Tips for Buying and Selling Second Hand Items or New Items Online & Making it Your Side Hustle

My name is Sharron and I’d like to share my passion for buying and selling second hand and new items online. For me, it’s like having an online antique/speciality shop, where I am able to find items that people often have hunted high and low for and connect them to new happy owners. I am also sought out as an agent for finding hard-to-find things for people with specialised requests, because I know where to look. Now we have the capacity to do trading online, it really has opened up this avenue, so items aren’t just limited to chance and location and if you are lucky enough to pop into a second hand or antique shop and find what you need.

For example, I was selling an antique doll online. I had an enquiry from a potential buyer. She explained to me that she had this exact doll when she was a child, and it was something precious she kept into into adulthood. However, due to a house fire, unfortunately the doll was lost. So she was thrilled to find the exact doll to replace the one she had lost, and even though she lived in Western Australia (I am located in in Queensland), I was able to connect her with this doll.

Over the past 8 years, I’ve been able to build a successful businesses through buying and selling. It can be so rewarding, but there is a bit of an art to finding just the right thing to sell or finding treasures for yourself.  I started this process slowly, about 12 years ago, due to chronic health reasons and being unable to work typical jobs. I needed to find work that would work around my unpredictable health and mobility challenges. Initially, I sold everything I sourced via my eBay shop. This made me extra money that helped go towards daily bills and also helped me learn the dos and don’ts along the way. 

Harry Potter Polly Pocket Ron Weasley House

You don’t always find amazing things, but here’s an example of some of the things you can find. I sourced this Harry Potter Polly Pocket Ron Weasley House for $0.50, and it sold for $80.

Antique Theatre Binoculars

These beautiful cream antique theatre binoculars are just stunning. I sourced them for $25 and sold them for $500.

R.M. Williams Baby Boots (RPP $149)

These adorable R.M. Williams Boots were $3, and they sold for $90 on eBay.

Note that these amazing finds are not common, and there are a lot of regular kind of items that are still worth selling, such as snow gear, toys and other regular household items.

After a few years, eBay fees became too high. So, I was really excited when Facebook started up buying & selling sites (pre Marketplace) in my local area. This allowed me to reach a lot of people and list larger items as buyers could come and pick items directly from me. I joined 28 different selling sites within a 20km radius. It’s important to note that although this is a great way to connect with buyers, it can be very time-consuming as each item has to be listed separately in each site and every few days, you have to bump up the post which puts it back up to the top of the list so it receives more views and has a higher chance of selling. And each selling group has different rules, so you need to stay on top of that too.

I then started selling on Gumtree alongside the Facebook pages. Again, this was time consuming because after each week, the ad expires and I’d have to repost it. After another few years, Facebook decided to make it easier to connect with people who want to buy and sell goods, and opened Marketplace. It’s so much easier to manage and where I list most of my items, along with Gumtree. Currently, I have approximately 300 items now listed on Marketplace and Gumtree. 

The great thing about running this online business is I can work around my health appointments and families daily commitments. If anyone else is wanting to do something similar, and create your own type of online shop using sourced good (from second hand shops, garage sales etc.), there’s a few things I’ve learnt along the way, that helps me work out what to buy and what not to buy, and how to sell it. Here are my tips:

  1. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean somebody else won’t. So don’t limit what you’re looking for by your own personal taste or stye.
  2. Always check the condition of the item, looking carefully over the item for rips, chips, scratches or missing parts.
  3. Check out the item on Google, and see what’s trending so you can keep an eye out for those particular things, you’d be surprised what you’ll find!
  4. Do your research! Almost everything I’ve sold, I have been able to find out more information on Google. For example, what it is and what is it used for, what it is worth, how rare it is, or is there a need for this particular item (e.g. look for snow gear upcoming to winter). The more information you can learn about an item, the better.
  5. Don’t rush! It’s easy to just see something that may look great, but then after you get home, you realise it’s a copy or fake. Marketplace are strict in regards to selling counterfeit items and you don’t want to add to these unethical practices.
  6. Offer postage options and find out about different carrier options. For example, learn average postage costs (e.g. Australia Post) in case people need this service. But also be open to other services. I have recently converted to Sendle. You do everything at home (no need to go to the post office), just print the label and leave it outside to be collected (no need to be at home). So it’s easier and cheaper. For example, currently a satchel for Australia Post is approximately $9.80 and with Sendle it is $6.95.
  7. Research where your local Op Shops/Secondhand shops are and either spend the day going from shop to shop or you can pop in on your way home from school drop off, or on your way to sport / work etc. They have new things coming in all the time. If I am travelling, I will also check out Op Shops if I have an opportunity.
  8. Check out your local garage sales for even cheaper options, you’d be surprised what you can find.
  9. It’s handy to have wipes and hand sanitiser in your bag for when you’re finished in each store.
  10. Don’t be afraid to check out your local dump or refuse shop too — people throw out perfectly good items, especially for the garden and sporting goods.
  11. Take the kids! I sometimes allow them a small amount of money to find something they would like, makes it a fun day out.
  12. Sometimes I buy things I can fix, paint, sew or clean. I make sure I spend less money on these types of items due to the time it takes to improve them.
  13. When we travel anywhere, I stop in at local op shops and often you find things that you wouldn’t find in op shops closer to your home.
  14. Make sure when you add a listing, include as much detail as possible so the buyer is fully aware of what they are buying including condition, measurements and other descriptive elements. Tip: sometimes it can be helpful to use a common object to help people gauge size. Good examples are a Coke can or a coin. Also, research and add any background information about the object. This can help items sell quicker, and minimise the need for extra communication back and forth.
  15. When taking photos of your items, it’s good to have a white background. This is easy to do, just photograph with a simple background, and then use an app to remove the background so it’s on a white backdrop. (I use the Photo Room Studio Photos app). Ensure to not have anything in the photo that is not included in what you are selling (unless it is a reference object).
  16. Always track and be aware of your income for tax purposes.
  17. Anticipate that people will most likely offer less than is advertised.
  18. If you add the option to post, you’ll get more interest. Be mindful though, that larger items are really difficult to post, so these are usually best to keep for local pick up.
  19. Use keywords in your descriptions to help people find what you’re selling.

I just want to end with a few other notes on the realities of doing this kind of work, and tips for making the process as streamlined as possible.

It’s a lot of work

I think there is this misconception, especially if you have some amazing finds, that it’s an easy breezy way to make a bit of cash. If you want to do this seriously, it takes a lot of time and effort — like any job really. I really enjoy this work, and I can do it around my limitations. However, it takes time to source items for your shop, research, categorise, write descriptions, fix items, take images, upload them to respective sites, post items, and then one of the most time consuming elements, communications back and forth with prospective buyers. For me, it’s been a fabulous way for me to turn a hobby into a business, but unless you really enjoy scouring garage sales and second shops and communicating with a lot of different people, it may not be a viable or enjoyable work.

I lot of people won’t understand your work

People get antique stores, but if you’re an individual offering a similar service online, I have found that a lot of people don’t really understand what you do, why you do it, how you do it, or that it can be a legitimate and successful side hustle or job. It’s also can be challenging, like most jobs via the home, that people may not realise that even though you are home, you need to dedicate a significant time to your work. In my experience, it can so rewarding connecting people with objects they need or care about.

Developing good communication skills & communication challenges

I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people through what I do. But there are some tips I would mention.

  • People may just not turn up, even after organising a time.
  • It is not uncommon for people may rock up to your door (after agreeing to a price) and put you on the spot and ask for further discount. So have a think about if you are you willing to be flexible on price or not.
  • Don’t be surprised if people don’t message back after making enquiring. Often if they have made the decision not to purchase the item, they won’t communicate that to you.
  • If someone has organised to collect, I always message them the night before to confirm they still want the items, and confirm time, and make sure they have the address. Sometimes I may ask for their mobile.
  • On the rare occasion, you may get negative feedback but don’t stress too much: if you are a good, diligent seller, overall one negative comment doesn’t really affect anything.

It’s a lot of work if you’re doing this full time, or even part-time, but for me, it’s a lot of fun — I get to learn the history of interesting objects, I LOVE garage sales, it’s like going on a treasure hunt, and I love chatting with people along the way.

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