Clean and Update Your Closet Selling on eBay: 7 Tips

16 Mar

Dear Yolo,

Have you seen Smash yet? That show with Katharine McPhee about becoming a Broadway musical star thingy? I like it for the same reason I like Hoarders. It makes me feel more normal and hopeful about my life when I watch it. I will leave my explanation at that.

Now that I’ve lived in New York for a while, I get so pissed whenever I watch a TV show (like Smash or Friends) or any movie where the characters living in New York. The apartments the characters live in are so unrealistic it’s funny in a bitter, “I grew up thinking I would have a flying car by this point in my life” kind of way. There is just no freaking way Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox could possibly afford an apartment like that on their barista/chef salaries. A two bedroom apartment like that in Manhattan would be at LEAST $6000/mo.  And in real life, their apartment would be furnished with craigslist and curbside found objects and shoes, books and clothes would be piled everywhere.

Since I’m an optimist, I will say that one ancillary benefit of living in a tiny New York apartment is that it forces you to be creative about storage and (actually, this may be a benefit of watching Hoarders) it forces you to only keep things that you really want or need because you simply don’t have room for things you feel iffy about. Enter eBay.

I started using eBay again after an 8 year hiatus because I was interested in finding unique vintage pieces. Specifically, I like searching eBay for interesting vintage Valentino, Christian Lacroix (amazing accessories from the 90s),  Sonia Rykiel (I adore her sweaters) or Halston (just bought an awesome leopard print pony hair crossbody bag for $16) clothing and accessories at good prices.While it’s fun to forage for these things in New York, it’s tiring and time consuming and New York city prices can make some used and vintage items as costly as brand-new purchases.

So after I had started buying on eBay, why not try selling? I have an embarrassing number of clothes and shoes I’ve accumulated in the last few years that were too expensive for me to feel ok about donating to Goodwill but that I no longer wear or don’t fit me. It was time to purge all the un-used and unappreciated items from my closet.

Selling on eBay allows me to make some money back on the clothes and shoes that are now just taking up valuable space in my closet and I like knowing that these items are going to enjoy a second life and make someone happy. Most the money I’ve made on eBay has been reinvested in eBay or Etsy wardrobe purchases so maybe not that much extra room has been freed up, but on the upside, I’ve traded my unwanted stuff for things I like: instant wardrobe update.

In case you you haven’t already tried it yourself, I wanted to share some tips for selling on Ebay. It’s simple, but here are seven tips that would have helped me starting out. These tips are things  I learned the hard way (like getting burned on postage fees) and then i’ve  added some know-how from my days in Digital Marketing.

  1. Sell The Right Thing. Sell things you think people will actually search for/want to buy on EBay.  Selling does take some time and effort so make it worth your while and resist the urge to make  $2 on a worn sweatshirt from Target. Donate those items to Goodwill. Someone will get use out of your donation, it goes to a good cause and you can write it off on your taxes.
    Also, consider the season or when someone is in the market for your wares. For example, most shoppers are thinking about spring and summer right now. If you have a winter parka you want to sell, you may want to wait until fall to list it.
  2. Make It Look Good. Pick a clean, well-lit place with a simple background to photograph your goods so you can represent them accurately and in an appealing manner. You don’t need fancy equipment or Terry Richardson’s eye. I actually use my iPhone to take my pictures.
    Keep your light source behind the camera for the best images. Since the color isn’t always true to life, I use Picasa (free to download) to adjust and the image if needed. You can also make other edits in Picasa if you need to crop or straighten. (There’s also tons of effects– it’s a great program.)
    If it’s a simple striped shirt, you can probably get away with posting one image (the first image is free, 3 additional images are available for $0.15 each). Make sure you capture interesting or unique details. Lots of items, shoes especially call for images taken from multiple angles. You can also do a Google image search to get professional imagery or the item worn by a model or a celebrity which will be sure to draw a shopper’s eye. Terry Richardson may have actually taken that photo, and it’s likely to be more compelling than your home photograhy so use it as your featured (free) photo that people will see when they’re browsing listings.
    If you have a lot to sell and/or want to get serious about selling on EBay, check out Auctiva (it’s free) a  service that provides EBay seller templates, scrolling galleries, image hosting and other marketing tools.

    Vince Camuto 'Suni' Boot 9.5M in Distressed Nubuck

    Vince Camuto 'Suni' Boot 9.5M in Distressed Nubuck

  3. The Title Brings Them In.  Buyers on eBay typically use the search function when shopping, so create a title that is search and customer friendly. There is no need to be too creative. Simply list the most pertinent information about what you’re selling. Just as I’ve done with the titles for these bullet points, capitalize the first letter of Each Word in Your Title. Like headlines in a newspaper or marketing emails in your inbox, it draws the eye and makes your title stand out.Info to Include In Your Title:
    Brand Name. People shop for brands, so if your item is  J. Crew, Zara, H&M or Max Azaria or was purchased from a store like Fred Segal, Anthropologie or Free People, mention it in the title.
    Example: ‘Silk Paisley Halter Top with Beaded Detail – M Anthropolgie Free People’
    Style, Color, Size.
    Other info for your title. If applies: NWT (New With Tags), NWB (New With Box)/NIB (New In Box), Rare or Sold-Out (if your item is hard to find or sought after.
  4. Pricing. You can sell two ways on eBay: auction style or simply list your price for the item. If you opt for auction style, you can choose the base price for bidding. This price should be the minimum price you are willing to accept in exchange for the item.
    You can also select the length of time you want your auction to run from 5 days to 30 days. I usually choose the minimum auction length of 5 days because I want to get rid of stuff sooner rather than later. Most people when shopping for clothing items are interested in instant gratification. If you are selling a collector’s item or a more specialized/significant purchase, a longer auction time may help you get more money in the long run.
    It’s really up to you.  If you opt for a longer auction time, I suggest also offering the ‘Buy It Now’ option. This is the price you’d ideally like to get for the item (higher than your minimum). It will allow a motivated buyer to purchase your item right away instead of waiting and waiting for the auction to end.
  5. Describe it Accurately.  Inspect your item thoroughly before listing. Be honest about the wear on the item and disclose any known flaws. If you purchased the item fairly recently, you may be able to cut and paste a description from a retailer here.  Mention again in your description if an item is pre-owned.  There are inexperienced buyers and lots of people who don’t read carefully. To give the buyer a sense of value, I suggest  listing the price you paid/original retail price of the item.  It doesn’t hurt to add a personal touch and thank the buyer for looking at your listing and/or invite them to email you with question or if they want to see additional pictures.
  6. Your Item Sold! If the item you’ve been selling has been bid on, once the auction ends, you’ll get a notification saying your item has sold. Yay! Now, wait. You’re waiting for a notification from eBay that lets you know the buyer has transfered funds to your PayPal account and that you’ve been PAID. Then you can celebrate (and ship the item). Most buyers are pretty prompt with payment but if 48 hours have passed and you still haven’t gotten the notification that you’ve been paid, remind your buyer and send them an invoice. This is one of the actions you can select in the eBay Selling interface. Add a note that you’re waiting for payment and will ship within X days /time (whatever you selected when you listed the item) as soon as payment has been received.
    I haven’t had any issues as a seller, but if you have a someone who doesn’t respond to your invoice or reminders, it is possible to cancel a sale. eBay does protect its sellers as well as buyers.  If there is an issue, do your best to resolve it yourself communicating with your buyer directly. If there is a conflict, check with the eBay Customer Support Center.
  7. Shipping and Mailing. I definitely lost a few dollars and an hour or two of my life due to post office lines and my own ignorance in this department early on. Here’s the good news– with USPS you can do all your shipping without ever leaving your house. YES! We all know post offices are pretty much the worst places on earth. It’s where lonely hypochondriacs go when they feel like testing out whether or not their misery is contagious. (It is.)
    Back to USPS.  Get to know those flat-rate USPS Priority box and envelope sizes and prices! Or, if you’re shipping a shirt or pair of jeans that can fit in a large poly-vinyl or Priority (not flat-rate)  envelope weight the item (use the bathroom scale if you’re not a drug dealer) and the calculator on the USPS website. When you first list an item, order your boxes from the USPS website (it’s FREE) and they will deliver the boxes to you. Once you sell your item, you can select an option to print your  shipping label on your printer and then you simply schedule the USPS pick up on their website. Pretty slick, right?
    If you print your own label through eBAY (it’s also a USPS label), the tracking number will automatically become available to the buyer. Otherwise, this is something you can manually update. Make sure you indicate in the selling section of ‘My eBay’ when the item has shipped so you customer will receive the notification.

As a final word, maintain a good reputation. Treat your customers they way you’d want to be treated. If you say you’re going to ship within 2 business days, then do it. Be communicative and fair. Your reputation (based on reviews left by your customers and those you purchase from) will influence others on whether or not they want to do business with you. Have fun &  good luck, sellers!

Free People Anthropologie Hooded Crochet Sweater Coat - L

Free People Anthropologie Hooded Crochet Sweater Coat - L

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