Running a small business on eBay

Ordinary people are making big profits using the online auction house.
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  • Updated:26 Feb 2008

01.Is it for you?

eBay ad

In brief

  • More than 52,700 Australians are gaining their primary or secondary income through selling on eBay.
  • When trading on eBay, protect yourself by watching out for spam emails, dodgy shipping addresses and too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • From 21 May 2008, sellers have to offer eBay's PayPal service on all listings on

Please note: this information was current as of February 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.

A global marketplace

More and more Australians are turning their eBay ventures into successful businesses.

According to 2006 ACNielsen research, there are more than 52,700 professional eBay sellers in Australia gaining their primary or secondary income through the site. So whether you’re keen to flex your entrepreneurial muscles or would simply like to supplement your income, opportunities are there for taking.

While there are several other popular online auction sites including, and, eBay has become the largest online marketplace globally. There are more than five million eBay members in Australia, with just as many visitors to the site each month.

But before you decide to leave your day job to make the most of the online auction boom, there are several important factors to consider. And as with any marketplace, beware of scammers targeting inexperienced buyers and sellers.

Most seasoned eBayers will tell you the majority of online punters are honest — but it’s a good idea to watch out for spam emails, dodgy shipping addresses and too-good-to-be-true offers, so your eBay experience can stay a safe and hopefully profitable one.

Who should sell?

From stay-at-home mums ('mumtreprenuers') to full-time professionals, eBay sellers come from all walks of life.

You can list your first item for as little as 30 cents and the only overheads to pay are the cost of a digital camera and a good internet connection.

Many people over the age of 55 are turning to eBay as a way of supplementing pension payments or as an alternative to early retirement.

For late business boomers who’ve discovered a knack for online retailing, eBay can be a place to experiment without having to invest in expensive overheads or risk retirement savings.

A common bit of feedback about eBay is that you can enjoy what you’re doing and make money at it. Some sellers see it a creative outlet allowing them to pursue hobbies such as antique collecting, connecting up with a community of aficionados around the world.

Deciding what to sell

As with any retail venture, you’ll need a sound business plan. Deciding how much time you’d like to commit and choosing the right products is a good place to start. In general, the more time you’ve got to put in, the better the return.

For inspiration, eBay pulse ( gives you a snapshot of the most popular search items on the site. For example, at the time of writing, the top three search words on Australian eBay are: ipod, caravan and GPS.

eBay recommends starting with a few low-value items at first to get a feel of the selling process. Newcomers are also encouraged to try buying several items before they begin selling to help gain some feedback on the auction site. This feedback is then used to create an online profile complete with reputation. Most buyers may be nervous about dealing with a seller without any transaction history or positive reputation.

If you’re still stuck for ideas, finding a niche may be the way to go. Focus on what interests you, or products you’re already familiar with. Many small business owners are now using eBay to promote their products and expanding the reach of their bricks-and-mortar shop.



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