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Should You Consider Selling on Craigslist?

Signs point to yes.

For as long as we’ve been writing about the Internet and all things online—before 1990—we’ve never written much about selling on Craigslist.

Rightly or wrongly it always fell under the radar for us. It seemed bare-bones, noncommercial and, therefore, not as newsworthy as its brassier more well-heeled co-horts such as AOL, CompuServe and now Facebook.

Yet when we interviewed real life storage wars maven Glendon Cameron for another Online Seller article, he mentioned that everyone he knows who buys the contents of abandoned storage lockers uses Craigslist to resell items.

Craigslist elicits strong opinions. Many people use it as their go-to place for selling things … Yet others are concerned by the few media reports of people being harmed

So we thought maybe it was time for a closer look at the site.

‘Strong opinions’

Craigslist—maybe more than any other online community—elicits strong opinions.

Many people, such as recent college grad Andrew Gordon use it as their go-to place for selling things they no longer want, or even when buying certain used items.

Yet others are concerned by the few media reports of people being harmed, or worse, by people they met through Craigslist. So what’s the story, should you consider selling and buying on Craigslist? Are there any caveats and tips to be aware of?

Craigslist seller says success varies on site

Misty Wilks told us she “lives Craigslist.” Wilks, a lawyer and real estate professional, advertises her law practice on the site and knows a lot about a huge part of Craigslist business: the selling of services. She also posts rooms for rent, items for sale, does bartering and hires.

“I’ve posted hundreds if not thousands of ads,” on Craigslist Wilks tells us.

For her, the decision to use Craigslist was an easy one. Compared to newspaper classifieds, for example, Wilks says Craigslist is cheaper. It’s free. It’s faster. Postings are almost instant, and the site has better room for flexibility. If there are no calls in a few days/hours, she can modify or pull the ad, and “it requires no human interaction,” she says.

Her success rate varies greatly.

“For hiring, there are always an excessive amount of responses,” she says. “For business, it varies. The legal market is saturated. Time of posting and an eye-catching title are important.”

The Craigslist buyer may well be local to you and offer to come right to your residence to pick up the item

Safety first

A big concern for many potential Craigslist users is security.

As there are more than 700 local Craigslist sites—in 70 countries—in the case of larger or unwieldy items especially, the Craigslist buyer may well be local to you and offer to come right to your residence or place of business to pick up the item. This makes some people uneasy.

For most eBay or Amazon sellers it’s rare to have a buyer show up at their door to pick up something they have bought.

For Wilks, the precautions she takes vary.

“If I’m buying a cell phone—of which I’ve purchased nearly a dozen—or a laptop—[I’ve bought] at least three—I almost always meet in a public place,” Wilks reports. “For laptops, I meet where there is a Wi-Fi connection [for instance, a McDonald’s parking lot], so I can test connectivity.

“If I’m selling a sofa, I just make sure there is a male or several people in the house,” she continues. “Once I pretended like there were people there, talking out loud before I opened the door as if I were speaking to someone upstairs.”

Make your ad pop

This experienced Craigslist user had some other advice for those of us less trained on the site.

She says you should be mindful of when you are posting. Think about when people will most likely look for what you are offering. People tend to look for housing on the weekends, so she wouldn’t post before Thursday, otherwise the ad will get lost.

Think about when people will most likely look for what you are offering

Some sections in some cities get 100+ posts a day. You want yours to be on the first page during relevant times.

“For non-housing ads, I like to post around 11 a.m.,” Wilks notes. “People at work start getting distracted and thinking about personal business around that time. Others might wait until their lunch break. I want to be right at the top of the page when they sign on.”

She adds that you should make your title eye-catching. For instance, “CABLE, WI-FI, W/D, POOL TABLE, ALL UTILITIES & AN AWESOME LANDLORD” is much better than “Room for Rent.”

“Even ‘********ROOM FOR RENT *******’ sets it apart,” Wilks continues.

Also, be sure you make your business ads neat. She adds that your ads should be professional. In fact, Wilks has learned how to use some HTML from Craigslist.

She also tells us that people looking for professionals are usually concerned with price. Wilks says she uses price largely to advertise specials when business slows down.

“Putting a price in the subject line helps,” the lawyer says. “If I know I have to be in a particular court anyway, I may offer a discount on other appearances that same day or week.”

Her ad may read “Court this week. Don’t go alone. $750” or “Be debt free in 2013!”

Wilks is such a fan of Craigslist she continued our interview after the last question had been asked.

“When unemployed Craigslist clients come in, I immediately send them to Craigslist for jobs,” she adds. “Oh, and I love their free section. Most of my rented space is furnished from Craigslist’s free section! Somehow I ended up with nine televisions that no one ever watches. I traded a couple to get my hair done! Yep, I love it.”

She’s far from the only one. Craigslist gets 50 billion page views per month, and more than 60 million people just in the U.S. use the site.

Craigslist gets 50 billion page views per month, and more than 60 million people just in the U.S. use the site

eBay seller tries selling on Craigslist

Shahar Hillel sells on Craigslist but has also sold on eBay, so we were quite interested in his opinions. On Craigslist he normally sells CDs, pictures, memorabilia or DVDs.

He says his items sell about 70 percent of the time, giving him a sell-through rate that many eBayers can only dream of.

Hillel also had some tips for those new to selling on Craigslist.
Pictures count a lot, he says.

“One of the most important things that some sellers ignore is a picture of the product,” Hillel adds, which seems almost unbelievable after all the years we’ve been told how important pictures are when you’re selling online.

Hillel says you should show “the actual product you are going to sell in its current condition,” adding that “nobody likes to waste time. People want to see what they are getting. The pictures do need to look professional.”

Pricing is also important. Hillel advises you don’t “overprice or underprice your product.”

Hillel also advises not using words like “wonderful,” “fabulous” and “excellent.”

“Those words have been over used and some buyers just ignore posts that have those words. Instead use words like ‘mint condition,’ ‘well kept,’ ‘good as new,'” he advises.

Hillel says you should show “the actual product you are going to sell in its current condition”

Shipping, payment options are important

Hillel says that if the product needs to be shipped, you should “offer people more than one option, so they have room to work with you. That can give them the option to choose and might save them money.”

Hillel notes, of course, that you can go “overboard” and offer free shipping but “then you will have to endure the cost, and on some occasions this will not be worth your while.”

Finally, Hillel advises offering different payment method options and, most importantly, having a PayPal account.

Most of this advice should be no sweat for eBay sellers. It’s advice they have all heard many times.

We rarely used Craigslist as one of our sales channels and now, especially with the nicer weather coming, that seems foolish.

When we look around the yard and house there are many things we want to sell but wouldn’t want to ship. So snap some pictures of that old lawn mower, and get selling on Craigslist, and who knows, your bank account could grow along with those spring flowers!

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • I like Craigslist overall. however the results for both sellers and buyers is very much variable by location. I happen to be in an area where CL is just about a waste of time trying to sell any item that can be shipped easily. I am worlds ahead selling an item on eBay – even with all of their fees, as I will pull much more money out of an item when selling to a national market. Of course large ticket items such as vehicles or housing, services offered and the like, CL has virtually killed off the local newspaper classifieds.

    If only there was a way to limit the sale ads from dreamers who want insane money for their junk, week after week, month after month, into years. Too many sellers are looking to hook a sucker.

  • Craigslist is an excellent source of products for reselling on Amazon (and eBay), and I discuss it in full detail via this video:

  • Goddessweaves

    What I dislike most are those in my industry who bash other companies about their products no good and have their flunkies to click spam on your ads for it to get flagged for no reason than pure greed and selfishness… like if what they sell is so good why flag others , too afraid the clients will find better! so much Fake people on their its a shame , Like get a life and stop flagging peoples post!

  • Robert McCall

    I sell on Ebay, Craigslist and Kijiji.

    I dislike Craigslist immensely as I find that I get a huge amount of tire-kickers and time wasters and especially “no-shows”. If I had a dollar for every time I had someone say that ” I’m coming to buy that for sure at such and such a time” only to have them pull a no-show, I would have a tidy sum of money. I always get telephone numbers but the no-shows just don’t answer after they fail to come when they said they would. I also find that on Craigslist I get a lot of imbeciles that message me and run down what I am selling trying to get a better price. Funny about that, if it’s such trash why would you want to buy it?

    I still list on Craigslist list as I do get sales there but it’s at the bottom of my list as far as venues I like are concerned.

  • JB M

    Wow I can’t believe no one touched on the scam artists at all. I tried using craigslist to get rid of all my larger ticket items like sofas, dressers, anything to large to ship. The problem I anything you sell over a few hundred dollars gets bombarded by some fake out of towner who needs to use google pay and have some shipping company pick it up or a cashiers check scam or some variation that leaves you without both the item and the money. It’s very frustrating to be bothered with those emails and/or phone calls. And when you do get a real buyer they make such ridiculously low offers, they’re practically asking you to pay them to have your item. I’d love to know of a solution on how to sell, say a $500 item that’s too large to ship, for a fair price in my local market.

  • Hoosier Daddy

    Be careful writing a slick “eye catching” ad. I’ve had my ads removed because they appeared to be “professional.” The Craig’s List volunteer moderators are a bunch of frustrated Nazis and they really enjoy the little bit of power that being a moderator gives them. If your listing is removed, it’s pointless to dispute it. Just write a new one.

  • You not only get scammers on Craigslist; but spammers and phishers as well. Never set your ad to send you emails through Craigslist’s anonymous email service. The latest spam is “You sound hot in you listing. Would you like to meet somewhere.” usually with a link to click to view pictures (Don’t!). I only put my phone number in now. If someone is really interested, they won’t mind calling.

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