How to Sell Things Online
By Eric Hammer
It seems that everyone wants to sell things online these days.
Now, if you already know the basics of selling things online
and are looking for specifics, feel free to look through this
site for other information. There will be some specifics here,
but this is primarily an overall guide to selling things online.
So, here are a few common issues people have when they first
begin to sell online:
Processing credit cards - Start by using PayPal or
Google Checkout. Eventually, you can apply for a merchant account
and get your own credit card processing service (just search
on Google or your favorite search engine for "merchant account").
Packaging -Keep in mind that when you sell things online,
you are almost certainly going to be shipping to someone's home
(occasionally, local pickups happen as well, especially if you
use Craigslist, but as a rule, assume you'll have to do packaging).
Your packaging will need to survive transit and will need to
keep the item you are shipping safe.
At the same time, you will pay by weight for shipping so you
don't want to waste money shipping a pound or two of packaging
materials. Use either crushed newspaper or packing peanuts to
complete surround the item you are shipping (Note: you may also
be able to buy inflatable air bags which are more environmentally
Make sure that unless it's already packed in it's own packaging
(i.e. in a box or shrink wrap) that you wrap the item you are
shipping in a plastic bag. This is especially important when
shipping with crushed newspaper or packing peanuts as the newspaper
print can rub off onto the item and the packing peanuts can get
stuck in odd places.
Finally, regarding packaging, consider using material from
the Post Office. While you will have to use Priority Mail as
opposed to parcel post, the difference in cost is minimal and
given the cost of buying boxes and tape, you can often make it
up simply by using free boxes and tape from the post office (supplies
of the stuff can be ordered for free at the Post Office web site).
Shipping - The post office offers a free pickup service
if you ship using Priority Mail. If you have lots of packages
to ship, UPS may be able to offer you better deals.
How Much Can You Make?
The sky really is the limit when you sell things online. eBay,
the largest online marketplace, has made thousands of millionaires
since it started business as a place to trade pez dispensers.
Many, many people have started small business selling things
from home and have rapidly expanded to the point where they are
eBay superstars and employ dozens of people in sprawling warehouses.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Here's the biggest problem with selling things online: the
marketplace is saturated. Every guy and his sister is busy putting
things up for sale online and if you have the exact same thing
with the exact same prices, you'll have a tough time building
a business for yourself. Therefore, the key is either to have
enough money to burn through while selling loss leaders (i.e.
items sold below cost in order to entice buyers to your online
store and who will then recommend you.) Eventually, you can sell
at cost and above cost. Don't forget also to sell peripheral
items, so for example, if you sell a TV as a loss leader, offer
all the cables they'll need to hook it up for a "special"
price which makes you back the money you lost on the TV.
If you plan to sell the same things as everyone else, consider
also working with a drop shipper. Drop shippers will pack up
an item for you and ship it out to a customer on your behalf.
Many will even put your company name on the packaging so it looks
as if your product was shipped from a warehouse you own. This
way, you don't have to have a living room overrun with packing
peanuts and boxes. Just search for "Drop shipper" on
your favorite search site.
Make sure however that you do your homework. Some drop shippers
are a waste of time, while others will really offer you value.
Make sure to dig deep and learn everything you can about them
before you choose to work one (you can also choose to work with
several). Also, don't pay for "lists" or "guides"
to drop shippers. You can easily find them with a little work
all on your own.
The other option, as we mentioned is to sell things online
that are unique. This means either you are making these things
or you are buying them from someone making them or finding them
(i.e. if you sell antiquities). In this case, make sure you can
tell a story with the item you are selling. For example, for
a brief time when they were still exotic (before they flooded
the market in the United States), the red bamboo bowls and other
objects from Vietnam were quite popular because there was a story
behind them - people felt more interested because they learned
how much work was involved in making them and the process of
Remember also to photograph the item using a professional
quality camera. Your cell phone camera or point and shoot might
do in a pinch, but you really need to do this right to make it
into a business. Make sure to set up a light box with white panels
on all sides (though not on top) which you can place small objects
into. This way, the light will be reflected all over the object
you are photographing and you can wipe away the background in
a program like Photoshop Elements.
Qualifications / Requirements
There are absolutely no requirements or qualifications to
sell things online. You need only the desire and the will to
do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Start by deciding what it is you want to sell online. If you
are interested in working with drop shippers and the like, consider
setting up an eBay store. If you want to sell more unique items,
consider working with a place like Etsy which specializes in
handmade objects. Remember also that if you have more than one
of an object, there's no reason you can offer it on multiple
sites (such as Amazon Marketplace and Half.Com to name just a
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about selling
Etsy - Based
in Brooklyn, NY, Etsy has rapidly become the best online marketplace
to sell homemade objects online.
Salehoo: Sick of eBay? Try These Alternatives
- This article, while somewhat dated provides some great ideas
on where to sell things online.