If you're a garage sale junkie and a savvy entrepreneur, then you can turn someone else's trash into your own income. It takes an excellent eye for a deal, scrupulous attention to customer service, and some amount of Internet experience. Luckily, this business does not take much capital to start and the cost of inventory is generally low. It takes careful planning and execution because the profit margin can be thin, especially during times of a down economy and slow buyers' markets.
Apply for a business license and open a business bank account. Even though this is a small business, you will still want to separate your business and personal income to make tax filing easier. It also presents you more professionally and allows you to separate your business and personal life.
Set up an online storefront. Most thrift store owners prefer to have an eBay store, since payment processing and shipping are so convenient, and they do not have to compete with eBay. You can also set up an Amazon store or your own website. Many web hosting services, such as Yahoo or GoDaddy, provide you with a professional, quality online store for a monthly fee.
Determine what types of goods to sell, and convey that to your customers. It is easier to get loyal customers if they can categorize you in their minds. Get your customers to always think of you when they look for a particular type of product they would like to buy. Specialize in Depression-era glassware, used books, children's clothes, boots and accessories, textiles, or everything under $5. This is the essence of branding.
Purchase your inventory. Search for goods that have a high likelihood of selling and that you can mark up double or triple the price. Also, consider how to build the costs of shipping and handling into your prices. It's possible that many of your goods will not sell, or that you will have to mark them down to advertise a “sale” item, so start with a slightly higher price than you might find at Goodwill. Ensure that the goods are clean and defect-free, and be very specific about the condition of the item in your description.
Follow up with your customers. Your online reputation is even more important than your offline reputation, since customers cannot see you or the goods before they buy them. Always focus on customer service, and ensure that your customers are satisfied. If they are, ask them for testimonials or quotes that you can use in your marketing materials.
Evangeline Marzec is a management consultant to small high-tech companies, and has been in the video games industry since 2004. As a published writer since 1998, she has contributed articles and short stories to web and print media, including eHow and Timewinder. She holds a Master of Business Adminstration from Thunderbird School of Global Management.