How to Sell Online: The Best Starting Point for Beginners in 2023

Every month about 7,000 people go to Google and search for “how to sell online”. This number is impressive in every way!

Since you are reading this, you are one of those people and you are here for answers!

In this resource, we’ll show you what selling online is all about, discuss the options you have, and show you how to start selling online in a way that’s easy to understand and most importantly, effective.

Here’s what’s to come:

Frequently asked questions about online sales

First, let’s cover some of the most common questions people usually have about selling online:

“How does it all work and do I need an ecommerce store or website?”

Ah, yes, the one question that dominates them all. In order not to get too deep into the process itself at this stage (that comes later), let’s just cover the basics:

First of all, selling online is, at its core, a simple concept. It’s all based on you having your products (or services) online somewhere and letting people buy those products (or services) right away.

Note that I say “somewhere online” and not “on your website”. As surprising as this may sound, a website is not required to sell online. All you need is to list your offer “somewhere” (e.g. on someone else’s website, a social media platform and, yes, your own website too) and then have the tools to people can buy that thing from you .

To be perfectly honest, an online store website certainly opens up more opportunities for you and allows you to reach a wider audience.

“Can I sell on social media?”

As we partially mentioned above, yes, you can sell products and services directly through your social media profiles.

For example, Facebook allows you to set up what they call a Load page and list your products for sale there. However, remember that Facebook specifically, many of its features are limited depending on the country you are in. It is similar with other social media platforms.

“What can I sell?”

To give you a short answer, you can sell anything you would like that. There really is no limit to what the web can “handle”.

You can offer physical products, digital downloads, services, event tickets, appointment bookings, subscriptions and more.

We actually have a whole guide on how to choose what to sell online. Check it out here

“How does it work to get paid online?”

The exact method by which you receive customer payments depends on how you set up your operations, what tools you use and what country you are in.

In most cases, a third party called a payment processor takes care of the technical aspects to ensure that payments are possible. In this model, the customer pays through the payment processor’s platform, and the payment processor then transfers the money to you.

“Can I process credit cards?”

Yes, all major payment processors support credit card payments. Your customers can pay with their preferred payment method.

“How much does it cost to sell online?”

Time for everyone’s favorite answer – it depends.

It depends on many factors. Firstly, are you going to set up your own online store website? If so, the cost of doing this can be quite high if you’re not willing to go the DIY route. More on the cost of an ecommerce site here.

Added to this are the costs of payment processing. In general, the industry standard fee is around 2.9% of the transaction amount + $0.30. This is for the US market. If you use international payment methods and processors, your fees may vary.

“Can I do all this by myself?”

This one is a complete success Yes indeed!

The great thing about today’s web tools is that they are designed to be used by anyone, even complete beginners.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that anyone can set up a working online store in minutes; but with a little tinkering, you can really set up a full-fledged online retail operation. This applies to selling on social media as well as building your own online store website.

How to sell online – the easiest way

There are a number of paths you can take as you begin your adventure in learning to sell online. As we said above, the most intuitive way for most people is to create a website for an online store.

While that’s not necessarily wrong, there are easier ways to sell online.

Let’s start with a general list and then discuss each one in a little more detail:

Let’s break these down one by one:

Building an online shop

This is the most obvious but also the most advanced way to sell online. With your own ecommerce store, you have full control over the platform, the way you present your products, the prices you charge and how the payments are processed.

At the same time, this is often the path that requires the highest upfront investment.

Luckily, there are platforms that make the whole process easier – even if you’re alone – like Shopify, WooCommerce, and others.

In most cases, owning your own online store is the final stage in building an online sales operation.

Your online store is a great operations center and you can connect all your other online sales channels to it.

We’ll talk more about how to build one later.

Sale via online marketplaces

Sites like Etsy and other similar platforms are great for reaching your first customers without having to invest directly in marketing.

The thing with Etsy is that people are already there and actively looking for things to buy.

The Etsy home page

Of course, Etsy is only a good choice if you sell specific items—usually handmade products. If you are interested in other things, you need to find another marketplace.

There are similar marketplaces for clothing, fashion items (Poshmark), decor (Ruby Lane), e-books, software, other digital products, etc.

Ruby Lane home page

Selling on social media

Selling through social media allows you to create a more personal relationship with the customer.

The idea is to build a social media presence (a company profile), gain followers, and then offer your products to those followers directly through the social media platform.

Whether or not you need an additional system to receive the orders, process them, and accept the payments depends on the specific social media platform you choose.

For example, with Facebook Shop Pages, you get pretty much everything in one place.

Sales through joint ventures

This type of online selling is all about partnering with other business owners and either paying them for access to their audience or trading something from you in return.

When you’re just starting out and learning how to sell online, running joint ventures can be difficult.

However, it’s certainly an option if you’re a little further afield and can offer your partners something of value in return – something they want.

joint venture.

Selling by email

A lot of people these days say they don’t read email. They lie.

Email is still one of the most effective ways to contact someone online, for both personal and business reasons.

The only downside to selling via email is that you need to have access to a list of email addresses in the first place. That is not always easy.

Ideally, you should build your own list – by offering a newsletter or adding your existing customers to your list right after they buy from you.

If you don’t have such a list, you can technically experiment with buying access to someone else’s email list, but you generally won’t get great results.

Selling through Google Ads or Facebook Ads

Using Google Ads or Facebook Ads to market your products is a very direct approach. Basically, you pay for exposure in people’s news feeds or Google results, and then you can direct your ad to your sales page.

Learning how to sell online with Facebook ads can be easy

Finding the right budget and margin can make or break your business.

At the same time, this is the fastest way to test a business idea. Basically, as soon as you launch your advertising campaign, people will flock to your sales page.


Dropshipping is when you act as an intermediary between the product supplier and the customer.

In other words, the customer buys something from you, but whatever they buy is actually shipped directly from the manufacturer to the customer (without ever touching your hands).

Dropshipping allows you to offer a huge catalog of products without ever having to worry about stocking. The earning potential per unit sold is usually lower with dropshipping, but sales volume can make up for this.

You can start dropshipping by visiting some of the popular dropshipping marketplaces e.g AliExpress and its alternatives.

Selling through Amazon

While Amazon is technically a marketplace, it’s unlike anything else. The sole fact that it is the largest e-commerce marketplace on the web gives it a unique position.

It's easy to sell online when you sign up with Amazon

There are a few ways you can sell on Amazon:

  • You can list your products on Amazon as normal. In this case, Amazon provides you with customers and you then have to fulfill all orders yourself.
  • You can also take part in the Fulfilled by Amazon (Fulfilled by Amazon) Program. This is where you send your products to Amazon, and Amazon then fulfills all orders for you.
  • Finally, you can enter into a contract with Amazon and agree to sell your products to Amazon at a certain price. Then Amazon sells the products on their platform and takes care of everything from start to finish.

Of course, each of these models has its own advantages and disadvantages and certain fees that you have to pay to Amazon.

Selling on eBay

Another online marketplace, but this one is more like the Wild West.

First of all, it is mostly auction based. So you never know what the final retail price of your product will be. There is also a more direct interaction with buyers.

However, if you have the right products, you can kill it on eBay! Just like Amazon, there are already tons of people looking for all sorts of things.

Sell ​​on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.

This is all about selling online but locally.

With this model, you post an ad on one of these sites and then you are contacted by people who mostly live in your area.

How to Sell Online with Facebook Marketplace

While you arrange the sale online, the actual exchange of money and goods takes place in real life.

This can still be a great way to sell online, especially if you’re selling large physical products like furniture or other types of things that people generally want to see in person before buying.

This summarizes the most viable ways of selling online. Wondering which of them is the easiest to start with?

That would be selling through social media. When push comes to shove, there’s no faster way to start selling while also getting a starting point for building an audience. We’ll cover the details later.

Decide what you want to sell

The great thing about selling online – and at the same time a curse – is that you can sell basically anything on the internet. There are no restrictions.

While this gives you complete freedom, it can also be intimidating to even get started as there are no clear indications as to which product is best to start with.

We’ve published an in-depth guide to deciding what to sell online here. However, if you are in a hurry and want a quick summary, here it is:

Start with your interests and passions

For most people, addressing your passions and interests is a good place to start.

The thing is, you just don’t want to get into some territory you don’t know anything about. If you start with your passions, at least you have a head start.

Find your passions.

Decide on the type of product you want to sell

I say product, but what you’re going to sell doesn’t have to be a product at all.

One of the first things that surprises people when they learn how to sell online is that not only can you sell all kinds of physical products, you can also sell things that aren’t so obvious.

To name just a few examples; Here’s what you can sell online:

  • digital downloads – such as eBooks, software, apps,
  • Services,
  • event tickets,
  • Appointment bookings – great solution for doctors, beauty salons etc.,
  • Music – yes, being on Spotify isn’t the only way to make money from your music,
  • Subscriptions – charge a monthly fee to access your products,
  • Access to Insider content – ​​this can be both as a one-time payment or as a subscription,
  • Restaurant table reservations – ideal for giving people the opportunity to choose their favorite table every time,
  • food delivery orders,
  • and more.

Research what is already being sold on the internet

No matter what you plan to sell, chances are someone is already selling something similar, or even just similar.

That is a good thing!

Take a close look at what’s out there on the market, what your competition is doing, and how they’re offering their products.

The presence of competition is always a good sign that the niche is alive and that there is money to be made.

Find out about other sellers.

Identify a problem that you can help others solve

People rarely buy things just for the sake of it.

Most purchases start with a problem at the core. “I don’t have any shoes for the upcoming wedding → I’ll go online and get a pair!” Or: “My website is having trouble ranking in Google → I’ll hire someone to help me solve the problem.”

Similarly, identify what problem you are solving with your offerings/products/services.

Brainstorm how best to sell your products

While you can choose your platform and preferred method of selling online based on “how you see things,” it may not be the best approach.

Depending on what you actually plan to sell, some methods of reaching your target market will be more effective than others.

Speaking of “target market”, identifying what that target market is should be your first task.


Identify your target market

First things first: “Anyone who breathes” is not a good target audience definition.

If you’re ever going to get your business off the ground, you need to make things a little more concise.

The first question to answer would be, “Who is the type of person who is buying the type of product I am selling?” And again, it’s nobody breathing.

Again, the best way to identify your target market is to look at what your competition is doing.

Finding an audience is a crucial step in learning to sell online.

Choose your #1 competitor – or the competitor you want to be most like.

Examine what they do online and what type of customers they are looking for.

You can do this by browsing their social media pages, subscribing to their newsletter, or reading their website. All of this gives you a picture of who they are targeting.

Is it a rather demanding type of customer or rather casual? Are these customers hanging out on Facebook or more on Instagram? Does the competitor mainly advertise expensive products or rather budget-friendly entry-level products?

All of this is a gold mine of information. After you’ve answered these and other questions you’ll come across along the way, you’ll have a good grasp of what’s going on and how best to engage with your customers.

Identify the most viable channels to sell online

Once again, this is about your competition and what they do to promote their products.

Go back to your research and this time make note of the main platforms your competitors have a presence on and how they sell on those platforms.

The idea here is to try to connect the dots.

While most stores will have a presence on multiple platforms, they may favor one of them over the others, or make one of them the de facto hub for everything else.

For example, a competitor might have their own e-commerce site and only treat Facebook or Instagram as platforms to promote their products and gain exposure. Another competitor might not even have a website, instead using their domain name to redirect to a Facebook Shop page.

It may take a while to figure out what works this way, but it will be time well spent!

The platforms and channels that are most effective for your competitors are usually the most effective, and with good reason.

For example, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that all of your competitors might be operating predominantly on Instagram, while instead you might want to launch a separate online store website because “you know better”.

Find a platform that works for you when selling online.

Do what your competitors are already doing. Try to spin it, or do better, but don’t reinvent the wheel, so to speak.

Choose your online selling method

Now it’s time to choose your online sales channel.

Just as a reminder, you generally have the following options:

  • Your own online shop.
  • online marketplaces.
  • social media sites.
  • joint venture.
  • E-mail.
  • Google Ads or Facebook Ads that link to a direct sales page.
  • Amazon.
  • eBay.
  • Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, other local marketplaces.

We have explained these one by one in this guide. Click here to return to this section.

Remember, it’s not about picking what you like best, it’s about picking what works in the niche – based on the market and competitor research you’ve previously done.

How to set up your online sale

As you might expect, this is the most technical step.

Depending on which way you have chosen – your preferred online sales channel – this step can take different amounts of time.

Going through the details step-by-step in this guide would easily double the scope. Instead, you’d be better off reading some of our other in-depth resources on each of the possible methods of building your online selling empire.

Read this if you want to learn:

In general, setting up your business on social media is the quickest way to get started. It’s also a solution that gives you access to an audience.

At the other end of the spectrum is building your own online store website. This way gives you 100% control over your ecommerce operation, you can configure everything the way you want and also expand it as your business grows.

What’s next?

At this stage you have learned how to sell online and where to take your first steps. Congratulations!

the just Once you have everything set up, all you have to do is promote your offers and get your first customers. This might be easier said than done, but with a little experimentation you will find out!

Here are some more guides from us to help and show you how to get your online sales off the ground:

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