How to Create a Great Ad
The steps for how to sell on Craigslist are straightforward, but not all ads are created equally. Follow these tips to create an ad that will stand out and sell your item ASAP!
The Price is Right
Before you sell on Craigslist, I highly recommend doing a little research on the item you plan to sell. This will help you set a fair price. Setting a fair price will ensure you don’t waste your time (that you actually make some money) and that the item doesn’t just linger on Craigslist for 3 months without selling.
To start your research, look to see what the item is selling for on Craigslist and on other sites (ex. Amazon, eBay, and Facebook).
Once you see what the item is selling for elsewhere, consider the least amount of money you’d be willing to accept for the item.
Hint: Your number should be less than what the item sells for brand new unless your item is brand new (still in the packaging with price tags).
Add approximately 10%-15% to the lowest amount you’re willing to accept because Craigslist buyers usually want to negotiate so they feel like they got a better deal.
Make a Good First Impression
Craft an informative headline for your ad. The headline is the first thing people see and can trigger your listing to appear in the search results.
In the headline, you want to state what you’re selling and intrigue potential buyers to click through to the ad. Don’t get too cutesy or abstract here. You want people to know what you’re selling and know that you aren’t a spammer. Avoid:
- Special symbols
- Long headlines
- Generic and overused phrases like “Great Deal”
Be Detail Oriented
When filling out the ad for your item, provide as many details as possible. However, keep the description brief. You want busy people to feel like they have time to read the whole ad and at the same time you want to provide enough info that potential buyers won’t ask you a billion questions.
In your ad, include:
- Purpose (what it does)
- General location
- Any “fine print” – ex. item must be picked up by buyer
Pro Tip: When describing the item you’re selling be honest about the condition of the item. If there is a problem or some sort of damage, say so. By omitting details about your item you’re only going to waste your own time. Potential buyers will come to pick the item up, see that it isn’t in good condition, and then walk away from the deal. Do yourself and potential buyers a favor by explicitly stating the condition of the item.
Make sure to include at least one photo with your ad. Craigslist will allow you to upload a maximum of 24 photos so don’t hesitate to include multiple pictures of the item you’re trying to sell.
Don’t just take a photo though, take a good photo. Clean the item up, ensure the lighting is good, remove additional clutter from the shot, and take photos of multiple angles. In addition, be sure to include photos of any damage so that potential buyers can get a better feel for the condition of the item.
You can start selling on Craigslist with very little initial investment.
Obviously, you’ll need stuff to sell on Craigslist, which you may be able to find lurking in your attic, basement, or garage.
Other items that you’ll need are:
- Camera (if you have a smart phone the camera in it should be fine)
- Receipt book
- Internet (you can always bum some bandwidth from your local coffee ship)
As with all businesses, selling on Craigslist does have some risks. Mitigate your risks by understanding what they are. Here are a few to watch out for as you learn how to sell on Craigslist.
Being Stood Up
Unfortunately, Craigslist buyers can be unreliable. If you routinely sell stuff on Craigslist there’s a good chance that you’ll eventually encounter a buyer who vanishes without a trace. Typically what happens is a potential buyer will ask you to hold an item and then just break off all communication.
This can not only waste your time but leave you stuck with an item as you may have turned away other potential buyers in the meantime.
Avoid this situation by doing 2 things:
Don’t hold items.
Tell the potential buyer that it is first come, first served. In other words, whoever shows up first with the money gets the item.
Have backup buyers.
Save the email addresses (or phone numbers) of other potential buyers. That way if a sale does fall through you can contact them and let them know the item is still up for grabs.
Craigslist is notorious for scammers and spammers. To avoid getting ripped off or hacked be very careful about the methods of payment you accept and about any information you provide.
For small items only accept cash. For much larger items (ex. cars) cash is still a great option but you may also consider PayPal.
If you’re going to be selling on Craigslist on a regular basis, you might consider getting some kind of credit card reader to provide another convenient payment option for you and the buyer.
When it comes to the info you give out, always ask yourself why the buyer needs that. For example, if a buyer asks for your birth date, social security number, or any bank info that should immediately throw up bright red flags. Honestly, unless you’re signing over the title to a car, the buyer shouldn’t even need your full name.
Being in a Dangerous Situation
If you have kids, I bet you’ve warned them about strangers, right? Well, the same applies to you! When you meet a buyer from Craigslist you are meeting a stranger. Be careful!
If possible, meet in a public place that is well lit and has lots of people around. Even parking lots in broad daylight can be dangerous as the cars provide cover for someone to attack you. Be very aware of your surroundings. I also recommend taking someone with you just to be extra safe.
Unfortunately, if you’re selling large items, you may not be able to meet in a public place. After all, you aren’t going to haul your washer and dryer to the library! In those instances, you’re going to have to invite a stranger to your home. Make this encounter as safe as possible by:
- Having someone else at the house with you.
- Telling the prospective buyer that someone will be there with you.
- Hauling the item into your garage and conducting the encounter in the garage with the garage door open.
If you live in an apartment (or a house), you can also meet the buyer outside first. This will give you a few minutes to assess them before letting them come inside with you. Sure, it’ll be pretty awkward if you decide they seem sketchy and back out of the sale right in your driveway or in front of your building but it’s always best to be safe, right?