Corey Levitan calls himself a picker—someone who visits garage sales and makes money buying and reselling people’s unwanted things. It’s not all he does. During the day, Levitan works as as a content strategist and freelance humor writer. These things make up what you’d call his day job. But for only a few hours a week, as a picker, he makes an extra $20,000 a year on top of his regular income.
Levitan has a few tips to help people who are interested in picking. Whether you plan to resell garage sale finds or browse the racks at your local thrift store doesn’t matter. But there are a few strategic tricks that can up your chances of success at this side gig.
The Night Before:
First, make sure you have the Amazon and eBay apps. They’re both free, and they’ll be where you eventually sell your pickings.
Also, make sure you visit an ATM before you go looking for things to buy. Levitan says he usually withdraws around $300 in cash before going picking. This may seem like a lot, but if you buy (and sell) the right things, it can easily be transformed into around $700.
Levitan says you can scout garage sales on websites like Craigslist, but he prefers newspaper ads. Why? Because newspaper ads are typically posted by older people who have vintage items that can be worth a lot more than that dusty, semi-functional Nintendo.
The Morning Of:
Get up early! You want to be the first person at these garage sales so you can have your pick of things. This doesn’t apply so much to thrift stores. The contents are constantly ebbing and flowing, so you can find something great at any time of day. But it’s still better to go during off hours or early in the morning, before the crowds arrive.
During The Day:
Look for things that are brand new. Shrink wrap is always a good sign, as are unopened Apple products, board games or DVD box sets. Also, remember that you’re going to be selling these things to the general public. Just because you love old-fashioned stuffed animals doesn’t mean the internet will pay a premium for them. Know your audience—pick name-brand things that have staying power.
In addition, be mindful about only buying lightweight items, which are cheaper to ship. If you factor in a huge shipping fee for a heavy item that needs to go cross-country, that can take a big bite out of your profit. Plus, you need to factor in the commission Amazon or eBay will take, which can range anywhere from 6 to 25 percent depending upon the product and price.
Also, ask for discounts! If you’re at a garage sale, you can probably pay exactly what you want, because people want to unload as much junk as possible. When you’re not asking for discounts, go to garage sales in wealthy neighborhoods. People there will be more likely to sell valuable things (and things that haven’t even been opened). Take advantage of that.
At The End Of The Day:
List your purchases on Amazon or eBay right away! Don’t wait. This takes very little time and means you can start earning money sooner rather than later.
For new items only: look on the box for the UPC barcode. This is very important in the world of picking. Using that Amazon app you downloaded, you can scan the barcode. Then, the website will automatically find the product and show you how much it’s selling for on Amazon.
While the eBay app can’t scan this barcode, you can type in the name of the item and check the “completed listings” box. That will show you the most recent prices people have paid, which gives you a good sense for how much the item is worth and how much you should list it for.
Kat Tretina, who makes an extra $800 a month reselling thrifted clothes, says professional presentation, business cards and thank-you notes go a long way in building your internet cred. Having good reviews as a seller on Amazon or eBay means people will be much more likely to buy from you.
Get some inexpensive business cards and thank-yous printed up, pin up a white sheet to make a professional background for your photos and make sure items look clean and presentable.
Are you ready to get started picking?