Back in 1995 when eBay was founded, no one ever dreamed it would become the world’s largest virtual marketplace for buying and selling. Originally, eBay was a way for collectors to connect and find the exact items they desired to grow their personal collections. Today, eBay is not just a gigantic global marketplace—people are using the platform to build businesses that create a part-time or full-time living.
Many individuals choose to use eBay as a hobby and a venue to sell personal items or collectibles they have accumulated over decades. Others come to eBay because a major life event has taken their health, their job, or their money. Now, eBay offers a flexible way to earn money on your own schedule, from home, with zero financial investment, and profits are only limited by the amount of effort a seller puts into the business. There are no barriers to entry on eBay. Anyone can start selling immediately.
The uniqueness of eBay lies in its accessibility and ease of use. Numerous home business opportunities are structured with start-up costs, lengthy training, and home parties, and eBay is available to anyone who has stuff in their house to sell, a computer with an internet connection, and the desire to learn. Anyone with the desire to succeed can start an eBay business, completely free of charge, and start making money in a few weeks.
Getting started on eBay is easy, just follow these steps:
- Open an eBay and Paypal account.
If you had opened an eBay account at some time in the past and can resurrect it, that’s even better. An older eBay account will actually help you as a seller because you won’t look brand new, you will have established a feedback history, and your selling limits will be higher. All sellers must have a Paypal account as it is the only way to accept payment from buyers.
- Download the eBay mobile app on your phone.
It is free. The mobile app will allow you to do the necessary research to determine an item’s value on the eBay marketplace. The eBay App is also a seller’s best friend. You will start hearing the cash register ca-ching sound when an item sells. The mobile app also allows sellers to research prices on items in thrift stores, at garage sales, at consignment sales, and at estate sales before buying an item for resale. Consider the eBay mobile app a portable research tool that helps you make decisions about what to buy for resale.
- If you are brand new to eBay, buy a few inexpensive items first to get familiar with the eBay landscape.
Purchase items you actually need and use like cosmetics, small office supplies, or craft supplies for your kids. The best way to learn about eBay is to be a customer first. You will understand things from the buyer’s side like how to check out, what the shipping notifications look like, how to leave feedback for a seller, and how items are packaged and shipped. Also, it is very had to sell anything with zero feedback on eBay. Build up your feedback to at least 20 before attempting to sell anything. Buyers want to know you are an established and trusted eBay member before giving you their money.
- Buy a postage scale.
While eBay doesn’t require any up-front financial investment, a scale is a crucial tool all sellers need. It is imperative to enter the weight of an item into the listing so that postage can be correctly calculated. Notably, eBay is integrated with the USPS. Sellers simply enter the weight of the item (including packaging), the class of mail, and the correct shipping charge will appear to each individual buyer as they browse listings. A good scale to order is the Weigh Max 2822 which costs about $20 on eBay. Without a scale, you are just guessing at the weight and this can lead to overcharging the customer, which could result in negative feedback. A scale is the most important tool all at-home eBay sellers need.
- Learn how to research an item's value.
Watch this video about how to research what an item is worth on eBay. Many new sellers don’t understand the research process. Pricing for eBay is similar to pricing a home for sale. Research historical data via completed listings to determine what a buyer actually paid for an item, rather than what another seller is asking. Researching completed listings is how sellers determine if an item is worth selling and the approximate price it can be sold for. Practice looking up items in your home. You’ll develop more complex pricing strategies as your business grows. As a beginner, simply find an item similar to the one you wish to sell and compare the prices on completed listings and use your best judgment. Understand that you probably won't get retail value for your item and it doesn't matter what you paid for it 10 years ago. An item is only worth what someone will pay for it today.
- Start selling items from around your home.
The average American household has $7,000 worth of items that can be sold online. (And that’s the average — yours may have much more!) Go through every room in your home and sort out items that you don’t need, want, or use. It may take 6-12 months to list all the items you already have before venturing out to purchase items to resell. Start with low value items in the $10-$20 range to get the hang of eBay. Make your mistakes and develop a comfort zone listing cheap items before listing high ticket items.
- Order shipping supplies.
All priority mail supplies are free. Set up an account on USPS.com, it is free. Order a variety of shipping supplies including padded flat rate mailers, Tyvek mailers, shoe boxes, 8x8x12 boxes, and rectangular boxes. Don’t fool with flat rate boxes just yet. As your business grows, you will have a better idea of what sizes you’ll need on a regular basis. USPS ships the supplies to your door within about 10 business days.
- Order some 9x12 Poly Mailers from eBay or Amazon.
Lots of items can be shipped First Class, and the post office does not provide First Class mailers for free.
- Think about storage.
Where will you store items that have been listed? You want to create a system where you can retrieve items quickly and easily when something sells so you can ship it in a timely manner. We can discuss and brainstorm when I am there. Just think ahead about creating a space for your eBay inventory.
- Keep track of any expenses you incur with your business from day 1.
When you purchase packing tape, storage containers, shipping labels, inventory, or any supplies, keep up with receipts so the expenses can be used on your tax return. Consult a professional CPA with any questions about how an at-home eBay business should be included on your tax return.
Getting started on eBay may seem overwhelming at first. But millions of people make money selling on eBay, and if they can do it, you can, too. But one caveat: eBay charges fees for listing items for sale. Make sure you learn about the different ways you might be charged so you won't get unpleasant surprises.
Building your home eBay business takes time, patience, dedication, and the willingness to learn. eBay has a step-by-step tutorial on their site with even more information about every aspect of the selling process. Millions of people make money on eBay every day, and so can you.