Businesses may not be thriving during the recession, but that doesn't stop innovative minds from finding additional sources of income online. Even if you do not have much time, a lucrative little business can be made in a matter of weeks using online auction sites like eBay (or any other accessible, online marketplace).

Though, as with any business, it takes some preparation…

1. Find merchandise that is acceptable with eBay's policies and state laws.

These can be inexpensive T-shirts bought in bulk from a site, or postcards, robots, kids toys, and anything you can imagine. Qualify your list of merchandise by checking with eBay's policies. If it's wet, alive, dangerous, or just illegal – you can't make money with it online! Move onto the next possible-merchandise.

2. Clear space if needed for merchandise at home

For the business at home: a closet, a basement that isn't too damp to store product, or a spare bedroom. Some sellers have merchandise that fits on a bookshelf, while others sell large boxes of equipment that require a warehouse. We suggest starting at an appropriate level that you can easily afford, without going into debt or savings (at least not by much).

3. Write a one-page business plan

The clearer the goals outlined in this brief page, the better for the business. EBay will charge a lot on fees and PayPal transfers, so include all the financial calculations in a secondary sheet. Make sure you are making more than eBay is off your fees. Find a fee calculator online – there are three useful ones that every eBay user should know about.

Writing a short business plan will help you formulate the real one, when you are ready with all the research and relevant details.

4. Study eBay rules and study other eBay sellers

It may seem like a hassle, but eBay's system is highly intricate, and customer service doesn't always respond (if ever) in time. Expect this, and speak to other merchants in forums about what they learned and how to progress into 6 months of running an eBay business. Read the rules very carefully; sometimes you'll learn about them the hard way, i.e. a strike or warning on your account.

5. Begin auctions or Buy it Now Listing

Test to see if the business is viable, see how customers respond. Don't wait too long to get to this step; test as soon as you have a box to ship, and the plastic wrap ready.

When selling, be sure to block bad eBay users; non-paying, hassling customers.

If the merchandise is not viable, then re-evaluate the listing itself, or some part of the eBay fee structure which is killing the business. Find a way to make some percentage of profit that is fair to you.

Note: It's better to charge more than have to be in the red after eBay takes its share.

6. After operating for about one month with sales:

Set new goals for the next six months. If the business remains steady for weeks…stay with it. If interest wanes, or you are banned, try another product or another venue online. There are other sites that allow customers to bid and buy-and their fee structure may be more pliant.

7. If you have survived past one month, six months, or one year….

You should not expect that you will continue to get customers. EBay is an active marketplace with real stores, real customers, and real….yes, scammers. Expect there to be more than one hitch along the road-in fact, entire sinkholes-that may turn the business in the wrong direction; into a failure.

How must a business owner on eBay deal with this reality? Innovate, and constantly check up on competitors-adding fine details to a listing, securing confidence with past customers and continuing to expand the product line, or improving the current product in some way-either artificially increasing value using Photoshop techniques, or actually adding extras that cost little or nothing to shipping costs.

8. Determination: loose ends in online-based home business

Even if the eBay business falls through OR succeeds-continue to evaluate other venues online. Using the experience gained from eBay, one can easily start their own website selling without any listing fees, PayPal fees and other miscellaneous fees that some companies like to tack on for profit. This is intelligent entrepreneurship.

As an example, if some better opportunities arise from eBay-perhaps you meet a dropshipper who is trustworthy and reliable after a few weeks-then follow that lead. Let loose ends go where they may; don't worry about leaving eBay behind if there's money to be made elsewhere online…


Whether or not your eBay business becomes a success is of little importance, it will give you the hands-on experience of running a business online, managing the image of your service, working with different customers, and gaining a reputation in the worldwide marketplace. That isn't something that you can be prepared for in school… so whatever the outcome, you will be better prepared when it comes to starting another business.

It's good to remind oneself that a successful business is usually built of many previous failures (or alternatively, you can call them "steps")….and what better way to learn, little by little, than by starting your home business on eBay?