I just stumbled across an old spreadsheet I used when I was buying and flipping craigslist items. I wanted to share this in case others need to bootstrap to afford their business ventures. Maybe this will help convince someone to step into the fastlane and take a “risk”
I started doing this right before I quit my job a little over a year ago. I wanted to do this for a while to make sure it worked and to know that if worse came to worst I could always fall back on this and pay my bills by flipping products from craigslist. I would still have plenty of time to work on building my business and with minimal time invested I could at least cover my expenses to afford more time to work on my end goals.
I ended up only doing it for a month because it was so simple and I was easily able to meet my financial goals.
I started with $300 and while I had more money than that, I only wanted to spend $300 to replicate a bad situation.
All of my trades were with electronics because 1. Thats what I know best and 2. There are lots of opportunities to take these from a small local market and sell them for more in a large market like amazon or ebay. When you buy locally you likely wont be competing with many people so you can get much better prices.
Start Now – This was all done late 2011 and Early 2012, the holiday season creates a lot of opportunities so now is a great time to start this. People get gifts that they don’t want/need or they are selling their old products that got upgraded over the holiday season so theres a lot of movement.
First Buy – My first buy was a dell laptop that could also be used as a tablet, I thought I would be able to flip this quickly but it didnt happen, I had to sit on it for a week or so before someone bought it. I bought it for $300 and thought I would be able to get $400 but ended up only getting $350. If I could do it over I would take the initial $300 and buy 3 $100 items or 2 $150 items so that I could keep the money moving faster instead of sitting on one item and waiting for it to sell.
First Amazon Sale – After selling the previous laptop I bought a nintendo 3DS which I ended up flipping and selling on amazon, this was my first amazon sale ever so I figured out how much shipping would cost and how much amazon fees would kill my profit margin. Amazon fees are 15% for most products so you can count on that. At this point I just used USPS priority flat rate boxes for all my shipping. Price depends on the size of the box but I think this one was around $5.
Apple Products – After that I bought and sold a ton of apple products. Ipods, iPads, and iPhones primarily. iPods and iPads are easy flips, just send a low offer to someone on craigslist and then sell it on amazon. I made about $50 on most of the ipad and ipod flips. Just check on amazon and see what the used products are selling for and keep track of the prices on an excel sheet. I created a cost guide at the time that was just a big excel sheet, for instance iPad2 16gb used wifi $450, iPad 2 16gb (used) wifi3g $525, etc
Big Profit Makers – For me the biggest profit makers were the xbox 360 and PS3 bundles. I would buy the bundles with controllers, games, connects, etc and piece them out on amazon. On the PS3 bundles i bought I made about $150-200 on each buy. On the xBox 360 I got $100-$150 profit for each bundle. Obviously listing the extra items took more time than normal but it was well worth it in the end. The systems are a bit heavier so I def recommend using flat rate shipping, I think they fit perfect in the largest of the flat rate boxes which are about $12 for shipping I believe.
Cell Phones – Buying phones are pretty risky because sometimes they are stolen or have unpaid bills which makes it harder to be able to use them. I did a couple of cell phone buys but they almost always lead to more trouble than it was worth. I honestly cant remember all the details so do research before you buy phones. I believe ATT are the best to buy because they have sim cards.
Clothes – I bought on large bundle of clothes. It had a ton of good stuff in it with tags and I thought I could make money on them easily but it was a pain. I ended up with 20 garbage bags of them. Clothes just arent my thing, I knew nothing about them and didnt want to take pictures of every item so I just ended up donating them to goodwill. I bought the bundle for $100 and ended up donating them and writing it off on my taxes which made it worth a lot more to me.
Google Voice – I always used google voice to communicate with the people on craigslist. I didnt want my real phone number out there so I got a new one with google voice and transferred the calls to my cell phone.
Big Finish – As previously noted the start was slow because of my tight requirements with how much startup capital I would use. Once I got money though the last week was where I made the most of my profit. I ended up making $1200 the last week of the month. Once I got the cash I was able to hold 5-10 items at a time and always be making a deal.
Safety – I met at night a few times but I only met in well light places that were busy (walmart, grocery stores, 24 hour places) I didn’t go to anyones house and I never would. Always keep your safety in mind.
Convenience – Unless I was set to make a lot of profit I always insisted people meet me in the parking lot of the grocery store thats less than a mile from my house. People will try and make you drive to their area but you can waste a ton of time doing this (and gas). I did drive a distance a few times but I mostly stayed in my area and ALWAYS weighed profit vs time/distance.
$50 – My goal was to always make at least $50 on each trade. that was the minimum it would be worth to me so when i was figuring out how much to offer I would normally use this $50 + shipping +amazon fees to figure out how much to offer the seller.
Selling on Amazon – Because all the products you would likely buy on Craigslist are already for sale on amazon you dont have to worry about creating a listing or taking pictures. All you do is name the product quality, name your price and list it for sale. It is extremely simple. Just make sure and be as specific about the product condition as possible so there are no surprises when the buyer gets their product. If you sell on ebay it will take longer to list the products as you need pictures and to write the listing. Selling on amazon is much quicker.
A Few More Quick Points
I ended up having about 22 products in my possession over the course of the month.
I ended up making $2000 in profit after the month ($1200 in the last week)
I didn’t track the number of hours I spent doing this but a rough estimate is about 30 hrs over the month.
I normally would check craigslist at about 1PM, 5PM and 9PM. After lunch, right before work ends, after dinner.
My area isn’t one of the largest cities in america, I would imagine in order for this to work you would need to live in a decent sized city.
The show didn’t exist when I was doing this but Ive seen a few episodes of Barter Kings, you could probably learn a bit from them about negotiating deals and getting better prices.
Hope this helps
The Fastlane Forum
Thanks for sharing!
Sometimes its the first to respond to a craigslist ad that gets the deal. For anyone looking at doing this here’s a tip to be notified quickly of a new ad for any products you’re looking for.
I use “If This Then That” to create an email or text alert whenever anything I’m searching for on craigslist comes up for sale. For example if you are looking to buy ipods you can create a “recipe” in IFTTT that will “trigger” an alert.
- Choose the “Craigslist” trigger channel
- Choose a trigger – here you simply copy and paste the results URL for your desired search, in this case you’d go to craigslist and search for “ipod” then copy the results URL
- Then choose an action channel – this is what you want done once a trigger fires. In my case I choose Gmail and enter the gmail email address where I want to be notified of any new “ipod” search results
You could also use a craigslist app to set up notifications for search terms but in my experience the IFTTT triggers seems to come thru quicker than the craigslist app notification do.
Here’s a tutorial video I just found:
BTW, there is so much more you can use IFTTT for. “If This Then That” recipes instruct two different technologies to talk to each other in order to perform a combined action.