Have you ever hosted a garage sale where people arrived 2 hours early to look through your old junk? Did they seem overly eager to snatch up what you deemed to be garbage?
If this sounds familiar to you, those people probably weren’t hoarders-they were ‘flippers,’ and that old ‘junk’ you just sold to them for 50 cents might have just paid their bills for the month.
My name is Veronica, and I am one of those flippers.
My husband Andrew and I are both full time health care professionals, garage sale ‘flippers’, bloggers, and seekers of financial independence. We have been paying our bills with the help of garage sales, estate sales, auctions, and eBay for the past few years, and have made quite a dent in our once-staggering amount of debt!
To date, we have completely paid off $96,500 in student loans, our $15,000 wedding, $5,000 in credit card debt, a $6,500 car, and over half of our mortgage- $76,600 and counting!
No, we didn’t receive an inheritance or win the lottery.
Our secret? An extremely frugal lifestyle supplemented by re-selling second hand items on eBay. The second hand items come from the weekly garage sales, estate sales, and auctions that we attend.
While most people are sleeping off Friday night’s indulgences, we are up on Saturday mornings at the break of dawn with our fanny pack full of cash, standing in line with other ‘flippers’ at the sales to compete for treasure.
It’s a battle of knowledge and skill; the ability to recognize antiques, collectibles, designer names, and more determines how much money you can make. It may sound a bit comical, but there’s an entire underground community out there whose members make their livings off of other people’s ‘seconds’.
So far this year, my husband and I have made about $13,000 by selling on eBay part-time. There are a few important strategies that have proved quite beneficial to us, and I am about to share them with you.
The first key to success is…
Master Your Craft
Identify your interests if you want to know how to sell on eBay. Shoes, vinyl records, designer clothes, jewelry, glassware, sports equipment, electronics, artwork, or toys are just a few examples of entire genres that you could specialize in.
Choose something that you already enjoy, and you will probably find that you know a whole lot more about the area than you previously thought. It also won’t feel like a chore to read about the items and do some preliminary research
Once you decide upon a niche that suits you, sort through your house, go out to garage sales and thrift stores, or check Craigslist for cheap or free items in your niche to obtain and begin researching.
Do Your Research
For all of you who cringed at the word ‘research’ and immediately thought of the library, index cards, and citations, relax. It’s eBay research – no books required.
The first thing I do with a new item is try to find that exact item listed for sale on eBay by searching a few general descriptor words and scroll through the resulting pictures until I find something similar. Once I find an item that looks like or is the one I am trying to sell, I search again using only the title words from that listing to find more targeted results.
From that quick search, you can gain two very important things: how much similar items are listed for, and how other sellers are describing the item.
In order to perform this research on the fly, it’s important to…
Make Your Smart Phone Earn Its Keep
My husband and I don’t pay for our smart phones anymore – they pay for themselves every month and then pay us back ten-fold because we have learned to use them to our advantage.
With the eBay app installed on our phones, we can quickly perform research while anywhere, and extremely fast. I can pick up an item at a sale and learn exactly what it is and what it’s worth on eBay before I put it down. We have made countless dollars by this use of our phones’ capabilities and also saved money by knowing when to pass on an item that was over-priced.
You would think that everyone would be using this tactic, but it surprisingly still gives us an edge as many older flippers have yet to master the smart phone’s capabilities. The majority of competition in our area consists of retirees who go to these sales as a way to stay busy. In fact, I’ve only witnessed about two other flippers using their phones in the same manner we do. The competition is behind the times, and you need to take advantage of that!
We also use our smart phones to post our items directly to eBay, taking all of the pictures with the phone’s camera and using the app to upload everything. This wasn’t a viable option a few years ago, but now that cell phone cameras have evolved to a much higher quality, it works very well. It takes much less time to post an item for sale on eBay now through the phone app compared to the tedious job of downloading photos to a computer and posting from there.
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Keywords Are Important If You Want To Know How To Sell On eBay
Just like SEO for you bloggers out there, keywords are very important in your eBay listing when learning how to sell on eBay. Use every descriptor word possible in the listing title – the title doesn’t have to make sense or even read like a proper sentence.
I used to make the mistake of posting cute titles instead of maximizing my keywords. When my items weren’t selling as well as other sellers’ identical items, I caught on and started using the same jumbled keyword titles that worked for them.
The results were immediate. With more direct keywords and less fluff in my listings, more people viewed my items. I started receiving more bids on my items, which translated to increased sales.
The next step is pricing your item fairly, and that correlates with one of our most important pillars of success…
Let People Make Money Off Of You
It seems counter-intuitive, but a very successful antique dealer taught us this lesson early on.
It is a very difficult thing to do because everyone likes maximum value for their items, but allowing others to make a profit off of youensures your success. By relinquishing 10-15% of your potential profit and allowing someone else to share that profit, you will secure happy, repeat customers, your inventory will turn over quickly, and you can then buy new inventory with your profits to do it all over again, thus making more money in the time span it would have taken you to sell the original item for full value.
The basic principle here is that the opportunity cost of sitting on an item for a longer period of time is greater than the reward of an extra few percent in profit. Most of the time, we find our inventory so cheap that a 10-15% price reduction from competitors’ prices still allows us to have an excellent profit margin. We recently found a designer bracelet at a garage sale for a few dollars, and found it repeatedly selling on eBay for over $400. We posted it for $350, and it sold within a few days. We watched other sellers re-list the same item for weeks at higher prices, and they are still sitting on that inventory.
The hardest part about this strategy is letting go of the need to recover maximum value out of everything. My best advice here is to relax and don’t be greedy-you will be more successful overall by allowing others to share some of the profits.
Now that I have shared with you some of our most important strategies for eBay selling success, I hope you are able to jump into the eBay flipping world with confidence! It’s never easy to start something new, but it can be a very lucrative and fun hustle on the side.
Come ‘sale’ with us!
Author Bio: You can follow Veronica and her husband Andrew’s adventures in second-hand flipping at www.secondhandmillionaires.com or on Twitter @2handmillionair
Are you going to try your hand at flipping as a result of this article? Are you interested in learning how to sell on eBay? Why or why not?
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