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5 Tips for Selling Items Online

Are you thinking about minimizing some of the clutter and junk that’s around your house? Instead of throwing away old items, think frugally and earn a little extra money by selling some of them online. Whether you’re posting on eBay, Craigslist or anywhere else, follow these five basic rules to achieve Internet selling success:

1. Get a feel for the competition

Run a search for the type of item you are looking to sell and find out how others are pricing it. If you have a 10-year-old camera you’re trying to sell for $50, and other people are selling gently used 5-year-old cameras for $40, reconsider your pricing.

20111221 - online banking2. Give clear details

Clearly describe the make, model, condition and any other information potential buyers might want to know. Again, pay attention to selling points other sellers are adding to their listings.

For example, you’ll find that furniture and clothing sellers often make a point of identifying when items come from a smoke-free household.

Include the price of shipping in any listing. If your item is particularly delicate and needs special care, factor that in as well.

If you don’t want the cost of shipping to seem prohibitive to buyers, consider upping your asking value for the item and advertising “free shipping” instead.

3. Take accurate, attractive pictures

You want to clearly and accurately represent the item you’re selling. So if that vintage vinyl record has a big scratch on the cover, don’t try to hide it. Doing so can get you into a dispute after the buyer receives the item.

Do not undersell your item, either. Pay attention to how the item looks in your photo. When taking a picture, place the item on a well-lit, solid surface. Laying the item down on a plain white sheet is an easy way to create an effective backdrop.

4. Be careful with delivery

If you’re selling on Craigslist, take safety into account when talking with and meeting your buyers. If you don’t feel comfortable giving out your phone number, arrange for sales by email, or get anonymous call forwarding with a service like Google Voice.

When you’re ready to sell an item, meet in a busy public location like a coffee shop if possible. If the item is too large (like a piece of furniture), consider meeting the buyer in your driveway or in front of your apartment building so you don’t have to let a stranger into your home.

5. Think about website and shipping fees

When you’re buying something online, you might be miffed at the delivery or shipping fee. But when the tables are turned, and you’re the seller, you may realize why $5 or $10 is actually a reasonable price.

Depending on the size, weight and distance, shipping can take a huge chunk from your budget. Make sure you accurately price for this. The US Postal Service offers “flat-rate” boxes that take the guesswork out of shipping, but test packing your item into one of these boxes first, so you know that it will fit.

Furthermore, many websites (like eBay and Amazon) take a percentage of your sale. Make sure you’re still earning enough of a profit after adjusting for their fee.

Do you think that you’ll soon be selling items online? What are you selling and how much do you think you will earn?

Kennedi writes frugality tips for women. 

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. #1 advice: sell things people actually want to buy

    I recently had a new electronics device I got gratis from my cable service provider and saw they were retailing $250-300 online. Since I got it free I was happy to let it go for less ($225) though in retrospect I should have just stuck to market value since turnover was so high (my unit sold within 15 minutes of my posting it!). Oh well, live and learn.

    • That’s a great tip. It’s not about what you “want” to get from it — it’s about what people are willing to pay.

  2. We sell stuff we no longer need on ebay. It’s always great to earn a little extra! It’s amazing what some stuff will sell for … particularly used toys. You have great tips here. I agree it is so important to figure in the costs of selling an item. Those who sell items for .99 may be losing money without realizing it.

    • Exactly — once you factor for all shipping and handling, you might be surprised at your “returns.”

  3. I have some old computer parts (about 2 years old), clothes, shoes, and random decoration items up for sale. I’ve found that lately sales are going very slowly even when relisting and pricing down items. Wonder if people are buying everything new again due to feeling that ‘the crisis is over’.

    • I think there will always be people willing to buy online, though there might be cyclical or seasonal ebbs and flows.

  4. Whenever I sell something on Craigslist I always meet in a police parking lot. Keeps the trouble away!!

    • That’s a great tip, Toni! A police parking lot sounds like a safe place to meet!

  5. I got a free 40″ TV with our sofa set this week. And I’ll be selling this off as we already have two TVs. The least price online is $349 I am planning to have it sold for $320 including shipping. I’ll put it on Craigslist and eBay. Craigslist won’t require a shipping charge and listing fee, so it’s preferable. I’ll make sure to include “unopened in box” to attract buyers.

    • That’s a great score! Congratulations on selling the free TV — it’s nice to get a surplus $300.

  6. I am planning to sell personalized T-shirts online and will just check how big the competition online. Once done with this and the other things like marketing, etc. I think I will earn a pretty decent amount from it each month. My goal is to earn $400 to $500 to start with and wish me luck. Hope I reach that goal!

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