If one of your goals this year is to pay off debt, start a business, or even start an ebay business, this post is for you! I started my ebay business about 5 years ago to be able to pay off debt and afford private school tuition. Our business has been a huge blessing to our family, and I know it can be to your family too.
In the beginning, there are so many questions about how to price items, list them and ship them to buyers. This post takes it one step further. It helps you go from selling items casually to creating a business.
Just a warning: this post is very long and detailed. Read the whole thing start to finish or just skip through what you already know. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. I would love to help!
Here’s how to start an ebay business:
Set Up Your Accounts
First things first, you need to have an ebay account to start an ebay business. If you have a personal account, that is fine to begin with. You can change it to a business account later if you decide you want to take ebay selling to the next level.
Don’t worry about opening a store in the beginning. You will get 200 free listings from ebay. They will charge a small fee after that. Don’t worry about paying for fees. If your items are worth selling, they are worth paying a fee for. It’s just the cost of doing business.
If you are selling as a hobby and wonder if opening an ebay store is worth it, you can use a calculator to see a side by side comparison of the fees. A store has its advantages. Just make sure that store fees are a justifiable expense.
Gather Your Equipment
There is no need to be fancy here. You probably have everything that you need to complete a successful ebay transaction lying around your house. You will find both a beginner list and a pro list. The beginner list includes the essentials and the pro list includes extras that will help you take your business to the next level.
- Printer- inkjet or laser
- Half Sheet Labels
- Postal scale
- Smartphone w/ ebay app for Android or iOS
- Packing tape
- Packing materials- clean recycled boxes, bubble wrap, bubble mailers, free priority boxes from USPS
- Printer- laser or thermal (Zebra or Dymo)
- Printer labels (laser or Zebra or Dymo)
- Postal scale
- Larger postal scale (400 lb capacity)
- Smartphone w/ ebay app for Android or iOS
- Packing tape
- Packing materials- clean recycled boxes, bubble wrap, bubble mailers, free Priority boxes and mailers from USPS
- Scotty peelers
- Box reducer
- Poly bags (for organization and keeping items clean)
- Umbrella photography lights
For clothing sellers:
- Male dress form mannequin
- Female dress form mannequin
- Conair steamer
- Commercial Clothing Z Rack
- Poly mailers
Find Stuff to Sell
So once you open your accounts and round up the necessary equipment, it’s time to figure out what you are going to sell. I always recommend that people sell extra stuff that they have around the house to get started. Go on a decluttering binge and make a big pile of your finds. Look each item up individually and see what it has sold for. You can do this on your computer or on the ebay app.
Some items to look for are:
- anything new with tags or new in box
- small appliances like vacuums, blenders, food processors, etc. (even those that are not working, their parts may be worth something)
- video game consoles and games
- vintage toys
- high-end clothing, shoes, and accessories
- printer ink (even ink that is expired)
- Disney collectibles
- tv series on DVD
- electronics (cameras, remotes, etc.)
Get into the habit of looking up anything you find, especially if you are brand new. Most items have model numbers or names that you can use to look research them with.
There are two ways to get ahead of the learning curve:
- Educate yourself by looking up at a particular item and sorting the sold listings by highest price and see what is profitable in that category
- Use ebay’s seller hub to research the buying trends and top brands to sell.
Find Places to Source More Inventory
At some point, your pile of decluttered stuff is going to run out. A good place to start is to think about what you know. What hobbies to you have or what do you collect?
If you want to turn ebay into a full-time business, you need to increase the number of items you have listed. That will not happen with 50-100 listings.
There is no magic number of listings. However, ebay does reward your activity by boosting the visibility of your listings. The more consistent you are with listing, the more sales you will make.
Create a Plan to Process Inventory
When you bring something into your work space, what happens to it. Right now, create a plan of how this item will flow from the time it comes in your door until the time that it goes out.
This should include:
Designate a place for all of your cleaning supplies and your shipping supplies. Inventory should be clearly labeled in a designated area. When you sell an item, it should be easy to find and ship.
Make a Time Mangement Plan
If ebay is going to be a part-time or full-time job for you, you have to make some sort of a schedule. Do not underestimate the power of listing just 10 items per day. You will be surprised how that will add up over time.
The more organized you are, the more efficient you can be with your time. Finding a sense of balance is difficult. It is really important though. If you are spending all of your time sourcing, nothing is going to get listed. If you are not listing, you’re not selling.
Take time in the morning to write out a plan of what needs to get done that day.
- Start with the most important task, which is shipping your sold items. They must get to your buyer on time.
- After that, list inventory that needs to be listed so that it does not pile up.
- Immediately put it where it goes and record it’s location somewhere that is easy to access. (I use the “custom label/SKU” field near the top of the listing.)
Provide Excellent Customer Service
Your customer service skills are what is going to set you apart in the reselling world. Here is the secret to great customer service- treat people how you want to be treated. It’s that simple.
The ebay app on your smartphone will notify you when you get a message about an item. Try to answer any questions as soon as possible. I try to answer within 30 minutes or an hour. A quick response could be the difference between making a sale and losing one. Many buyers have thanked me for my quick response!
Be proactive. Solve the problem before it becomes a problem.
Have a standard response when a customer has an issue with their item. Make sure that your response lines up with ebay’s return policies and money back guarantee.
Do not get emotional or snarky. Remember this is business. It’s not personal. If you get a message from a buyer that is upsetting, step away from your computer or phone and come back to it when you can give a professional answer.
If all else fails, call ebay. They will tell you how to handle the problem. They can also give you the next steps to take in the process until the issue is dealt with.
Keep Track of Your Sales & Expenses
Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional. Please seek out advice from a CPA for tax information, not just a tax preparer.
Basic bookkeeping is a necessary evil. The method that you use is not as important as actually doing it. I used GoDaddy Bookkeeping for years. It will connect to ebay, PayPal and your checking account (you should have a separate one just for business).
GoDaddy can pull all of your transactions from sites and put it all in one place. It even works with Etsy too! Use Ebates and get 5% cashback!
I am using QuickBooks now because I need to incorporate other aspects of my business, but GoDaddy Bookkeeping does just fine for ebay and Etsy.
There are other methods of keeping track of your books too, like spreadsheets or other software programs.
The method does not matter. Doing it is what matters.
Please consult a CPA as to what you need to keep track of and what you can write off as an expense. Do this before you start your ebay business so that you can do it correctly from the start.
If you do not have a tax professional that you use already, I would suggest using Dave Ramsey’s ELP service. They do not work for him, but they are recommended by him because they follow the principles that he teaches. This is how I found an accountant when starting my business.
Connect with the Online Reselling Community
If you did not know this already, there is a huge reselling community out there. There are a lot of great youtube channels and facebook groups dedicated to helping resellers succeed. It’s great to have friends that “get” what you do.
As with anything, there are people putting out false information. Pay attention to who you listen to and double check anything that sounds fishy. Blindly following someone can get you into trouble, even if they have good intentions.
Decide What You Will Do With the Leftovers
No matter how well you plan, you will have what I call leftovers. This might be the odd pieces to something that is incomplete, the spare parts, or what was in the bottom of the box lot you got at a garage sale or auction. The leftovers could also be low-value or stale inventory.
Since you spent money on it, try as best you can to get something back. If all else fails, you can donate it, but there are plenty of ways to make money on the leftovers.
And there you have it! You are well on your way to starting an ebay business. It’s not hard, it just takes some time and practice. It is a marathon and not a sprint. If you get frustrated, just remember that it takes a while to get comfortable with this selling platform and to learn great products to sell. You will do great!