How To De-Clutter Your Life And Make Money
While interviewing successful children's author, Karlana Sanataria, we both spoke about de-cluttering our larger homes, in order to move into our smaller abodes in the city. Karlana went on to tell me how she made a great deal of money selling items on eBay. Her ideas were inspirational, and she was happy to share them when I asked.
So if you are looking to make some extra cash with treasures you have at home, here is how to work an eBay account. Have fun.
I’ve always loved trawling through op-shops, fetes, and garage and car-boot sales. This was partly due to finances, and partly the thrill of the hunt. While living in England for eighteen months, and travelling through Europe (before we had kids), I frequented the numerous markets and antique and bric-a-brac shops. I bought teapots, vases, little dishes, jugs, dinner plates, prints, paintings and books. I shipped them home and added to my collection over the years from local fetes and garage sales. All vintage, all with the character of a bye-gone era, and I loved every piece.
Then the inevitable happened. Somewhere along the way I realised I had too much stuff... Enter eBay, which I’ve been using regularly for over five years.
eBay is straightforward to use, but here are a few suggestions to get you up and running as a successful seller:
1. Starting out
When you first set up your account, you are allowed ten free listings per month. Over time, as I developed a good track record as a reliable seller, this was increased and I now have forty free listings per month. After that, they cost $1.50 each, but forty per month is plenty for most of us! I have enough free listings spare to also sell my handmade cards, which I used to sell in shops.
Link a PayPal account to your eBay account. It makes life so much easier. 98% of my customers pay this way. It’s safe and secure and you can easily keep track of sales. If you need to refund or part-refund for any reason, PayPal makes this easy. There are fees involved, but to me it’s worth it for hassle-free selling and buying. If you are happy to post overseas, this payment method also allows international buyers to purchase from you easily.
3. ‘Auction’ or ‘Buy It Now’?
With an auction listing, you choose the lowest price you are happy to accept. There is a suggestion by eBay that you should start as low as .99c. In my opinion this is not good advice, unless you’re prepared for that to be the outcome! If you want $40.00 minimum for a pre-loved dress and it is a realistic expectation, then list it for $40.00.
I select an auction period of 10 days, which is the maximum, with the aim that more people will see my listing. Remember to also select the option to re-list the item for free up to three times if it doesn’t sell. This means it will be listed for 30 days without you having to think about it. Let your auction listings run for up to a month before lowering your asking price. Some things may take two to three months to sell, but I find that almost everything I list does sell eventually at the right price.
Some things are best listed with a buy-it-now price, not as an auction. For example, my handmade cards, swap cards, stamps sets and Agatha Christie vintage books. There are so many of these types of items on eBay that you want to put a price comparable or better to everyone else so that your item sells. Buy-it-now listings are for up to thirty days. When you create your listing take note of the pre-ticked box, which allows buyers to send you an offer lower than your listed price. If you don’t want this to happen, un-tick this box.
I use my mobile for photos. Take several from different angles in good light. Daylight, but not bright sunshine, is the best. They need to be in focus, the right way up and close enough to show the item clearly. Be honest! Make sure you take photos of anything that is wrong, such as a chip or a stain. Selling something faulty without the customer realising will just lead to negative feedback in your ratings.
But chipped collectable items can still sell. I sold a little blue handmade pottery vase by an early Australian potter for nearly $200.00, even with the two little chips photographed close-up and mentioned in the description! (And before I realised it might be worth something, that little vase had survived a garage sale and nearly went to the op shop when we packed up. But I kept it for a few months more because I liked the colour and shape. I was very glad I did.)
5. Item Description
Getting your title description right is important. Include key words such as brand name, size, colour or other descriptive information that a buyer might use in their search to ensure your listing is seen.
In the text-box for describing the item, restate what you’ve said in the title, and add any other information that is important. Make sure you include measurements. Buyers want all the information you can provide. List faults as well.
Do some research. Look at similar items on eBay, Gumtree and other auction sites and see what other people are asking, or have sold similar items for. Depending on the condition of yours compared to these, work out a reasonable price. I usually offer my items at the lower price end for ‘buy it now’ items, so mine get sold over the same item listed at a higher price. For auctions, start the bid at the minimum price you are happy to get.
But remember, in the end if the aim is to de-clutter your life, a lower price is better than no sale at all.
My biggest tip here is to make sure you charge postage.
Smaller items, such as my handmade cards, stamps sets, swap cards and individual books are listed with a fixed postage price, as they are small and go as letters. Use the Australia Post website to check the cost for domestic letters, which have a flat rate across Australia, with prices between $1.00 and $5.00 depending on size and weight.
I never put a fixed postage price on parcels. Two things will happen if you do this. Either, people won’t bid because you’re charging too much for their location (eg. if they live in Victoria and so do you, but you’ve calculated a flat rate postage based on posting to Queensland), or you’ll end up out of pocket when someone on the other side of Australia buys it and you haven’t charged enough postage to cover it. To avoid this, choose the postage option of ‘postage calculated by buyer location’ and enter the weight and dimensions of the parcel. eBay will then calculate the postage cost for the potential buyer.
When the item has been paid for, make sure you post it promptly.
8. Returns Policy
eBay requires all sellers to have a returns policy. I choose ‘returns not accepted’, as all my items, apart from my cards, are pre-loved. As I write an accurate description, have lots of good photos and point out any problems with the item, the buyer has a clear understanding of what they are purchasing. (If you use eBay to sell new items, though, you may need to accept returns, but make sure you specify under what conditions and who will pay for the return postage).
Package the item as you would want to receive it. I recently purchased ten second-hand novels for my son, listed as ‘as new’. By the time they arrived, they were bent and water damaged as the seller had just thrown them in a thin plastic post bag with no other wrapping. The books had tumbled over one another, the bag had ripped and I can only assume they were left in the rain somewhere. By contrast, I package books in a plastic bag, then use cardboard or a small box to protect them, which is how I would like to receive them.
I keep a collection of shoe and boot boxes (just ask at shoe stores for empty boxes; they’re happy to hand them over), and other boxes I’ve collected. When I’m listing an item, I find a suitable box and package the item well, wrapping the box in brown paper ready to address. Then I can enter the correct weight, height, length and width of the box when I create my listing and it’s ready to post when it sells.
For larger items, such as furniture or something very heavy, you will have to offer pickup. Don’t agree to organize a courier for them if they can’t get to you (yes, I’ve had people ask). That’s the buyer’s job. You just have to agree to try and fit in with the courier for a pickup time.
If an item being picked up is expensive, I also suggest that you ask for the item be paid for by PayPal or into your bank account prior to pickup, rather than accepting a large amount of cash on the day, or risk being given counterfeit notes. I generally do this for anything over $200.00.
11. Tricky Questions from Buyers
There are a lot of opportunistic people out there. I’ve had people offer me a ‘buy it now’ price once an auction item already has bids on it. I always decline the offer and suggest they place a bid if they want it. In every case this has happened, the item has sold for more than they’ve offered, sometimes substantially more.
I’ve had people offer me half the asking the price of an item I’ve just listed, offering to pick the item up that day. Usually these are more collectable things and I guess they’re hoping I’m unaware of the value of what I’ve listed, or assume I’m desperate to sell. I always say ‘no’ to them as well and tell them I’m in no rush to sell.
Finally, I’ve had people ask for a low price because they claim they don’t have much money because their husband spent it all, or they have bills that need paying, or they’ve lost their job etc. It’s impossible to know if these are true stories, so I politely tell them that I also need to get the best price I can and I’m very sorry that I can’t hep them.
Once the buyer has received their item, they are asked to give you a customer satisfaction ‘seller rating’ on the item description, postage cost, etc. Your seller rating may be used by other eBay members when they are considering buying from you, but there is no reason you can’t get five stars every time and maintain a 100% seller rating. Make sure you also give the buyer a positive rating once they have given you one. You can check your ratings in the ‘Account’ menu under ‘Feedback’.
13. What Fees are Involved?
Unfortunately nothing is free in this world. Ebay charges a 9.9% ‘final value’ fee per item sold, based on the price of the item and the postage cost. The fees accumulate and are billed monthly. Nearly 10% may seem like a lot, but considering eBay gives me access to a vast number of potential buyers I wouldn’t other wise reach, I’m not complaining. PayPal takes a fee of 30 cents, plus 2.9% of the transaction (including shipping and handling).
14. Now It's Your Turn
So, now you know the basics, go through your house and choose a few items you no longer need that you believe are saleable and get started. Soon, you’ll be looking at everything in your house in a different light, asking yourself ‘do I need that and what’s it worth?’
By Karlana Sanataria
Author of children's book - Stone Keepers, The Chosen