Can you earn your living on Craig’s List?
Young father was broke, loaded with debt, ’til he turned to Craig’s List
By Susan Caba
Max told me to sell his electric guitar.
He hasn’t played it for years–it’s been hanging on the family room wall under a colored-pencil sketch of Marilyn Monroe. They seemed to go together and I’ll re-purpose anything as art.
The shiny red guitar with its vaguely space-aged shape always reminded me of the Jetsons, the futuristic cartoon television series from the 1960s. Specifically, it was a memory of “Jet Screamer,” a rock singer with Elvis Presley hair who was Judy Jetson’s crush object. (Did you know The Jetsons was the first television show broadcast in color on ABC? But I digress.)
I hated to do it, but I took the guitar down, dusted its curves and tucked it into its custom hard case for a trip to David’s Guitar Loft in Webster Groves. Max used his birthday money the year he turned 13 to buy the guitar there. He took lessons but found it too uncomfortable to put on the persona of a rock star, so the guitar went on the wall.
Besides incredible musicians–with degrees–who teach, David’s is well stocked with acoustic and electric guitars, new and used. There were lots of them, red and black–all shiny–hanging on the walls like musical notes. One of the guys examined the guitar, looked it up on eBay, and said he could possibly give me between $75 and $100. The market for guitars is soft at the moment.
“Why don’t you put it on Craig’s List,” he suggested. “You’ve got the case with it, ask about $250 and see what happens.”
Buying and Selling Pays His Bills
Which brings me, via a rambling road, to the subject of today’s post: Ryan Finlay, who makes his living buying and re-selling on Craig’s List.
He started three years ago, dealing in just about anything but has since focused mostly on appliances. They’re in high demand, sell quickly and return a good profit. Plus, when he delivers them to a buyer, he can usually pick up the old appliance, fix it up and sell that one on Craig’s List, too.
Finlay is thirty-something, the father of four (soon to be five) and a licensed contractor who didn’t like that business. So he turned to CL. “I did well the first week and have only gotten better every week since,” he writes on his blog, ReCraigsList.com. “I’m on pace this year to buy and sell a thousand appliances.”
“I’m working less and making more than I ever have,” Finlay writes in one of his posts. How well is he doing? He’s taking his wife and kids to Hawaii for a month.
Ten Tips for Craig’s List success
Think you’d like to try to do the same? Finlay is willing to help. ReCraigsList.com has posts with lots of advice. You can even arrange one-on-one telephone coaching with Finlay for $50 an hour. Here are summaries of ten of his tips (you can read all of his posts on ReCraigsList.com.)
- Let people see you are trustworthy, through your ad (keep it truthful), your photos and your behavior (be helpful).
- Specialize. Don’t buy randomly. Don’t buy what you don’t know.
- Keep a vigilant watch for good buys, and be prepared to buy quickly.
- Add value–Finlay spends 40 percent of his time cleaning and fixing the appliances he resells.
- Be patient. Some things sell immediately, others take months. Finlay buys air conditioners cheaply in winter months, sells for profit in heat waves.
- Write a good title, featuring the most desirable aspect of your item. DON’T USE ALL CAPS.
- Check to see how others are describing similar items. “Learn from others.”
- Give the details of your item first–make, model, features, age, color and condition. Emphasize the positive. Don’t draw attention to flaws unless you know they are deal killers.
- Pictures sell the item–and they also sell buyers on you. “ When people are looking at your pictures, they are not only deciding if they want to buy your item, they are deciding if they want to buy from you. Do you live in a dump? Are you organized, clean? Do you take care of your things? Make sure there is lots of light and no clutter in the background.”
- Offer free delivery on large items.
I’ve sold various items on CL. Sometimes it was something too big or too heavy to contemplate selling on eBay. Sometimes it was something too inexpensive to consider listing on eBay. Mostly it’s just stuff that’s sitting around gathering dust. And Finlay’s right–sometimes a sale takes time. I’ve listed things that mouldered until the listing expired, then re-listed them sometime later only to have them fly out the door.
The guitar hasn’t sold yet. It’s been a few days, so I’m going to look the ad over and see if I can improve it with Finlay’s advice. It gave that wall a nice punch of color–I hate to see it go.