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6 Steps to a Successful Online Auction Business Going once, going twice: Online auctions make it easier than ever to sell products online. So what are you waiting for?

By Laura Tiffany

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you talk to just one eBay business owner in your lifetime, you'll be instantly infused with his infectious joy at finding he could start a successful business using the ubiquitous auction service. Now multiply that excitement by about 5,400, and you may come close to understanding the pervasive--almost evangelical--energy that ran rampant through this June's eBay Live!, the first-ever eBay convention that took place in California. Prospective eBay sellers and current Shooting Stars (a distinction awarded at certain levels of feedback) mingled with eBay staff members and suppliers like FedEx and; maniacally collected the trading cards eBay produced for the event (for later auctions, of course); attended classes like Basic Selling and Customer Support; and perused the areas set up for specific eBay categories like Motors and Media.

Why did 5,400 people travel--many crossing distances of thousands of miles--just to mingle? Why are successful business owners so gushingly positive about their eBay experiences? The main reason: It's almost too easy. Anyone can sell something on eBay. You don't need a storefront; HTML skills, though handy, aren't required; and you don't need a merchant account to accept payments. You really don't need anything but a computer, an Internet connection, a printer and a digital camera. And with more than 420 million items up for auction and gross merchandise sales averaging $38 million a day in 2001, you know there's an audience out there for products.

But there is a difference between a part-time amateur seller and a successful business owner. If you aspire to become a Power Seller and really make this a successful, full-time business, you've got to get serious and treat it like a business. You need to understand the profit margins on your products. You have to appreciate the importance of customer support. You'll need to look at every aspect of your process as you grow to discover where you can streamline to save money and time and improve the way you serve your bidders.

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