This article is about selling miscellaneous products on internet services such as eBay and Etsy. This is a large world, filled with “junk” that someone no longer wants, but may be a treasure to someone who wants it. You need to find it, sell it and ship it.
The first place to find hidden treasures is a yard sale, also known as garage sale, or a flea market. These sales are typically filled with products sold at very low prices and may be in good sell-able condition. These sales are most popular in Spring to early Summer, then pickup again in early Fall.
Estate sales, usually handled via auction, are another great location to find good quality products for low prices, however the “buyer’s premium” and other fees tend to jack up the pricing over a run-of-the-mill yard sale. And the other buyer’s competing for the same stuff will make this more expensive, but often a bargain is still to be had.
MaxSold is an easy to use online estate seller that I use to purchase products for my own collection, or to turn around and sell. It provides easy bidding and payment system online, then simply pickup the products within the scheduled time-frame.
Know What It’s Worth
You shouldn’t blindly clean-out a yard or estate sale. You need to know the market. Some of the sites for selling products have an advanced search option that allows you to select completed purchase only. This allows you to find the product you want to sell, and see what people have paid for it recently.
Know What It Costs to Deliver
You need to be able to provide reliable shipping information to your potential buyers. Most of the good selling platforms have shipping tools built in, at least for charging to ship, and you will need the package dimensions and weight for setting up the listing.
Carefully pack the product in a box, fully padded and prepared for shipping. Now weigh it and add one ounce. This extra ounce provides sufficient weight for packing slip, sealing tape and the shipping label, plus a tiny bit for margin of error.
Package Padding and Filler
If you are putting a box inside a box, packing peanuts are a reasonable filler. If the product is not in a box (or a box itself) do not use packing peanuts. The biggest problem with loose fill is exactly that – the “padding” is loose and it will move naturally. During transport, your package is subject to a lot of vibration. It will get bumped and jarred, and sometimes not handled well at all. You do not want the product you are trying to protect to move. It will likely get damaged in shipping.
If the product has an sharp (or sharp-like) edges and corners, do not use inflated bags or bubble sheets.
Polystyrene foam is the lightest and strongest of the shipping materials. You can purchase sheets at home improvement stores, which are usually a lower cost, or at craft and office supply stores. Cut the foam to allow the product to snuggly fit in the box. Sometimes it is best to put the product in a foam or plastic sheet to keep stray foam materials from getting inside the product.
Sell It on eBay
You have the product and you are ready to sell it. eBay is a great avenue for selling product, but you need to use it correctly.
Listing Your Item
eBay has added features that help automate listing known products, but be sure to add your own descriptive data. Be sure to provide true status of the product you are selling, not just that it is new or used, but explain any deficiencies and include anything special like factory sealed box or other valuable insight.
Include detailed pictures in your listing. Bidders want to see what they are buying. A clear picture of every side helps bidders decide on buying the item.
Are you going to allow returns? Most sellers sell their items “as-is” and do not allow returns. Be sure that you include your return policy within the listing description.
Using your research from “Know What It’s Worth” to determine the starting price and whether or not you want to set a reserve. Do not aim too high, but be careful not to undersell yourself.
- Starting Price – If the product is truly valuable, you can usually set your starting price to about one-quarter of the value you have found. Lower starting prices help gain interest. Bidders will drive the price up.
- Reserve Price – Set the reserve to about half the items value to help. Personally, I do not recommend using reserves, but sometimes you need to protect your investment.
- Buy It Now – Setting a “Buy It Now” price allows someone to buy the product right away, bypassing the bidding process – at least until bidding starts. eBay will remove the “Buy It Now” option upon the first bid, unless a reserve is set. If there is a reserve, “Buy It Now” will remain until bids reach the reserve.
Use the shipping research information within the listing to prepare potential bidders for that expense. If the weight and source location is accurate, then the eBay tools will work with bidders to provide actual costs. You may consider combining shipping for persons that bid (and win) multiple items.
How will you accept payment? PayPal is the easiest, most reliable option. The alternative is working with another merchant service or receiving payment by mail. I highly recommend not accepting personal checks. Accepting money orders and certified checks is fine.
Potential bidders may ask questions about the product. Answers them honestly and share the answers within the listing, in case someone else has the same question.
End of Sale
You’ve got a winner. Communicate and collect money.
Most eBay sellers use the built in tools to communicate with buyers. Personally, I prefer to combine the automated tools with personal communication. I think the personal touch is part of the experience. If allowing shipping to be combined, make sure to send a final invoice to applicable bidders with the combined shipping cost.
If receiving money through a merchant service, such as Paypal, then you only need to wait a couple days to ensure the funds are clear. The exception being Check via Paypal, then it needs to wait several days, just like if someone mailed a check or money order. The most important point is to not ship any product until the money has cleared!
This is where a lot of sellers fall short. Your customer has bought and paid for their new treasure. You need to safely package and ship it promptly. Hopefully you already packaged the product for preparation of selling. If not, scroll back up to the “Know What It Costs to Deliver” section.
Personally, I use United States Postal Service for shipping physical products that I sell. They are usually about the same or slightly less expensive than other shippers for smaller items. It helps if the products fit inside the flat-rate shipping boxes that the post office provides at no additional cost.
Send an email to your buyer providing the details of planned ship date, where it is shipping from, shipping type and tracking number. Always have a tracking number and I highly recommend insuring the shipment. USPS automatically provides free tracking and free insurance (up to $50) when Priority Mail is purchased through Click-N-Ship®.
Don’t forget to send the tracking information to the buyer. This can usually be done through the eBay site or that of your shipping partner.
Monitor tracking for the shipment, and then give your customer about a week after receiving the product. Send them a positive message expressing hope that they are happy with the product, and check if everything is in order.
If there are any issues, make an honest effort to correct them, within the bounds of the policy you defined in your listing. Be polite and helpful.
Once you are happy, and they are happy, leave positive feedback for them on eBay. Most buyers will not leave feedback until they have received it from the seller.