How to Set Up a Shop to Sell Goods on the Internet

By John R. Levine, Margaret Levine Young

Selling stuff on the Internet used to take hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of software and programming talent. A number of sites now let you create web stores for modest fees. Here are a few:

  • Amazon.com Marketplace is easy to set up. Sign in with an Amazon.com account (the same account you use if you buy books or other items on the site), click Your Account, and click Your Seller Account to find out how to set up a seller account. Or, search Amazon.com for the item you want to sell and click the Sell Yours Here button. The site even processes credit card sales for you, eliminating what was once a horrible pain in the neck.

  • eBay.com Stores enables you to sell items in auctions (for which eBay is famous) or at fixed prices (using the Buy It Now option). Your store can have its own name and logo, and items in your store show up when people search eBay for merchandise.

  • Craigslist is a huge online local classified ads site. You can list almost anything for sale. The site has separate sections for every major city and every U.S. state and they strongly encourage people to meet in person for the transaction; if your browser displays the wrong site, click links in the right-hand column to find the site for your area.

  • Etsy lets you sell crafts, including clothing, jewelry, ceramics, and anything else you can make by hand.

  • Yahoo lets you create a storefront for a monthly fee.

To set up a store, you sign up for a free account at the website and then click the link to create the store. You provide information about the items you sell, including descriptions, prices, and shipping costs. On eBay, you’re usually paid by PayPal; on Craigslist, buyer and seller usually meet in person and pay in cash or with a local check; for everyone else, the site typically accepts credit cards and deposits your share to your own bank account.

If you don’t want to set up a whole store, you can still sell individual items either on consignment at sites such as Half.com or at auction at sites such as eBay.com. eBay owns Half.com, so when you set up an account to buy or sell items on one, you’re ready to buy or sell on the other, too.

To sell an item on Half.com (or any other consignment site), first find the item you want to sell. Half specializes in books, movies, and music, and it has almost everything in print in its database. When you find your item, click the Sell My Copy link, specify the condition of the item, add a description, and state your asking price.

When you click the List Item link, your listing goes into the Half.com database and appears on the site within an hour. When you sell your item — which can be minutes, hours, or months later — Half.com keeps a commission.

Selling an item on eBay is similar for books, CDs, and DVDs, but for other items it can be a little more complicated. You write a description for the item and take or scan a digital picture of it. Start at ebay.com, click the Sell tab or link, and follow the directions.

Auctions can last as long as seven days, or you can set up a fixed-price offer with no end date. eBay charges you a listing fee, although if your item doesn’t sell, you can usually relist it (try again, perhaps with a lower starting price) for free. Click Customer Support in the upper-right corner of any eBay page, and then click Selling & Seller Fees for instructions and hints for selling.

Search completed eBay listings to get ideas for effective titles and descriptions, along with prices at which similar items have sold. And be sure to include a good photo of the item. For most of these sites, you need a PayPal account to accept payments.