What Is Selling On eBay? How Selling On eBay Works And What To Sell

The chances are that like me you’ve sold a few of your old or unwanted things on eBay. After all, it’s a great way to get rid of stuff you no longer want and get a bit of money back. But did you know that many people make their entire living using eBay?

What’s more, you can too! It’s possible to have your own online store and sell all kinds of things to people around the globe.

But first, you need to have some idea of what is selling on eBay! So in this article, we’re going to take a look at some ideas and see how you go about turning your trash into cash.

A Little History

To start, let’s have a brief look at some of eBay’s history. eBay is the world’s largest online auction site and has been with us now since 1995.

It was founded by Pierre Omidyar, and his first transaction was the sale of a broken laser printer.

In the early days, eBay had a different name – AuctionWeb and in the first nine months alone, 7.2 million dollars worth of goods were sold by people using the site.

It was in September 1997 that the familiar name of eBay was born. By September 1998, it went public and was floated on the stock market – now I think you’ll agree, that’s some pretty dang fast company growth!

By July 1999, global expansion was the next step, and new sites are launched in the U.K., Germany, and Australia – fast forward to today, and eBay is in an incredible 180 countries.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, eBay had a staggering 185 million active buyers worldwide.

Making Money On eBay

I know what you’re thinking; thanks for the history lesson, but how can I get my hands on some cash? Well, the beauty of eBay is the size of its audience (similar to Amazon), as you can see from our story above, the number of people using eBay around the world is huge.

This is advantageous to you because you’re a small fish in a giant ocean. Using eBay as your trading platform means anything you want to sell will definitely get seen by lots of folks. This solves one of the greatest problems with starting your own online enterprise, reaching a large enough potential customer base. eBay does this for you, it’s a ready-made audience of millions.

eBay Has A Gigantic Customer Base
Just like Amazon, eBay is an online business rockstar with millions of fans that you can turn into loyal customers!

How Does it Work – The Basics

Just in case you’ve somehow missed the eBay phenomenon, I’ll just give you a quick rundown of how it works in brief. Quite simply, eBay is an online auction and selling site. As a seller, you list the things you wish to sell either as an auction item or at a fixed price. If you choose auction, buyers bid on your items, and the highest bidder wins the goods. The buyer then pays and you package it up and send it to them.

One of the best things about selling on eBay is that you can start immediately and get money coming in fast. All you have to do is sign up for an account by clicking Register in the top left-hand corner of eBays landing page.

Choosing What to Sell

The first, and arguably most difficult part, is deciding what to sell. A wise question here might be “OK, so exactly what is selling on eBay?” Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this question.

When choosing a product to sell, these are the things you need to ask yourself:

  • Is the item in demand? Check eBay to see how many similar items are selling.
  • How much is it typically selling for on eBay? Again, check the listings to find out.
  • Can you get hold of it at a good price so you can make a profit, or do you already have one you’d like to get rid of?
  • What’s the best category to list it under so the maximum number of people looking for such an item can find it easily?
  • How can you describe and photograph it so that it stands out from the competition?
What is selling on eBay and how to choose a product that sells
What is selling on eBay and how to choose a product that sells…

Your First Listings

If you’re a complete eBay virgin, I recommend taking a good look around your home and finding some items you no longer want. It’s a good way to test the water and learn the ropes. I have described the process in great detail here, which focuses on Amazon as your potential platform of choice. But the idea is the same and the process of finding good stuff to sell is the same…

For good sales results and to achieve the best offers, there are some important criteria to keep in mind.

Captivating Title

When potential buyers are looking through item listings, the first thing they see is the title you’ve given to your article. At this moment they will decide to either a) to click on it and take a further look, or b) to scroll on by. Giving your listing a strong title, one that accurately and succinctly describes it with as much information as possible, using only 80 characters, is your primary opportunity to secure buyers. Don’t waste it. Look at similar listings and see what stands out, then use a similar format to describe what you’re selling.


The items you choose should be in good condition or have a value due to rarity, history, or some other strong point, such as being highly collectible.


Take high-quality, clean, sharp, digital photos of your items from lots of angles. If the item comes in a box or other packaging, take a photo of that too. Also, if there is any damage, ensure it can be clearly seen in the images, don’t hide it. The buyer wants to know exactly what they are buying, and you know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

You can post 12 images per item for free, or 24 images for automotive listings. Never just put up a single image! The better your photos, the more chance you have of making a good sale.

You will need to invest in order to create high quality photos
You don’t need a fully-fledged studio setup to take good pictures in the beginning. However, you want to have high-quality product photos, so be prepared to learn a bit about photography and invest some money in good quality equipment…

It is much better to take photographs yourself rather than using generic images you find on the internet. You own the rights to your photos, so there is no copyright infringement. If you use someone else’s photos, there is a possibility you could get sued. Also, it isn’t very honest. The photos on the listing should be of the actual object being sold, not of one that just looks like it. The only time this doesn’t apply is when you are selling multiples of the same exact item.


There are a vast number of categories and subcategories to choose from on eBay, you’ll need to select the best ones for your item, in order to get it in front of the right audience.

Auction or Fixed Price

You can list your item to be sold to the highest bidder in an online auction, or you can sell it at a fixed “Buy it Now” price. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. With an auction, you could get two people in a bidding war wanting to win. This is great news for you, as it’s likely to generate a good price. The flip side is, that if you put the opening bid price too high, you may get no bids at all. Then, if you put it too low, the item might sell at a loss, or for less than it’s worth.

With buy it now, you know how much you’re going to get for your goods but may lose out if someone would have paid more. There’s also the chance you don’t make any sales at all if the price you’re asking is too high. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to do your research well, see how much similar items are selling for, and look at the way they are being listed.


Make the descriptive text for the goods you’re selling easy to read and informative. Be sure to include any important information such as age, specifications, size, color, and so on. Spell and grammar check what you have written several times and ensure it’s clear and makes sense.

Where to Sell

You have the option to choose where in the world you want to advertise your goods. This could be just in the U.S., in specific countries, or worldwide.


If you do decide to offer your items to customers in multiple countries, be sure to set up the correct shipping rates. Sending stuff abroad is often a lot more costly, and you may also need to advise them about potential import duties payable on the goods they are buying from you.

It’s simple to set up multiple shipping options for your listing, so take a bit of time here to get it right, or you could end up out of pocket.


Some items cannot be sold on eBay, while others are banned from sale to certain countries. Make sure you check before posting your listing.

Closing the Deal

Even though you haven’t sold your item yet, you want to be prepared for when the auction closes or your customer decides to “Buy It Now”. Here are a few things to consider well in advance:

Receiving Money

Remember to always wait for payments to be credited in full before you send anything. PayPal is a financial transaction service owned by eBay that makes receiving and sending payments super easy. Keep in mind, however, that if someone pays through PayPal, you must wait until the money has been received in your PayPal account before posting it. This can take up to 21 days if someone pays via PayPal using eCheck, which is a transfer from their bank.

Receiving the payment from your ebay sale
The fun part: Receiving the payment from your eBay sale…


Once you’ve received the funds safely into your account, next you’ll need to package the goods up securely so they won’t be damaged in transit.


If an item does get broken before it is received by the purchaser, normally, you are liable for it unless you take out postal insurance.


Once you’ve got it all really well packaged, post it, or get it collected by a courier service, depending on what you specified in your listing.

Avoiding Returns

It’s easy to think once your item has been sold, that you can forget about it. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Buyers can return items for any number of reasons. It is up to you to list whether you will accept returns on your listing. But if you don’t, then you may put some buyers off. It is normal for the purchaser to pay for the postage when returning goods, but this should also be stated on your listing.

The best way to avoid returns is to:

  1. Ensure you have described the item fully and accurately
  2. Be honest about any damage or imperfections
  3. Make sure photographs are clear and accurate
  4. List sizes and dimensions carefully
  5. Give detail about what the item is made of and, if possible, where it was made
  6. Ensure the packaging is robust enough to keep the item safe during transit

Keeping these six points in mind should minimize your returns.


It goes without saying that the goods and service you provide need to be excellent in order to maintain happy customers, but there’s an extra reason why you need to keep clients sweet – reviews. When someone purchases an item on eBay they can review it. They give a rating not only for the product itself but for your communication with them, postal costs, speed of delivery, and so on.

In the future, other purchasers will look at your rating to see how many positive and negative reviews you have. Many people will only buy from someone with a 100% positive feedback rating. So, doing an outstanding job and keeping all your customers happy is paramount if you want to keep your sales figures high.

A good review creates trust
Good reviews are important as they help you build trust…

eBay Fees

Whenever you list something to sell on eBay you’ll have to pay fees. These can be for the listing itself, as well as a small percentage calculated on the final sale price. It is important you understand exactly what fees your goods are going to trigger before you start, so read all about fees on the eBay site here.

eBay Stores

Once you’re ready to take off the training wheels, you might decide to open an eBay store. Currently, there are five store levels:


Paid Monthly Paid in One Annual Payment
Starter $7.95 $59.40 (Working out to $4.95 a month)
Basic $27.95 $263.40 (Working out to $21.95 a month)
Premium $74.95 $719.40 (Working out to $59.95 a month)
Anchor $349.95 $3,599.40 (Working out to $299.95 a month)
Enterprize Not Available $35,999.40 (Working out to $2999.95 a month)

To discover more, click on the eBay store link above.


Opening an eBay store is incredibly easy to do. However, it is still classed as a business and carries with it all the normal legal requirements of one.

Once you start making a profit from your eBay sales beyond selling used stuff as a private person and acting as a business with a larger profit in mind, you’ll be required to inform the IRS. It’s a lot less time-consuming and expensive to follow the rules than to try and evade them if you get caught.

You will need to:

  • Register the name of your business
  • Get a Federal Tax ID number
  • Get any licenses and permits required
  • Decide your business’s legal structure – Sole proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), etc.

Once you’ve tackled this, you’ll have to keep complete and accurate sets of accounts and file income tax returns.

What is Selling On eBay?

As I said at the beginning, there isn’t a single best-selling item or even category, but a range of areas where high sales levels can be achieved if you source good quality items inexpensively. Let’s break it down into a few categories:


  • Designer label or high fashion clothes in good as new condition
  • Designer brand trainers
  • High-quality accessories – bags, belts, sunglasses, scarves
  • Unused named brand makeup
  • Hair accessories

fashion is an evergreen


  • Quality brand baby clothes
  • Baby equipment in as-new condition
  • Quality brand kids clothing in as-new condition
  • Toys (Lego, Disney, etc.) games, puzzles (unopened or collectors), dolls, or soft toys all in new, or as new condition


  • Game consoles either in good working order or broken to be used as parts
  • Computer equipment – tablets, laptops, gaming computers
  • Mobile phones and accessories – unlocked smartphones in good condition, and phone accessories such as cases
  • Speakers – high-quality brand names or Bluetooth

Collectors Items

  • Coins
  • Stamps
  • Trading cards
  • Any other on-trend collectibles

Jewelry and Watches

  • Designer watches
  • Stamped gold and silver jewelry


  • Unopened video games
  • Camping equipment
  • Automotive items
  • Craft materials

Sourcing Goods

Once you’ve exhausted your own pre-loved items, you’ll need to find other places to find your eBay sellable’s. Flea markets, thrift stores, wholesalers, discount stores, estate sales, yard, and garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, Craigs List, and so on.

After a while, you might find you hit on a type of product that sells well for you, find the best possible price to make the biggest profit.

Other Things to Consider

Keep in mind that you’ll need an excellent inventory system so you can easily find items at all stages of your selling process. Depending on the goods you’re selling, this could take up a considerable amount of space, so ensure you plan your stock area carefully. You’ll also need a large enough table to photograph and package goods. If that sounds overwhelming to you, you may also want to look into “Fulfillment by Amazon” (FBA), which I have described here!

You’ll also need a digital camera or phone, which can produce sharp, high-resolution images.

Types of Selling

There are various styles of sourcing and selling, these include:


This is where you buy and sell all kinds of different, individual, generally used items and flip them for a profit. These can be found at auctions, fairs, thrift stores, yard sales, and so on.

Retail Arbitrage

Sourcing new items at a discount from physical places, such as stores, and selling them on at a profit. Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, Lowe’s Big Lots, Ollies, etc.

Retail Arbitrage
“Retail Arbitrage” means buying cheap from your local retailer and selling for a higher price online…

Online Arbitrage

Buying new items from online discount sources and selling them at a profit. Good places to start your research would be websites like Overstock.com, bensbargain.com, dealnews.com, or slickdeals.net.


To maximize your profits, you may decide to set up with a manufacturer and act as a distributor.


This is a blueprint idea for a beginner, that you might like to use in order to get things started.

  1. Do some serious research. Decide what you’re going to sell and how you’re going to source it.
  2. Set aside 10 to 20 hours a week with the aim of listing 400 to 800 items. It’s important to maintain this level of listings going forward.
  3. Try to pick items with a ticket price of $30 or above. The more low-value items you list, the more listings you’ll need to have active to turn a good profit.
  4. Set up a photography area. Ensure it has excellent lighting from all sides and a clean, plain background. Take LOTS of photos of each item. I suggest using five minimum.
  5. List your items on eBay. It’s good to do this in batches of about 10 to 20 at a time, as you get into a rhythm and it helps to speed things up.
  6. Wait for customers to buy your items.
  7. Get great reviews.
  8. Any items that didn’t sell, relist.
  9. Continue to add new listings all the time so you always have 400 plus items selling at once.

The Math

For example: If you spend 15 hours a week listing 400 items each month, of which you might sell around 300, with a sales value of $30 that you purchased for $10, then your gross profit will be: 30 minus 10 = $20 per item, less shipping, packaging, and fees. So let’s estimate your net profit to be $10.


Purchase cost per item = $10

Sale price of item = $30

30 – 10 = $20 gross profit

Minus eBay fees and packaging costs = $10

20 – 10 = $10 takehome profit before tax per item sold

10 x 300 items sold per month = $3,000 take-home profit

So for 65 hours of work a month, you get $46.15 per work hour, not bad!

This really is just an example, as everyone will get different results depending on many factors. To begin with, you may have a smaller profit margin and not as many items to sell. Work fewer hours, or list fewer items. How successful you are will depend on how hard your work at it.

There are other well know alternatives to eBay and you can even choose to mix and match, selling certain things on various platforms. Typically new items will sell well on Amazon, while second-hand ones are better placed on Craigslist and eBay.


eBay, just like Amazon, is a great place to get started when dipping your toes in the ocean of online business. It offers many opportunities and puts you and your new business in front of millions of customers right on day 1! That’s huge!!!

However, it does come with a price: Dealing with physical goods, compared to running a “digital-only” business like an affiliate marketing blog, for example, bears some risks; especially when you are low on cash already or even have to take a loan to get started… Physical products also need storage, proper handling, and shipping.

That being said, take a look at the following “rating” and see if it matches your expectations, and how important the individual factors are for you and your new business:

  1. Upfront investment (more stars = less investment required)
  2. Time until “First Dollar Earned” (more stars = less time until first dollar earned)
  3. Tollerance for making critical and expensive mistakes (more stars = better for beginners)
  4. Competition (more stars = less competition or less impact of said competition)
  5. Satisfaction and ethical qualities (more stars = higher satisfaction and more honesty)
  6. Overall Rating (more stars = better)


As you have seen, it’s possible to make real money on eBay if you can find the right items to sell regularly with a large enough profit margin.

Before you get too excited, I’d really recommend giving it a good trial run, so you know exactly how eBay works. Pay close attention to any current trends, the season, public holidays, and so on, which all influence what is selling. Also, make sure to check out my “P.S.” below 🙂

One thing is for sure, eBay isn’t a magic money tree. It will take hard work and dedication to make good money, but it is possible if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

I hope this article has given you some good ideas about what is selling on eBay, so for now, I’d just like to wish you happy bargain hunting and profitable sales! If you have something to add or any questions, please let’s have a discussion in the comments below! If you know anyone who might enjoy reading this article, please share it with them: Sharing is caring!!!

All the best,


P.S.: My Suggestion

One thing that I always like to suggest to people who are in search of starting a new, or ideally their very first, online business, is to take a thorough look at the business model of affiliate marketing.

Writing a blog with valuable content is not only one of the most-risk-free business models you will find out there, it also very ethical and can pay you a good amount of money and reliable income for years to come. Hence, I’d love to invite you to read my review of Wealthy Affiliate, which is a platform (and amazing community of entrepreneurs) that will teach you everything you need to know! You won’t regret it…

Rock It From Home - Wealthy Affiliate Review
Make sure to check out my review of Wealthy Affiliate
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