Retiring doesn’t have to mean you’re done making money. The internet has made it possible for a wide range of people to dabble in entrepreneurship with little startup cost and low risk.
Seniors can make some extra money in retirement by selling items online. There are a few possible approaches you could take to this:
- Selling items you don’t want anymore, as you would at a garage sale.
- Seeking out low-cost items at local stores, thrift shops, and flea markets to sell at a profit online.
- Selling something you make, like homemade jewelry or woodworking items.
Whether you decide to fully commit and treat it like a new business, or just want to make some money off the stuff around the house you don’t have a need for anymore, selling items online can be a good way to make some extra cash. But first you have to figure out how to do it.
The Best Websites for Selling Items Online
First off, you should decide where to sell your items online. You have a lot of different options, some of which may already be familiar to you.
eBay’s one of the biggest websites out there for online selling. That makes it a good way to reach a large audience. On eBay you can choose to either put your items up for auction, so they sell to the highest bidder, or you can pick a set price for each item you list.
The main downside of using eBay is that there are a lot of fees involved. There’s a fee to list your items (after a certain number of items), another fee after you sell your item, and more fees to spruce up your listings and bring more attention to them. If you’re not careful, the fees can bite into your ability to make much for your effort.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to start selling on eBay.
Like eBay, Amazon’s popularity makes it one of the best places online to reach a huge audience of potential buyers. But on Amazon, you’ll face a lot of competition. Amazon stocks a lot of their own inventory, so in some categories you’ll be up against them directly when trying to sell your stuff, and they attract a huge number of other sellers as well.
As with eBay one of the main concerns with Amazon is the fees. They have different fee structures based on the frequency with which you expect to sell items on the site, but either way a portion of what you’d be making through the site will be going back to Amazon rather than in your pocket.
A nice bonus Amazon offers (for an additional cost) is taking care of the shipping process for you. You can ship your inventory to them and let them deal with the packaging and shippin of your products once they’re bought. If the idea of heading to the post office makes you less inclined to deal with online selling, then Amazon Fulfillment may be just the thing to make selling items online worthwhile for you.
If you want to go the Amazon route, here are instructions on how to get started.
Etsy is an online marketplace that specializes in crafty and homemade items. If you’re selling something that’s a little more unique, like homemade soap or vintage clothes, it may be a better choice for you than Amazon or eBay. Etsy’s customer base isn’t as large as it is on the other two big sites, but it’s more targeted. Your audience isn’t people looking for any and everything, they’re people looking for unique gifts, crafts, and other items with personality
Like the other sites, selling on Etsy comes with its share of fees. There’s a fee to list items on the site, a final sale fee, and a Paypal processing fee. As on the other sites, you have to be careful with your pricing to ensure the fees don’t eat too much into your profits.
Etsy gives you a little more room to personalize your brand on the site, so buyers that like your stuff are more likely to remember and revisit your shop for future orders. If you’ll be selling items you create, the site gives you more of a chance to build up a brand and business.
You can find instructions for how to sell on Etsy here.
Bonanza’s an online marketplace for selling “everything but the ordinary,” according to their tagline. That puts them somewhere between Etsy and the other sites in terms of the type of products and audience they have. You can list both handmade and crafty-type items, as well as somewhat more conventional categories like coffeemakers.
Bonanza doesn’t have an audience as big as the first three sites mentioned, but it’s easy to use alongside one of the others. You can even import your inventory list and feedback scores from other websites. And it’s generally well liked by the sellers that use it.
Bonanza doesn’t have a listing fee, but they do still have a point-of-sale fee that’s calculated based on what your product sells for.
If you want to give Bonanza a go, here are instructions for getting started.
If you simply want to make some money for items you have around the house, NextDoor can be useful for selling items to your neighbors so you don’t have to deal with shipping costs. If you want to keep your efforts small scale, this is probably your best place to start.
You can simply post pictures of the items you want to sell on the site with recommended prices and encourage any neighbors interested to respond. If you don’t get much traction there, then you can turn to one of the options above to sell what’s left.
Unlike the options above, NextDoor isn’t designed specifically for selling items online. The site’s goal is to connect neighbors with each other. That means they don’t have a platform for receiving payment, you’ll need to work that out with the buyer. But it also means you don’t have to deal with any fees. The amount you and your neighbor agree to is what you’ll make on the sale. It’s not the best option if you have a lot of items to sell, but it can be the easiest one if you just have a few.
Note: it’s also possible to sell items on Craigslist, but you’re more likely to run into scammers. Since seniors are targeted by scams so often as it is, you’ll probably be a little safer sticking with one of these other sites.
How to Determine Pricing
This is one of the trickiest parts of selling items online. You have to make enough money to make your time and trouble worth it, but charging too much will keep people from buying (which also means your time and trouble weren’t worth it).
To figure out how to price your items, start by looking at what other people are charging for similar items. This will give you an idea of what people are willing to spend.
Next, consider what the item you’re selling originally cost you. If it’s something you made yourself, what was the cost of the materials you used? To make a profit from your work, your pricing should go higher than the cost of materials.
If it’s an old item you’re selling, what did it cost you back when you bought it? For most old items, you shouldn’t expect to charge more than you spent – obviously a used item is worth less than a new one in most cases – but that original price does tell you something about the item’s initial worth.
Then, consider what your time is worth. If it takes you five hours to take pictures, list your items, write descriptions, and lug them to the post office to ship them when they’re purchased, what amount of profit makes those five hours of work worth it to you?
And finally, you need to think about how you’ll deal with shipping costs. A lot of online sellers pass the costs along to their customers in full, but if your customers can find a similar item with free shipping, that makes your products less competitive. If you decide to cover any of the shipping costs yourself to entice people to buy, then you should factor that extra expense in when figuring out a reasonable cost for your items.
How to Accept Payments
A lot of the sites listed above will include a process for accepting payments as part of the platform they provide. For many of them, you need to have a PayPal account. If you don’t have one yet, setting one up is fairly simple. You can connect it to your bank accounts and transfer the money you make from your sales directly to your account.
For sales on a website like NextDoor, you’re probably best off taking cash or having the buyer transfer money to your PayPal account. If you trust the person, you could also accept a check, but that’s a risky option with strangers since you never know when a check will bounce.
How to Increase Your Chances of Selling
Simply listing your products on a website isn’t enough to make you competitive. You need your listing to make a quick, persuasive case for why the product is worth buying.
That means you should include:
- A descriptive headline. Viewers should know right away what you’re selling so they can decide whether or not to click.
- Good descriptions. Be detailed and accurate so your potential customers know what they’re buying.
- Good pictures. You can take decent pictures with a smartphone, if you have one. Make sure your lighting is right and set up a background that will make your products look good.
If you’ll be treating this like an ongoing business, make sure to ship products soon after they’re purchased and respond to any questions or complaints promptly. Good customer service will win you loyal customers that keep buying.
Selling items online does require some work and it’s not for everybody. But for most retirees, it will be an easier form of work than what you did before retirement and it can be an entertaining way to keep you busy and keep the money flowing in.