5 Ways to Make Money on Craigslist

November 16, 2012

General, How-to

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People are always asking me how I make money on Craigslist. The following 5 points are often mixed into my answers to them. These are 5 of the biggest things I’ve learned over these past few years of earning my living on Craigslist alone.

1.  Make money by being patient  
It’s very simple. Find a good deal on an item, buy it, bring it back to your home and re-post it for a higher price. The more expensive the item was new, the more room there is for profit. The key here is patience. It might take a day, it might take 2 weeks, or 2 months. For example, you can buy air conditioners for almost nothing in the winter, and if you are willing to store them in your garage or shed, triple or quadruple your money during a heat wave in the summer. Supply of air conditioners in the summer is greatly reduced and heat brings greater demand. So those that use foresight and stock up when demand is low, will reap the benefits when demand spikes.

The same goes for other products. A product is worth the price someone is willing to pay for it. If your item won’t sell at a certain price before your patience runs out, lower the price. My general rule is that if something doesn’t sell within the first few weeks, I’m probably pushing the ceiling a little too hard on the price. That’s my rule, but my goal personally is to sell items with 2-3 days. Much depends on the items you are selling, as someone holding out for top dollar on a motor home versus a coffee maker have much different amounts at stake. The balance is yours to wrestle with.


2.  Make money by delivering products
Delivery of products is of great value to people for a few reasons:

1.  Delivery sometimes isn’t a choice for people. Take appliances for example. Many people aren’t strong enough to move an appliance. Others don’t have a truck or trailer to transport the appliance and it would be cheaper to pay someone to deliver it than renting a truck or trailer. The same goes for furniture. It’s not financially wise for someone to own a truck so they can pick up one large item a year with it themselves. Thus you having the means to transport these large and heavy items is a valuable service for which people are willing to pay. Also, many people selling furniture and appliances don’t have a means to deliver, so if you do, you will stand out from the rest and keep yourself busy.

2.  Time is very valuable to some people. Having a product delivered for $40 is nothing for the person that earns $150/hour at work. Keep the consumer in mind when you are thinking about what to do. Just because you wouldn’t want to pay a certain price for delivery, doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be willing to. On smaller items, most won’t take you up on it, but there will always be the few that really value their time and will choose to buy from you so they can have the product delivered. Remember, delivery isn’t just a way to make a little extra money, it’s also a way to help sell your item quicker by adding more value than the next person.

3.  Make money by restoring items
When you restore an item to working condition, or closer to it’s original condition, you are adding value to the item. The more value you add, the more money you will make. Fix a broken appliance, fix a car, fix a bike, repair broken furniture, restore a computer or fix a television. The possibilities are endless. Take a niche or area that you love, find products that people are throwing away, or selling for very cheap because there is something wrong with them, and fix them. Fixing items can be labor intensive and can take a lot of hard work and time, but like I will explain next, this often times is a very good thing.

4.  Make money by looking for thorns.
I’ve heard it said that riches are closely guarded by obstacles, thorns and hard work. Don’t forget that. The more thorns there are around a product or service, the less competition there is going to be, and the easier it will be to make money. For products, find the heaviest, dirtiest products you can find and get to work on them. You can often find items dirt cheap just because they need a deep cleaning. Contract with someone to help you move really heavy items.  Invest in a trailer with a ramp, nice hand trucks or a lift gate for a truck.

5.  Make money by doing something.  
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
My friend Chris often refers to “paralysis by analysis”. We tend to over think things and make them too complicated. Just start moving. Children learn to walk by taking little steps, falling down and getting back up again. You only have to take one step at a time, and small steps are ok. Don’t be afraid of failure.  Failure always precedes successes.

Those were 5 ways to make money on Craigslist, the following post breaks down the 10 Best Things to Buy and Sell on Craigslist.

10bestthingstobuyandsell

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34 Responses to “5 Ways to Make Money on Craigslist”

  1. Josh Says:

    Great article Ryan, thanks for sharing your insight. I’d love a future post on how you keep records for the items you buy & sell and what obstacles you may have encountered regarding taxes with your craiglist business.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Will do, especially with tax season coming up! In short though, I keep records of everything I buy and sell, expenses etc.

      Reply

      • Tyler Says:

        Ryan – do people have to pay state sales tax to you since you are a buiness? If not, how is that avoided?

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          There is no sales tax in Oregon. If someone is operating as a business in a state that collects sales tax, then they would be required to pay the same as every other business. Each state is different. I would recommend checking with a tax adviser on the issue.

          Reply

  2. Michael Says:

    Nice post. May I ask how much you usually charge for delivery? For example, I have sold some expensive doors on CL and agreed to deliver to the buyer for only $20 because I got my full asking price and didn’t want to lose the sale. But delivery took a full hour and think I may have cut myself short…

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Anywhere from $20-$50. I charge more for washing machines than dryers because they are a lot more work moving around and hooking up. I charge less when I’m delivering a washer and dryer set. Much of it depends on how much profit there is in the item. For a low profit item, I’m not going to charge a little more for delivery. For higher profit item I will charge a little less.

      When I’m talking to people on the phone and they ask me if I will deliver to “such and such place”, I will pull up there address in Google maps while on the phone with them and see how far away it is. I will also ask where the appliance is going once I get it there and what the access is. At that point, I will determine delivery cost on the spot and they will decide if they want to pay it or not. If you drive away from a delivery and you aren’t happy, then you didn’t charge enough. There is a balance that you have to wrestle with when trying to get rid of a slow moving item, and like you said, delivery really can help speed it up. If you would rather make every delivery charge up in the air, then just put “Will deliver for a small fee” and determine each charge individually. Some people like that, others want to know the exact price before they call. Hope that helps a bit.

      Reply

  3. JJ Says:

    Great site. Ive been doing business on craigslist for a while but it was never very aggressive. I would buy low, use the item for a while and them sell and make a few bucks. Ive flipped a few houses and cars over the yrs,but the smaller stuff is a lot of fun and quicker. After finding this site I decided to start documenting transactions. So far so good. Keep the articles coming. How about your experience with antiques?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Hey thanks for the note. I’ve sold antique refrigerators, a typewriter and a few other random things. They sell well, especially the more expensive hard to find items. Other than antique appliances, I don’t look for them very much primarily because it’s an area I’m not very knowledgeable in. I will buy antiques at garage sales for almost nothing and flip the items back on Craigslist, but that’s about the extent for me.

      Reply

      • Tom Hess Says:

        I just wanted to let you know I realy injoy your articles. I am starting my own buy & sell biz on the side for now but plan to go full time in the spring of 2013. Your info has been a great help. If you don’t mind I will be picking your brain for more Ideas and thoughts in the future. Right now I am starting to part out SUV,s and maybe motorcycles next. I am also selling other misc things I have collected over the years. What kind of book are you writing ? Well thanks again and keep up the great job.

        Tom Hess
        Puyallup , Wa.

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          Hey Tom, thanks for the note. Feel free to shoot me a line anytime, or let me know of any suggestions for topics to write on. I’m still working on the focus for the book, but it will be about buying/selling on Craigslist. Probably more about my story/journey and how everything happened and was able to work out.

          That’s great that you are starting your own thing, I’m excited for you. It’s great work, very rewarding. Keep in touch,

          Ryan

          Reply

  4. JJ Says:

    Just curious if you will be writing anytime soon? Hope all is well.

    Reply

  5. Mark Says:

    Ryan

    Can you tell me a little about buying used cars on Craigslist

    I want to know how I can get a leg up on other buyers

    Thanks

    Mark

    Reply

  6. Greg Says:

    Hi,

    Making about $500 per month buying and selling on craigslist.

    I do have a question that surprisingly has not been asked on your informative website. The number of email inquiries and interested buyers who do not buy. It does not bother me because it is expected, but cannot imagine taking the risk of driving to the buyers home to sell. I have a question.

    I would think that you often pack up an appliance, drive it across town, take it off the trailer, and find out the customer does not have enough money or decides not to purchase.

    What kind of agreement do you have with potential buyers?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Out of probably close to a thousand deliveries, I’ve had one person back out of the purchase. I can’t even remember what the reason was, but I think it had to do with the size of the appliance. They even gave me $40 for my time, so I lost nothing. Most people avoid awkward situations like the plague, and backing out of a purchase after someone has driven across town is tremendously awkward. So, it might happen, but it’s going to be very, very rare.

      I don’t have any agreement other than a confirmation that they know exactly how much the item is going to cost and that they will be paying with cash.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply

  7. Colton Says:

    Hi,

    I buy and sell stuff fairly often and am wanting to do it as a business model now. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the average amount you make a month. Figuring gas and such. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      From experience, you can make anywhere from $500-$2000 a week. It entirely depends on what your selling and how hard you are working (and how much you want/need to work). Now if you were selling cars or other really big ticket items, it could be a lot higher. I’ll be writing a post sometime soon about the financials.

      Reply

  8. Colton Says:

    Also, what the competition like out there? Are there a lot of people doing this? I live in a Bend with a population of about 80,000 people.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      There’s competition. If there is money to be made there will always be competition. It’s not as much as you would think, and you just have to be better, faster and smarter than the competition. Get competitive about it. Someone beat you to an item, get quicker. Nothing drives me to work harder like someone beating me to an item.

      To give you an idea of how much competition there is for the free items here in Portland for example. I’ve picked up a broken lcd tv from a guy, and by the time I got to his house 42 minutes after he had posted it, he had already received 92 emails about the tv. He hadn’t posted his phone number, so everyone had to email him. The crazy thing is that most people know that you aren’t going to get a free item after it’s been up for a few minutes, let alone 20-30 minutes. So he got 92 emails very quickly. By my estimate there are probably 300-400 people at all times sitting on just the free section in Portland. You just got to be quick :)

      Reply

      • Colton Says:

        Ya the free section is pretty swamped in Bend too. The Appliance, cars, appliance, and electronics has a fair amount of competition as well. Do you ever try to sell stuff on ebay if it’s taking too long?

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          I sell some of the smaller stuff on eBay, especially the items that are really easy to ship or that I can get more for. It’s a trade off as you have to pay eBay fees, Paypal fees, and then there is risk of the item being damaged during shipping etc. I prefer selling on Craigslist as you can ensure the condition of the item to the buyer and be done with it forever. Hope that helps.

          Reply

  9. Colton Says:

    How do you determine the value of older appliances?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Experience. If you have an older dryer just put it up on the higher end of the price range. If the market isn’t willing to pay that, drop the price until the market moves on your item. After you sell a handful of older appliances you begin to learn what people are willing to pay in your area.

      Reply

  10. J. Says:

    “You can often find items dirt cheap just because they need a deep cleaning.”

    So true. In our neck of the woods, my husband and I can usually make $100 profit just by buying and re-selling a good, working, used appliance (stove or fridge) that just needs a deep cleaning. Our most recent purchase required a tad bit more than that (we had to refinish the stove top burners), but we will still make $100 profit off of it easily once it sells in the next day or two.

    What’s funny is, almost all the people we buy from are remodeling their kitchens and I know full well that they had an opportunity to let the “new appliance guys” take the old ones away for free. But they didn’t do that because they knew they could get SOMETHING for them, even in dirty condition. So they posted their items (with pics) on CL (for $50, or $75 or whatever) and BINGO, my time spent scanning the ads for good deals paid off!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for the blog posts. I’m still kind of new to this and your advice is really helpful! So, keep up the good work and keep posting!

    J.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Will do and thanks! If you open an account at an appliance parts place you can get those replacement drip pans really cheap. Thanks for sharing your story!

      Reply

  11. Mike Says:

    Hi Ryan:
    Thanks, I like you’re no non-sence simple advise. It turns me off when people gloat on about thier grandious business plans. Its called, “keep it simple stupid” most people seem to negate this basic principal. I am trying to find an area to specialize in right now it drifts between cars and small appliances…

    Cheers, Nice article…

    Mike, From BC Canada

    Reply

  12. frank Says:

    Do you think it’s best to open a separate E-mail account just for business replies? I’ve gotten some weird responses in my personal acct. but did not reply to them. Thanks, Frank.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I wouldn’t worry about opening a separate account. You can anonymize your email address so they can send you a message, but they won’t have your email address or who you are. There is a lot of spam that get’s sent to people that list items on Craigslist. As a rule of thumb, if they don’t mention the item specifically, or insert anything unique, such as a question about how the item works, a feature etc, I trash the email.

      Reply

  13. econobiker Says:

    “4. Make money by looking for thorns.” “For products, find the heaviest, dirtiest products you can find and get to work on them.”

    Echo that and throw in a dash of “perceived danger” that most people have about repairing the product- in your case electricity (and sometimes gas), in my case propane gas.
    I live in an area of the US with a big tradition of outdoor grilling plus I live close to a middle wealthy area (big expensive houses but not in gated communities). I am able easily source used propane grills being thrown out which I resell after cleaning the units and replacing rusted out burner tubes with generic replacements.

    Reply

  14. Cody Says:

    What’s up Ryan! I wanted to start making a little money on the side, and I have a couple suppliers in the car audio business. I’ve decided to put some package deals together and sell them on craigslist. What’s your thoughts on selling car audio on craigslist? All my stuff is brand new with manufactures warranties. I think this is why I feel like I have an edge, because most people are selling used stuff with no warranties. What do you think?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      It’s worth a try. I’ve never tried selling new electronics, but it’s definitely worth a shot. You will probably know pretty quickly if there is a market for them.

      Reply

  15. thomas Says:

    I live in japan and want to make more money online, any tips, great post too bro, keep up the good work!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Teaching people online through consulting, a blog, courses, online education sites like Udemy. So ask yourself what you know that other people would like to know and start teaching them. The money will follow in time if you are persistent.

      Reply

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