How to Make Money Buying Locally and Selling Globally

Some people bring in six digits a year selling odds and ends on eBay. Here's the lowdown on how you too can profit from online sales.

How to Make Money Buying Locally and Selling Globally Photo (cc) by Ryan Fanshaw Photography

Every so often, you read about someone hitting it big on eBay. They’ve somehow stumbled upon the secret recipe to success, one that lets them shop garage sales for a living and spend most of their days in their pajamas.

While these stories seem almost as unlikely as people making millions off YouTube videos, they are real. Some people do, in fact, make enough money on eBay, Amazon and other online shops to live well.

Here are some ways to make it work for you.

Decide what to sell

Deciding where to sell and what to sell is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. Different venues are better for certain items.

So do you decide where you want to sell and then pick an item that works well on that platform? Or do you decide what you want to sell and then find a website well-suited to that item?

For this article, we’ll start by discussing what to sell first. Essentially, you have two choices: collector arbitrage and retail arbitrage. Don’t let the word arbitrage throw you off. It simply means buying something in one place and then turning around and selling it right away somewhere else, hopefully for a profit.

  • Collector arbitrage: This category refers to buying and selling items from private sources. Those sources could be garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets and local auctions. While you could certainly sell collectibles for profit, collector arbitrage doesn’t refer exclusively to them. You could buy and sell clothes, movies, music, household goods or anything else you find that’s in demand.
  • Retail arbitrage: This is the same idea as collector arbitrage, except you’ll be buying from retail stores rather than third parties. If you live for clearance sales and going out of business liquidation events, this type of arbitrage is for you.

While you could buy and sell items of every kind, your life may be easier and your profits greater if you focus on a specific category. By specializing, you can gain expertise on what items are in demand and what prices they fetch. Then you can quickly zero in on products that will be money-makers and bypass those that will probably sell for a loss.

4 online marketplaces to sell your stuff

Once you have a good idea of what you want to sell, you need to pick the right venue. Here are four websites you may want to consider.

  1. eBay: Ebay offers a huge market with lots of potential customers, but that can also translate into more competition. Items can be sold as auctions or in fixed-price listings.
  2. Amazon: While originally known for books, virtually anything can be sold on Amazon nowadays. Third-party listings may not get the same visibility as they would on other sites though. On the plus side, Fulfillment by Amazon lets you ship most items to the company and have them pack and ship products for you when individual orders come through.
  3. Half.com: Owned by eBay, Half.com can be an easy way to sell books, music and movies. There’s no need to take photos or write long descriptions. However, the traffic on this site may not be as good as what you’d get at eBay or Amazon.
  4. Etsy: It used to be that only handmade items could be sold on Etsy, but they have since expanded to allow the sale of vintage items that are at least 20 years old. If you decide to buy and sell antiques or older collectibles, Etsy might be a good venue for your sales.

Finding items that sell best online

As you’re scouting out local finds, you want to be careful not to overpay. To make it worth your time, ideally you only want to pay 10-20 percent of what an item is selling for on eBay or whatever online venue you’ve chosen.

Hopefully you’ve done enough research that you know, off the top of your head, the going prices in your niche. But if you run across something new or get stumped, don’t hesitate to pull out your smart phone and do some on-the-spot research.

Also, test drive new items by only buying a couple to start. The pressure cookers at your discount store may be a steal, but you don’t want to clear the shelf until you know there’s a market for them online.

Finally, don’t overlook an item’s dimensions and weight. Excessive shipping charges can scare away potential customers. In addition, delicate items that are prone to break may be more trouble than they’re worth.

Special considerations for electronics

Lastly, don’t skip over electronics. With technology changing rapidly, you may assume last generation’s devices are worthless. That may be true sometimes, but there is a market for old, and even broken, electronics.

While you can sell more recent, working items on eBay for a decent price, send older tech to Gazelle and Nextworth for a little cash.

You can also check out this article on nine ways to profit from broken electronics.

What do you think about buying locally and selling globally? Or do you do it already? Tell us all about it in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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