Apart from the fact that we’re both Boston transplants who picked up and drove cross-country to Austin in search of a more affordable and sustainable lifestyle, blogger Courtney Mirenzi and I have a long shared history of scouring thrift stores in search of stylish treasure for cents on the dollar. We now have a weekly standing “picking” date at the Goodwill Outlet, and I love picking her brain for tips on how she turns her like-new finds into funds to supplement her writing income through an eBay store and other resale avenues. It’s all about that side hustle! If you’re interested in how to turn your thrifting addiction into a part-time business, read on below for Courtney’s veteran experiences and pro tips:
About a year and a half ago, I turned my love for thrifting into a business and launched an eBay store filled with my secondhand finds. Over the course of those 18 months, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of selling online, whether those clothes & accessories were coming from my closet or direct from the thrift store.
These tips are definitely for those of you who want to take selling beyond just cleaning your the closet. Maybe you’ve put a few pieces up on Poshmark or eBay and were thrilled by the profit you made and want to take it to the next level. Maybe you’re looking for part-time job or are just looking to make some quick cash. Either way, I hope these veteran lessons can help you turn your scores into a successful resale experience!
1: Treat Selling Like a Business
Whether you plan to turn your online shop into a business or not, you should still treat it like one. This means keeping receipts, tracking mileage, and keeping a spreadsheet for sales so that you’re when Uncle Sam comes calling. You should also treat buyers like true customers and act professionally by responding to questions promptly and keeping your buyer-induced rants offline. Good customer service pays off, I promise.
2: Find Your Tribe
At first, selling online was super lonely. I was confused about everything from how much to charge for shipping, to where to buy packaging, to navigating eBay rules and other things. Then I found the Flipping sub-Reddit and quickly found myself embraced. These were my people. You don’t have to join Reddit to find a community, but you should seek out people like you online so that you have a support group who can calm you down and build you up when you hit obstacles and challenges.
3: Consider your sources.
Some people make their living off of what’s called “retail arbitrage,” basically going into a store, buying something, and selling it for a profit online, but you need a lot more money up front to resell using this method. (Read: People who capitalize on diffusion lines for Target, etc.) You might, as I did, find that it’s cheaper to look for items at your local thrift store, yard sales, or estate sales, or even by asking friends if you can sell their clothes for them and give them a cut of the profit in return (so you don’t have to spend anything up front). Always consider your bottom line and how much profit you’d like to make before any resale listing.
4: Develop An Eye For Quality
One of the best tips I ever got is this: Learn to look for quality before you look for labels. Chances are if you’re reading this, then you already know quite a bit about labels. But learning to discern quality first can mean the difference between making $5 or making $100. How do you start developing an eye for quality? My best advice is to go to a fine department store and touch expensive clothes, accessories, and housewares. Look at the quality of the fabric, the stitching, the construction. In general, if you know what the most expensive brands feel like, then anything of that quality or close to it usually means profit.
5: Memorize & Categorize Labels
Focusing on labels initially makes sense because they’re easy to learn. But there are SO many labels out there. Like a mind-boggling number, especially when you consider international brands and vintage brands, some recent but no longer manufacturing. A good way to start figuring out which brands sell is to look at lists of accepted labels from secondhand retailers like ThredUP. These lists of brands will give you a general idea of which labels are being sought out by consumers right now and therefore which items will move/sell quickly. You can also pay for professional services like TeraPeak if you are serious about getting into reselling full-time, which can help you look up and research brands you haven’t heard of before to find out how much they generally sell for at retail and at resale.
6: Stock What People Want to Buy NOW
Did you hope I’d list labels or categories of items that really sell well? I’m not going to do that for you, and here’s why: Brands that I won’t touch with a ten foot pole might be someone’s bread and butter. There’s a market for everything online. Don’t get hung up on what other people claim sells well. Some people might make their living by selling trendy pieces from Forever 21, but higher end items just sit there for months. Others might do well by selling Chanel and St. John but can’t move lower-end items. Let your customers gently dictate what you buy. You won’t know until you start selling and tracking what your individual audience is buying, and then make sure you stock plenty of it. If a specific item flies off the shelf more than once, chances are you’ve hit on your market, so stock that item and others like it.
I hope these tips from Courtney help you get started on your selling journey! Please leave any additional questions about reselling that you might have for her in the comments below, we’ll both be checking back frequently! You can also ping her on Twitter or on Instagram and follow her blog, Road Darling, for more of her thrifting & reselling tips. Thanks for sharing your expert advice with Shoestring readers, Courtney!
Photo: Goodwill Outlet in Austin, TX by Chelsea Laine Francis