Back in the day, as us old folks like to say, there were tons of on line auction sites. I can remember buying a collectible stuffed animal on Amazon.com of all places - go figure. Craigslist is still around, although it seems to work best for local items you wouldn't want to ship, like used cars. These days the powerhouse is Ebay. You don't have to work to promote it, it's already popular. So I suggest if you have stuff to sell, you get out your camera phone and start snapping pictures of the stuff you want to ship!
Things You Will NeedA better camera, with more pixels makes finer photos - but lets not forget you're in the business of making a profit. Until you've turned one, I suggest you use what you have. So if your cell phone takes pictures, start with that.
The same goes for Internet connection. A fast speed connection will definitely make your life easier, but I sold for years using just dial up.
A reasonable scale, however, is a must have. You really can't afford to lose money on shipping. If you want to offer a shipping discount, at least be aware of your actual shipping costs so you aren't throwing money down the drain. Figure even if you are selling junk around the house, with equipment you already own - the time you spend packing items and taking them to the Post Office are business expenses.
Making an attractive auction
Use easy to read large font in a dark color. You don't want to get so wacky or overwhelming that people can't see what you have for sale. Using too much background color and noise is off putting to shoppers who are still on dial up. Last thing you want to do is chase away potential buyers!
Offer more than one shipping option. Offer one slow and one fast or one inexpensive and one more expensive, or a multi item discount. People like to have choices, but not too many choices. Two is just right.
Can the defensive wording. Even if you've been burnt in the past by non-paying bidders, long epistles on your struggles to make money make potential buyers click somewhere else. A simple one sentence explanation of your return policy should suffice.
Display all flaws. Imperfect items can and do sell, but don't try to trick people. Negative feedback is the kiss of death, no matter how long you've been in business.
Take a photo of the actual item. yeah, I know it's a pain, but unless you are selling something new in the box like screwdrivers, most people want an actual photo of the actual item. Better yet, take two photos, multiple views are good, but more than three can slow down buyers who have only dial up.
End your auction with a gratitude statement, i.e. Thanks for shopping with me! Thanks for buying my stuff! Thanks for checking out my other auctions!
Have a clear return policy
No returns is ok if you say so.
If the mistake was on you, consider paying or refunding the return postage.
If the buyer has to pay for return shipping, say so. State the preferred method of shipping, and insist they purchase a delivery confirmation of some kind.
Figure out your shipping costs
Don't estimate. Those flat rate priority mail boxes are convenient, but if your item is light you can save some money using plain boxes, or parcel post. If you ship enough you can negotiate a rate discount from UPS or Fedex, call them up and ask.
Media Mail, available through the US Postal Service is an expensive mail class for more than books. Dvd's, videos, magazines, newspapers, records, tapes, and software can all be shipped via Media Mail at a much reduced cost compared to Priority mail.
If you are shipping overseas consider using Express Mail. It comes with a tracking number and insurance up to $100. Its faster than priority mail international. As a USPS product, express mail does not entail brokerage fees for your recipients. Its more expensive, but you can pass on the actual cost to your buyers.
Consider posting a phone number on your auctions in case some one needs immediate assistance. Answer your ebay questions in a timely and polite manner. Don't advertise more than you can deliver. If you only go to the post office twice a week, say so.
Tips & WarningsBeware of selling broken, damaged, and out of date stuff. You may feel you spent $100 on your textbooks, so you are entitled to that money back, but the truth is, if you have dog eared the pages, and run it up with highlights, it's not worth $100 any more. Also if the next edition is available, it might not even sell.
Look in the completed auctions to see if you item has sold recently. Lots of things are listed, but the ones that actually sold are shown with the price in green to note the actual price the item sold for. If no one else has received a hundred dollars for the same item, you probably won't either.
If you set a buy it now price, you know how much you are going to make if it sells. If you do an auction instead you have the potential to make more. But if no one bids up your item, you may make less. Don't start the auction at lower than you can afford to lose. Don't start it so high, that no one will bid. People expect to pay LESS than retail on Ebay, not the same amount. Once again, take the five minutes and research the recently sold items to get a reasonable estimate.