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What Should You Sell Online?

Experienced sellers say the answer of what to sell often comes from what you know and love.

When you start selling online, one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself is “What should I sell?” It’s a question we’ve heard from a lot of new merchants.

And it’s a topic we’ve heard many experienced sellers discuss, so we decided to recap what some sellers have shared with us over the years, just in case you were wondering what you should sell.

Based on what sellers have told us, deciding what to sell depends on two things: How far along you are in your online selling venture, and what your interests are. Not sure what we mean? Read on to find out.

Sell what you have

In the beginning of your online selling adventure, you won’t have to worry about making a big investment. In fact, you shouldn’t make a big investment, sellers tell us. When you start out online, you should first get the hang of the selling process by offering wares you already own. Many of the sellers we’ve interviewed over the years say that was how they got their start.

Top-rated seller Larry Butler now sells medical ID bracelets, but when he began selling online, he offered a variety of prime-condition vintage magazines his father had collected. This gave Butler plenty of inventory to offer up.

“My mom gave me a ton—literally—of old magazines and comic books,” the seller notes.

The magazines helped Butler learn how to optimize listings, interact with buyers to keep them coming back, market his items and more. Now he uses those core principles learned during his initial sales to create great listings for his medical ID bracelets. And you’ll get the same benefits without the big expense if you offer items you already own, too.

If you find similar items being sold on eBay, consider whether the average selling price is worth your time to list and ship

If you’re unsure whether the items you own are worth anything to online buyers, check eBay to find out, says Auctiva Product Analyst and Top-rated seller Rebecca Miller.

Do an eBay search to see if anyone else has listed the same or similar items to what you’ve got—then check completed listings to see if items like these are actually selling. Consider your items’ condition, but don’t let this factor deter you from selling something, she adds.

“Even if an item is in bad condition, someone out there in eBay land might still want it, so the first thing to do is check to see if there’s a market for it,” Miller notes. “Secondly, if you do find similar items being sold on eBay, consider how much they are selling for to see if it’s worth your time to list and ship. Thirdly, consider the item’s size. Is it big and bulky and heavy? Do you really want to go through the hassle of shipping something for a tiny profit?”

Start looking through your house and see what you have lying around. We’ve had sellers start their selling careers with vintage pillowcases, unwanted gifts, items their children had outgrown, etc.

Once you get a feel for selling online, you’re ready to start looking for what you’ll sell regularly. We’re talking about looking for your specialty, or niche. This will be your area of expertise—and it should be something you have a passion for or know a lot about, so you won’t lose your enthusiasm for selling online. We heard this tidbit from multiple sellers, including Sue Carlson Dunn, a rock fan and the owner of The Novelty Rock Emporium.

“I had been looking around for some time for something to sell, and felt that whatever it was [that I sold] should interest me, otherwise my commitment would be halfhearted,” she notes. Several sellers we’ve talked to have said the same thing, so take their advice and sell items you know well or love.

Sell what you love

Margarette Page of Margarette’s Fashions always loved clothes, so when she made the jump to online sales, she opted to sell new and pre-owned fashions for men, women and children. She had always pushed the “fashion envelope with trendy attire as a girl,” she says, and knew clothes were the ideal inventory for her.

Eileen Daniels, owner of Eileen Rose Designs, created a business out of her beloved hobby of card making. This had been a passion of Daniels’ for years, and it lent itself to expand her inventory to include do-it-yourself wedding invitations and later, cross-stitch patterns for other craft lovers, like herself. Today, Daniels’ inventory includes cards for any occasion, and plenty of shoppers are stopping by.

Sandie Parker, co-owner of Sandie’s Galley and More, wouldn’t have gotten into online selling had it not been for her love of cooking, notes her husband, Jim Parker. “Our Auctiva Commerce Store started with a cookbook,” he explains. Sandie had spent a summer living aboard the couple’s boat and working at the marina.

“She gave daily samples of whatever she cooked to staff and friends, who urged her to write a cookbook,” Jim continues. “We decided to sell her cookbook online, and add boating dinnerware, drinkware and flatware to the site.”

Take a minute to think of your own hobbies and interests. Write them down and then look on eBay to see what items related to your interests are selling online. There just might be a market for what you’re into!

Look on eBay to see what items related to your interests are selling online. There might be a market for that!

Sell what you know

If, as you do your research, you discover that another item you know a lot about is in demand, you might consider selling that type of product. Charm-bracelet seller Butler never expected to sell medical ID bracelets, but as he researched, he realized there was a demand for trendy medical ID bands.

Jackie Greene, the owner of The Steinsburg Store, loves what she sells, but she began in her niche because it was an area she knew well.

“After having two children, I found myself with an abundance of items they had outgrown,” she explains. “From safety items to toys, I noticed a demand for children’s items on eBay and started selling the things that we no longer used. It was a natural fit for me, since I was already familiar with things for kids.”

Though today her store is more of a general store, Greene continues to offer the products she knows well, including children’s items and baking goods.

Gay Wilson, the owner of Petit Couture Mall on eBay and a fellow mom, also offers children’s items, but she stuck to young kids’ clothing, sizes newborn to 6X, because not only does she know kids, she know parents. And she knows that past this size, children become more independent and want to have a say in what they wear. “As all parents learn, our children develop their own likes and dislikes, which influence buying decisions,” she says.

Stephanie Frantz, the owner of Everything Vintage on eBay, was a librarian of more than 15 years. When she began her online sales adventure, she opted for books she no longer needed. Who better than a former librarian to sell books? She has since expanded her eBay sales to Half.com.

Sell what’s in demand

Of course, it also makes sense to sell something that lots of people want to buy. Then you’ll be sure to make sales. Thomas Weller, the owner of Galaxy Mall and Galaxy_Shoppes, tries to do just this by constantly searching out products that would attract new buyers.

“I instantly tune in when I hear someone say, ‘I wish I could find…'” Weller notes. “And I am always looking for new products and lines that fit.”

But before adding any product to his repertoire, Weller does extensive research, looking to see how many people already offer the item he’s considering.

“If a search shows 100 stores carry it, it probably isn’t going to work for us,” he says.

Research will let you know if a market is saturated, and if there is a demand for the products you want to sell. Lori Ford, co-owner of Chosen Treasures4U, researched the market for three months to see if the items she was interested in offering, decorative gnomes, fairies and angels, were in demand. It turns out, they were. In fact, after putting the first decorative angel on eBay, she had a bid within a matter of hours.

“I thought, ‘There’s definitely a market out there,'” she recalls.

As Ford got more and more into online sales, she began to focus solely on garden gnomes, seeing a big demand for the figures. When we talked to her, sales were growing so much, Ford and her partner, husband John Harrison, were selling $250,000 a year. They hoped to reach $1 million in sales within the next year or so. This couple’s success proves that it pays to do your research.

Remember, to find success, you first need to learn the ropes of selling online and then start seeking out the items you know and love the most. They will be your keys to success.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



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