How to Get Started Selling on Online Platforms

May 18, 2020millionmilermom

Maybe you started organizing back in the Marie Kondo phase or, perhaps, you are using the extra time now to sort through things you do not use anymore. In either case, you likely have a lot of stuff in your home that you don’t use that is still sellable. Read on for tips on getting started with selling online.

Where to Sell

Before you get started, think about what you will be selling and the best method of sale (in-person pick-up or shipping). For big, bulky items (think luggage, strollers & furniture), start with Facebook Marketplace. It is very easy to make a listing and upload photos plus you can see if you have any mutual connections with the person. I usually have quite good responses on this platform. Alternatively, the tried and true Craigslist is still somewhat active and other sites like letgo may provide additional outlets to sell your item.

When possible, I will try and meet in a public place during the day – think Starbucks or a gas station. Places where you can easily find a parking space, are well-lit and have a lot of people coming and going. If you agree to meet a few days ahead of time, I highly recommend re-confirming the morning of.

For shippable items, your pool of buyers can grow dramatically by using sites like Poshmark, Mercari, eBay and even Facebook Marketplaces which now allows for shipping orders. Additionally, you can leverage Buy, Sell, Trade groups on Facebook to find niche groups related to your local area or a specific brand. Just search groups with the name of your area with BST or B/S/T or look for a brand you like (ex. Tea Collection BST, Gymboree BST, etc). In any case, you do need to be savvy on the weight of the item in a box or padded envelope to ensure you cover your costs.

Gathering Your Supplies

To get started, build a small supply closet for yourself with the essentials:

  • Padded envelopes as they weigh much less than cardboard boxes (check out this sampler for a variety of sizes to get started)
  • Packing tape (with a dispenser!)
  • Bubble wrap (or save the packaging that comes in shipments you receive)
  • Boxes (no need to spend money here – save the ones you receive to upcycle or get USPS Priority Mail boxes from the Post Office)
  • Access to a printer for generating mailing labels
  • A PayPal account
  • A kitchen or mailing scale

Getting Started – Pricing Your Items

Once you are set-up and have your supplies, inventory the items you have to potentially sell.

Use the filters on the left to see only sold items to help determine your price.
  1. First, identify if there is a market for the item. I like to go to eBay and look up the item I am selling. Be as specific as possible with brand, model, color, accessories, etc. and then filter using the “Completed Items and Sold Items”. Now, you can easily see what items sold for to give you an idea about how to price your item. I also use Mercari and Poshmark to help gather data on pricing. For items where there isn’t as big of a resale market, I usually try to price 60% off of retail unless something is new in box.
  2. When pricing, consider the best available price as a savvy buyer will use this as their threshold. Another example is items that can be purchased through shops like Bed, Bath & Beyond. Most everything in the place can have the 20% off coupon applied so consider this when selecting a price. I will usually do 60% off of the discounted price as my estimate.
  3. Also realistically look at the condition of your item when pricing. Here’s a quick guide to the conditions and acronyms often used:
Brand New (NWT)Like NewExcellent Used Condition (EUC)Good Used Condition (GUC)Fair/For Parts/Play Condition
New in packaging, has tags attached, never usedPackaging or tags removed, absolutely no signs or useGently used; for clothes: worn and washed but still in excellent shape, no stains, no holes, etcSigns of wear but still usable; for clothes: a minor stain would fall under this categoryAnything that needs repair or is being sold for parts; for clothes: could have stains but still usable

Photographing Your Items

The key to a great listing is to have clear, detailed photos to give the buyer assurance of the item they are purchasing. You don’t need to have a fancy camera or special lighting; just use your phone and find a well-lit area with a solid background. Showcase the item as best as you can – for something like a light fixture or piece of wall art, consider taking the picture while it is still hung up. For clothes, some items will look better hung up (ex. coats, pants and dresses) while other items (kid’s stuff, tops, jewelry) look just fine laid flat.

A sample listing from my Poshmark account – having an eye-catching, clear main photo will help drive sales

Be sure to take a nice main picture – in most cases, a single image will highlight your listing. You want it to be eye-catching so someone will stop to look at your post. For selling in niche groups on Facebook, some will only allow one photo per post so either make it a great one, make a collage or supplement your main photo with detailed ones in the comments.

Also take other photos showing any unique details of the item, any defects or flaws. Be honest about any defects and show them in photos so the buyer can fully understand what they are getting.

Creating a Listing

Once you have your supplies ready and your photos ready to go, you can get to posting! Refer to specific rules in the group or platform you’re selling in but, generally, you can follow this guidance:

  • Create a clear header indicating key components that buyers will search for and that would get picked up by search engines (ex. Ruffle Butts 4T Pink Polka Dot Rashguard Tankini is much better than Girls Pink Swimsuit).
  • Add in details about the item – material, how it fits, any zips/snaps/buttons, etc.
  • Indicate any flaws or defects (ex. stains, holes, odors, etc). A minor stain is usually not a dealbreaker but holes & odors would usually be.
  • Indicate if the item is from a non-smoking home or not and if there are pets (many people will allergies will want to know this)
  • List your price and be clear if it includes shipping or not.

In this step, you will also want to weigh your item with any packaging (ex. bubble wrap or tissue) inside the box or envelope you plan to use so you can get an accurate weight to determine shipping cost. Generally, anything up to 15 ounces can ship First Class Mail within the United States which averages about $4 depending on where it is going. If you crossover above a pound, it needs to go Priority Mail which has a significant leap in price. To make Priority Mail worthwhile, considering bundling items together (ex. lot of 2T boys pajamas). If you are shipping books, DVDs or the like, USPS Media Mail is an option and, while slow, is quite cheap. I occasionally use UPS and FedEx but the prices usually start in the $10 range so it isn’t usually the most economical for lower cost items.

Once you hit publish on your post, be sure to check back regularly and/or download the platform’s app so you can receive a push notification when there is activity. Be prompt in replying to questions and try to get the item shipped out by the next business day, if possible. By printing the label via PayPal, you don’t need to wait in line at the post office! You can deposit in the blue boxes (if they are small) or just leave on the counter at your local post office. Be sure to track activity to make sure it arrives.

Sales and Invoicing

If you sell through Mercari, eBay or Poshmark, they will make it very easy as you can print the label and do the payment processing via the site. I highly recommend one of these sites if you are just starting out as they will guide through the steps to make a listing and you will be able to easily track your earnings. There is a fee charged by each site if a sale is made so please do consider this.

If you sell independently, like in a Facebook group, I highly recommend only accepting PayPal as it has buyer and seller protection. Be weary of anyone who tries to get you to use other payment channels. With PayPal, I will create an invoice, clearly list out what items the person is buying and the total amount with shipping. All you need is the buyer’s email and PayPal will send the invoice. Once it is paid, you will receive a second notification and this is when you can generate a shipping label. Simply enter the item’s weight and package dimensions, select the service and print.

Good luck with selling – it is very refreshing to not only clear out your house but also get some extra cash! Have other selling tips? Leave them in the comments.

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