How I Sell on Craigslist

Craigslist, started in San Francisco in 1995 as a hobby by Craig Newmark, is today a 12 billion page views per month behemoth. The online classified ads and forums site publishes more than 30 million new classified ads each month. Check their Q & A for more interesting facts.

I have been using craigslist for about a year now and they have been the best online money maker for me so far. When I first began using them they provided an additional income stream for a hauling endeavor, but now they are used to continually clean unwanted items out of my house.

If you have not used them yet but would like to try it out I would suggest signing up for an account with them, rather than just posting, and using an email address exclusively for craigslist. I use gmail. Using that designated email address helps me keep my craigslist dealings separate from my other email. Having an account also means you will be able to keep a history of what and when you have posted, and makes it much easier to repost if your item does not sell the first time.

No matter what the item is I always include a photo of it with my ad. I think people are much more interested in an item they can see. I set up in my basement a little “studio” on top of an old light table with three foot double fluorescent lights hanging above it. A few different color sheets can be hung from the wall behind it and draped over the light table to serve as a homemade background, and the lighting from above and below highlight the item to be photographed in a uniform manner. When I first started posting items for sale I would just set them on the couch or living room floor and click away. I soon decided on the mini studio because it offers a much cleaner, uncluttered approach that focuses exclusively on the item to be photographed. A digital camera is a must. I have a digital SLR that I could use but I prefer my little Kodak Easy Share 5.0. If I had very small items to sell, such as jewelry, I would use the SLR, but most of what I have been selling has been larger than that so the little Kodak works well for me.

Once I photograph the product I write down everything I can think of to describe it, and then measure it. Size, color, material, condition, manufacturer or brand, and any history I might know about it. Then it’s back upstairs to the computer and eBay to help me figure out a price. If I can find the item there I will average out the price and then knock off around a third. Craigslist users are looking for bargains, and I have plenty of stuff to get rid of. Pricing items too high will usually ensure you will continue to own it.

One rookie move I made was to post items too frequently, because I had so much stuff initially to get rid of. Folks would get irritated at seeing the same things over and over and began flagging me, and if enough people flag your ad it gets removed. It didn’t happen a lot of times, but enough to tell me to slow down and space out the frequency of my ads.

I have a few rules I stick to when dealing with customers. I will not ship and I only accept cash. I have met people at public locations a few times, usually because they are from out of town, but the vast majority just come to my house. I usually meet them on my porch with the item in hand. Some like to chat, but most just exchange a few pleasantries, pay me and are on their way. After over 1,000 ads posted I have run into maybe three potential scammers. They have been easy to detect so far, usually because of the crazy grammar and unusual requests they make. Here is an example email I saved: “I am interested,what is the last offering price? and i am travelling out of state tommorrow to united kingdom for a church conference,let me have your address and phone number,ican arrange for the pick up when the payment is done i stayed in Colorado,i will contact my financier to send the money order to you as payment so let have the details in which the payment will be issue,waiting to read from you soon.” He never did read from me.

After much experimenting I have come to the conclusion that Friday is the best day to post my ads. I get the most replies and actual pick ups from Friday and, interestingly, maybe half of the email replies I receive on Fridays have a business suffix in the address. I will get a flurry of replies on Friday, less on Saturday and hardly any on Sunday. During the following week I will receive maybe one to three more.

The only frustration I encounter with selling on craigslist is the no show. Maybe a third of the people that contact me will set a date and time for pick up and then not show up. I used to follow up with them the next day to maybe set another time, but stopped doing that because they would usually just burn me again.

Things that do not sell after several attempts will either get posted as free or donated to Salvation Army or Goodwill.

To wrap this up I will give an example of some things I have sold and for how much. Your junk is someone else’s treasure!

Small list: Throw Pillows $16, Watches $10, Cabbage Patch Doll $15, Hanging Coat Racks $10 for both, Kennedy Painting $10, Bowling Balls (3) $20, Shelves $10, Charger Plates $10, Longaberger Basket $15, Hello Kitty Items $25, Bed Frame $20, Outside Toys $18, Old Newspapers $50, Software $20, Pampered Chef Items $70, Old Computers $30, Fence Posts $33, Pottery Bowls $15, Dorm Fridge $40, Playstation 2 & 14 games, $150, Little House Books (7) $20, Bean Bag Chair $10, Food Saver $50, Jeans (3) $30, Heavy Duty Folding Tables (3) $45, Shirts & Sweatpants (9) $50, Small Bookshelf $15, Fishing Poles (3) $65, Two Wood Buckets $25, Boom Box $10, Makita Circular Saw $20.

Have you sold on craigslist? Do you have any tips or advice to share?


  1. When I disclose my email address in the ad, I specify that those who leave a name & phone number will be taken seriously; this helps in sorting out the plethora of scammers. Also scammers like to post "to change your password, click HERE" type. DO NOT enter/update your email address/password/phone request to anyone. Instead open a fresh window, go to the official craigslist site, my account and go from there.

  2. I am a woman, who lives alone. Whenever potential buyers send an email inquiry, if I find a first and last name, I run the name on the County Courthouse website for any criminal history.

  3. What a way to go...I liked the way you have explained it. I have always felt Craig's list is very vulnerable but, its ought to give a try. Thanks for your experience.

  4. I have been doing C-L 12 years since my sister gave me a digital camera for my birthday in 2005. I also live alone, so I do not include a map, but do state what part of the city I live in (for furniture that's a must). When a prospective customer shows interest I reply asking them for a phone #, so I can call them and give them my address [over the phone!] and set up an appointment. I may have lost some potential customers that way, but many others have complied and I've sold fairly well.

    In my experience, detailed description & good photos are the key to arousing interest. I also agree with the writer who posted here that you can't keep posting the same old tired ad week after week. What I do, is wait a month, dry, and then switch out the first, "best," photo for another, and also change at least the title, if not also some other items in the copy.


Agree? Disagree? Questions? Leave a comment!