How to Start an eBay Business

Woman preparing parcel for shipment
••• Morsa Images / Getty Images

Building an eBay business is like building any other company from scratch. It's a messy process. You have to think like an entrepreneur. You'll need some business sense and good communication skills. Selling isn’t easy, but getting your business going on eBay is actually pretty simple and straightforward. If you're not already an eBay member, you'll need to get an eBay account. It is the same kind of account that eBay shoppers use, and it's free to set up.

Make Some Purchases

Screenshot showing how to buy something on eBay

Before you can successfully sell on eBay, you'll need to see how people on eBay buy. With that in mind, buy a few things that you need on eBay to learn how eBay shopping works. Look at listings in a few different formats and get up to speed on how bidding works on eBay.

Make Some Simple Sales to Gain Experience

Screenshot of an eBay listing

Start by listing one item for sale on eBay—just something around the house. If you're having trouble deciding, look at lists of common first-time sellers items or go through your house one room at a time to find things you don't need any longer.

Once you have items to post, take pictures of them and write good descriptions, careful to disclose any flaws or blemishes. If you don't have one already, pick up a scale so you can determine the right weight and consult eBay's shipping calculator to see how much it's going to cost you to send the item. Make sure to weigh the items in the envelope or packaging you're planning to ship the item in to get the most accurate weight.

When you're ready to list, use the "Sell" link at the upper-right of eBay's website and fill out the selling form to post the items for sale. From there, when you get your first sales, you'll need to package and ship your items. When the package is delivered, ask for and leave feedback.

Beware that eBay charges listing fees after you have reached 50 listings. Make sure you know what fees you might be subject to so as to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Learn the Ins and Outs of eBay

Screenshot of the list of eBay policies

With some basic buying and selling experience under your belt, do some reading to get a feel for eBay's rules and basic features and culture. Take notes.

Start Sourcing Items to Sell

Picture of multiple people working on laptops and phones on a crowded table

You can't make a living selling things you've found around the house. You'll need to find things to sell—things that you can buy with regularity, mark up, and sell with predictability. The best places to find items that you can resell are thrift stores, flea markets, swap meets, garage, sales, yard sales, auctions, estate sales, and anywhere else folks are unloading their second-hand stuff.

Ultimately, finding shopping trends, niches, and great product opportunities is up to you. So is finding and establishing relationships with sources and suppliers or drop-shippers and wholesalers. You'll also be in charge of managing the capital needs of getting started with an initial inventory, whatever these may be. eBay won't and doesn't help with this process.

You will have to do research. Send email. Make phone calls. Visit other businesses. Build relationships. There is often no easy step-by-step here. You'll need to think about business models and your customer service values. You'll also be faced with everyday retail questions like whether you'll handle the goods you sell or use a fulfillment partner, or how your accounting will be done, or what it takes to operate as a business legally in your area.

Work and Grow

Picture of a woman working on a laptop

Getting up and running is just the beginning. In time, you may want to outfit an office and set financial and other kinds of goals, using market research to help you to balance your books with sustainable average selling prices, sell-through rates and volume relative to your costs. You may also want to branch out beyond eBay since eBay is just one selling venue amongst many that are online. Eventually, you may want to take your start and turn it into a functioning company and business process that's all about what you sell and your relationships with customers and suppliers—not necessarily just about eBay itself.