I gotta tell you, being my own boss is pretty great. I earn a full-time income while being a full-time mom, watching way too many true crime documentaries, and I will never again have to ask someone if they want fries with that. I’m loving my life right now! Whenever I talk about my love of reselling, and what it has done for my life, I also tell them how hard it is. Both things are true, and knowing that is important.
It took me years to get to this point. Those were years of struggle, trial and error, and some serious lesson-learning. If you want to be a full-time reseller, you can do it, but there’s a lot you have to learn first, and a lot more you have to learn along the way.
These are the biggest traps that new, and veteran, resellers fall into, and the things I wish someone had told me about when I was first starting.
Thinking It’s Easy
By now we’ve probably all seen those commercials from Mercari where one roommate asks another, “Are we using these pillows?” she says no, so roommate #1 posts a few quick pics, they sell instantly, and now the girls are rolling in money. It ain’t that easy.
Financial independence is not one app away. You won’t decide to start reselling today and be flying to your private island next month. It’s hard. You will constantly be learning about new features, products and programs, and you will need to pivot nearly every aspect of your business due to the unforeseen whims of tech CEOs in the future.
If it was as simple as “point, click, sell,” everyone would be doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, I just hate when people present it as though a little work is all it takes to be successful.
It takes a lot of work, and there’s no problem taking it slowly. The best way to become a full-time reseller is to become a part-time one first. Only experience will teach you the best methods to run your business and how long each one actually takes.
Thinking You Need to Know Everything
I don’t know if this is something everyone experiences, but it has really held me back in the past. I started selling on Poshmark which is a relatively straightforward process and, I think, the simplest shipment. Listing on eBay scared me, so I resisted doing it for years. Now those sales account for about a quarter of my income.
I’m pretty shy and I didn’t think I could handle live selling, so I just watched and let other people make their sales. I nearly tripled my profits the first month I sold live on Poshmark.
Research is important and will almost always help you, but you don’t have to have an answer to every conceivable question before you join a new platform, switch to a new kind of inventory, go live, etc.
Making a mistake won’t destroy your business. If you let them, your mistakes can be your best learning opportunities. Trust me, I am speaking from experience on that one…
I have been fortunate enough to mentor some newer Poshers through their first live sales, and the overwhelming feedback I’ve gotten is that they are so happy they ripped that band-aid off. A hasty Google search told me that it was Ben Franklin who said, “Tell me, I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” I know it can be scary, but the best way to learn most aspects of reselling is by doing.
Go ahead, jump in with both feet, make mistakes, learn and get better!
Are you familiar with the term “death pile?” Even if you have no idea what that means, you probably have one. Death pile, or the more positive “money mountain”, is what resellers call their collection of unsold inventory.
I’m primarily a clothing seller, so my money mountain is almost literally that – a mountain. I know firsthand how easy it is to walk into a thrift store and get cartoon dollar signs in my eyes. It is incredibly easy to fill your cart with merchandise, share your haul on social media, then let it sit, unlisted and unloved.
Something that isn’t listed can’t sell. That potential profit-earning piece can quickly become as useful as my treadmill. That’s actually a pretty perfect analogy- most of my death pile is currently piled on my treadmill…
My point is, shopping is fun, but listing isn’t. That’s a universal truth of reselling, but you do have to actually list your items to get them to sell. Overbuying is a common problem for both new and veteran sellers. My advice is, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Enjoy shopping, but have a plan to handle your new acquisitions too. I try to keep to a schedule now. I know that if I shop for one hour, I will need one hour to photograph, a half hour to write listings, and another half hour to post and cross-post the listings. Do you have a plan in place?
I am a lifelong cheapskate and I’m not afraid to say it! I’m proud that 90% of my inventory comes to me for free. I ask for donations from friends and neighbors and the response has been incredible! I get to say that I will be sending my daughter to college on other people’s trash. (Perceived trash. My stuff is nice, please go buy it.)
My frugality has slowed me down in the past though. I thought implementing an inventory system would be expensive, so I avoided doing it well past the point where I should have. (Btw it ended up costing me about $70 for 3,000 items. I was very wrong.)
I also delayed getting a List Perfectly account, then delayed leveling up. I was what my mom calls “penny-wise, dollar stupid.” If I had been willing to spend a few dollars, I would have made a lot more sales. Instead, I kept that money in the bank and didn’t risk it. It was simple, easy, and stagnant. After years of running my small business, let me tell you what I have learned about growth.
Growth is painful. When my daughter grew inside me, basically everything sucked. My feet swelled almost as much as my stomach. I threw up constantly. I couldn’t eat anything good. I had constant heartburn. My little one didn’t kick out like cute babies on TV, she kicked in. Straight kidney shots all day. But she was kicking. Until you become a parent, I don’t think you know how exciting that is.
When she kicked, I knew she was ok. I knew she could hear me, and it was a constant reminder that I wasn’t eating Flax seeds for me, I was doing it for her. Everything I was going through was for her. Business can be that way too.
Sometimes you don’t want to make a sacrifice, but needing to means that your business is growing. If you feel like you have to get a List Perfectly account, that’s a great thing. If you can’t live without Sizely, or WorthPoint, what a wonderful problem! I get that investing money and time can be difficult both mentally and strategically, but if you do what you can to manage your risk, they are usually worth it.
Having No Inventory System
This is a biggie.
When you first start, you can keep all of your listed items on a shelving unit or in a few boxes, but as you grow, you need to develop a system for yourself. The frustration of a lost item is sadly so common among sellers that it is a bit of a joke. No matter how solid your system is, you will lose an item. You also, somehow, will probably find mystery items whenever you do inventory. I don’t know how, it just happens.
There is no one correct way to manage inventory and a quick search on YouTube will show you dozens of possibilities for every type of merchandise and in every type of space. Some cost a little, and some are totally free, but having one is necessary.
Thinking You Have to Do It All
I started on a single platform, and I did pretty well. Once this ceased to be a hobby and started to be a real business, I felt compelled to do everything. When I heard about a seller who made bank with vintage plushies, I sat down, watched YouTube videos, and convinced myself that plush dolls were my next big move. I did the same thing with Pyrex, luxury handbags, and a very brief stint with baseball cards. It didn’t end with new inventory.
I have tried nearly every platform you can think of, and when a new one popped up, I used to be the first one to sign up. I told myself that the platform, opportunity or inventory that I turned down, could be the biggest financial mistake of my life, and I would never know it. My friends, that way lies madness.
There’s nothing wrong with trying new things. In fact, you have to, that’s the only way you and your business will grow. But you don’t have to do everything.
Find what works for you, get into a rhythm, and when you feel comfortable, branch out to one new thing. If it works, keep at it. If it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up, pivot onto something new, and keep building a stronger and stronger foundation for yourself.
I am primarily a clothing reseller for a lot of reasons; that’s my donation base, it’s what I know best, and it is easy to ship. That last one is really important to me. There’s not a lot you can do to a tank top in a poly mailer that will destroy your product, but vintage Pyrex bowls in a box? Yeah. I can mess those up good.
Making a purchase from you is your buyer’s first impression, but in our case, it’s the second impressions that matter. Anyone can make a product look good online or hide a flaw with great photography. Think about Wish.com, a website made famous by unboxing videos online where people compare what they ordered to what they actually got.
If someone orders a pristine set of Rae Dunn dishes, but what they get is a box of ceramic shards, you might end up on the wrong side of a video like that. I suggest that you do everything you can to package perfectly.
And please, please, if you don’t have one already, get yourself a shipping scale. You don’t want to try to save a few dollars by claiming a low shipping weight, only for your buyer to have to physically go to the post office to resolve the discrepancy by paying more before they can get their package. Some services also simply return the packages to the sender, and you will have to explain to your buyer why they will have to wait another week for their item. In a world where people are used to ordering something on Amazon at midnight and having it dropped off on their doorstep by 3 am, that can be a tough explanation.
Going It Alone
I sold part-time for about a year before I sought out a reselling group on Facebook. It was another 6 months before I joined Instagram and another year before I found my tribe with List Perfectly. I knew the apps like Poshmark and Mercari existed, but I had no idea that there was an entire reselling community springing up around them.
When I learned there were such groups, I thought they would be competitive – the worst sort of sorority girls with backhanded compliments and intimidation tactics because we were all competing for a slice of the same pie. I was so wrong y’all!
Once I actually started engaging in the groups, I found that we weren’t competitive, we were cooperative. I wasn’t fighting against agatha33749 on eBay, because her customers were looking for vintage cookie jars, and mine were shopping for back-to-school clothing for their teens. She had no problem giving me shipping tips, in fact, she was happy to help.
Honestly, I can’t even begin to sum up all of the great advice that I’ve gotten from this community. Let me just say that I would not be where, or who, I am without it.
Don’t let me get too kumbaya on you, not every group is great, but most are. Lean on the community when you need to. And personally, I love helping whenever I can. If you have a question or a concern, or you just want someone to give you an objective view of your store, please hit me up! (Or buy my book, I also would like your money please.)