“Feeling a little down today Seems like every time I turn around, another shop opens, another person to compete against. Where have all of these people come from?”
“It’s hard to compete with someone who offers a service for 1/2 the price! I work from home. The only overhead I have is materials. Because I work from home, I can’t offer paints, etc. I know vendors don’t make a killing off of paints. Once they pay for rent, insurance & payroll…. What’s the secret?”
I came across a comment on facebook from a friend of mine, and found my reply was so long that I would make a post out of it, so here we go…………..
I hear you business owners! It can be really tough to compete when the market is slow. Lets face it, the economy IS slowing down, and this has a negative effect on ALL the businesses around country, as people don’t have as much money to spend. If you are a person who has a full time job, starting a business on the side makes sense. It is good to get your feet wet selling something that can earn you an income, and this can be especially true as people loose their jobs in a tough economy. It can be liberating to know you can sell your services, and especially endearing knowing you can make your own money offering skills you know quite well. Starting a business doesn’t have to be tough. Start with something you know well, and costs you nothing to start.
Your business doesn’t have to suffer in this economy, you just need to get smarter with what you have to offer and where your time and money is invested.
Having a physical store has been glorified in so many circles, and to be honest, it may not be the best business practice in all markets. While some stores are doing very well, others are not. Some of this depends on the location, and the size of the city you are re-selling in.
If you are hoping to start a side business there are ways to make money without having to get a business loan, or open a store front. Below are dozens of ways to have the business of your dreams, without having to fork out thousands to make it possible:
1. Store Tips: Don’t Pretty Everything Up
I don’t know how many store fronts I have been in, where things look so pretty, that you are afraid of touching anything. Some business owners spend more time on displaying their store than they do in marketing the goods they just spent thousands of dollars on.
Having your store all decorated up for Christmas, or summer looks nice, but does that time convert into sales? Spending extra money on decor might make sense for Macy’s, Holt Renfrew, and Sears, but if you are a small business, don’t think you have to compete with the budget that these major corporations have.
Sometimes having everything all dolled up and painted doesn’t sell. Have you ever walked into a store where a living room, or bedroom display was all set up, looking so pretty that you simply treat it like a show home? This is what I do! Display your goods to buy, than simply looking pretty.
2. Store Tips: Pile GOODS Outside
If you do have a store front, put your larger pieces outside if you can. I once worked in a antique store, where the owner would encourage me to just pile furniture out on the lawn. I would have to haul about 20 or more pieces out every day, and it WORKED! Never underestimate what this might do for people driving past. They may not stop in your store the day they see it, but they will recognize YOU EXIST.
People did stop in the antique store that I worked at, and often would comment, that they never knew an antique business was in their area! Piling stuff outside your shop may not work for you depending on what the laws exist in your area. Perhaps you cannot pile furniture on the sidewalk, but don’t let that discourage you. When people are driving, their attention is on the road, you almost need flashing neon signs to get peoples attention, so do it! If you don’t change up your signage outside, don’t expect anyone to notice you! This also doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.
If you cannot pile furniture outside, do something to change up the outside often, without spending lots of money. Use easels with neon markers. Paint large messages on your windows. What ever is big enough to be seen.
Buy framed posters, and paint the inside of the poster white, and write “we paint YOUR furniture” , “custom painting”, “interior design services available” in bright catchy colors.
We all have seen those really ugly LARGE fake vintage oil paintings. Many of us buy them, and simply paint the frames. Consider keeping the larger ones for your self. Paint the frame and the inside white, and write inside of them with large fonts, and hang them in the window OUTSIDE your store. Have a few of them, and make them as bright as possible. Perhaps you paint the whole frame with pink spray paint, and use black lettering. What ever you do, make it bright so it can be seen a block away.
Having goods outside the store helps tremendously. It is almost like you are having a sale, even if you are not.
– Signworld Double Side Sidewalk A Frame Menu- $64 Amazon
-Universal Adjustable Dry Erase Easel $84 Amazon,
– Expo Neon Bullet Tip Dry Erase Markers, $6 Amazon
3. Store Tips: Partner Up
I think this is the best advice for the small business owner. In times ahead when the economy slows down, partnering up with others can be a way of getting your business off the ground without having to put a lot of money into it. Like I said before, you don’t have to have a physical store to make money, but if you do, teaming up with others can allow you to pocket more money. Partnering up with other people in your area can allow you to have a side business while maintaining a full time job. Here is how:
-TEAM up with people in your general area, and hold events. One of my girlfriends came up with such a great idea. She would hold a sale at her house with a number of other ladies and advertise it as a big flea market sale. You could even rent a venue in town, or in a larger city, and advertise your goods in advance. These gals would save up furniture and small goods, and really make a big sale of it every couple of months. They would start staging the garage a week ahead of time, and then have the overflow outside, or inside the house.
-Don’t look at some of the other people around you as competition, but rather pull your resources together to get the sales. Go out and network, and become FRIENDS with others that are like minded. Some people don’t like this business practice, and will view you as competition, and that is ok, there are plenty of others who want to work together.
-If there is a friend that is an hour or two away from you, and you see something in his or her area that you simply cannot drive and get, send her the email with the listing. Throwing each other business is a great way of helping each other. Work with one another, and then hold those seasonal sales where you can truck your stuff up to one of your homes.
– Approach businesses that already have a store front and ask them if they can feature your goods. Consider meeting with them in person, and hand them a business card with a website that has your previous sold items. Give them a taste of what you can bring to them. This business model allows you to hunt for your products at estate sales, and wholesale sources, which you can then bring it into established businesses.
– Team up with two other people and share a booth in a heavily traffic antique mall, or established flea market. A larger booth that has inventory grabs attention. This can be a great place to start without having the headache of having your own store. Having someone take the payment for your goods without you being there is a great way of having a side business without having to meet up with every buyer.
– Another girlfriend of mine teams up with two other ladies, and they have rented a barn which is only open Sunday. Is Sunday busy? Heck ya! It makes sense to the gal who has a family and simply wants to be at home with her children. Her workplace is her garage, and her storage facility is the barn. She only has to work Sunday, and she is able to market her goods from her home. She works with the other two ladies to market their goods on craigslist, and they split the cost of the barn three ways. What ever sells every Sunday they pocket. It is a great business model for anyone who works a full time job, and wants extra income on the side.
4. Store Tips: Be The GO TO Person:
Specialize in something. If you offer men’s clothing, luggage, women’s jewelry, home decor in your store, people won’t remember you. Specialize in one thing, and really go all out to be special in that category.
I remember a store in Calgary Alberta that sold old gaming equipment. They sold vintage game systems, nintendo games, slightly used WII games and used computers that have improved memory, and software. People could come in and trade their old games for what ever they had on the shelf. It made sense, and did rather well. They were the only business in town and the go to place for gaming.
The idea here is to stand out and be memorable, than be the small version of Walmart, or Target. These big box stores do “every day goods” better than you, and you simply cannot compete with those prices. Offer something unique that these big box stores do not. Go in and take a good look at where their loop holes are.
Take a good look at the most expensive goods in the big box stores and offer your own spin on it. Chances are if it is expensive, people will look elsewhere.
Case in Point- Virginia, and DC are known to be areas where a large amount of the businesses are white collar jobs. It is a location where there is lots of money, so the thrift stores can hold a lot of designer labels. Living in this location for several years, I came to know some of the managers of the Goodwills, and second hand shops. I came to know through small talk that most have a good working relationship with people who look the really high end labels. One lady focused on high end designer purses and handbags with distinguishable designer labels. The staff would set aside these bags for her, ask a fair price, and she would re-sell them on ebay making over 5K per month. Finding name brand handbags wouldn’t work in every city, although in locations such as LA, New York, and Washington DC, people have the money in these areas to buy new designer clothing that they don’t mind donating their old, yet snobby label bags. People today are focused on labels, and don’t mind buying a vintage bag with a label on ebay. This is something you cannot find in target, and for the most part small towns and cities. Designer label clothing does extremely well on ebay as well. You just have to be in the right location to buy it for a good price.
5. Store Tips: Scan In Your Wholesale Products On Your Website
You cannot possibly pick out the items that would most appeal to every person who walks through your stores doors. Make an online presence for yourself of what else you carry. Offer people a business card with your website, along with the prices of the goods YOU COULD ORDER in for them, with the prices.
ASK people what they are looking for, and create a working relationship with people in your area that could also look for them as well.
You may not have the money to bring in a 3 Thousand dollar couch, but you could list it as something you COULD bring in for them. Wholesale goods on your website could result in more sales. Do scan in the goods online, and mark them with your logo. Don’t just offer up your whole sale catalogues for them to look through. People don’t have the time to spend hours in your shop looking through swatches, or goods. Give it to them online. OH, I wish some of the fabric stores did this! So many people shop at home, and have the money to spend. Everyone is looking for that very particular something. JUST ask them what it is.
How To Make A Full Time Paycheck Out Of Your Home:
Having sold on craigslist for a number of years, I can assure you, anyone can make great money on the Internet just improving second hand items and reselling them on craigslist. The beauty of craigslist, kijiji and other online classifieds is that they are free and local. I have been successful and met many people who made a full time income selling online.
1. Online Selling Tips- Have A Plan On What To Sell
When considering what to sell on online, do keep in mind you want to offer something that is hard to find in most stores. Think about products or services that are NEEDED.
The beauty of online classifieds is that people can shop for the things they need from the comfort of their home. They can find something unique and within their budget. In addition, they can pick up that item the next day, or a week later based on the seller. Selling items locally could be a profitable business idea, and a business that you could make a full time paycheck.
What To Sell
1. If you are considering buying and reselling on craigslist, think about what would be valuable enough to make it worth your time to sell.
I found over the years that NOT to pick up small items. I sold mostly out of my home, and found that it simply wasn’t worth my time to pick up small items that I would make $10 dollars off of.
It would really depend on where you plan on selling your items. If you have a store on etsy, or ebay, small items actually do quite well. If you are selling out of your home, small items aren’t worth the time.
That $5 dollar item, may be great, but you also have to invest your time to sell it. If you are selling from home, advertising will take up your time, and there is also time spent coordinating pick up appointments. If you are selling on ebay, you have to put together the page, answer questions, calculate the measurements, and details about the item, and then eventually package it for shopping. Focus on the items that have a large profit ratio.
– Some items that may have a large profit ratio could be appliances, antiques, computers, furniture, jewelry, software, lawn equipment, or vehicles.
2. Online Selling Tips- Determine Your Location
Location is a prime consideration which will determine what you can sell. A person will find themselves frustrated looking for antiques in Montana compared to Connecticut or Maryland. Much of the higher end sought after antiques are harder to find in small towns than in locations on the coast. Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, to name a few would have much more valuable antiques that people are willing to give away at lower prices because they are so common.
Another encouraging testimony is of a gentleman who looks for old washing machines and dryers and refurbishes them, which he then sells on craigslist. As older machines break down, many people don’t want, or don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a brand new set, that a used set would work to fix their short term problem. The gentleman was a former appliance serviceman so his skills were easily transferable to his new business. If you know how to fix computers, re-sell used computers which have improved memory.
2. Online Selling Tips- Determine Your Storage Capability
Space is another factor in considering what to sell on online. If you live in a 2 bedroom condo and try to sell furniture it will just frustrate you. Bigger sized items will need more space to store. A custom knitting or embroidery gift business may work better in a home where storage is a factor.
3. Online Selling Tips- Determine How To Deliver The Goods
Another aspect of making a full time income from home, is that people will come to your home on a daily basis to look at your inventory. Do you feel comfortable having people over to your home? If you are selling furniture or other home merchandise, do not get offended when people ask you to sell your personable valuables as they walk through your home, so you may consider setting up your shop in your garage.
– Consider your neighbors. Will your neighbors mind if endless people drive to your home to buy from you? Most often people work during the day, but they will notice the increased traffic to your home. Homeowners associations often will not allow home businesses to function from the home, so do factor that into your plans. You can always meet in town to drop goods off.
4. Online Selling Tips- Marketing
I always hear from first time sellers that the item they listed never gets a response. What they do not know, is with craigslist, kijiji and other online classifieds, is their ad gets pushed down the page every day. In order to get things sold, they have to be listed new every day or every other day, otherwise they just get pushed under the hundreds of ads that get posted every day. If you have a store front, don’t think that fact alone will get people walking through your door. You need to spend just as much time, if not more marketing your goods you carry, and goods you can order in for people.
Here are a couple tips when posting to craigslist, kijiji and local facebook buy and sell groups:
When you post your item on Craigslist, try to sell your item right away without deeply discounting it. Some people suggest a person should wait for all potential responses and compare offers and email the winning bid. This is the last advice I would ever suggest to anyone.
Ideally you want to price your item pretty competitive, but not overly cheap. If you have your item priced too low, you will have a number of offers immediately.
Investigate the name of the product you plan on selling. If you have the name of furniture, or the name of the china you are selling, it will result in a higher price of the goods you are selling.
Try to email back the people right away and get them over to your home within two days. Why be in a rush?……….. People change their minds, and back out of deals. Most often after three to four days, people change their minds. They get too lazy, and the excitement to have the item goes out the window.
Price your product right, attractive, and ready to move, and (depending on the item), offering transportation for an extra fee.
Ideally you want to get the customer to make a firm appointment at a specific time to pick up your item within a day, two or three at most.
Having an item listed for endless weeks on craigslist gives people the assumption that no body else wants that item. The customer then starts finding reasons why others have not purchased it. Sell your items fast and as close to your price as possible and move on to the next piece.
Make your business cost free, and pocket a good 90% of your earnings. A business doesn’t have to end up by opening a physical store, not in a day and age where there are so many free advertising resources available.
Start a blog, and list your services. If you like to scrap book, have a business which creates personalized family scrapbooks, which people can drop off their pictures at your home, and can come back and have a completed photo album. Gain peoples trust by having a blog with all the completed work. If you have a scrap-booking business, write posts with pictures of albums that are in the progress. People LOVE to see you working on a project. If you have a scrapbooking business, get your husband to take pictures of you working on a clients book. Post those pictures to your blog, and to your fan page. Give people a glimpse into the person behind the business. Being a mom that has a business on the side is a good business model!
Think about your skills and offer them out. Starting a business doesn’t have to be complicated. Advertise on craigslist, print business cards with pictures of what you can do, with a photo of yourself. Print flyers and post them in places that are free such as Safeway. Better yet, advertise on your local facebook’s “buy and sell”. List your stuff on craigslist with a link to your free blog, website, or photo bucket.
Spend Your Time In Marketing
I think the number one mistake I see many people make is they want to open their own store without any sort of following. Meaning,…… they haven’t tried their business at home, or online first, but instead they go out, spend thousands on a store without a strong BUYING clientele first.
A Blog allows you to offer all the goods you would have in the store, without the overhead, without the heating costs, without the store hours, and be able to feed the kids their dinners, do their homework, and work your own hours. In addition, all the pictures can be uploaded to a blog, and shared on pinterest.
When I sold furniture, I simply uploaded my stuff to a photo bucket. I advertised on craigslist daily, and the people could subscribe to my feed simply from photobucket. SO, as soon as I finished painting something, those people who were on my feed, were able to get first dibs on furniture before it was put on photobucket. Facebook advertising is great, but photobucket and craigslist can be so much better. It hits your target market in YOUR AREA.
Facebook is great, but it may not convert into sales. A fan page may have 5000 likes, but are all those likes local? If you ship furniture, perhaps that may be the way to go, but don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Have a presence in your local community. Also think of the communities that are 3 hours away. I personally would drive several hours to a business that is worth my time.
Another great business model is one which makes slipcovers for furniture. This would be a great business for someone who wants to work from home. Custom sewing is a fantastic home business. I would drive 3 hours for a piece of furniture, and so do many others. Are you well known in a three hour radius? If not, you have a lot of potential for more business.
5. Online Selling Tips- Beautiful Pictures Make A World Of Difference:
” Recently sold a treadmill on craigslist for close to full retail price because although there was tons of competition our pictures were the best and they showed the treadmill’s condition in detail”
Craigslist is notorious for small pictures that people often have to squint to get a good look at. Consider using photobucket and copying the html into the craigslist post for a larger picture. If you are going to make any headway with Craigslist you must stand out.
Having a very neutral background such as white, or beige makes your items look so much more expensive than they really are. Having them against a forest such as what I did in my pictures below allow the customer to focus on the item than all the junk in the background. This also allows you to write on the photos, and if you have a website, it allows your pictures to be more professional. White backgrounds sell!
I came across a business on ebay, who sells hardware and parts put a picture of a little toy moose in all their photos. Their business had the name moose in it, and the picture of the toy moose really stood out. It brought a smile, looking through their inventory. If a vintage item works with the name of your business, feature your items with it. As people run across your pictures, they will start remembering your business for that funny prop you include in your listings. Hey, it works!
I came across another small business who makes kitty costumes and coats for a business. They featured their own household pet in their ads, and this cat has become sort of a celebrity. A cat! Yes! This little black cat has a life and her own wardrobe of clothing. Dozens and dozens of coats, dresses have been featured on this cat, that showing the life behind this cats life would make a spectacular blog opportunity. People LOVE a good story. They also love getting to know the person who owns the business. Don’t under estimate what a personal touch or glimpse into the person behind your business can do for your sales.
6. Don’t “Make-Over” Every Item In Your Store
People love the thrill of finding that gem that they can put their own mark on. Having that vintage untouched piece of furniture that is stripped down to nothing, sometimes is the first thing that sells. Have a few of those pieces in your store.
A friend of mine, in Virginia really changed my perspective on selling furniture. At the time, every item I would pick up, I would go through the process of sanding, priming, painting, distressing, and then marketing the piece for sale. From the time I picked up the piece, until the time it was ready for sale, it would be at least a week or less.
Her business model on the other hand was to paint some pieces, while offering others in their vintage condition. Many of the vintage sets she would sell in their “as-is” condition she would price much higher than my furniture, and she did well with them! My prices were lower that hers, and fully painted, yet hers would sell right away. WHY? Some people love the original condition of vintage furniture, and secondly, the THRILL of painting it, and imagining it painted can really be exciting!
6. LOCAL Selling Tips- Appointments
People do flake out on appointments, and it can be very discouraging. Through the years selling on craigslist, I didn’t get a lot of people who did not show up for their appointment all together, but I did get some. People do change their minds, but most people let you know.
So how can you prevent people from changing their minds?
A: Try to make an appointment right away while they are still excited about your piece of furniture.
B: People do not come out for small inexpensive items in local sales. In fact most of MY non-shows happened with free items. This can be very frustrating when you are getting rid of something free! This happens because the customer wanted the item on impulse. They didn’t really need the item in the second place, and when they start thinking about battling the trafffic or transportation, they give it a second thought and cancel. This goes for small items as well. If you do plan selling something inexpensive, factor in more cancellations when customers face battling the traffic to purchase something worth 5 dollars.
Anyone wanting to offer you money orders for a local sale is a scam. Be very hesitant with people who want the item shipped. Many people who are looking for something very rarely will try to pay you in advance and figure out shipping. This is a very very very uncommon occurrence. Although, I have paid for items on cragislist by paypal or check. I live in the country, and if a seller is 3 hours away from me, I cannot just pick up and waste a day, I have to plan in-advance and take time off of work to make it possible to pick up the item. I will pay them by paypal,or check in the mail, and have them hold it until I can venture into the city 2 weeks later. If anything, call them on the phone to see what the situation is.
C. Price the item slightly above what price you are willing to accept. It is a general principle that the buyer will ask for a discount.
D. Do NOT Put Best Offer (OBO) in the description, unless you want people to offer you really low offers. Best Offer gives people the right to offer you half of what you are asking. This may work great with people who want to get the items out of the house quickly, but as a business, set your prices pretty firm with some flexibility.