ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Selling Stuff on the Internet - Can You Make Money?

Updated on March 12, 2017

You may need to build your own website.

Web Hosting, Domain Names, Web Site Building Software etc.
Web Hosting, Domain Names, Web Site Building Software etc. | Source

My First Attempt

This is probably one of the most asked questions I hear from friends and co-workers. Can we make money selling stuff online?

Here is a short article on my personal experience attempting to do just that. You will notice that I avoid using specific business and website names. This is to prevent me from accidentally inserting personal opinions and thereby potentially altering the reader's opinion.

My first attempt - about 10 years ago - I set up a website and engaged in what is known as affiliate marketing. Basically - this is a method of generating income by joining well known online retailers affiliate programs. These affiliate program links are normally located in the small print on the main webpage for the well known "Big-Commerce" related website.

In a nutshell:

1. You have to setup a website with web pages that promote items for sale from the Big Commerce site. You have to pay for the website domain name and web hosting, along with other things. For these services, I chose GoDaddy and still use them today.

2. You then need to generate traffic to your web pages in hopes that the online shopper clicks your link for an item. There are several online services that would love to take your money to drive traffic to your webpages.

3. That link has a code specific to your affiliate account. If the online shopper purchases the item from the Big Commerce site, then you will receive a small percent of the sale. That amount is predetermined by the affiliate agreement.

4. The actual cost of the item for the online shopper is the same whether they purchase the item from your link, or directly from the Big Commerce site. So why not take a cut for helping the consumer locate the product online?

5. Your affiliate earnings are considered advertising fees, more or less. Your earning are also going to be taxable, so pay attention to those "Terms and Conditions" that you agree to when joining the affiliate program. Some of the Big Commerce sites send an annual 1099-Misc type income tax form, others expect you to monitor and claim the earnings yourself. Be aware of this.

So - did I make any money? Not really. The overhead costs to buy my website domain, get my website hosted (available on the internet for all to see), and the fees to other online companies to promote my pages exceeded the earnings I made.

Money Out the Window


What Did I Do Wrong?

For one thing, I have since learned that web search engines treat websites differently. They will treat a website that has existed for say, 2 or 3 years, better on search engine returns than a new website. It appears it behaves the same as everyone else. We tend to shy away from new shops because they have not built a good reputation yet.

Another thing I did wrong was the failure to consider that my domain name had nothing to do with the items and products I was promoting - and - I failed to update my website page html meta tag code to add the keywords for those items and products.

Without that, the web crawlers and spiders had no idea my website page was relevant to the items and products. So when an online shopper searched for the product "blue widget", even though I was promoting that product, my website page did not return in the list of search engine results.

My take - given what I know now, this is what I would need to do if I were to try it again:

1. Plan sufficient time to get proper domain names and build appropriate and relevant content web pages.

2. Plan time to for your website and pages to mature and build a reputation with the search engines.

3. Learn more about marketing strategies before committing a budget to pay for other companies to promote my pages by sending traffic to them. One method of this is called "pay per click". You can look that up later.

Warning - this should be well noted: If you are like me and have a day job, you NEED to review your employer code of ethics to determine that your part time website affiliate job is not promoting products that your employer also sells.

This will most likely be considered a conflict of interest. An example of this is - you work as a car salesman and your lot owner also has a parts counter. You decide to sell or promote used or new car parts on your website. This conflicts with your employer expectation that you would direct your customers to the dealer parts counter so your employer makes money.

Example Online Store

Example Online Store for Amazon Marketplace
Example Online Store for Amazon Marketplace | Source

My Next Attempt

My next topic is going to cover selling stuff on marketplace and auction sites.

A few years ago I decided to try selling some items I had around the house that had never been used and were still in boxes. In order to do this I had to learn how to sell items on a popular marketplace site, as I have been buying items from them for years and noted that some people sold used versions. Think about buying a DVD. I would buy a new DVD on this site, but noticed that several individual sellers listed the DVD as used without scratches for a couple dollars less.

Here is what I did:

1. Read all the "Terms and Conditions" to becoming a seller on that business site.

2. Got more ink for my printer so I could save money using the business mailing discounts and print my own postage.

3. Set up the seller account. This requires validating your checking/saving account with them. You do want to get paid, right?

4. Identify items to sell and ensure I had mailing and packaging material. We normally have 2 business days to mail out items we sell, it would be a bummer if you realized that you don't have the right sized mailing envelope or box and have to run out and buy them - for higher cost than if you buy them in bulk.

5. Locate your item on their website and see what everyone else is selling it for. Are they charging the buyer postage, or providing free shipping?

6. When determining your price to sell, remember the fees that you have to pay when the item sells. Normally it can be 15% of the list price plus postage. One site also has an added $1.50 list fee.

Please note at this time that you may earn more by selling groups of your product to reduce the number of times you pay the list fee. An example is if you are selling a silver coin. Each coin may sell for $25 and you pay postage.

Remember that in order to make money, you must take home more than the price you originally paid for the item.

Here is an example in the table below:

Return On Investment (ROI) Example Breakdown

Amount Customer Paid
List Fee (average 15%)
Postage/Packing Material
Take Home (ROI) $$
- $3.75
- $2.50
5 Items bundled at $125
- $18.75
- $4.00
$102.25 (equals $20.45 each)
- $7.4985 (round to 7.5)
- $3.00
Example shows that selling multiples of an item in a set can increase your actual earnings due to savings in postage and package materials.

Still Following Along? What About Online Auction Sites?

I also sell items on a popular online auction site. The math is similar to the above example but the fee structure is different. In the marketplace example, you may have noticed that you paid the shipping and the fees included the cost of shipping.

If I require the customer to pay the shipping, the fees do not apply to shipping and I could potentially increase my profit.

The online auction site I use charges fees against the entire sell price whether you or the customer pay the shipping. Their list fees are a little lower on average, and you can learn how to price items appropriately to earn the same profit as the marketplace.

A note here is that with the online auction you have a very good chance of selling your item within 7 days. The only risk here is that you do not control the final purchase amount, the bidders do. This same site also provides a method to list your item for sale without using the auction method. You are again at the mercy of the customer to determine when your item sells, unless you pay a small fee to set a reserve price for the auction.

A few more things I have learned:

1. I paid less for my packing envelopes on the online auction site than if I had purchased them directly from a local big box store. That reduces my total cost.

2. The customers on the marketplace may or may not have access to the online auction site. If you have multiple items it may make sense to list some on each site. Just be careful of your inventory.

3. I always mail out items sold in the 2 business day window. This is my reputation at stake here. Customer feedback does influence other customers decision to buy from you.

4. If you are going to specialize in 1 or more items to sell, make sure that you know and understand your product. The more accurate description you provide the better chance of selling.

5. If you have an item or product to sell on the marketplace site, it must be listed in their catalog. If it is not, you can add it as long as you have a valid UPC code. What if you are selling handmade items? You can purchase new UPC codes on the auction site!

6. Lastly, if you are doing this part time, like me - make sure you set aside enough room in your house to store your inventory and packing materials. Try to start small. Only sell 1 product, but keep an inventory of 5 to 10 so you do not run out. After you get established, you can branch out and sell related products.

So - did I make money? Yes, and I continue to do so.

Don't forget to know how to pay your taxes!

If you find that you are ready to start a small business with to support your internet sales, here is a link for Small Business For Dummies Books on ebay. Small Business for Dummies books are available for specific topics including guide for dealing with taxes, human resources, networking, financial management, marketing, and more!

Have You made Any Money Selling Items on the Internet?

See results

How Do I Start An Online Business


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)