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Want to start a side hustle to make some extra money, but have zero dollars in your pocket to get started?
You could make money by reselling items you found at flea markets or garage sales, but that requires capital. That’s why today, I’m going to show you some ways you can secure free inventory to get started with your resale side hustle.
Download the KCL app and we’ll help you find even more free stuff!
1. Find free stuff for your side hustle on Facebook Marketplace.
Facebook Marketplace is free and easy to use. Just click on the “Marketplace” icon. Then scroll down to the section labelled “Free Stuff.” This is where you’ll find free inventory for your new side hustle.
Not everything you find in the free section is worthy of resale. But if you do some searching, you can find some gems. For example, in my area I recently found an antique children’s dresser, designer clothing, and even an iPhone. All are ripe for a high profit margin at resale.
Especially when your initial investment is $0.
2. Start your side hustle resale business for no money with Freecycle.
Freecycle is an online platform dedicated to reuse and keeping things out of the landfill. It gives users across the country a way to turn one person’s trash into another’s treasure.
As you build your resale side hustle, you can apply this same principle by using Freecycle, except you’ll be turning one person’s trash into your own profit. The treasures you can find on Freecycle obviously vary based on where you live and when you look.
But to give you an example, when I recently checked out Freecycle I found gems like collectible encyclopedias, Nordic Track gym equipment, and a like-new kayak. All of it free.
3. Check out all of Craigslist’s free stuff for your side hustle.
Yes, even among all the apps and startups that have cropped up in the online resale space over the past 25 years, Craigslist lives on. And you can still find a lot of great, free inventory using the Free section — if you’re willing to sift through the listings.
You’ll find the Free section under the “For Sale” section of your local Craigslist homepage. I recently spotted a complete antique dining room set, an abundance of scrap metal, and some pristine comic books.
4. Prep your inventory before reselling and making all the money.
When you’re flipping free items off of platforms like Facebook Marketplace and the Craigslist free stuff section, you may have to put in a little manual labor to fix your items up. That antique dresser might sell for $50 if you give it a fresh stain or modern paint job. The kayak you found on Freecycle might be worth hundreds if you clean it up prior to resale.
5. Set your price and watch the cash roll in for your side hustle.
Before you pick up an item to flip for your side hustle, look for similar items on resale platforms. How much is your competition charging? For example, I know kayaks can go for hundreds of dollars right now, because when I look on Craigslist, all the local kayak listings are over $100. Many listings are double or even triple that price.
You’ll want to set your price to be competitive; otherwise, it won’t sell. However, if you have an item that’s a really great brand in really great condition, you may be able to aim for the higher end of the current listing values.
6. Be realistic about your ability to hustle all that free stuff.
If you are listing something on the higher end, you’ll want to take into account space in your home. Can you keep the item there for a while until it sells? If so, great!
However, if you can’t store all your inventory for an extended period of time, you may want to consider lowering your price to help move your resale items at a quicker pace.
You’ll also want to consider transportation as you build your side hustle. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, you likely won’t be able to flip bulkier items. You won’t be able to pick them up in the first place. Once you have larger items, ideally the buyer will come to you. But you can charge more if you’re providing the transportation.
7. Calculate your side hustle’s profit to see how much money you’ll make.
Ideally, you’ll be able to invest nothing in your flip. You’ll find a great item that doesn’t need to be fixed up, and you’ll be able to sell it without investing money into anything but transportation costs.
But there’s a chance you’ll run into a few small initial investments as you build your side hustle. Let’s say you need to stain that dresser. The sandpaper, paintbrushes, and stain are all going to cost you money unless you already have them on hand.
For smaller items, you could also choose to sell on a platform that’s not hyperlocal, which means you might end up paying for shipping.
To calculate profit, you’ll need to subtract the cost of these initial investments from your listing/sale price.
Dresser listing: $50
Money spent on supplies for refurbishing: $25
Total profit: $25
8. Sell your items on a different platform than where you “bought” them.
If you get something for free off of your local Facebook Marketplace then immediately list it for profit on Facebook Marketplace, your neighbors are likely to find out about your resale side hustle. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but it could create some awkward situations.
Listing your item on a different platform than where you found it puts a little bit of distance between your neighbors and the fact that you’re flipping their free stuff, though they may still find out. In addition to listing items on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, you can turn to these platforms:
9. Widen your buyer pool when flipping furniture items.
If you’re building a side hustle flipping furniture, you may want to check out Chairish. It’s a resale platform for vintage and used furniture, and provides a lot of perks.
Chairish allows you to charge the buyer shipping or local delivery fees, expanding your potential market. Those outside your local community will be able to purchase your smaller furniture items. And those who live in your community but lack a truck or other transport will be able to purchase your bulky, flipped furniture items with local delivery services provided by Chairish.
PRO TIP: The downside of Chairish and similar platforms is that they collect a 30% commission, which means you’ll only keep 70% of the total sale. You can find fee-free selling platforms, but they are not likely to come with the same shipping and delivery services. Nor the same specific focus on home furnishings.
10. iPhones and other electronics are the best hustles for high returns.
There’s no shortage of selling platforms for phones, laptops, and other electronics. But some do pay more than others.
For example, that free iPhone 11 I found could be traded in via Apple’s Trade In program. It could yield up to $390 in trade-in credit, which I could then use for a new Apple phone or computer. This is more than you’ll get on most resale platforms that pay you in cash, with a few, higher-yield exceptions:
11. Turn a profit on well-maintained clothing items and accessories.
If you get a bunch of free clothes, you could just send them in to ThredUp. Afterall, whatever they decide to give you will end up being pure profit.
However, if you have any designer items in your inventory, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting top dollar for your side hustle. You can do so by listing your item on a platform like eBay. Or you can look to clothing-specific platforms like Poshmark or TheRealReal. Both of these sites let you set your own price on brand-name, designer items, though they do take a percentage of each sale.
12. Books and comics can be worth flipping, but it’s a rare hustle.
The book resale market is typically a place with low profit margins. However, when you’re starting out with free inventory, it can be worth it. Especially if you find a rare book.
A lot of book sales happen on the big platforms, like Amazon and eBay. If you have a rare book, though, you might want to check out Alibris, which specializes in rare and antique books. Alibris does come with a $19.99 annual subscription fee, a 15% commission on items listed under $40, and a $1.60 closing fee on all shipping credits you receive. That’s a lot of fees, so your book needs to be worth some good money in order for this side hustle to be worth it.
If you’ve found some comics that will sell for $50+, you can check out Shortboxed, which is a comic book reselling platform that takes a 10% seller’s fee.
13. You don’t need an app to start a scrap metal side hustle.
Find some free scrap metal on Craigslist?
You don’t need an app to sell it! You can go old school with this one and just take your haul to the local scrapyard.
Find yourself wondering, “What are current scrap metal prices?” You can call your local scrapyard beforehand for the current price per pound for various metals. This rate can help you decide if it’s “worth it” or not before you commit to the free Craigslist offer in the first place.
You are almost guaranteed to need access to a vehicle like an SUV or truck in order to make real money at the scrap metal side hustle.
14. Determine if a resale side hustle is worth the money and time to you.
Before you begin your resale side hustle, ask yourself how much you’d like to make per hour. Once you have that rate, you can do the math to figure out if attempting to resell a certain item is “worth it.”
Let’s go back to your antique dresser.
You anticipate your profit being $25. It would take you about an hour to pick up the dresser and bring it home round trip, then about 3 hours fixing it up. You’d ask the buyer to pick it up, and don’t have any problems storing it for however long it may take to find a buyer. But you will spend about an hour negotiating with different interested parties.
In this case, you’d have dedicated about 5 hours to this dresser. That’s an hourly rate of $5/hour.
However, if you already had sandpaper, paintbrushes, and stain on hand, your profit would have been $50, and your hourly rate would double to $10/hour.
Some of your finds will be less profitable. Some will bring in even more. Whether or not flipping as a side hustle is for you depends largely on your desired hourly rate, and how good you get at finding the “gems.”