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How to Make Money Selling on eBay

eBay has become a household word around the globe, but even after more than twenty years as an e-commerce platform, some people are still a little intimidated to get started selling on the site. There really is no one authority or definitive guide on the best way to start or run an eBay business, and that is part of its charm: Success comes in many different shapes, sizes, and from all walks of life.

With that said, here are answers to some of the most basic questions about starting an at-home eBay business.

Exactly What Is eBay?

eBay is an online platform. It is a website that is also a community of people buying and selling all kinds of products to each other. It is like a huge online garage sale with millions of sellers and millions of products. Most anyone can sell and buy on eBay, as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. eBay is accessible to just about everyone.

Some Facts About eBay:

  • It was founded in 1996 by a guy who wanted to sell a laser pointer
  • There are over 167 million active registered users on eBay as of December 2016
  • There are 25 million sellers on eBay
  • eBay can handle 1 billion active listings at one time
  • 56 percent of revenue on eBay USA comes from people living outside of the United States
  • The eBay app has been downloaded 7 million times

How Do I Find Things to Sell?

So now that you are excited about the opportunities available on eBay, you are probably thinking you should get your piece of the eBay pie and sell some stuff, right?

Most people don’t have to look further than their own home to get started selling on eBay. The average American household has 300,000 items and $7,000 worth of junk lying around in drawers, cabinets, closets, garages, attics, and rented storage units that can be sold on eBay. That's the average, maybe you have more. 

Let’s take a quick tour of a few rooms in your home to enlighten you on what kind of cash is hiding right under your nose. You probably have some of these items in your home right now. Believe it or not, you can make money selling them on eBay!

Kitchen

The average American kitchen can be a gold mine when it comes to sourcing for eBay.

The most obvious items are dinnerware, dishes, and flatware. You may think your Pfaltzgraff or Corelle dishes are old, boring, and nobody would want them, but you may have exactly what someone is looking for. And you can sell dishes and dinnerware in any configuration you like such as a single plate, sets of 2 or 4, or an entire lot. 

Cast iron cookware is a great seller on eBay. Brands including Griswold and Lodge are popular, and some of the larger pieces can go for several hundred dollars. You may want to ship these in flat rate boxes because they are very heavy. Speaking of cookware, there is good money in vintage Club Aluminum Cookware — remember the bright turquoise, orange, and cherry red pots and pans everyone had in the 1970's? A single small sauce pot can sell for $30. Even just the lids or the screw off handles can sell. 

Coffee mugs sell well on eBay, too. The best sellers are the Starbucks City Mugs, some of which can sell for hundreds of dollars if rare. Fire King and any collectible mug from a gas station, restaurant, or hotel can be valuable.

Vintage Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut mugs can sell for over $50.

Bathroom

You may have all kinds of gems squirreled away in bathroom cabinets, drawers, and linen closets. Unopened, unused cosmetics sell well on eBay. Lot items together and sell in a batch. Fragrances can be sold if partially used, and they must be shipped ground (parcel select). Hair products, curling irons, hot rollers, unopened packs of razors and replacement blades, and adult incontinence products sell on eBay. 

Basement, Garage, and Attic

Here is where the fun really begins! If it is vintage (20 years old or older) it can sell on eBay. People collect all sorts of things, repurpose items, or like things the way they used to be made. You can sell anything from old license plates, sewing machine parts, Christmas ornaments and decorations, tools, sporting goods, fishing lures, the list is really endless. Your home is probably full of items that have value on eBay but you just don't realize it. The next step is to figure out what you have is worth on eBay.

How Do You Know What Price Something Will Sell For?

Think of eBay like you would the real estate market. You may think your house is worth a certain amount of money, but you have to look at what homes in your area are actually selling for at this point in time. eBay is the same way. Values for items can fluctuate based on many factors including supply, demand, age, condition, and historical value

The easiest way to get an idea of how much an item will sell for is to check completed listings. This is like what realtors do when they look up “comps” for your home. Try to find something as similar as possible that has recently sold, and use that price as a guide. Look at eBay completed listings, not the active ones. A seller can put any price he wants on an item, but that does not mean the item will sell for that price. You must look at historical data to see what a buyer actually paid recently. Here is a good video that explains how to search eBay completed listings and figure out how to price your item for sale on eBay.

What Am I Allowed to Sell?

Most anything you might use in your normal life for personal use or as part of a collection is fair game on eBay. The eBay help section offers an extensive list of prohibited items and the reasons the items are not allowed are explained. For example, eBay does not want to be associated with the sale of animal pelts from endangered or protected animals, or involved with assisting with criminal activity if someone buys a fake police officer’s uniform. Read the complete list of prohibited items here on eBay.

How Do People Pay for the Items They Buy on eBay?

The payment system has been refined since 1996 and is very easy. Everything is done through PayPal electronically. In the early days of eBay, buyers sent checks, money orders, and even cash through the mail. eBay is much more sophisticated now. When opening an eBay account, you will be directed to open a PayPal account also.

PayPal is simply a holding account. It isn’t a bank account or a credit card but a holding account where you move money into and out of it to buy things online. PayPal is used by thousands of websites as a trusted payment method. The requirements for opening a PayPal account are:

  • Complete the sign-up form with your personal information
  • Add a credit card or debit card to connect it to PayPal
  • You will receive a verification email and you are all set

If you are buying from a seller in another country, PayPal does all the currency conversions for you.  PayPal charges a fee of 3 percent of the total transaction amount plus 30 cents per transaction. It is a cost-effective way to pay for items online. All transactions are accessible in the PayPal records section, so you can dispute a transaction, gather information for taxes, or access any transaction at any time, going back to the day you opened your PayPal account.

How Does the Shipping Work?

This is the number one question asked by new sellers! Shipping is not difficult, it is just something you have to think through when listing your item for sale. The seller has the option to set up shipping any way she likes, but remember that if you offer free shipping, you must build that into the item price.

eBay is integrated with the USPS. The seller simply enters the weight of the item (including the packaging) and the class of mail when listing the item. The buyer will see the postage amount displayed based on his location, your location, the weight, and the class of mail. The seller doesn’t have to figure out anything as long as she enters the proper weight and class of mail when listing the item.

The process for figuring out shipping goes like this:

  1. Get a postage scale. It doesn’t have to print postage, but it must weigh in pounds and ounces.
  2. Figure out how you will ship the item. Will it go in a poly mailer? Does it need a box? Will you have to include a lot of packing material to protect the item during shipping? It is breakable or fragile?
  3. Weigh the item with the packaging.
  4. Choose the calculated shipping option when listing your item.
  5. Insert the weight of the item plus packaging in the weight section.
  6. The buyer will see the cost of shipping, and it will be included in the price when he purchases the item.

That is shipping in a nutshell. There are other variations such as flat rate packaging, but beginners can do just fine with this process using calculated shipping. Download this shipping flow chart for free to help you learn the thought process and guide you through shipping as a new seller.

Can I Really Make Money Selling on eBay?

Yes, of course you can. Millions of sellers do it every day. The key is to determine your objective with eBay and create a plan. Think about what you want to accomplish with eBay:

  • Do you want to sell on eBay as a hobby, just because it is fun and you can make money selling your unused, unwanted items?
  • Do you want a part-time job where you can work at home, on your schedule, as much or as little as you want? (Read about this stay at home mom who makes $3,000 a month profit selling used clothing.)
  • Do you want a full-time job where you can work from home, leave your dead-end job, and build a business that will take care of you and your family for years in the future?

All of these options are not only possible but completely achievable, because sellers are already doing it right now. If you are interested in starting an eBay business, read these 10 important tips for new eBay sellers, and items new sellers should avoid selling on eBay. You will be on your way to creating a home business you love that will produce a healthy stream of income for many years. 

Learn More About eBay