Work Life Balance Tips for At-Home eBay Sellers

The mother is working on a laptop computer and talking on the phone

FatCamera/Getty Images 

We hear a lot about work-life balance these days. There are a lot of different definitions for this phrase. My personal favorite is from Brian Halligan, co-founder, and CEO of HubSpot:

"I find that I am at my best professionally when I am well-rested and have time away from email to actually think,” says Halligan. “I’m in violent agreement with Ideo partner Tom Kelley’s notion that the best ideas come from moments of ‘relaxed attention,’ so I’ve created significantly more time in my life for naps and meditation. Doing so has had a huge impact on how I feel and the clarity of my thinking. One of my big initiatives this year is to think more and work less. I think it makes leaders and companies significantly more productive and successful."

Whatever your definition is of work-life balance, the objective is to make sure that you are running your eBay business and it isn't running you. After all, why did you choose to have an at-home eBay business? So you could spend more time with family, escape the pressures and demands of corporate America, or be able to set your own hours? Make sure you are still doing those things when you work for yourself. Some new entrepreneurs learn all too quickly that an eBay business can take over your life, your family, and your home if not kept in check. Here are a few ways to keep the balance while keeping your business profitable and keeping your sanity.

Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

While building a business takes adjustments, you must set boundaries or it will take over your life. Set boundaries for where you will work, when you will work, and how much you will work. It is a great idea to set up a specific place for your eBay work. If you are lucky enough to have an extra room, basement, or home office, that works fine. Try to make it a place where you can shut the door or leave the room, so you can have some non-eBay time. 

Set up work hours and stick to them. If your kids are in school and gone from 8 am—3 pm, you could make those your work hours. Be available for them when they get home to help with homework, activities, dinner, and the bedtime routine. After the kids are in bed, if you are a single parent or have a spouse who is on board with eBay, finish up a few more eBay tasks then take some down time. Remember stay at home parents, the reason you are staying at home and not working outside the home is to be there for your kids. You cannot go back and raise them over again. eBay will be there when they are grown and gone. Or as in my case, when they hit middle school and disown you

Don't Shoo the Kids Away Too Often

Again, remember why you chose to sell on eBay and work from home. Moms and dads with little ones, listen up! It can be very tempting to put on a video (and then another one) to keep the kids occupied while you work. Just remember there needs to be a balance. If you notice that your kids are watching more videos, tv, or playing more videos than getting mommy or daddy time, it is time to make a shift. I was a single stay at home parent for 11 years, and eBay was the way I paid the bills. But, I always made sure I did the important things with the kids like going to their basketball games, volunteering at school, helping with homework, and greeting the kids when they came in from school. That was important to me.

eBay Mobile makes the whole process even more convenient because parents can be working on their phones virtually anywhere — in the waiting room at the dentist, while the kids are taking swim lessons, or standing at the bus stop. Make sure you don't miss those important moments with your children. Do you want them to remember you glued to your phone every time you are at their practice or ball game? Or sitting at the computer every single night after dinner? Yes, you are making money for the good of the family, but kids are only kids once and you can't go back and do "parenting" over again. 

If you find yourself shooing the kids away too often, that means it is time to take a break from eBay and spend some time with them. Do a non-eBay activity. Get out of the house. Enjoy the space you have made in your life for your family. eBay will be there later.

Schedule Time for Fun 

The American culture was founded on the ideals of the Puritans who had a very strict work ethic. All work and very little play or rest. In fact, rest was for wimps. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were raised with these values more so than millennials. The American culture, compared to other countries, doesn't value rest and recreation. It is ok to be a business owner and still have fun. Have a social life. Have some downtime. But you may have to schedule it. Either set aside the same time each week for a fun activity with your family, spouse, significant other, or friends. Do something to feed your soul like a yoga class, book club, a bike ride, or get a Starbucks latte and browse the books at Barnes and Noble. 

It might be going to your favorite neighborhood place and having some adult beverages. It may be going out to a movie. It could be taking the kids to the park. One of the benefits of an eBay business is that you can make money while you sleep. You have already done the work, so you could be getting sales while you are doing anything else. Don't feel guilty for scheduling time to nurture yourself. And don't wait until you are super stressed out to take some "you" time. You work hard, you deserve it. (I think I just wrote that last part for myself!)

Watch Out for Inventory Creep

Also known as death piles. All that stuff you bought intending to sell on eBay. And you very well may sell it. This is the part of eBay that gets out of control, very, very quickly. It isn't intentional, it just happens because you can't leave a deal behind. Or you went to the Goodwill Outlet and found so much good stuff. Or you showed up at the church rummage sale and paid $100 for all the leftovers. Finding inventory is never the problem. Getting it listed is always the backlog. When your eBay room is full of unlisted inventory, then your guest room is starting to fill up, and finally, you start leaving bags in your car because you don't want another lecture from your spouse, it is time to remember why you are doing eBay in the first place.

Too many sellers use eBay as an excuse to shop. Remember, you started eBay as a home business to make money in an enjoyable and interesting way. You can't make money if you aren't listing. Put yourself on inventory lockdown and discipline yourself to list what you have already bought. Or hire a virtual assistant to help you. Do what it takes to catch up. 

Look for the Signs of an Addiction

I have been selling on eBay since 2003 and know first hand how addicting it can be. Don't let it take over your life. Signs of an eBay addiction are just like signs for any other addiction:

  • Missing important appointments or social engagements
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Becoming defensive when people accuse you of having an addiction
  • Loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy or spend your time doing
  • Loss of control over the amount of time spent eBaying 
  • Obsessive thoughts about your eBay business—it is all you think about and do

If you feel like you live, eat, and sleep eBay, take note. Don't let it get out of control.

Be Mindful

Always stay aware and mindful of why you are doing eBay. If something about the business is stressing you out, you can change it. You are in charge of your eBay business and in control of how it is managed. If you are sick of wrapping and shipping breakables like china or coffee mugs, don't sell them anymore. If you love the shopping but can't stand to be on the computer all day, hire help either locally or virtually. If your business is too big and you can't keep up anymore because of health problems, family issues, or you are just exhausted from it all, scale back.

Many sellers get to the point where they can't do it as themselves anymore. Some want to scale up and hire employees, get a warehouse, and make it a huge operation. Others want a business they can manage alone, 100 percent hands on. Especially those who are retired, semi-retired or left the corporate world. Some sellers don't want to manage employees, deal with hiring, payroll, training, or putting out fires all day. They just want to find things to sell, list, and ship. And there is nothing wrong with that.

eBay is not a one size fits all business. It is flexible and each seller can personalize it to fit their lifestyle, family situation, budget, and interests. The reason eBay is so attractive as a home business is because you can make it your own. So if you feel like your business is running you, rather than the other way around, it is time to adjust your work life balance.