Business development · 18 October 2017

How do I launch an eBay business and become an online seller?

eBay is an online marketplace, where anyone can sell their items
eBay is an online marketplace where anyone can sell their items

For those looking to start a simple online business and earn a bit of extra money, eBay is often seen as the quickest and best route.

But, there remains widespread confusion about what eBay actually is, what it should be used for, and the processes users generally need to go through in order to begin adding to their income via the platform.

Business Advice has therefore provided an introduction to eBay for aspiring small business owners, clarifying what the platform actually is, how it works best, and how new users can turn their business idea into a modest, yet fully-fledged venture on eBay.

What is eBay?

Before attempting to launch an eBay business, it’s first necessary to get your head around what the platform is used for, as well as what it isn’t used for.

eBay is an online marketplace, where anyone can sell their items, and buyers can browse through them, and buy them if they choose to. That’s it. It’s similar to selling off your old possessions at a car boot sale, only online.

eBay isn’t a marketing organisation giving users the chance to buy their own ready-made business. There are no costs involved when users sign up, no training manuals to read and no web tutorials giving you a step-by-step guide on how to secure the best customers, or make the most money.

Determining what an eBay business sells, how much products cost, where items are sourced from and how much to charge customers for delivery – that’s all the task of individual eBay users.

How to set up and launch an eBay business

To launch an eBay business, first-time visitors to the platform should follow these steps.

(1) Sign up to eBay

You’ll need to sign up and become an eBay member if you haven’t already got an eBay account. There is only one type of eBay account, both for sellers and buyers on the platform, and it’s free.

(2) Buy something

Before launching your own eBay business, it’s a good idea to get to know the marketplace’s bidding process, and understand how people buy on eBay.

Buy a few items yourself that you need, understand how other users bid for those items, and consider how those items are listed in different ways on the platform.

(3) Gain selling experience

Once you’ve bought a few things and have begun to understand the buying process, you can begin to get to know the selling process by making a sale.

Choose a relatively inexpensive item that you no longer need from around the house, then go to eBay’s “Sell” section. Next, fill out the eBay selling form to actually post your item for sale on the platform.

Practice making an attractive, easy-to-read listing for your item that’s going to tempt buyers, then package and post your item before asking eBay users to leave their feedback.

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(4) Know the rules

Once you’ve gained some all-important experience at buying and selling on eBay, you’ll be familiar with how the site looks and feels, and how users tend to act. Now it’s time for further reading – try to gain a good understanding the basic rules and features of the marketplace, and eBay’s culture.

(5) Decide this is what you want to be doing

Once you’ve understood the rules of the marketplace and had some experience buying and selling, you’ll be in a good position to decide whether something you really want to do is to launch an eBay business.

Not only will you need to be knowledgeable about what you’re selling, and preferably have a passion for it, you’ll also need to accept that building a successful business on eBay will, like any other business, be a tough challenge. Ask yourself: Are you really willing to put in the hard work?

(6) Launch an eBay business

If the answer is yes and you’re determined to launch an eBay business, then you can get started.

Find things to sell that you know people want to buy. Identify popular trends and niches in general shopping habits, then begin to make connections and establish relationships with suppliers in those areas.

You may need to connect with and get to know manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and drop-shipping companies, and you may need to approach lenders for startup capital if necessary. Think about your business model, customer service, your bookkeeping and any frequently asked questions of customers.

All this will have to be done on your own back – you won’t receive help from eBay.

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(7) Scale up

Over time, as your eBay business grows and becomes more successful, you’ll want to expand your operation.

When you’ve established yourself in the marketplace, have gained a clear revenue stream and an established network of clients, you may want to consider investing in premises or hiring an employee.

At this point, your business is likely to have become big enough to leave eBay for good. You’ll no longer need the site to sell products, as your customers will know who you are and where they can find you online.

Using eBay as a launchpad

Entrepreneur Sanjay Aggarwal used eBay to get his Birmingham-based spice business, Spice Kitchen, off the ground in 2013.

He told Business Advice about the benefits of launching an eBay business. “Ebay really was a launchpad for us,” said Aggarwal. “It was cheap to list, gave access to an international audience and was easy for someone with little experience of ecommerce.

“Anybody can open an account and get selling, and we hit a national and international audience from the start. eBay’s business account also gives you free listings and relistings, and access to their seller portal, with lots of statistics and a much easier backend to handle dispatching.

I now run two companies on there, with the second business, Recorked UK, running pretty much entirely through eBay.

“The eBay business account allowed me to create a professional-looking online store and listings, which has a massive impact on sales. eBay also lets users donate ten per cent to charity on each sale.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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If you’ve found the article above useful, but have a more detailed and bespoke question, then please feel free to submit a query to our expert. We at Business Advice will get in contact with them on your behalf and arrange for a personalised response. These questions and answers will then be collated on the site for any other readers who have similar queries.

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