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How to Start Your Own eBay Business
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Chances are high you’ve checked eBay at least once to find an item cheaper than it would be at a retailer — maybe you even out-bidded someone to snag a deal. If so, that means you are one of 171 million active users worldwide using the e-commerce platform.
But consider the flip side: There are 25 million sellers on eBay. Could you be one? Samahria Richie is: when she was six months pregnant with her third child, she started selling on eBay in 2014 to make extra money. She sells pre-owned children’s items, such as toys and stuffed animals.
When she first started selling, Richie earned enough to cover some house renovations, and today she’s running her business, Sell4Less, full- time.
“Initially I got into it to make some extra money to pay for that addition that we were building,” Richie said. “But ultimately, it was to build a business so that I could quit my full-time career, which was an IT Specialist.”
Like Richie, you can profit from selling on eBay. But to be successful, you must carefully consider the following: product descriptions, enticing photos, and titles and prices that will attract one of those millions of buyers. Keep reading to find out everything it takes to start a successful eBay business.
Benefits of owning an eBay business
eBay offers a wide range of benefits for different sellers and buyers, but as a seller, the platform requires you have these basic skills:
- Able to take quality photos
- Writing skills
- Time to search for and buy your products
- Space for inventory
- Real-time communication skills with buyers
You might need additional skills, depending on what you sell. Perhaps the biggest benefit of selling on eBay is that you can invest as much — or as little — time as you want in the venture.
Selling on eBay: personal benefits
Flexibility. Selling on eBay gives you the freedom to work any time during the day — from your computer or even from your phone. This is particularly attractive if a standard work schedule doesn’t fit your needs. For example, students, stay-at-home mothers and temporarily unemployed people typically find that flexibility helpful.
Part-time work. You can earn extra money with only a part-time commitment. You decide how many hours you want to devote per week developing your eBay business. That means you can keep your day job, but still make extra money every month you can use for investing, building an emergency fund or just having fun.
Declutter. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. If you have items you don’t want and they’re taking up space, why not take the opportunity to make money and list them on eBay? Your house will be cleaner and your wallet fatter. You’re also being eco-friendly by passing along an item to someone who wants it rather than dumping it in the trash.
Reputation. eBay has been selling goods since 1995 and today has more than 171 million users worldwide. It is a brand many people use and trust.
Built-in audience. With more than 171 million global users, someone will come across your item — and hopefully buy it.
Account options. You can list up to 50 items per month for free on an eBay’s seller account. eBay takes 10 percent of the final sales price, but you can get more free monthly listings and a lower percentage cut if you upgrade to a store subscription. eBay offers five subscriptions, ranging from $4.95 per month to $2,999.95 per month with an annual subscription.
Selling options. You can list an item available for immediate purchase via the “Buy Now” feature, conduct an auction, or combine both. The Buy Now feature works best when you sell a popular item that people want to purchase. If you have an item that’s in high demand but only a few in stock, you can take advantage of that demand and auction the item off to the highest bidder. You also can set a hidden, minimum price — or reserve price — for your auction and use the Buy Now feature.
Challenges of owning an eBay business
Staying organized. Finding storage space and keeping inventory accessible can be a challenge, especially in the beginning. “I had 30 or 40 items in this coat closet, and every time I sold an item, I would have to pull everything out to find that item,” said Richie. Now she uses bins with letters and notes in her eBay listing where the item is stored. She suggests people carve out space for their items the moment they start selling on eBay — and keep the space organized. “So when it sells, you can go straight to it without stressing,” Richie said.
Tracking eBay’s different fees. eBay allows sellers to list up to 50 items per month without a listing fee — or in eBay lingo, “insertion fee.” eBay charges this fee for each item you list per category. Some examples of categories are: Cell Phones and Accessories, Art, Jewelry, etc. If you list more than 50 items, you pay a fee, and if you list the same item in two categories, you are charged two listing, or insertion, fees.
If an item doesn’t sell, unfortunately you won’t get that insertion fee refunded. You’ll also pay for re-listed items. eBay takes a cut of your selling price — called a final value fee — which is 10 percent of the sales price. eBay will also base the amount for the final value fee on what type of shipping the buyer selects, such as free, fixed amount or calculated cost.
Taking quality pictures. Photographs are key when you’re trying to convince a buyer to purchase your item. The better the picture, the easier a buyer can picture the item as hers or his. If your only experience with a camera is taking a selfie, you might need to brush up on your photography skills — you might even consider taking a class.
Choosing a shipping method. You can provide buyers with free shipping and pay the cost yourself or charge the buyer for shipping. If you offer free shipping — a popular option for buyers — you must make sure you net enough to pay for shipping. If you charge for shipping, you can either set a flat fee or use eBay’s shipping calculator to get a range for the shipping cost. If you set a flat fee, make sure you don’t underestimate the actual cost, which could eat into your profit.
6 steps to start an eBay business
There are two ways to sell on eBay: from a basic account or an eBay Store. An eBay Store offers more perks than a basic account, such as free listings, lower final value fee, customizable storefront, the ability to notify customers if you are “out of the office” and eBay Store-specific marketing tools. Naturally, an eBay Store comes with a price and a number of different options.
Selling from a basic eBay account
These are the steps to setting up an eBay business. Follow these and make your setup easy:
Step 1. Register for an eBay account if you don’t have one. Click “Register” at the top left-hand corner of the homepage and complete the steps. Your registration is complete after you receive a welcome email from eBay.
Step 2. Sign in and click “Sell” at the top right-hand corner. You will be directed to a new page with a search box.
Step 3. In the search box, type in the item you want to sell. Select the item from the dropdown. Then select the item’s “Category.” You will be directed to a new page.
Step 4. On this page, there likely will be items similar to what you’re listing. If none matches your item, click “Create a new listing” at the top right-hand corner. You’ll be taken to a page where you can describe your item’s details.
Step 5. Fill in the necessary information: title, photos, details, description, pricing and shipping cost. If you decide to list as an auction, include the lowest amount you will accept.
Step 6. Finally, click “List It.”Congratulations! You just listed your first item and are now an eBay Seller.
Starting an eBay Store
You can have an eBay Store for as little as $4.95 per month with an annual subscription — or $7.95 without one. There are five eBay store tiers, from Starter to Enterprise, with different levels of benefits. Keep reading to find out how to start one.
|With Yearly Subscription||$4.95/month||$21.95/month||$59.95/month||$299.95/month||$2,999.95/month|
|Free, Fixed-price Insertion||$100/month||$250/month||$1,000/month||$10,000/month||$10,000/month|
|Additional Fixed-price Insertion||$0.30||$0.25||$0.10||$0.05||$0.05|
|Final Value Fee Cap||$750||$250||$250||$250||$250|
|Final Value Fee||3.5% to 10%||3.5% to 9.15%||3.5% to 9.15%||3.5% to 9.15%||3.5% to 9.15%|
- Register for an eBay account if you don’t have one. Once you’re on eBay.com, you’ll see “Sign In” or “Register” at the top left-hand corner. Click “Register” and complete the steps — you’ll know you’re officially registered once you have a welcome email from eBay.
- Sign in. Once you’re signed in, click the “Hi+Your Name” at the top left.
- Go to “Account Settings” in the dropdown.
- The left side of the page has a small box with the heading, “My eBay Views.” Click on “Subscriptions” and you’ll be redirected to a new page.
- Click on “Choose a Store.”
- Choose from five Store options — from Starter to Enterprise — and make sure the plan best fits your selling goals.
Need business funding? Learn more about small business loans here.
Tips for being a successful eBay seller
Here are few tips you can to strengthen your knowledge about the platform and build a reputation for having quality listings.
Research before you price. You must do what you do if you owned a small business — look at your product or service’s market value. To do this, go to “Advanced,” next to the search bar. Type in a keyword, and in the second rectangle, check “Sold listings” under the “search including” heading. Review the items’ sold prices and note the condition of the items, the listings’ photos and descriptions and anything else that might help you improve your own listing.
Learn what’s trending. Explore.ebay.com provides an array of popular items buyers searched for on different days. Use this information to determine items that are in demand.
Learn from others. YouTube provides plenty of videos that offer tips for starting an eBay store. eBay Store owner Emma Nelskiy’s YouTube channel, “Ambitions Out Loud,” provides ample information for sellers, including videos dedicated to showing how to write titles, whether or not to incorporate your business and how to organize inventory.
Check out podcasts specifically geared toward eBay sellers such as, “So You Wanna Sell On eBay.” Created by co-hosts Ron LaBeau and Ali Young, this podcast features interviews with more than150 high-performing eBay sellers and provides insightful advice for everyone. “Our audience is anyone thinking about selling on eBay, anyone who has an eBay store, all the way up to experts selling $150,000 per year on eBay,” said co-host Ron LaBeau. “We cover the gamut.” Recent episodes have featured tips on what types of items to sell, how to turn a small spend into a big profit and reasons for starting a business on eBay.
Take stunning photographs. eBay provides a plethora of tips for taking great photos, including:
- Use a plain backdrop.
- Use diffused lighting instead of flash photography.
- Take high-resolution photos.
- Photograph your item from various angles.
- Use a variety of shots, including close-ups.
- Avoid using props.
- You don’t need to use filters.
- Show the items scale relative to another item.
Start slowly. “A person doesn’t have to create a full-time business right away. It can be a supplement to their income,” said Richie. A good place to start is by signing up for the basic account, which is free. With up to 50 free listings, a seller can test the waters and decide how to proceed from there.
Write precise descriptions. The more specific information you can provide, the better, according to eBay. Include brand, style and model number. Although you want to highlight the item’s best features, don’t forget to note any flaws or defects. Don’t describe a pre-owned item as new, write simple and succinct descriptions, and don’t use unusual-looking text or too many fonts and colors.
Is an eBay business right for you?
An eBay business can work for a variety of people. If you’d like to bring in additional income by selling items part-time or build up your business to the point at which you’ve generated enough income to go move up to an eBay Store account, an eBay business might be right for you. Here’s what to consider:
- Do you have a surplus of anything?
- Do you have an eye for one-of-a-kind items?
- Do you have basic computer skills?
- Do you need flexibility for an irregular schedule, but you still want to bring in income?
“The benefit would be to have another income source or income stream. It would also be for somebody who wanted to quit their nine-to-five job,” said Richie. “It would provide some freedom, not having to work … for somebody else.”