I have experienced a fair amount in selling small electronics and photography equipment online and have some tips on making a good sale and avoiding pitfalls...
Recently I sold a camera lens I had grown out of. This item sold within a few hours. Using this recent sale as an example, here are a few suggestions when listing your gear or accessories on sites like Craigslist, classified ad sites or trade based web forums.
1. Always include good photos!
This may seem like common sense but I cannot tell you how often I see an ad where: there are not enough pictures uploaded, the pictures they have uploaded are blurry and/or not exposed well, or worse there are none at all. There is no excuse for skipping this essential step, especially if you are a photographer, you should have equipment around to make good images.
Below are the actual images from my recent listing and pointers for what to include in yours.
- Make your main image/main thumbnail a great single view of the item(s), filling the frame with a clean background (if there are parts, other accessories, include them).
- Show multiple angles in your images, such as left, right, top, and bottom get up close. In the case of a lens, I show the glass element, the cap, the hood, the focus ring and switches.
- DO NOT neglect to show any nicks and dings in your images! If you are selling something that is used, it is probably not going to look perfect, that is totally ok and you should be upfront about any sort of damage both cosmetic and mechanical. Not divulging these things can a make buyer back out of the sale.
- DO show the good condition. If you are selling something and you have taken good care of it you will want to accentuate that. A "like new" lens will sell much faster than "good" one and serious buyers will definitely be taking this into their decision to choose yours. *The buyer of my lens was particularly pleased with the images and condition, mentioning multiple times that this was a big part of choosing mine over others listed at similar and lower price.
2. Filling in your ad.
(Examples below for Craigslist).
1. Select whether you want to use your email (Craigslist will forward messages to you using CL relay) or select to not use email.
2. Select if you would prefer phone calls and or text messages then enter a good number to reach you. This is in addition to or instead of email.
3. The title of your ad is very important, you should have accurate, to the point text. Leaving further details for the body of the post. *Most things on Craigslist are sold as used, if you have a new item be sure to include that condition in your title.
4. Put an appropriate price! Most sites will require you to put price before you can publish your ad but I would not recommend entering "$1" to fill this box. Two reasons not to do this are: If you are listing a lens and your price is $300. Someone searching for that lenses enters their budget of 200-400, this buyer might never see your ad, because $1 listings have been excluded from their search! The other reason is that you may discourage serious buyers who know what they are looking for and what they want to spend. They will not want to haggle with you and compete with other buyers. Unless you are listing on eBay.
5. You should be direct and accurate with the body of your ad. Include any number of the following: where/when you purchased, your good experience(s), your issues if any and your reasons for selling. Be sure to include exactly what is included in the sale such as: any box, paperwork, accessories, specify if there is something missing from your original purchase and just as in the images, scratches, dents and damage should always be in your description.
6. If your item has a certain Manufacturer or Model number, you can enter it for more specific searches.
*Bonus, checking the "Include more ads" will show buyers your other active Craigslist ads.
3. Beware of scams!
So your ad is now online. When you start to receive messages from potential buyers, some of them are bound to be scam artists. Here are some things to look out for.
In the image below you can see an actual text message thread between myself and a scam artist.
1. Scam text messages will usually ask if you still have the item for sale, while also copy/pasting the title of the ad and having sentences in the wrong order in an oddly structured manner.
2. With a response of "Yes I still have this item for sale" from you, they might now ask you for your price even if you have listed your price already. A real buyer might word their question differently, such as "Can you go any lower on the price?" or "Would you accept $280?".
3. Then if you respond with your price, this is the point where scam artist will tell you that they are willing to pay your price. They may claim to live locally but will ask you to ship to an address outside of your state or country, making an excuse that they are out of town, in the military or otherwise unable for anything local. They will always attempt to convince you to accept a cashier's check/money order or PayPal as payment.
With accepting a cashiers check/money order, they will mail you a fraudulent check that if you try to deposit you will find there will be a hold on your account for days wherein no funds will arrive, the scam being they hope you have shipped the item to them before realizing you have no new funds.
Secondly, PayPal is normally a secure way to transfer money and pay online but with this particular email scam the perpetrator will offer to transfer you money but instead, they only send you a fabricated email that is intended to look as if it is from PayPal and that you should ship the item immediately. Here are some things to look for.
*Below is an example, an actual email from a scam artist that I told (for purposes of this post) I would accept PayPal as payment. Once they had my email address, they sent me this fake message.
1. Notice that the sending email address is suspicious. Using "email@example.com" to fool you into thinking this is in fact from PayPal. A legitimate email would end in "@paypal.com"
2. This obstructive graphic has been inserted into the header of the email, this is just an image that they have googled and included in this email, PayPal does not include more than their logo in emails notifying account holders of payments.
3. While a legitimate PayPal email may include a logo similar to this, it will not include the phrase "powered by" that is a trademark only used for marking devices or websites that accept PayPal as payment, not for communication to users.
4. PayPal will never address you as your email address, they will instead use your full name or company name as they have in their records. Remember you have not given this scam artist your full name, just your email address.
5. PayPal will not include the use of colored text or all capital letters. Note the odd sentence structure used in trying to convince you to ship immediately to receive payment. Payment funds should be made to you immediately after they are transferred. PayPal does not impose a time limit or payment restriction based upon on shipments or tracking numbers.
6. Attempting to impose a sense of urgency, they demand a tracking number in order for you to receive your funds. (*Again note the incorrect sentence structure).
7. Emails from scam artists will included links to "Click here" to check your account. DO NOT. This may lead to you to any site of their choosing resulting in possible spyware and or viruses being installed on your computer. Instead choose to check your account by opening a new browser and entering in www.paypal.com.
8. PayPal account holders (at least in the US) should receive emails from PayPal ending in the address of their California headquarters and not a foreign address.
9. Bonus! There are so many graphics and images! This is an overzealous attempt to convince you that this email is legitimate.
WHAT IS REAL THEN?
Below I have included what you might expect to receive from PayPal in the event of a successful payment being deposited to your PayPal account. (*Black marks for my client's privacy).
1. Note the sending address ending in "@PayPal.com" with the full name of the buyer included.
2. The date and time of your email/transaction will be listed in this top corner.
3. The seller's PayPal username will be included in multiple places throughout this email.
4. Transaction ID listed will match the records when you log into your account.
5. The amount transferred will be shown here, matching the amount in your account.
6. This area will contain any notes added by the buyer, normally including something such as "For camera lens".
7. There will be a link to check your account however, I personally always prefer to manually enter Paypal.com rather than use a link in any email. This is a good practice for any site/service that might have your financial information in their records.
8. While it is true that it may take minutes for your funds to show, it will always be available regardless of any shipment confirmation.
9. The buyer's full name and shipping address should be provided here.
10. PayPal headquarters address will be included here, located in California, US.
11. Unique email ID will be included here, you can verify this in your account as well.
That is a lot of information, if you have more questions I would suggest checking out PayPal's own page on how to spot a scam...
4. Actually Making the Sale.
So you have avoided scams and found a real buyer. How do you facilitate the actual sale?
After some back and forth with the buyer, you have negotiated a price that is reasonable for both parties. You now have to decide a few things, when to meet, where to meet, drop off, or pick up?
Here are a few pointers for transacting a smooth sale.
a. I will always ask either if they have a specific day and time they want to meet, if they are not sure, I will provide them with a few days and times that I am available that week and go from there.
b. Personally, I prefer to meet in a public place rather than in private. Coffee shops are usually my go to place but I will sometimes offer to drop off something if they are ok with that and are close by. This has been a good option for people who work different hours and they can just take a quick break to make the transaction.
c. When you have agreed on a date and time I would suggest being a few minutes early grab a table or stay in the parking lot and give a friendly text message that you are there. Also give a quick description of your car, your outfit etc. to easily pick you out if it gets crowded.
d. Depending on what you are selling, the buyer may want to inspect, test and even ask a few follow up questions, this is totally normal. Once they are satisfied they should provide you with their payment, make sure to count it and then thank them for their time and be on your way.
*Some buyers will even have you sign a bill of sale once you meet and the sale is just about final. Depending on what is being sold, this protects them in case they were accused of theft. Not every transaction will need this, but it is not uncommon.
You're done! You made your sale and now have a good experience to recreate with your future sales.
I hope this has been helpful and thank you for reading!
If you are in need of photography work you can contact me at