There are so many ways to try and make a little extra cash off of your unworn clothes these days—consignment shops, eBay, garage sales…lots of formats to choose from. Another option that you may not have considered is to do a closet sale on Instagram and extend your reach to your Internet friends as well. I hadn't done one before this past year, and it can seem a little intimidating at first, but I asked a few friends who had done a few for some tips, learned a few of my own along the way, and ended up helping Elsie do her first sale a few weeks ago. It's a great way to share your closet with your online pals and make a little cash for some new items (or put it towards a trip or something) at the same time!
First, for some general tips, I would really suggest holding the sale under a separate account from your personal one. That way people who want to follow the sale can, but not everybody who follows you will have to be spammed with your shoe collection. Also, create the account and post all the photos of your items with their descriptions before you announce the sale on your personal account (or keep it a private account until it's ready). That way, you can get everything how you want it and make any tweaks without people starting to bid before it's open, etc.
1.) The photos are really important. Since your buyers can't try on the clothes in a virtual dressing room, it's really crucial to take clear and well-lit photos of all your items on a neutral background. It also helps to have multiple photos, especially if there is a detail that should be seen close up or a unique back on a dress. If you have a photo of you wearing the item, post that as well so they can see how it fits when it's worn.
2.) Clean your items. Make sure to wash or wipe off all the items before photographing and shipping. This is important for the obvious reason that no one wants to buy dirty clothes, but also because an item may have a spot or mark that may or may not come out. If it does come out, then you don't have to advertise it as damaged, but if it doesn't, you may want to reconsider if it's in good enough shape to sell.
3.) Be clear about sizes and any defects. You don't want there to be surprises when the buyer gets their item, so make sure to list anything that the buyer would want to know about beforehand in the item description. Note how the item fits if it's different than the size on the tag (like if it's a size small but fits like a medium), or if it's a loose cut that could fit a range of sizes. Add a photo or note if there are any worn spots or marks that can't be removed so the buyer is aware of the item condition. You don't have to photograph every tiny loose thread (unless otherwise stated, people assume all items are gently used), but look over the item and point out anything you'd like to know about if you were the bidder.
4.) Be as organized as possible. This is probably the most important point of them all. Keep a spreadsheet or chart where you can list each item, the final purchase price, the shipping cost, the PayPal email of the winner, and their shipping address as that information comes in. You can also use colors to indicate if someone has paid for their item and if it's been shipped out to them. If you do the spreadsheet on your computer and open Instagram in another tab, you can copy and paste the winner's email and cut down on spelling mistakes. Also, if you can get a friend to help you assembly line photograph or pack all your items, that really helps too!
5.) Have clear sale rules. After you post all your items, put up a "sale rules" post (do it last so it will appear at the top of your page) and direct people to make sure they read it in your shop's Instagram bio area. List all the important details like what day and time the sale ends, how to bid (commenting with their bid amount and PayPal email is easiest), what countries you do/don't ship to, an email address if buyers need to contact you, and any other details you want everyone to know. Having clear guidelines up front will help if you have to respond to any issues or complaints later.
6.) Make a 24 hour deadline for payment. Note in the sale rules that buyers have 24 hours from the time they receive their money request in PayPal to pay the invoice, or they lose their item and it goes to the next highest bid. This will help keep the payment process from dragging out too long and will encourage people to pay quickly so they don't lose their chance.
7.) Don't sell too many items at once. Like most anything in life, all the headaches are multiplied the more items you are selling in one sale, so keep the number of items you're selling reasonable. There really is a big difference in selling 35 items at once vs. 135 items, so keep it under 50 items to make it more manageable.
8.) Be mindful of the weight when thinking of shipping costs. Shipping costs are determined by weight, so use lightweight bags to ship items whenever possible. Sometimes a box is necessary because of the fragility of an item or it's something you can't fold, but try and use the lightweight mailers when possible.
9.) Offer shipping discounts for multiple items. Encouraging people to buy multiple items is good for everyone involved—they get more stuff, and it's a 1/3 of the work to send an invoice and ship three items to only one person instead of three different people. One easy way to do it is to make all clothing $5 shipping and all shoes $7 or $10 shipping (shoes are usually heavier and more prone to need a box for shipping), and then offer a discount if you buy more than one of the $5 items. So, maybe it's only $2 for shipping each additional item after the first one, and you can put them all in a bag together and send them out as once package. Everybody wins!
10.) Add a little note or gift with each order. You may not consider this an official small business with customers, but it's a nice gesture to send your buyers a little note or special treat with each package. Especially if you plan on doing a sale more than once, you want the people who bought items the first time to have a good experience and buy again. Just don't make a heavy item your special surprise because you'll end up paying a lot more in postage than if you can think of something that is relatively light. Learned that one the hard way!
With a little planning, you can really make the effort worth it and collect a tidy sum to put towards something special—a new wardrobe, an anniversary trip, a bejeweled cat sweater. You know, the important things. Do you have unworn items that you could find a new home for in your own Instagram sale? Quick, go check! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.