Selling Items and Things Online

Turn that collection into cash by selling items online.

What items are you selling online?

So you’re looking to sell things online. Your first step in this money-making venture is to decide what you’d like to sell. Choosing a category of goods to focus on gives you a more direct approach to organizing your eCommerce website. Maybe you have a particular fondness for rare books or sports collectibles. Or maybe you’ve amassed a collection of vintage movie posters you’d like to sell. Deciding on a type of item to sell could make it easier for you to build and market your website and its products.

But if you prefer to stay open-ended and not choose a classification or specific product to focus on, that’s fine, too. Your next step will be to figure out how you prefer to sell your inventory, whether that’s on a site you build yourself, through an established online vendor platform, like Etsy or eBay, or through a combination of the two.

Building your own website vs listing on an eCommerce site.

There are a few differences to consider when choosing between selling items on a website you create yourself and selling items on a site like eBay or Etsy.

When you sell things on a site you build, you get to keep all the profits. You decide what your shipping, returns and exchange policies are and how you deal with things like sales tax. Many website owners prefer this flexibility for selling things online, but it also means that you’re responsible for keeping your website secure and up-to-date so your online customers will have a safe shopping experience.

When you choose an established eCommerce site like Etsy, you are bound by their policies and rules and must adhere to their guidelines. You’ll typically have to pay a listing fee for each item you want to sell. As a result, you’ll need to do some research into the policies and rules that vendor sites have in place to make sure you understand their expectations of all sellers.

Establish your (domain) name.

You’ve collected a sizeable inventory and decided which sites to sell items online. Now it’s time to name your enterprise. Maybe you’ve done business for years using just your personal name, and that’s how customers know you. If so, great. You already know what to call your business.

But if you’re just starting out and need to choose a name try to pick something that communicates what type of items you sell. It can include your name or a description of what you sell, something like Jones Collectables or Goods by Robert. Get creative and try out a few different options.

If you’re building your own website instead of listing on an existing eCommerce website, make sure that you check the availability of the domain name for the name you choose for you company. Keep in mind that there are now many great options in addition to .com domain names. You could consider new domain extensions like .shop, .market, or .shopping (among many others).


Photograph your goods.

Depending on the items you’re selling online, you have a few different options for how to present your inventory. For things like books and small items, a few photos that capture the item from various angles will suffice. Quality photos along with clear descriptions will do the bulk of the work when it comes to selling things online. Make sure to choose a plain background to shoot images on so that nothing distracts from the product.

For items that may need more than just photos, consider making some videos about the things you’re selling. Items like clothes could be modeled and shot in simple 10-second videos to show the details of the garments as well as different ways to style them. Get creative with how you advertise your items and include as much information as possible. An online shopping experience is very different from an in-person shopping trip, which means you need to leverage things like site organization, imagery and customer reviews.

Write out your policies on shipping, exchanges, and returns.

Selling things online through a site like Craigslist gives you lots of freedom—simply post your item with a picture and a price. Customers contact you, and you decide on the means of delivery. On more formalized sites, like eBay and Etsy, there are certain rules of engagement buyers and sellers have to follow. The rules regarding shipping, exchanges and returns are all already established, and customers who buy from the site agree to the rules.

If you’ve decided to create your own website to sell items online then you need to consider a few rules and policies, like:

  • How will you handle returns or exchanges?

  • Do you cover shipping or is that an additional charge?

  • How are refunds issued?

All these questions and more need to be answered in the early stages of your online business to ensure a lasting enterprise. For help getting started, do a few Google searches for best practices regarding selling things online and what policies to adopt. You can read through policies used by other online stores and implement ones that suit you and the goals for your website.

Keep your online business strong.

Once you’ve launched your online store to sell things online, you still need to market it to potential customers and stay in contact with past shoppers. Check out the below resources pages that can help you maximize the marketing outreach for your website: