“Pivoted” is a terrible new piece of corporate jargon, I know. But it’s what I’ve done, whilst I’m (to a large extent) unable to do my normal job. It’s how I’ve been making money, occupying myself and helping others during this #lockdown. I’ve been doing an activity that’s available to everyone, it can be done from home (so long as you have a smartphone or computer – which is most of us, right?), and I’ve made £1,083 in the last 2 weeks.

I’ve been doing eBay! It’s quite satisfying, once you get a system going. You need to spend about 1/2 hour per item (you may get quicker). Here are my thoughts and tips. You have to:

At London Stock Exchange
At London Stock Exchange
  1. Research it: is there a market for this item? What sort of prices does it sell for? Is it even worth spending the time listing it? I found, through listing “Recordable CD-R’s”, that there is no market for some things – you can’t give them away. Ditto huge fax machines. But for some retro 1980s/90s answerphones, there is a market. Who knew?
  2. Test it: if it doesn’t work, it may not be worth selling at all. On the other hand, some vintage electronics have a market even if they don’t work – for parts or for enthusiasts who want to restore them. But if you can write “fully working, tested”, then you’ll get a lot more money for them. And photograph them with the light on/power getting through, to show they work. A picture tells a thousand words, and 65% of us are visual learners.
  3. Clean as if your life depended on it. Clean the item – I find “kitchen cleaner with bleach” is particularly good. Scraps of dust/food/muck seem to be magnified by iPhone cameras, so get it as sparkling as you can, particularly vintage electrical items etc. But actually, anything you’re selling, get it looking as good as you can. Obvs.
  4. Weigh it, and measure its dimensions. You need a tape measure/ruler and kitchen scales (preferably digital) next to you. This helps you determine which postal service to offer. If it’s small/light enough, you can put it in an ordinary postbox. For the bigger items, it’s quite cheap to get one of the parcel delivery services to pick it up from your door! It’s a great service (when they come on the allotted day, but that’s a whole other story). NB: Make sure you get the buyer to pay for the postage. I made this mistake recently: sold something for 99p with free postage! 🙁 I have thrown myself on the buyer’s mercy – asked if he can help me out. He’s under no obligation to: it’s my mistake – at the moment I will end up losing about £4 on that sale.
  5. Work with 3 tabs open on eBay (at least), then you can keep checking back on your messages, the listing you’re working on, and a listing that’s similar to yours so you can “borrow” their wording (if they’ve described it better, or have more detail than you). And you won’t lose what you’ve already written if you tab off the page to check something else (I learned that the hard way).
  6. Know that you’re not necessarily doing it for the money. When I sell something cheap (say, 99p) I remind myself I am doing this to keep these items out of landfill, and to let someone else from the community have a benefit from it, get some use out of it.
  7. On the subject of money, don’t be too cheap. There’s probably a whole business model devoted to this, but if you price something too cheap, people assume it’s rubbish and steer clear. I have put the exact same article on for 99p, and then £10, and it’s sold at £10. Or more, if the auction hots up. So, don’t undersell your items. On the other hand, don’t be too expensive! I saw the exact same item on for £1, and then £1,000! Know the value of your stuff.
  8. Be aware that some people are a bit chaotic. They will pay – and then you’ll never hear from them again: they’ll never collect the item they’ve bought. This is especially true if the item is too cheap – people will bid on a whim and then go off it, and if they waste 99p, who cares? You then have to spend time refunding their money and relisting the item. Another scenario is: they buy the item and then don’t pay. Ditto the faff you have to go through. They don’t know you, the seller, and they don’t care if you’re annoyed.
  9. It’s addictive! When you get that ‘kerchinngg’ sound on your phone when you get paid for something, or a ping when someone bids, I feel like a teenager constantly checking her phone to see if anyone has “liked” her photos!
  10. I’m keeping Royal Mail in business. And all the other delivery services, which often operate out of corner shops (I usually buy some chocolate/treats when I drop a parcel off, so that gives them some business too – we’ve got to keep the High Street running!)
  11. Think about Depop too – it’s like eBay – but for teenagers, according to my daughters. It’s quite a social/artistic/creative outlet: sellers model the items and make them look as cool/desirable as possible. My older daughter has 2,900 followers! Her Depop profile is Rebecca_Hjelt, she has told me to tell you 🙂
  12. You might think you haven’t got anything to sell, but we’re all supposed to have been decluttering/spring-cleaning during this #lockdown, so you might have found a few things. Remember the old adage, “If you haven’t worn something for 2 years, give it away!” Also, the charity shops are closed, so this is another way to get rid of this stuff. For my own part, I have been helping my 90 year old dad move into a new flat (he was on the 4th floor with no lift) so he has chucked out a lot of junk/gems. Most of it is immaculate. #hoarder
  13. A final word, just in case you thought I’d given up the media training: I haven’t. I AM still doing some of it, remotely. But this is filling in the gaps in my time. And it’s satisfying, keeps me busy, motivated, occupied. Maybe give it a go?

Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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