How to start selling online graphic

How to start selling online – a full guide for beginners

LaunchCategory
18 min read
Zoe Ashbridge

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 who are making money on digital platforms. Plus, we’re sharing tips for building your own website and the secrets to selling with social media.

How to start selling online

Popular places where you can sell products online

Trust the process when selling online

Selling online FAQs

How to start selling online

Before jumping in and making your first sale, you need to know:

  • What you are sellingJuguetes - Productos que puedes vender en internet.
  • What need your product satisfies/what problem it solves
  • How it delivers value
  • Who is your target audience

Through market research, you will find the answers.

Related: Top 10 trending products to sell online in Canada

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 or not your ideas are likely to make money and resonate with buyers. And if they do, how you can reach the people who want them.

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.

Selfie stick monthly search volumes

On the other hand, searches for air fryers increased in 2020 and have remained relatively stable ever since.

Air fryer monthly search results

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 that is looking to solve a specific problem. You will get to know your buyers deeply and understand what truly matters to them. This will help you zero in on the reasons why your chosen product or service is their best choice.

For help coming up with a niche of your own, check out these online business ideas that are trending now.

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 ineffectively. 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 audience, their product needs, 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.

Perform a quick search to understand the pros and cons

Affiliate marketing

With a combination of your website and social media, you could sell products online without actually owning or stocking a single item.

This is an ideal scenario for someone who craves 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.

You can:

  • 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.

Mia Steele website

Mia Steele drives traffic from her social media following of 20,000 to her website. She started with a domain name from GoDaddy and started her journey into affiliate marketing.

“Within just seven months,” Steele says, “I had joined more than 15 affiliate programs, built an email list of over 3,000 subscribers, and earned over $90,000 in commissions by promoting products on TikTok and through my blog.”

The key, Steele says, is “Building your email list from day one. I underestimated the power of an email list until I ventured into affiliate marketing, and I regretted not starting earlier.

“Having a compelling free lead magnet and consistently producing high-quality content to drive traffic to your offers will be the key to your success.”

Email marketing

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. At least, this is the case for the team at Siligrams.

Arlene Battishill, Chief Marketing Officer, says, “Our email marketing is killing it with an average 55% open rate. Every email makes money.

“A recent email marketing campaign – a series of 10 daily emails – had an average 63% open rate because the campaign was nothing but stories and bad jokes and had absolutely nothing to do with our product!”

The secret to Battishill’s campaigns is consistency and humor; not every email is a sales plea that likely contributes to the sales success. Siligrams choose to humor and engage their audience instead of going for a hard sell. Remember, people buy from people.

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 not to fail at 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.

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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.

Plus when you sell from your own web store, you keep more of the profits.

If you're wondering how to start an online store from scratch, here is a complete guide.

Step 1: Choose a domain name

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 now if the domain name you want is available?

Step 2: Create your store 

Create your online store using a DIY builder like GoDaddy’s, adding product names and photos.

Note that GoDaddy’s store builder automatically:

  • Writes product descriptions for you based on your photos
  • Creates Instagram and Facebook ads to sell your products
  • Pens customer service messages based on your previous conversations with your customer

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.

It's free to add PayPal to your site 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, inventory 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, percentage rate per order, weight-based or free shipping.

Or you could use Canada Post and let them calculate shipping for you.

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 are shipping internationally. Flat rate will only work if your profitable and loss-making delivery costs are appropriately 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.
Titelmotiv - Finde die richtige Shop-Domain

You can incentivize a purchase with free shipping, and you can also offer more expensive shipping options for faster delivery.

Top tip: Test your shopping experience before you launch your online store. It's crucial to guarantee that potential customers enjoy a seamless journey — from discovering your business to making a purchase.

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Sell on marketplaces

Marketplaces like Amazon.ca, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, eBay.ca and Kijiji offer excellent opportunities to reach a broad audience and sell your products. Service-based businesses can try Fiverr, Freelancer, Upwork, Toptal and more.

One drawback with big names like these is that your product could be lost in an ocean of similar products.

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.

Amazon.ca

Any ecommerce brand should at least try selling on Amazon. It is a search engine for products, and some of your buyers will go to Amazon before Google.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • Amazon has around 80,000 sellers, so you need good product photography and interesting product descriptions to stand out.
  • For users to find you on Amazon, you need to learn about Amazon search engine optimisation (SEO).

Related: How to sell on Amazon

Etsy

Colourful bird houses

Etsy is a popular marketplace for crafts, wedding invitations, unique gifts, t-shirts, handmade and vintage products. In addition to that, Etsy is also an excellent marketplace for digital products like guides, eBooks, brochures, signs and more.

Pros

  • If your product is crafty, handmade or vintage, you can know that users are heading to Etsy to find it.
  • The fees to get started are quite low.

Cons

  • It is a busy marketplace with lots of sellers, so it could be difficult to stand out unless your products are very unusual.
  • You don’t have the same control over your Etsy store as you do your store.
  • Customers often expect personalization on Etsy and it’s not always possible to offer that.

eBay.ca

eBay is one of the oldest ecommerce marketplaces. By now, most of us have probably sold (or tried to sell) something on eBay.

Pros

  • It’s familiar.
  • You may already have an account with some reviews to build trust.

Cons

  • eBay’s isn’t as easy for people to use as some alternatives.

Kijiji

Kijiji is a classified advertisements website that allows you to sell products locally.

Pros

  • There are no fees
  • You can sell locally, which helps with shipping fees if you want to keep your business geographically small.

Cons

  • The platform’s focus on local sales only could be limiting once you have the desire to grow.
  • You can only sell the products to the users on the Kijiji app.

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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 a brand that will attract the right audience. Through social media, a reciprocal understanding develops between you and your audience, fostering a personalized and professional connection.

Related: How to build a social content calendar

TikTok

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, your audience is likely to be hanging out there.

Mia Steele has also been using TikTok since April 2022.

She reports great success on the platform.

Steele says, “In less than six weeks of posting on TikTok and diving into User Generated Content (UGC), I began monetizing my content. I managed to replace my income by creating content and ads for brands.

“As my TikTok following grew, I even sold my own digital products to my audience.”

Steele’s top tip for a successful social media account is, “Devote time to cultivate and nurture your own audience, so you can capitalize on the traffic to sell your own products.”

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.

Related: TikTok for business marketing: is it right for you?

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

Pinterest allows you to create a shoppable feed to list your products and sell them directly on the platform.

Example of Kayla Inhrig Pinterest post

You can also use Pinterest to drive traffic to your online store or blog.

Pinterest marketer Kayla Ihrig says, “The best way to make money on Pinterest is by making pins that lead to your services or products.

“Unlike other platforms where you need to constantly share valuable information to market your product or service, on Pinterest, users are searching for it and just want to be able to find it.

“Creators need to create images or videos (called pins) that display what they offer and then optimize them for search. Then, when a user searches for a solution to their problem, they find your content and go back to your website.”

Ihrig’s pin, pictured below, is the perfect example of a pin that leads a user to her service-based site.

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Trust the process when selling online

Although the online selling path is straightforward, it requires dedication and time. Commit to your business and 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 FAQs

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:

  • Electronics
  • Fashion accessories
  • Beauty products
  • Home decor
  • Health and wellness
  • Pets

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.

The legal requirements for selling online can vary from province to province, and you must do research to ensure you comply fully with Canadian 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 (and your profits) will be all yours to enjoy.

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