HOWTO: Sell Your Stuff Online

Category: Reference , Webmaster

So you want to sell your stuff on the Internet? Lots of people have great ideas for selling their own products, be they handcrafted goods, print on demand items, or a beanie baby collection. Here are some tips for using online marketplaces, or easily creating your own storefront on the Web...

How to Sell Your Products on the Web

You don't have to build your own online store from scratch in order to sell your handmade goods or other unwanted items. The various tasks required - registering and hosting a domain, graphic design, website creation, installing and configuring a shopping cart - are daunting for most people. But fortunately, many online venues exist to help you advertise and sell your stuff with a minimum of investment and hassle.

eBay is the prototypical online marketplace. It makes selling as easy as taking pictures and writing a description of an item. Originally a pure auction site, eBay now pushes fixed-price listings. eBay gives you a worldwide marketplace, but it's one of the pricier ways to sell online. You pay a listing fee whether your item sells or not, plus a percentage of the selling price. You can even get dinged on shipping fees because eBay wants to encourage sellers to offer "free" shipping. Every eBay listing must offer Paypal as a payment option (although other options can be included), and Paypal takes a cut of whatever money you receive through it.

You could also be on the hook for income taxes, if you sell online in volume. PayPal is required to report to the IRS if a seller receives over $20,000 in gross payments AND has 200 sales in a calendar year. If you have less than $20K gross, or fewer than 200 sales, PayPal does not report to the IRS or issue you a 1099 form. But IRS rules still require that you report all income, whether it's from a business, hobby, or a "clean out the attic" sale.
Selling Your Stuff Online

eBay has hundreds of lesser-known imitators in the auction arena, such as WeBidz, iOffer, Bonanza and others. You'll find auction sites that offer lower fees (and smaller audiences), product-specialized auction marketplaces, and geographically organized auction sites.

In contrast, Craigslist charges nothing. It's basically free classified advertising in dozens of local markets. Craigslist is great if you want fast cash; just advertise, meet with a responding buyer, hand over the goods and pocket the money. But be careful! Always meet in a public place, like a police station parking lot. Don't accept checks from strangers. I would encourage you to read Scammed on Craigslist! before you engage in this marketplace.

Other Options for Selling Online

Gazelle actually buys your used electronics, then sells them through other venues. Gazelle buys used cell phones, cameras, camcorders, GPS devices, gaming consoles, laptops, tablets, video games and other gadgets. You may get less money from Gazelle than if you sold the item yourself, but many people don't want to search for a buyer or haggle over the price. I sold my 2-year-old Motorola smartphone through Gazelle, and was happy to get $35 for it. At least it's not sitting in a drawer now.

If you've come up with a blockbuster idea for a graphic design, there are sites that will help you sell it on shirts, hats, coffee cups, calendars, mouse pads and other items. CafePress, Zazzle, VistaPrint are a few examples. Upload your design, pick the product(s) on which it will appear, and set your price. You can set up your own online shop within these sites, and list multiple items for sale. When an item is purchased, the company produces it on demand and then ships it directly to the customer. They deduct the wholesale cost of your shirt, mug, etc., and send you the balance.

The beauty of this type of online store is that you don't have to manufacture the items, or even ship them. You also avoid the hassle of collecting payment, which would involve getting a merchant account to accept credit cards. Merchant accounts can be expensive, requiring you to pay both upfront and monthly service fees.

Etsy is a site for crafters who want to peddle their handmade jewelry, clothing, ceramics, and similar handicrafts. But Etsy isn't just for crafters. There's a growing community of artists producing their own designs with 3D printing. (See Make Your Own Stuff With 3D Printing.) Vintage goods are also allowed and there is a large community of vintage sellers on the site. An Etsy shop is easy to setup and fees are reasonable. High-volume sellers are often found on, offering new and used items at prices that may beat Amazon's own.

Of course, if you're a techy (or willing to learn) you can register your own .COM domain, put up a website, take payments by credit card, and handle order fulfillment on your own. You might want to check out my article on Tips on Buying a Domain Name and Inexpensive Website Design for some pointers if you're a do-it-yourselfer.

But for most people who are interested in selling their own designs or hand-made items, one of the full-service options mentioned earlier in this article will be the best and easiest route to selling your stuff online.

Are you selling online? Tell us how you do it! Post your comment or question about this topic below...

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Most recent comments on "HOWTO: Sell Your Stuff Online"

Posted by:

07 Jun 2013

I agree Bob, that eBay has the biggest audience and therefore the best visibility for items you want to sell, so it is worth the fees if you get more dollars for your stuff, or even actually sell it.

They also have a number of fee free listings per month available most of the time, with just a final fee based on the final selling price and shipping fee.

Also, you don't have to accept PayPal to sell on eBay, but you must accept at least one of the four electronic payment methods eBay supports. However, PayPal is probably the most popular with buyers, so it might be a poor decision to not accept it, as it may limit your buyer pool.

My personal reasons for not using Craigslist would be that I don't want folk coming to my home, I'd rather just ship stuff out.

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
08 Jun 2013

You can easily sell on eBay for no listing fees. Hints: Don't use any feature that costs money. Don't sell for less than the 5-day auction option. Don't use Buy It Now unless you bundle it with an auction ... then the Buy It Now feature is free these days (up to so many per month, like 50 or something).

If you want your auctions to end on the days and times when people are most likely to be at their computers looking on eBay, it is well worth using the $0.10 Scheduled Items feature where you can set the auction to begin on a specific date at a specific time. (Otherwise, when you hit "Sell immediately," the item runs until that same hour and minute, even if it's in the wee hours of the morning ... not a good way to get somebody to do those last-minute bids on your stuff.)

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
08 Jun 2013

Being taxed on a "clean out the attic sale" is obscene, because it's *DOUBLE TAXATION!* Let's say I earn $1,000, pay $300 in taxes, and use my $700 after tax money to buy a printer. Five to 10 years later, I sell the printer for $25. Liquidating my own personal property like that is NOT income! That money was income when I earned it, NOT when I put those *after tax* dollars in a little piggy bank called a printer and then shook only a few *after tax* coins back out of it.

For the government to ask me to report that *after tax* liquidation money as income so that I can be taxed on it *AGAIN* is a very slick way to INCREASE my tax rate by *double taxation.* If I don't just throw the darn thing in the trash or give it away, I will be penalized for trying to "share" the price I not only paid for it but also paid full taxes on.

Selling your own purchased property creates a "shared purchase," same as if the two of you pooled your money in the store on the day it was bought, where you get to use it first and the other person gets whatever life is left in it. I believe a shared purchase shouldn't be taxed twice. But if the money doesn't move at the same time, the tax man beats you up coming and going (when you buy it and then when you resell it). Whenever money moves, the government wants a piece of it.

If you likened the resale to a store discount (not a manufacturer's discount), you should get a tax refund from the government on your clean-out-the-attic income! :)

A retailer can gouge the buyer for money to cover the taxes he will owe on the money he gets from a manufacturer's discount. It's doesn't feel fair to the buyer, but it's legal.

Posted by:

08 Jun 2013

I keep hearing about Paypal not sending information to the IRS or issuing a 1099 until your sales reach $20,000...maybe that's for a personal account. For my business account, Paypal sent a 1099 at $1600 and the IRS did receive their information for 2012 in time for me to pay taxes on it in 2013.

eBay doesn't appear to be the best option for those selling antiques or high end collectibles. I'd recommend TIAS. Some things do sell on eBay quite well, but from being involved with power sellers who have removed eBay as the "go to" source, fees have been steadily increasing to the point where profit margins are slim to null.

Thanks Bob for the information, but as always people really should read the terms of service and get the most recent fees for selling online.

Because charging sales tax is an "across the board" initiative for all online sales, whether you have a business or not. That can make a big difference.

Posted by:

09 Jun 2013

I think you missed one level. If you want to sell enough stuff to have a web site but don't want to do the heavy lifting, you can use someone like Shopify.

for a fee they will do all the backend parts of the web sales thing.

Posted by:

Bob B.
10 Jun 2013

While Bob's articles are generally very practical and informative regarding computers and online activity, Bob is not a tax advisor, and his one-sentence simplification of income reporting rules should really not be anyone's basis for determining what or how to report their garage sale income. Gloria, you are getting worked up at an oversimplification. Tax law is complicated, but not obscene in the manner perceived in Bob's reduction of the concept of "income."

Posted by:

Charles Feinstein
10 Jun 2013

Now that I am living in Canada, a homegrown site used is Kijiji, which has local sites for areas all across the country. Very popular and mostly free.

Posted by:

nancy mac
11 Jun 2013

I wanted to read ALL the comments. How do I get to them? I don't see a link to open them.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If there's a second page of comments, you'll see a link, otherwise not. On this page, there's not. But see here, for example:

Posted by:

18 Jul 2013

If theres somelbody intrested in a hamster cage mail me :)

Posted by:

23 Aug 2013

I have been using TripleClicks and my sales have tripled, over what i was getting at Ebay, Etsy and others. Free to list and only pay if it sells. You are reaching a huge worldwide audience. They also have many other ways to make money with them by driving traffic there. It is worth a try for free, I think you would be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by:

20 Dec 2013

An old article but even more relevant today, gadget recycling is a great way to raise funds. Phone, tablet and gadget recycling is getting more popular across America all of the time, there are now over 100 online recyclers in the US alone offering cash for old devices. Comparison sites such as aim to only compare reputable and trustworthy recycling companies so that users can make an impartial choice. Using a comparison site such as Sell My Cell Phones saves you time and can also help you to get the best deal available. Electronics recycling is a great cause and the more we recycle the better it is for the environment.

Keep on spreading the word!

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Sell Your Stuff Online (Posted: 7 Jun 2013)
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