If you’re thinking of downsizing your belongings, you may not even have to leave the house. Below are 5 killer tips on how to sell stuff on Craigslist – fast.
There are definite advantages to living with less stuff. Benefits include: not needing to worry about losing/maintaining things, having the freedom to pack up and go, learning to be satisfied with what you have – and so on.
But how do you actually get there? There’s only so much you can throw out or give away (eventually, your friends/family will catch on and learn not to accept any more handouts from you).
It will come down for selling your stuff.
If you have sold anything online before, you already know that:
- Scams abound. As soon as there’s a hint of a future transaction, the scammers are usually first on the scene. Common scams include: unusual forms of payment (e.g. Western Union, third world escrow services).
- Manners are a precious commodity. People will make ridiculous offers, suggest you change your prices, or even order you to meet them in unusual places.
- The marketplace is constantly evolving. New sites pop up all the time, and policies change on existing ones. Methods of payment fall in and out of favour (e.g. Google Wallet over PayPal), and major shakeups expand possibilities (the rise of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin or Dogecoin).
So where does one begin?
For selling your second-hand stuff locally, Craigslist is almost unbeatable:
- The site gets a ton of traffic – chances are, someone will actually see your listing. More often than not, you will get plenty of interest (more on this below).
- Craigslist forces sellers to categorize goods and services, making it easier for potential buyers to find what they are looking for.
- There are protections in place to deter scammers and to protect the privacy of both parties – through anonymized e-mail, for example.
- Unless you pay extra for premium listings (unnecessary), it’s free. No transaction or middle-man fees.
When it came time to downsize my own stuff, I did it exclusively through Craigslist – and with great success. All in all, I have done a fair bit of business through the site.
So how does one become a Craigslist power-seller? In a nutshell: by using the same tactics and techniques as the marketing/advertising industry.
The following is a 5-point checklist for getting the most for your stuff on Craigslist (these will apply on just about any online marketplace):
1.) Images are important – use them!
Always, always include at least one image with your posting. Many users (myself included) automatically filter out any postings that do not include images – it means the seller has put in minimal effort (an instant red flag).
The more professional the image, the better. If you’re a selling a large object (such as a piece of furniture), try to take a picture of it in natural light (without flash) for a more pleasing look. If possible, track down the original manufacturer’s images online and attach those too (Google’s Image Search works wonders for this).
If there’s an aspect of the item that’s particularly impressive (the finish and material, for example), include a closeup to highlight it.
It wasn’t long ago that one had to buy a digital camera to get decent images, even for web use. These days, however, smartphones are more than sufficient. See the article on phone photography for related tips and tricks.
2.) Using pricing theory to your advantage
Without getting into the nitty gritty, the various pricing tricks can be summarized as:
- If you’re trying to demonstrate a good deal, use odd numbers (ideally, with 9’s and 7’s). That is, $200 would become $190, $175 or $170.
- If you’re trying to convey quality or highlight a premium product, use round (even) numbers with 0’s at the end. For example, $800 instead of $775.
- If your offer represents a significant discounts or savings, include the original manufacturer’s price! Regardless of their net worth or position in society, everyone wants a good deal – it makes us feel good.
Don’t believe these work? Take a good look at prices in shops next time you’re in the mall, and compare luxury and bulk offerings. We all fall for it!
3.) Grab Their Attention with a Compelling Headline
Have you noticed that the words in all the titles used on this site are capitalized? All capitals just work better (trust me on this one – I have verified it myself through split testing).
It’s called taking a page out of the ad man’s playbook – the headline is your first (and often only) chance to pull the reader in and convince them to click through to your ad.
On Craigslist, your headline should be crystal clear – try to include the full name of the item, along with the item category, and condition (there’s a separate field for price, which will be displayed next to the headline). Something like this usually gets the job done:
Brand New (Mint Condition, Original Box/Papers) Sony RX10 Digital Camera – $1150
If there’s anything particularly special or rare about the item, it’s worth calling out too:
Legendary Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux Lens for M-Mount Cameras (“King of Bokeh”) – $10,000
This headline immediately appeals to photography aficionados, many of whom are always chasing creamier and crisper “bokeh” (background blur). In the post itself, you may wish to call out that this lens will appeal specifically to portrait and wedding photographers for its ability to isolate the subject from the background. Which brings us to…
4.) Nail the description by speaking directly to your prospect
(This is where we get into Mad Men territory)
The more relevant details you include, the more likely you are to make the sale. Remember: people are just as wary of online transactions as you are, and a more detailed product description works to increase trust.
This does not mean you should simply copy and paste product descriptions from the manufacturer’s website (although it’s a good idea to include the basics, such as dimensions and weight, in a bullet point list).
Make it personal. Write about your experiences with the product, and how you’ve used it successfully in the past. If there’s something about you that could be a potential selling point, throw it in – for example, a professional photographer may mention that he has personally tested the lens to be sharp and accurate (this will reassure the buyer that they are buying a good copy).
There is no need to use big words or get creative with metaphors. Just get the message across, as if you were speaking to a good friend. Keep it simple and to the point – you’re here to sell the product
Scarcity is a powerful psychological trigger. If the product is a limited edition (e.g. “One of 20 sold worldwide”) or available in limited quantities (“Only 2 left”), this increases its perceived value and drives prospects to action.
Bonus: include a sentence or two about why you are selling it. This is easy to do, and builds trust. After all – if the object is so awesome, why would you part with it? Be honest and specific. People appreciate knowing what you plan to do with their money!
5.) Be a professional (or learn to act the part!)
Firstly, make sure you check your post for grammar and punctuation. Use paragraphs and full sentences. Sound like a professional, and people will want to do business with you.
Second, show that you are an experienced seller by specifying your terms. Common ones include: “price is firm” and “will accept cash only, local pickup.” At the very least, indicate what forms of payment you’re comfortable with. It also helps to clarify how you’d prefer to be contacted – if there’s a phone number, indicate what hours work best for you.
Finally, know your market and competition! Before you make a post, look for similar listings to size up the competition and get a sense of how much others are selling for. Hint: instead of trying to undercut the competition, aim to dictate higher prices due to the quality of your posts and replies to interested prospects.
On Craigslist, this exercise also helps for generating keywords – at the bottom of your post, you may wish to include keywords that will help your listing get noticed. For example, if you’re selling a Sony RX10 camera your keywords may include similar products, whether from your item’s manufacturer or from a competitor:
Keywords: sony, digital camera, rx100, rx10, rx1, olympus om-d, sony nex, panasonic gh3
That’s all there is to it!
This may seem a lot, but ultimately all becomes second nature as you sell more items. Be careful: selling things on Craigslist can become addicting – there’s a certain rush that one gets when receiving cash for something that otherwise would have collected dust. As a bonus, you will learn plenty about human psychology along the way (and will have some stories to tell).
Important: be careful when meeting strangers through Craigslist. If possible, arrange to make the deal in a public place (cafes work great). If it’s a large transaction and an all-cash deal, you may wish to bring a friend.
Less belongings, more freedom
PS. IKEA furniture (in decent condition) easily fetches 50% of the original price. It’s also quite easy to sell, as the common product lines are well known and people are always moving in/out of the city.