Is selling online over-saturated? No way! It’s still very doable to make money from anywhere with a laptop.
You just need to learn how and have the dedication to make it work.
This guide will give you proven methods for selling products and services online with insights from people making money using digital platforms. Plus, we’re sharing tips for building your own website and the secrets to selling with social media.
- Do market research
- Choose a niche and product
- Choose a platform or create an online store
- Market and sell
- How do I sell online for the first time?
- What are the most profitable items to sell online?
- How can I sell products online legally?
- What is the easiest platform to sell online?
How to start selling online
Before jumping in and making your first sale, you need to know what you’re selling and who you’re selling to (aka your target market). Through market research, you will find the answers.
- Learn how to define the problem you’re trying to solve
- Zero in on an underserved niche
- Build a prototype of a new product
Hungry for more? Follow that with What is a minimum viable product?
Do market research
Once you’ve brainstormed the products or services that you’d like to sell online, you’ll need to see if there are buyers for those products.
To do this, there are online market research tools that you can use.
Market research involves gathering information about your target market, competitors and industry trends.
The goal is to determine whether your idea is likely to make money.
You also want to know how you can reach those interested in buying from you.
Market research includes:
- Competitor analysis to see what other sellers are doing and what works for them. You need to look at where you fit within the market, what makes you stand out and what you can offer that competitors don’t.
- Analysing online forums where your audience hangs out to build a picture of who your audience is and what they need so to make sure your product meets those needs.
- Looking for trends to discover products people are looking for now.
Top tip: when it comes to identifying trends, you can use Google Trends, which is a free tool. Search the product or service you’re considering selling and see how interested people are.
For example, a search for ‘buy selfie stick’ shows that searches for this product peaked in 2018 and have steadily declined in search volume. So, they are probably not the product for you right now.
On the other hand, searches for air fryers increased in 2020 and have remained relatively stable ever since.
A little bit of research can put you ahead in business!
Choose a niche and product
If you’re starting your online selling venture from scratch, it’s best to start with a niche product or service.
A “niche” is a smaller subset of a particular product category.
Niching allows you to cater to an audience who are looking to solve a specific problem. You will get to know your buyers deeply. This will help you zero in on the reasons why
your chosen product or service is their best choice.
Top tip: It will help if you genuinely like and believe in what you’re selling — especially if you’re going to sell on social media (more on that later).
Choose a platform or create an online store
The key to choosing a platform — or platforms — is not to spread yourself too thin. If you’ve done your market research thoroughly enough, you will already have an idea of where your audience is hanging out online.
Top tip: Consider your time. You are better off covering fewer platforms well than covering many badly. You can always scale up later.
Editor's note: If you're in need of a good hosting package for your digital shop, GoDaddy has a range of options that can meet your business needs. Or simply build your store with GoDaddy’s all-in-one Online Store builder, which comes with hosting.
Market and sell
Once you’ve chosen a platform or created your online store, it’s time to jump into your marketing plan.
You’ll need a marketing plan that considers all the steps a buyer goes through before making a decision (aka the funnel).
Think about the content you need to create to persuade prospective customers to buy from you (e.g., a website, social posts, videos).
Be honest at every step. You will also want to build trust as part of your marketing strategy.
Top tip: Sites like Reddit and Quora are free and provide insight into your audiences, their problems, their issues with competitors and so much more. The same applies to Google’s ‘People also ask’ feature.
Sticking with the idea of selling air fryers, a quick search of the word ‘air fryers’ returns commonly asked questions about their pros and cons.
With a combination of your website and social media, you could sell products online without actually owning or stocking a single item.
This approach is ideal for the entrepreneur craving ultimate freedom.
With affiliate marketing, you take a percentage of sales made via your channels using trackable affiliate URLs. Every time a reader clicks on a link, you earn a small commission.
- Drive traffic to these links from your social media following
- Build an email list of subscribers
- Earn commissions by promoting products through TikTok and blog posts
The key to success is having a compelling free lead magnet and consistently producing high-quality content to drive traffic to your offers.
Email marketing is a cost-effective way to reach your target audience and promote your products. Done well, every email you send can make money.
Email marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective types of promotion.
To learn all about what email marketing is and how to get started with it, read How to master email marketing.
Top tip: You can create and send stylish emails in bulk and manage all your social posts and business listings using GoDaddy’s Digital Marketing Suite
Popular places where you can sell products online
Now that you’ve got your marketing plan started, it’s time to choose a place to sell your products or services online.
Sell on your own online store
You can’t sell online without a digital store or platform. While you can sell on social media (more on this later), a channel you own — like a website — can become an asset over time. When you sell from your own web store, you keep more of the profits.
And if you're wondering how to start an online store from scratch, here is a complete guide.
Step 1: Choose a domain
Check to see if your desired domain name is available and register it online. Your domain name should be the same as your business name. It should be memorable, easy to spell and relevant.
Why not find out if the domain name you want is available now?
Step 2: Create your store
Create your online store using a DIY shop builder like GoDaddy’s, adding product names and photos (product descriptions are automatically written for you).
You can choose which shipping options to offer, take payments and sell online from anywhere in the world.
Step 3: Add payment processing
If you’re using GoDaddy’s Online Store builder, all you need to do for this step is decide which options you’d like to offer — all major credit cards, Apple Pay and/or Google Pay.
If you’re using another builder, you may need to add a payment gateway to accept payments. The gateway you choose comes down to personal preference, terms and conditions and transaction fees.
PayPal is free to integrate but you may be charged a higher rate per sale. However, if you want to test your ecommerce store before committing to a gateway like Stripe, PayPal can be a good start.
Step 4: Manage inventory
Inventory management is crucial for any ecommerce business, especially if you receive orders online.
If you have physical products, your inventory must match what’s available online.
You don’t want to disappoint customers by selling products you can’t ship.
If you’re selling both online and offline, your inventory level can get more complicated as you must regularly update your online inventory to reflect any offline sales.
Larger businesses have inventory management systems for this. Inventory management is included with GoDaddy’s Online Store.
Step 5: Choose a shipping provider
If you’re using GoDaddy’s Online Store builder, all you need to do for this step is decide which options you’d like to offer: flat rate per order or weight-based shipping.
For those using another builder, shipping can get rather complex, especially if you’re planning on handling international orders. You need to think about shipping costs and how you will manage them.
Some businesses choose to absorb shipping so that there’s no obvious cost to the buyer (and free shipping does increase orders). Of course, if you do this, your shipping costs should be factored into your product price.
Shipping calculations vary, but here are some options.
- Flat-rate shipping is as it sounds. You charge the same shipping cost for all packages, regardless of weight or distance. This type of shipping should be carefully monitored. With a flat rate, your business expects to profit on some purchases and lose on others, especially if you’re shipping internationally. Flat rate will only work if your profitable and loss-making delivery costs are balanced.
- Actual cost is where you calculate the exact shipping cost for each package and charge this amount to your customer. This is usually done automatically at checkout using a shipping calculator. The calculation will consider delivery location, package weight and size and speed of delivery.
You can incentivise a purchase with free shipping, and you can also offer more expensive shopping options for faster delivery.
Top tip: Test your shopping experience before you launch your online store. You must ensure your prospective customers have a seamless experience from finding you to buying your product. That means no checkout issues.
Sell on marketplaces
Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay offer excellent opportunities to reach a broad audience and sell your products. Service-based businesses can try Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr and others.
One drawback with big names like these is that your product could be lost in the ocean of others.
You can sell on many of these marketplaces as well as your website. Try them and see how they perform.
Naturally, each marketplace will take a percentage of the sale, so you’ll need to factor that into your decision.
Any ecommerce brand should at least try out Amazon. It is a search engine for products, and some of your buyers will go to Amazon before Google.
- Amazon is one of the largest ecommerce marketplaces.
- It’s simple to set up a seller account and list your products.
- Users may use Amazon as a search engine rather than Google, so you’re reaching a new audience.
- Amazon has a lot of sellers, so you need good product photography to stand out.
- For users to find you on Amazon, you need to know a little about Amazon search engine optimisation (SEO).
eBay is one of the oldest ecommerce marketplaces. By now, most of us have probably sold (or tried to sell) something on eBay.
- It’s familiar.
- You may already have an account with some reviews to build trust.
- eBay isn’t as easy for people to use as some alternatives.
Sell on social media
Once your products or services are available to buy, your first task is to drive traffic to your online store. Social media is a great place to do this.
It’s also a good place to build an audience and, importantly, connect with them. If you pay attention, you can get to know your audience, and they can get to know you; social media is personal.
TikTok is a platform valued for its generous algorithm that provides account owners with excellent reach.
As one of the fastest-growing platforms with over 1 billion active monthly users (including 7.38 million Aussies over the age of 18), your audience is likely to be hanging out there.
Vincent Yeow Lim is a TikTok creator who monetises his high octane cooking clips featuring Chinese delicacies.
His online success started in mid-2020 when he shared a KFC chicken rice video that went viral and received 23.9 million views.
Vincent’s TikTok account now has1.3 million followers and he earns five figures for every post he makes on the platform through a combination of brand sponsorship, YouTube AdSense and driving traffic to his restaurant.
TikTok also has TikTok Shop that you can access once you have at least 1,000 followers. TikTok Shop allows you to take a commission from items promoted and sold within your videos.
Facebook and Instagram
Like TikTok, you can grow an audience on Facebook and sell digital products. Facebook and Instagram also have shop functionality to sell products directly on their platforms.
You can automatically post from Instagram to Facebook, and vice versa, to save time.
Pinterest allows you to create a shoppable feed to list your products and sell them directly on the platform.
You can also use Pinterest to drive traffic to your online store or blog.
One distinctive feature of the Pinterest platform is the ability to make Pins that lead to your services or products.
Unlike other social media platforms, where you need to constantly share valuable information to promote your product or service, Pinterest users are actively searching for products and just want to be able to find them.
You need to create images or videos (called Pins) that display what you offer and then make them easy to find using keywords. Then, when someone searches for a solution to their problem, they find your posts and are directed to your website.
Trust the process when selling online
Although the online selling path is straightforward, it requires dedication.
Commit to your product, trust the process and be consistent.
As a budding entrepreneur, you have a lot to explore, and a platform that works for one business may not work for another. So be bold and experiment.
Selling online FAQ
Finally, we’re answering some of the most asked questions when it comes to selling online.
How do I sell online for the first time?
Your first online sale is the result of small steps made consistently. Follow the steps in this guide, from idea generation and market research to promotions and set-up, and you will make your first sale.
What are the most profitable items to sell online?
The most profitable items to sell online vary based on trends, but some items stand the test of time. These items include SaaS (software as a service) products via affiliate marketing since you earn recurring revenue.
For physical products, you can explore items in the following categories:
- Fashion accessories
- Beauty products
- Home decor
- Health and wellness.
Naturally, these categories are also some of the most competitive, and you should be aware of the challenges.
For example, electronics can go wrong, resulting in customer service issues and refund requests.
Health and wellness is a challenging niche to build authority in, especially if you’re using a new website to sell from.
How can I sell products online legally?
The legal requirements for selling online can vary, and you must do research to ensure you comply fully with Australian consumer laws and regulations.
You must consider:
Advertising online also requires you to adhere to rules and regulations, from product information to the types of images and ad copy you publish.
What is the easiest platform to sell online?
Ease of use is a priority for any platform that allows you to sell online. You can set up an eBay or Amazon store within a day. Keep in mind that you will need to share your profits with these marketplaces.
But these platforms are already geared to helping people like you sell.
If you want to have complete control of your online store, set up your own site using a builder like GoDaddy’s Online Store. This will take more effort than listing your products on a marketplace, but your success will be all yours to enjoy.