One of the biggest reasons why people don’t try to make money online or run their own business is that they don’t have a product. This isn’t too surprising. After all, the time and money that goes into creating a product can be substantial and there is the risk that the product you make won’t even sell that well.
Oh yeah, and you need an idea of what to make!
So can make money selling other people’s products online? And if so, how? Selling products from other people sounds pretty cool, but, you have to find an approach that works and that gives you a good return for the time and money you put into the process.
Let's start a real business doing this stuff, not just a side hustle generating pocket change.
The Advantages of Selling Products Online
If you sell your own product online, then of course you're going to do it through a website. In some cases, you might use a third-party site like Clickbank or Etsy, which would host your listing and provide a lot of the functionality that you need. If your product was digital, your product could even get sold and distributed through that same site. You can also sell it through your own website using checkout plugins with WordPress, or a digital storefront like Shopify.
One outcome of selling digital products is that it becomes fairly easy to scale up your earnings. After all, the online environment means that you don’t have to interact with customers on a one-on-one basis, particularly if you are selling something that is going to be the same for each customer. Your website provides 99% of what the customer needs, and then you can just field the odd question or request here or there.
At the same time, selling online gives you the potential to reach a large audience of people — many more than you could hope to reach if you were physically selling products. This is a major advantage and it’s another reason that you can make so much money with way less effort than traditional business models. The days of door to door salesmen is over!
Personally, I find that the ability to quickly scale is one of the most powerful things about online business. Making more money and using less time was vitally important to reaching my goal relaxing over a cup of coffee (code for enjoying free time).
To a degree, your profits are still tied to the amount of effort you put in but this is a much looser connection than you normally find with a 9-5 job. In other words, you still gotta work to build an online business, no matter what you sell.
So, there is a clear advantage to selling online, but as I asked earlier, what do we do if you don't actually have anything to sell?
Let's dig into a few different ways to make money online selling other people’s products.
4 Ways To Sell Other People's Products Online
1. White Label and PLR Products
Most of the time, when you sell somebody else’s product, you sell it as-is, with their brand in place and you don’t tend to make any changes to the product. But, this isn’t the case in all situations. Instead, some products specifically give you the right to rebrand and even to dramatically alter the product.
The two most common types of this are white label rights and PLR (which stands for Private Label Rights), although I have also seen other options, like rebranding rights, although that tends to mean something similar to white label rights. Most of the time, these license terms refer to digital products, because making changes to the product’s branding or even its content can be fairly simple.
The first of these approaches, white label rights, means that you have the right to change the branding – but nothing else. Essentially, you can imagine that you have a box of cereal with a white label and you have the ability to put whatever you like on that label. In some cases, you may be able to claim that the product was something that you created but in other cases, you may still have to reference the actual creator in some way.
I've seen this a lot in the supplement industry, where a company will sell general vitamin C, but you can resell it at “Immune System Booster”. Technically, it's the same thing, but a change of branding could increase sales. Normal vitamin C may sell for $5 a bottle, but once it's called “all natural, gluten free, cold prevention, immune system booster”, then it appears as if it has more value, and can be sold at $15/bottle.
On the other hand, PLR refers to products where you also have the right to change parts of the product. For example, if you bought a PLR eBook, you would be able to rewrite it, edit it and/or change the formatting, if you wanted to.
I've also seen this with American rye whiskey. The vast majority of rye whiskey is produced in Lawrenceberg Indiana, then resold to smaller companies. Those companies then age, flavor, or just bottle the general whiskey and sell it to customers. Many times, two completely different-looking types of rye whiskey can have the same origin. Simply passing the spirit through a charcoal filter could qualify as re-creating an old-timey grandfather's recipe, and thus a “craft whiskey” is born.
In essence, you get to make money from selling the product, while having to do relatively little work to create it. It’s easy to see how this could be profitable. Additionally, selling a PLR product means that you tend to have the ability to set the price and to make the product look high quality.
Theoretically, this type of approach can work for making money but it is much more difficult than it seems. One of the issues is that PLR products tend to be pretty low quality. For example, I’ve seen many PLR eBooks and content that is uninspiring and fairly obvious content. Typically, this means that you wouldn’t ever want to use PLR content as-is.
Additionally, there are always some people that do use PLR without making many changes. So, if you do something similar, it may be hard to make sales. This also means that you should never put PLR content up on your website as a blog post or something similar, as there are probably other sites that use the identical content.
This is also true for white label products. In this case, you are just rebranding a product that is probably already being sold on countless other sites. So, your potential to make a profit is fairly slim.
If the ‘truth' is kept secret, then all is good. But for more savvy customers, as in the case of the rye whiskey, people can get pissed off and feel ripped off. It may not be fair, especially if you spent time reworking the content/product, but just be aware that this is a potential backlash.
With things like content, I don't recommend you use PLR because it's not worth the time and you can just make your own or pay for your someone to write it very easily. With other things, like supplements or whiskey, it may not be as easy. Applying for license to distill your own spirits and sell them is not easy!
I also want to point out that the licensing requirements vary across products and companies. There is no standard definition for what you can do with PLR or white label products and each company is going to have their own rules. For example, some say that you cannot give the products away or use them in a members’ area. Others are completely fine with the product being given away as a freebie.
So, if you’re even considering using a PLR or white label product, make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully.
2. Drop Shipping
Another option for selling other people’s products is a process called drop shipping. This is often presented as a great way to make money because it appears to be pretty hands off. The concept is simple to explain, and the business model tends to fit into the “get rich without doing any work” narrative.
The key idea here is that you are selling products on your site but ordering them from a supplier. The products that you order are then delivered to your customer, meaning that you do not have to deal with inventory or much customer service. You make profit based on the difference between the price your customers pay and what you pay to the supplier.
You are essentially providing the service of a middle man – doing the marketing for the seller, and helping the customer find the best product for their needs.
One issue though is profit margins. Drop shipping is a fairly common approach, so there are many people looking for low prices. In fact, you’re probably competing against others trying to do the same thing as you and this makes it more difficult to get a decent profit margin. Most of the time you make big money by moving large numbers of products, rather than having a few big sales.
With drop shipping, you also have to deal with some customer service, especially if the customer gets a faulty product. This can be frustrating and also suggests that you should make sure that whatever product you sell is decent.
Bear in mind that there also aren’t that many companies out there that support drop shipping. Realistically, the approach isn’t that good for the supplier and many prefer to offer affiliate programs or sell products directly instead. The small number of companies makes it harder to find decent products to sell, especially as you need to find ones that are also profitable. I did some looking for drop shipping companies a few years ago, and what I found was a lot of junky “made in China” stuff.
Not all products are like this though, but searching “drop shipping companies” in Google didn't really turn up any obvious suppliers. I think it's going to take a lot more digging to find specific companies that can provide this service.
3. Amazon FBA
Another interesting approach for making money with other people’s products is something known as Amazon FBA. The term stands for Fulfillment by Amazon. Basically, the approach means that you send your product to Amazon and then they do the rest of the work, including packaging it and shipping it.
Amazon FBA does have its advantages, because it means you don’t have to worry about inventory or shipping products out. Likewise, Amazon provides the bulk of the customer service and that’s one less thing for you to bother with. These advantages mean that the method is promoted as a way of expanding your business without dramatically increasing your workload.
There are lots of courses online for how to do this, and a lot of people are having success with it. I spent over $1,000 last year purchasing and reviewing a variety of courses. The Top 2 that I found were Amazon Bootcamp and Proven Amazon Course.
This method is something that you might not only use for your own products or also for products that you buy and are reselling on Amazon. Many people start just by reselling their old stuff, then moving up to ‘retail arbitrage', where you buy cheap in the store, then sell for more $$ online.
It is also important to note that there are issues with this process.
Personally, I'm not so hot on keeping inventory in my house which is why FBA is so useful. You send everything to be stored at Amazon, and they handle the rest. Of course, you still need to take care of packaging and actually shipping to Amazon, which can add to your workload. That's why overall I prefer affiliate marketing.
But as far as a ‘physical' business goes (instead of being 100% online like with affiliate marketing), FBA would be my first choice!
4. Affiliate Marketing (The best in my opinion!)
The final way that you can make money selling other people’s products is the process of affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketers promote products from various companies and make a commission for each sale (\a percentage of the total sales price). You can do this through your website, social media, or paid ads.
This system is becoming increasingly popular and because of this, there is a huge amount of different companies that offer affiliate programs.
The key reason for the popularity of affiliate marketing is that it's incredibly cheap to get started. It costs just $14/year for a domain name instead of paying a million dollars for a franchise fee or require a $200,000 loan from the bank.
Why does this model work so well? The business selling the products essentially gets a free marketing team. They only have to pay anything if the affiliate marketer makes a sale! It’s easy to see why so many businesses are starting to develop affiliate programs. The most famous one is Amazon but there are many more famous companies like Apple, Walmart, and Blue Apron that will pay you for each customer you bring to their store.
Even though the actual commissions may be relatively small (percentages usually range from 5% to 20%) these commissions can add up over time, especially for people who manage to develop popular websites. Here are some affiliate programs with high percentage payouts or big ticket items for bigger earnings.
At the same time, affiliate marketing provides you, the business owner, with a lot of control.
For example, affiliate marketers get pick which products they promote and how they promote them. You can start a site, hit pause, then start another. You can manage several small sites or one large one. You can focus on a tight niche market, or do general lifestyle blogging.
With so many different affiliate programs out there, it’s also possible for affiliate marketers to develop websites on pretty much any topic. This means you get the build your business about stuff you actually care about! For example, this is one website that focuses on the idea of tablets for kids to help children get smart while they learn about technology and have fun!
I have website about brewing beer at home. I've seen websites about fitness, and some about essential oils. That flexibility really is amazing and it means you have the chance to make money from something that actually interests you. Likewise, you can promote products you have tried and love, or just enjoy researching.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, people often feel like the approach simply won’t work because there is too much competition. It is certainly true that there’s a lot of competition out there is competition in every market and every business model. Are people going to stop opening coffee shops just because Starbucks exists? Nope!
There's plenty of people that hate the corporate culture of Starbucks and will only go to small hipster joins. That's called a niche market!
How to Take Advantage of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is the most powerful way of making money by selling other people’s products. In fact, it is one of the best ways to make money online overall.
The very nature of affiliate marketing means that there is no cap to what you can earn and few limits on the site that you can design. This gives you a chance to develop a unique business that you are proud of, and that you can grow over time (your business skills will improve over time too!)
It's also super cheap to run an affiliate website. It's about $15/year for a domain, and $10/month for hosting, depending on which companies you set up with.
The other cool thing about affiliate marketing is that it is something that anyone can do. All you really need is the ability to write content (articles) and even this is something that you can learn as you go along.
The rest of the skills that you need to be successful with affiliate marketing are easy to learn, including things like building the website, optimizing for search engines, and adding links to make money. In fact, the process of building a website has actually become much easier than it once was a few years ago. There's no coding required now!
I've already linked a ton in this article with resources here on my website on how to get started with affiliate marketing. This is what I do, so it's what I know best. I didn't teach myself though! Here's the source I learned from, and they're still going strong more than a decade later.