Buying and Selling Online
People ask me all the time how I got started buying and selling online. The truth is it’s not the selling I love. It’s the buying. I love the thrill of the hunt. Going to garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales and digging for treasures makes me happy.
The selling came later when I realized that I didn’t necessarily want or need to actually own the treasures. Even before I started selling I quite frequently gave away the treasures to people who loved them more than I did.
Does this sound like you? I suspect it does if you went looking for an article like this one.
So where do you start? How do you know what to buy? How do you figure out shipping? What site is best for selling?
So many reselling questions when you start! Let’s break them all down.
What Should You Buy to Sell Online?
Start with what you like to shop for. Take me for instance, I love hunting vintage so that’s what I sell. There are others who know fashion and like hunting name brand clothing. I’ve seen them standing at “the bins” waiting for that next load to search through.
You can literally specialize in anything you know about and enjoy shopping for. Don’t pick something just because you think it will make you more money like electronics. If you don’t know anything about electronics you will have a steep and costly learning curve.
You can ignore my advice but then be prepared for a few losses until you get up to speed.
Finding Items to Sell Online
If you have a bunch of stuff you want to sell cluttering your closets and storage areas then you can start selling right away. If not then you’re going to need to go shopping.
Thrift stores have a steady supply of things you can dig through but remember that you need to get the best price possible for your inventory. So stores like Goodwill whose prices are steep
compared to other thrift stores should be shopped on sale days or with coupons to ensure the best price possible.
Goodwill outlets are a great option but unless you’re a digger you might not be comfortable with the shopping format.
Garage sales, tag sales, yard sales, and estate sales are your new best friend. You can find a lot for very little money this way. To maximize your return look for all city sales or neighborhood sales.
Flea markets are usually a pass for me. People selling at flea markets are in the same business you want to be in, so if they’re making a profit at the price they are selling items to you? You’re paying too much.
What Site is Best for Online Selling?
Ebay is what I consider an easy access selling site. You can sell ANYTHING on ebay, which is why it’s considered the world’s largest online garage sale. They have their quirks and scams so be aware of what they are before you start.
Etsy is only for handmade and vintage sellers. That is one of the reasons I choose to sell on Etsy. They have a build in audience looking for vintage. Ebay has more eyes on their site but only a handful are looking for what I’m selling. They also have the added benefit of paying me the next business day after an order is placed so I don’t have to front the shipping costs.
There are other online marketplaces that sell high end vintage like Chairish. Their fee structure is a little different so make sure you explore that and weigh your options before deciding.
Poshmark – For clothing reselling this is the place. I have a Posh closet because I do occasionally stumble upon really nice clothing and accessories when I’m shopping. They provide the shipping label for you which makes things nice. Poshmark also has their scams so make sure you know what they are!
The Real Real – I’m sure you’ve seen their commercials. If you’re selling luxury clothing they are the place you will make your highest rate of return.
There are so many places to sell online. Even Amazon let’s you resell on their site for a fee. I can’t possibly list all of them. The only thing I want to make sure you do is read ALL their fee structures, how and WHEN you get paid. Some sellers hold payment for a while to protect the buyer, which as a seller is FRUSTRATING. Especially when you’re trying to earn a living.
What About Shipping?
Oh boy! This is a heated topic for sure!
I have friends who are Etsy sellers who refuse to list high dollar value items because the items are either 1) breakable 2) larger than their mailbox or 3) too heavy to deal with.
Believe it or not this is about 90% of the people I talk to. They don’t want to list items that are fragile for fear of having to deal with items breaking in transport.
To me that means I’m no longer competing for sales with these people so much the better for me!
Don’t be worried about shipping. It’s not that hard to figure out. I personally use a service called Pirate Ship that offers discount postage. They integrate with Etsy, Ebay, Squarespace, Woocommerce, and a few other selling platforms, which makes sending notifications to buyers easy peesy.
As far as knowing what to charge for shipping Pirate Ship has a quick rate quote feature under their rates tab. This is how I figure shipping. Measure the item and add 2 inches to each side (the recommended amount of padding for most breakable items) and then estimate the weight (estimate heavy). Then plug the numbers into their rate calculator and use a zip code for a location in the continental US that is furthest from where you live. For me it’s the US Virgin Islands zip code 00801. Click get rate quote and that’s my shipping amount. Sometimes I pay less than that and sometimes I pay more but overall it evens out.
As far as breakable items that’s what insurance and bubble wrap is for. Bubble wrap is your best friend. Get the small bubbles bubble wrap (watch the Mythbusters bubble wrap episode if you doubt this) and use a lot of it. Some breaking still occurs. On occasion I’ve thought the post office was out to get me but it happens, so pay for the insurance. The claims process is relatively painless. I’ve only lost money on one shipment because the post office required the buyer to save the packaging which they didn’t. Lesson learned. I now tell everyone to save the packing until the post office approves the claim.
This is a high overview of how to get started reselling online. If there are specific questions you want answered please comment below. I’ll either answer you directly or if I think others will benefit from the answer I’ll write another post addressing your concerns.
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And if you’re interested in selling on Etsy check out my past posts here.