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Selling On eBay-- Is It For You?

Updated on May 10, 2013

E-bay- PayPal- SEO - Your Online Future

Nearly everywhere you look these days you can find ads and advice promoting selling on eBay. Whether on TV, in print or on the internet the ads all have the same pitch. Selling on eBay is easy , profitable, and a great way to start an online business. You may know someone who sells on eBay or have been told how easy it is to make a part time or even a full time income on eBay. There are literally hundreds of sales pitches by Internet "guru's" selling all kinds of courses on how to succeed on eBay or how to get rich on eBay. Are any of the claims of riches true or are they all bogus. Is there a way to make a living on eBay or is that just a pipe dream. Can you actually get rich using the "self appointed guru's" products combined with an eBay selling account. Lets take a honest look at what's involved and you can decide for yourself.

Setting up an eBay account is the first step you must complete. You can easily switch to a sellers account once you are a eBay member. There is no up front cost to register for buying or selling on eBay, however, once you start selling a whole range of charges and fees kick in. You must have a PayPal account and a credit card or bank account will be necessary. Get yourself a low limit credit card and only use that card to do business online. A $500 limit would be ideal and if anything untoward happens, with the card, you would limit your losses.

eBay and PayPal will walk you though the sign-up procedures and before you know it you are an eBay seller with the ability to take credit card payments from your customers. This is an important feature and will help sell your items. You can limit your payment methods to checks or money orders but you will lose potential customers who will quickly move on to another buyer who does take credit cards or PayPal instead of buying from you. You must make the buying process as quick and simple as possible of you will lose potential business. That is why a PayPal account is an important part of your selling tools. Be warned , however, that PayPal will take a percentage of your sale along with eBay. Just another "cost" to factor in your price.

If you are clearing out the basement or attic and listing items to sell on eBay then the listing fees are not an important issue. You are , after all, turning years of collected "junk" into cash and that is your focus. However if you are considering selling as a part time or full time endeavor then the dynamics change. Profit margins become your focus. Inventory acquisition is your new lingo. Shipping times and charges are in your dreams and sellers ratings become part of your every day thought process. How to ship, when to ship. PayPal accounts, refunds and returns. daily emails sometimes dozens sometimes many more have to be acknowledged and questions answered. Price comparisons for your listings must be made daily. You need to keep on top of your competition or your items will be buried. Research on every item you want to sell must be done. Physically inputting your listings will take a lot of time. Do a few each day to spread out the time and effort. Always use a picture with your listings the first one is free so take advantage of anything eBay offers for free.

Operating an eBay sellers account or running an eBay online store is far more involved that selling grandma's old postcards or that box of baseball cards you found in the attic. You have to commit yourself to hours of work at the keyboard running your operation like a real business because that is exactly what it is. It entails a lot of work and time especially during the early days when uploading your inventory. You need to keep in mind that selling for a living, part time or full time, is a job which requires effort and commitment. There are, and will be, no guarantees. You may well fail to make a profit and ultimately have to close your eBay store or cancel your seller's account and end your efforts just like the store down the street would do if it was unable to cover it's operating expenses.

Deciding what to sell is one of your first big decisions that must be made. Most new sellers start with areas they are familiar with. Many have turned their hobbies into an online business. Books, sports cards, coins , stamps, there are endless possibilities as to what you might sell. One of the first obstacles that must be overcome ,if you plan on doing this long term ,is you must secure a steady supply of whatever it is you are selling. If you begin with your own personal collection that source of items will quickly diminish and you will find yourself out of things to sell. Sourcing inventory for your online business will probably be your most time consuming task. To succeed you must either come up with a endless supply of items that you can source at will or you must pound the pavement several days a week in an endless search for items.

Perhaps you are creative and can produce your own items to sell. On the surface this would appear to be the answer to your supply problems and it very well might be but there are other considerations. Those items you produce are probably also made by dozens or even hundreds of other people around the world and some of them might be selling on eBay. You need to do a check and see how much competition you are facing. Next you need to actually cost out the items you make and determine whether you can sell them at a price that not only covers the expenses but allows you a small profit as well. This is usually the time that most people begin to realize that there is a new word in their vocabulary that they may have never contemplated before..........PROFIT!!!. Without which all businesses are doomed to failure.

Buying, selling or trading between people have been going on since history began. The methods have certainly changed over the eons but the basics are still the same. As a seller you are either providing your customer with a physical item, a service or an idea. Everything you sell will fall into these three basic categories. You will always have competition for anything you sell. Even a totally unique item that nobody else produces will only allow you a brief period of time to yourself before dozens or hundreds of other sellers find a way to acquire or produce the same "unique" item and climb aboard the bandwagon. Always remember that while your customers span the globe your competitors do also. You are dealing with huge numbers of people.

You will have to face the fact that there will always be other sellers offering the same products as you sometimes at a lower price or better shipping costs. It can be more than a little disappointing to discover that the "special item" you just found at your local yard sale or flea market turns out to be one of 500 being sold on eBay for $1. I can promise you that will happen. If you work at it you will gain valuable experience and sometimes those special finds will turn out to be unique. You never give up the hunt no matter what you sell. That's part of the allure and promise. You need to separate yourself as much as you can from all the other sellers of your items. Personalize service can overcome a host of shortcomings you may have when compared to your competitors. Even a higher price can sometimes be realized when the proper service is offered and your customers get comfortable with you. Discounts for repeat customers, Thank-you emails, A good return policy and making your customer feel appreciated can go a long way to building a reputation for online success. Don't ever lose track of the importance of your "Sellers" rating. This rating comes from your customers after every sale. It is an important figure and any seller not in the high 90% positive range is in trouble. Many buyers base their buying decisions on the sellers positive ratings.

The biggest concern I have when I see the various ads touting the virtues of making a living on eBay is they , very seldom, tell the truth as to the amount of work you are letting yourself in for. There are no get rich quick schemes that succeed without hard work and effort and money. Most of them are scams and you need to be careful.

You will learn quickly for some, a little slower for others, but you will learn. There are seller's forum where experienced sellers will help answer any questions you may have and are more than willing to help you as you strive for success. The "About Me" page that eBay allows all sellers to maintain could become an important clog in your pursuit to success and there are "guru's" who can teach you how to use this area profitably, for a price . There are many opportunities on eBay but the one thing that you must never overlook is the amount of effort and work it will take. There are no shortcuts to success and if anyone offers you one be very skeptical. eBay can provides a platform where dreams are possible but eBay cannot make them come true only you can make that happen.

I began selling on eBay nearly ten years ago. I have had the opportunity to learn the online selling business first hand. Sometimes the journey has been fun and exciting and other times not so much. I can tell you it is never boring and eBay provides an excellent education in buying and selling on the Internet. It can give you an invaluable foundation where you can build an online presence of your own through your own websites. It can open up a world of possibilities for you to choose from.

I did not write this piece with the intention of producing a "how to" book on becoming an eBay seller. I have only touched on the process and there is much more detail available on eBay itself . My main concern was to make you aware that the effort and time required is real and none of the ads or pitches I have seen mentions that. While it is true that you do not have to become a slave to your computer to operate an online eBay business it is equally true that you cannot expect to lie back, do nothing, and expect money to roll into your bank account.

There are other rewards besides the money you can earn. I specialize in collectible books. I have sold books all over the world and many of my former books are now residing in the most famous Libraries, Universities and Collections around the globe. I have always found that fascinating. The fact that one of my books which was sitting on my bookcase only a few days ago is now in the West Point Library, The Sandhurst Military Academy or most of the major Universities around the world still amazes me. . A few weeks ago I sent a book to the US Embassy in Rabat certainly a place I never expect to see or visit in my lifetime. It is like sending and sharing a piece of yourself to places in the world you will probably never visit. You will have contact with people from all walks of life and in most of the countries of the world. From my perspective this is an added bonus that I cannot put a price. Being an eBay seller is , for the most part , very rewarding and I would highly recommend it to anyone who was contemplating an attempt at online selling. I have tried to give you some ideas, in this piece, about the effort and steps it will take to get you up and running. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me and I will try to answer your concerns as best I can. Good Luck!


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    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Your very welcome Steph....I'm glad I could help.

    • StephSev108 profile image

      Stephanie Marie Severson 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for the info...I needed this!

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks for the comments Marcy I appreciate them. It's very true that you can find that " treasure" at your next yard sale and resell it on eBay for a very nice profit. Usually that does not happen as often as we would like.....but it can! Keep looking! The easiest way to start is to search the listings on eBay and see what items are getting bids. Always remember that the "listing"price does not, necessarily, determine value. Most items do not sell and the prices you see on the listings are in many cases "wishful thinking"

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I appreciate your comments Jools ..thank you. Selling on ebay can certainly be challenging and frustrating at times. It's not everybody's cup of tea and many enjoy being a buyer rather than a seller

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I have always wondered how to do the eBay thing. Thanks for publishing this! I have a friend who is great at spotting hidden gems at garage sales (she particularly recommends rummage sales - where you buy donated items from a church group or fundraising eventI). Those sales aren't as pricey, and if you're good a spotting bargains, you can make a bunch of money on eBay. She gave an example of a sock monkey she bought (the old kind, from when we were kids), and making about $80 on a $5 investment (or something similar).

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      5 years ago from North-East UK

      Very interesting and comprehensive hub. I gave it a try at the end of last year but it was not for me - too much hassle! I was selling clothes for my daughter so fees were paid by her but got tired of all of the questions about things and then keeping the postage costs down was a pain; definitely not for me!

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      I am glad you found the hub helpful Lady E. Thank-you for commenting. Sellers on eBay range from one time only to full time sellers. There are many level of "success". Whether you sell a little or a lot there is room for everyone on eBay.

    • Lady_E profile image


      6 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks. This was useful. I have sold about 3 things on ebay but I know there are people who actually earn a lot from ebay because they know "the in's and out's of it." This Hub has enlightened me more.

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank-you for your comments Au fait. I appreciate them. You have added some great tips and helpful hints that will make selling on ebay, for anyone, easier and safer.....thanks.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      I worked eBay for several years and still occasionally put something up for sale. eBay is where people go for a bargain. I don't recommend putting handmade items on there because it's unlikely anyone will pay what it's worth. Etsy or Amazon is better for that.

      People need to consider who they are willing to sell to as well. I learned through 'customers' jerking me around that there are some people I'm not willing to deal with period. You can decide when you list your item who you are willing to sell to and under what conditions. That helps to limit the people who will try to scam you.

      I always check out a seller's rating before I purchase anything from them too. If their rating isn't pristine, I check to see what the complaints against them have been. Sometimes it's something minor, but it's nice to know if they've taken somebody's money and not sent the product. You may eventually get your money back from PayPal, but you'll have to go through a lot of trouble to do it.

      Overall I've been pretty lucky both buying and selling on eBay. A few little problems, but nothing major so far. Good place to sell certain types of merchandise and a good place to get a bargain if you're savy.

      I've practically always made a profit on everything I sold. In some cases some huge profits, but that was luck. A lot of people make good money on their, but not many become rich. I don't know of anyone who's done that on eBay any more than they've done it on hubpages.

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Mr P you should take the plunge. Start out small and feel your way around. Online sales can be very gratifying and something tells me you would be a natural. I can't wait to read your item "descriptions" Haiku inspired auctions .....or should it be auction inspired haiku?

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Thanks for your comment on great hubs. Online sales are so attractive to me that I can't imagine why inertia or procrastination are holding me back. Maybe both! There is a book "The Official ebay Bible". Mine is Second Edition of 2005. Is it already out-of-date, or will it do the trick. I need to take the plunge. Up and useful.

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      thanks for the comments wilderness...they are appreciated. ebay can be a very lucrative business if you have the right items to sell and the work ethic required to do so.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      7 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      While I have sold on eBay a few times most of it has been "clean the attic" stuff. A handful of items picked up at yard sales just for eBay sales.

      eBay has changed over the years and it truly does take a professional to get beyond that "clean the attic" stage. Yes, you can make a few bucks without much effort, but become really successful takes a lot of work and time.

      Great hub for those thinking of an eBay store.

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank-you for your comments Bryan. I, myself , am investigating Amazon with the idea of selling in that marketplace to go along with my ebay efforts. I hope your efforts are duly rewarded and if there is anything I can do to help please don't hesitate to ask.

    • Bryan Eaddy profile image

      Bryan Eaddy 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      I currently sell on Amazon Marketplace and (as you may already know after reading my hub). However, I plan to start selling on eBay as well. I'll utilize this hub as one of my reference points. Good job!

    • point2make profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank-you for your comments Stephanie. I do appreciate them very much. It can be quite a shock, to new sellers on e-bay, if they are not prepared for what they are about to encounter. I hope you are not discouraged with your first attempt. Remember keep your inventory small and grow your online business slowly.....I wish you well and look forward to seeing you on the E-bay forums.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Anyone contemplating becoming an eBay seller should read this hub first. Having tried selling on eBay for the first time this year, I learned many of these lessons the hard way. It's a ton of work, and the fees and commissions add up. You are right on target with your cautions and advice!


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