How to sell items online and make money in retirement

Piggy bank on calculator concept for saving, accounting, banking and business account(Getty Images/iStockphoto/BrianAJackson)

If you want some extra cash in retirement, you may be thinking about putting household goods up for sale. Among boomers, 33 percent mentioned they plan to sell items they don’t want anymore, according to a June 2018 survey from “Selling your stuff online — from old cellphones you’ve acquired over the years to that record collection collecting dust in your attic — has never been easier,” says David Kalt, CEO and founder of, an online marketplace for musical instruments.

You can find outlets to list secondhand items, including Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp. And if you are interested in selling handmade goods or crafts, sites like Etsy offer opportunities to display your wares.

Before you get started, it can be worthwhile to review your options and goals for selling online. Follow these guidelines to choose the right path to make sales and boost your retirement income.

[Read: 9 Benefits of Decluttering Your Home Before You Die.]

Think through first steps. If you are downsizing, look through your house to see what you are ready to get rid of. Then you’ll be able to set up a plan to sell those goods. If you want to create products, spend time at Etsy and research how to sell handmade goods.

When you first begin selling online, it can feel overwhelming. “There are many factors which are barriers to getting started,” says Greg Huntington, founder of True Joy Acoustics, who lives in the Cincinnati area and has been selling online since he retired early in 2008. These might include finding boxes and shipping materials, creating accounts online and figuring out how to get paid. When in doubt, reach out to others. “Networking is a key part of this,” Huntington says. If you know someone who has been selling online for a long time, ask for guidelines to get started. You might also find help from family members or a local community business center.

Know where to go. You often have the option of setting up shop on an existing marketplace, such as Facebook Marketplace or Amazon. “If you’re just selling a fixed number of things, it’s easier to sell on an existing marketplace,” says Gabriel Antonio, founder of ProfitPress. One of the advantages of using an existing marketplace is that traffic already comes to the site, which makes it easier to get your products in front of consumers. It is also usually simple to set up an account, get paid and gather reviews from customers.

However, for some products or a business venture, building your own site and selling from it might be another option. “If you’re going to be selling for a long time and want to build a brand, then you’re better off creating your own site and selling there,” Antonio says. Perhaps you want to offer consulting services and sell related products. You might decide to create a site through Shopify or WordPress. Keep in mind that building your own site will create the need to advertise. You’ll want to reach online shoppers, and you may have to add content to your site, reach out on social media or use online ads to build traffic.

Include detailed descriptions. Whether you set up shop on an existing marketplace or make your own site, you’ll want to fine-tune explanations for your goods. As you write descriptions, remember that shoppers often type phrases in search boxes to find what they want online. “You can make your item more ‘findable’ by providing as much detail as possible in the description,” Kalt says. Think of listing size measurements, such as how many inches long and wide an item is. Also describe the color, condition, what it can be used for and information on caring for it.

[See: 10 Ways to Make Extra Money in Retirement.]

Stand out from the rest. With so many people looking online every day, it can be daunting to think of attracting customers. “In reality, there are plenty of ways to differentiate yourself as a seller,” Kalt says. “Great photos and videos are a good place to start.” When taking pictures, include some close-ups to show interesting features. Consider adding a video that shows how to use the product as well.

Another way to help your item gather attention is to tell a story. This can be especially useful if the belonging has an interesting history. Mention where the item came from, how you used it and what the buyer can expect from it. “This works particularly well if you’re selling a vintage item, like art or an iconic guitar,” Kalt says.

Stay professional. Checking to make sure you have spelled words correctly and are using the correct grammar can give your descriptions a polished look. “Professional copy that mirrors what consumers see on retailers’ websites can go a long way,” Kalt says. “Steer clear of exclamation points, caps and hyperbole, as they can all make you look like a spammer.”

[See: 15 In-Demand Jobs for Seniors.]

Consider giving back. While selling items online can bring in additional income, you may find more ways to use the funds you bring in. Through some research, Huntington learned of an opportunity to donate instruments to music therapy programs in pediatric hospitals. He now uses proceeds from his online sales to contribute ukuleles to these programs. “The reward for me is emotional fulfillment, not monetary,” Huntington says.

More from U.S. News

Social Security Changes Coming in 2019

The Best Places to Retire in 2019

19 Part-Time Retirement Jobs That Pay Well

How to Sell Items Online and Make Money in Retirement originally appeared on

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up