How To Make Money on eBay

What To Know To Start Selling on eBay

Small business owner ready to ship packages
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Selling items on eBay can be an effective way to bring in some extra cash on your own terms without even leaving the house. Depending on how much of a time commitment to online sales you want to make, selling on eBay can be a side hustle to bolster your rainy-day fund or you can turn it into a full-time job. 

We’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of how to make money on eBay, give you tips to optimize your listing, tell you how to set yourself up for success, and answer some commonly asked questions. 

Key Takeaways

  • To start selling on eBay, you can simply create an account to “List an item.” 
  • eBay charges upfront and final value fees for listing items for sale and on each item that sells, respectively. 
  • Gather unused or unwanted items from around the house, such as books, to sell.
  • You can gauge the true market value of an item on eBay by what it sells for, not its asking price. 
  • Optimize your eBay listing by choosing the right keywords, emphasizing item details like brand and color, and adding good, clear photos. 

How Do I Start Selling on eBay?

To begin selling on eBay, you’ll first need to create an account. You can start the process by going to the “Sell” section of the website and hitting the blue “List an item” button. You’ll be prompted to fill in your product's details, upload photos, and name an item price and shipping rates, among other information.

eBay charges “insertion” or upfront fees for placing items for sale and final-value fees for items that sell. 

If you’re interested in selling on eBay, a good place to begin is by buying something small on the platform just to get an understanding of how the process works, said Danna Crawford, CEO and founder of PowerSellingMom.com, in a phone interview with The Balance. 

After you’ve familiarized yourself with what it feels like to be on the buying side of things, it’s time to start selling. No need to go out and purchase inventory, though. Instead, gather items from around your house that you no longer want or use. Once you’ve collected a box of things to sell, it’s time to do some research. 

A book is a good item for beginner sellers to start with, Crawford said. Its straightforward size and shape make the shipping process simple.

Set the Right Price  

Learning how to price your items is an important part of being a successful eBay seller. You can see how much similar goods sold for by searching for the item on eBay and adjusting your settings to show sold listings. According to Crawford, you can’t determine current market value by what the selling price is but instead by how much sellers are actually able to get for an item.

You can also use other online selling platforms, such as Facebook Marketplace, to gauge the right listing price. Items that are selling for only a few dollars aren’t worth the effort of posting online, said Crawford. She suggested donating those things or saving them for a garage sale. 

With more expensive items, such as antiques, art, or collectibles, spend some extra time when researching how much to charge. You want to make sure you understand the item’s value before you list it so as not to sell yourself short. Sites like WorthPoint.com can help you to pinpoint an appropriate listing price. 

Optimize Your Listing 

Make your listing as attractive as possible to potential buyers. “I always say ‘follow success,’” Crawford said. She suggests paying attention to lucrative listings and looking at their techniques—maybe they offered free shipping or used specific keywords in their titles.

Picking your title is an important part of making sure buyers can find your listing. You’ll want to choose the right keywords and emphasize item details such as brand, type, and color. Also, don’t be afraid to share your eBay listings with your social media followers.

Include product photos that clearly show the item from different angles as well as any defects. You don’t need expensive camera equipment—a good-quality phone camera should work just fine. 

Avoid common beginner mistakes such as not putting enough keywords in the title or listing your item in the wrong category.

A Niche Isn’t Necessary

While some sellers might prefer the focus and direction a niche market provides, don’t worry too much about finding one. Crawford, who’s been selling on eBay since 1997, said she’s proof that you don’t need to have a niche to be successful. She said people should find the direction that works best for them and set goals accordingly. 

It can seem daunting at first, but as you get more experienced, you’ll acquire an eye for what buyers want. Crawford recommends having the eBay and WorthPoint apps on your phone so that when you’re at garage sales, thrift stores, or antiques shops and shows, you can check the value of the items and teach yourself what to look for.

Streamline Wherever Possible

Identify areas where you can make the process simpler—even the smallest changes to make things a little quicker can add up and save you a considerable amount of time in the long run.  

Is it faster to take photos and list items using your smartphone? Can you have a dedicated shipping station set up in your house so that you don’t have to move things around or gather supplies every time you need to send a package? 

If you choose to have an at-home shipping operation, you’ll want to have a shipping scale, a measuring tape, shipping tape, bubble wrap, and several sizes of boxes on hand. 

If you consistently use certain words in your listings such as “smoke-free” or “pet-free,” you can create templates ahead of time. Reevaluate your process often, and always be on the lookout for ways to simplify your operation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I offer free shipping on eBay and still make money?

In order to offer buyers free shipping, you’ll want to incorporate the cost of shipping into the price of the item. You can get custom shipping and packaging recommendations from eBay as well. You can estimate shipping costs using eBay’s shipping calculator.

Is it easy to make money selling on eBay?

Be prepared for a learning curve when you first start selling on eBay. After a while, you’ll get the hang of where to find products, how to price your inventory, write listings, and ship items. Once you get comfortable with the process, you’ll likely find that selling on eBay can be an effective way to make money on your own terms. 

How much money can you make on eBay before you have to pay taxes?

How much tax you have to pay depends on how you’re using eBay. If you’re selling casually in the same manner that you would if you were having a garage sale, then you might not need to pay any tax. However, if selling on eBay is an actual business for you, then you’ll need to report your earnings to the IRS. If your gross sales on eBay are higher than $20,000 and you have at least 200 transactions, then you should receive a 1099-K form to report your earnings to the IRS.