Hello everybody. For this Tuesday Tips post, we're going to start talking about running a vintage/antique business. We'll be alternating "fun posts" (like our earlier 10 Things You May Be Missing At The Thrift) with these type of vintage reselling biz posts.

Before I begin, I just wanted to say that we definitely aren't the first to write about running a business like this. I hope that we can provide SOME original insight, but there are many other places where you can read about the business of online reselling. (One good place to start is Apron Thrift Girl's reselling posts.)

This is probably also a good time to say: we aren't lawyers, professional life coaches, or econ-biz professors. Heck, I'm mostly talking out of my you-know-what. And I have some concerns about giving out "advice" about this stuff, having only had our store open for a year ourselves! But our hope is that there are at least a few takeaways here that might help you out with your potential business.

OK - So you say you want to start a business reselling items online?

Before diving in, you should probably take a moment to think about things. Yep, take that step back. Here are two basic questions you should ask yourself:

1. Is this type of business right for me?
2. Is it a feasible business venture?

I know that these two questions are intertwined. Think of it as the equivalent of looking for a new job.

When hunting for jobs, there are considerations you'll make like: Is this type of work the right fit for me? Would I be happy in this environment? Is this what I want to do with my career? Do I have the right skill set for the job?

Then there are considerations like: How much money are they gonna pay me? ARE they going to pay me? Do I have to drive 50 miles to get there? Are the hours crazynuts?

So this first part will deal with the question of whether or not selling vintage, antique or thrifted items online would be a good fit for you. The second part, the money thing, we'll run some numbers - well actually, I haven't decided yet. But I think some back-of-the-envelope calculations might be a nice "reality check".

The reason I think it's a good idea to separate it out: If this first part does NOT pass the "smell test", well then there's little reason to even think about the second part, right?

Let's first define this business of reselling. I'd define it as a business where you buy items, hopefully at inexpensive prices, and then sell them for a higher price, most likely online. And I would assume that in most cases these are thrifted, vintage, collectible, antique or even newer items that others might value. And we'll also assume that for the most part you'll be selling online. The rest of the how, what, when, where, why - we'll deal with that as we go.

So to start, I would try and do a "Pros and Cons" type of list. I'm sure yours will look different, but maybe it might have items like this:

Pros Cons
Can work from home Have to work at home
Low economic barrier to starting Requires some monetary risk
Flexible hours No medical,other benefits
Opportunity to learn new things Must be knowledgable about items
Be your own boss Have to be self-disciplined
You decide what to buy Must acquire inventory on own
Work "part-time" Income stream is unpredictable
Set your own hours Holidays are not holidays

How'd you do? Hopefully, you've got more in the "Pros" column. Or at least, the items in the "Cons" column aren't dealbreakers and don't affect you as much. I also assume that you're going to have more specific items in each column - perhaps dealing with the type of items you're going to sell (books, collectibles, electronics).

In general, selling vintage items (or other stuff) online is basically like any other work-at-home opportunity. You absolutely need to be disciplined about keeping the business going and managing time. But in addition, you absolutely need to have (or acquire) instincts about what will sell and what will not. You're going to have to know or learn when to be aggressive about buying and when to go a more circuitous route.

You also need to make buying decisions based on your current knowledge, and you need to constantly increase that knowledge. You need to learn to take the correct types of monetary risk - though you can set your amount of risk taken most of the time.

I think that it really takes a certain type of personality to be an online reseller. A huge problem for one person may not be a problem for another. However, I think that it can also be a more forgiving line of work - you don't have to hit ALL the "Pros" to be successful. And what I like about it is that you can work on the improving that "knowledge" part continually.

That's why I think it's a good idea to start off with a list. You can identify areas of weakness you're going to have to work on in order to make the biz thrive.

Oh - I've been assuming that when you say "Start a Reselling Business", you really mean starting a BUSINESS. If you just plan to sell a few things at a garage sale, then I wouldn't worry about all of this. But if it's something you plan to do on a regular basis - the sooner you treat it like a business, the sooner it'll become a business.

OK, hope you enjoyed this first post. I've tried to be as "general" as possible to start, so you might not find this one as useful. I purposely did not talk about WHAT you might be interested in selling. Basically, I just want to prod you to really think about if reselling is right for you.

But I want to make it clear that, thinking about this kind of stuff is of course OPTIONAL. It may be the case that you just want to jump in and figure out the details later. The internet (Ebay, etc.) has made this a viable option - you can just start listing junk around your house. Hey - you're a reseller!

I'd really be interested to hear if this is the type of post that people are interested in reading. It does take a rather large-ish chunk of time, so if there's not much favorable response, will probably put it on the back burner - and just do those fun Tuesday Tips.

  1. monogirl Says:

    Please keep these posts up! And the fun ones too. My mother and I were just discussing ReSelling today and whether or not it might be a viable source of income for her now that she’s retired. I just want to make extra money to put into savings, pay down some bills, and supplement my summer income.
    I’m a girl who likes to do her research before getting involved in any business decision. Problem is, very few folks are sharing their experiences. I’ve only found you, Apron Thrift Girl, and Van from Thrift Core willing to open up and discuss the nitty gritty details. So, thanks SO much for all your help thus far. I get it if you don’t want to continue, time is money after all.
    I also get the time zone issue mentioned in your previous post. I’m on the East Coast but work nights, so I don’t roll out of bed until late morning. Sometimes I look at my Google Reader and think “Oh, I’m so far behind already!”

  2. Van Says:

    Love the work that’s going into these TT posts! Even if others are writing them, each person’s experience is unique with something to learn from. I dived into reselling unprepared for one big problem:

    IT TAKES A LOT OF TIME. Maybe I’ll write a post later about how you just can’t be a reseller without a good amount of time to dedicate to it. You’re thrifting/cleaning/packing/documenting/photographing/listing/shipping- I tried to lick it but it kicked my ass instead.

    I still love to watch the vibrant community that does it and see them be successful :) Maybe one day…

  3. Stacy Says:

    I think this post and future posts about the reselling biz are great! Thanks for taking the time! It’s probably helpful for you too to think about these things even though you’re already experienced. I’m just trying to wrap my head around actually diving into this on a regular basis. My biggest cons are the whole self-discipline thing and how to make it monetarily worth my time.

  4. Happyflowerhead Says:

    Please keep it up! I am right on the cusp of deciding to sell online or not, so your posts are very timely and helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  5. A La Modern Says:

    Thanks everyone for the words of support! I’ll definitely do at least a couple more. As long as a few people are reading, it’s worth my time.

    Yeah, speaking of TIME… definitely in the “Cons” column! Probably will talk about that in the next TT post along with the money breakdown. A lot of people (I was guilty of this too) who haven’t done the vintage selling thing think it takes LESS time than a normal job. No, no noooo. I feel like sometimes it never ends, LOL!

  6. Selena Cate Says:

    My favorite part of this job is that it really gives you the freedom to ebb and flow with it. If life gets busy I simply slow down and the job slows down with me. If I want to sell more and I have the time, I dedicate more of my day to listing items. I have found this job to be perfect for being a work at home mom myself. Thanks for writing such a fabulous post.

  7. DogsMom Says:

    I am reading too – so may we have some more, please?

    My problem is that I am reading the start up posts and researching my items and have not found the courage to get to the listing part, or approaching a booth mall owner and find out about rents, etc.

    Besides going out and uncovering treasures on my own, the part I really do love the best, is there another way to get enough inventory to have a healthy turnover of stock and keep people interested in an online store?
    (talking strictly vintage here) Any places/ways I may not typically think of to find things to sell?

  8. Monica Says:

    I think this is wonderful. I wish there had been something like this when I quit my job a few years ago. I’ve been selling online for about 12 years, but it was more of a hobby. My employer kept cutting my hours so I kicked my reselling into gear and soon I was making more doing that than at my job. The one thing I miss about working outside the home is socializing. I make a point of having lunch with a friend regularly and volunteering now and then. Time management and self-discipline are my weaknesses and something I’m working on constantly. :) However, this is one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to the rest of your posts.

  9. Marisa Says:

    I’m really enjoying reading your blog. Whilst i’ve done most of my reselling at vintage markets and fairs I haven’t seriously got into an online presence which I feel is missing for me. Whilst I call what I’m doing a business I probably haven’t been serious enough about it to really focus and plan what I need to do. So thanks for the inspiration and look forward to continuing to read more of your posts.

  10. Jane Says:

    These posts are great Looking forward to more.

  11. Andrea Says:

    Hi there, I wanted to thank you for writing about this as well. It is hard to find a wealth of information on Reselling, and I am curious to learn what I can. I totally get it about the time thing – I have so many great ideas for blog posts and never get around to writing them. Not to mention it took me an hour to wrap my first reselling sale, and it still looked like crap! Oh well… I’ll get it down pat sooner or later. I appreciate Apron Thrift Girl’s posts also.

    I love all your little animals!!!!

  12. Into Vintage Says:

    I hope you’ll continue this because I will definitely come back for more. I know these types of post are time consuming to create but they are so appreciated and seem to generate quite a bit of conversation.

    As a longtime reseller (shops, shows & online), I still love what I do. Adding blogging to the mix has been a challenge but also brings its own rewards. I’m just happy I’m able to make use of all the vintage info I’ve acquired over the years. -amy

  13. A La Modern Says:

    @selena – That is totally true. The nice thing about this job is you can put whatever time you have into it, depending on the situation. I think it’d be difficult to do something like that at a 9-5 job. It really gives you a sense of control that you don’t get elsewhere.

    @dogsmom – We also haven’t tried getting a “booth” yet… this is one reason I felt a little hesitant about giving out reselling advice. I know we aren’t extremely experienced in all the different aspects. I think if I continue the Reselling series, I’m gonna have to find some other folks to interview for future articles. I mean, I’m willing to share whatever I know – but we’re a bit limited by what we can share! Oh – and Re: inventory acquisistion… will try have an upcoming article on it. But again, we have a limited viewpoint on it.

    @monica – I hear you… I was laid off from a job in 2003 and tho reselling was not what I attempted immediately afterwards, I made it a point to avoid getting back into the “grind” of a 9-5 no matter what. This is probably the 3rd or 4th thing I’ve tried, and so far, it’s been the most enjoyable and most promising avenue. I agree about socializing though! It is really tough sometimes to not start talking to yourself (or your pets)…

    @marisa – thank you for the nice words… hmmm, I might want to ask you about reselling at vintage markets in the future =)

    @jane – thanks, I sincerely hope that people are interested in these type of posts.

    @andrea – Selena’s posts on ATG are great, I get a lot of inspiration out of them. Hear you on having too many ideas for blog posts. Sometimes, I have a hard time going to sleep because I keep thinking of ideas I want to write about!

    @intovintage – You’re completely correct – this is the type of post that will get people to come to your site. I have to admit an ulterior motive, of course, for writing up this series: Traffic. =) Actually, that’ll probably be a future post – about the importance of blogging for a reseller’s shop, and how/why unique and original content increases your traffic. Hmmm… as I said in another comment, might want to ask you a few questions about selling at shops/shows.