Banking Pictures
Banking Pictures

Banking Pictures We think we can do and find just about anything online. But can the Internet really make us rich? See more pictures of banking.

©iStockphoto.com/Leszek Maziarz

You can't sleep. You're up late, sitting at the kitchen table worrying about bills. The TV is squawking away in the background. Suddenly, a late-night infomercial gets your attention: "Get rich by selling online!" Like all of those late-night offers, it's tempting, but it seems too good to be true. So, is it possible to make a fortune on eBay or other online stores?

According to a 2006 ACNielsen study commissioned by eBay, 1.3 million individuals used the site as a primary or secondary source of income worldwide. The figure for the United States was around half as many. But the study didn't parse out how much money each of those 1.3 million individuals make, or how many of them use eBay as their "primary" as opposed to "secondary" source of income [source: Gross].

Infomercials that promise quick and easy riches online oversimplify the realities of the e-commerce marketplace. Dave Espino's "Auctions for Income," a book and DVD training program that promises to teach customers how to make easy money selling on eBay, has received an F rating by the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau for making "unfounded" promises of large sums of money to be made with minimum effort [source: Better Business Bureau]. Jeff Paul's "Shortcuts to Internet Millions," another program that promises income in the hundreds of thousands per week through Internet sales and marketing, has also received an F from the BBB [source: Better Business Bureau]. There are legitimate trainers and consultants who will help you set up an online store on eBay or elsewhere, but they don't make such grand promises.

It is possible to make money with online selling. Small in-house operations and large chain retailers have made big profits in e-commerce. But it'll serve you to manage your expectations. You may not get rich, but you can build a successful side business that could potentially translate into full-time income down the line. Either way, selling online requires just as much work and savvy as running any other business. You'll need to find ways to source your products, market yourself on the Web, attract customers, build and maintain a customer base, and manage a secure and reputable Web space.

In the rest of the article, we'll talk about how to build a successful online selling business as many people have done.