How Not To Make Money On EBay

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A Guardian reader recently submitted a question asking for other readers’ advice on making money on eBay – their idea was to trawl charity shops and car boot sales for cheap items that they can make a profit on selling on the internet auction site.

Regardless of the ethics of buying items from charity to sell at a profit, the advice given from other readers was less than positive. Here are the problems with trying to make money in this way:

  • Charity shops are starting to factor in the “eBay effect”, and they’re raising their prices accordingly.
  • The fees for both listing the items and for using PayPal (which must now be given as a payment option) eat into your profits, and we’re normally talking about low margin items, so the volumes you have to sell in order to make even a little money will be large. Then you need to think about paying tax on your earnings, as you’re buying these items specifically to sell on, so the tax man will want to know about it, and finally, you’ll spend money on packaging and postage.
  • The sheer amount of time to craft the listings for these normally one-off items, take photos of the items and sending them at the post office, will also be vast. Add in to that the time spent answering buyers’ questions, and you’ve got yourself a serious time-steeler.

For flogging unwanted items around the home every now and then, eBay is great.

However, if you’re planning on making a business out of it, it now needs to be more of a professional operation than ever before, and it’s far from a way of making easy money.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Fosforix

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5 thoughts on “How Not To Make Money On EBay

  1. Well said! eBay is no longer profitable unless you’re selling a large volume – and if you’re doing that, you may as well be running your own site where you can control everything and pay no eBay fees, and just use eBay to get new leads and customers.

  2. I agree, it has been tough with all of the restrictions that eBay has put on the seller. It’s tougher to find good deals with so much competition, and it’s tougher to find sources for new items. The time it takes to craft an auction, as you said, is really painstakingly long, so you have to have very high profit items to offset the paypal/ebay fees. I recently listed an item that sold for $200, the final value fee combined wiht paypal fee was $30! That’s over ten percent. Sell 3-4 items like that a year and you’ve spent just as much as you would hosting your own domain for a year.

  3. I guess that’s capitalism for you. If someone spots an easy way to make money it’ll soon go away for one reason or another, leaving just the hard work ways again.

    Still, if you take into account the cost of selling when you decide whether to buy an item to place on eBay, you can still have a business.

  4. You can make money on ebay you just need to be clever with what you choose to sell, make sure that you have full descriptions and any question that you do get asked you should bear in mind for your next sale.

  5. Ebay is no longer the level playing field it once was. It’s looking more towards the corporate seller rather than the occassional seller. The fees reflect this. An individual can list an item on a 7 or 10 day auction but if you subscribe to one of ebays shopfronts you can list any item for 30 days for only 20p.

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