You’ve read our Getting Started guide, and you’re ready to, well... get started. Awesome!
As I said previously, choosing a product to sell is going to be the most time-consuming part of getting started selling online. Unless you’re incredibly lucky, you can’t just grab something off the shelf, say “this looks good”, and post it online with any ounce of success.
Finding an ideal product is also going to take some experimenting. You shouldn’t get too attached to any one product until you know it’s going to do well.
With these points in mind, however, don’t make the mistake of spending too much time analysing potential products, and never actually putting them up and selling them! While finding a great product is your goal, you’ll never find that perfect product. Nothing about what we’re doing is perfect. Have a bias towards action!
The first thing you’ll want to do is create a list of 5-10 potential products you’re interested in selling that fit the bill. What bill, exactly? Check it against the list outlined below.
(By the way, there is a section with sample product ideas, if you want something to spark those creative juices. More on that later.)
A good product to sell online comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and niches. However, here are a few things most good products generally have in common:
You should try to cater to consumer passions for the easiest level of success, because it’s much easier to sell someone something they’re passionate about than a generic product (i.e. instead of going after “dog lovers”, dig deeper and sell specifically to “corgi lovers” or “pug lovers”). Also, the deeper into a niche you go, the less competition you will have.
You want a passion audience, but it has to be a large passion audience. I’m not sure there are enough people in the world who love worms to be able to sell to that “passion”, for example. (Not sure who loves worms, but hey, you never know, right?)
Low cost items are easier to sell, and less risky for you. If something breaks or gets lost while shipping, or if a customer demands a refund, you're much less likely to be crying into your milk when it's a $20 product compared to a $600 product.
While low-cost is great, keep in mind that you still want to make a decent amount of profit per item. Regardless of how much your product costs, you still need to spend time purchasing it, listing it, dealing with customers, packaging it and shipping it. You need to make sure that you're earning enough to make all that work worth it!
I find $10 - $150 to be a good range to aim for.
The smaller and more lightweight your product, the easier time you will have shipping it when you make a sale. Good luck selling something like washing machines. Washing machine replacement parts on the other hand…
That said, there can be good money in selling large, awkward, “pain in the rump” items that no other seller wants to bother with, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that when you’re just starting out.
Obviously if there are a lot of people selling the same product as you, it’s going to be harder to make sales.
Lots of competitors will mean a price war where everyone tries to have the lowest price — a “race to the bottom” which will kill your profits.
Try to find product niches with less than 5-10 competitors (the fewer the better) — just be sure those competitors aren’t large brand name competitors. (This is because large companies will have massive buying power and will be able to get items at a much cheaper rate. They will pretty much always be able to undercut you on price, so it’ll be a lot harder for you to compete.)
The basic concept of retail is “buy low, sell high”. If something can be purchased at a low price, but can be perceived as having higher value (like jewelry, hint hint), you’ll be able to make more money off of it.
Of course this won’t always be easy, but if you can find something that fits this category you may strike gold.
You are going to have more costs than just the purchase price of your products. You’re also going to have shipping costs, marketing costs, eBay or Amazon’s cut of your sale, and other costs you didn’t even realize you had.
Make sure you’re getting a healthy profit margin (that's what's left over when you subtract all your expenses from the final selling price) of at least 50-100%, if not higher.
(Unless you’re dropshipping, in which case a 50% profit margin is pretty good.)
For example, if you have an item that you can buy for $5, you’ll want to be able to sell it for $7.50-$10. Even that doesn’t leave you with a lot of wiggle room - I’d rather be able to sell that same $5 item for $15-$20. That’s why you should look for items with a high perceived value (like jewelry) as you’re able to charge more. To see how to calculate your profit margin, go to the “Do your calculations” section below.
Down the road, you may want to work with your manufacturer to create an entirely new product unique to your store and brand. This is a more advanced tactic, but is something to think about when you first start looking!
Think you've found something that fits our criteria above? Not so fast.
While some products may fit into one (or more) of the categories above, they still might not be good to sell. Here are some kinds of products we really don't recommend you sell (at least not when you're starting out):
This is an understandable mistake to make. It's easy to think that because brand stuff is expensive, it'll make you a lot of money. Right?
Errr... probably not.
Name brand products are usually a bad choice, mostly because:
If you really want to sell designer goods (which many people do), you still can. I say they’re usually not a good choice because they’re simply more difficult to work with than other, less-well-known products.
Bad idea. Selling fake brand-name goods is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Selling copyright-infringing goods is forbidden on eBay and other platforms, and you run the risk of having your account suspended (at the very least). Not to mention what might happen at the border if you're trying to import fake goods — You could lose your entire shipment. Ouch!
There are plenty of suppliers out there who sell “designer goods” at dirt cheap prices, so always remember — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If you’re unsure, you can contact the manufacturer of the product and ask if the supplier you’re talking to is legitimate. The manufacturer should be able to tell you. If it’s not legit, don’t risk it. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
Before you start shouting at me — hear me out.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever sell electronics. I'm just saying that (as a beginner) they might be more trouble than they're worth.
Anything with moving parts is going to have a risk of breaking during the shipment process.
And even if shipping goes smoothly, it’s still inevitable that a certain portion of the goods you sell will have manufacturer defects of some kind, and you’ll end up needing to deal with returns and refunds (and potentially negative feedback).
Compare this to a product like, say, wooden spoons: There isn’t much that can go wrong with a wooden spoon!
I'm simply saying that when you're first getting started selling online, the less risk you can take on, the better. Electronics can be risky.
First up, a clarification: Selling liquidated goods can be great. But what's less great is trying to build a business around selling them. Liquidation sales are pretty random, and it's difficult to know what exactly you're going to get.
You shouldn’t expect that if you find a great product at a liquidation sale, you’ll always be able to find a regular supplier for that product, at the same price.
And you shouldn't expect that you'll always be able to find great deals at liquidation sales.
Basically, it's too hard to be consistent. And consistency is key in business — particularly if you're trying to earn repeat customers. The very nature of liquidation sales means they’re not a consistent source of things to sell
Also, if the stuff was in a liquidation sale, it might be there for a reason. Maybe no one wants it. That’s a risk you take when buying it.
You might go on Amazon or eBay and see tons of people trying to sell certain products. While that probably means it’s a popular product, it doesn’t mean you should try to sell it.
The reason is pretty obvious: You see all those people selling that product? They’ll become your competition. Lots and lots of competition.That competition is likely going to push you out really quickly.
If you do jump in and start selling a competitive product, what you’ll probably find is that, the fierce competition will drive the price so low that only those with a large amount of capital (business speak for money) are going to be able to stay in the game, because:
Instead I recommend you do a little research and find yourself a niche product where the competition is less fierce.
I didn't want to lump this in with the list of "THINGS YOU SHOULDN'T SELL" because it felt a bit too much like popping all the balloons at a 5-year-old's birthday party. So here we are, in a little shaded box instead.
First, let's be clear: It's 100% OK to sell products you're passionate about. If you love fishing you can absolutely sell fishing gear! Love little tiny furniture for doll houses? Get on it!
Just don't let your passion cloud your judgement.
Just because you love this thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good product for you to sell.
Likewise, don’t assume that you need to be passionate about a product in order to successfully sell it. (I’m a guy and I've made some decent coin selling women's jewelry — and that's hardly something I'm passionate about!)
Always, always do your research first.
Now that you understand what to look for (and what not to look for), it’s time to actually start looking!
There are a lot of ways to find product ideas. You can do some searching online, search your house, ask friends or even strangers, or even just keep a sharp eye out during your daily routines.
Google has a range of tools that give you a peek into search trends around the internet. You can use these trends to get ideas for product niches, and to see what's popular at the moment.
One way to find products is by using Google’s autosuggest feature. This is a great way to crawl inside the collective mind of the internet, since Google will offer to “finish your sentence” with popular things people have searched for in the past.
For example, when I type in “toys for cats”, Google gives me some suggestions:
This tells me that these are common things people search for, and they could be great little “niche” ideas for me to explore. If I could find an awesome toy for cats that like to chew, I might find that I have quite a significant market to sell to.
Keep in mind that what I’m doing here is looking for a kind of product to sell, rather than a specific make and model of product.
I’m also not suggesting that you’re eventually going to be marketing your products in Google: We’re just using Google as a tool to see what’s popular. If something is popular in Google, there’s a good chance it will also be popular on eBay, Amazon, or wherever else you plan to sell.
Google also have another tool you can use to see what’s popular…
Google’s Keyword Planner is great for finding hot products. It’s technically a tool for advertisers who are using Google’s Adwords platform (those ads that appear at the top of the search results when you use Google) but it’s a great little tool for us too.
It lets us see a few things:
By using Google’s keyword planner, you might get ideas for products and niches that you might not have thought of yourself. You’ll also be able to tell how popular they are, and you can use the competition rating as a hack-job way of seeing how profitable this kind of product might be.
All you need to get started with the keyword planner is a Google Adwords account. (This is free to create, but does require you to enter a valid credit card — even if you don’t actually want to advertise with Google.)
Completing the Google Tool Trifecta is their “trend” search. Basically, Google will show you how often a word or phrase has been searched over time.
You can use it to see if a product is seasonal (big variations at different times of the year), or if there’s growing/declining interest in a product (over the course of many years).
Back to our cat toys example:
Google trends tell us that the biggest interest in cat toys occurs in December. Yes — cats get Christmas presents too. This could mean that interest in cat toys is largely seasonal, and you might not make quite as much during the remainder of the year.
Consumer product review sites can be a great way to find good ideas for hot products to sell. These sites show you a lot of really unique and interesting stuff that people want. While some of the items (like vehicles) obviously aren’t much help, if you dig around you can find niche products that you might be able to sell yourself, like these awesome concrete writing tools!
Here’s a list of some of the best consumer review sites:
Just go to one of these sites and start browsing around. See if anything catches your eye. Try to check them against the “What makes a good product” list outlined above to make your life easier, but feel free to add things that don’t just to get your creative juices flowing.
One of the more obvious ways to come up with ideas for products to sell is to look at what’s already selling. While a lot of these products may already have too much competition, it’s a great way to generate ideas and find unfulfilled niches.
AliExpress is one of the world’s largest marketplaces. They’re mainly meant to be a sort of supplier directory, but anyone can buy off of them.
They have a “popular products” section that will show you what’s selling right now. It’s split into a “weekly bestsellers” and a “hot products” section. Check these out to see what people are buying and get some ideas.
eBay has an awesome feature called watch count which tells you how many people have “watched” a particular product, and how many sales of that item the seller has already made.
Staying true to the cat toy example, here’s what comes up:
Notice that this seller has already sold 3,799 of these pet houses, which means it’s pretty popular and is selling well. It could be a potential product for you to consider (assuming it meets most of the criteria above!)
When you use Watch Count you’ll see a lot of listings for the same product, sold by different vendors. The pictures might be slightly different, but they are likely the exact same product. This could mean the product is selling well — but be wary if too many sellers are selling it. Remember; you want low competition!
If you want to see how long it took a seller to get all those sales, go to the product page and click on the “X sold” next to the number available.
It will show you sales over the past few months, so you can see how quickly these products are selling. A seller might have sold 30 items, but there’s a big difference between selling 30 items in a month, and selling 30 items over three years.
Try it out with your own product ideas. Look for items with a high number of recent sales. You can even search for something generic like “Jewelry” and just see what comes up. You’ll find some things you probably never thought of!
Just like AliExpress’s popular products, you can also see what’s selling well on Amazon.
You should pay close attention to two things when looking at products in Amazon — the product’s best seller rank (BSR) and the competition.
Finally we have Etsy’s trending items. This option gives you less control over what you’re going to get because there are no search parameters to limit what you’re seeing, and Etsy is mostly handcrafted or vintage goods.
However, you can still use it to see what people want, and to come up with product ideas. You just might have to be a little more creative in how to find a supplier for that product.
SaleHoo’s Market Research Lab uses AliExpress, Watch Count, and Amazon Best Sellers to show you which products are currently selling well in a bunch of different categories — so it's a fantastic place to get ideas and spot trends.
The tool also shows you how tough the competition is for a product, and you can filter your search to only show you items with low competition — which makes things a lot easier.
Your everyday life is full of products. I’ll bet you can look around right now from wherever you’re reading this and spot tons of stuff that was sold (or could be sold) online.
Think about what you use on a daily basis. Stuff you love and couldn’t live without. It doesn’t even have to be extravagant - maybe an electronic toothbrush or an awesome travel mug you found in a random shop. Add these ideas to your list.
Look around your workplace, your friends’ and family’s homes (without creeping too much), and in the stores you go to. What might sell well online? Write it down.
Ask them, “What products could you not live without? What are you passionate about? What’s your favorite product you randomly found that’s unusual or unique?”
Just a tip: You may not even want to tell them why you’re asking. I have friends and family with good intentions, but zero business experience. I had an uncle who was certain that chocolate dipped Doritos were the future, and was constantly suggesting that I sell them.
So, avoid telling them what you're actually asking the question for, so that their replies aren't tainted by well-meaning business advice. (Although then you run the risk of them thinking you're researching Christmas presents.)
By now you should have a pretty good list of 5-10 potential products. But how do you know which of these products are good, and which are going to flop?
It’s going to be hard to say for sure without actually giving it a try, but here are some ways to do an initial “check” to make sure you’re going in the right direction.
You can use Google trends to find a product - but you can also use it to check if a product you’ve already found is popular. If you didn’t use this method to find your product, go back and type it in to see if it gets a lot of searches.
For example, if I want to sell pug necklaces, I would look for the exact term “pug necklace”, “pug necklaces”, “dog necklace”, etc. Just type various keywords similar to the exact product name.
You want to see at least a few thousand searches per month of the general phrases that describe your item.
If it’s selling on other channels, like eBay or Amazon, it’s probably sellable. Just check it against Watch Count for eBay and see what the best seller rating is on Amazon, as shown above.
One lesser-known way of seeing the demand of products is through the Facebook search bar. You can go to Facebook and type in something like “cat toy”, and (while you’ll have to search through a lot of crap), you might find a ton of cat toys being posted that are getting a lot of engagement.
If you see hundreds or thousands of likes, shares, and comments, that’s a good sign.
Look on these Amazon and eBay to see how many competitors are selling your product. (Or use a tool like SaleHoo’s Market Research Lab to gauge competition.)
Remember, you want to avoid fighting the big brand names.
Again, check eBay and Amazon to see what how much the product typically sells for.
First of all: see if you can find a supplier for this product. (See our section on “finding a supplier” for how this works.) Once you’ve found a supplier, see how much this kind of product costs to buy wholesale. Is it less than what it typically sells for? That’s a good start!
You can do this by going to Amazon or eBay and seeing what other people are charging - however this may be an inaccurate representation as they might be free shipping or charge something totally different.
The better way is to find out the size and weight of your product, either by looking it up or asking the manufacturer, then typing those dimensions in a shipping calculator. Keep in mind your shipping prices may vary slightly depending on which carrier you use and if you can work out a deal with them.
Depending on which marketplace you’re thinking of using, you may have additional “success” fees to pay: Usually a percentage of your sale price. See what these would be for the price you were thinking of charging. There are a number of fee calculators you can use to work this out.
Don’t forget that if you’re buying a bulk load of goods, there will probably be a few additional charges: Shipping, insurance, import duty, etc. Work out how much this might cost you per item too.
Take the amount that you think you can charge for this product, and subtract the cost price (from the supplier), and any fees / costs / shipping that you might need to cover. This leaves you with your profit.
Do you actually stand to make a profit? Good!
How much is that profit? Is it worth the time and effort you’re going to put into selling this item? Remember that I recommend at least a 50% profit margin. (So if the cost of selling the item is $50 all up, you want to be making at least $25 in profit; i.e. list it at $75.)
If everything looks in order, you may have found your product!
Are you completely stumped? With so many options, it can be overwhelming to even take the first step of putting together a list. Here are some niches you might want to look into: they have a lot of products that tend to sell consistently well.
Just keep in mind: while these are good starting points, you’re always going to be better off finding your own little “niche”. It doesn’t have to be a huge market for you to make good money. Do your research!
This is a niche with tons of competition that you actually can sell! Everyone wears t-shirts, you can never have too many, and you can customize them so you have unique products for your brand. This is a great niche — especially for the beginner.
How to find a t-shirt design:
This isn’t an extensive list, but they are great places to start looking. You can also design a shirt yourself, if you know how. Something like Gimp or Photoshop would work well if you’re feeling ambitious and can figure out how to use them.
Once you’ve found or created an awesome design, you have to send it to your supplier to have them print it on your shirt for you. T-shirts also make a great dropshipping business if you partner with a supplier like Printful or Teespring.
Along the same lines as t-shirts, anything else that can be printed on and allows people to show off their personality will be a good first product to sell. In fact, they make excellent additions to the t-shirts - you can upsell them: “Love this design? Get it on a mug, too!”
Skin care products can make an excellent choice if done right. While you need to be careful of government requirements in your country/state, you can create a great brand around them.
I actually found this product using Salehoo’s Market Research Lab, as I outlined in the previous section. Basically I searched for low competition products in the $10-100 range, and just browsed around.
As I alluded to a few times throughout the article, jewelry can be a great product to sell online. It is relatively inexpensive to buy, has a high perceived value, is lightweight and easy to ship, and can easily cater to a specific, but passionate niche (like “pug necklaces”).
Fitness equipment, like yoga mats, towels, and stretch bands are really hot right now. Just consider avoiding weights and any heavy equipment, as they will increase your shipping cost substantially. (But again, do the math!)
Outdoor lovers are a great niche to target. Small 2 or 3 person tents, sun shades, and day tents all make great products as long as you stick to the lighter products. Also things like outdoor cooking gear, rugged utensils and plates, crank-charge radios, etc. There’s a significant “survivalist” market out there that you might want to tap into.
Screens, chargers, cases, mounts, stands, and even batteries (if you can find the right ones) can be a great starting point for you. Just remember to tread carefully with anything that can malfunction.
Rockers, carriers, and nursing pillows can all be great to sell online. Bottles, photo albums, or clothes can work as well. Again, do your research before picking something and selling it!
Matcha powder and paleo bars have been huge sellers in the past. Of course, you have to be extra careful with consumables because people can get sick off an expired product or allergy, and that could get you sued. However, these products have also made people a lot of money.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what kinds of products sell well and are easy to start with, and where to find them.
The process of finding a product is definitely the most time-consuming part of getting your new shop started, but once you’ve found a good product, the rest is fairly easy in comparison.
Once you’ve found your products and you’re ready to start on the next step of finding a supplier, head over to the “Finding a Supplier” section of this guide!