How to Start a Swap Meet or Flea Market and Make Money

by Owen Pearson - Updated September 26, 2017

Flea markets and swap meets provide opportunities for bargain seekers to socialize while hunting for collectibles, household items, handmade crafts, toys and other items at discount prices. They also provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to earn money. If you have access to a vacant building or land parcel and you enjoy the busy pace and crowds, starting a flea market or swap meet may offer an opportunity for you to earn extra income.

Check with your county's small business office to determine if you or your vendors will need permits or licenses to participate in a swap meet or flea market. Some counties do not require any permits or licenses, while others may require each vendor to hold a license and may require you to purchase a permit.

Sketch a layout of your available space to determine where vendors will place tables or booths. Booths and table spaces should be of differing sizes to accommodate different types of vendors -- some may only need 40 square feet of space, but others may need 80 square feet or more.

Determine how much to charge vendors based on the square footage of each booth or space. Contact other flea market or swap meet organizers in your area to determine the appropriate rate per square foot of space. Also, ask about booths or spaces with access to electrical outlets -- these spaces typically bring higher fees.

Purchase a general liability policy to cover injuries caused to participants or damage caused to merchandise or displays during your flea market or swap meet. Your insurance agent or broker can help you determine the liability limit that will adequately protect you against financial losses.

Place ads on local classified ad sites and in local newspapers and trade weeklies for vendors for your swap meet or flea market. You can also find vendors by posting fliers in local stores. If your budget allows, run an advertisement on local radio and television stations to attract vendors.

Advertise your swap meet or flea market in local newspapers and free weekly papers, online classified ad sites and local entertainment websites. Post flyers on bulletin boards in community centers, coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores to build awareness of your event.

Answer calls or emails from vendors promptly. Provide information regarding rates, the types of items that may not be sold, start and end times and necessary licenses or permits. Fax vendors agreements containing this information and have them sign and return them to you.


  • Check with your county's small business office if you plan to have food or beverage vendors at your event. They may need a food service license to sell beverages or food to the public.


  • "Flea Market America"; Cree McCree; 2003
  • "How to Make Big Money at Flea Markets"; Orville Rich; 2010

About the Author

Owen Pearson is a freelance writer who began writing professionally in 2001, focusing on nutritional and health topics. After selling abstract art online for five years, Pearson published a nonfiction book detailing the process of building a successful online art business. Pearson obtained a bachelor's degree in art from the University of Rio Grande in 1997.

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