Is Selling on eBay Worth It? The Complete Guide for Small Businesses

As a fellow entrepreneur considering expanding your business online, you may be wondering – is selling on eBay profitable and right for me?

With over 175 million active buyers globally spending over $80 billion annually, eBay commands a massive share of the ecommerce market. But between fees, competition, shifting policies and potential fraud, the platform poses very real risks and challenges too.

In this comprehensive guide straight from an independent ecommerce consultant, we’ll have an candid conversation covering everything you need to evaluate if selling on eBay can be a lucrative way to earn income for your small business.

Why Sell on eBay? Benefits for Small Businesses

eBay offers some unique advantages that make it worth considering:

Massive Existing Customer Base

With the average eBay user spending over $800 annually on purchases, tapping into even a fraction of eBay’s existing 175M+ shopper base provides a huge revenue opportunity. Even niche products can find their audience on eBay’s global marketplace.

Trusted Household Name Brand

eBay ranks as one of the most recognized brand names worldwide. Buyers trust shopping on eBay, which boosts conversion rates for sellers listing there. Small businesses benefit from eBay‘s reputation and credibility.

Low Barrier to Entry

It’s free and simple to establish an eBay seller account. The platform offers built-in guidance for sellers at every stage from listing creation to shipping and returns. This makes eBay accessible for small businesses to test with minimal risk or overhead expenses.

Flexible Selling Mechanisms

eBay allows sellers to leverage fixed-price, auction-style or "Buy It Now” listings. You can enable Best Offer to allow shoppers to negotiate discounted deals too. For local sellers, eBay facilitates local pick-up options as well. This flexibility helps small businesses customize selling strategies.

Let‘s look at the potential downsides too before deciding if selling on eBay is right for your business…

Potential Cons of Selling on eBay

eBay comes with a unique set of challenges, including:

High Final Value and Insertion Fees

  • eBay charges fees based on each item‘s selling price as well as fees for inserting new listings – these add up quickly, especially when selling lower-priced inventory.
  • Final value fees range from 6.15% to 12.55% depending on product category
  • For a $100 product, $8.45 to $16.30 goes just to eBay fees off the top

Fierce Competition in Popular Categories

With over 25 million sellers on eBay in 2024, competition is extremely high in popular verticals like electronics, computers, clothing and collectibles. As a small business, you‘ll need to aggressively compete on pricing, ratings/reviews, photography, descriptions and level of service to vie for buyers’ attention.

Risk of Fraudulent Buyers and Scams

While eBay has extensive anti-fraud technology in place, sellers may still encounter issues like:

  • Fake payment methods
  • False claims an item was defective/not as described
  • Buyers reporting items as undelivered
  • Sophisticated account takeovers

This remains a cost of doing business on online marketplaces – be vigilant against scams that could quickly erase your profits.

Now that we’ve covered the critical pros and cons, let’s explore some tips and best practices to selling successfully on eBay…

6 Proven Strategies for Boosting eBay Sales

Implement these essential tips adopted from profitable eBay sellers:

Rigorously Research In-Demand Products

Leverage eBay’s search data and Google Trends to identify rising, high-demand categories with surging buyer interest and less competition. Consider seasonal trends and current events driving shopper demand too. Target items aligned to spike areas.

Price Competitively Based on Market Data

Use completed listing data to price 5-10% below the average sold price for your specific product. For unique/niche items, consider starting on the higher end of the price range to leave room for best offers. This balances maximizing profits and conversion rates.

Master Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Incorporate relevant keywords naturally throughout listings to increase visibility in search results. Completing item specifics and catalog data also boosts exposure. Enable Best Offer listings to surface higher initially in some searches too.

Foster Loyal Repeat Customers

Build lasting buyer relationships by communicating promptly, shipping fast with tracking (free shipping helps!), and offering hassle-free returns. Providing an exceptional customer experience results in coveted 5-star ratings and glowing reviews to boost credibility with future shoppers.

Explore Seller-Focused Subscription Plans

Consider eBay Store subscriptions for $24-349/month that reduce final value fees up to 4% and insertion fees up to 30%. Higher tiers unlock marketing capabilities to drive traffic and priority customer service access. Break even when selling 150+ items monthly.

Diversify to Additional Sales Channels

While eBay provides access to built-in buyers, every channel has anomalies. Maintain your own website, expand to Amazon, Etsy, Facebook and local platforms to mitigate reliance on any one external marketplace. Spread efforts across multiple streams.

Evaluating Top eBay Alternatives

Beyond eBay, leading alternative online sales channels include:


Amazon offers extensive fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) services that handle storage, shipping and returns for a fee while gaining Prime eligibility. At ~11% seller fees plus FBA costs, profits may be slimmer for smaller items.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook makes local peer-to-peer sales simple by tapping into existing networks and groups. It‘s completely free outside nominal payment processing fees. Perfect for secondhand goods or handmade crafts.


The #1 marketplace for unique, handcrafted and vintage goods. At just 5% transaction fees plus payment charges, Etsy is very affordable. But you must create unique, quality products to satisfy discerning Etsy shoppers.

Key Takeaways – Is Selling on eBay Worth It?

eBay provides small businesses instant access to a massive, motivated buyer audience. But achieving consistent profits requires an investment of time, effort and strategy to stand out from over 25 million competing sellers. With realistic expectations of the high fees and risks involved, eBay and other complementary platforms offer a supplemental sales stream to scale globally.

I hope this complete guide from an independent ecommerce consultant empowers your business to make the most informed decision whether selling on eBay aligns with your products, customers, financial model and capabilities. Please reach out with any other questions – I’m always happy to offer unbiased guidance to fellow entrepreneurs!