So chance would have it, as it invariably does I was in the middle of typing out some notes for this post after giving a friend some advice on car boot sales. I had tweeted a couple of tips when the citizen rosebud asked if I had any more tips for selling. Luckily I did. I have been selling on eBay for 6 years and have an Etsy shop, I have also done car boot sales in the past. I love selling, bartering, bargaining and everything in between! So I thought I would pass on some of that wisdom, especially since I remember how daunting all this was at first. I previously wrote a post on eBay focusing mainly on finding and buying which you can read HERE.
There are 3 main places you can easily sell at: Etsy, eBay and car boot sales here are my pros, cons and tips.
My general rule is that if I am having a clear out and just want to get rid of a load of stuff then I will do a car boots sale. Remember people go to car boots to find a bargain and will be expecting to only pay 20p, 50p, ┬ú1 for items of clothing. Half the fun of a car boot is to get some fresh air on a Sunday morning , have a barter and find a bargain. You need to be prepared for the price you say to be bartered down, don’t be offended. The aim of a car boot is to sell everything, you have had a clear out, you don’t want to take it all back home again. So my rule is anything for any price, just let it go.
Tips for Selling:
- 1. Don’t bother pricing things, haggle with the buyers and so long as you get something be happy with it.
- 2. Don’t take valuable items unless you are going to a car boot twinned with a collectors fair, then clearly state the price. Also be prepared for ‘collectors’ the professionals, to be around they are a right pain and will try and come rooting through your stuff before you have even unpacked it. They are looking for hidden treasures, very valuable items you may not know about. Beware if you get a quick and sudden interest from someone like this, whatever they offer you say no and take it to a local auction house for a valuation. Or whatever they offer you treble it. You’ve all heard the stories of 50p bargains selling for thousands at auction, don’t let it be you that looses out!
- 3. If you have a rail to hang clothes on the better, if not take hangers and have them hung up on your car or even take a clothes dryer to hang them from. Sadly car boots are usually in a field, clothes will get dirty, get over it. People will rummage through your things if they are in a pile or box you can’t be precious about it.
- 4. Take a ‘float’ of small change with you, make it easy for people to buy.
- 5. Take some spare carrier bags to put the sold items in, also newspapers are handy to wrap up any breakables like cups and plates.
- 6. If you are selling some larger items such as a chair, offer to hold it for the customer till they have finished looking around but make sure they pay first, may people will ask you to hold items and forget to come back loosing you a sale.
- 7. Have a 20p box at the front of your stall, clearly labelled. I have no idea why but this attracts the crowds, it doesn’t matter really what you have in there but I found old make-up and jewellery no matter what state it is in always sells. It also gets people to look around the rest of your stall.
If your aim is to make money and make it fast then eBay is your place. It is only worth selling things on eBay that are fairly valuable. Selling on there is expensive, they charge you a fee to list the item and also a percentage of the sale price. If the buyer pays via Paypal then you will be charged again for this too. You end up paying out around 10% of the money you make so bear this in mind when deciding upon your prices. Ways to keep the costs down are to list items for 99p which is free or to wait for a ‘free listing’ weekend. You must always remember though that if you list the item at 99p then it may only sell for that little. Is it really worth the effort of selling say a jumper for 99p? You will get around 90p profit for it but you still have to wrap it up and take it to the post office, packaging such as tissue paper, a padded envelope, parcel tape, printer ink, paper and petrol / bus fare to take into account. For a 90p sale you are likely to have actually lost money. Plus all the time it takes to photograph, measure and write up the auction. I don’t list anything I do not think I will get over ┬ú5 for.
Tips for selling:
- 1. Make sure you include as much detail as you can in your listing especially condition, colour (it can look different in photos), size and measurements.
- 2. Take clear photographs.
- 3. EBay offers two selling formats, auction and ‘buy it now’. Buy it now, you just set the price you want for the item and wait and see if someone buys it. You may also add ‘best offer’ to this which means people can send you a best offer, for example if you have the buy it now of ┬ú100 people can offer you any price below this – beware most people see this as a great pass time to offer you stupid amounts like 50p. Even serious buyers will start at least half the price so unless you are quite flexible in the price I wouldn’t use this feature. Also as a buyer someone who has say ┬ú100 buy it now and will only take offers of over ┬ú97 are just annoying on principle. Buy it now is the best format for more unusual or less well known items.
- 4. With auction you can start the price low and hope you get lots of bids. This is the best format for popular items that a lot of people will be interested in. How do you know if you have a popular item, you can look at auctions which have already ended of similar items. Generally you learn this with experience from items that don’t even get one bid at 99p and ones that go from 99p to hundreds of pounds. Basically, well known high street and designer items will be popular, for lesser well know designers you have to bide your time for the right buyer. I could write an entire post on this topic alone. For example you would do well at a 99p auction with a pair of Topshop jeans but you would be wise to put an Erdem skirt on a buy it now.
- 5. Be prepared to answer questions, lots and lots of questions, even ones you have already answered in the listing, even ones that are blindingly obvious. People on eBay like to ask questions, many are dumb ass but hey if it gets you a sale just roll with it. These are all questions I have genuinely been asked ‘exactly how blue is that jumper?’, ‘Has anyone farted in those jeans?’, ‘Is one of the shoes a different size to the other?’…. I could go on!
- 6. Be prepared to have people wanting returns, even if you clearly state you will not accept them people will try all sorts of BS to get a refund. Basically if they do decide to involve eBay you will be forced to give a refund, eBay is always on the side of the buyer. Yet I find being super nice to complainers, even though you know you did nothing wrong, gets you everywhere. I find the usual problem is that they bought something and it is too small or they had a vision in their heads what it would look like and it doesn’t match their fairytale imagination. I have had all sorts of excuses ‘it smells of smoke’ I don’t smoke it is impossible, ‘it is a small size 1o, you didn’t say it was a very small size 10’ we all know sizes can vary from store to store. To resolve this kind of thing I always apologies profusely that they were disappointed in anyway, say I am an honest person who would never want to mislead anyone. I then try and resolve the issue. I have offered a ┬ú5 refund for dry-cleaning on a ┬ú100 dress. It certainly didn’t need it but it was less hassle for me than taking the dress back and having to resell it. You can also suggest that they relist the item on eBay themselves. You just have to play things by ear. Some times I have lost my temper and snapped at buyers I admit. One accused me of selling a fake item, which you all know by now I am the last person on the earth to ever do that. So I told them I refused to listed to such crap, they had obviously never even seen designer items before let alone been in an original boutique of the designer and that they could take the matter up with eBay, trading standards and the law. They never did of course but I don’t encourage anyone to be rude.
- 7. Beware that eBay is huge, it attracts millions of people from all over the world. Not all of them are nice people. About 1% are crooks, thieves and down right nasty. I have had the displeasure of dealing with a few but it is rare, most people are just like you. Just bear in mind that eBay has rules and guidelines for a reason – to protect its users, so follow them to the letter. Do not sell an item outside of eBay if you get an email asking you to, do not accept payment methods eBay doesn’t allow like Western Union as you will not have any fall back protection if some thing goes wrong. Do not post an item until you have the money in either your PayPal account or hand in the case of postal orders. If you suspect anything dodgy get in touch with eBay right away.
- 8. Don’t be afraid of posting overseas, over 60% of my sales are overseas all you have to do is recalculate postage costs which you can work out using the royal mail website going off size and weight. But if you only want to sell to your own country then you can specify that too.
- 9. Only send items via recorded methods. No matter what the buyer tells you to try and get you to make the postage cheaper, if an item gets lost in the post you, the seller will be held responsible. If you do not send an item so it is fully insured you will loose out as eBay will make you refund the buyer. Therefore if the item is worth over ┬ú46 it must be sent by Special delivery / International signed for plus insurance. If it is under ┬ú46 you may still claim for it but if it wasn’t sent recorded (where the recipient has to sign to prove they have the parcel) then you will have a hard time proving it never arrived. I will never send an item without requiring a signature.
- 10. Beware of con artists, you would be wise to Google a few eBay scams to familiarise yourself with them. It is most likely you won’t come across any yourself but it pays to be educated if you are selling electrical goods such as mobile phones and laptops or designer handbags especially.
- 11. If you have a high volume of things to sell you can also open an eBay store, I did this for a while when I was selling my own handmade jewellery but closed it as it did not work for me personally, yet there are many who do like this method. Again it is trial and error and personal preference. I think for a shop to work you need to have a high demand item and something that people will repeat buy. Your shop items are not as highly visible as auction items so you need a real business strategy having the shop stocked with ‘bread and butter’ items and running auctions along side it as ‘cup cakes’ to attract people into your store.
- 12. Be prepared that your item may take a few weeks of relisting to sell, it may take a while for the right person to find it, some people may spot your item but have to wait 3 weeks till they get paid to buy it.
- 13. Watchers – watchers are annoying to sellers, you can have an item with lots of watchers but not get a bid. Why? Usually this indicates people are interested in your item but don’t want to pay your price. When I get this I usually start my item off at 99p the next week and almost always end up with it getting bid up over my original price? Why? Want creates demand if someone has their eye on something, but its too dear then all of a sudden they have the chance to afford it they start to obsess and get competitive with other people trying to steal the item away from them.
I simply adore Etsy, it reminds me of grandmas, cake, kittens and florals. It is just a really nice place to sell. You get to make your own shop, pretty it up with your personalised logo and set out all your items. The thing is that it is restricted to selling vintage, handmade and craft supplies so you may not meet the criteria with what you want to sell. Etsy also has a community where you can meet other like-minded sellers and ‘favorite’ other shops. I choose Etsy over eBay to sell my vintage clothes and accessories because of its specialist vintage category and because it was linked to my blog. I wanted a shop that was more personal, like my blog, so I could sell my things to like-minded people. The downside is that Etsy has nowhere near the traffic of eBay so you need to be prepared for that.
Tips for selling:
- 1. If you can make your first photograph in each listing a square shape, or at lease make sure the middle of the photo is easy to identify. This is because in the search a ‘thumb print’ of your first photo will be used. If you are selling a dress this can mean the thing buyers see in their search is only the middle as the top and bottom can be cut off!
- 2. Make sure to add as many key words to your listing as possible so you buyers can find your item easily. This goes for eBay too, people may come up with hundreds of items for ‘red dress’ so they may then look for ‘red dress size 14’ or ‘red dress 60s vintage’ think about all the terms that might apply to your item.
- 3. Postage, again see eBay tips I will only post via traceable and insured methods to protect myself and I always recommend you sell worldwide not just limited to your own country.
- 4. Advertising, as Etsy has a smaller footfall than eBay you need to be creative with attracting customers. I promote my items on my blog, twitter, facebook, business cards and word of mouth through friends and family. You can of course do this for your eBay too.
- 5. The slow burn. With Etsy their is no need for people to panic buy as there is with an eBay auction. With an auction they know this is their only chance to buy something. With Etsy people have time to browse, add items to their favorites and come back to it. I find it is worth reminding people that your item is vintage / handmade so will likely be a one off. Once it is gone, it is gone for good. This recently happened to me, I had a vintage YSL blouse in my shop which sold just after I had blogged about it yet the blouse had been in my shop for a week and I had tweeted about it too. As soon as it was gone I had around 6 messages asking where it went as other people wanted to buy it.
Pricing: I asked on twitter whilst writing this post if anyone had any questions and a common one was how to set prices so I thought I should add more details. For car boot sales I would really say aim as low as possible. Say 20p for t-shirts maybe 50p-┬ú1 for high street dresses.
Again if you want more money for something then get it on eBay. With eBay you can look at similar items to your own and see what they sold for. Simply go to ‘advanced search’ and tick ‘completed listings’. You can then look at the price the item sold for and see what price the item started bidding at. Generally high street clothing I start off at 99p you don’t pay that much for things new so you won’t get a fortune for them second hand. Things that are always popular are jeans and practical items. Season also has an effect on your prices, maxi dresses will get a ton of bids in the summer as will faux fur coats in the winter. Trendy items will attract more bids too, if you think of the key trends at the time clogs last summer for example seen on the Chanel runway were really hard to get hold of, unlike this summer where every shop on the high street has a version. Popular designers will attract more attention than less well known, for example Chanel will attract many bidders where as say Ann Demeulemeester is less know to the mass market. Therefore you could safely list a Chanel 2.55 handbag at 99p and expect it to still get bid up to hundreds of pounds. Yet a ┬ú700 Ann D jacket would be better off placed on a buy it now and be worth the wait for a knowledgeable buyer. If you have seen a celebrity wearing your item try and find an image to add to your listing, people love celebrities especial Kate Moss and Alexa Chung.
With Etsy pricing is pretty much the same as for eBay, you can have a look around other shops to see what similar items are selling for. It is more difficult to price handmade items than it is vintage as only you know hard much hard work went into it. When I used to hand make jewellery I worked out prices by first considering the cost of materials, then how long each piece had taken to make. If you bear in mind that minimum wage is around ┬ú6 per hour you can give yourself an idea of cost per time. Then you need to consider its uniqueness, are you knitting dozens of identical scarves or is each one unique? Are you personalising items? Also how many do you want to sell and how fast? If you make things quickly say, 20 birthday cards per hour you may want to sell higher quantities at lower prices. Whereas if you create fine art, each painting could take two weeks you would aim to sell fewer items at higher prices. When things are more personal you have to step away from any emotional connections and get into your business mind too. Beware of over pricing your items because you have put so much effort into them. You have to make your prices competitive if you want to sell them. Also don’t forgot you can alter your prices, they are not set in stone. Imagine if you saw your item in a shop, what would you be happy to pay for it?
There are of course other place to sell that I won’t go into detail but here are a few words:
Amazon: the best place to sell books, all you have to do is enter the number on the back and decide a price – you can even compare prices of the same book to help you decide, so easy. The only downside is that you don’t get a lot of money for your books and the Amazon set postage fee never covers the actual cost of postage. But I use it because it is easy and I have a lot of books and no room. Amazon is the only place I risk sending 2nd class unrecorded but I do always get a receipt for proof of postage.
Consignment: There are a few place now which will take your designer/ high end high street clothes and accessories, sell them on for you and give you around 50% of the profit. This is an easy method for those who don’t want to spend time faffing around but you will get a somewhat small fee for your items.
Auction: Again an easy way to sell, someone else does the hard work for you and it is the best option for selling rare items. With fashion however you will not get as much money as you would using eBay. For example at a Kerry Taylor designer clothing specialist auction you may pay around ┬ú150 for five modern Vivienne Westwood outfits or ┬ú300 for an 80s Chanel bag. Bargains to be had here for buyer though!
One last tip: When you sell online you need to consider who your audience is, I like to quote the term ‘Never mix business with pleasure’. It is good to remember you are not anonymous although you might think it. I do not link my eBay to my blog as I prefer to keep my buying and selling private. It is also a very small world, only the other week I bought something and it turns out the seller was a friend of mine!On the other hand I am more than happy to tell everyone about my vintage Etsy shop, I link it to my blog and encourage everyone to come and look around because I want to share it.
Please feel free to ask any questions and of course share any tips you might have too!
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