I started my first profitable business in elementary school and no, it was not a lemonade stand. The two little guys in the image above are not my brother and me but I might dig out some pictures from our lemonade stand days.
Although my brother and I did run a lemonade stand for a while during our childhood when I was 11 and he was 13 we borrowed $600 from my parents to buy a racquet restringing machine so we could string our own tennis racquets rather than pay to have them done.
Stringing our own racquets was a huge cost savings that would have paid the machine off in less than a year but we decided we wanted to take it one step further and start stringing other people’s racquets as well.
Within a year we had, for 12 and 14 years olds, a wildly successful business which we continued to run until we both gradated high school and moved away for college.
I was bit hard by the entrepreneurial bug from a very early age and have to thank my supportive parents who financed our start up, helped us learn how to source materials, how to market our services, deal with customers, picked up and delivered racquets, how to keep the books and reinvest in our business and, most importantly, pay ourselves first before buying Rollerblades and computers.
I cannot thank my parents enough for these great lessons in personal finance. They helped us build a solid foundation when it comes to managing money that has helped shape how we handle our finances.
Since those early days of B & G Stringing, I have had many different side businesses where I have made money. I wanted to write this post to share with you most (I don’t think I can remember them all) of the ways that I have made money over the years. Hopefully when you read this article you will see that you too can make money in 24 hours or less legally if you follow the right steps!
Things I Have Sold To Make Extra Money
1. Used Cell Phones
I remember when the Motorola Razr came out and it was crazy expensive (at the time) but I really wanted one because it was so small, sleek and different than the other phones on the market.
I didn’t want to pay retail for the phone so I started to scour eBay to see if I could find a discounted phone. I was able to buy one for about half price because it was used and the owner was moving. This got me thinking, I could probably buy and sell phones for profit which I ended up doing for a while.
I have found that there is literally a market for any phone. iPhones, Blackberries, flip phones, etc. The key is to know what the phone is worth and make money when you buy the phone not when you sell the phone. If the phone is worth $100, you cannot buy it for $100 and expect to make money. You need to buy it with enough potential profit margin so you make money when you sell it.
I would pick the most popular phones and do an advanced search of the completed listings where I track the actual prices that the phone sold for.
This is where most of your time needs to be spent as knowing the average value of the phones when you go to sell them is how you will pick the max price you will be willing to pay to buy the phone.
You can see that the same item can sell for a wide range of prices. This is why you need to do your research and make sure you don’t overpay to buy the phone before you go to resell it.
2. Concert and Event Tickets
Now before you send me hate mail or leave mean comments about how you hate people who resell tickets let me be the first to say that I have also paid many times over face value for sporting event tickets and concert tickets so I have been on both sides of this fence.
That being said, if you do your homework on eBay and StubHub to see how much event tickets typically sell for you should be able to make money buying and reselling tickets to concert and events. It’s important to realize that with event tickets their value is exactly $0 after then event so make sure you work hard to resell the tickets before the event.
For a few years, I actually would go on eBay before the season started and buy partial or full sets of Chicago Cubs season tickets at or below face value. Then I would sell them game by game throughout the year. Since I was able to buy them in bulk then sell them individually I was able to turn profits each year. This was a lot of work since there were 81 homes games per year but managing eBay ads and dropping tickets off at the post office wasn’t much work so the effective hourly rate was very good.
As more and more ticket resellers started to get in the game my profits went down so after a few years I stopped buying and selling Cubs tickets. That being said, there is still lots of money to be made being a ticket broker but, again, you need to make sure you do your homework before starting to buy tickets.
Yes, it’s true… I used to be a babysitter.
I did have a very short career with only a dozen or so paying gigs but it was something that I have done in the past to make extra money.
The reason my babysitting career didn’t flourish was because most often people want to hire babysitters on the weekend and I was too busy playing sports to be available on a consistent basis for families looking to establish a regular babysitter.
4. College Textbooks
If you haven’t visited a college bookstore lately you might not know that textbooks are very very very expensive.
Most of the engineering text books I bought during college were over $100 each. When you’re taking 4-5 classes per semester this can
eat up a lot of beer money add up very quickly.
I quickly realize that, like most things, the demand for college text books was very cyclical and their values changed dramatically based on if the semester was just starting or just ending.
Based on the cyclical nature of textbooks I would, as best I could, try to figure out what I was going to need for next semester and buy the books either online or from other students at the end of the semester when their values were low. Then I would wait until the start of the next semester to sell my textbooks from the previous semester where I could get top dollar.
When I was in college I was using half.com (an eBay company) to buy and sell my textbooks and, although I didn’t keep very accurate records, I was able to save a lot of money on my college textbooks and I’d even venture an educated guess that I was able turn a profit most sememster by simply buying at the end of the semester and selling at the start of the semester.
5. Books & Magazines
Just like college textbooks, the used books on your shelves have some value. Not a ton, mind you, but if they are just sitting there collecting dust you can list your books on eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji or even just take them to the local used book store where you will get the fastest sale.
Don’t plan on getting rich selling your old books, unless you have one of these, but even if you get a couple bucks per book and you have a few hundred to sell it can add up to a nice little boost in savings, debt repayment or a fun vacation!
6. My Old Clothes
I have a closet that is overflowing with clothes. Where it all came from is beyond me since I don’t really like to shop. I bet that I wear about 10% of the clothes in my closet and the rest just hangs there taking up space.
A while back I decided to thin out my closet so I went through each piece of clothing I owned with the rule that “if I hadn’t worn it in a year, I would get rid of it”. Now, I did allow myself some leeway for sentimental items, and stuff that I forgot that I had (how bad is that?!?) but even with this leeway I was able to fill up two big boxes full of clothes I no longer used.
I split the clothes into two boxes. One box was items that I was going to give away and the other were items that I was going to sell. Basically, if it was in excellent condition and a brand name I was going to try to sell it before just giving it away.
I was able to sell Polo Ralph Lauren shirts from days gone by, Diesel jeans I hadn’t worn since high school and various hoodies and other pieces of clothing that I was no longer needing. Again, don’t expect to get rich reselling your clothing but making some extra money money is better than nothing!
7. Surplus Computer Monitors
When I was in college there was an engineering supply store that sold things that you needed for your labs and experiments. Every now and then they would sell various items that the college no longer needed. This one time I walked by to see that they were selling some of the amazing flat screen monitors from the computer lab. I’m not talking flat panel montors like we all use these days but I’m talking big, huge, massive CRT monitors that had a flat screen rather than the old school rounded glass.
They were selling them for $50 each. I quickly ran down to the computer lab to check the value of these monitors on eBay to see that most were selling north of $150 which meant I could tripple my money! I bought two of the monitors and lugged them home.
What I found out was that the shipping was extremely expensive, especailly since they were fragile items. I ended up selling them locally for $75 (I think) so it wasn’t a huge score.
8. Starbucks Collectible Coffee Mugs
I found that there was an opportunity to resell Starbucks coffee mugs the same way I found many of the opportunities you see on this page.
The first is having a mind that constant thinks and analysis things, events and situations to see if there’s a potential profit and the second is having an iPhone with the eBay app.
One day when I was standing in line at Starbucks I saw the mugs that had the city name on them and I wondered if people tried to collect them all thus looking to the Internet to buy the cities they haven’t visited.
I quickly realized that there is actually a bit of a strange following for Starbucks merchandise and that many of the mugs that were sold for $12.99 at Starbucks sold for many times more than that on eBay.
So that day I walked out with my venti iced unsweetened green tea and the last 8 coffee mugs. I was able to sell them on eBay, although not as quickly as I would have hoped for a reasonable profit but have to admit that this one was probably more work than it was worth since the mugs are so fragile to ship. I had to really packaged these mugs up well so they arrived at their destination safe and sound.
9. Snow Shoveling / Lawn Mowing
Most teenagers at least dabble with the idea of shoveling snow or mowing lawns for cash and I was one of them.
I didn’t really go door to door with a shovel in hand and puppy dog face trying to get people to let me shovel their walks or mow their yard for $20. I started off with one contract where I would get $35 to shovel the walks every time it snowed. No need to renegotiate each time it snowed, no time spent walking door to door only to get rejected over and over.
I did get a handful or referrals and more contracts that one year which added up to nice little paydays when I was in junior high.
10. Tennis Lessons
I played a lot of tennis growing up and throughout college. From 12 years old I always coached tennis which I loved. A great side perk was it was the highest paying job I could find at that age by a LOT! I was able to do what I really enjoyed while being very well (at the time) compensated for doing it, I felt like I had won the lotto!
During my college days I was able to arrange my own private lessons with students and the deal was that I was able to keep 75% of whatever I charged. At that point I knew that I could teach group lessons for $15/hour or teach a private lesson for $40/hour where I was able to keep $30… can you guess where I spent most of of my time?
11. Virtual Garage Sale
I just recently spent a few house walking around my house collecting items I didn’t need.
I was planning on having a garage sale until I though about how much work it was going to be to have a garage sale. Since I still really wanted to get all these things that I didn’t use anymore out of my house I decided I would have a virtual garage sale by listing everything on eBay and Craigslist and ship out items when they sold.
The big winners for me was an old iPod Touch, some printer cartridges for a printer I didn’t even have anymore, a Norwegian sweater that I bought online but it never fit right as well as some golf shoes. I made sure to list the items during a period where eBay was offering 1,000 free listings meaning that the only risk to listing all of these items on eBay was my time.
The stuff that did not sell, I boxed up and dropped it off at the local Good Samaritans’ Sale where they sell just about anything to raise money for their various causes.
12. SIM Cards
I was looking to buy a couple of SIM cards one time when I was traveling so I could just swap out my current SIM card with a local SIM card in the country I was visiting to avoid the outrageous roaming charges that most cell phone carriers charge.
Of course, I was on eBay looking to buy a SIM card when I noticed that SIM cards were selling for anywhere between $7 and $14. I also noticed that there was one person trying to sell 50 SIM cards at a time for $150ish. I contact them asking them how many SIM cards they had and they told be they had over 700 SIM cards they were looking to sell. I offered them $1/card plus shipping and bought their entire lot of SIM cards for under $800 or just a little over $1/card.
I then set up a fixed price multiple quantity auction on eBay where people could just come and buy or not buy the item. No bidding, no haggling and since I set the auction to require immediate payment I didn’t have deadbeat buyers who purchased the item and then didn’t pay me.
I was selling the SIM cards, on average, around $10 for the first little while. There was a short period of time where I was the only seller on eBay offering that carrier and size of SIM card where I was able to enjoy a few dozen sales closer to $25 per SIM card.
Over time the average price of my sales drifted all the way down to about $3 per card which meant that I was only making about $1 profit after all fees, taxes, shipping costs, etc. I averaged about $7 per SIM for the life of the SIM card selling venture which meant that I was able to realize nearly 600% return on my investment.
I would usually sell a few a day but over time I sold every single SIM card I bough and some days I even sold 10 or more in one day as shown by the white envelops of SIM cards on their way to their new owners around the world!
The bigger yellow envelopes are another item I was fulfilling orders for and since I still actively sell that item and don’t want anymore competitors I’m going to keep that one a secret, thanks for understanding.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit and I have taken my fair share of pictures from around the world.
I looked through my pictures and was able to identify 60 pictures that were good but I was okay with giving up the exclusive rights of ownership.
I then set up a gig on fiverr.com where I sold the pictures in lots of 30 as stock photos for other people to use.
14. Rental Properties
I haven’t talked about my rental property very much on VOSA.com (although I plan to very soon) but I do have own rental properties that generate passive income.
Wih the exception of 1 unit, I do not manage these properties myself and I always strongly encourage people who are thinking about buying, or currently own, a rental property to include the cost of professional property management when you analyses the property.
I always believe that your time is better spent looking for the next rental property to buy rather than fixing toilets and hanging blinds but in addition to that you will likely get burnt out being a landlord if you are also the handyman, point person for the tenant and everything else that goes along with owning rental property.
My biggest expense is unit turn over and it typically costs me about $1,200 to turn a unit around. If the tenants are happier because they are getting served better by a professional property manager they are more likely to stay beyond the initial term of the lease. With just a few extra renewals for second, third or more lease terms you property manager has earned their keep.
In addition to being available 24/7 for your tenants which keeps your tenants happier it is typically less expensive to have your property manager schedule the repairs as they can get volume discounts with plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists and more since they manage more properties than you (likely) own.
I consider real estate a cornerstone of my investment portfolio, my long term financial strategies as well as my wealth building goals. Stay tuned as I will be writing a lot more about my real estate ventures soon.
Back in 2007 when the Nintendo Wii was more popular than virtually anything around Christmas I wondered how I could profit from this craze. Since I didn’t have any secret supplier of Nintendo Wiis at cost I started to dig into other ways to make money off of the Wii.
What I stumbled across was affiliate marketing which allows you to earn commissions for driving traffic and sales for other people’s products or services.
Two of the easiest to get started with are eBay Partner Network and Amazon Associates since you can essentially promote any product under the sun since these are two of the largest online market places.
Back in 2007, I pretty much did everything wrong but at that point I knew nothing about affiliate marketing.
I built the site on iWeb on my Macbook, I paid for traffic from Adwords, I didn’t know the first thing about online conversions or copywriting yet somehow I still managed to make some money.
I don’t remember how profitable this Nintendo Wii venture was but since I took a few years off from affiliate marketing I don’t think I was rolling in the dough.
A few years ago I started building small niche sites and have had some very popular and successful sites. It’s an incredible business model and one that virtually anyone can get started on today. All you need is a web hosting account, an idea to write about and a great guide on how to start a blog.
I will be writing more about affiliate marketing and selling online in the articles to come so make sure you sign up to become a VOSA Insider where you will get FREE updates and access to exclusive content.