The ins and outs of online sales

How to Get The Most When You're Selling Online

by Elisha Montgomery


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Selling online can be tedious and time-consuming work. After you have done the relatively enjoyable part of treasure hunting, reality sets in as the time arrives to move from hunting to selling. Over the past few years, I have sold many products and made mistakes. I want to help you avoid my mistakes and capitalize on my success. If you're like me, then this won't be your full-time gig, and in that case, you don't have a lot of time to waste. Let's utilize your time wisely. In this article, I present three different examples that will help you decide which of the popular sites to use when selling online. We'll use four characteristics to help discern the best way to sell. What is the condition and quantity? How difficult is it to sell? How much do you want to sell it for?

Let's start with Susan. She purchased 40 new electric toothbrushes at an auction. Susan knows the answer to the first two questions. These are new, sealed products, and she has 40. Also, electric toothbrushes are small, so the box is portable and easy to ship. Next, Susan has to figure out how much she can sell them for, so she first figures out what they cost new by searching the manufacturer's website and a few major retailers. She finds that they average $150. Since they are new, she decides to mark them down 30%, selling them at $105. Susan reasons this will be a good balance between profit and incentive to buy from her, but which medium should she use to sell her merchandise? Realizing that she doesn't want to make arrangements to meet 40 or more different people, Susan decides against Craigslist. Since all her products are the same, she decides to post 20 on Amazon and 20 on eBay, offering free shipping as she reasons that they are small enough to cover the costs herself. This won't take her much time because she only has to create two different posts and update quantities. This also gives her a great opportunity to test out where they will sell better and can move the slower selling toothbrushes over to the more successful medium later.

Now it is Fred's turn. He has been collecting antique light fixtures. Fred has many fixtures and some are awkwardly shaped, which makes shipping a pain. Again we see that Fred already knows the answers to several of the important questions right away. He has a lot to sell. They are used and will be awkward to ship. He considers the value of the different fixtures and estimates that they will sell for around $50 to $100 each. One issue Fred encounters is that he lives 40 minutes out of a metropolitan area, which reduces his local customers on Craigslist. On Amazon, posting antiques can be tricky, so he decides to go with eBay. On eBay, he is going to overcharge for shipping to overcome any complications with the weird shapes of the fixtures. As a side note, charging for shipping is smart as it can save you money when you get a customer who wants to return something. If you offer free shipping, you will have to absorb the original cost with the return. Looks like Fred has got it all figured out.

Lastly, we have Mark, and he has an assortment of items. He has a few bikes, a truck bed liner, and some free weights. All of these are heavy, big, and really hard to ship. He decides to forego eBay and Amazon altogether and just stick to Craigslist. Because there is a very good chance this is the only medium he needs, this decision saves him a lot of valuable time because there's no need to create impractical posts.



As we've seen with the examples above, the best way to sell often depends on what you are selling. If you have a stream of similar products, you may choose to stick with only one these retailers for simplicity. eBay even allows you to have a virtual storefront. Using the right tool for the job can often give you an edge and save valuable time. In the end, much of what you will learn comes from trial and error, so get out there and sell!

eBay advantages:

  • Large customer base
  • Versatile
  • Easy to post used items
  • Items are not grouped with other like products but have their own spotlight

Amazon advantages:

  • Largest customer base
  • Easy to post big quantities and add more

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Craigslist advantages:

  • No fees
  • No shipping
  • Customers see product in person
  • Easiest to post with

Pro Tips

  • I get burned out trying to post many different items in one sitting and like to post a couple of items each day instead of one big session.
  • Look up your item on eBay and look at the sold items. This will give you an idea of what yours will sell for when you're ready to sell.
  • Always ship promptly. This is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Don't throw away boxes. You can use them for shipping later.
  • If someone asks you a question, you should answer as quickly as possible. This often leads to an immediate sale.
  • Shipping can be a profit killer, so calculate shipping costs carefully.

Reviewed September 2017


Take the Next Step:

  • Discover more savvy tips for selling online by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
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