How to Start an eBay Business

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Our guide on starting an eBay Business covers all the essential information to help you decide if this business is a good match for you. Learn about the day-to-day activities of an eBay Business owner, the typical target market, growth potential, startup costs, legal considerations, and more!

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Start an eBay Business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your eBay Business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your eBay Business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Business Overview

An eBay entrepreneur is free to specialize in the kinds of products that they love in order to establish themselves as part of a niche market. It is attractive because the job involves very little start-up costs or ongoing costs and the minimal training required for this job is provided directly by eBay. It is also possible to begin such a job in one’s spare time and then transition to full-time entrepreneur if the part-time gig is successful.

Who is this business right for?

This job is primarily successful for those who already use eBay extensively. At the end of the day, eBay is like any other market, and success requires being competitive in a market filled with other sellers. As such, being familiar with how other sellers price and describe similar products to your own merchandise will help you hit the ground running when you begin selling. The business is also ideal for those who enjoy a flexible schedule and are motivated self-starters.

What happens during a typical day at an eBay Business?

Part of the attraction of being an eBay entrepreneur is that your daily activities will vary and do not need to be conducted in any particular order. However, a typical day often involves a great degree of research about what you intend to sell, including how other sellers describe the product, how much they charge for it, and how much it will cost to ship it. This research helps you creatively describe and competitively price your product in order to stand out from the competition.

Other daily activities include verifying payments that have completed, answering seller questions, and shipping products within the specified time frame of your listing. Finally, it is important to maintain a steady stock of things to sell. This may entail attending local auctions and garage sales as well as buying wholesale products so you can "buy low, sell high."

What is the target market?

The nature of this business means there is little to no personal interaction with customers. Rather, all of the interaction happens online. As such, the most basic example of a preferred client is someone who pays for products promptly and offers honest, positive feedback. More broadly speaking, the best clients are ones who are up front about questions regarding your products so they are not surprised at what they get and leave poor online feedback based on expectations that did not match the reality of what you were selling.

How does an eBay Business make money?

At the heart of every eBay sale, the seller is making money by receiving a certain amount from the buyer (either a fixed “Buy it Now” amount or the final result of a successful auction), with a certain percentage of each sale being owed to eBay itself.

The amount that is owed to eBay varies based on whether the seller is a “basic” seller or pays for either a monthly or yearly subscription to eBay.

  • A basic seller can offer up to 50 items for sale per month without paying any fee to list them and simply pays ten percent of the final price up to $750. Beyond that, the seller pays $.30 per item listing but pays no additional amount per sale. Paying $24.95 per month allows the seller up to 250 free listings per month and discounted prices on listings beyond that much ($.20 for fixed prices instead of $.30).
  • A $74.95 per month payment allows up to 1,000 free listings per month and $.15 per additional listing whereas $349.95 per month allows up to 10,000 free listings per month and $.05 per additional listing. All of the subscription options offer enhanced sales options including a customized homepage, store address, featured items, and enhanced branding.

What is the growth potential for an eBay Business?

Ultimately, the growth potential of an eBay business is limited only by the time and scope of the seller. Most sellers begin by selling in their spare-time and transition to a full-time business after building considerable part-time success. Growing the business typically involves finding some kind of niche in which the seller both has special familiarity and in which they can easily obtain items to sell online. Nothing keeps the particularly successful eBay seller from finding a partner to help the business grow, but the nature of said business (typically being run from people’s homes) precludes having a large staff housed in a standing office.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful eBay Business?

Among the best skills to help someone build their eBay business include existing marketing skills. Everything from choosing a sensible username to writing evocative descriptions of products being sold involve the same skills that go into traditional advertising and marketing.

Extensive experience using eBay as both a buyer and a seller can help someone make the transition to entrepreneur. Similarly, a familiarity with Paypal (particularly familiarity with having a business account) can help new sellers understand how to receive and process payments via the most popular eBay payment method.

Finally, experience in advertising your services via social media as well as more traditional methods (such as sending newsletters to previous buyers) can help ensure that you have a steady stream of both new and returning business.

What are the costs involved in opening an eBay Business?

Perhaps the most attractive part of selling on eBay full-time is that it involves virtually no start-up costs. You must pay, of course, for any of the products that you plan to sell (assuming that you don’t have a steady stream of products online), and you must be prepared to pay the aforementioned fees to eBay upon successfully selling a product. eBay also charges a per-item listing fee, or, if you sell more than 50 items per month, you can opt to pay for a subscription. The subscription will cost from $19.95 per month for a yearly subscription ($24.95 for month-to-month) up to $299.95 per month for a yearly subscription ($349.95 for month-to-month). However, because the business is run directly from your home, it requires no additional start-up costs.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

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Growing Your Business

How to promote & market an eBay Business

Some of the marketing of your eBay store begins with your listings. For instance, the header of each listing should include things like the colors, logo, and branding of your store. Item descriptions should include links to your store’s home page as well as to different categories within your store, meaning that everyone who stumbles onto one of your listings is just a click away from your entire online store. Monthly or annual eBay subscribers can take advantage of marketing tools that eBay provides, which includes email marketing, flyers, and cross-promotional opportunities. You can also develop a robust description of your business within your profile and link to your store or profile when engaging in discussions on eBay discussion boards.

Outside of eBay itself, make sure to include your store name, address, and logo in communication with buyers and other interested parties, and don’t forget to use Search Engine Optimization so that people searching the internet for something particular will find your store.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Generally speaking, you attract customers by using the marketing techniques mentioned above: basically, a matter of conscious branding, meticulous communication, and deliberate Search Engine Optimization. Retaining customers primarily involves a combination of honest descriptions, fair pricing, and open communication. Even veteran eBay users are wary of running into instances of scams and fraud, so presenting yourself as an honest and fair seller can help set you apart among the competition.

How and when to build a team

The vast majority of eBay entrepreneurs operate on their own. This is because, as mentioned previously, most sellers operate from their own homes, and conducting business entirely on their own means that there is no requirement to split profits. In general, then, finding a partner or building a team of sellers is contingent on you conducting more business than you can reasonably conduct on your own. At that point, it may make sense to find a partner or build a team with special roles. While it is much more common to simply find a partner and both of you operate under the same banner, it is possible to build a team in which members specialize in certain roles, such as procuring new items to sell, writing promotional copy, or shipping items to customers. Again, though, short of a major online operation, such subdivision of roles is very rare.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state business permits or licenses may be needed to go into business as an Ebay entrepreneur. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Since the core business of an Ebay entrepreneur consists of buying and reselling goods, you will also want to apply for a resale certificate, which will enable purchase of goods intended for resale without sales tax.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information:

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
A smiling man sits at a computer and learns about corporate veils


To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

eBay Restrictions

It’s important to familiarize yourself with types products that might not be illegal to sell, but violate ebay’s user terms. Such items include counterfeits of a brand name product or vending pirated copies of movies/music.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

The very nature of eBay means that determining how much to charge customers is more art than science. For instance, the best auction prices are typically lower for items than what customers can find in a store—this is part of their incentive to shop online. However, the price must be competitive with other eBay sellers while also insuring that you make a profit. A final component of this equation is that many auctions offer a “buy it now” price. This allows sellers to skip the traditional auction process and immediately buy the product. This price, too, should be lower than the MSRP of an item while still competitive with what you think a final auction price may end up being.

What are the ongoing expenses for an eBay Business?

The most significant expense for this type of business are fees paid to Ebay, as outlined in a previous section.

How much profit can an eBay Business make?

The amount of profit an eBay business can make is entirely contingent on how much the seller is able to sell each year. One way of calculating profit potential, though, is to be aware of the various fees that eat into profits.

  • In addition to paying an average of ten percent to ebay, you will be paying 2.9 percent to Paypal in addition to a blanket $.30 fee.
  • Most sellers will want insurance for their products, which requires $2.00 for coverage of up to $50 dollars.
  • Finally, there is the cost of packaging and shipping the item.

The end result of all of this is that a sale of $40, and assuming a $4.99 charge to the buyer for shipping, the seller must still pay $8.46. This means that each sale can have twenty percent or more of its profits eaten up by shipping and fees, so sellers may have to sell additional products to meet the profit margin they desire.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Effective item descriptions and relentless marketing help ensure that buyers are attracted to your store while honest communication and quick shipping ensure that they trust your services and return to your store. It is important to maintain marketing efforts within and without eBay, including newsletter, social media advertising, and even networking within online bulletin boards and forums that are interested in any niche products that you sell. Above all, be diligent in how you set prices so you can continue to straddle the fine line between offering customers a solid deal and making yourself a solid profit.

Next Steps

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