So You Wanna Be an Ebay Seller?
Lots of people do. Some do it full-time, while others, like me, do it part-time. Aside from the amount of effort that you put into the Ebay hustle, there is one thing that will either make you or break you as an Ebay seller…having the right supplies. Your heart is probably all full of hope, your eyes full of dollar signs, and your startup kit full of…well…nothing. Today I’m going to fill you in on the basic tools that you’ll need in your startup kit. Since you’re reading this, I assume that you’re a newbie. If you’re interested in boosting your Ebay learning curve without all of the research, sign up for my free courses at the bottom of this article.
The Startup Kit
Below you will find a list of supplies, links (if applicable) to where to purchase the supplies, and a brief explanation (if applicable). This list is not exhaustive as there are many different niches/markets to cater to online. Each of those niches will come with their own set of specialty tools. Once you niche down, you’ll be able to figure out what those things are and add them to your arsenal. For example, I started off as an Ebay seller selling primarily clothing and shoes, so one of the niche supplies that I purchased was a sweater stone. Sweater stones remove the pilling that develops on sweaters after wear. This list is not for a particular niche’s supplies. It’s just for the basics. Also keep in mind that buying supplies in bulk increases your profit and conserves your time, but some supplies don’t make sense to be purchased in bulk (i.e. a permanent marker). Use your discretion and common sense. The supplies below are listed in random order.
- Postal scale: Invest in a good one that has a screen separate from the actual scale. This will allow you to place a big box on the scale and not have to be a magician to read the weight.
- Poly mailers: Poly mailers are lighter than boxes, which means that you or the customer will pay less for shipping! They come in various sizes. Sometimes a box is necessary, and if you sell breakables it’s always necessary. As a beginner Ebay seller, you may want to stick with small, lightweight (under 16 oz.) items that generally don’t require boxes. Be sure to buy quality poly mailers or else you’ll end up double-bagging, which works against your savings.
- USPS free poly mailers: The United States Postal Service offers free Priority padded flat-rate poly mailers. These are perfect for items heavier than 15.99 oz. that will fit in the envelope. The USPS allows you to order them in packs online, and they’ll ship them right to your door!
- Free boxes, bubble wrap, & packing peanuts: Recycle, recycle, recycle! Mother Nature will appreciate it. Every time that you receive an order in the mail, save the packaging supplies. You never know when you’ll need to reuse them. Plus, buying boxes, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts can get expensive real quick!
- Painter’s tape: If you want to label envelopes, boxes, items, etc., use a piece of painter’s tape. It can be peeled off easily later without causing damage.
- Black permanent marker: Use this to label the painter’s tape for high visibility.
- Packing tape gun dispenser: If you have to use boxes, using a packing tape dispenser will be so much less of a headache to use than just a roll of packing tape. Have you ever tried to keep up with the end of a roll of packing tape?!!
- Tape measure or ruler: You will need either one depending on what you choose to sell. I like to take photographs of measurements for my listings as well as include the measurements in the item description.
- Computer and/or smart phone (with Ebay app installed): You may prefer one method of listing over the other, or you may use a combination of both. You can start the listing process on the app and finish up on the computer, or vice versa.
- Camera: Remember that a good picture is worth a thousand words. You can use your smartphone’s camera if it takes good pics, or you can invest in a high quality digital (DSLR) camera. If you use your smart phone, you can upload pics directly to the Ebay app, or take the pics from within the app.
- Product displays: This will depend on what kind of Ebay seller you are. You may need a dress form for clothing, acrylic risers for shoes and other items, a necklace bust, a bracelet stand, etc. The more professional your listings look, the better your chances are to sell.
- Backdrop: This can be as simple as a blank, solid color wall in your home, or as involved as a hung piece of cotton fabric or vinyl. Solid white, gray, or tan backgrounds don’t compete with your items, & make for a professional look.
- Thank you/advertisement cards: It’s against Ebay’s policies to solicit offline communication with Ebay customers or potential customers, but stuffing their order is fair game! I created a combination thank you card and coupon card through VistaPrint that directs customers to purchase their next order from my own website. Ebay can’t get a cut of those sales! I include one in every order.
- Printer/Thermal Printer: If you’re just dabbling in selling, then I’d recommend a cheap inkjet printer. If you want to stick with selling, I’d recommend buying a used thermal printer. See “lessons learned” #7 for the explanation.
- Paper: A ream of copy paper for your inkjet printer, or a roll of self-adhesive 4×6 labels for your thermal printer.
- Ink: For your inkjet printer
- Stapler: Use to attach your thank you/advertisement cards onto the customers’ packing slips.
- Storage space: You will need a place to put all of your items that are in Ebay purgatory. I scavenge milk crates that I store in my attic and garage; some Ebay sellers use Rubbermaid bins. Think stackable, and get creative!
- Inventory organization system/plan: This one really isn’t a supply, but it is a necessity! Once you get to the point of having a couple hundred items listed, which is easy to do as an Ebay seller, you will pull your hair out trying to locate items to fulfill orders unless you have a system. A system can be as simple as labeling the storage bin with a number or letter and documenting it on a piece of paper. It can also be as complex as documenting the item’s location on a computer spreadsheet. Find out what works for you.
8 Lessons Learned the Hard Way
- Miscalculating a package’s weight can cause you to pay more than necessary for shipping, or it can cause you to lose profit. For some reason, most of my early listings left the pound off of the weight. As a result, the customer underpaid for shipping, and I had to cover the difference.
- I was completely unaware of the option to use poly mailers for shipping when I became an Ebay seller. I know for sure that I missed out on additional profit due to unnecessarily shipping with boxes.
Tissue paper is not a substitute for bubble wrap. I once had to refund a whole order due to this oversight!
- Cheap packing tape is a pain in the ass! You end up playing hide-and-seek with the end of the tape, and sometimes the end rips into multiple pieces.
- Thick flat tape measures that don’t come in a dispenser are easier to work with for photographs.
- Taking listing pictures outside in natural light is the best way to photograph. Camera flashes make pictures look very amateur and homemade.
- Cutting and taping shipping labels created on a inkjet printer onto orders gets old real quick when you have more than a couple of orders to fulfill at once. It’s much easier to peel the label off of the backing and slap it on an order. Thermal printers don’t use any ink, and a roll of labels is cheaper than a cartridge of ink.
- Calling around to local businesses can get you a steady supply of free shipping supplies (boxes, bubble wrap, etc). Think Starbucks and stores that regularly receive drinking glasses and other fragile products.
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Disclosure Statement: Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links to products that I have used. I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.
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