How to start an eBay business from home

Remay Villaester (May)

According to eBay’s UK Retail Report¹, the platform minted over 1000 British millionaires in 2018, far exceeding the National Lottery. While we can’t guarantee you’ll be among them, it’s undeniable that with over 24 million monthly shoppers from the UK and Ireland, grabbing a slice of eBay UK’s retail traffic can be highly lucrative.

In this article, we’ll teach you how to get up and running as a retailer on eBay UK. And we’ll discuss how Wise can help you save money on sales, in particular by reducing fees for receiving payments and foreign exchange.

What are the ways to sell on eBay?

Unlike Amazon, Shopify, or other online stores, eBay started as (and still is) an auction site. This means that the ways you can sell on eBay are slightly more varied than on other marketplaces.²

1. Auction. Buyers compete by placing bids to buy your product, which is sold to the high bidder. This means that you generally don’t know the transaction price until the auction closes. However, you can set a reserve price, which is the minimum price you’ll accept. And you also set a starting price, which is where the bidding starts.

Since buyers at auctions often wait until the last minute to reveal their bids, you might gain by tweaking the auction length (default 7 days)closing date (eBay says that Sunday evening is their busiest period, and hence a good time to close.) You can renew your auction (and eBay does so automatically, by default) if it doesn’t hit your target price by its closing date.

2. Buy it Now. This is a traditional sale, with a flat price that buyers have a choice to accept or reject. You can also combine this with auctions, by adding a Buy it Now price (usually 30% higher than the starting price.) Some fees may apply for this combination.

3. Offers. Finally, eBay also has an Offers option, which lets you contact interested buyers (those who’ve browsed your listing) directly, and offer to sell it to them at a given price. This feature is noteworthy since it’s targeted, allowing you to only reach out to potential customers who are easier to convert. There are no additional fees for offering to buyers, which differs from platforms like Facebook, which charge for customer insight. For more, see eBay’s page about the service here.

What are the products you can sell?

In general, eBay UK is a fairly permissive marketplace, where you can sell all manner of goods such as home decor, branded tech, fashion, jewelry and watches, books, and fitness equipment. Note that this is more extensive than Amazon, which (for example) restricts jewelry and watches to Professional users.

However, eBay UK has a list of prohibited and restricted item categories, and it’s important to check it before posting your listing.

Examples of restricted items (i.e., items whose listings come with special rules) include:

  • Autographed items
  • Alcohol products
  • Food
  • Adult and sexual wellness products

Examples of prohibited items (which can’t be sold on eBay UK under any circumstances, by anybody) include:

  • Tobacco products
  • Used socks and underwear
  • Lockpicks or locksmithing equipment
  • Firearms, weapons, and knives
  • Offensive material, such as Nazi memorabilia, American Confederate battle flags, etc.

It’s crucial to respect these lists, as trying to sell prohibited products (or getting caught circumventing the rules) can get your account banned from the platform.

How to register your products for selling on eBay

1. Register for an eBay UK Account. There are two types --- Private or Business, which have different fee structures (see eBay UK’s fee page, where you can click between “Private” or “Business” in the top-left hand corner.)

2. Register for a PayPal Account.

3. Go to eBay UK’s Seller Overview and see if there are any promotions; some need to be activated from this page and added to your account. (For example, this month, there’s a promotion on for 1000 free listings.)

4. Click “List an Item,” and type in what you want to sell. Sometimes, it’ll ask you to select a matching product from the eBay UK catalogue.

5. Populate your listing. This includes a title, item specifics, a description with the object’s unique features or flaws, as well as photos and choosing the listing format (auction or buy it now, along with the specific details.) The photos are required to show all damage or markings on the product, and eBay mentions that high-quality photos are a strong driver of sales.

6. Choose a Delivery Method. This is either through post (eBay UK lists the typical Royal Mail costs for your item ahead of time) or through pickup. You can decide whether the buyer gets free shipping, or whether they pay postage.

7. Choose Payment Method. This also includes choices like whether you’ll allow returns, want to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity (in exchange for credit on some of your eBay fees), what the dispatch time will be, and so on.

The shipping options are particularly important. Royal Mail Signed-For Second Class shipping costs about twice the normal Royal Mail rate, but gives you proof of delivery that can protect in a dispute with a dishonest buyer.

Likewise, at this stage you can also choose your own shipping cost (if you think you can mail the item for less), or add options for international delivery. eBay UK also offers shipping through Packlink, its UK delivery partner, which can be cheaper than Royal Mail. There is no additional fee to send your package using Packlink.

What are the rules and regulations?

Private sellers face some monthly rate limits; they can sell either 100 items or 3000 pounds per month, whichever comes first.⁴ (However, eBay says that auction listings will be automatically renewed up to 8 times for free, and don’t count towards your monthly cap. If your auction has a 1- or 3-day duration, the renewed listing will have a 7 day duration.)

Business sellers don’t have this restriction, but both classes of account need to respect the allowed items list linked above.

Similarly to a credit card, eBay UK allows sellers to request an increase to their monthly limit. eBay UK grants these after looking at metrics like your sales numbers and customer feedback.

The other thing to determine is whether you should charge VAT on your eBay sales. In general, sellers must register for the UK VAT if their revenues exceed the VAT registration threshold of £85,000 over each 12-month period.⁵

How to get paid selling on eBay

Generally, eBay UK uses PayPal as its payment gateway. This will of course cost you. Check this eBay fees calculator to find out how much. You can withdraw from PayPal to any eligible bank account. See here for their instructions on registering for PayPal and linking a bank account.

If you opt to sell your items through payment on pickup, you can receive cash (or other compensation) directly from the buyer when they come to retrieve your item.

One way to save money at this step is by using a Wise** e-Commerce account as your bank account. That way, you have:**

  • No-fee withdrawals from PayPal. The only thing you need to pay for such an account is a small, one-time setup cost. This means you can withdraw money at will, without repeated fees eating into your profit margin.
  • Real exchange rate with no mark-up. Wise accounts give you access to the real (“market”) exchange rate. This is 19X cheaper than PayPal’s equivalent.

How to save money on sales

There are a few additional benefits to using a Wise e-Commerce account.

  • Integration with Xero and quickbooks and other industry-standard accounting tools, so that tracking your sales and profit margins is painless.
  • A debit card without hidden fees (Wise Business Mastercard) that also includes automatic, currency conversion when necessary (i.e., if you are spending in Euros, and don’t have Euros in your Wise account, but do have GBP.)

Start saving today with Wise

Want to earn extra revenue? Join the Wise affiliate program and receive commission for recommending Wise to other online sellers.


  1. eBay report
  2. My Parcel Delivery blog post
  3. eBay help article
  4. eBay help article - Selling article

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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