I typically see things in my house that I no longer need and would like to get rid of. Fortunately, an old-fashioned garage sale isn’t the only way to make money from them anymore. Craigslist has been a decent source of side income for me so I want to take a moment to impart what I have learned along the way.
Editor’s Note: While this was originally written as a guide to selling on Craigslist, the tips can apply to other local online marketplaces as well (e.g. OfferUp).
Selling Local vs. eBay
Before we begin I want to make a quick note on why I personally choose to sell local instead of eBay:
- No shipping fees
- No shipping or return hassles
- No fees paid to eBay or PayPal (the leading payment processor)
- Transactions are final
eBay is better for situations in which you have a high dollar value item and you want to get as many bids/eyes on it as possible AND/OR if you live in a rural area and it’s hard to attract local buyers. I have sold a few items on eBay because of this, but it is by no means my go-to.
Choosing Items to List
However you choose to sell, as you go through day-to-day life take a look at items sitting around that you no longer use or need. Would it benefit you more to keep them or make some money instead? If it’s the latter, then it’s time to list!
Also keep in mind that if you do ever need the item again there is a good chance you can just buy it again, either secondhand or new. In the meantime, someone gets to enjoy it instead of it sitting around forever. It may be surprising what you can live without.
It can Probably Sell
You might be surprised what people will buy secondhand. In addition to video games, game consoles, and other electronics, I’ve sold items such as:
- Soldering kit
- Cordless hand vacuum
- George Foreman grill
- 10-shelf hanging closet organizer
- Scuba gear in a land-locked state
- Running Shoes
- Bike Lock
- Board Games
- So much more…
List it and see if someone bites! Even if you get $5/$10 that could potentially be worth it for a few minutes work. I’ll also admit the thrill of the sale becomes addicting.
Creating an Account
First, create an account on Craigslist (or your marketplace of choice). The only thing they ask for is an email + password and it makes it a breeze to renew and manage all of your listed products from one convenient location.
Bonus Tip: If you don’t have an account, you can only manage items individually from the emails you get when posting them. This is a major hassle. With an account you get a dashboard in which you can manage all of your listings. Additionally, if you’ve been selling without an account, you can create one using the same email and all of your listed products will automatically follow you into your account.
Storing Your Items
Designate an area out of sight and mind where you can store items before they sell. I have a corner in a closet I don’t use that has everything organized and easy to find for when I make a sale.
When writing about the item, be brief and succinct. Imagine yourself coming on the object for the first time. What would you want to know about it? Put yourself in the shoes of the customer and try to anticipate the questions they may have.
Unfortunately, in my experience, some people won’t actually read it and will ask questions that you’ve already answered anyway. I like to cover my end though and put everything in the listing so if someone tries to say something after the purchase, I can point them back to the listing. If they choose not read it, that’s not on me.
From an ethical standpoint, I let them know about major problems or defects after they contact me as well.
Unfortunately, just because you paid X amount for an item doesn’t mean you’ll get that, or even half that. Do some research to learn what the item can go for. I have a process I go through each time:
- Do I have an amount in mind that I know to be reasonable (and want to forego researching pricing)? Then I just list at that price!
- If not, I quickly check eBay, Amazon, and my local Craigslist to see what others are selling it for new/used. This doesn’t need to take long. 5 minutes is usually enough to give a basic idea.
- Then I consider the condition of the item and set the price based on my research.
When in doubt I always start with a higher price and lower it over time if nobody bites. I tend to know the price floor I’m comfortable with for each item and slowly adjust down until I hit it. Then, I wait. It might be days, weeks, or even months but eventually, it always sells. These marketplaces are fueled by people searching for certain products so just because people don’t want it now, doesn’t mean they won’t down the road.
If there is something you’re tired of looking at but still want to make money off of, lower the price far below what others are selling it for. You’ll be able to get rid of it much sooner.
Include your phone number. I have been doing this for over a year and it’s easily the most common contact method. At first, I was worried about spam and I do get the occasional spam text, but it’s easy to pick out and actually pretty rare (mostly when I post high dollar items or electronics). It’s easy to block numbers these days too.
Include your ZIP Code. Give buyers a general idea of where you live so they can judge if they want to make the trip or not. City, State, and ZIP Code are the most I give. DO NOT include your full address. This is an internet site full of strangers and it’s best not to let them know exactly where you live.
If you don’t give a full address you’ll be prompted to drop a pin on the map where people can find you. I tend to make the pin a pre-determined spot in which I will meet people. This is almost always a business or public location I can easily walk to without having to let a stranger know exactly where I live.
This is a crucial part of your listing! I never buy something online (especially secondhand) that doesn’t have a picture, and when I browse Craigslist I filter out listings that have none. It’s just not worth the time or effort for me to find out if it looks junky or not. There’s so much else out there.
Because of this, you need to take quality pictures. To do this effectively, follow these steps:
- Clean the item. Not only will it be more eye-catching to someone browsing the site, but you can charge more because it looks newer.
- Once again imagine yourself as the customer. What pictures would you want to see of the object? Don’t be afraid of going wild with it (within reason). You are allowed 24 pictures and it’s better to have too many than too few.
- Find a good backdrop with plenty of light.
- Remove all other items from the area (and make sure it’s clean) to place all emphasis on what you’re selling.
- Snap away!
Now that you have your items listed, it’s time to play the waiting game and make sure your listings get renewed often.
Renewing Your Listings (48 Hour Rule)
When you first post, your item appears at the very top of its respective category. As others post, your item slowly gets moved down and further into the category’s pages until it’s hidden away. Fortunately, every 2 days (48 hours) you can renew the listings so they return to the top of the list for their category (i.e. more exposure).
After a month or so, Craigslist won’t let you renew anymore so I usually delete the listing and re-post (a convenient option that doesn’t make you type everything back in). This resets it as a new post and will allow you to continue renewing again. It also makes it look like you just posted it so buyers will be less prone to thinking it’s an old listing that didn’t get deleted.
You can only re-post 5 at a time before the site stops you for 5-10 minutes (to combat spam) so pick a time to do it when you can get them all re-posted around the same general time. This will make renewing easier because they will all be up for renewal around the same time.
You’ve done it. A potential buyer has reached out to you and the thrill of the sale/negotiation has begun. They’ve sent you a message asking if the item is still available and you happily respond, “Yes, it is!”. And then…..nothing. You never hear back from them.
Unfortunately, this is extremely common and I don’t understand why. I will respond to someone’s query in a very reasonable time-frame only to never hear from them again. It’s incredibly annoying but it’s all part of the game.
Speaking of timing, I have learned people change their minds often and quickly. If someone contacts you to buy something, respond quickly and try to get it in their hands as soon as possible (ideally that day). My conversion rate from first contact to a sale is much higher if I can meet them on the same day.
Arranging a Meeting
As I said when listing, since you don’t know the buyer, I don’t recommend meeting them at your home unless the item being sold requires it (ex. large item like a couch). Maybe I’m paranoid, or maybe life has taught me to be cautious, but overall it’s just good policy to stay on the safe side. (It’s also good so if they have buyer’s remorse, they won’t know where to find you.)
Some common places I have met potential buyers include a nearby restaurant, store parking lots, etc.
I also almost never travel to meet buyers; especially if the amount of money I’ll get isn’t worth the time and energy. If they want it enough they will come to me.
However you choose to do it, once you meet with the buyer they’ll inspect the item, maybe negotiate, and then pay you. Be prepared to walk away if they try to change the terms to a price you’re not comfortable with. You are not required to sell to them.
Sometimes a buyer will regret the purchase and want to return it. Whether you choose to take it back is entirely up to you. The way I see it, once it’s out of my hands I have no idea what they have done to it.
As an example, I once sold someone Call of Duty Modern Warfare (Xbox 360) who was adamant they wanted it for the campaign. Three days later they contacted me saying it didn’t work and they wanted to exchange it for a different game I was selling. Three days is plenty of time to beat the single-player campaign and since I tested the game before selling it, I knew it worked when I handed it over. Had the individual contacted me within a more reasonable time-frame (a couple of hours after the sale), I may have honored their request.
No two situations will be the same and how you choose to approach them will be entirely up to you.
If you have something listed that isn’t selling then just blame the season. I listed running shoes in winter that didn’t sell until Spring. The same for a tent. It went months with no hits and then once camping season started I was getting messages about it daily.
The point is, as you do this experience will teach you what seasons and months matter most. Since I live in a college town, May-August is a sleepy time for sales, but I always keep them posted and renewed. You never know.
Selling via an a local marketplace makes it incredibly easy to make some money on items you’re already downsizing anyway. Just remember, patience is key! Not everything will sell immediately, and some of my items have taken months to sell. If you have a lot of items, you can also try a garage sale to generate revenue and offload items quickly.
Have another tip that could benefit us? Please share below!