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🪆🪆Guest post: Tips for the novice online merchant
Some practical tips so you can sell your stuff online
Hi, I’m Renée, a finance and business journalist, writer and content strategist. The Budgette is about single finances and publishes twice a month. I prefer to write when I have something to say versus writing because I have to. It gives me time to speak to financial, legal and other experts.
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As I’ve covered before in this newsletter, there are several ways to make more money. One is to sell stuff. This week we’re featuring a guest post from Heidi Staseson, an Albertan-based journalist and writer, who, during the process of selling a few items learned some practical tips on how to stage and sell to maximize her earnings. You know how we love some practical, pragmatic tips here.
How you choose to hawk your wares on the web will depend on your motive for selling. Is the goal to earn some extra money for your rainy-day fund? Or are you desperate to make it rain to offset the inflationary (*ahem, price-gouging*) pain of this month’s grocery runs?
Whatever your M.O., consider some of these prep factors to accelerate your peddling potential.
Time, place, price
Plan to get your ads up mid-week in time for the weekend when people like to putter. Then, determine the type of customer who’ll pick up on what you’re selling. For example, do those pottery rooster egg cups from your parent’s 1968 Cancun honeymoon have a trendy design motif?
Don’t, however, offload your higher-ticket items to sites known for buying on the cheap—say, Kijiji or Oodle or Facebook Marketplace. Maybe your Art Deco mirror from Malibu is a limited-edition, luxury or collectible objet d’art—in which case, sites like Mercari, Poshmark, 1stdibs or The RealReal might fit the bill.
If you’re not selling locally, consider the costs to package and ship your goods and ask yourself: will your piece still pack a profit after all that admin?
If not, seek out local auction houses, antique shops, or estate-sale reps who might greatly appreciate your products. Make their job easy and provide them with all the information you have for each piece. Send them photos including your art’s provenance etched somewhere on the piece. They’ll have a database to look up your item (or a comparable) instantly to support a potential price quote. Don’t stop there; get a second opinion from a couple of agents in other markets who can verify and validate the original rep’s estimates.
Photo staging and presentation
Don’t get snap-happy just because you’re rushing to make money. Take the time to synergize your ad vibe with the aesthetic of your precious memento.
Shoot your merch from all angles to ensure photos capture those proof-of-pedigree markings. If your items comprise a set and you still have the OG box, even better!
Case in point: before the prayer-hands emoji there were Precious Moments. While these pre-Beanie Babies porcelain angelic-child figurines are nearly as ubiquitous as fine bone china teacups, they’ll be worth more in the original packaging—and possibly even greater value if you have the set from their 1978 debut.
Caution: Keep images clean and limited to the sale object itself. A dank basement background won’t work well for your wallet. Or, if you think that makeshift curtain behind your wares will keep buyers intrigued? You’re right! They’ll wonder what else might be hiding (or buried) behind that flimsy bedsheet!
Use your words!
Even if you’re not a shutterbug or a wordsmith by nature, you can still stamp your ad with your own blend of creativity. Find your items’ comparable (comps) listings for sale and then spin that data to make your piece stand out above the others.
Your comps are your best friends. Look at a comp’s presentation and think about how you can better call the paying public to action. Reviewing comps will save you much time and research when crafting your ads. This is not a pass to plagiarize someone else’s hard work, but when a comp is rich with those finer selling points and factors of authentication that your item lacks, you’ll have the instant upper hand to craft a catchy ad that pops with your own flare and ‘recycled’ spin.
Numbers don’t lie
I recently came into possession of a watercolour print of a rocky-ledged lake scene in Northern Ontario. I thought it might be worth the weight of the gilded frame it sat in, however, upon consulting with an auction-house representative, I learned a thing or two.
At the bottom of the frame sat the barely visible numbers #363/950 which, the rep explained, signaled that my piece was the 363rd copy out of nearly one thousand copies manufactured since the first original print. Translation: she wasn’t interested.
While my print wasn’t the art rep’s cup of tea, that wouldn’t necessarily preclude a collector in Ontario’s Cottage Country from being more intrigued, she said. From this, I gathered that a prospect summering in the Shuswap of British Columbia might not be as wistful!
Location is a thing when selling your landscape art. So, if you’re living in the Toronto neighbourhood of Leslieville, you’re better off customizing an online ad for your painting of a golden prairie wheat field for the regional market it’s right for, i.e., Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba.
Pro-Tip: Art of the living or dead?
The auction-house rep also relayed that one of my original Canadian oil paintings would be valued higher today on account of the Ontario artist’s death last year. In fact, she noted an artist’s passing sometimes prompts an estate sale themed around their oeuvre. Therefore, while my painting may not have sold for more than a few dollars five years ago, today it could claim upward of $700 to $800—or more. Enough for a month’s supply of groceries!
Thank you for the guest post, Heidi! We’ll be back in the next issue with part two of how to rebuild your finances after a layoff and why that finfluencer is probably sus as hell.
This week’s readings:
I do journalism elsewhere. Here’s my latest: More Canadians are pressing pause on retirement savings to pay for things now. Just how long should you do that? The answer may surprise you (Toronto Star)
Pay gap leaves women faring worse than men amid rising living costs: Survey (Bloomberg Canada)
Bank of Canada rate hike a possibility this week, economists say (The Globe and Mail)