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Well, we finally made it through 2022. With the current state of the economy, everyone (including myself…) seems to feel a bit unsure.
In the past, quitting your job and working for yourself seemed to be everyone’s dream. Now, it seems to be the dream just to pay rent and keep putting food on the table.
So what should you do? Is selling on eBay still a viable income source if you want to leave your job and go full-time?
Well, it may not be what it once was but, for most people, I still think it’s the best opportunity available.
So if you’re been stuck for a while and building your own business feel like a pipe dream, it doesn’t have to be!
Selling on eBay has been responsible for paying many of our bills, sending us on vacation, and padding our savings account. We were recently thinking about the ramifications of my leaving my job and working on eBay full-time.
Luckily, we did all the math and asked ourselves a few tough questions before I just impulsively told my boss to shove it! If you’re thinking about heading out on your own, ask yourself these three questions first:
Making a Full-time Living on eBay: 3 Questions to Think About
1. Can I Consistently Source Enough Product For My Store?
When my wife and I first considered going full-time on eBay we thought we would struggle to source enough produce.
We were just naïve.
In our minds, we thought we had maxed out our local resources. We were already picking over all of our nearby thrift stores several times a week, as well as purchasing from Facebook groups, Craigslist, closeouts, etc. Little did we realize that there are literally an infinite number of ways to source products to sell on eBay.
If you’re considering going full-time, here are a few places you should consider:
- Thrift Stores
- Local Auctions
- Liquidation.com (check out our review) or other liquidation sites open to the public
- eBay (you can buy, improve, and flip items if you know what to look for)
- Friends and family (don’t be afraid to tell people what you do)
- Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.
- Garage & Estate Sales
If you are confident that you can source enough items to stock your store, you need to think about how you’re going to afford the items. When you first go full-time there will be a lag time between buying a bunch of inventory and the corresponding increase in cash flow.
We barely survived that lull period when we decided to make a living on eBay. I quit my day job without fully appreciating that it resulted in losing a couple of thousand dollars out of our sourcing budget every month. We had to put tons of things on sale and learn how to increase our eBay sales quickly to stay afloat.
Looking back, I wouldn’t go full-time without at least 6 months of business and personal expenses saved up. It would be much less stressful.
2. After Sourcing, Can I Feasibly List & Ship Enough Product?
After acquiring the product, do I have enough time (energy) to list 2-3x as much as I need to sell per day?
The general rule of thumb that we’ve used is that you need to list 2-3x as much as you need to sell per day. So if you expect $300 in daily sales, are you prepared to list $600-900 of inventory per day? (in addition to sourcing, shipping, and inventorying)
Well, first things first, figure out how much profit you need to live how you want – and then figure out how much you’ll have to list to accomplish that!
Here are some rough numbers we thought about:
$100 a day in profit
Average sale price: $38
Average Item Purchase Price: $8
Fees, Shipping Supplies, etc: $6
Net Profit (before taxes): $24
Not only will you need to run some numbers like those above for yourself, but you’ll also have to consider some other expenses which many people ignore when they consider reselling full-time:
- Insurance. Without an employer contribution, our insurance plan (for a family of 4) costs us around $800/month.
- Self-employment tax
- Income tax
- No employer-match retirement plan
- Minimum Living Costs. Don’t forget that you have to live somewhere and eat while you’re growing your business.
- Reinvestment money. We ended up taking out a business loan to get through a stagnant phase where we just didn’t have enough money left after expenses to grow our business.
Long story short, we need $5-6,000 a month to survive (not including business costs). Your area may be significantly lower or higher. At that level, we’re not living high on the hog.
If we add in the amount we need to rent out storage units, pay for gas, buy inventory, etc. we end up needing about $200,000 in sales per year.
This works out to 15-20 sales per day. So, to go full-time on eBay and make a decent living, we need to list between 15 and 25 items per day (and source that or more).
If we hire help or our profits margins shrink that number increases.
Is that something we were interested in so we couldn’t escape the rat race? Heck yes.
It might not be exactly the relaxing, lucrative part-time work we were hoping for, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
3. What Would Happen If eBay Suspended You Tomorrow?
If you’re thinking about putting all your income eggs in one basket (such as eBay) you’ll need to be prepared. One change from eBay, one suspension, one financial emergency, etc. could destroy your entire business.
If that happened, how much work would it take for you to get back to where you are now? Could you just go get a job? Could you move in with your parents? If you’re legitimately thinking of starting your own business don’t always think in rainbow and dollar signs.
You need to at least consider what could go wrong and how you’ll deal with it.
We’ve been selling for long enough and have made enough mistakes that we have been suspended from eBay twice now. Once erroneously for copyright infringement, and once for an item that did indeed turn out to be fake (unbeknownst to us when we listed it). Both times we were suspended for a week and had to scrabble to pay fees that had built up, make rent, etc.
Most experts say that before quitting your job you should have at least 6 months of expenses saved up. Could you survive for 6 months while you get eBay where it needs to be? What if you’re permanently banned from eBay?
The internet is rife with stories of power sellers who wake up to find their eBay account indefinitely suspended. So before leaving the safety and security of your job, save and diversify! Sell on eBay, Mercari, Facebook groups, and Amazon so that you don’t have all of your eggs riding in a basket that you’re not even carrying.
If you are considering going full-time, at least consider using a service like List Perfectly to store your listings or cross-post them so that you can transfer them onto another platform if things go south.
The Reality of Making a Living on eBay
Unfortunately, full-time eBaying is not for everyone. Honestly, I don’t love it.
Selling on eBay full-time rather than as a hobby takes the fun part out of it.
I can’t wander stress-free around a thrift store or patiently browse for things at garage sales. We have to find things every day and things need to sell to keep this boat afloat.
Luckily we have a couple of other income streams so we’re not 100% dependent on eBay for our living. We’ve tried that and it wasn’t fun.
The truth is: most people who sell full-time on eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, etc. are not making tons of money. They do it for the freedom it provides.
I’m not trying to dissuade you from making a go at full-time reselling. I just want you to be better prepared than I was and save yourself a ton of headaches and stress.
Reselling and entrepreneurship are not for everyone. There are days that I wish I could just punch in at a job and count on getting a paycheck, having healthcare (cheaper), and a match in my 401k.
But I won’t let myself do it. I have a burning desire to do it myself and, for now, that means selling on eBay.
What do you think? Is full-time reselling for you?