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How to Earn Money with an Online Garage Sale + Seller Printables

November 30, 2020

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Some of the merchants listed in this blog pay us a commission when you make product purchases using the links we provide.

This year we’ve all been spending a lot of time inside the house. Many of us have probably rearranged our furniture once — if not a few times — decorated and redecorated, and come across things that no longer serve us.

Now is a great opportunity to rid your space of old things and make some extra money doing so! While safe in-person gatherings are difficult, you can take advantage of online exchange platforms and host an online garage sale. This is a great way to sell your items while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Read on to learn about how to sell your unwanted items to make your space feel refreshed and clean, and put a few bucks into your pocket.

Step 1: Identify What You Want to Sell

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If you haven’t naturally gathered a pile of things that no longer “bring you joy,” as organizing consultant Marie Kondo would say, you can set a few qualifiers for what should be kept and what should be sold for some cash.

Of course, anything broken or too worn to re-homed should be tossed or recycled, but here are some recommendations on where to start looking for items to sell online:

Weathered pots and pans

Clothing that hasn’t been worn in a year or more

Uncomfortable shoes

Furniture that is stored away

Art supplies that no longer excite you

Jewelry you don’t wear

Duplicate kitchen utensils

Extra hardware and tools

Car parts that have been upgraded or replaced

Sports and workout equipment that has dust on it

Games or technology that you no longer enjoy

As long as these items are in working condition and relatively clean, there’s an opportunity to profit from them.

To help keep things organized during your entire selling cycle, download this printable seller log to keep track of what you want to list and what you think it could sell for.

Step 2: Clean Up Your Items

Once you’ve decided on items that are no longer of use to your home, clean them up to make them more appealing to prospective buyers.

While some items naturally get a bit dirty, like tools and car parts, it’s important that you clean everything to the best of your ability. Who wants to purchase someone else’s greasy pan?

Washing your items to make them look as close to new as possible will make it easier to sell and earn more money.

Step 3: Take Photos of Your Items

Having pictures of each item is essential. Photos that are high-quality and well-lit with a simple background will boost the number of people who are interested in purchasing.

High-quality photography is more accessible than ever before. You don’t need a fancy camera to take a pic — just use your smartphone to snap photos of your items. Make sure the image is clear with no blurriness. The less clear the photo, the less attention it’s likely to receive.

For optimal lighting, take your products outside in the sunshine. The natural lighting makes the colors brighter and more vivid. If you don’t have a place to stage your photos outside, try inside where you have some empty space, and be sure to turn the flash on.

When deciding where to take the photo, find somewhere with minimal distractions in the background. An optimal setting would be a solid surface such as a marble countertop or a clean carpet or rug. Avoid areas that have items scattered about to avoid taking attention away from the item for sale. Remember, you want to make the items as alluring and captivating as possible so they can be purchased!

Step 4: Research Value of Items

The most important part of your virtual garage sale is, of course, selling the items! In order to catch the interest of buyers, your items need to be priced reasonably. If even a single item is overpriced, you might lose a customer for good.

A simple way to break down price points is to divide the items into three categories based on their condition: brand- or like-new, moderately used or well-loved.

Then, charm buyers by using the 50–30–10 pricing rule on your items:

Brand- or like-new: sell for 50% of the retail price

Moderately used: sell at 30% percent of the retail price

Well-loved: sell at 10% of the retail price

Of course, if items are particularly rare or sought after, you can adjust the price accordingly. But keep in mind that items that don’t sell are dollars not earned and will either end up back in the garage, donated or thrown out. With that, discount your items and look forward to receiving some offers!

Step 5: Determine Where You’ll Sell Your Items

After you have your items cleaned up and priced, it’s time to put your virtual yard sale in the online marketplace of your choice. An online marketplace is essentially a website that connects potential buyers and sellers.

There are a lot of good apps for online garage sales, too. Depending on what you want to sell is what will decide the best garage sale app for you is.

Before posting your items, determine whether you want to keep your sales local, or expand your potential pool of buyers by offering shipping. Keep in mind that shipping is not free, so make sure your items are priced high enough to still make money after paying the shipping fee.

Depending on what you’re selling, each program has its own advantages and disadvantages. Decide which platform works best for what you’re selling by reviewing the list below of some popular trading apps and websites.

Amazon: The world’s largest e-commerce platform. Pros: Huge buyer audience, simple platform to use. Cons: A lot of competition, better for companies selling large quantities or new items rather than individuals selling used items. (Editor’s tip: Check out these Amazon coupons to save money when shopping for yourself.)

Craigslist: International classified advertisement site. Pros: Great for local sales, won’t take a percentage of profit, no packing, shipping or postage required. Cons: Minimal communication options, you’re responsible for connecting with and meeting buyers.

Decluttr: Tech-buying app with instant price offers. Pros: Great for media sales, no physical contact. Cons: You’re selling to the platform itself, no haggling.

eBay: Online auction with international users. Pros: Huge buyer audience, user-friendly, can be quick turnaround time, best for high-profit sales. Cons: High sellers fee (up to 9%), lots of competition.

Facebook Marketplace: Exchange platform open to local audience. Pros: Great for local sales, won’t take a percentage of profit, no packing, shipping or postage required. Cons: Only communication option is through Messenger, you’re responsible for connecting with and meeting potential buyers.

Nextdoor: App used to foster relationships and communicate easily with neighbors. Pros: Great for local sales, won’t take a percentage of profit, no packing, shipping or postage required. Cons: Minimal communication options, you’re responsible for connecting with and meeting buyers, not solely a selling platform, so fewer potential buyers.

Shopify: A subscription-based software to help create unique online stores. Pros: Simple functionality for sellers, no software downloads required, good customer support. Cons: Monthly fee, transaction fees.

Step 6: Write Short, Detailed Descriptions of Items

If you want to attract buyers, write an appealing, but accurate description for each item. Your short description should include basics such as the item name, maker/manufacturer, condition, size , purchase price and how much you are selling the item for.

Using specific adjectives will also help you sell your stuff. If your item is vintage or ornately decorated, include these details. The better you make your item sound, the more people will be interested. After you have well-thought-out descriptions, it’s time to list your items!

Step 7: Manage Your Messages

Once your items have been posted, you’ll (hopefully!) begin receiving messages about your items. It’s critical that you respond in a timely manner. Failure to do so can result in loss of interest, or even worse, credibility.

Just like in a physical storefront, when someone walks into the building, you greet them. Similarly, if someone messages you with questions or comments, you should reply promptly. Treat every message as potential money in your pocket — because it is!

Of course, be sure to use professional and courteous language when communicating with potential customers. They will be impressed and likely continue browsing your online garage sale.

Step 8: Pack Your Items

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Once you find a buyer, it’s time to pack your item for delivery. Anybody can throw an item in a box and send it off, but there are a few simple ways to make your items stand out, even after the sale has been made.

For a frugal way to add an elegant touch to your item, wrap it in tissue paper and put a decorative thank you note inside. Use this printable thank you card to send along in your shipment.

If your buyer is local and will be picking up, you can still include a card, but don’t need to box it up, as they will likely want to check the item out in person before paying. You can still put the item in a bag and include tissue paper to make it look a bit nicer!

Step 9: Ship Your Items

The platform your items were sold on will determine how you move forward with shipping. Some sites will email you printable shipping labels, while some require that you pay for postage on your own. If you do have to pay for shipping, take advantage of this UPS shipping coupon.

Follow the shipping directions as detailed on the site, and be sure to ship items in a timely manner to avoid any negative feedback. Shipping your item quickly will result in good reviews, and a possible returning customer from any online garage sale you decide to have in the future.

Step 10: Thank Your Customers

After your customer has their item and you’ve received your payment, put the icing on the cake by sending another virtual thank you. If you received the buyer’s email address or phone number, send them a quick thank you text.

Leaving the buyer with a smile will solidify their positive experience purchasing from you and may even lead to some referral business.

Never underestimate the power of a genuine thank you!

Other Ways to Earn Money with Old Items

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Besides hosting a virtual yard sale, there are plenty of other ways to make extra money from old items you no longer use. Here are some ideas:

Sell old books online: Some sites like Amazon and BookScouter will pay you for old books, even textbooks. Sort through your shelves and get rid of those books that are lined with dust and turn them into paper you can spend!

Get money for old gift cards: Did your grandparents get you a gift card to a store you’ve never even heard of? Try selling your gift card for cash! Start somewhere like Cardpool, a website that buys back gift cards from a variety of merchants.

If you have a hard time saying goodbye to any of your things, consider setting a money saving goal to keep you motivated along the way. Keeping a budget planner and tracking all sources of income will make it easier and more exciting. Print out this one-page budget tracker as a starting point.

Now that you’ve learned how to sort, price and sell your items, it’s time to count your cash! Maybe one of the many items you successfully sold just didn’t fit the current look of your place. Treat yourself to a replacement that fits your style perfectly. You can save even more when shopping for yourself with these eBay coupons.

Sources: Shopify | Northwestern Mutual | Amazon | Craigslist | Decluttr | eBay | Facebook Marketplace | Nextdoor | Shopify | Cardpool

The third parties named are not affiliated with Capital One Shopping and they are solely responsible for their products and services. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.