just right! The picture is your customer’s first point of contact with your item and, if it’s poor, it can turn them off from even clicking on your listing. The lighting system that we use was incredibly budget friendly and very easy to set up. For around $60 you can get set up to take perfect pictures anywhere, any time of day.
If the light kit is too much of an investment for you, here are two cheaper tricks you can try out: pick up some floor lamps from a thrift store and stick daylight white bulbs in them. Or, if you want a more permanent solution, check out this DIY.
10. DRITZ SWEATER STONE (OR SHAVER)
Ever since we figured out how to clean the pills of of sweaters and fleece, we have been buying all the fleece jackets we can find! It takes less than 10 minutes for us to turn a cheap, pill covered, worn out looking jacket or sweater, into something that looks beautiful and almost brand new! Our weapon of choice used to be the Dritz Sweater Stone. In fact, we loved it so much we wrote a guide on how to use it here! While I still love the results it gives, I got tired on it getting dust on everything and cutting up my fingers. These days I’m partial to a battery powered shaver and pick only really nice items to de-pill. Just be sure to get a clothing shaver that has a AC Cord like this one. The first one we bought was battery powered only and we used up two sets of D batteries on a single cardigan.
11. AN AWESOME CAMERA
Is a camera necessary to make money on eBay? No, not at all. We did over $10,000 a month for two years using only our phones and didn’t feel like we were missing out. That is, until we got a camera. Our colors were more accurate, we have more attractive looking textures and details, we could take awesome close-ups, white out the background more effectively, etc. Our main stipulation was that it had to be effortless to transfer pictures onto our phones since that’s where we do all of our drafting and listing. We finally settled on the Nikon J5 which takes awesome pictures at a great price and transfers pictures almost instantly with it’s own app! I can just open the app on my phone, view all the pictures on the camera, and choose which ones to download. While a camera isn’t necessary if you are content as a hobby seller, as soon as you want to scale up and/or hire help, invest in one!
12. A SHOE CLEANING AND PICTURING KIT
Believe it or not, it’s possible to do $100,00 or more on eBay just selling thrifted shoes. If you specialize in footwear, it’s not trick at all to recognize half a dozen pair at a thrift store that are worth picking up every time. We have found shoes worth over $300 at Goodwill and routinely pick up shoes in the $100 range. (Check out this article for shoes brands that sell well on eBay).
Finding shoes is only half the battle however. No one wants to buy stinky shapeless looking shoes. Since your pictures are the only real interaction your buyer has with your item you better….put your best foot forward. Beyond the obvious items (shoes polish, etc) we use the following items to make sure our shoes are looking awesome:
Shoe Forms: These can give any rumply shoe a decent shape again and are an absolute necessity for dress shoes.
Clear Shoe Inserts: These are dirt cheap and we use them for everything from sandals to heels.
Boot Shapers: Tall boots are some of the most difficult footwear to photography attractively. Some sellers simply stick a chopped off pool noodle inside to keep the boots upright but we prefer the more attractive option of Resinta Boot Shapers. Just be sure to state in the auction that they aren’t included!
13. A DECENT BACKDROP
Let’s face it, nobody want to buy your used clothes off of eBay when they’re laid out on your kitchen floor or table (or worse, your dirty floor). A professional backdrop gives your buyer the sense that you are, in fact, a professional. Since you’re a hustler at heart, you’ve probably already figured out that you don’t need expensive vinyl backdrops to get the job done. After all our years on eBay, will actually take most of our pictures using rolls of paper from Michael’s as a background. Wood grain on one side and white on the other. We simply thumbtack it to the wall and nobody knows that it’s not a $100 backdrop! If it gets dirty or tears, it’s cheap enough to buy another roll! If you aren’t close to a craft store, you can find the same ones we use here on Amazon.
While the paper is awesome for hanging on the wall, I will admit that it falls a bit short for flat-lays. The paper quickly wrinkles and tears if you move it too much. For flat-lays, we recommend a long hair rug or sheepskin. You want something with a neutral color but lots of texture! IKEA sheep skins work nicely as will a couple yards of faux fur fabric from your local craft store!
14. To Follow Our Facebook Page!
This is probably the most necessary item on this list! Well, maybe not quite. But I can tell you that every single member who had joined our site and put in the work has been able to grow their eBay business and increase the profits. It’s free to follow us (obviously) and you also have the change to ask us questions, talk with the eBay community, and more!