How Easy is it to Make a Full Time Income on eBay?

eBayFor the absolute beginners to online commerce I always recommend a visit to eBay. EBay is the largest online marketplace and a perfect place to develop the basic skills required to begin trading on the Internet. You don’t have to even find a market or do much marketing. All the tools are there to build a simple sales page (your auction) and with eBay’s dominance of the online auctions industry you have literally millions of consumers ready to buy whatever you have lying around or choose to specialise in.

EBay has long had a significant proportion of full time sellers, those that make their income running an eBay store. Some source products from wholesalers or dropshippers, others manually collect goods from thrift shops or real world auctions or manufacture the goods themselves. These people are in essence are running online businesses but leverage the popularity of eBay to make finding an audience that much easier. Who needs to worry about marketing when you can tap a bloody massive market that has been growing successfully now for almost a decade.

Early on eBay realised that the power-sellers (full time auctioneers) made up a significant proportion of it’s income and went to work making it easier to become a power-seller by providing more tools and advantages to people that listed a lot of auctions. They heavily marketed the power-seller possibility hoping to lure more people away from their day job on to eBay as full time sellers. Would you like to work from home on your computer for a few hours a day buying and selling, perhaps earning more than you did before or at least close to it and leave the 9-5 grind behind? Lifestyle freedom is not a hard sell, especially when a lot of people hate their job.

The beauty of eBay’s model is that supply and demand should equal price. Unfortunately though with the surge in popularity and the global exposure eBay has enjoyed the sellers have come thick and fast and consequently the price has dropped and along with it, the profit margin. Of course that’s not to say that you can’t make a profitable business on eBay but it’s just not going to be quite as easy as it once was because EVERYONE is doing it.

The saving grace, just like with standard off-eBay online commerce, is that an educated businessperson can win against the uneducated. The same rules apply on eBay as they do on any website business.

  • Your sales copy must sell and copywriting skills will give you an edge, especially in auction titles.
  • You must differentiate yourself from everyone else by working to position yourself as the specialist or “trusted source”.
  • You must be seen in all the right places (the right categories in eBay’s case).
  • Your customer service must be better than good.
  • You must be patient and persistant, time rewards an eBay merchant just as any other online merchant.
  • You must test and compare to maximise results. Try different auction formats and see which works better. Test “buy it now”, test using a reserve, test without a reserve, test different opening prices combined with reserves (interestingly a $0 opening bid generally leads to a higher final price compared to starting with a minimum price).

While I personally stopped using eBay to make money a long time ago I still think it’s one of the best places to polish your techniques. If you have never bought or sold online before and you intend to learn about online business in the hope of either supplementing your income or trading your job for an online business or private practice then I strongly suggest getting into eBay.

Learn how online auctions work. Learn how payments work with, the most common form of eBay money exchange. See what the power-sellers are doing. See what items sell the most. Complete a sale by selling some of your junk lying around at home to see what it’s like to provide sales support and customer service. It’s all very good experience and you might even make some money doing it. Heck you might even decide eBay is the way to go permanently.

But how easy is it to make a full-time living from eBay? I’m speaking to Wilson because I’ve decided to spend a month finding out, and I’m looking for tips. Firstly, I’ve learned the importance of wording (“To list something as ‘beautiful’ or to say ‘look!’ is a waste of a word, because that’s not what people will be tapping into the search engine,” he says). Clever categorisation is essential (“Put your monogrammed Seinfeld golf balls in the ‘Comedy’ section first, ‘Sport’ second”). And, although it seems obvious, don’t end your auctions at 3am, when nobody will be around for a frenzied bidding war.


For the first time, I feel almost like an authentic eBay seller, buoyed by the knowledge that I will be selling my haul in the world’s most democratic marketplace. On the way out of the auction, I get chatting about eBay to a nice young couple who have lucked out on an Eames Recliner. “And you make a full-time living from it?” they ask me.

“It’s certainly full time,” I reply, “but whether it’s a living is up for debate.”

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About Yaro Starak

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  • Hmm..
    There was a time when I thought about doing this, but I can tell you from a computer reseller’s perspective that there is absolutely little to no margin for profits for those selling computer parts on eBay.

    Some of the hardware listed on big power sellers are being sold at near and in some cases below cost! Its unbelievable, obviously, they buy the hardware in large quantities to get a discount from the wholesalers, but even so, the margin per item would not be more then $10. Then again if you think about it, if you sold more then 20 items a day, that’s $200, so its not bad!


  • $200 profit per day for handling 20 auctions is not a bad days work if you ask me!

    But the whole locating and sending stock is the laborious part that I didn’t like so much back when I sold on eBay.

  • Luc

    Sounds like a bit of a living but not a huge profit to be had in hardware. Especially after you factor in ebay selling rates. Best off developing marketing channels yourself for your business.


  • I think eBay is an excellent site to test things such as customer service, and ability to sell items through key commerical wording. However, I can’t see myself tuning into eBay as a full-time job simply because eBay is getting even more hungry. Its fees go up every time you turn your back, and the ever-present Paypal, while good, seems to discriminate against those who don’t wish to succumb to the e-payment giant.

  • I’ve heard it’s very difficult to make money on ebay. On the other hand if you have a niche then it can be very profitable. Nothing usually comes easy in the business world. EBAY is no exception.

  • I currently sell on eBay and I find it very useful. I’m taking my degree in Business Management and I find eBay very useful to practice my customer service skills, sales management, and how to handle pressure when shipping items, etc. If you’re able to manage your eBay store well then you have a chance to take it to the next level by opening your own website. Like all business, it does require hard work.

    I find that if you sell 1,2 or 3 non-unique items per week, it is almost impossible to make any profits. However, I still believe that if you put your mind into this and have wholesaler/retailer who can supply you goods then you can make eBay your full-time job.

    Good luck!


  • I use ebay to sell small items at “cost” plus postage and packing which is enough to include promotional material about my online company. Every listing has a link to my site at the bottom “click here for your chance to win…” etc.

    it’s a self-financing prospecting system, I collect lots of full detail leads and I get the cost of mailshots covered by the p+p. I can collect upwards of a hundred contacts in a month, all of whom know how to pay with online forms which kind of pre-qualifies them to being contacted about my site!

    I did make some money at first but now it’s got the whole world selling on it so I had to find a new way to use it and it’s working really well.

    I personally know a couple that have set up a quite complex autoresponding ebook system for it and seem to be doing very well with it. (with ebooks!!)

    • Ed

      Hey Andy…

      I like your use of eBay…*Information Products*..used to be a £50 per week business model on eBay BUT now with sales funnels in place on the backend it’s very possible to make an extremely successful full time business and Income from the platform let alone other springboard methods!


  • Nancy


    I am very new to ebay and want to learn what are the popular items that are
    marketable. Can anyone advise a newbie on how to earn a living by selling
    on ebay.

    Thank you.

  • Ed

    Hey Yaro…
    Such a good post on eBay…I totally agree that eBay IS the best platform to visit as an entry to developing a *solid online business* for the long run…you really can create a good foundation on the platform…strong enough to develop your selling skills and ramp up Income streams without a shadow of a doubt for a FULL TIME VENTURE!

    Love this post Yaro…Ed.

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