Welcome to My Sewing Hints Page

A place to find hints, tips, techniques and guides on common and not-so-common sewing tasks as well as advice from my own experience selling online.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

How to Start Selling Online - The Basics of Selling and Shipping

I've covered a lot of the basic topics like fees, shipping issues and such, but I've noticed several posts on forums from people who don't know how to start selling online, or what to do once they make their first sale. So I'll try to keep this as a simple step by step guide for the basics.

Getting Set Up


First, decide what you're going to sell, then find a venue that fits that item. Etsy is limited to handmade items, vintage (20+ years old) and craft supplies. eBay is pretty much a free for all where you can sell everything from broken crayons to electronics to pictures of a 1967 Mustang on a piece of toast. Selling on Amazon, you'll need a UPC code for each item you sell there. UPC codes can be easily purchased online and there are many brokers with available codes to sell. I did a lot of searching when I went to list my dice bag on Amazon, and found EZ UPC to have some of the best prices, as well as confirmed that they are legally allowed to sell UPC codes. You will need a separate code for each item, even if it's just a color variation of the same item.

Next is to familiarize yourself with your chosen venue's restrictions on items. Most places won't allow Nazi memorabilia or things like ivory to be sold there. Firearms and weapons are other items that are commonly not allowed. You can view the full lists for Etsy, eBay and Amazon here:

Etsy's Restricted and Prohibited Items
eBay's Restricted and Prohibited Items
Amazon's Restricted and Prohibited Items



Setting Up Shop


Next is getting your shop set up on your chosen venue. Each venue will have different fees associated with it that can change with different options you select while getting set up. I have the fees for eBay and Etsy covered in my blog here.

Photos


eBay allows up to 12 photos per listing, which gives you plenty of opportunity to show off your item or all of the items if you're selling a set of something. Etsy only allows 5 photos, so it's very important to get good photos to use there. Amazon allows 6 photos and each one must be taken on a plain white background with nothing but the item for sale (no props or accessories that aren't included).

Include as many good pictures as you can! Try to get pictures of each side, and close ups of any details, flaws or damage so your buyers can evaluate if the item is worth buying. If you can't get good lighting inside, then take your pictures outside on a clear day. Purple can be notoriously hard to photograph and sometimes taking pictures of purple items in natural light turns out best.

This part I can't stress enough, make sure your photos are all in focus. If you're wanting someone to pay $800 for a ring or necklace, they need to be able to see all of the details. Blurry and dark photos will only hurt your chance of making that sale. If your camera is old and doesn't do close up photos well, then try your phone. Most phone cameras now have excellent cameras on them, and I know of a number of sellers who use their phones for most if not all of their photos.

Description


Here's the hard part. You need to write a good description for your item. Just saying something like "Child's blue coat" isn't going to cut it. You need to try to anticipate any questions a buyer could have and answer it in your description. A good description for the coat might be:

Girl's blue coat, size 5. Made from 100% wool with polyester lining. The front buttons all the way down with 1-1/4" navy blue buttons. Sleeves measure 11" long from shoulder, coat is 26" long from base of neck to hem. There is no padding between the outer coat and lining, so it's best suited for fall wear.


Now you've answered any questions they might have. It's told them the fabric content, the measurements, and that it's not suitable for winter in Minnesota.

Shipping


This is a hard one for a lot of people. If your item is a vintage item or something already made, it's a little easier. You can package it up and get the box dimensions and weight, then figure the postage from there. If it's not something already made (something you make to order in their size or with their customizations on it), then it gets a little trickier and you have to guess.

You can use the USPS postage calculator found here to figure both domestic and international shipping rates.

eBay, Etsy and Amazon all let you set either fixed price postage or variations based on location. Whichever you use, you will need to have some idea of the dimensions and weight of the item to make sure you charge enough to cover the shipping costs. These costs include more than just the postage, make sure you've allowed enough to cover boxes, tape, labels, packing supplies and gas/time to go to the post office. I have the USPS pick up my outgoing mail most of the time, so my shipping costs don't include the gas or time for going to the post office.

If you've never sold online before and have no idea how to ship an item, this next part applies to you.

First, make sure you package the item securely. If there are a number of small pieces, put them in a bag. I know a lot of sellers who use Ziploc bags to hold small items. That way everything stays together and if the box or envelope is damaged, pieces won't fall out. If the item is breakable, wrap it in bubble wrap and put more bubble wrap or packing paper around it in the box. Very valuable, fragile items should be double boxed. Wrap and pack it in a box, then put that box inside another box with more padding around it.

Next, address the box. If you're using one of the venues' online postage printing, this will all be done for you and you'll only need to enter in the package's dimensions and weight and pay the postage online, then print out the label and attach it to your box or envelope. If you're not printing the postage online, your address goes in the upper left corner and your customer's name and address goes in the middle of the box or envelope. Then you take it to the post office and they'll weigh and measure it and you pay for the postage there.

And that's it! You've now set up your online shop and can package and ship your first sale!

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