If you live in a city with a thriving Craigslist community, the free, popular online classified ads site is more than just a great place to find excellent deals in your community. It’s also an outstanding tool for selling stuff you no longer need, effectively earning you a little extra cash while helping you declutter your overflowing closets. We’ve already given you the power-users guide to buying on Craigslist, but today is all about the sellers. By following a few simple steps, you can make your Craigslist selling experience simple, painless and profitable.
Part One: Posting Your Item
Prepare Your Item for Sale: No matter what you're selling, chances are you'll need to do a little preparation before it's time to put the item up for sale on Craigslist. For example, if you're selling an old cell phone, you should get rid of all of your contacts and personal informationâ€”ideally through some sort of software restore. If you're selling a couch, give it a good cleaning, even if that just means lifting the cushions to gather loose change and vacuum out old crumbs.
A little work cleaning and preparing your item for sale can go a long way toward making sure your privacy is protected and your item looks ready to buy.
Research Similar Postings: After I’ve prepared my item for selling but before I start writing up the Craigslist posting, I always check for similar postings of the item I’m selling on my local Craigslist. It’s good to see what other items are being sold for to get a better idea of the market and to get an idea of what details you might want to include in the post.
It can also be useful to check the item on eBay, again for prices and posting ideas. When I’m using Craigslist, it’s generally to get rid of things that are just taking up space in my life, anyway, so I normally try to undercut comparable listings by 20% or so, which generally means my items go fast. If you’ve got more time, feel free to price more competitively. But if you just want to free up some space and make a little money doing it, don’t be afraid to go a little cheaper.
Take Good Photos: When I’m shopping on Craigslist, I almost never pursue an item I can’t see a picture of (though it can be a good way to find a deal when you’re shopping on Craigslist, if you’re willing to make the effort of asking for a photo or visiting the seller). The point is, if you have a choice, always include an image. When you’re taking a picture of the item, try to set up your picture in natural light settings so you can get a nice, crisp photo without using your flash.
In addition, if you're selling something for which you can find a product pictureâ€”like a gadget, for exampleâ€”it's great to include a stock photo of the item looking its best.
Provide Detailed Information: You don’t have to put together a full product listing, but it’s useful to provide some of the most important details regarding the item. For example, if you’re selling your old cell phone, let your potential buyers know its feature highlights. How many megapixels is the cameraphone? Does it have Bluetooth? What carrier does it support? Once you’ve got down a few of the most important features, find the product’s web site so you can also link to fuller specifications.
Be Honest: Your buyer will be seeing the item in the flesh before purchasing, so don’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. If you’re selling a TV with a crack in the frame, say so. Otherwise you’re going to waste both your time and the potential buyer’s time. If it’s not brand new, don’t call it brand new. Most Craigslist postings are for second hand items, so buyers expect a certain amount of wear. If the item is really that far gone, just be sure to price accordingly.
Publish the Listing: Once you’ve written up and published the listing in the appropriate For Sale category, Craigslist will send you a confirmation link from which you officially publish your post. Just follow the link and click the Publish button. Keep this email handy. You can use it to edit the post in the future or delete it once it’s sold.
Part Two: Handling the Sale
Optimize Communication: As you probably know, Craigslist requires you give them your email address when you’re posting an item. If you want to make yourself available to buyers over email, you can include an anonymized Craigslist email address that will forward to your email address (yay for your privacy!).
If you’ve posted a hot item, get ready for an onslaught of email in your inbox. First things first: set up a filter in your inbox for handling your Craigslist ads. Since all of the emails will initially come to your anonymous Craigslist address, you can filter with the To: field of the email. With Gmail, for example, just filter out emails sent to “craiglist.org” and tag them with a label and you’ve got a good start.
Since you may be handling a lot of email, I’d recommend setting up some text replacement macros for answering email using an application like Texter (Windows) or TextExpander (Mac).
I prefer to stick with email-only for my initial Craigslist post, but a lot of people prefer doing things over the phone. I wouldn’t recommend posting your phone number in the post; instead, try out a service like previously mentioned Numbr, which creates a temporary disposable phone number you can safely post to Craigslist.
Stick with Cash: This one probably goes without saying, butâ€”like a garage saleâ€”you really don't want to accept anything but cold hard cash for your goods. There are a lot of scammers on Craigslist, but they’re easy to avoid. Just deal locally, meet in person, and stick with cash and you should be okay.
Part Three: After the Sale (or lack thereof)
Remove the Item Once It’s Sold: You’ll save your inbox and other Craigslisters a lot of hassle by removing the listing once the item has sold. To do so, just follow the post page link you received from Craigslist when you first published your post and click the Delete button to remove the post.
Consider a Trade or Give It Away: If you’ve tried selling an item for a few weeks and you’ve made a couple of different postings and you’re not having any luck, it may be time to give up the dream and give this thing away for free. Craigslist has a very active Free Stuff section, and chances are that even if you didn’t have any luck selling the item, someone will be willing to get it out of your hair rather quickly if you post it in the Free Stuff section.
Those of you who itemize your taxes might want to drop off items at Goodwill rather than giving it away on Craigslist so you can get that receipt and deduct your charitable contributions, but if you really want it out of your hair and don’t feel like making the drive to Goodwill, enjoy the good karma of giving it away for nothing in return.
On the other hand, for a more interesting Craigslist transaction, you might consider posting your item for barter.
This guide is far from exhaustive, but if you’ve never sold an item on Craigslist before, this should give you a good start. If you’ve had experience selling items on Craigslist, share your experience in the comments.
Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker who thanks the gods every day for Craigslistâ€”as a buyer and a seller. His special feature Hack Attack appears every Tuesday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Hack Attack RSS feed to get new installments in your newsreader.