Tips for Earning a Passive Income on eBay Selling International Sourced Products

The United States has the highest online spending average in the world, and the numbers keep growing each year. With the ever-increasing cost of living in the US, more and more people are trying to find ways to generate a steady passive income while continuing to work. And many of us have considered being own boss at some point in life as well.   Considering the amount of money Americans spend online each year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that online trading has become such a lucrative market. However, selling products online isn’t as straight forward as beginners might think.

Sure, selling on platforms such as eBay can be very profitable, but it’s not practically possible for all of us to have million-dollar ideas for new and innovative products. This leaves us with the option of buying existing products and selling them on online platforms like Amazon,eBay, Etsy etc. The most important component of successfully selling goods online is choosing the right product that can turn your investment into profit. You can find in overseas markets many different types of products that you can bring to market in the US which gives you great options.  That’s why this post primarily focuses on sourcing products from overseas (aka China) and selling them for profit in the US oneBay.

Why do Business on eBay?

Although Amazon is arguably a much larger online platform than eBay, there are many things that make eBay a better option for many sellers. Lower price isn’t the only thing that works in favor of people who buy from eBay, which remains the leader in online auctions. It’s a great place to search for products on auction, which makes eBay a great choice for people who are searching for antique and one-of-a-kind products. Many people come to eBay as buyers before getting hooked up and eventually ending up as sellers (making profit). Things are a bit more complex on other platforms such as Amazon, where Amazon is in-charge of most of the stuff.

Ebay offers a lot more control over the listings by allowing sellers to personalize and customize their listings. Sellers who are not much into the listing stuff can also opt for eBay’s Valet Service, which takes care of listing and selling products. However, that might not be a good solution in the long run as eBay charges 20%-40% as fees for the its services. The process of selling on eBay involves three basic steps i.e. a) signing-up and creating a listing with clear description and pictures, scheduling the shipment using eBay labels and receiving payment via PayPal.

Let’s move on to the important part i.e. purchasing from overseas as rest of the stuff is quite easy to figure out and eBay also provides a lot of helpful information to get started (and keep going).

You Make Money When You Buy, NOT When You Sell

When we talk about purchasing in bulk from overseas, we are generally referring to buying from China. But sellers should keep their options open if they are able to find a good deal elsewhere. The prices you can get from China are really hard to beat but purchasing in bulk has its own set of rules. And lack of information and uncertainties surrounding overseas purchasing can keep a person from getting started.  

Finding a reliable and trustable supplier overseas, the right products at the right price and avoiding scams might seem like a daunting task. But there is always a certain degree of risk involved in doing your own business. China’s market is a totally different than what we are used to in the US and EU, while language barriers make the situation even more complex. Sure, there are trustable and reliable suppliers for every niche, but you have to dig deep to find them. Let’s quickly go through the Do’s and Don’ts of purchasing in bulk from overseas aka China:

  • Focus on a product category you are familiar with and passionate about
  • Use online tools such as keyword analytics to determine demand of products you are interested in, most of them are free to use
  • Try to focus on items that are not widely available in the market
  • Take a god look at seller’s ratting and customer feedback
  • Try not to import expensive items in the beginning
  • Stick to reputable online platforms like Alibaba instead of trying out the new ones
  • Deal with highly-rated sellers such as Gold members, even if they are not offering the best price
  • Light and small items are easier to import, store and package
  • Buying seasonal items can be profitable, but not sustainable
  • Make sure to get yourself familiar with tax laws and custom regulations
  • $10-$200 high-demand products are better than expensive products with less demand – there is less risk
  • Shortlist 10-20 sellers based on membership status and customer feedback
  • Never order products in bulk before actually receiving and inspecting a sample
  • If a supplier is unable to send a sample due to whatever reason, move on to another supplier that does not have any problem in sending a sample (paid or free)
  • Avoid paying through channels like Western Union or direct bank transfer, payment methods such as PayPal should be used at least for the first six months of business
  • Never buy counterfeit products, they are illegal in most western countries including the US
  • Start with a smaller quantity before moving to buying in bulk. This provides you with the time you need to determine demand and receive customer feedback
  • Avoid communicating with Chinese/overseas suppliers using your personal email. Use a separate business email address/contact details
  • Be very careful with (preferably avoid) items like hover boards, rechargeable electronics, supplements, tobacco and alcohol
  • Again, make sure not to import anything illegal

What to Buy from Overseas?

As a general rule of thumb, always go for products you are familiar with and are passionate about. If you are a tech enthusiast, dealing in clothing might not be a good idea in the long run as you will not be as knowledgeable and may lose interest. You can make big bucks by buying in bulk from overseas and selling the goods at good profit in the US, but it needs determination, hard-work and patience to achieve your goals. Here are some of the top product categories that have the potential of earning you a steady passive income:


Homeware items are always in demand, easy to market and offer a good profit margin. The vast category includes a lot of products, including mugs, cutlery and utensils, cooking tools, mirrors and much more.

Clothing and Apparel

The main advantage of buying products belonging to this category is that they mostly come at cheap prices, which mitigates the risk of purchasing in bulk from overseas to some extent. Some high-demand products include caps, bags, costume jewelry, leggings, sunglasses and gloves.

Kid’s Toys and other Products

Most people think of China when buying kid’s toys and other products such as DIY sets, playground equipment and pacifiers. You can make a huge profit if you are able to find unique products at a good price from overseas, but it needs some homework and attention to detail.

Leisure and Hobbyist items

Sellers can strike gold if they understand the target audience of this category and market the products properly. However, if you are not familiar with the sentiments feelings associated with products like pens, musical instruments and wigs, this might not be a suitable niche for you.

Best sellers and Hot Items

While it might not be possible to discuss every product category here, it’s always a good idea to check out what’s hot and what’s not before jumping into any business. Most online platforms in the US have some kind of widget or section displaying top selling products. You might not be particularly interested in those products, but they do give you a fair idea of what kind of items people are interested in (and at what price).