9 Ways to Make Money With Online Sales
We can’t be the only ones who’ve been shocked at the sheer amount of stuff we can accumulate in just a couple of years. For that, we have a solution for you: sell it online!
Online selling is a big business. In 2020, more than two billion people worldwide bought goods or services online, according to Statista. E-retail sales hit more than $4.2 trillion globally. In 2021, Facebook’s e-commerce site for the layperson, Facebook Marketplace, had 1 billion users. There’s no arguing that there’s an audience for your used things.
We’ve found that the biggest obstacle to getting into online sales is the overwhelming load of information surrounding it. Which app should you use? How do you post to get the best outcome? How much time will it take?
The key here is not in trying to minimize your time but in thinking about the reward. If you make a profit off of your old stuff, we say it’s all worthwhile. Read below for some of our best tips on how to get online customers and keep them coming back. Remember, your house is a store—and you’re the owner.
9 Tips to Make Money With Online Sales
- Know where to sell online
- Know how to sell online
- Make your items look great
- Create a thoughtful customer experience
- Offload the clothes you don’t wear
- Cull the Books From Overflowing Shelves
- Market your original photographs
- Get rid of old gifts cards — for cash
- Consult Nextdoor for a second opinion
1. Know Where to Sell Online
Half the battle of selling something online is knowing how and where to sell it. Are you selling something with a particular aesthetic that will photograph well? In that case, we suggest Instagram. Are you hawking an object that might have a niche following, like vintage furniture from a specific era or designer? For that, we might try Facebook Marketplace.
If you want to reach quantity over quality, sites like Amazon and eBay, which do impose seller fees, likely offer the largest global reach.
And if you’re just wanting to get rid of a few items from your garage, try a local site like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. These sites even allow for local pick-up, which makes your life easier and means you’ll get rid of the item and won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. The important point is to ask yourself these questions before you post so your actual selling experience is seamless.
We rounded up some great tips about how to sell online both globally and locally.
2. Know How to Sell Online
Selling online may seem as easy as pie, but there are some simple rules to remember when creating listings. Not every listing is created equal—there are ways to make yours stand out. Here are some tips we suggest:
- Use a simple name for your item so it shows up in a search — for instance “table” instead of “drop leaf” or “grill” instead of the brand name.
- Remember to always include relevant information up front — you don’t want to get bombarded with questions about something you could have put in the item description.
- Allow buyers time to view the item if they ask. This takes time out of your day but usually leads to a sale. Just make sure there’s someone else around when that person comes by.
- Don’t set prices too high.
Read more in our roundup about selling used goods online.
3. Make Your Items Look Great
This may be the most important item on this list. If you’ve ever purchased a used object online, then chances are you’ve scrutinized a photo, wondering exactly which object in the photo is actually the item up for sale.
Don’t put someone on the other side of that equation. Your photography can make or break your listing. How many of us have watched our items go unsold and wondered whether a photo crowded with other objects in dim lighting may have been the culprit?
Read pro tips about how to take pictures of items to sell, collected from online sellers who have honed their photography practices over the years. Here’s an overview of what they say:
- Find a clean background.
- Prioritize natural lighting over artificial.
- Stage the photograph thoughtfully, using props that work with what you’re trying to sell.
- Take multiple photos to find the best shot — don’t just shoot one and call it a day.
4. Create a Thoughtful Customer Experience
If you’re running an online boutique rather than simply selling one-off items online, you may want to think about how you present your objects to buyers.
Crafting dynamic packaging and interactive experiences with every item can go a long way toward creating a repeat customer.
Read these online retail packaging tips from experts to learn how everything from confetti to free logo stickers can create brand loyalty and keep people coming back for more.
5. Offload the Clothes You Don’t Wear
Old clothes can be one of the hardest items to sell online, but they can yield big rewards if you put in some work from the get-go. We know it’s daunting to part with your old pieces — are we ever really ready? (And I speak from personal experience.) But there are ways to do it successfully, finding your clothes a new home.
As with all online selling, the most important step is choosing the right site. Know what each requires from the outset. Sites like Poshmark require well-lit photos, detailed descriptions and interactions with users. Other options like thredUP do the work for you — send them a bag of your used clothes and they’ll list them for you and recycle the rest. And if you really want to make money, consider upcycling your clothes before putting them up for sale.
Read our piece about how to sell clothes online to figure out how to get the best buck for your clothes.
6. Sell Books From Overflowing Shelves
This one could come as a shocker: Even your used books can be sold online. Yes, we’ve all seen the $1 pile at a used bookstore. Perhaps you think your old books will be relegated to that status, making it almost impossible to break even on the sale.
But if you find the right place to sell your books online, that may not be the case. Sites like AbeBooks focus on rare and collectible books, so if that’s your oeuvre, this is the place to go. Places like Decluttr cater to those who have a lot of books to sell, which is likely most of us. There are so many options—just make sure you choose the best one for you.
Read our roundup of places where you can sell used books online along with great tips that will help you clear some space on those shelves.
7. Market Your Original Photographs
Those casual iPhone photos you’ve collected? You can put them to good use.
If you’ve gotten compliments on your artsy Instagrams or feel you’re a budding photographer, it might be time to try to make some money off of those talents.
The question is where to sell and how each site works. For instance, would you rather earn a certain percentage of royalties or pay the site for a listing?
We collected tips to help you sell photos online and pick the option that’s right for you.
8. Get Rid of Those Old Gift Cards — For Cash
We never thought we’d say it, but there can be such a thing as too many gift cards.
Sometimes you just don’t have the time or ability to spend them all. But there’s a silver lining to that — sites like CardCash and ClipKard allow you to sell your gift cards for some or most of its retail value. Depending on the site, not every type of gift card is accepted, but it’s better than starting from zero.
We listed the easiest ways to sell gift cards. Comb through these options and see which one works for you.
9. Consult Nextdoor for a Second Opinion
Nextdoor is not a place we’d normally advise you to look at, but when it comes to selling your goods online and making sure you get the most bang for your buck, it is the place to go. Suspect that you’re paying too much for something or not getting paid enough for an item you’re trying to sell? Poll your neighbors on Nextdoor.
By asking for some Nextdoor reviews, you just might end up saving money!
Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.