Photo credit Chika Watanabe
In a couple of months, I’m making a new and exciting life change by moving with my girlfriend to DC.
One of our biggest challenges in preparing for the move is going to be “what the heck are we going to do with all of our stuff?”
We’ve got extra couches, chairs, tables, beds, tons of odds and ends, and enough clothes to outfit a small nation. Needless to say, it’s going to be fun trying to deal with everything.
I actually mean that. It’s going to be fun.
You might think I’m a little crazy, but the fact of the matter is I’ve become somewhat obsessed with earning money. Since I quit my job and started freelancing on my own, this kind of stuff gets me excited (and helps pay the bills).
Our go-to for selling all of our extra things is, to no one’s surprise, Craigslist. It’s absolutely perfect for getting rid of stuff, earning extra cash, and doing so in a reasonable amount of time (sometimes even ridiculously fast).
It can also be somewhat addicting. If you’ve never tried selling things on Craigslist before, your first experience can be exciting.
Holy shit. I can’t believe I got $50 for that table I don’t use anymore.
Then, you just want to keep doing more of it.
What other stuff can I get rid of? Do I need that? Nope! What about this? Nooppe! Sell it.
I call this the Newbie Craigslist Effect.
Craigslist is an especially awesome way to make some side-hustle cash for a couple of reasons:
- It’s super easy to create an account and start selling stuff
- It’s based on your local city or town, so you normally don’t have to deal with shipping
- It’s fantastic for getting your feet wet selling things directly to other people (i.e. a mini crash course for earning money on your own)
- If you’ve read my post on Elephant Journal about being happier with less, this is one of the best ways to start downsizing and simplify your life
Furthermore, Craigslist is a prime opportunity for you since the vast majority of people on there have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. The funny thing is – they’re still successful in selling stuff.
That’s great news for you because it means you’ll be successful selling things too. I’ll show you how without having to sell things ridiculously cheap, and in whatever time frame you’d like to sell by (I’ve sold a used laptop in less than 24 hours and paid for a flight to DC).
How to successfully sell on Craigslist:
1. Do a little bit of research on the item you’re selling
Don’t immediately create a posting and pray to the internet Gods it will sell. First, you need to do your homework.
You don’t have to spend days or even hours on this step. If you know what you’re looking for, you really only need to spend about 10-15 minutes (often less). You should be searching for a few key things:
If the item you’re selling is a piece of tech or something with other specifications, look online for a similar product description and any other technical information on the product. If the item is a chair or something simple, then you can probably skip this step.
Next you’re looking for the price of the item if it was new. Start with a Google search then see what similar items are priced at. Amazon is an excellent resource and will probably be your go-to for this.
Lastly, check the pricing of similar used items on Craigslist or eBay. A word of caution to take some of the prices with a grain of salt. Many people selling stuff have no idea what their item is worth, or they’re low-balling to just get rid of it quickly. Research a few different listings and then come up with a best guess price based on the average of what’s out there.
2. Create your Craigslist posting
Armed with the knowledge from your homework, now is the time to create your listing. If you haven’t already done so, create an account and then go to the My Accounts link.
Then click on create new posting.
For this case, you’ll usually want to choose ‘for sale by owner’.
Then make sure you pick the most appropriate category. I know, sounds stupid, but somehow people manage to mess this up. And being honest, some of the choices can actually be a little tricky. For example, patio or lawn furniture may fit pretty well under the ‘lawn and garden’ section; however, the ‘furniture’ category is still probably your best bet for getting the most hits.
Now’s when you start completing the posting details.
Fill out your contact info. The more ways people can contact you by the better. It’s 2016 and everyone has their own preference – don’t limit yourself by forcing someone to call you. Unless, of course, you absolutely need them on the phone and understand you’re missing out on potential customers.
The title is one of the most important pieces of your posting. It’s the bait that lures in your buyers – then the details inside are your hook. What I like about Craigslist is that you don’t need a flashy title or catchy slogan to sell things. It might be tempting to get salesy and use phrases like “Need a fancy looking rug? This is the one for you!”, but please just don’t.
Most people on Craigslist aren’t looking for [insert random item here]. They already have a pretty good idea of what they’re after. That’s why you should just focus on making your title super descriptive and concise.
People should be able to tell exactly what the item is before clicking on the link. The ones that want your particular item will take the bait. A good rule of thumb here is to choose one good adjective and roll with that.
Being concise ensures the entire title is shown on smaller tablets and smartphones (ideally keep it < 30 characters), while also catching the eyes of those just browsing through quickly.
And whatever you do, PLEASE DON’T USE ALL CAPS. No one enjoys being yelled at and it just plain looks bad. It’s like the guy compensating a small wiener with a jacked up Ford F350 – we all know what’s inside is a (not-so-big) disappointment.
Posting body (aka your time to shine). This is where the magic happens. People should already know what they’re getting into based on your title, so here you simply have to deliver.
One of the best ways to start the body of your posting is with something personal.
I bought this laptop brand new 2 years ago and used it at-home for work. I’m selling it because I got promoted and my company is providing me with a new one.
Notice how I included my personal usage of the laptop along with the reason why I’m selling it (not because it’s a piece of junk, but because I don’t need it anymore).
After that you should get into the details, but again, be concise. No body wants to read a short story on your four black, padded kitchen chairs. That’s a good way to bore someone and have them click on to the next posting. Get right down to the meat of what you’re selling.
Bullet points and lists work great for laying out the details while being mindful of the Craigslist people you’re selling to.
Things you should be doing:
- Include your name. Everyone feels more comfortable buying from somebody whose name they know.
- Highlighting a couple of key features of your item. Going back to the laptop example – let’s say it’s a gaming laptop with lots of ram and an illuminated keyboard. Let them know.
- Include dimensions, color, specs when applicable.
- Be up front about any faults the item has. Don’t try to hide a giant pee stain on a mattress by getting creative with your pictures. Instead, be straightforward and say something like “Laptop runs smooth during gaming and graphics are solid. Only downside is the battery life – used to last 6 hours without a charge and now it typically runs for 2-3 before having to plug it in.” Being honest will make sure people who come to see the item don’t walk away feeling duped by your posting.
- Reason why you’re selling it. Already mentioned this earlier.
- Include your best preference for people to contact you. For example. prefer text, but email and phone calls are acceptable.
- Putting a deadline. This is a simple hack that almost no one takes advantage of.
Needs to go by this Friday, February 26th or will be donated/scrapped.
This does a couple of things. 1. You sell the item much quicker and 2. People have to make a choice to either buy now or risk missing out to someone else due to scarcity.
I started doing this in all of my postings and it works like a charm. Worst-case scenario, you don’t sell the item by the specified timeframe and you either donate the item, or just take down the posting and repost again at a later date.
If you use this hack, the timeframe that works the best is between 3 and 6 days away – based on personal experience.
Things you shouldn’t do:
- Be cute or clever. No one cares about your sense of humor on Craigslist. Save yourself the disappointment and just be straightforward with folks.
- Include gifs or flashy backgrounds. You’ll just look like a clown.
- Use lots of exclamation points. Do any of those car dealership commercials with the guys in large cowboy hats yelling at people ever actually work?
Choosing a price. Use your best judgment and come up with a price you’re comfortable with based on your research. Do not be afraid to price high. Don’t try to scam or gouge the shit out of people, but feel free to price on the higher end of the spectrum.
Potential buyers are going to try and haggle you down in price anyway, so letting them feel like they’ve gotten away with a good deal is a win/win.
Also, selling stuff super cheap only makes people suspect about what you’re selling. If the price is too good to be true, they’ll usually think it is and move on. Let them know what you’re selling still has value.
Lastly, if you put a deadline on your posting like I suggested, you shouldn’t have too much trouble selling at a slightly higher price – again, scarcity.
Uploading photos. These are the final pieces of the puzzle and very important. Make sure you choose a good one with proper lighting as your main photo. Then take as many as you feel necessary from different angles to get a full idea of the item. Try to keep a few extra photos in your back pocket after posting – people will usually ask for more.
A couple tips for good photo taking:
- Clean up the item first. Don’t take the pictures of it when it’s dirty and not looking its best.
- Include any extras in your photos (i.e. chargers and accessories for laptops, etc.)
- If you’re a real baller, try putting a banana or something next to the item you’re selling so that people can get a good feel for size – this is rather situational.
You’re done with the posting. Let it fly! After you finish uploading the pictures, you’re done. Click the button to publish your posting and then it’s a waiting game for potential buyers.
3. Respond to inquiries in a timely manner.
Once the messages start rolling in, make sure your courteous in how quickly you respond and in your demeanor. Don’t seem too eager by answering a text in 5 seconds, and don’t play the hard-to-get game by waiting several hours – these aren’t girls you picked up at the bar.
Also, don’t be that asshole who says you take any form of communication but then ignores all phone calls. Stay true to your word.
4. Put your negotiation hat on, because you will be haggled.
Like I said before, almost everyone will try to get you to cave on your initial price. You need to expect this. If you don’t want to budge, then don’t. If you’re smart about it, you will price high knowing you’ll be haggled down. Let them feel like they’re getting a great deal (which they should actually be), and then you both can walk away satisfied.
If you used a deadline, one thing I heard fairly often is “I noticed you were just going to donate or scrap the item if you didn’t sell it, so what kind of deal are you willing to cut me?”
Don’t fall for this. Instead, say something like:
Yes, that’s true, but I also have X other people looking to buy. If you aren’t interested in the price I have to offer, that’s OK, I’ll talk to someone else.
And there you have it. Follow this guide, or at the very least use some key takeaways, the next time you sell an item and I know you’ll have great success. I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below or you can holler at me at my contact page here.