Follow this step-by-step guide to create a home office for your eBay business.
Ten Steps to Home Office Readiness
- Understand the tax implications. 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.
- The 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.
- The 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
research, and customer service work that
you'll need to do using dial-up will be so slow and painful as to lessen
- The Shipping Area: Acquire a shipping scale, industrial shelving,
and/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
items already packed and awaiting shipment.
- The Inventory: Cordon off some of these for 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
- The Photo Studio: Acquire a digital camera, white sheet, and bright
lighting. Once again, unless you're drop-shipping, you'll use these to
create ad-hoc photo studio capability for your office, in order to
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 with your shelves and/or bins for inventory storage
- The Customer Service Department: Get an Office Phone and Fax. Though for smaller sellers it can make sense to conduct office 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.