“Snap it, list it, sell it”. eBay makes it sound easy to sell on their site. But is it really that simple? If your teenager’s thinking of selling on eBay and wondering how to go about it, here’s what you need to know.
Can you sell on eBay as a teenager?
You must be at least 18 years old to sell on eBay. The company’s user policy is very clear on that point. But with your permission, your teenager can use your eBay account.
If you’re feeling generous you could agree to split the free listings between you. Just remember you’ll be legally responsible for everything done with your account.
What to be aware of if your teen wants to sell items on eBay
If your teen wants to start selling on eBay, their online safety is key. Your teenager may be a digital native, but when it comes to staying safe online they’re as vulnerable as the rest of us. Get them to visit eBay’s security center webpage for tips on how to stay safe while buying and selling online.
Here are some online safety steps to take:
Online safety tips
Create a strong password. make it over eight characters long and include numbers, letters and special characters (if permitted).
Impress on your teen never to share your password with anyone. If they must write it down, get them to do it in code and leave it in a safe place at home.
Activate eBay’s two-factor authentication. Logins from a new device will trigger the generation of a code. Having your password and user name won’t be enough for anyone else to get into your account.
Make sure your child always signs out of eBay once they’re done. This is vital if they’re using a public or school computer.
Only communicate via eBay. If someone asks your teen for their email address or phone number, chances are, they’re a scammer.
Watch out for phishing scams. If you or your teenager receive an email or message saying it’s from eBay, be careful. Don’t be panicked into clicking a link.
Only send and receive money through eBay. It’s safer. If someone asks your teen if they can pay by check, money transfer or cash, advise them to say no. You’ll find a list of eBay’s accepted payment methods on their customer service webpage.
Keep an eye on your transaction history. If something doesn’t look right, contact eBay support straightaway.
How can a teen start selling on eBay?
You’ve given permission for your teenager to use your eBay account, now they’re ready to start selling. So how do they go about it?
Help your teenager decide what to sell
Running an eBay shop is like setting up any other business. Your teen needs to find a niche or a gap in the market. But when the marketplace is saturated with people selling pretty much anything, it can be tricky working out how to make money as a teenager.
If they’re stuck for ideas, our article on ways teens can make money online might help. To see what’s hot at the moment, suggest they use tools like Google Trends. It’s also worth looking to see what’s popular on eBay right now so they can offer what’s in demand.
Help your teen choose the right business structure
Sole proprietor or LLC? Choosing the right structure is key for any business. So what’s the difference between the two?
When you start selling on eBay, you’re automatically considered a sole proprietorship. As the account holder that could cause problems.
That’s because as a sole proprietor, there’s no distinction between you and your business. And that means the company’s legal responsibilities, debts and losses are solely down to you. What’s more, your personal assets aren’t protected.
Limited liability company (LLC)
Forming an LLC may be a smarter move. The business is then a separate entity. So if there is a problem, it affects the company, not you or your teen.
There are rules around under-18s starting an LLC, though. Most states require the person who files the incorporation paperwork to be 18. Check your state’s requirements and if this is the case, there are other options:
Incorporate the LLC in a teen-friendly state (like Delaware or California) just be aware there’s a different process involved if you don’t live in that state.
Form an LLC yourself and make your teenager your business partner (there are no laws around partners being minors). But make sure you have a legally-drawn up partnership agreement.
Get someone you trust who’s over 18 (a relative or attorney) to act as the LLC organizer and make your teenager a member. There are no age restrictions for LLC members but use an attorney to draw up an operating agreement.
For more information on choosing a business structure, read eBay’s Merchant eCommerce Solutions page.
Help them pick a business name
Helping your teenager come up with a name for their business can be a fun brainstorming session. As a rule, you want to make it easy to pronounce, easy to spell and reflect your product or service. Stuck for ideas? Try using a hardback dictionary or a name generator site.
When you’ve picked a business name, remember to check it meets federal requirements. And rules vary from state to state so it’s best to check with your Secretary of State too.
If your teen decides to trade on eBay under a name that’s different from the business name, they’ll need a DBA — a “doing business as” name. It’s useful if they want to keep their brand name more general, like Cody’s Clothing, and have sub-brands for items like shoes or accessories.
Set up a business account for them
Set up a separate business account. It will protect your personal assets and make it easier to file taxes (required for anyone earning $400+ a year on eBay).
Again, state laws vary on whether you can open a business account as a minor. But most banks will allow your teenager to open a joint account with a parent or guardian.
Explain how to manage finances and taxes
Managing your finances and filing taxes are an important part of any business venture. Make sure you read eBay’s Internet Sales Tax webpage. Your teen’s business could be subject to self-employment, sales, federal and state taxes. And seek an accountant’s advice so you know what deductions apply.
How to start an eBay business
It’ll be hard to start an eBay business without something to sell. Where’s your teenager going to source their products? Here are a few suggestions you could make:
Clear out their room of things they don’t need or want
Clearing their room of unwanted books, toys and clothes will achieve two things. Stuff they can sell and a tidy room. Result!
Clear out other rooms
When they’re done with their own rooms, how about clearing out others? Make sure they check with you or their siblings, first, obviously. You don’t want your couch sold from under you. (Unless you’re buying a new one.)
Ask neighbors if they have anything to sell
Your neighbors may have junk in their garage up for grabs. Your teen could either sell it on eBay for them for a commission or buy it from them and sell it on.
Flip products on eBay
Flipping (buying something cheap and selling it on at a higher price) on eBay could prove a money-spinner. The trick is to start small until they get the hang of it.
They should look for items with poor listings or auctions ending in the early hours of the morning or midweek. There’ll be less bidding competition. (You can get software or sniping websites like Gixen to bid at the last second for you.)
Bundles of goods are worth separating out and flipping too. Games consoles with several games, doll houses with room sets. You can often make more by selling these individually.
Start a Dropshipping business
Dropshipping is great if you want to sell online but don’t have the space to hold inventory. When a customer orders from you, the wholesaler ships direct to the customer on your behalf. It saves you extra shipping costs and there’s no need to store stock.
Great places to source products
Yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets are great places to source products to sell on eBay. But it takes time. And for teenagers juggling school, sports activities and a social life, that may be in short supply.
Here are some other options they could check out:
eBay’s wholesale inventory partner, Bulq.
Local, online buy and sell groups.
Craigslist — use Yardsale Treasure Map to pull listings. You can set up notifications for saved searches too.
Online storage unit auctions — find them on sites like Auction Zip and StorageAuctions.com.
How can your teen get paid into their own account with GoHenry?
With GoHenry, your teen can get paid into their own account. Just set up a direct deposit from your joint business account and their eBay profits can go straight in.
GoHenry is a great way to give teens financial independence. They’ll learn about money management through their own experience in a safe, secure way too. Flexible parental controls give you peace of mind and there’s no risk your teen will go into overdraft. Accounts are FDIC-insured.