By Jesse Collier. Updated December 2017.
In this article, I’m going to show you how I made over $1000 in pure profit by flipping products, while still in school. Keep reading to see how you can too!
It was first semester of first year at university. I had just gotten my tuition bill, I had credit card debt that was piling up, and my savings from my summer job were almost on empty. Needless to say, I had to make money, and fast.
I had no idea how to make the money I needed, or at least enough to pay for my expenses. And then I had a brilliant idea…
Starting out flipping goods
I tried all the classic things to make money. Looking for part-time jobs (I eventually ended up getting one), tutoring, and even participating in research studies through my school.
And then I joined my local buy & sell Facebook group for my university. My opportunity was right before my eyes, and it was so simple that I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of it before.
It was a concept called “flipping goods”. You have probably heard of “flipping houses”, where people buy an older house, fix it up, then sell it for much higher and make massive profits. I would essentially be doing this but with consumer products.
New electronics were being sold for over half off their retail price, and textbooks for even more than that as students moved on to new classes. The problem was, how would I resell these products once I bought them?
The grand plan
My first thought was to sell on eBay or Amazon. I already had the necessary accounts (Paypal) to start selling on each platform. The next step was to actually buy the products, then list them on eBay.
So I started buying iPods, iPads, headphones, basically anything I could get my hands on that was small enough to ship easily and cheaply.
I figured that larger items like furniture or big electronics such as TVs weren’t feasible to buy and sell. I even researched the lowest price that sellers were offering on Amazon for certain textbooks, beat them by a penny or two, then listed the textbooks I had bought.
Before I bought each item, I checked the Buy It Now price on eBay, then listed them around that price. While you can use auction-style listings, I find that they don’t sell for nearly as much as if you put each item as Buy It Now.
I also only listed only in Canada, even though I knew the American market was a lot bigger because of shipping costs (most times I listed shipping as free).
Then I waited.
Most items sold within 7 days. Others took a little bit longer, but eventually everything sold. I bought boxes from my local Canada Post store in bulk, paid for the shipping labels through eBay, then shipped the items the next day after the buyer had paid.
It was all going great for the first month. Then I got an email saying my eBay invoice was due. eBay seller fees were something I had never accounted for (and totally forgot about) when I listed my products. Rookie mistake numero uno.
So I paid the fees, and once I accounted for the initial price that I paid for each product, I had only made about $200 in profit. For one months work of meeting people, listing products, and shipping them off. I almost decided it wasn’t worth it to keep flipping goods.
I was pretty discouraged when I saw the measly profit that I made for all that hard work put in. It wasn’t even enough to really help me pay rent.
So I had to think of other ways to sell these products without losing so much money from online marketplaces like eBay.
That’s when it hit me.
If I was willing to buy these products at such a low price from my university Facebook group, what was stopping me from selling on the same group, or a different Facebook group in my city, at a much higher price?
I would be cutting out the middleman (eBay) and I could meet people on campus to buy and sell the products.
It was a perfect setup.
Instead of listing the products I bought on eBay, I listed them mostly on Kijiji (an eBay company, without all the fees) or another Facebook buy & sell group in my city.
The next month I made over $1000 in pure profit, with only about 10 hours overall spent with meeting people to buy or sell products.
It helped me pay for rent, expenses, and school supplies for the entire year.
Tips for flipping goods
This is a list of tips that I found were super useful when I was flipping goods. It’s a culmination of the mistakes I made (and learned from), as well as important research I did to check various products (more on that below).
1. Check if the items are stolen / lost
This was always a huge fear of mine. I imagined buying an iPhone from someone, only to find the police knocking on my door because they had tracked me with it.
Luckily, that never happened. That’s because I made quite a few checks while I was still with the seller. These checks included:
- The status of the IMEI on the phone. The IMEI is a unique identifier that is built into each phone. You can find the IMEI in the settings of the phone. Use sites like Swappa or IMEIPro to check whether the device is lost or stolen. If it is, DO NOT buy the phone. Whether the person may have gotten it on eBay and is trying to resell it, or they stole it themselves, you don’t want to end up in legal trouble.
- Calling the carrier. It’s also helpful to call the carrier before you buy the phone. The carrier it’s locked to will be able to tell you whether it is lost or stolen. When the phone is already unlocked, use one of the IMEI checker sites above.
- If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. If someone is selling you a brand new phone (or anything for that matter) for a cheap price, it’s usually one of three things: lost/stolen, a fake, or broken in some way. Read number two down below to check for these things.
- For some items, you can never tell. It’s true. If you’re buying a pair of headphones from someone, you pretty much have to trust that they’re not stolen. There’s going to be no way to track those headphones unless you saw a post about the same lost headphones somewhere.
2. Check what shape the item is in
When you’re buying something, whether brand new or used, you always want to check what physical shape it’s in. Buying a phone with dents all around the frame? It’s likely that the previous owner threw it around, and possibly even caused other damage within the phone.
Here’s how to check the shape each item is in:
- Check all the physical components. Are you buying a new phone? Check all the physical components on it. First, check the frame to see if there’s any dents or scrapes. These will automatically bring down its resale value. Next, make sure there’s no cracks on the screen. If there are, you’re going to have to factor in the cost of getting that repaired. Finally, check everything else you can think of on it. Give the device a call to make sure the earpiece, speaker, and network are all working. Check the camera(s), headphone jack, and charging port. If any of these are not working, try to talk down the seller a bit or don’t buy the phone at all.
- NOTE: Most Android phones will have what’s called a hidden or test menu. By typing in a code (they vary by each device, so you need to Google it) into the phone’s number pad, you will be brought to a menu where you can test most of the functions I described above.
- Check the software on it. This one is mainly geared towards electronics. Make sure the IMEI is clear on it (see tip number one). Most important of all is to make sure that all of the accounts are deleted off the device. Many people buy phones on eBay only to find out that the iCloud account is still on it and the seller is being unresponsive. Go through all of the settings to check sound, vibration, and fingerprint sensors as well.
- Check for visible tears or holes. If you decide to buy and sell clothing or anything that is prone to being torn or punctured, make sure you check for these. If it’s something you can easily sew up and have it looking brand new, go for it. Otherwise, decline to buy.
3. Don’t use online market places when flipping goods
This one should have a big star next to it. One, because it will sometimes make you more money (as seen in my case), but two, in other cases it might be better to sell on online marketplaces.
For example, I found (here in my region of Canada), that it was more profitable to sell to people in my city. But people in other places may find it more profitable to sell online. It all depends on the region you’re in, and what price you can get products for. Do some research to find out which is best for you.
4. Brainstorm other places to find products to flip
You don’t have to just hide in your local Facebook group (although it’s definitely one of the best places to start).
Once you have a solid base down, try branching out to buying products in stores or even on eBay and Amazon. This is known as “retail arbitrage”, and it’s actually very popular.
The strategy with retail arbitrage is to wait for good deals at brick-and-mortar or online stores, then research how much they regularly sell for online, or guess at how much you think people in your area will pay for them.
Here’s the bottom line: if you think you can turn a profit, then buy the item and flip it! In other words, “buy low, sell high” should be your motto here.
5. Always meet in a public place
This is a must-follow rule for any exchange when you’re flipping goods. This is also as much for your safety as for the other person in the deal.
So what’s the solution?
You want to provide a welcoming atmosphere for your interaction, and that cafe on the corner is the perfect place for it.
The important thing here is that you don’t know who the other person is (usually), and they don’t know who you are.
You definitely don’t want to lead them to your house, and it’s not great for you to go to theirs either. A good public place with plenty of people is perfect in case something goes wrong.
Finally, this is a case-study on how I made over $1000 in one semester flipping goods. I can’t guarantee that you will get the same results, but if you’re really in a crunch, it’s definitely worth the effort to try.
Do you have your own story about flipping goods or any other tips that should be included? Let us know in the comments!
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