Selling products online is a business that nearly anyone can start with just a computer, an internet connection and a little know-how.
Successful online sellers choose items to sell that are readily available, have a good profit margin and are in high demand. But with a whole web’s worth of widgets out there, how do you hone in on specifically what to sell?
We’ve compiled some ideas for would-be entrepreneurs looking to build an online business. Some are traditional products, while others you might not have previously considered. In any case, the list below is a good jumping-off point to start narrowing down your list of potential things to sell online.
Note that the list is organized alphabetically, not ranked based on the quality of each opportunity.
1. Antiques and Vintage Items
Best place to sell: eBay.
Many eBay customers are specifically looking for unique, vintage collectibles that aren’t available on other marketplaces. While there isn’t massive overall demand for antique egg beaters or mid-century modern decor, the people that want these items can’t just order them on Amazon. Instead, they will snatch them up when they find them and pay good money so they don’t miss the opportunity.
The profit potential with antiques and vintage goods is high. I have personally snagged vintage board games, an old knife sharpener and radio tubes from auctions and hole-in-the-wall thrift stores for just a few bucks — quickly turning around and selling those items on eBay for significantly more than I paid.
The risk to the entrepreneur is low. Since you can get a lot of these items so cheap at garage sales, estate auctions and thrift shops (which tend not to sell online), even if you pick up a few items that take a long time to sell, they will be balanced by the other ones you make a killing on.
And remember: the fact that something is old doesn’t necessarily make it valuable. Search eBay’s completed listings to see how many listings match your item, whether they sold, and for how much.
Learn more in our complete guide on how to make money on eBay.
Best place to sell: Etsy.
If you’re looking to sell your own fine art (paintings, drawings, etc.), there’s no bigger online marketplace than Etsy. There are dozens of other sites — such as Society6 and Artfire — that are popular among artists, but Etsy has the biggest mindshare among regular customers.
That said, your creations will get maximum attention if you cross-post on other platforms like Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, your own blog and/or DeviantArt. Art is unique to the preferences of the buyer, so as an art business owner, your best bet is to get your pieces in front of as many eyes as possible.
You can sell original paintings on Etsy, but you can also sell prints, as well as merchandise with your artwork on it.
Not sure how to price your paintings? Don’t pull a number out of thin air. There’s actually a science to calculating how much to charge for your art.
Learn more in our complete guide on how to make money on Etsy.
Every garage sale has a box of books the owner will sell for pennies (or even give away for free). And often, libraries sell titles to raise money (usually at set periods during the year).
Not every book has a great resale value, but popular titles, textbooks and rare or early editions can net you a handsome profit.
There are numerous book buyback websites (including the major players like Amazon and eBay), but there are also smaller, niche used book buyers such as Bookscouter and Powell’s Books. Local used book stores and college campus bookstores will often buy back books as well.
When you’re out hunting for books with good resale value, you can use the Ziffit app to scan the barcode of the used book and see how much Ziffit will buy it for. Once you’ve got a list of books you want to resell, use the app to print out a FedEx shipping label and mail off your books.
Learn more in our complete guide on how to sell books on Amazon.
4. CDs, Records, Video Games and Other Media
Once a gamer has beaten or gotten bored of a video game, they may be ready to swap the game for something new. This creates a strong demand for used video games. You can pick these up at garage sales or thrift stores, then resell them on eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
Decluttr also buys used video games, but unless the game is very recent, they probably won’t pay much for it. However, when it comes to older titles, many games have become collectibles and can fetch significant sums — so you’ll want to check eBay’s completed listings to see the average sale price.
Vintage music items — such as CDs with cover art, vinyl records and cassettes — can be surprisingly lucrative as well. Many see these as obsolete technology, so it’s not uncommon to find people getting rid of their old music as they adopt streaming services.
But there’s still strong demand for physical music among audiophiles and collectors, and If you find the right albums, you can turn one man’s trash into a treasure on sites like eBay and Discogs (a site where music lovers and vinyl enthusiasts look for hard-to-find records that have the original cover art).
5. Cell Phones and Electronics
For selling mobile phones, your best bet is to use a site that facilitates face-to-face transactions — especially if you’re flipping used items. Many sellers complain of return policies that heavily favor the buyer on sites like eBay, Swappa and others.
As long as you accurately disclose any issues with the phone, your buyer can’t come back for their money if you’ve made a cash exchange at the Walmart parking lot. Plus, your local Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace has less competition for the model of phone you’re selling than a huge website like eBay does.
Some electronics sellers break down old desktops and laptops and sell the individual parts online at a huge profit. Schools, libraries and municipalities often auction off their dated technology en masse when they get new replacements, which is a huge opportunity for savvy sellers. Parting out broken washers, dryers, stand mixers and other household devices works well too. One way to find these is by searching for your state and/or country’s surplus goods website.
The applications for flipping electronics are changing as the market does. For instance, graphics cards are in super high demand thanks to their use in crypto mining, and tech-savvy entrepreneurs are buying old laptops for a song, extracting the graphics card and selling it online for a profit.
Another example: as certain laptop models age, their chargers become harder to find online; rummage through the bin of old chargers at a thrift store, determine which ones go to which models, and sell them a huge markup.
With a little creativity and industry knowledge, you can create a thriving business flipping electronic items.
6. Clothing and Accessories
From bulk lots of baby onesies to designer purses and high heels, clothing is always in demand. The combination of ample supply and strong demand makes selling clothes online one of the best product categories when you’re starting an ecommerce business from scratch.
Different online clothing marketplaces are geared toward different styles and demographics. As the name suggests, Poshmark places an emphasis on name brands and designer labels. Depop focuses on trendy fashions and vintage pieces aimed at Gen Z buyers. Mercari is aimed at middle-of-the-road brands, items and buyers (think jeans and tops from Old Navy, Nordstrom, etc.).
You can source clothing from friends, Facebook Marketplace, garage and estate sales and local thrift shops. When you’re ready to up your game, you can search the final clearance sections of high-end online retailers for deep discounts, then sell those items at a profit on sites like Poshmark and Depop. This is known as online arbitrage.
Some retailers (like Gap) even have full clearance stores dedicated to offloading their excess inventory at wholesale prices. You can also look for wholesalers or liquidators to source clothing in bulk from major brands.
7. Collectible Trading Cards and Games
This category might actually be the most lucrative on the list — if you know what you’re doing.
In 2021, 45 million trading cards sold on eBay alone, with 119 cards listed every minute. The market for collectible trading cards (such as Pokemon and Magic cards) is so huge that eBay just rolled out an entire app and ecosystem for selling them. In fact, the popularity of Pokemon cards surged so much in 2021 that Walmart and Target temporarily stopped selling them for safety reasons.
The main idea here is to get cards second-hand from garage sales, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc., from people who no longer collect them. If you find rare or sought-after cards, you can sell them individually on a site like eBay or Amazon. If not, you can sell them to a site like Troll & Toad, which buys cards in bulk.
At the same time, buying new product from wholesale distributors is also a common business model; sellers will purchase product by the case, open up the individual packs, and list the individual cards for sale.
Got a world-class recipe you’d like to turn into a business? You can sell your fudge, candy, jams or cookies online!
Cottage food laws allow you to sell shelf-stable food items you’ve made in your house at places like farmers’ markets and bake sales, but things get a little trickier when you’re shipping across state lines. You may need to get a food handler’s permit and/or an approved kitchen to produce confections commercially, even if you’re operating on a small scale.
If your own kitchen won’t work, don’t despair. You can rent a licensed commercial kitchen by the hour that likely has a lot more space and equipment than you can fit in your own house, making it easier to scale your business.
You can sell your items locally on Facebook Marketplace (I have done this with bread and rolls), or you can market on a broader scale with Etsy and Amazon.
If you go the latter route, remember that you’ll need to individually package your confections and include ingredients, nutrition information and the expiration date. With Amazon, you’ll likely also need proof of your licensing and/or food handler’s permit.
9. Crafts and Handmade Items
Whether you crochet stuffed animals, make tie-dyed weighted blankets or sculpt miniature foods out of clay, you can sell your handicrafts online.
Etsy and Amazon Handmade are saturated with sellers of goat’s milk soap, beaded bracelets, and other artisan items that are easy to make and very generic. To do well with a craft-based business, successful Etsy sellers recommend creating things that are hard to copy and very unique.
For example, it’s hard to stand out if you’re making generic birthday cards. You’ll have a better chance at reaching customers if you focus on niche products — think of fly fishing birthday cards, or birthday cards for chocolate lovers.
Etsy and Amazon will both take a cut of the sale price if you sell your crafts through their websites, which lowers your profit margin. However, they come with the advantage of daily views from millions of customers all over the world.
Of course, you can set up your own ecommerce store through Shopify or WooCommerce, but be prepared with a marketing plan to drive traffic to it.
Online jewelry businesses will look very different based on the type of jewelry being sold. It’s not too hard to source fashion jewelry items from overseas, and then sell them at a markup on Amazon or eBay. Note, however, that because this isn’t difficult, there are a lot of people doing it. So plan to put your own flair or branding on your fashion jewelry business to stand out.
As with nearly everything handmade, Etsy will be the go-to spot for handmade or customizable jewelry. Choosing items like hand-stamped letter charms or photo jewelry will make for a very scalable business. You can also sell jewelry-making items, such as clasps, wire or beads.
If you’re sourcing vintage or high-end pieces from estate sales, choose a selling platform that’s specific to this kind of jewelry, such as RubyLane.
Pro tip: Many Etsy sellers (and customers) are sick and tired of mass-produced items masquerading as handmade products, since Etsy makes minimal effort to police this aspect of the marketplace. To combat this problem (and appeal to customers who are truly looking for handmade goods), apply to get your shop listed on AcutallyHandmade.co. This directory showcases vetted Etsy stores run by actual artisans.
11. Lessons and Information
Internet courses are all the rage, and there are now over 180 million online learners gaining knowledge, skills and expertise with just a laptop or a phone. The best part about creating an online course is that while you profit from it every time your course sells, you only have to create the product once.
If you don’t think you have any special skills, think again. Some of the most popular courses online are super basic, such as how to improve communication skills, how to bake bread or how to train your dog.
While you can make a course to teach just about anything, some of the most popular courses on the web instruct students on a monetizable skill. Social media marketing, computer programming, starting a business, cryptocurrency investing and video editing are just some of the many skills that students are seeking in online courses.
A good way to start is by assessing the skills, talents and/or training you have as a result of your day job. If you’re a carpenter, can you teach a course on home repair or how to read blueprints? If you’re a teacher, consider creating a course in classroom management. Use what you already know to create a stream of passive income from an online course you can make once and sell again and again.
Best place to sell: Etsy or your own own website.
While it may seem stupidly simple to whip up a child’s shark-themed birthday invitation, not all customers have the inclination, time or know-how to make one themselves or can’t find what they’re looking for in stores, and are thus happy to fork over a few dollars to be able to print exactly what they need from the web.
Printable items like planning worksheets, wedding invitation templates, frameable typography art, budgeting templates and so on are great widgets to sell in an online business. Printables have a few distinct advantages: you can make the printable once and sell it over and over, and there is low overhead since the customers do the printing themselves.
Printables that are event-centric (think weddings, birthdays or Christmas items) sell well and are in regular demand. Etsy is a great marketplace for these. Many printable sellers also offer their products on their own blogs or websites. Another spin-off of this idea is to partner with bloggers that want to sell these items and want to outsource the creation process.
Learn more in our article on how to sell digital downloads on Etsy, which was written by one of our contributors who sells printable versions of her artwork on the platform.
13. Print-on-Demand Products
Print-on-demand companies have popped up like daisies, and it’s easy to see why: the appeal of running a POD business is strong — you just upload your design to be printed on a t-shirt, bag, coffee mug, sticker or whatever. The printing company takes care of the monetary transaction, the printing and the shipping.
YouTubers and other influencers may tout this as a “passive income” stream, but that’s not exactly true. The t-shirt market is fairly saturated, so in order to stand out, you have to have some knowledge of trending topics and pump out new designs to stay current. And in a veritable sea of catchy phrases on t-shirts, you have to generate traffic to your own offerings to get noticed. Think of print-on-demand as search engine optimization for t-shirts.
Veterans in the business say that a good strategy is to test out your t-shirts with a POD company, then partner with a local t-shirt shop to get higher-quality silk screening for the best-selling designs.
Special-release sneakers are often worth more than the retail price and can be easily flipped for a profit. To get your hands on these, you’ll have to snatch up much-awaited models on release day, use a bot to quickly purchase new items before they go out of stock (which is effective, but frowned upon among sneakerheads), and/or win drawings in Nike’s SNKRS app (or other similar apps).
SNKRS gives users a chance to reserve a pair of in-demand, limited-edition shoes. If you’re selected, you can buy the shoes at retail price, then resell them on the secondary market.
The two photos below show an actual sneaker flip carried out by one of The Way’s To Wealth’s editors: he bought the shoes for $225 and sold them minutes later for a net payout of $836, meaning a profit of over $600.
Here’s the original purchase:
And here’s the sale:
The best part of flipping sneakers is that there’s very little risk.
First, Nike has a generous return policy, allowing you to send back any unused shoes for a full refund no matter how long ago they were purchased. So if you buy something and can’t flip it, just return it.
Second, all three major sneaker marketplaces (eBay, StockX and GOAT) offer authentication services. This means that instead of shipping the item to the buyer, you ship it to the company, who verifies that the item is legit and then completes the transaction. This makes returns and scams almost non-existent.
Pro tip: Have game-worn sneakers? Check out our guide to selling unauthenticated sports memorabilia.
15. Stock Photos
For businesses that span the range of a humble blogger working out of a basement to international corporations, the need for stock images for websites, social media and other marketing materials has never been stronger. The stock photography market is projected to be worth $4.4 billion by 2025, and you can get your own slice of it with just a camera and some photo editing photography.
Selling stock photos can be a great way to make money online for those with some passion and talent in photography. You just upload your edited images, then you earn a royalty whenever the image is purchased. The most profitable area of focus is images that can be used in advertising, as 75% of all images sold are for commercial purposes.
The stock photo market is still consolidating, so there are a few dozen sites in the space competing for customers and photos to sell. Cast your net wide by posting on several different websites (as long as you opt for non-exclusive content), and earn cash from several sources.
Learn more in our guide on how to get paid to take pictures with your phone.
Demand and trends are super important if you want to sell toys. Unless you get a good after-Christmas clearance sale, it will be hard to sell the run-of-the-mill toys you get at big-box stores, as you’ll only be competing on price when you sell online.
The key to a successful toy business is to niche down. Find the sidekick or villain action figure instead of the hero. Pick up vintage, limited edition or collectible toys from second-hand markets, then resell them on Mercari or Facebook Marketplace. Dig for the specialty Lego pieces or mini-figs at the bottom of the Goodwill Outlet bin, make them into lots, and sell those lots on eBay.
However you do it, find what cannot be easily found for the fan who will pay handsomely for it.
The Best Things to Sell Online: Final Thoughts
Starting an online business is rarely a bad move. It opens up opportunities for passive income and can grow into a full-time gig with enough passion and drive.
Selling items online can be one of the best ways to flip money. The key to success is to concentrate on items that offer the best return for your time and effort. You can do this by putting out a small amount of effort for items that have a broad appeal, such as uploading stock photos or creating print-on-demand t-shirt designs.
Alternatively, you can spend more time and energy procuring items to sell that have a high potential for profit, such as antiques, sneakers or designer clothing. The online landscape is constantly shifting, so it’s vital to stay ahead of the trends in your niche.
Because there is so much competition online, the key is to stand out by offering something rare, different or exceptional. Not everyone may buy your banana cashew fudge or your ultra-rare Pokemon cards, but as long as you have a handful of raving fans, you can have a successful online business.