How to Sell Clothes Online

By Katie Gustafson | | Finance
How to Sell Clothes Online
Beatriz Vera/Shutterstock

Solstice Wilson started learning how to sell clothes when she needed to downsize before moving across the U.S. The student and part-time graphic designer based in Boise, Idaho, turned to Poshmark, one of the most prominent resale sites for online clothing sales. For many people wondering how to sell clothes online, it’s a popular destination.

She found that she could make more than $250 each month by listing at least 10 items each week and sharing her listings online daily. It became clear that web-based clothing sales are a competitive online business that can generate solid returns with a little know-how.

“When I first started, I thought it was like an online yard sale. It definitely is not!” she said. “Just because the item is pre-loved, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. You don’t have to price like a yard sale. Take the time to look up what the item sold for and don’t cheat yourself.”

Megan Grocutt sees her work selling clothes on eBay as an extension of the thrift sales she and her parents held every weekend when she was growing up. A director of events at an executive life coaching company in Washington, D.C., she makes $50-250 every month with this side-hustle.

“I go through my clothing and decide what is worth selling versus what is worth donating and make the appropriate piles every year,” she said. “I try to resell things that are vintage, and things that are brand new.”

She has learned how to guess which brands will sell online but still finds the business hard to predict, sometimes seeing listings that took time and effort languish, while others that took five minutes fly off the shelves.

With perseverance, though, she and many others like her are earning extra cash—and sometimes supporting themselves entirely—via online clothing sales and fashion marketing.

What to know before you sell clothes online

Learning to sell clothes online can be a fun and lucrative activity, but it takes a lot more than simply snapping a couple pics of your retired dresses and waiting for the cash to roll in.

Those with experience making money this way advise newbies to be alert to the time, effort, and know-how it really takes; the amount of social sharing that’s required; and the extra fees and customer service issues they might not expect.

“No one sees the digging and sorting, as well as mending, cleaning, researching, and photographing,” said Wilson of the “pre-loved” clothing she sells. “It also takes a bit of learning to know what styles and brands are desirable and what will actually sell.”

Ruksana Hussain, a freelance writer living in Los Angeles who has made a few hundred dollars selling her used clothes online, finds that all that work gets easier as you sell more frequently.

“The first few times seemed tedious but once you do it at a regular pace—say a few clothes posted every weekend—then it becomes easier,” she said.

Using Poshmark, for example, “everything can be done through your phone on the app—images can be easily uploaded, and descriptions can be dictated over voice. Five pieces posted every weekend could take maybe 15 minutes or so.”

Promotion can be a time-consuming part of the process. Jessica Norman, a marketing and design freelancer in Portland, Oregon, who has earned about $300 in the last few years selling clothes online, found that she gets a lot more sales when she is active on social media.

“It’s more time consuming than you’d think!” she said. “You have to constantly share your listings, as well as other people’s listings.”

Be ready to pay some fees to sell clothes online. How much you’ll be charged in fees depends on the platform you’re using. eBay charges separate fees on the actions of listing, promoting, and selling Items on the site, as well as placing reserves on auctions that prevent goods from selling at too low a price. Poshmark charges a flat commission of a few dollars for low-priced items and a percentage commission for bigger sales.

Those who sell used clothes online see the fees as the cost of doing business.

“Poshmark is very open about the fee and even calculates for you how much you make after it’s taken out,” said Wilson. “It’s very convenient and well worth it.”

The best places to sell your clothes

There are a wide range of sites on which you can sell clothes online. The most popular are Poshmark, eBay, and ThredUp, but many sellers find success with others or through a combination of sites.

“In a perfect world, with more time, I think it would be great to be strategic about which items go on which platform,” said Grocutt. “I think that’s part of the key.”

Poshmark

Poshmark is one of the leading online used clothing sales sites. It’s easy to use via an app, with a simple fee structure and a young, enthusiastic audience of buyers. Poshmark provides USPS Priority Mail labels that sellers must use to ship out the items they sell.

“Poshmark makes it really easy to sell clothes and home goods,” said Wilson, who has tried a variety of sites. “They have reasonable fees and the cheapest shipping options I’ve found to date.”

eBay

eBay is the classic online auction platform on which people sell everything from t-shirts to tractors. This site may be better for reaching older browsers. Buyers pay shipping costs, and sellers are responsible for getting the items to them. Sellers can print labels from eBay for prices that may be lower than postal rates.

Since sellers and buyers interact directly, running an online people search on a buyer or seller may help reveal information about their identity and could make you more comfortable carrying out the transaction.

“I really like eBay although I know a lot of people also use Poshmark,” said Grocutt. “I use eBay because it’s something I’ve known for years and I don’t mind the percentage taken out.”

ThredUp

ThredUp functions as an online consignment store, where sellers provide their items to the company, which cleans, posts, sells them, then passes on a percentage of the earnings to the seller. Sellers use a prepaid bag to send their pieces to ThredUp, which handles shipping out items to buyers.

Mercari

Mercari is a marketplace for used goods ranging from clothes to electronics to handmade items. The site allows sellers to list items for free and then charges a flat fee when a buyer bites. Mercari sends the seller a printable shipping label, then the seller is responsible for shipping.

Depop

Depop is an app popular with teens and young adults on which sellers hock original and vintage fashions. The app takes a percentage fee of each sale. Sellers can arrange their own shipping or have Depop send a shipping label.

Tips for how to sell clothes online

Selling clothes online is more than just snapping some pics and creating a listing. Here is some advice from experienced sellers about how to put your best foot forward.

Write consistent descriptions

Craft descriptions that accurately portray the items for sale without embellishing or ignoring flaws. The more straightforward and predictable your communications, the more confident customers will feel buying from you.

“The biggest key/takeaway to keep in mind is consistency,” said Grocutt. “If you aren’t consistent and honest in your posts, I think you not only come off as unprofessional but you lose buyers' trust. Consistency builds client retention and that means repeat customers.”

Take strong photos

Taking good photos means having sharp focus, consistent backdrop, and natural light. Photos should reveal the color and material of each item. Some sellers model the clothes themselves, while others photograph the clothing on a dummy, on a hanger, or lying flat.

Do your research

Keep an eye on pricing and trends so you can catch people’s interest for specific types of items. Research what trends are hot on each site so you’ll know which ones to target. Also track seasonal and holiday trends and plan for the best timing to capture these. If you wait until Thanksgiving to start marketing Christmas garb, for example, you’ve likely already missed the boat.

Use the right site for the right item

Certain items are likely to sell faster or for higher amounts on specific sites. For example, it’s best to use Poshmark or Depop for items that appeal to a younger demographic, who are more willing to use apps and value their social-sharing functionality.

“I find it wild that brands like Michael Kors sell for so much more on apps like Poshmark than on eBay,” said Grocutt. “I think the reason the apps work so well is because they are aesthetically pleasing, create community, and fit that generation of young people making a quick buck.”

Be ready to negotiate

Know that as far as prices go, selling used clothes online is like selling at a flea market—buyers assume your listed price is not necessarily final. Set your initial price accordingly or decide ahead of time that you won’t negotiate.

“People are deal hunting,” said Norman. “I’ve learned to set prices a bit higher than I expect to receive because you’ll get offers for 10% or 15% of your asking price, which is already a substantial markdown.”

Hussain takes the other tack: “I don’t get into negotiations on price because I don’t have the time for it, but if that’s something one’s good at and can upscale for a better sale then go for it.”

Going from rags to riches

While selling clothes online is unlikely to take you “from rags to riches,” either literally or figuratively, it can be a good way to make a little money from your unwanted stuff to finance new shopping trips.

“It’s nice to get a little money back that can go towards new favorite pieces,” said Norman.

With a bit of business savvy and perseverance, selling used clothes online can even become more than a hobby or side-hustle. The keys to being successful as you sell clothes online are posting strong and consistent listings; staying on top of selling platforms, pricing, and trends; sharing your wares voluminously on social; and being flexible on price.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.