Starting a Business on For Dummies®


by Dan Matthews and Marsha Collier




About the Authors

Dan Matthews is online editor of Crimson Business Publishing, which specialises in magazines and websites supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in the UK. Publications include and as well as Growing Business Magazine, of which Dan is contributing editor. Dan is also founder of, a website dedicated to helping small businesses and regional organisations spread their message.

Marsha Collier spends most of her time on eBay. She loves buying and selling – she’s a PowerSeller – as well as meeting eBay users from around the world. As a columnist, and author of four best-selling books on eBay, a television and radio expert, and a lecturer, she shares her knowledge of eBay with millions of online shoppers. Thousands of eBay fans also read her monthly newsletter, Cool eBay Tools, to keep up with changes on the site.

Out of college, Marsha worked in fashion advertising for the Miami Herald and then as special projects manager for the Los Angeles Daily News. She also founded a home-based advertising and marketing business. Her successful business, the Collier Company, Inc., was featured in Entrepreneur magazine in 1985, and in 1990, Marsha’s company received the Small Business of the Year award from her California State Assemblyman and the Northridge Chamber of Commerce.

More than anything, Marsha loves a great deal. That’s what drew her to eBay in 1996, and that’s what keeps her busy on the site now. She buys everything from light bulbs to parts for her vintage Corvette to designer dresses. Marsha knows how to apply her business acumen to eBay, and in this book, she shares that knowledge with you. In Starting a Business on For Dummies, Marsha and Dan combine their knowledge of business, marketing, and eBay savvy to help you make a smooth and quick transition from part-time seller to full-time moneymaker.


Author’s Acknowledgements

I would like to thank everyone at John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, especially Martin Tribe and Sam Clapp, for their help and guidance; David Lester at Crimson Business for being supportive and Gemma Foy for her patience.


Publisher’s Acknowledgements

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at .

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Executive Project Editor: Martin Tribe

Content Editor: Simon Bell

Commissioning Editor: Samantha Clapp

Development Editor: Brian Kramer

Copy Editor: Kate O’Leary

Proofreader: Kim Vern

Technical Editor: Edmund Butler –

Executive Editor: Jason Dunne

Cover Photo: Jupiter Images/IT Stock Free

Cartoons: Ed McLachlan

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Jennifer Theriot

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Andrea Dahl, Barbara Moore, Lynsey Osborn, Stephanie D. Jumper

Proofreaders: David Faust, Susan Moritz, Brian Walls

Indexer: Techbooks

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services



Thank you for taking a look at Starting a Business on For Dummies. We’ve written this book to serve as a manual to get you organised and get your business off the ground. From handling your selling time on more efficiently to stocking your shop to the real way to set up your books and daily operations, we give you all the details about running a successful eBay business. From our own years of experience and numerous interactions with hundreds of eBay sellers, we offer countless time-saving and money-saving tips and secret hints along the way.

One thing that we can’t guarantee is how much money you can earn selling on eBay. We’ve discovered – perhaps the hard way – that running a business from home takes a good deal of discipline. Time and devotion dedicated to your business will boost your success.

About This Book

Success awaits you! If you’ve read For Dummies, you know just how profitable eBay can be. You’ve probably picked up this book because you’ve heard lots of stories about people making big money online, and you’re interested in getting your slice of the action. If you have a retail business, establishing an shop can be a profitable extension of it.

Is selling on something that you’d like to do more of? Do you have a full-time job, but you’d like to sell on eBay part time? eBay can easily supplement your income for the better things in life – such as holidays or even private school for the kids. Perhaps you’re looking to make a career change, and jumping into an business with both feet is just what you have in mind – if so, Starting a Business on For Dummies is the book for you.

We’ve watched eBay change from a homey community of friendly collectors to a behemoth Web site with tens of thousands of categories of items and more than 100 million registered users. We bet you’ve been buying and selling with positive results, and you can see the benefits of taking this a bit more seriously. What are you waiting for? Get started on your new career right now. Thousands of people across the world are setting up businesses online, and now is your time to take the leap of faith to begin a profitable enterprise. gives you the tools, the customers, and the venue to market your wares – all you need is a bit of direction.

Starting a Business on For Dummies includes tips to give you the opportunity to improve your eBay money-making ability and just might turn you from an eBay novice into a professional running a booming eBay business. We also show the experienced user the prudent way to turn haphazard sales into an organised business. This book has all the information you need! We combine the fine points of with real business and marketing tools to help you complete the journey from part-time seller to online entrepreneur.

In this book, you can find the answers to some important questions as I take you through the following points:

bullet Reviewing what you know and introducing some of the finer points of auctions

bullet Sprucing up your auctions to attract more bidders

bullet Dealing with customers

bullet Setting up your business in a professional manner

bullet Deciding how to handle inventory (and where to find it)

bullet Looking at what you need to be in an eBay business . . . for real

What You’re Not to Read

If you use Starting a Business on For Dummies like a cookery book, jumping around from recipe to recipe (or chapter to chapter), you can find the answers to your particular questions all at once. Or you can read the book from beginning to end and keep it handy to look up future questions as they come to you. You don’t have to memorise a thing; the information you need is at arm’s length.

Foolish Assumptions

Because you’re reading this, we assume you’re serious about selling on eBay. and want to find out the fine points of just how to do that. Or perhaps you want to know how much is involved in an eBay business so that you can make the decision whether to give it a go.

If we’ve worked you out and you’ve decided that it’s time to get serious, here are some other foolish assumptions we’ve made about you:

bullet You have a computer and an Internet connection.

bullet You’ve bought and sold on eBay and are fairly familiar with how it works.

bullet You have an existing small business or you’d like to start one.

bullet You like the idea of not having to work set hours.

bullet You feel that working from home in jeans and a t-shirt is a great idea.

If you can say yes to my foolish assumptions, you’re off and running! Take a few moments to read the following section to get a feel for how we’ve put together this book.

How This Book Is Organised

This book has five parts. The parts stand on their own, which means that you can read Chapter 12 after reading Chapter 8 and maybe skip Chapter 13 altogether (but we know you won’t because that’s where we discuss the money!).

Part I: Getting Serious About

Reviewing what you know is always a great place to start. Considering the way eBay constantly changes, you’ll probably find a little review worthwhile. So in this part, we delve into the finer points of Perhaps you’ll discover a thing or two you didn’t know – or had forgotten.

Setting up your eBay shop is important, and in this part we show you step by step the best way to do it – and give you tips to work out when the timing is right for you to open your shop.

Part II: Setting Up Shop

You need to decide what type of business you plan to run and what type of inventory you’ll sell. In this part, we discuss how to find merchandise and the best way to sell it. We also give you the low-down on eBay Motors UK, property, and some of the unusual areas where you can sell.

In this part, you’ll also find out how to research items – before you buy them to sell – so you’ll know for how much (or whether) they’ll sell on

We also discuss the importance of your own Web site for online shopping and how to set one up quickly and economically.

Part III: Serious Business!

In Part III, we discuss exactly how to use available online and offline tools, implement auction management software, jazz up your auctions, and handle shipping efficiently and effectively. Because working with customers and collecting payments is important too, you can find that information here as well.

Most importantly, you also find out how to obtain free shipping material for your business delivered to your door, get your postal carrier to pick up your boxes at no charge, and insure your packages without standing in line at the post office.

Part IV: Your Admin

Setting up your business as a real business entity involves some nasty paperwork and red tape. We try to fill in the blanks here, as well as show you how to set up your bookkeeping. In this part you’ll find a checklist of the items you need to run your online business.

You also need to know how to set up your home business space and how to store your stuff and we cover that here.

Part V: The Part of Tens

You can’t write a For Dummies book without including the traditional Part of Tens. So here are ten real-life stories of successful (and happy) people selling on We also include ten strategies that might help you sell your stuff.

We include a random collection of terms in Appendix A. You’re probably already familiar with many of these words, but others will be new to you. Refer to this appendix often as you peruse other parts of the book. In Appendix B, we briefly discuss home networking, a perk you’ll want to have when your eBay business grows.

Icons Used in This Book


If there’s something I need to interject – okay, something we’re jumping up and down to tell you but it doesn’t fit directly into the text – we indicate it by placing this tip icon in front of the paragraph. You’ll know the tip to follow will be right on target!


Do you really know people who tie string around their fingers to remember something? Me neither; but this icon gives me the opportunity to give you a brief reminder to note.


We like this picture of a petard – the round bomb device that Wile E. Coyote slam-dunks in the cartoons. If you don’t heed the warning indicated by this icon, you may be ‘hoisted by your own petard’, or made a victim of your own foolishness.

AuctionAnecdote (0578-5)

Here we share some of the interesting thoughts we’ve picked up from eBay sellers over the years. Because we believe that knowledge is enhanced through making your own choices based on understanding the successes and mistakes of others, we include these little auction factoids so you can gain some insight from them. If someone else has learned from a unique trick, you can benefit by taking heed.

Where to Go from Here

Time to hunker down and delve into the book. If you have time, just turn the page and start from the beginning. If you’re anxious and already have some questions you want answered, check out the handy index at the end of the book and research your query.

Take the information offered in this book and study it. Being a success on awaits you.

Our goal is to help you reach your goals. Feel free to contact Marsha through her Web site and sign up for the free newsletter. That way you can stay up to date:

Please e-mail with any suggestions, additions, and comments. We want to hear from you and hope to update this book with your words of wisdom. (Humorous stories are also gratefully accepted!)

Part I

Getting Serious About

In this part . . .

B ecause continually makes improvements, some of its features are like hidden gold nuggets. In this first part, we delve into the finer points of with you. Perhaps you’ll discover a thing or two you didn’t know or had forgotten.