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 friendly).

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 | Tips

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 doing it.

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.

First Steps

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 few).


Check out these helpful resources to find out more about selling things online:

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.

If you liked this page please let others know with one of these...

Other Relevant Pages

Work from Your Home

Money Making Ideas

Online Profits and Paychecks

(The newsletter has been discontinued.)

Every Way to Make Money | How to Sell Things Online