Use an online marketplace to sell your unwanted items

Business Idea

If I were to ask you what is taking up space in your home for no reason, what would you say? College students might say textbooks from the previous semester, while others might say old DVD’s, camera’s, etc. Here’s a good side business idea: sell those old products you aren’t using anymore through an online marketplace.

I heard about this idea at the beginning of the year from renowned online marketer Gary Vaynerchuck when he challenged his followers with #InFor5. Through it, he motivated hundreds if not thousands of people to list online for sale, items they had at home that they didn’t need and weren’t using. I gave it a try with a few textbooks I had stored from the time I was in college. Of the ten I listed on eBay, I was able to sell four within three weeks. Yes, I made some cash online by selling items I would otherwise had thrown away or kept on a shelf for years to come.

What about the money?

For starters, you want to identify products that you a) aren’t using and b) don’t need. These can be books, smartphone accessories, MP3 players, etc. You want to sell them at a competitive price. The best way to see what you might be able to sell them for requires you to explore online marketplace listings. On eBay, for example, you are able to filter by sold listings to see what people paid for a particular book. If you try to sell it on Facebook marketplace, this similar filter is not available but you can generate an average for what a similar book can sell for.

Furthermore, since selling products you’ve already had for a while won’t make you rich, you should reinvest what you’ve made. Garage sales are a great way to find other people’s unwanted (in-demand) items for low prices. As Gary V had mentioned, you can find price discrepancies online and therefore, find money-making opportunities. If you walk into a garage sale event and come across a limited edition Blu-Ray movie set, see what people on eBay and Amazon are selling something similar for. If the garage sale coordinator is charging $5 for a DVD that you can sell for $25, then it’s a good deal. Here’s an example of an eBay filter search for a Star Wars episode six limited edition DVD.

What’s competition like?

Selling on online marketplace platforms such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Amazon is very easy. While this is good news for you, it means that you’ll be competing against MANY people or companies across various product categories.

In order to have competitive listings, you’ll have to upload high quality images, share detailed descriptions, provide good customer service, allow for returns, and if possible, make shipping free. It’s going to be tough to start off right away but over time it’s possible to learn how to optimize your listings for the most conversions.

Estimated monthly bootstrap expenses?

You can get started for $0 at the beginning by listing products you already own. However, this will only be possible if you plan ahead. Understanding payment transaction fees, listing fees, and shipping costs, for example, can help you determine the lowest you can sell a product for and still make a profit.

Early on when I gave eBay a try, I realized that I had priced my products too low. So low that I was negative for the first two transactions. It served as a learning experience but it also taught me something else: when you have few reviews, it might be difficult for others to trust you. In the case of the first two books I sold, they were each priced at $5 (shipping was extra). I didn’t make money until my third transaction which would have taken longer to achieve (I think) if I hadn’t received a good review from my first sale.

As you become more comfortable using an online marketplace (or several), you’ll be able to start using their additional paid features. Until then, give it a try with one of your unwanted items. Good luck!

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