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Chances are, you’ve bought at least a few things on eBay in the past. Maybe you’ve even sold some things from around the house.
But have you ever considered starting a side hustle of buying used items and reselling them on eBay?
If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money, it’s an option that you might want to consider. This beginner’s guide to selling on eBay will give you all the information you need to get started, even if you don’t have an existing eBay account.
→ Related reading: 150+ Side Hustle Ideas to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time
A Real-World eBay Side Hustler
Nathan Clarke, 25 years old, works from his home in Georgia full-time as a systems engineer. In his spare time, Nathan buys used items and re-sells them on eBay. He started this side hustle because he and his wife are trying to save as much as possible in the pursuit of financial independence. Nathan is chronicling his journey to a $1 million net worth at his blog, Millionaire Dojo (update: Nathan’s blog is no longer online).
About 11 years ago, Nathan got his first taste of selling on eBay. He said, “I sold my first item on eBay using my mom’s information when I was about 14 or so. Throughout my teens, I used eBay to make money on items I wasn’t using anymore. I got serious about turning eBay into a steady income stream back in April of 2018 and have kept adding items to my inventory ever since.”
What to Sell?
There are a few different approaches that can be taken. Some sellers take a general approach and will sell just about anything that gives them the potential to make a profit. Other sellers choose to specialize in a particular niche and try to brand their business.
Nathan takes the general approach. “I will sell just about anything I can make a decent profit. One of the reasons I love selling on eBay is that you can just about sell anything! I sell a lot of clothes and hats and mostly unique vintage items that you wouldn’t think much of. I prefer to sell smaller items that aren’t easily broken because it’s less of a hassle to ship.
“The most profitable sale I’ve had so far was some vintage CB radio equipment I got at a yard sale. The people at the yard sale had this box of stuff they were going to throw away and since I seemed interested in weird stuff, they asked me if I wanted it. I ended up profiting over $700 off that box that was headed to the dump.
“I document what sells each month in my what sells on eBay series.”
Finding Items to Sell
Although Nathan got started by selling items from around the house, when he got serious about making more money he started looking for items to buy and resell. He said, “Finding the items is my favorite part! I get virtually all my items from thrift stores, yard sales, and estate sales. Auctions and flea markets are other great places to find things, but I haven’t gone to many of them. It’s all about finding the good spots in your area and looking through everything they have. You might walk right past a $500 item if you don’t take the time to look through every nook and cranny.
“I go to Goodwill sometimes, but the thrift stores I like are the small independent shops, usually run by a church. Goodwill has become more and more expensive, but you can still find underpriced items. There are also Goodwill outlets that sell items by the pound. I’ve heard those are good sources but don’t have one near me.
“Since America is so abundant with consumer items, finding a place to source your items is one of the easiest parts of selling on eBay. You can even find things in the trash if you’re willing to look there! You can also check the free section of Craigslist and see what people are giving away.”
Selling on Other Platforms
Although there are plenty of selling apps, Nathan’s primary focus is eBay. When asked if he sells on other platforms as well, he told me, “The only other platform I sell on is Facebook Marketplace. I sell larger items like refrigerators if I come across them at yard sales for cheap. I’ve have made several hundred dollars doing that. A lot of people have had good results on Etsy, Amazon, and Poshmark, but I like keeping it simple and sticking with eBay. If eBay stops being a place where I can make a profit, I’ll look elsewhere.”
Time Investment and Income
One of the reasons selling on eBay is a great side hustle is because it can be as big or small as you want it to be. You could use eBay simply to declutter and make some money from things you no longer need. Or you could invest a little bit of time each week and make some extra money consistently. And you could even turn it into a full-time thing if you wanted to.
→ Related reading: How to Make Money by Selling Your Stuff
Nathan sells on eBay as a side hustle, so he is continually looking for items to sell and investing time each week outside of his full-time job. He said, “I haven’t been good about keeping track of the time I spend selling on eBay, but I’d guess somewhere around 5-6 hours a week. The more time you spend, the more money you’re going to make. I feel like I could be doing this full-time if I were to lose my job and start putting in 40 hours a week on my eBay store.”
With the extra effort that Nathan has put in throughout the past year, he’s seen his income rise. He said, “I’ve been consistently earning over $500 a month for several months now and that’s profit after all expenses. I’ve made over $1,000 in a month before. People shop less during certain times of the year, so income varies.”
Spending 5-6 hours per week to make $500 – $1,000 is a very realistic side hustle that could have a huge financial impact for most people. An extra $6,000 – $12,000 per year can be a gamechanger when you’re saving aggressively and trying to increase net worth, like Nathan and his wife are doing.
Although it’s a great side hustle, Nathan actually has bigger things in mind. He told me, “I am trying to scale by simply listing more items. The good thing about it taking a while for some items to sell is that you can build up an inventory quicker. I might list something, and it takes 3 months to sell. During those 3 months, I’m able to keep listing things and eventually I will have a huge inventory where something sells every day.
“I’ve currently got about 450 items listed and want to have close to 1,000 by the end of the year. I think I should be making a couple thousand a month at that point.
“I’ve heard of some people hiring out the parts of eBay they don’t like. If you can pay someone to take all the photos for your listings, that’s a huge time saver! I might hire someone eventually, but it’s just a one-man show for now.”
→ Related reading: Poshmark vs. eBay vs. Mercari
How to Get Started Selling on eBay
If this sounds like an opportunity that may be a good fit for you, here are some steps you can follow to get started.
Step 1: Create an eBay Account and a PayPal Account
If you don’t already have an eBay account, go to eBay.com and click on “register”.
Once you are logged in, go to the “account” tab. There you will see an option to open a PayPal account or link an existing PayPal account. If you already have a PayPal account set up, simply click on the button to link your account and follow the directions. If you don’t have a PayPal account, click on the button to create a new account.
This article from eBay has some good and basic information about using PayPal as a seller – PayPal – Accepting payments guide for new sellers.
When you are logged in to eBay, you can click on “seller dashboard” to see all of the options related to selling.
Step 2: Find Some Products to Sell
Ok, so now that you have your eBay and PayPal accounts set up, it’s time to find something to sell.
For the purpose of getting started, I recommend finding products around your house or apartment that you can sell. If you hope to grow this into a real business, you’ll eventually need to find some places to source products (we’ll get into that later), but it’s not a bad idea to start with things you already have that you don’t mind selling.
Selling things you already have will allow you to get started without spending extra money. The main goal at this point is to get familiar with the process of selling on eBay, figure out what you’re doing, and (hopefully) start to get some seller feedback.
There are all kinds of things that you could sell. Clothes, electronics, and toys are all possibilities. As Nathan mentioned, things that are light and not likely to break in shipment are ideal.
Step 3: Take Photos
Photos are extremely important to your ability to sell on eBay. You don’t have to be a professional photographer and you don’t need to hire someone to take the photos for you (although that is an option), but you do need to put in some effort to get decent photos.
A few years ago when my wife and I were selling on Amazon I got a lot of practice and experience with product photos. The process is pretty much the same, whether you’re selling on eBay, Amazon, or some other platform.
Hobby to Pro is my online course that teaches you how to build a money-making blog around your hobby. It's the same approach that I've used to make more than $1 million with photography blogs. The course includes 90+ video lessons and you can get it for free when you start your own blog.
Natural Light is Best – Photos will generally look best when they are taken in natural lighting. Most cameras have a flash, and you can also use lightboxes, mini studios, or other types of lighting. Although flash and other lighting is an option, the results will usually be better if the photo is taken in good natural lighting.
Flash and other lighting can create glare or hotspots that take away from the photo. If you’re experienced with lighting you can avoid these things, but if you’re reading this section of the article, I assume you are not a lighting pro (I’m not either).
Although natural lighting is best, not all conditions are equal. General, cloudy and overcast days will make it easy to get quality photos. Bright, sunny days are usually not very good. You don’t want shadows to ruin the photo, and too much sunlight can create some of the same challenges as flash or artificial lights.
For Amazon product photos, I would take the items outside on an overcast day. If there is too much sun you can go to a shaded area to avoid the harshness of the sunlight.
Take Photos from Different Angles – Most products should have multiple photos. This is especially true with used products where the buyer may be concerned about the condition of the item.
Don’t just take one photo of the front of the product and call it a day. Take photos from several different angles to show all sides of the product. If it’s relevant, you can also take close up shots to specific parts or features of the item.
Multiple photos that show everything will give the buyer more confidence.
If the item has some wear and tear, you can also use photos to show these blemishes so buyers can get an accurate understanding of the item’s condition.
Use a Clean Background – In most cases, it is good to photograph an item on a clean background. You can buy mini photo studios that give a white, black, or other colored background to your items. I have one of these, but to be honest, I usually like the results better without it.
A cheaper option is to use a simple roll of white paper that you can place behind and below the item you’re photographing. White paper is a good background for items that have some color. Glass or clear items tend to look best on a dark background, so you can use a roll of black paper.
If you’re photographing a larger item, pay attention to things that may be in the background. Try to put it next to a wall that will give it a clean, solid background. Make sure that there are no other items, clutter, or junk showing in the photo.
Not every photo needs to be on a solid background. Depending on the item, other backgrounds can work well too. For example, a wood floor can be an ideal background for some products. Other products may work well with a lifestyle photo that shows the item in use.
Crop the Photos, if Needed – After you’ve taken the photo, you may want to crop it so the image is as large as possible. You can use any number of different programs or apps for cropping photos. GIMP is free photo editing software that you can download.
Another option is to outsource the photo editing. You can go to Fiverr and find someone who will put your photo on a solid white background or do any other type of editing.
Step 4: Create the Listing
Now it’s time to complete the listing for your product. There are a few basic keys that you should keep in mind.
Keywords – Think about the words and phrases that people will be searching for when they want to buy an item like this. Use the most relevant and most important keywords in your product title and in your listing. More keywords in your products description will give it a better chance of being found through a search.
Details – Be sure that you’re giving enough details in the listing and description to help buyers make an informed decision. The specifics that you should include will depend on the product, but it could be things like size, age, condition, type of material, color, brand name, and any other important details that a buyer might care about.
Some items will have a lot of different competing listings, and others will have virtually no competition. Nathan said, “A lot of times, I’m the only person who has a certain item listed. I’m not afraid to list something and have it sit for several months without selling. When a person comes by that is searching for an item and I’m the only one who has it, they’re willing to pay a higher price due to scarcity.”
After the Sale Step 1: Get the Payment
After your item has sold, it’s important to make sure that you receive the payment. When the auction ends, the winner will be notified so he or she can make the payment. Be sure that you don’t ship the item until that payment has been made.
After the Sale Step 2: Pack It and Ship It
Next, you’ll need to pack the item and get it ready to be shipped. Make sure that it is packed well and protected so it does not break or get damaged during the shipment. After it is shipped, be sure to mark it as shipped in your seller dashboard so the buyer knows that it is on its way.
After the Sale Step 3: Leave Positive Feedback for the Buyer
As the seller, you can leave feedback for the buyer. Assuming there were no issues, leave positive feedback. Some sellers wait to do this until later, but once the buyer has made the payment, his or her job is basically complete and you can go ahead and leave feedback.
Your seller feedback will be important to your long-term success on eBay, so it’s good to try to get some positive feedback early on. If the buyer doesn’t leave seller feedback within a few days of receiving the item, you can follow up with an email and ask them to leave feedback. If you’ve already left positive feedback for the buyer, you can mention that.
I asked Nathan about the importance of seller feedback. He said, “It’s pretty important to have nearly 100% positive feedback, but anything above 98% is good. There’s always going to be a person or two who leave you negative feedback just because they can. You’re able to get eBay to step in and possibly remove negative feedback if you didn’t do anything wrong.
“You also need to meet certain standards to become a top rated seller. Top rated sellers get more exposure in the searches and get a discount on their eBay fees. When I started getting serious about selling, I actually fell below standard for a little while but was able to climb to top rated within a couple of months.”
After you’ve sold a few products and you have some experience selling on eBay, the next step is to work on scaling up. If you want to make money on a consistent basis you’ll need to continually find new items to sell.
You can source products at places like yard sales, thrift shops, flea markets, auctions, estate sales, and Craigslist. Find an approach that works for you and continually buy products that you think are underpriced. You can see our list of the easiest things to flip for profit if you need some ideas.
You’ll also need to decide if you want to take a general approach and sell all different types of items, or if you want to take a niche-specific approach. A general approach is a little bit easier for beginners because you’re not limiting yourself to certain types of products and it’s easier to find items that are underpriced.
Time to Take Action
If you’re inspired by Nathan’s story and you think that selling on eBay may be a good side hustle for you, what are you waiting for? Look around your house, find a few items to sell, and follow the steps in this article to get your account and listing set up.
Selling on eBay is a side hustle that involves learning as you go, and as you learn, you can scale up and start to make more money.