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How to Have A Successful Online Garage Sale
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Sit in the driveway or at your laptop? You decide.
I am certain that most of you have seen the movie.."A Christmas Story", if you have -you will certainly remember how young Ralphie loved and talked endlessly about a Red Rider BB Gun. This is the same way that I talk about garage sales and junk. My husband calls it an addiction or an illness. He even repeats a mantra when I decide not to trash something but to save it for a future project or for an online sale. I heard him just the other day "I must remember it is an addiction, I must remember it is an addiction..." This mantra is from the same guy who has no issues spending my Ebay money....but that's a new topic, I digress. I think my "addiction" to selling my junk started at a very young age along with my addiction to sweets....
As a young girl, I remember the excitement of a garage sale. I remember how my mom would start getting ready a week or so in advance by washing, labeling, and sorting the items. We would recruit a family member to join our efforts because as we all know, misery loves company. We would awaken early on the day of our "pop-up" business and would post our signs, set up tables, and get our cash registers (empty cigar boxes) ready. That was the fun part...then came HOURS upon HOURS sitting in our driveway to only make enough money to go to McDonald's. Did we strike it rich...no way. Did we have a great time..heck yes.
Much to my husband's dismay, I have passed this tradition down to my children. We start early gathering everything we no longer need, price it, set up our tables, and even practice our customer service. My children get a huge thrill out of tagging items and watching people sell take them away in bags. After my third year of my own garage sales, I realized that the times had certainly changed since the garage sale days of my youth.
- I believe that we had at least 20 people per sale stop by and ask if I was selling broken gold...now, do they really think I wouldn't run it across the street my self and rake in the cash? They seemed angry that it wasn't in my inventory!
- Neighbor relationships are more awkward than they used to be. My neighbors telling me that they see that I am not leaving the house for work anymore or noting our comings and goings...leaves me a bit nervous.
- Garage sales simply aren't what they used to be. No on is really looking for that fun "junk" item, they are looking for things to profit from. I do it too so I know! They are looking for name brand clothing, a missed treasure, or a valuable item selling for pennies.
So, I had to change my approach. I sifted my children's addiction to online garage sales! Instead of tagging items and setting up tables, we take pictures and ship. My younger children wake up each morning asking if its time to do our Ebay business. My husband shakes his head in defeat now everyday instead of once a year. If you have extra things to get rid of and need to make CASH, you don't have to wait until the Spring either! You can have an ONLINE GARAGE SALE and sell everything ONLINE that you would have sold in your traditional sale. you usually make more for it too! There are things to know and to watch out for when starting your first online garage sale that i want to share to help you in your transition from driveway commerce to e-commerce!
FIRST - Choose your "store location". You have a few online marketplaces to choose from.
Craigslist -If you are selling large goods, it is best to try sites like Craigslist because there are no fees and no shipping.
- There are ZERO FEES on Craigslist (in most cities) to post your items.
- You do not have to worry about shipping fees or wiring money (actually,never wire money)
- Be warned that in recent years, Craigslist has been used as a means for criminals to find targets. Always meet with a potential buyer in daylight, outside of your home if possible, and with a friend.
- Watch for scams asking you to wire money or to hold a portion of a money order for them after cashing a check sent by a third party.
- No paypal needed! You get cash from the buys in hand on the spot.
Ebay - this is my drug...I mean my online marketplace of choice. You do not meet with buyers and all transactions happen online. You DO have the choice for online pickup only if you prefer. I will be focusing on Ebay for the remainder of this article due to safety factors.
- You will need to set up a paypal account. There are no fees to use papal until you are using it enough to be deemed a "seller". Note that your money may be held for 10 days at first while you are establishing your seller rating. This is to prevent scams but rest assured your money is safe.
- Ebay will allow you to sell 50 items or $5,000 with no "insertion" fees or posting fees. You will be required to pay a "final value fee" which is a portion of your final selling price plus shipping costs.
- You can print shipping labels directly from Ebay using your paypal account BUT I would suggest going to the post office for the first few sales until you get a feel for shipping prices. There is nothing worse than having your package delivered to your own door.
Freecycle - This is basically if you need items taken that are of little to no value. If you have a bag of clothing that doesn't sell, old washers and dryers, etc. Post them on freecycle and 9 times out of 10, they will be picked up for you. There is no fee to use freecycle but remember you make nothing from it. There is a bit of everything and sometimes nothing on there! I have found everything from trampolines, soccer goals, down to magazines!
SECOND - Find your inventory!
This is easy since you have stuff to get rid of! Even though you can post at your own pace, it is important to get organized and know what you are going to sell.
THIRD - Set your prices
Start by going online to Ebay and seeing what like items are selling for as well as shipping fees. Be careful not to look at asking prices or you could set yourself up for failure, you want to sell your stuff not just list it.
- Be careful offering "Free Shipping" just to look competitive. I did that on an item and ended up "paying" the person to take my item. The shirt sold for $4.99 but cost me $6.00 to ship!
- If you have something desirable and want to see it take off..start the bidding at 1 penny! People love these penny starts and get addicted to bidding on them. You may make more this way.
FOURTH - Get posting!
Ebay has made this so easy to do! They now have an APP for your smartphone where you can manage your whole "online garage sale" experience. Posting takes just a minute and checking your items is even faster!
- be honest about your items condition
- USE the free pictures to bring your item to life!
- Check out your shipping options and do what is best for you. I like to offer both first class and Priority Mail.
- be competitive with pricing!
- Allow "Buy It Now" if you just want to make money fast instead of seeing where it can go. This allows the "customer" to not have to deal with waiting out the auction. They can simply choose to buy it at your set price. I have offered this before and sold the item in 5 minutes...maybe I was too cheap. I also recently set a Buy it now price and the auction price went over it! So Ebay must not allow the buy it now option close to the auctions end.
FIFTH - Manage your business
Yes, I said business. The benefit of the "online garage sale" is that you don't waste your time sitting in your driveway for three days on end BUT you will still need to work your "store-front" .
- Ship within the guidlelines that you set forth
- Keep posting! If you have a lot of stuff, keep it moving!
- Respond to questions from potential customers quickly!
I hope that these tips help you have a successful online garage sale. Please know up-front that you may end up finding this process extremely addictive! I started with an online garage sale and ended up running my own ebay business. It may be because my phone makes a cash register sound when something sells...Or I could just be a junkie in more ways than one.
I wish you luck with you garage sale--or new business venture--which ever it turns out to be.