How to Create an eBay Home Office

An eBay seller packaging a shipment from their home office.

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Starting an eBay business can be daunting, particularly if you're not already in business on your own. Aside from other small business mistakes, one mistake many ambitious eBay sellers make is failing to create an office space from which to operate an eBay business.

The Implications: Understand the Home Office Tax Rules

In the United States, this means getting ahold of IRS Publication 587 for the coming tax year. For many new eBay sellers, this will be the most daunting part of the process. Nobody likes crawling through tax manuals, but understanding the rules surrounding home office deductions can save you a great deal of money down the road.

Space: Choose or Make a Spot for Your Office

Aside from tax considerations, the spot you choose for your home eBay office should be free of distractions and out of the regular flow of foot traffic. If you don't have a spare room or nook that is beyond the reach of everyday life, consider purchasing an inexpensive screen or interior separator from your local home improvement store to give you an office space that is effectively set off from the rest of your home, or reorganize bookcases and/or other furniture as necessary to create space.

The Furnishings: Equip It With the Office Basics

You'll need a chair, a desk or table, and adequate light for working, at the very least. A filing cabinet for documents and records is also likely a good idea. Don't plan to do your work on the floor, on a beanbag, on a lap-desk, or on a sofa; take your eBay business seriously if you want to have success.

Technology: Acquire a Separate Computer System

Segregate your eBay computing from your home computing if you can. By keeping it separate from games and personal use, the business computer can be more easily kept clean, organized, free of malware, and stable. Be sure to get a printer, too—preferably a laser printer, since these are much more cost-effective and reliable and are compatible with many shipping label sizes and systems.

The Network: Get a Broadband Connection

If you want to sell seriously on eBay, a broadband connection is a virtual must. Doing all of the bookkeeping, analytics, research, and customer service work that you'll need to do using dial-up will be so slow and painful.

Shipping Area: Get a Shipping Scale, Shelves, or Bins

Unless you're drop-shipping, once in place, these items will be the "shipping area" of your office, where you can keep boxes, tape, peanut foam, and other similar materials, along with items awaiting packaging and items already packed and awaiting shipment.

The Inventory: Plan for eBay Goods Inventory Storage

If you plan to keep a large inventory or an inventory of larger items you'll need to find space outside of your office, but for many sellers, inventory storage can be right inside the eBay home office, so long as space in shelving, bins, or other storage equipment is specifically set aside for inventory.

Photo Studio: Digital Camera and Bright Lights

To take professional photos you will need a good quality digital camera. Place your products against a solid color surface such as with a white sheet. Lighting is also important. Once again, unless you're drop-shipping, you'll use these to create ad-hoc photo studio capability for your office to produce great photos of your items for your eBay auctions.

The Office Supplies: Little Items for Day-To-Day Business

For an eBay home office, this will mean (a) boxes, padded envelopes, tape, and/or other packing materials, (b) labels and pens or permanent markers (c) Ziploc, vacuum-pack, large garbage bags, or sealed Rubbermaid or Tupperware containers to be used on your shelves and/or bins for inventory storage and preservation.

Customer Service Department: Office Phone and Fax

Though for smaller sellers it can make sense to conduct official business using your home telephone, in most cases sharing will mean that your personal life is competing with your eBay business at times, leading to worse customer service and reduced effectiveness.

Don't Forget to Get Organized

Remember that in addition to the steps above, you'll also need to do what it takes to get organized. Just having filing cabinets and storage bags and shelves isn't enough. You'll actually need to do the planning work that goes into creating an office:

  • Establish a filing system that organizes your financial, legal, and other business records.
  • Establish an inventory management system using labels, lists or spreadsheets, and storage bags, boxes, and/or shelves.
  • Keep great records of purchases, inventory, sales, shipments, returns, and so on.
  • Get the software necessary to manage your accounts, do your taxes, keep your records, send and receive email and professional documents, and so on.
  • Establish work and listing/selling/shipping process habits that keep your space clean, organized, and productive.