How to Sell Stuff on Craigslist Successfully – 5 Craigslist Selling Tips

craigslist logoRecently, while unpacking after a move, I came to a not-so-startling revelation: I had a lot of things that I did not really need. I still had boxes that I never unpacked from my previous move, which was two years ago. Now, I know I have a habit of keeping things for too long and taking frugal living too far, especially when it comes to electronics. I always think I may suddenly need them (or have the ability to fix them) one day. Two years of unpacked boxes, however, is borderline hoarding.

I got out a new box, drew a huge dollar sign on it, and tossed in anything worth selling. Over the next few weeks, I sold 25 different items on Craigslist, and made enough money to replenish the savings I spent for the move.

Anyone can sell anything on Craigslist, but I’ve learned that making money on Craigslist really is an art form. To get the most out of your old stuff, you need a smart plan, a mix of great photos, a fair price, and a clever advertisement.

How to Sell on Craigslist

1. Plan and Research

box unwanted items to sellDon’t just jump into your advertisement without some careful planning and investigating. You’ll need to do some research to find the best price and write the best description, especially if you don’t know the technical specifications of your item.

During my unpacking fiasco, for example, I realized I had two digital cameras. I didn’t know much about either one, except that they were both cameras and I wanted one of them to be dollars. I researched both of the cameras on technology sites, figured out which one I’d keep, and posted the other one using the published specs and pricing as a guideline.

Remember that Craigslist is a very competitive marketplace, and other people are probably selling items that are very similar to yours. If you’re the one with more information, potential buyers are more likely to find you and more likely to do business with you.

Unless you have a rare collectible or antique, you can get all your research done in three quick steps:

  1. Look up your item on popular review or pricing websites. For instance, you can research most electronics on CNET or the manufacturer’s website. Both sources will provide you with technical specs and features. You can then use this information to provide the necessary detail for potential buyers.
  2. Find the current price of the product selling new. A quick Google search will give you a decent gauge, and you should do some comparison shopping on a few sites specific to your type of item or other big online stores. Of course you won’t be able to sell your used item for as much money as a new product would command, but this price will give you a ceiling and help you figure out your asking price.
  3. Compare what you have to other products listed on Craigslist and eBay. You’ll want to charge somewhere in the range of your fellow sellers on the two most popular online marketplaces, or you won’t get many offers.

craigslist ads list

Pro Tip: Take notes. It may sound like basic advice from your third-grade teacher, but when you’re looking around at current prices, write down the numbers you’re seeing, or take online notes. If you’re selling a few items, you don’t want to rely on your memory to keep all of the price ranges together. Organized notes will make it a lot easier to settle on a final price.

2. Price Your Item

Research may sound like a big time commitment, but at least it’s not the tricky part. It’s time to price your item. Ask for too much money, and you won’t get legitimate response. Set the price too low, and you’ll leave money on the table.

In looking at other Craigslist sellers and eBay listings, you have a decent idea of a price range. Now, take a hard look at the condition of your item. If it’s missing parts, doesn’t quite work right, or just has seen better days, then you need to err on the low side of that range. On the other hand, if it’s in great condition or like-new, then you can head to the top of your range.

Be realistic. You might think that your stuff is worth more to someone else than it truly is. If you lose control, you’ll end up wasting time. Sure, that DVD player was a high-end gadget when you got it as a graduation present five years ago, but since then you’ve spilled your drink on it twice, and newer Blu-ray players came out. No one is going to pay you $200 for it now.

Pro Tip: When pricing your item, decide whether you want to run your ad at a firm price, or as a “best offer” price. A firm price will get you exactly what you want, but you need to attract the right buyer. When you run a best offer ad, you might not make as much money as you thought you could, but you’ll get a lot of interest from potential customers.

3. Take Photos

When it comes to buying things online, a good image is a seller’s best friend. In fact, a good picture can be the key to drawing a buyer in.

Craigslist lets you post up to four photos per ad. While you might not need to use all four, you should always upload a least one clear picture showing the entire item. For the other three spots, consider closeups on key features or shots from other angles.

To get the most out of Craigslist’s photo allotment, take several photos and upload the four best. Staging your photos will help them turn out clearer and more attractive, and it’s easy to do a good job right at home.

Here are some basic tips for staging your photos:

  1. Clean up the item. For example, if you’re selling a used bicycle, give it a good wash to remove any dirt before taking a photo.
  2. Include any extras in the photo. Gadgets and other electronics typically come with accessories, software, or manuals. Include anything you’re selling with the item in the photo.
  3. Create a background. You can go all out and use a white or black sheet as the backdrop for your photo. A solid contrasting color will help the item stand out. Realistically, I usually just find an area of my house free of clutter to take the photo. You want to make it clear what you’re selling; don’t let anything else show up in the photo.
  4. Find the best lighting. Try to take your pictures in natural light. In a dark room, the photo won’t show clearly, and artificial light can change the color of the item.
  5. Take several shots. Take at least one shot from every angle.

bike ad for sale

Pro Tip: If your item is particularly large or small, take a picture of it next to a universally known object, like a coin or a baseball, so that potential buyers can get a feel for the scale. Especially for electronics and tech gadgets, where smaller is often better, you’ll want to give your audience a good idea of your item’s size. Think like an advertiser when you’re snapping photos, and try to tell an enticing story with your images.

4. Write a Clear Headline

You don’t have to be a master copywriter to create an engaging and attractive headline. Just remember to devote some creative time and thoughtfulness when you’re coming up with a title, because the title serves two important functions:

  1. It’s the first thing people see on your ad.
  2. It’s how buyers search for items they want.

Using good keywords, therefore, is the secret to an effective, searchable title. Include as many searchable terms as you can, without making your title confusing.

Do your best to use the name of the item, the brand, and the condition. For example, if you’re selling a HTC Evo smart phone, your title might be, Mint condition HTC Evo Android Smartphone, Sprint PCS. BEST OFFER. If you don’t have the right keywords, people searching for products within Craigslist will never even have an opportunity to view your listing.

Pro Tip: You do not need to include the price or your location in the title. Craigslist adds that information in other sections.

5. Write a Good Description

Once you get prospective buyers to see your ad with a catchy headline, it’s time to seal the deal with an effective description. Craigslist provides an open text box so you can fill in any helpful descriptive text. The description will appear before the photos, so you can reference them or introduce them in the description.

Prospective buyers will read your description before contacting you, so include all the relevant information you can think of. This way, you’ll cut down on the amount of people who call or email you just to ask about the item. You’ll save time and attract more buyers with a clear description.

Include the following in your description:

  1. What you’re selling. Start every ad by explaining what your item is.
  2. Item’s condition. Briefly explain the condition of the item after the general description. Make a note of any damages, no matter how small. Honesty is your best policy here.
  3. Technical specs. If you’re selling any electronic gadget, include the technical specs from the manufacturer’s website.
  4. Price check. Use the description to remind readers about the price. While Craigslist has a separate section for pricing, it’s a good idea to include it in the ad as well. Be sure to include whether you’re willing to take the best offer.
  5. Your contact information. Add your preferred method of contact at the bottom of your ad. For example, if you prefer to have buyers email you, include a note asking anyone to email the address given on the ad for questions or to make an offer on the item. If you don’t mind phone calls, include your cell phone or home number as well.

craigslist post ad

Pro Tip: If you don’t want to make your personal email address public, take advantage of Craigslist’s anonymous email feature. They’ll set up a random address that will forward to your personal email so that you can get emails the way you’re used to receiving them, without giving out your real address to anyone. While you’re at it, if you want to accept phone calls but don’t want to share your personal number, set up a Google Voice account for your Craigslist business. Their settings make it easy to block unwanted calls, and you can keep your home or cell phone number private.

Final Word

Selling your old stuff on Craigslist takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth it. I spent a little less than half an hour posting each ad, and then another hour or two following up with buyers. In the end, I made over $500 on stuff I had laying around the house unused. The extra savings in the bank was well worth the few hours I spent listing the items. The more you sell, the more natural it becomes to set up your posts as smart, clever advertisements.

What has your experience with Craigslist been? Do you have any additional selling tips or strategies to add to the mix?

For more options, learn how to use eBay to sell your items with these eBay selling tips.

  • Amy Saves

    pretty good experience on CL. it’s always best to meet someone in public, never at your house.

    • Angelacolley

      Great point Amy. Safety should be first priority when meeting up with someone you’ve only spoken to online.

    • Momma4k

      How can I sell furniture on craigs without letting them in my house? Is it safe?

      • Mills

        Simple rule for kids: Don’t talk to strangers.
        Simple rule for adults: Don’t let strangers into your home.

        It would be better to sell furniture on consignment at a store. They should be able to pick it up. This is safer because the people picking it up will be associated with a physical store, and you’ll have a contract with them before they take possession of your property. After the item is in their store, you could still run an ad on Craigslist for the item. Anyone interested in seeing the item in person can be directed to the store.

        I’ve never done this before, but if I was trying to sell furniture, I would definitely not have people coming to my home.

  • Tfortoro

    I wish you had spoken about how best to avoid the craigslist scammers? They plague me with falure to show up. Hounding me for personal information and trying their best to get inside my house. These are the issues that need to be discussed. If your qualified to write this article you know the tricks!

  • Bret @ Hope to Prosper

    Since my employer has downsized, I have sold over $20K of unneeded assets on CL. I like it a lot better than E-bay, because items get sold faster than at auction and people come with cash and pick them up.

    • Angela Colley

      That is great, always good to hear someone is making money. I prefer Craigslist over eBay myself, especially for the bigger items you couldn’t reasonably ship.

  • Luke Heller

    I absolutely love craigslist. I have a day job but selling items on craigslist get’s me those little extra things i want.

    • Angela Colley

      That is a great idea. I love that I can make a few extra bucks off my old stuff.

  • Manzano2617

    I want to sell something on Craigslist how do I do it

    • Pache

      92 nissan stanza $200 100300kl runs good auto 5036506109

  • Ungirlygirl98

    I wangt to sell some hamp bracelets I made recently on Craigslist. How much should I sell them for?

  • Icadetha

    want to sell electric hospital bed with new mattress. what category would i post this?

  • Kennycaldwell

    i haye two diamond rings for sale, one has 46 diamonds the other has 42 both are like new, retails for 2.040 dollars and$1.600 will make great deal on one or both. 256,630,0206

  • Kennycaldwell1

    to all collecters,have a 1785 bar cent coin,very expensive,very collectable.

  • TryingForASale

    Great tips. I used to sell things on Craig’s list frequently when we lived in Omaha. Now that we live in Minneapolis area, I’m finding that Craig’s list is very saturated with “for sale” adds and it’s incredibly difficult to navigate through everything, let alone get things sold. Your tips for making adds stand out are great, but in the end it seems to come down to who has the best price for an item.

  • alli

    I have so many clothes that I need to sell. I take very good care of my clothes- they’re all newer styles. nothing too old. Do people buy clothes on craigslist?

    • Karen

      I have not been successful with clothes of any type. I advertised name brand expensive contemporary clothes almost free without interest.

  • Nick

    Great tips. Taking photos from a few different angles is a very good idea. Bad pictures lead to no sales.

  • Bobbi Beer

    I have successfully used craigslist in the past but around 2011 I began to get
    flagged off. I am aware of the new terms of use yet do not understand
    why I am being flagged off. Does anyone have a clue?

  • Johnd

    how bout rare vintage jazz lps? no category?

  • Taran

    I love Craigslist! I live in South Florida and there is plenty of traffic checking out all the Craigslist deals, which makes it really simple to sell anything.

  • Ed

    I have an onlines store, but there are a couple of items that could sell well on Craiglist. Would it be OK to do this? Any advice?

    • Angela Colley

      I think it it OK to sell from an online store on Craigslist. However, I would mention that in the ad, especially if you want the buyer to pay for shipping. As far as advice, take plenty of photos. Many Craigslist ads are skipped because they don’t have photos.

      • Kristopher Tope

        Items that require shipping don’t sell well on Craigslist. You can thank the leeches of our society for that.

  • SaySell

    Do you have people come to your home or to a middle ground. . I hear this can be OK or dangerous? Also what form of payment is safest to accept for goods?

    • Bud Good

      Never accept anything but CASH when selling on Craigslist. DO NOT accept checks, money orders, travelers checks, etc. I DO allow folks to come to my home to buy or check out an item I am selling. But, only after I have communicated with them first by e-mail and then by phone (they have to e-mail me their phone number, I do not e-mail them my phone number). And even after that, I roll according to my gut feeling about the person I am communicating with. If I don’t feel good and confident about them, I do not give them my address. Also, along the way during communications, I will make casual mentions that there are other people living at my residence. Scam artists and the like are less likely to want to mess around with you if they know that multiple people may be involved. Scam artists like keeping things nice and quiet and undercover. They would rather work ‘one-on-one’ with an individual than to have to work their scam with a group of people possibly involved. Finally, the only time I would agree to meet at a mutual site is if it were in a busy parking lot, say near the store entrance at Wal-Mart or somewhere like that. And even then, I don’t go by myself… ALWAYS take someone with you to a mutual meeting site.

  • Motaher Hossain
  • phil a buster

    fuck ebay.

  • JShuSkates

    Love the concept of your app! Can’t experience it directly as I’m on iPhone though :(. Any chance of releasing it on iPhone any time soon?

    • Michael Medearis

      Yes there is! I hope to have it done by Thanksgiving. I am actively working on it. You can follow me on Facebook if you would like to keep track (just search for ClassAdLister) of my progress. I just post when I make an update to the app so you won’t get spammed or anything.

  • Heisenberg

    the worst part of selling things on craigslist is the time wasters, low balling prices and waiting and arranging time for all the buyers who don’t even show up – not to mention giving out your address to strangers.

    • Kim Jung Un

      I feel you bro, some of the emails are like “I’ll pay you 300 when I list the item for 450,”

      • Heisenberg

        so many low class “buyers” takes a while to find serious buyers…..take your time, when I list something I’ve already discounted it heavily and most people looking for the item would know it’s a HUGE deal – people who email a low ball just get deleted no reply.

  • James Forber

    Hello we have little babies needing a lovely home please we want any lovely family that are ready to adopt this little babies into their home and give them a good home please get back to us via email on ([email protected])

  • Yoli Rivera

    Can items posted be shipped and receive payment through paypal, instead of having to deal with tons of weirdos?