Once upon a time, I decided it was high time I sell some of my stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. Since it was just after the holidays, I decided to get the ball rolling with a new shirt I had just received for Christmas.
Even though it was cute, the shirt fit a little small for my taste. And even worse, the store it was purchased from was out of state, which meant no returns. So, after taking some pictures and crafting a snazzy description, onto eBay it went. Priced at $6, the shirt sold right away.
Off to a good start, until…
Unfortunately, the buyer later wrote to say the shirt had a hole in it and demanded a refund. I asked for a picture and, when they wouldn't produce one, denied their request for their money back.
Well, she didn't like that at all and actually threatened to turn me in to eBay for ripping her off.
I promptly refunded her money, which meant she kept the shirt and the cash. And after that, I wrote off eBay as a potential source for side income altogether.
That being said, I am still pretty intrigued by those who claim to make money flipping items on the popular auction site. Is it really possible to make extra money with eBay? And if so, is there a trick to it?
How much extra money?
Chris, an eBay resale enthusiast and blogger who writes at FlippingaDollar.com, has a lot to say on this topic. Since launching his side business in 2013, Chris claims to have earned a steady side income that has increased annually. In 2013, Chris states that he made $1,500 in net profits, followed by just under $5,000 in 2014. Chris had the lofty goal of making $10,000 in profit in 2015, but has earned just a little over $4,000 so far. Still, there are a few months left in the year.
The learning curve
When I told Chris about my unfortunate clothing resale situation, he shrugged it off as the price you pay to play this game. In his eyes, you have to be willing to lose a little money at first while you learn what will and will not sell, plus how to avoid losses.
And Chris says that learning is part of the process. In fact, as he waded through his eBay resale hobby, he created rules to follow that he believes makes the whole scheme more profitable over time.
Minimize start-up expenses
According to Chris, the best place to find items to resell on eBay is in your own home. Doing so, says Chris, puts you in the position where you have the money you need to seek out additional items to sell without pulling from your own pocket.
“Sell some things from around your own house to get that seed money, and then only work with that money without adding any new cash to your buying money,” explains Chris.
Using your initial profits is a great way to start your side gig with no money down (and almost no risk).
Finding items to sell
Beyond the unwanted items you find around your home, you should stick to what you know — and what you ultimately find that sells the best. For Chris, that's high-end clothing because it's easy to store and ship. And even though clothing tends to move slowly, he mentioned that the nicest items have some really nice margins. Meanwhile, his wife picks up eye-catching crafts at garage sales and thrift stores and focuses on them.
For the average person, it helps to sell “what you know,” says Chris. If you have a hobby or interest, for example, and you know what the high end and sought-after stuff is, look for that.
If you are a collector yourself, that might mean looking for more items you know and understand for resale. Even if you're just enthusiastic about something — whether it's Disney products, video games, a specific clothing brand, or some type of antique — you can focus on finding and reselling those items.
Once you decide what to sell, you can scour garage sales, sites like craiglist.org, estate sales, and thrift stores for the best deals. And remember, you can usually find your seed money by starting with items from your own home.
Why eBay resale might be the perfect side hustle
Since we've written about how to list items on eBay for maximum profit already, we're not going to go there again. Instead, we're going to focus on why selling on eBay might be the perfect side hustle for beginners. Here are a few of the top benefits that come with this lucrative hobby/side hustle:
You get out what you put in. As Chris says, your earnings are often proportional to the effort you put in. “Only have time to list one item per week? No worries,” says Chris. With an eBay resale side hustle, you can put in as little or as much time as you want.
It can be fun. If you are truly passionate about the items you're seeking out and reselling, flipping items on eBay can be much more gratifying than a side gig; it can be a fun hobby too. For Chris, eBay flipping is filling a void left after he quit playing video games. Still, it's basically “a real life video game,” he says. “Instead of going and killing monsters in a dungeon, I'm finding treasures at a garage sale.”
You don't have to invest a lot of money up front. While you'll need to branch out eventually, Chris is right that you can get started by selling items in your own home. Instead of putting money down, you can get your seed money by selling old Christmas presents, clothes that no longer fit, unwanted electronics, and whatever else you can find. And as a bonus, you'll be decluttering your home in the process!
Secrets to success
While Chris admits that people have different strategies when it comes to reselling items on eBay, his own strategy has firmed up over the years. For starters, Chris no longer sells low-dollar items like, you know, the shirt I sold that supposedly had a hole in it.
“I try to stay away from items where I'll only make a few dollars,” says Chris. “There's a good amount of effort that you need to put into sourcing, listing, storing, and shipping.” And for a smaller sale like the one I made, the effort probably wasn't worth it.
“When you deal with something greater than $30, the buyer generally puts a little more pre-work into buying, and you seem to have less issues.”
In addition, Chris has learned which items to steer clear from, which for him, is high-end electronics. Chris says the only time anyone has tried to scam him for money was when he was reselling their old smartphones, so he has stayed clear of that category ever since.
As Chris mentioned before, however, the type of items you choose to focus on are up to you and your personal interests and goals.
The bottom line
While reselling items on eBay lost favor with me long ago, it is obviously going fairly well for many others. And I suppose that's the biggest lesson of all — the idea that we all need to find the best way to support our families and earn the extra dollars that will help us get ahead.
If you have a lot of stuff around the house to sell, and have a hobby or interest that might make you an expert on certain profitable items, why not give eBay a try?
From the looks of it, there might not be a lot to lose. In my case, all I lost was a shirt.
Have you ever tried to resell items on eBay? How did it go, and what tips can you share? If not, what is your side hustle?
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.