I’ve been asked many times to share what my day buying and selling on Craigslist looks like. I was reminded again a few days ago when I received the following email.
Could you please, please do us a favor? I saw on one of your post comments from someone else, you responded saying that you would do a post on how much you bought and sold each item for in a day. Your readers would LOVE to see an outline of what happens in one day, from the time you wake up, to the time you are done working for the day. And what you bought and sold each item for that day! We know that you are super busy, but please, can you do this soon!? I know my husband and I thoroughly enjoy your postings! – Ivana (not her real name)
So here is the play by play of my day yesterday. Sorry it took me so long to get around to writing it.
I woke up around 8:30 in the morning (we were up late), turned my computer on and sat down for fresh, french-pressed Stumptown coffee paired with my usual oatmeal, fresh blueberries and a banana that my sweet wife made for me. Peter, my appliance business partner, has some nice blueberry bushes in his backyard that are full of berries right now.
After eating breakfast I went in to check the appliance section-by-owner for good deals that had been posted that morning. I shot off three of four emails to sellers offering to purchase their appliances at full price or telling them what I would be willing to pay. I followed this up by relisting a washer, dryer and an oven before heading out to the garage.
This past week we picked up a lot of appliances, so the garage was pretty full. First thing in the morning I pull a handful of them out and put them in a nice neat little row in the driveway. Some need to be cleaned and others need to be fixed. After they are cleaned and fixed, I take pictures of them and post them up for sale.
At about 9:30 I got an email back about an oven I had inquired about. They sent me their address and I scheduled to pick it up on the way to the day’s first delivery, a nice stacked Whirlpool washer and dryer. Though I have loaded and delivered these stackable sets before on my own, at 350+ pounds, they are a gnarly beast of a machine to deliver by myself. So I had Peter help me load it into the trailer and come along with me for the delivery.
We left about 10:30 to go pick up a nice oven for $80. After we picked it up, we headed over to drop off the stackable washer and dryer. Though there were only two steps to go up with the machine, I’m not sure if I would have been able to make it up them without Peter’s help. It was much easier with his help. After we got the washer and dryer in place, I collected the $500 cash and we headed back towards home.
After we got home, Peter loaded up the trailer and headed out to pick up a washer and dryer pair for $100. While he was out I went to work posting more of our inventory. It’s always good to spread out your postings on a Saturday, as they quickly get buried under hundreds of other listings, especially in large Craigslist markets. I liken it to fishing. Buyers many times aren’t super particular when it comes to buying one machine over another, but tend to go down the list in the order they were posted. I also sat down and had lunch with my wife. Scrambled eggs with jalapenos, chips and local salsa, as well as a local bing cherries that we got from our neighbors for $1.50 a pound. So far we’ve purchased 30 pounds of cherries from them this past month!
About 30 minutes after he left we got our first call for a $200 washer. I set up the delivery for about an hour and a half out, which would give Peter enough time to get back, drop off his machines and pick up the one to be delivered. The moment I got off the phone with the first buyer, a second buyer called and scheduled the delivery of a $150 washing machine.
After I got off the phone with the second buyer, I went out to the garage and brought the two washers out and set them in the driveway for quick loading when Peter returned. About fifteen minutes later, Peter pulled up, we unloaded his machines and loaded the two washers set for delivery in the trailer. Almost as an afterthought, I figured I would go ahead and load him up with a third washer in the trailer and then try to sell it while he was out delivering the first two. So Peter left with the trailer to deliver machines #1 and #2 and hopefully #3.
Sure enough, about 30 minutes later I got a call from a man who wanted to buy washing machine #3. His limit was $160 and he couldn’t afford anymore. Thinking on the fly, I asked him where he lived and discovered it was somewhat close to where delivery #2 was on Peter’s route. I told him not to worry about it and that we would deliver and set it up for free at no extra charge. (He had no old washer to trade in). I then called Peter and gave him the info for delivery #3.
After that, I headed back into my office to check for new listings when I noticed on my remote video camera that my scrap metal connection had just pulled up in front of my house in his large flatbed pickup truck. I went out to talk to him about the machines he had brought me. It was a nice shape Whirlpool washer and dryer. I offered him $20 cash, 2 scrap metal washing machines, and 4 scrap dryers in exchange for the pair he had brought me. It was basically the equivalent of $100 cash. He said that would be great so we unloaded the washer and dryer onto my driveway and loaded up his truck with my 6 scrap machines. I gave him the additional $20 cash and he was on his way. This one man has provided me a lot of washers and dryers over the past year.
It’s now 3:30, and I quickly took apart the dryer I got from the scrap metal guy and cleaned it inside and out. I then touched it up and plugged it in to see how it operated. After seeing it was good to go, I took pictures of it and went inside to post it for sale. Just at that moment, a man called wanting to buy one of the Whirlpool dryers I had up for $120. I told him about the one I was just about to post and he said that would be great. He then asked when it could be delivered. I needed to be home at 5pm to get ready for a 6pm wedding we were going to, and since Peter wasn’t home, I told him I would bring it over right away.
My reason for doing that is that the longer that someone has to wait, the more you risk their impatience causing them to buy from someone else or back out for any number of other reasons. So I changed out the dryer power cord, loaded the dryer into my truck and ran it over to the buyers house, which was about 15 minutes away.
Upon arriving, I removed his old dryer from his house and brought the new one inside. After hooking it up, I told him what he was going to need to do to prevent his next dryer from going out, which was reducing the length of the ducting behind the dryer. I told him about the basic maintenance things he needed to do to keep the dryer running great, collected the $120 cash, loaded the almost identical dryer as I had just delivered into the truck, and I headed home.
I arrived home right at 5pm and quickly tore into the dryer. I had told the man that I would text him the exact reason his dryer went out when I got back and inspected it. Sure enough, it overheated because of the ducting being kinked behind the dryer, and because it was sorely in need of the vent chute being cleaned. I sent him a picture and explained the cause in a text message.
Right at that moment Peter got back from his three washing machine deliveries and we touched base about the schedule for the evening. We had one vent cleaning to do and a lid switch swap out on a washing machine for one of our customers.
At that point I had to get ready for the wedding, which between it and the beautiful reception afterward shot the rest of my night. So my day was cut pretty short, but it had already been very profitable. We sold 5 machines, and brought in 6 more.
I worked from about 9am to 5pm and made just under $500 profit. Had I worked during the evening and kept posting appliances later in the day, it could have been quite a bit more. Being a Saturday, it was a little busier than weekday’s often are. Business goes up and down and often is fairly difficult to predict.
I hope this was helpful in giving you a better glimpse into what a day of my life is like. Let me know if you have any questions and I will add some of them to the bottom of this post.
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Great read! Glad you sat down and wrote out your day like this.
Curious about the extra hand — I love how it increases productivity, but how do you fit that in with your profits? Is this person hourly or a partner that you split profits with?
And if it is a partner, have you run into conflict where one person feels like they are carrying the lion’s share of the workload?
Just some questions I’ve struggled with myself in deciding whether I should bring on some extra help.
Great question, probably deserves it’s own post, but I will touch on it here. I’ve taken him on as a partner in the appliance business here. I did that for multiple reasons, but the biggest was that I wanted someone that was actually invested in the businesses. There is a lot to learn in the appliance trade, and when you pay someone by the hour, unless it’s really good money, you can spend months training someone and then poof, they’re gone. I didn’t want that. I would rather be working with someone that is excited to work with me in building up a successful businesses. We have plans for this turning into a pretty big operation, so I’m not really worried about $.
As far as conflict goes, it happens and we’ve had to sit down a number of times to talk about it. That’s life. The biggest thing is communication and grace. No one is perfect. I picked Peter about a year and a half ago for a number of reasons. Hard working, I can trust him, smart, mechanically inclined, not afraid of problems or figuring them out etc. There are a lot more, but he’s a great fit.
As far as the lion share of the workload, we both have different roles. On Saturday I was doing the computer work buying and selling, taking the phone calls and setting everything up, as well as two deliveries, repairs, cleanings and touch ups. My goal is not to get out of as much work as I can by taking on a partner, but to leverage my time more and see how much more profitable we can become. More employees will hopefully soon be on the docket.
Advice would be to pick carefully.
Couple of quick questions. So all your business is cash on the barrelhead.? No CC’s or checks.
Also Peter shares in income or straight hourly.? Finally when I was unemployed the health insurance was astronomical, how do you handle medical insurance.?
Thanks for the post and the info. Joe
Mostly cash, but we do accept CC’s now and then. Almost never checks, except for property management companies and a few people we’ve done repeat business for or know personally. People don’t have a problem paying cash and it’s almost universally expected for all Craigslist transactions.
Peter is a partner and shares income. Health insurance is one of those group share plans. Basically much lower monthly rate, higher deductible. Health insurance should hopefully never dictate the career choice of people in this country. That will be a sad day. Hopefully the health insurance system completely breaks soon as it’s in it’s last stages before death. It would be better if we just went completely in to more socialized medicine at this point. (though I don’t like the method). Our current system is so broken, and so expensive, that it needs to be done away with. Basically, when americans stopped paying for their medical care with their own dollar bills, the entire healthcare industry went to crap. There is now no cost control, and people could care less as their insurance pays for it, or the state pays for it. That’s not a good way to naturally regulate an industry and everyone is paying for it now. Also there needs be legal reform so that doctors don’t need to have astronomically high insurance policy’s to cover potential lawsuits. Blah blah, anyway, I don’t have any hope for the industry.
More posts will be coming in the future about this little soapbox of mine.
Thank you so much for responding to my email via this post! As usual, you were very informative and I enjoyed reading about your day; while getting a glimpse into your thought process with loading up that 3rd washer. Your business runs like a well-oiled machine!
Tell me, how do you test your appliances in your garage? Do you have an appliance outlet in there, or is there a particular type of extension cord you use? I haven’t seen any extension cords or surge protectors that will fit the washer/dryer power cord prongs.
You hit the mark once more Ryan! Thanks again and blessings to you and your family!
Glad it’s helpful!
I have an extra 220 volt line (you can’t use standard outlets, it’s a much thicker gauge wire to handle the extra current) in there to check out the dryers. It’s almost essential. You might be able to get by without it, but it’s going to be a headache. That’s why I always recommend people starting out in their own garage as it’s usually pretty easy to run, or have someone run an extra 220 line. You can use an extension cord for gas dryers, and we also run an extension cord for washing machines. Washers can be tested anywhere an extension cord can and a water hose can be brought to.
Hope that helps!
Great post and quite informative as usual. I have learned quite a bit since I found your site a few months ago. Though I live in a smaller market than you, I have still been able to experience some Craigslist selling success since implementing some of what I have learned from this site. I’m not doing it as a business at this point, but more as a sideline thing for a few extra dollars. Many thanks for sharing!
Thanks Robert. I appreciate your feedback. I would love to hear any stories you would have to share about the Craigslist experience in a smaller market.
Love your blog Ryan. All of your posts are well thought out, informative and engaging. I had a quick question about carrying cash. I imagine you carry a good deal of cash with you in your day to day dealings. Do you have any tips or advice about carrying cash with you? I always get a little nervous when making bigger transactions on CL. Thanks!
I carry enough to buy a few appliances. Any more than that and I hide it. It really depends on what you are buying and who you are buying it from. If you are buying an appliance from someone’s house, you have almost nothing to ever worry about. If you are buying an ipad from a college kid in a parking lot, you should be slightly concerned that you might be robbed. I’m a big fan of meeting people at their home, as you never hear about someone being robbed at a person’s house. That would go down as one of the dumbest things a thief could do. I will probably write a new updated post about how to position yourself for safe transactions.
Hope that helps!
Ryan, I wanted to thank you for this posting. I’m redoing my kitchen and, this morning, the 40-year-old dbl oven is sitting on the front lawn. It was supposed to be hauled to the dump later today. But then I remembered how you start your day by searching Free listings. So, at 8:05 A.M. I listed the oven, stating it had to be picked up by 4:00 P.M. today. Within 10 minutes, I had three responses!
By 10:30 A.M. this morning, Todd will be picking the oven up to recycle the metal. I’m so glad that most of the oven will be reused. Thanks so much for the inspiration!
Dianne, thanks for the note and your totally welcome! Let me know if you have any other questions!
Love reading your posts and about your journey. Where have you found to be the best prices & least hassle for selling your scrap metal around Portland? That market seems to fluctuate. Do you always use the same company, or do you shop it around before scrapping your metal?
Hey Jason, thanks. I tend to use Metro Metals, as they are a nice efficient operation that is somewhat close by. Easy in and out. If I was scrapping a lot more, I might check the prices out a bit more often. Hope that helps!
I was just perusing your website and you provide some excellent commentary on running a profitable CL business. I will be reading all of your articles. I have been operating a profitable business myself for about three years in the NY/NJ area focusing on the Electronics and Musical Instruments categories with an occasional flip in Sporting Goods. I average about $1000/week in profit. I concur with buying larger price tag items, especially lots of equipment which can be parted out, as the sum of the parts is generally greater than the whole. Newbies should be warned though that you must really know what you are doing when making big outlays as the potential for loss can be high, especially with electronics, if you don’t have a strong working knowledge of how to test for 100% functionality when making a purchase. People are surprised to find when they bring a stereo unit outside of their home that I have a power inverter hooked up to my engine and am ready to plug it in! NEVER take anybody’s word that what they are selling is in full working order and MINT CONDITION rarely is even in VERY GOOD condition.
The greatest challenge that I find is how to increase income beyond where it is now. It takes an enormous amount of time and persistence in first finding deals that have meat on the bones and then picking them up, cleaning them, taking pictures, listing, selling, packaging and shipping. You are wise to bring on a partner since it is true that one man makes no $$$ when he takes a day off. I will be looking to expand into power tools and then find a way to bring on a junior partner. I’ve just always been leery and paranoid about giving away my trade secrets. The lay person, not knowing anybody personally who does this successfully, would assuredly think that it wasn’t a viable business if they were to casually search CL for a few days and find nothing. I go days without finding anything to buy while I search all day everyday but then hit on 3 or 4 juicy deals within a day or two 🙂
CL is a wonderful thing and I hope it doesn’t get polluted by partial owner ebay or corrupted and monetized by corporate scum in any sort of way. It’s comforting to know that I never have to worry about paying my bills with some wretched day job like the other 99% of the working world!
Hey Eric, thanks for the comment. I would say work on becoming more efficient with your time. Try to get more people to deliver items to you, get more old/broken items in exchange etc. You can sell a ton of items in a day, but if you have to go out and do 10 more pickups the next day it’s hard to make any money on that day. Figuring out way to get inventory without spending any extra time getting it is key.
Also good tips and thanks for sharing your story!