Saturday, January 26, 2013

Back in Business: Selling on Ebay

I've stopped procrastinating! I'm selling clothing and boots on eBay. I'm making money and getting rid of shopping bags full of things that I culled from my closet more than a year ago, which were just too expensive and nice to give away.

Goodbye, crazy boots. What was I thinking?

Taking clothing to a consignment store is easier — but I have a hard time with their "attitude" as they scrutinize everything while I wait. Plus you usually get only a fraction of what you can make on eBay.

If you have the same guilt feelings I have about pricey boots that hurt, good handbags you never use, fashion mistakes, and heirlooms or gifts you never loved, selling them is a surprisingly comforting solution. I keep my pricing realistic, and I tend to think collectively about what I sell: I might not get as much as I'd like for one item, but I'll sometimes get more than I expected for another. It evens out. And I feel much less guilt when I sell stuff — it's no longer personal, it's business.

While Ebay selling is simple, it can be time-consuming until you get the hang of it. Photography can be challenging. I shoot most of my clothing on a nice hanger on a white door. You'll also be making trips to the post office unless you go big-time and schedule pick-ups. (I don't mind the PO because it feels so good to get the stuff out of the apartment.)

If you're familiar with eBay, then you probably know how to research items that are similar to what you're selling to see what a good listing looks like, and determine a price — and that's often half the battle. Ebay guides you smoothly through the listing process, providing all kinds of info, templates, options, and tips. If you have a PayPal account, you are all set to accept payment.

Years ago, I sold scores of items on eBay; I was a more enthusiastic bargain hunter in those days and shopped specifically for items I knew I could sell at a profit. It helped that I'd worked for years as a retail copywriter. Writing sales copy comes naturally to me; my brain is packed with trivia about everything from thread counts to shoe heels. But you don't need to know that stuff; your descriptions will be shorter and pithier as a result.

It helps to be handy with a tape measure, another copywriting skill. Detailed measurements are reassuring to buyers. Along with accurate descriptions and clear photos, they help sell an item.

I stopped selling when eBay and PayPal increased their fees to the point where I felt it wasn't worth it anymore. Things have changed: your first 50 listings per month are "free," except for a percentage of the selling price when each item sells.

I don't know what I'm enjoying more: the cash or the lack of clutter in our bedroom. I do know I like both enough to keep going. I'll list between one and four items each week. That's manageable in terms of photography, setting up listings, and post office trips.

On Thursday, I listed a Barbour jacket I found lying on the sidewalk last spring. I'd posted an ad in Craigslist's "Lost & Found" for a week with no results. It wasn't my size, but it still took me nine months to get it out of my closet and onto eBay. It sold while I slept ("Buy It Now") to a woman in Virginia, who told me she prefers a soft, well broken-in Barbour, as I'd described it. I netted about $130 after the eBay and PayPal fees. I would have made less than half that at a consignment shop.

I'm tempted to start browsing stores and outlets for good items, just as millions of other sellers are doing. It's extra pocket money for some and an all-consuming business for others. I probably won't get into it seriously, but eBay has always suggested infinite possibilities to me. I have 28 antique Czech tropical bird pitchers to prove it, along with an extensive collection of a sterling pattern that went out of production more than a century ago. All courtesy of eBay. So one never knows.

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