Sell Your Stuff Online: Tips and Tools to Turn Your Cast-Offs into Cool Cash

Sell stuff online

It wasn’t too long ago that consignment shops and garage sales were the only options for turning your like-new and gently-used possessions into profits. These days online selling platforms like Craigslist, eBay and even Amazon mean you’re no longer limited to the locals who pass your sidewalk or storefront. But that doesn’t mean your success is guaranteed. After all, online shoppers also benefit from the web’s limitless reach—meaning they have a greater number of items to compare and choose from.

Below are tips from the pros to ensure your posts stand out from the crowd.

Choose the right platform for selling online

If you want free and easy, Craigslist is going to be your go-to. It’s simple to set up an account—all you need is an email address—and most, if not all, of your exchanges will be in person, meaning there is no need to set up a PayPal account and deal with shipping costs and materials. While people from neighboring counties and even states can search your site and are often willing to drive into town or meet you halfway, you’re still limited to a local search area. Think of it as a garage sale with regional reach.

Newer on the block is Facebook Marketplace, a feature on the social media site that allows you to reach Facebook users within a 100-mile radius (in other words, not just your friends or fellow group members). If you already have a personal or group account, simply click on the “Marketplace” icon and select “Sell Something.” After adding the product’s description, price and images, tap “Selling.” Interested parties will contact you via a private message and, as with Craigslist, you arrange a time and place for an in-person exchange. Consumer Reports has some positive things to say about the service, namely that it can be less anonymous—and therefore safer—because unlike on Craiglist, where the sellers are largely anonymous, Marketplace will supply you with information that lets you know who you’re interacting with.

While neither Craigslist nor Facebook take a cut of your sale, you are limited to buyers within driving distance.  Still, this is likely the best option when handing off the (hard-to-ship) delicate telescope or grandma’s heavy oak bedroom set.

If the above options are the new garage sales, online selling platforms like eBay and Amazon are the new consignment shops. eBay, the most established of these tools, requires you set up a means of exchanging money (typically a PayPal account). In the end, both PayPal and eBay will extract a portion your total transaction (amounting to approximately 13%, including the cost of shipping) but their global reach and well-known system can make it worth the fees. Take, for example, their simple system for estimating shipping costs (comparing your item’s shipping costs with similar items already listed). They also offer the option to print a shipping label and flag the U.S. Post Office to pick up your item free of charge.

Know what sells best online

Take a tip from the Shop EDrop Off owner and start with your high-end designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Laptops, tablets camera gear and other electronics are also good bets. Midcentury home goods and sports gear in good condition are popular. Nineteenth-century antiques? Not so much.

Most power sellers make a profit by finding a niche, branding their name and selling to a select group of buyers. Not surprisingly, committing to that kind of commerce requires the same amount of effort you’d put into any full-time job. If you are just looking to get rid of a variety things you know are worth something to someone…somewhere, there’s no harm in going for the gold. Go ahead and post those golf clubs, fur hats, doll houses and doodads. Remember, though, you’re going to need to photograph, measure, describe and sometimes ship whatever sells. For efficiency’s sake, consider prioritizing your posts and starting with the things that are known to sell quickly and easily.

Research your selling price

When selling your stuff online, knowing how to competitively price your items is key and, thankfully, pretty easy to figure out.

Conduct a general online search for the item and brand. If it doesn’t come up right away, choose an image search and scan for something similar. eBay is especially helpful here, because you can use the “Completed Listings” search to see what items actually sold for (not just the asking price). It also offers the handy “Sell One Like This” button that populates your own post with similar descriptors.

Good presentation equals good perceived value

Good photos are essential but they don’t have to be difficult to capture. You can get good enough images with a smartphone or tablet. Capture each angle of the item in natural light, either outdoors or by a window with a plain backdrop.

When it comes to clothing, borrow a dress form or mannequin if you can. Everything looks better off the hanger. Shopify’s site has great tips for displaying and photographing everything from clothing, to jewelry to footwear.

Describe used items down to the detail

Measure and note everything you can think of—height, width, depth, length, hemline, size. List all materials as accurately as possible. There’s a big difference in price point between pleather and leather, rayon and silk. To that end, be straightforward about all flaws and other drawbacks—including dings, tears, pilled material, stains, any and all missing parts—and include photos where possible. Not only does your honesty indicate that you are trustworthy, you don’t want to waste your time with a disappointed buyer, and you definitely don’t want to deal with returns.

Above all: Be realistic

It’s easy to think our stuff is worth more than it is. The fact is, however, when people are buying used things, they are looking for a deal. Try not to think about what you paid for it or even what you think of its “perceived value.” Instead, remind yourself that what’s taking up space in your house today could be cash in your wallet tomorrow.

At the end of the day, the goal is to get rid of it.