Can anything be sold on the Internet?

I’ve heard time and time again from many different people their belief that they don’t have anything that could be sold online. When I hear that, I feel a challenge to find out what they are good at and to prove to them that there is something they can sell.

Just like the saying that ‘everyone has a book in them’, I believe that everyone has something they can sell online.

I think it’s fair to say that everyone has a passion, even if it’s watching TV, there’s going to be a way to monetise that passion. It’s just that you haven’t found a mechanism or format to present your passion yet, so you don’t think you could make money from it.

People make money selling the craziest things online, from dog training videos to candle wicks.

What is that thing you love doing, that you know you could show or teach someone else how to do it? I’m sure there is something you’re great at, even if it’s just one thing like making Cornish pasties, which has already been done by the way.

Everything starts with just one simple idea and then it expands. Whoever thought something as simple as a doughnut could become a global business in the brands of Krispy Kremes and Dunkin Doughnuts?

If you’ve come up with a solution to a problem, then the question you need to ask is whether people would be willing to pay for the solution; if you think not, then ask yourself, what else could you add to the solution to make it more valuable so that people would pay for it?

There are multiple ways to view a problem so the question isn’t about the solution, it’s about how the solution is presented. Take for example lettuce. Market research shows that there is a percentage of people who lack time to prepare food and instead of buying a whole lettuce and chopping it, they’d prefer to buy ready chopped and now even ready washed lettuce.

Imagine if that chopped lettuce was sold to you in a bunch that you just grabbed and threw into a bag, which you had to weigh to get the price. That’s not as appealing as the clear plastic wrapping with all the details printed and ready to go. The way it is presented now in supermarket shelves makes it higher value. That’s all down to presentation, after all, the lettuce is the same.

In fact, the very act of presenting the lettuce well gives it even more value. The same quantity of chopped lettuce would be half the price if purchase whole.

Say your passion was in kites and flying kites, you might consider becoming a kite retailer, kite flying teacher or perhaps you could specialise in custom kite designs. There are many different angles to approach an industry.

One great way to determine what people want is to visit forums of that topic and run polls and surveys to find out what their needs are. You’ll get lots of great feedback and probably clearer ideas on how you could monetise your passion.

What’s more and more evident and I’m seeing example on a daily basis, is that anything can be sold online. I really do mean anything at all.

Just last week I ordered a genuine hand held lime press, the ones coming from Mexico, industrial standard. 10 years ago you couldn’t find one of these in any shop on the high street.

What the internet has done, is made it easy to identify micro-niches within larger markets, and give access to sellers globally to these micro niches, such that it becomes viable to sell more focused solutions to more focused problems.

Just to wrap up this article, here’s a list of ideas which people said wouldn’t work online, and their net worth now:

  • Selling women’s shoes – Zappos – worth $1.6 billion in 2010
  • Sharing photos – who would want to share their photos right? Flickr sold to Yahoo for $35 million in 2005.
  • Sharing videos – YouTube – sold to Google for $1.65 billion in 2006
  • Personal ads online – Craigslist – estimated $150 million
  • Free online dating personals – PlentyofFish – privately owned, estimated $10 million revenues per year.
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Since graduating from Leeds University in 1997, Eddie Yu has been involved in various Entrepreneurial activities throughout his career, and eventually having built up a part time business between 2001-2003, he went full time in 2004 with Lady Luck Media. Before then, he has worked for British Aerospace, FNX and Derivatech, where he consulted for top tier banks such as Bank of America, ABM Amro and Bank of China. Eddie firmly believes that with social entrepreneurship and technological advancements we can create a world without offices and impact climate change for the betterment of our planet.