Beginners Guide to Selling Online

Selling online is my success story! When my husband and I first started selling on the Internet, I looked at the fact that my husband was good at woodworking and he had a passion for it. I had extensive knowledge of how to use the Internet for business since in my spare time I would spend it learning everything I could about the Internet. My creative juices begin to go into overdrive as I thought about his skills and my knowledge of the Internet.

To make a long story short we started out in the business offering our very own unique designs of unfinished wooden products. The business did quite well and it took off quickly! One of our wooden boxes was featured on the Martha Steward Show way back when she was hosting a craft show on TV. Our Wooden Box business was also featured on an episode of Extreme Home Makeover! And the rest is history.

Benefits of Selling Online

Selling Online is one of the fastest-growing sources of mail-order sales. It’s estimated that e-commerce sales have been growing nine times faster than traditional in-store sales since 1998. According to The U.S. Census Bureau’s report on retail sales in the US, the total e-commerce sales for 2019 are estimated at over $600 billion dollars, in revenue and it is expected to continue growing! It is also one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin making money online.

Many consumers have turned to e-commerce as a matter of convenience or to increase the variety of goods available to them. Whatever the reason, retail e-commerce sales have skyrocketed and the Internet will undoubtedly continue to influence how consumers shop. With so much potential in the market, it’s the perfect time for entrepreneurs to get started selling products online. As the Internet has become ubiquitous, many retailers have created websites and even entire divisions devoted to fulfilling online orders.

What is exactly is e-commerce?

E-commerce is commercial transactions conducted electronically on the Internet. Before you dive right in there are some things you have to consider such as:

Is it a Hobby or A Business

According to the IRS.. it is not a hobby if you are buying and selling goods online with the intention of making a profit.  In other words, if you plan to sell your handmade items online in marketplaces such as Esty or eBay or on your own website with the intention of making a profit which most people are, then you are in Business!  You are therefore required to report your income to the IRS!  Starting a business online is no different than starting any other business when it comes down to the law. 

Do you plan to sell your products retail or wholesale ?

If you are in the business of selling products to the general public then you are a retailer. Wholesalers generally sell products business to resell the products. Companies operating as wholesalers are not required to collect sales tax but they must register with their State revenue office as a wholesaler. Depending on where you live it could vary as to whether or not you have register as a wholesaler. When in doubt check with your State revenue office and/or local county clerk’s office.

Applying For A Sales Tax Permit

As a retailer selling goods over the Internet you are expected to collect sales taxes on behalf of your State Revenue Office. You can apply for a sales tax permit with your State Revenue Office.

Your Sales Tax ID Will Serve Two Purposes:

  • The Sales Tax Id gives the seller of retail products the right or permission to collect sales taxes from their customers on behalf of the government. You are required to remit the sales tax to the state revenue office monthly or semi-annually depending on your state tax requirements.
  • The sales tax permit enables you to purchase products or supplies from a wholesaler and not have to pay sales tax, as long as the products or finished product is intended for resale to the general public.

How To Apply For A Sales Tax Id:

To apply for a sales tax id contact your State revenue office and request an application for a re-sellers certificate or seller’s permit.

Collecting Sales Tax

In the past, you only need to collect taxes on the money you collected from customers living in the State where your business(s) is located. The laws are constantly changing it is best to check with your state revenue office for more clarity on how to handle the collection of customer sales tax in the state where your business is located.

Communicating with customers

Customers like doing business with businesses that offer live customer service. It is a good idea to have a  phone line for your small business separate from your personal phone. When I first started my business way back when cell phones were not as popular as they are today and the cost of having two phones was out of the question. I used what was called an Identity ring. The identity ring allowed me to have an extra telephone number. When the phone rang it had a different ring from my primary number, therefore, I was able to tell when a business call was coming in. The cost was minimal and much cheaper than the cost of a business line.

PO Box Versus Using a Home Address

Setting up a small business Post Office box is very simple and the investment is minimal. A Post Office Box is like having a virtual office address. PO Boxes helps to increase a small business’s professional profile by providing postal addresses that are indistinguishable from larger competitors. 

Some other reasons to consider a PO Box are:

  • It does not expose your home address in your advertisements.
  • It protects incoming packages from theft,
  • It provides home business owners with anonymity on the Internet.
  • It eliminates the need for a change of business address if the business relocates.

Product Photography

It’s a scientific fact that product photography is an extremely effective tool when it comes to influencing the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and perceptions of the consumer.

Shipping Your Products

Once a customer purchases a product from your online store, you must determine the best way to ship the product to the customer and ways to cut shipping costs in the process.

Best Selling Products In Online Marketplaces

Thinking about selling in an online marketplace or planning to open your own online store, but not sure what to sell? Well, you are in luck some popular online marketplaces give you a window into what type of products are selling like hotcakes! Having an idea of what type of products have the potential to make money online, can give you an upfront advantage, and is well worth the research! Not only will it give you an idea of what is selling but can generate new ideas on what you could offer that would be similar yet unique!

Selling on eBay is one of the oldest and popular online auction and shopping website in which people and businesses buy and sell a broad variety of goods and services worldwide. Power-Sellers are among the most successful sellers on eBay in product sales and customer satisfaction. To qualify as an eBay power seller:

  • You have an account in good standing that’s been active for at least 90 days.
  • You must follow all eBay policies.
  • Maintain a positive feedback score of 98% or higher.
  • Have a minimum of 100 transactions and $3,000 in sales with US buyers over the past 12 months.
Seller Fees

eBay charges two main types of selling fees: an insertion fee when you create a listing, and a final value fee when your item sells. Insertion Fees: Also called listing fees, you get 50 free per month*, and beyond that, the fee for listing in most categories is just $0.35. (Some restrictions do apply.)

Final Value Fees: Also known as selling fees, they’re a percentage of an item’s total sale price. For most sellers, it’s 10% or lower! (Some restrictions do apply.)

Ebay Hot Selling Products

EBay top selling products..

Selling On Etsy

Etsy is a great place to sell your Handmade Items . Etsy is a peer-to-peer (P2P) e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items. These items cover a wide range, including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, food, bath and beauty products, quilts, knick-knacks, and toys.

Many sellers also sell craft supplies such as beads, wire and jewelry-making tools. Etsy has over 54 million users registered as members, and the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods connects millions of active sellers with millions of active buyers.

Seller Fees:

The site follows in the tradition of open craft fairs, giving sellers personal storefronts where they list their goods for a fee of US$0.20 per item for a four-month period and a 5% of sale value, which an Etsy seller pays for each completed transaction.

Etsy Hot Selling Products

Do your research before jumping into selling on Etsy to get a feel for what people are buying. To give you an idea of what is selling on Etsy check out their popular selling items list and top-selling products list. Alicia Shaffer claims to be the most successful or richest seller on Etsy according to the business insider.

Selling On Amazon

Sell on Amazon and reach millions of Amazon customers. Marketplace is Amazon fixed-price online marketplace that enables sellers to offer new and used items alongside Amazon’s regular offerings. Customers can buy those items directly from third-party sellers.

Seller Fees

Individuals and businesses can list products on Amazon. Sellers may sell their items using either an “Individual Account” or, for an additional monthly subscription fee, a “Professional Seller” account. Individual Accounts may add the “Pro Merchant Option,” but Professional Sellers are required to have the “Pro-Merchant Option.”

The “Pro Merchant Option” costs $39.99 per month; it eliminates the $0.99 per-item sales fee. Other sales fees are still charged. These consist of a percentage commission fee and a flat-rate closing fee.

If you plan to sell fewer than 40 items a month $0.99 per sale + other selling fees. Sellers pay a referral fee on each item sold. Items in several categories have a per-item minimum referral fee (i.e., sellers pay the greater of the referral fee or the per-item minimum referral fee). These prices are subject to change check Amazons detailed seller fees listing for more accurate information.

Amazon Best Sellers

For an idea of what people are buying in the Amazon Marketplace – check out amazon’s best sellers list of the most popular products based on sales. updated hourly.

Start A Drop Ship Business

How would you like to start a business selling online where you don’t have to buy or stock any merchandise? If this sounds like you then the drop-ship business maybe for you. This type of business can be run will little to no upfront money. Starting a drop shipping business is very easy, and you can run it from anywhere in the world, especially out of your own home.


The great thing about setting up a drop shipping business is you don’t need any special skills to start this type of business. All you really need is a person who is willing to dedicate their time to ensure that the business succeeds. It will also help to have a computer with Internet access.

A Drop Shipping Business brings together people who want to buy a particular product and companies that are selling it. YOU – As THE SELLER – sell the merchants products through your own online store, or. online marketplace or your social media channel. If you plan to sell in an online marketplace, make sure you are aware of their rules on drop shippers, many online marketplaces may not approve of the drop shipping method of selling products you don’t physically have.

How it Works:

Once someone purchases a drop-ship product from you, your job is to submit the order to the drop shipper.

The DROP SHIPPER ships the product white-labeled as if the products(s) came from your business. Be sure that white labeling of products is in your contract agreement to retain your customers.

Your Profit is the difference between the price you pay for the vendors’ product, which should be the wholesale price and the retail price you sold it to your customer for.

The first step is to find a dropshipping company you are satisfied with and create an account with them. Make it your business to form a good relationship with a prospective drop-shipper! It is important that you treat your business just like any other business.

Selling your drop ship products online follows the same methods you would use if you physically had the products. The only difference is you only need to sell the product and accept online payments.

Avoid A Scam

The first thing in starting a drop-ship business is to find reputable drop shippers and avoid a scam. Due to its increased popularity, it is important that you find a reputable drop-shipper for your business. Unfortunately, there have been many scams that have come to light in this particular industry.

This form of online business has become so easy to do, and because of its increased popularity, many prospective drop shipping businesses have become targets for the less reputable people online, such as scammers. Unfortunately, many people do not really understand what drop-shipping is about and only see it as a way of getting rich quickly. Because of this, there are plenty of people out there who are ready to exploit them. Thankfully Drop Ship Scammers are in the minority and not the majority, but none the less, you have to be careful, there are things you need to beware of to minimize the risk of scam.

Also, you should avoid the “turnkey” internet businesses which are willing to sell you a package of products,
e-commerce site, and marketing for an exorbitant membership fee or charge you a monthly fee. These types of businesses, you will soon find, do not actually help, but rather hinder, and you will soon find that you are not making any profit whatsoever, while they are.

Starting a Dropship Business

The minimum requirement for starting any drop shipping business online is that you have a business license. Avoid any company that doesn’t have these requirements at all costs. Unfortunately, most of the companies which are willing to do business with an illegal business will usually be middlemen, who then send your order through to the wholesale company, and will end up taking a cut of the profits that you are trying to make.

You will also need to get a valid re-sellers certificate. What the exact requirements are to obtain the certificate will vary from state to state.

How To Find Reputable Drop Shippers
  • Do Not Purchase Drop Ship Directories. Do not be fooled by those sites offering you a drop-ship directory for a fee. Unfortunately, these are normally copies of the more legitimate lists provided by reputable directories, and will often be out of date.     
  • You need to do plenty of research with regard to drop ship sources It is best if you avoid using search engines when doing this, as they will also offer up a list of the less reputable companies, as well as providing you with page upon page of links which are completely useless. If you do a Google Search on dropshipping you’ll find a ton of information but much of it is erroneous and even downright illegal scams. It can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not out there.
  • The best way to find a legitimate drop-shipping company is to do your due diligence and research. If you see a product you are interested in selling, contact the company producing it directly. Inquire if they have a dropshipping program/dept.
  • Ensure the drop shippers you find require a valid wholesale or resale certificate from you.
Important Steps to Running a Drop Ship Business

If you want to ensure that your drop-shipping business is profitable, there are a number of things you need to remember.

1. You need to find a product which will sell in sufficient quantities, as well as one which will provide you with a good mark up, in order for it to be truly profitable. Therefore, it is important that you try to determine what the demand for the product is, and also what competition, if any, there is for that particular product.

2. You need to take a look at what your competition is charging for the product you choose. You may find that some businesses will have much lower profit margins than others, including you.

3. It is best when first starting out selling products using drop-shipping, that you only sell a select few. And a good rule of thumb is to make sure that those products that you do select are related, or can be targeted and sold to the same market set.

It is important that you do not try to sell every drop-shipping product that you find, as this will help you concentrate more on marketing your goods, as well as keeping your own costs to a minimum. Plus, you are more likely to make an impact in the market place as well.

4. Avoid those people who are offering to sell you lists of drop-shippers for 100’s of dollars, unfortunately sometimes these are middlemen who are posing as drop-shippers themselves, and will then charge much more than you actually should be paying. Remember, the whole idea of using drop-shipping is to keep your costs down rather than raising them but also still be able to make a profit at the end of the day.

5. You will still need to deal with the problems associated with backorders and returns. Unfortunately, not all the hassles associated with running a normal retail business can be eliminated from a business that is run online.

Product Images

It is a known fact that product images equal higher conversion rates. For photos of your dropship products do not hesitate to ask the vendor for a copy of the product images to display in your ads. You can also ask for permission to make a copy of the ones on the vendor’s site.

There will be times when you find that a product your customer has ordered is not in stock, and so will not be available for dispatch immediately. Therefore, you will need to work out these matters with your drop-shipper ahead of any of these problems occurring. This will then provide you with answers that you can provide to your customer should such an event occur.

Final Tips:

1. Before you start selling any products through a drop shipping business, you should do as much research as you can.

2. Always select products that there are not thousands of them already selling on the internet, or that has very few people competing for the customers.

3. Ensure that the products you are supplying are of the best quality possible, and also provide the best customer service that you can.

4. If at all possible purchase test products you plan to sell to your customers. If you can not afford to purchase the product, search the Internet for a product review on the products you want to sell.

5. If any of your customers have a question, then make sure that you respond as quickly as possible and follow up afterward to ensure that they are satisfied with the information you provided to them.

Product Photography Tips

It’s a scientific fact that product photography is an extremely effective tool when it comes to influencing the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and perceptions of the consumer.

If you would like to produce professional-quality photographs but don’t have the time to learn the technical elements or money to buy the expensive equipment or software, here are some tips and links to free resources to help you get started.

Before taking any pictures find out if the supply vendor you purchased your products from has downloadable pictures of their products, that you can use to sell their products on your website.  It won’t hurt to ask, I have found that some vendors are more than happy to send you pictures of their products to sell, free of charge of course.

Product Photography  Tips:

1.) A well-ironed white sheet can provide a good backdrop, use a photo editing program to adjust the color balance. 

2.) A white poster board is inexpensive and flexible and also provides a perfect backdrop. Curve it up and prop it against a wall when you need a seamless surface below and behind an object, or lay it flat on a table when shooting a product from above.

3.) If you use a digital camera or a smartphone such as Android, iPhone, Tablet, iPad or consumer digital camera, make sure that the digital photographs are saved in a readable format such as a JPEG or PNG.

4) Use diffused light, and daylight if possible. Set up your shots outside on a bright but cloudy day, the clouds will scatter the sunlight, thereby eliminating harsh shadows. The same concept applies indoors. Under bright fixtures, try to diffuse the light in some way, for example by placing white fabric around your product (but outside of the shot). Using your white balance and ISO settings. will get the color as close to “real life” as you can, and produce the sharpest photo possible given your lighting environment.

5.) Make the most of your camera. Even inexpensive point-and-shoots have variable settings try not to use the flash unless you want undesirable bright spots or harsh shadows in your shot.

6.) Use your cameras macro mode for very small items it will help you capture even the smallest details, it is best to use a mini tripod when shooting in macro mode.

Internet Resources:

How to Make a Homemade Lightbox:


Tips On Shipping Your Products

In most cases, once a customer purchases a product from your online store, you must determine the best way to ship the product to them. Many small and new businesses choose the “do it yourself” (DIY) method when it comes to shipping and fulfillment. DIY tends to be more work, but it can save a business on costs and may make more sense for online sellers that have lower product inventory and shipment volumes. Myriad things must be considered when you have reached this step in the eCommerce process.

  • Pricing. Not surprisingly, the more your site users are charged for shipping, the less likely they are to want to purchase your product. Online “shopping cart abandonment” is often caused by unexpectedly high shipping prices. In a study done by United Parcel Service (UPS,) 55 percent of shoppers abandoned their shopping carts before purchasing because shipping and handling costs were too high.
  • Warehousing. You also need to consider where you will store your product. If you currently have a warehouse or storage facility you use for brick-and-mortar sales, then the same facility may work. However, keep in mind that B2B transactions often involve bulk quantities, so once you are involved in B2B eCommerce, (B2B e-commerce, short for business-to-business electronic commerce, is the sale of goods or services between businesses via an online sales portal.) you may need to expand your space or look for other options. Some municipalities prohibit the stocking up of large quantities of inventory in a home business. Check with your municipality.
  • Packaging. Another way to minimize shipping costs is to use the correct packaging. In general, smaller and lighter packaging is better, because shipments are most often paid for by size or weight. 
  • Tracking and Insuring. Major carriers include shipment tracking with their services. If you are shipping expensive items, bulk items, or items that can be easily damaged, you may want to offer shipping insurance as an option for the customer to purchase. Insurance is often offered by a third party, so make sure to do your research on the insurer and to inform the customer about the insurer. Major carriers also include some form of shipping insurance with their service as a guarantee.
  • Selecting a Carrier. You will also need to determine which carrier to use to ship your products. The major carriers used for eCommerce tend to be FedEx, UPS, and USPS.  Along with selecting a suitable carrier, you should be sure to include on your checkout page what carrier you are using and when the customer or business can expect the package.
  • Shipping Internationally. Tariffs, taxes, or duties may need to be paid for items to enter or leave a country. A good website to find accurate estimates on international duties and taxes is to contact your nearest U.S. Commercial Service office or U.S. Export Assistance Center to receive personal assistance from an international trade specialist. The customer or business that purchases the product will be responsible for paying those fees upon delivery, and it is a good idea to give customers notice of the fees, and include the proper forms and documents with the shipment to ensure that the shipment will clear customs in the destination country. 
How to Save On Shipping:

You can save on shipping and handling costs by using USPS Click-N-Ship, with click and ship you can pay, print the shipping label from your home or office printer. You can schedule a free pickup of your packages without leaving your home, order free priority shipping boxes and so much more visit USPS small business service to learn more.

With UPS you can setup an account with them and speak to an agent about their discount policy.

Prompt Delivery Rules

The Federal Trade Commission has rules and regulations which govern prompt delivery rules get familiar with them to make sure you are in compliance with the law.

Prompt Deliver Rules

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.

Enforced by the FTC, the Mail or Telephone Order Rule applies to orders placed by phone, fax, or the Internet. The FTC Merchant obligations rule spells out the ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumers’ money.

Your compliance can have bottom-line benefits for your company — that is, satisfied customers are repeat customers. Complying With The Rule By law, you must have a reasonable basis for stating that a product can be shipped within a certain time. If your advertising doesn’t clearly and prominently state the shipment period, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days.

Delayed Shipments:

If you can’t ship within the promised time (or within 30 days if you made no promise), you must notify the customer of the delay, provide a revised shipment date and explain his right to cancel and get a full and prompt refund.

For definite delays of up to 30 days, you may treat the customer’s silence as agreeing to the delay. But for longer or indefinite delays — and second and subsequent delays — you must get the customer’s written, electronic, or verbal consent to the delay.

If the customer doesn’t give you his okay, you must promptly refund all the money the customer paid you without being asked by the customer.

Running Late on a Shipment?

Running Late? Overwhelmed with Orders? The Rule gives you several ways to deal with an unexpected demand. You can change your shipment promises up to the point the consumer places the order if you reasonably believe that you can ship by the new date. The updated information overrides previous promises and reduces your need to send delay notices. Be sure to tell your customer the new shipment date before you take the order.

You must provide a delay option notice if you can’t ship within the originally promised time. The Rule lets you use a variety of ways to provide the notice, including e‑mail, fax, or phone. It’s a good idea to keep a record of what your notice states, when you provide it, and the customer’s response.

Canceling the Order

Finally, you have the right to cancel orders that you can’t fill in a timely manner, but you must promptly notify the customer of your decision and make a prompt refund.

Why You Should Purchase Your Resale Products Or Supplies Wholesale

As a retailer of general merchandise or handmade goods you are in the market to make a profit, I assume I am correct! As a craft artist selling handmade goods, buying your supplies from local retail craft stores might work out okay for a while, but to break it all down, buying wholesale means higher profit margins for you. The lower the price the higher the profit! That’s why you as a retailer need a wholesaler.

Who Are Retailers?

You are a retailer if you plan to sell products to the general public. Retailers are businesses that sell merchandise, (in small quantities) to the general public for personal or household consumption. In some cases, retailers sell merchandise to businesses and institutions. Retailers may operate stores, designed to attract a large number of walk-in customers or sell their goods online

The Wholesale Industry

Unlike retailers wholesalers sell products in bulk. The whole idea is wholesalers sell merchandise to other businesses below the retail price for the purposes of reselling the product or for other business purposes.

Wholesaling consists of manufacturers, the producer of a product. In general, a wholesaler is a middleman or distributor who sells to retailers, jobbers, other merchants, and industrial, commercial, and institutional and general consumers. Wholesalers may be sales branches maintained by manufacturing business, for the purpose of selling their products. They also may be agents or brokers who arrange for the purchase or sale of goods owned by others, often on a commission basis.

Importers are businesses that purchase products from manufacturers outside of their home country due to the lower cost of the products (who often sell to wholesalers). For example, an importer would be someone who purchases products in bulk from say China at low-cost prices and sells it to a wholesaler or direct to retailers.

Buying Wholesale

Retailers have higher profit margins when they purchase their products wholesale with the intention of reselling the product as-is or in a finished product such as raw materials. Craft supplies used to make a finished handmade product would be considered raw material.

Wholesalers are in the business to sell merchandise to other businesses at lower then the actually retail price the product sells to the general public for. The retailer’s profit is the difference between the wholesale price and the retail price.

Wholesale Purchase Requirements

A legitimate wholesaler will require your sales tax permit or business permit. Your sales tax permit will serve two purposes.

  1. It tells the wholesale you are legitimate business
  2. You don’t have to pay taxes or the products you buy for resale

You still may be required to show proof of your business license. Wholesalers normally require you to purchase products in bulk with the intention of selling directly to the consumer. By buying in bulk, you receive a significant discount (typically 50%) which allows you to make a decent profit when selling goods at the retail price.

Exclusive distributors: (manufacturers grant certain dealers exclusive territorial rights to sell their product). It is unlikely that a small retail business will be able to buy directly from a high-volume wholesaler or manufacturer.

There are, however, many smaller manufacturers and wholesale distributors who will sell and ship to small businesses. You will be required to provide a sales tax Id. There are many businesses that claim to be wholesalers but their prices tell another story. I call them discount retailers, a legitimate US wholesaler will require your business license or sales tax id information.

How Do You Find Wholesalers?

It is not always easy to find wholesalers since many of the wholesalers of the products you may need are often not found locally. You may want to start by checking your local directory for wholesalers, purchase a professional wholesale Industry specific directory or Trade magazine. Some wholesalers will advertise in trade magazines and/or participate in trade shows.

For maximum income potential, buying your resale products wholesale or below wholesale by importing them yourself, is the key to higher profit margins.