When I graduated from college and started my first job, I was on a strict budget. I was always looking for ways to make extra cash and save money. I built my work wardrobe entirely from thrift store finds. It was while I was thrifting that I stumbled across one of my most lucrative side gigs: reselling clothes on eBay.
How I got my start
I love NYDJ jeans. They’re the only jeans that fit me off the rack without tailoring. But they cost about $120 brand-new, which was way outside my budget. I would peruse the thrift store aisles, hoping to find a pair in my size.
One day I did find a pair, but they were three sizes too small. But at just $4, they were too good of a deal to pass up. I bought them, thinking one of my friends would want them. But on a whim, I decided to check how much they go for on eBay. A used pair often goes for $30 or $40. I sold that first pair within a week and pocketed $25, after fees.
It got me thinking about other things I could sell online. Within a few weeks, I was selling about 20 items a week and pocketing $800 a month in profits.
Building this hobby into a business
At first, I started very small. I bought just a few items at a time to sell and had very little in terms of supplies. I mostly relied on free priority shipping envelopes from the post office and printed shipping labels at the library.
But once I had made several hundred dollars from this, I started taking it more seriously and reinvested in my business. I added the following tools and supplies to support the expansion.
Bulk vinyl envelopes for shipping
By switching to the vinyl envelopes and the scale, I could ship for much less money.
A dress form
The dress form made my clothes look better in photographs and helped make them more appealing to buyers.
Professional business cards
I also researched the competition, and ordered business cards with my eBay store name on them.
Another thing I noticed was that other sellers weren’t just typing in the item description like I was. They had polished templates. I had zero HTML experience, but I found free eBay store templates, and I learned enough in order to customize them. It made my store look much more professional, and buyers were more comfortable buying from me.
Other sellers also removed the backgrounds in their photos to highlight the items better. I mimicked that approach with a site that does the work for you, and I saw an increase in my selling prices.
Focusing on eBay best-sellers
Just about anything sells on eBay. But if you’re looking to start your own store, it’s a good idea to pick a niche you know well. By focusing on a specific customer type, you can build up your clientele and get repeat customers.
I’ve helped new sellers get started on eBay, and one of the most common problems that comes up is when a seller is tempted to sell things outside their niche. You might stumble across a set of china or sports equipment that just looks expensive. But unless you know a lot about that kind of item, you have no idea if it’s junk or a treasure. And buying inventory without knowing if it will turn a profit can be a costly mistake.
My niche was women’s clothing, particularly workwear. I specialized in jackets, suits, dresses, and cardigans. I’d look for name brands and quality fabrics — cashmere, angora, and lamb’s wool — and items in excellent condition. I’d check out thrift stores, estate sales, flea markets, and clothing swaps.
If I thought an item looked to be high-quality but didn’t recognize the brand, I’d search for it on eBay. Under “filters,” you can search for sold listings. The results would let me know if the item would sell for enough money to make it worthwhile; with eBay’s fees, I aimed to sell items for at least four times what I paid for it.
Cashing in on eBay
By being diligent, I was able to make nearly $10,000 in one year from selling on eBay. That was money I used to pay down debt and bulk up my savings, and it gave me much-needed room in my budget. You can get started selling without a lot of startup costs or expenses, so you can start making money right away.
This story originally appeared on Wise Bread.