Personal Finance

9 Ways to Make Money With Online Sales

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

2021 was Year Two of the pandemic, and chances are most of us spent a lot of time at home realizing just how much stuff we have on our hands.

When you find yourself faced with clutter, there’s one good solution: Try to sell it! What looks old, used or out of style to you may be a prized possession to someone else.

But entering the world of online sales can be overwhelming, to say the least. In 2021, we shared some of the best tips for selling everything from books and clothes to gift cards and photos online.

To make it easy for you as the year comes to a close, here’s a roundup of our 2021 posts about making money from online sales after clearing out your closets and cabinets.

1. Know Where to Sell Online

Woman working from home
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Half the battle of selling something online is knowing how and where to sell it. Is your item highly visual? Does it tend to have a community that goes along with it, like vintage furniture? If you answer yes, then Instagram might be your best bet.

If you’re trying to sell goods to a wide variety of people from across the globe, sites like Amazon and eBay, which do have certain seller fees, can probably offer the largest reach.

If you’re just wanting to get rid of a few items from your garage, try a local site like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. These sites even allow for local pick-up, which may make your life easier and take two hassles away from you — you’ll get rid of the item and won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting.

We rounded up some great tips about how to sell online both globally and locally.

2. Master the Online Marketplace

College student on a laptop
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There are some simple rules you should keep in mind when creating your listings. A quick summary:

  • Use a simple name for your item so it shows up in a search — for instance, “table” instead of “dropleaf” or “grill” instead of the brand name.
  • Remember to always include relevant information upfront — you don’t want to get bombarded with questions about something you could have put in the item description.
  • Know that selling something online usually requires maintenance. You’ll have to watch for messages from interested buyers.
  • Don’t set prices too high.

Read more in our roundup about selling used goods online.

3. Make Your Items Look Great

man taking a photograph
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The easiest — and perhaps most pivotal — way to make your items stand out online is through good photography. The opposite is just as true. How many of us have watched our items go unsold and wondered whether a photo crowded with other objects in dim lighting may have been the culprit?

Here’s an overview of how to take pictures of items to sell:

  • Find a clean background.
  • Prioritize natural lighting over artificial.
  • Stage the photograph thoughtfully, using props that work with what you’re trying to sell.
  • Take multiple photos to find the best shot — don’t just shoot one and call it a day.

4. Create a Thoughtful Customer Experience

Woman thinking about her phone or a new phone plan
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If you’re running an online boutique rather than simply selling one-off items online, you may want to think about how you present your objects to buyers.

Crafting dynamic packaging and interactive experiences with every item can go a long way toward creating a repeat customer.

Read these online retail packaging tips from experts to learn how everything from confetti to free logo stickers can create brand loyalty and keep people coming back for more.

5. Offload Your Closet Items

A woman picks clothes out of her closet
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It can feel daunting to go through your closet and pick out the pieces you’re ready to part with — are we ever really ready? Worse yet, the act of taking photos, selecting prices and waiting for someone to bite on your old clothes can be anxiety-inducing.

But there are ways to do it successfully.

Start with knowing which site to use. Are you more of a Poshmark person or a ThredUP gal? Is Tradesy the right option for you? Do you plan to upcycle clothes before putting them up for sale?

6. Overflowing Bookshelves? Time to Sell

Young man with stack of books.
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We’ve all seen the $1 pile at a used bookstore. Perhaps you think your old books will be relegated to that status, making it almost impossible to even break even on the sale.

But if you know where to sell your books online, that may not be the case.

There are Amazon and Etsy, yes, but have you ever heard of AbeBooks and Decluttr?

7. Sell Your Photographs

Man excited about his new phone plan
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Those casual iPhone photos you’ve collected? You can put them to good use.

If you’ve gotten compliments on your artsy Instagrams or feel you’re a budding photographer, it might be time to try to make some money off of those talents.

The question is where to sell and how each site works. For instance, would you rather earn a certain percentage of royalties or pay the site for a listing?

We collected tips to help you sell photos online and pick the option that’s right for you.

8. Get Rid of Those Old Gift Cards — for Cash!

Winning gift card
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We never thought we’d say it, but there can be such a thing as too many gift cards.

Sometimes you just don’t have the time or ability to spend them all. So why not get money back for them and let someone else have all the fun? We listed the easiest ways to sell gift cards. Turns out there are plenty of apps designated for just that.

9. Consult Nextdoor for a Second Opinion

Woman on her laptop
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Nextdoor can be a dumpster fire of a site, but it can also come in handy when you suspect that you’re paying too much for something or not getting paid enough for an item you’re trying to sell.

Polling your neighbors on Nextdoor — literally the people who live in close geographic proximity to you — is a good way to get a sense of the general temperature. By asking for some Nextdoor reviews, you just might end up saving money!

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


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