smart spending

Need cash? Sell stuff through online auctions

12. Do revise the ad, if necessary.  Questions from potential customers will clue you in on if you've missed something, Ellenberger says.

Finally, here's a crash course in other selling success strategies:

  • Build a bit of a reputation first. This can be done in as little as a few days, Livingston says. His research has found buyers don't need to see a huge number of successful transactions to be convinced of a seller's honesty -- about 10 or 15 solid transactions ought to do it. Those transactions can be as a buyer and for items that cost just a few dollars.
  • Choose a reasonable minimum bid. Too-high minimum bids tend to discourage bidders, who will "ignore the auction and go find another one." Livingston notes. Setting a "secret reserve price" will ensure a minimum price is met.
  • Increase the shipping fee. According to Livingston, studies have shown that buyers don't seem to fully take shipping costs into account -- they'll decrease the amount they're willing to pay by only about 50 cents for every $1 the shipping price is increased. (Just don't charge $100 to ship a baseball, he cautions.)
  • Offer a "buy it now" or "best offer" option. "The auction can still last a certain amount of time, but you will start to get offers quickly," Ellenberger says.
  • Select an appropriate end time. "Most bidding activity happens near the end of the auction, so you want the ending to happen when people can be near their computers," Livingston says, suggesting an 8 or 9 p.m. EST end time. Ellenberger suggests a Sunday or Monday night, to maximize weekend browsing.

Melissa Ezarik is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.

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