A Step-by-Step Guide to Flipping Furniture on Craigslist

I’ve archived this tutorial first posted to the /diy/ forum on 4chan, which deletes threads after a few days. Credit goes to the original anonymous author. I’ve edited it heavily for clarity.

flipping furniture on craigslist

This is a project that has consumed the last year for me. My best month I pulled in$3.5k and spent just 5 hours a week since A lot of the business is now done by employees.

To start, my method requires you own a vehicle of some kind. If you don’t have one, then save borrow or hustle the money needed to get a cheap but reliable car or better yet, a truck to start this out with.

Why I Started Flipping Furniture.

Here’s what happened. My wife gave birth to a darling baby girl. I was laid off about 6 months before she was born, and I knew I had to get my ass in gear and make some money.

Then we ran the numbers on child care. Oh boy. For decent child care we’re talking about $24-30k a year, with long waiting lists. You can find it cheaper but it’s always hit or miss with the locals/independents.

I spent a couple months just getting used to being “primary caretaker,” which I think sounds manlier than “Mr Mom.” Then I set out to find something I could do while taking care of the baby.

Financially we didn’t have a ton of breathing room, so my rules were:

  • Up front investment had to be $50 or less.
  • Could not take money out of the checking account to pay expenses for this at any time.

Here’s the step-by-step process that worked for me. This is how I went from having $50 in my pocket and a small truck to a 10’x30′ storage unit full of product and an expanding business with semi-regular workers, clients and  a website + web campaign.

Finding Treasure at Garage Sales

First I searched craigslist for garage sales. Depending on where you live there will be more or less, I live in Colorado and there are plenty during the summer months, and enough during the winter months but in winter they are “weather dependent.”

Take your $50 and look for big pieces of furniture, particularly dressers. Make sure they are in good condition. Dressers made of wood sell faster than anything else in my experience. Avoid couches unless you have storage space and are willing to wait and learn and lose some money in the process; tastes in couches vary and I had no fashion sense so I swung and missed on a lot of these.

Avoid painted pieces of furniture. The paint jobs tend to be atrocious, and even good ones reduce the market significantly. Just about everyone is okay with a wood dresser, and if you’re looking for a used one the finish isn’t that big a deal. In any event, “cherry dresser” attracts a lot more people than “horribly painted blue dresser” (I learned this the hard way too, don’t learn it the hard way.)

Don’t buy stuff with the finish flaking off, thinking you’ll refinish it yourself. Unless you already do that for fun, you won’t, and it costs money to learn if you don’t know how to do it already. You WILL fuck anything up you do it the first time and possibly the 2nd and 3rd time too, so keep that in mind.

So, you have to be a bit picky. Stuff has to be in good condition and above all cheap. At first I never bought anything for more than $10, preferably $5 or so, but I relaxed that to $25 after I learned the ropes a little.

The big thing is you need fast turnaround, shoot for less than 1 week. and BIG markup. I aimed for 10x+, but this was pure cushion; again, you are going to SUCK at guessing what something will sell for, even if you do a little research beforehand. That “It’ll probably sell for $50 if I pay $5 for it” leaves you breathing room so if you literally think it’s worth twice as much as it is, you’re still looking at a 500% markup.

Making a Sale

Okay, so if you’ve been following along you’ve now grabbed yourself a couple dressers and they’re sitting in the back of your truck. You’ve spent $20-30, less than $50 even with gas. Grab a tarp (if you don’t already own one factor that into your expense) and unfurl it over your stuff in case of rain, snow or whatever. You don’t have storage space so this is where your stuff will live until your profits can pay for some warehousing.

Now, take nice individual pictures of these pieces. A great time to do that is right when you buy them. People who do garage sales usually have neither the time nor proficiency to take decent pics of their shit, but you do.

Now go right back on CL or the equivalent site for your area and put those dressers (or other piece of furniture) up for that 5-10x markup. Look around at dressers for sale and compare.

Gaining a Competitive Advantage

Now, here’s the important part. In your ad offer FREE DELIVERY. Caps or not; I’ve measured, it really doesn’t add or subtract from how much inquiry you get.

People will begin to call, possibly wanting to look before they buy. Others will want higher res pictures; provide them. This is a huge selling point for you; people who don’t have a bunch of spare time, or people who don’t have a truck, will be your main customers. Your stuff will sell if you chose wisely and were conservative (I probably get 1-2 things every 5-8 garage sales I visited when I was at this stage.)

Start Expanding

Repeat my garage sale-craigslist-delivery method for a couple weeks and you’ll have enough money to buy a budget storage unit for a month. Go forth and do it. I recommend you start with a 10×10 or so, roomy enough to maneuver without being super expensive. I paid around $100/mo for my first unit.

A goal  to shoot for is to fill and empty your 10×10 storage unit every week. If you can achieve a 100% weekly turnover, you should be making between $500-1000 per week after expenses. In reality this is a rare achievement, especially when you first start; so don’t make any calculations where your month is dependent on you batting a thousand. But with a clear goal like this in mind you will automatically perform better than if you just play it by ear.

When Something Doesn’t Sell

Sometimes you will end up needing to dispose of a lemon. The problem with a lemon is not the money you sink into it; $5-15 is not a huge deal. What IS a huge deal is your VERY limited space. Always remember that it’s easier to dump a slow-moving $10 piece of furniture than buy additional space to store more shit.

Branching out to More Furniture Categories

At this point you can expand into other pieces of furniture. Expect to lose money at first when doing this, so keep that to a minority and/or when you find a stupid-good deal.

Dining tables with chairs are a good money-maker, but you need to get a feel for the size; you’re not servicing big timers with lots of room, so smaller tables are often best.

Chairs are another hit and miss one; I once got a nice, gently used leather computer chair for 5 bucks and sold it for $75 with delivery, so after expenses I earned $55 profit for a couple hours of work. Other chairs just sit there FOREVER. You have to be patient and experimental with these.

Desks like work desks or computer desks are another good place to expand to, but again you need a feel. Cheap, flimsy looking shit won’t sell, or won’t sell quickly, or won’t sell for a profit that makes it worthwhile.

Improving your Hauling Capacity

Now with greater warehouse capacity your next step is make sure you have a tow package on your truck/SUV and buy a trailer. 6×12′ is a good size.

Again, CL is your friend, along with patience. I have a standard 6×12′ that normally goes for $1600 or so. Someone was selling it, barely used. Guy did a lot of work on homes for a real estate investor who disappeared and never paid him. Go figure. He was asking $1200, I said $800 tonight, he said okay. You WILL get a lot of nos, and perhaps some verbal abuse for these lowball offers. Don’t let it get to you. It never hurts to ask.

A trailer expands your options significantly. You can schedule multiple deliveries in the same day and load it all up in the morning. I even use mine to deliver large office orders of multiple desks or cubicles.

Building a Crew

Crews with moving experience can be worth their weight in gold, too, once you have enough storage and product and can schedule everything for one day.

Let’s say you have 5 desks and 3 dressers for the day and you just don’t want to fuck with it. You can hire two guys with moving experience; they will know how to pack the shit, where to put blankets to avoid scratching. This is worth it, I had no idea what I was doing and pissed off some clients this way once.

Now instead of a grunt sweating all day you are just driving the truck and directing your workers; it also allows you to keep working with clients as they work, answer your phone, post ads, etc. Heavily consider this.

For wages, pay above market. I pay $15/hr for my workers; this means you will get a lot of interest in your ads, and people want to make a good impression on you so they will work harder. Don’t go for the false economy of a low wage. You will get people who don’t care and who will slack off the second you aren’t watching them, which is important because you might have to leave them on site and deal with something else.

Services I Would Pay For

My short list of services I would personally pay some of my delicious money for. All of these jobs can be done from anywhere in the world and on your own schedule.

  • I’d pay for good writing. To the point articles that are scannable and laced with pictures. Ability to write on any subject is huge.
  • If you can drive traffic to a website I’d pay for that – I would happily pay 5$ for every 1,000 visitors. Much more if they are the right kind of traffic.
  • If you can build a Facebook or Twitter account I’d pay you to do that for me. It took me ages to get 1000 likes on Facebook because I hate Facebook and suck at it. Some jerks have 500,000 likes on Facebook and that’s a cash cow I tell you what.
  • If you can get links to my site on other people’s websites, well that’s an extremely marketable skill and I’d pay for that too, as would a lot of other people.

Buying Websites as an Investment Vehicle

I joined a Mr Money Mustache Meetup group. MMMMeetup I’ve cleverly called it. On the hike we completed last weekend, I spoke at length about building, buying and selling websites.

lynn-creek-canyon

The investors among the group perked up when I mentioned that websites trade at a P/E ratio of 2. That’s a deal an order of magnitude better than stocks or houses, which trade at ratios of between 20 and 30.

I realise there’s a good reason that websites trade at such a high discount rate; they’re inherently much riskier than owning land, labor or capital. These are some of the risk factors I’ve identified in a conversation with one of the MMMMeetup members. 

Things that go Wrong with a Website

  • A site with traffic based entirely on search might be using shady practices to get search ranking. A google algorithm change can wipe out search traffic. This can be a death sentence for a site, which is why vetting beforehand is so important.
  • Server can get hacked and will require repair. Repair can take hours to days to fix fully. This happens fairly frequently with WordPress installs.
  • A static site might start to slowly lose relevancy and will need fresh content to remain competitive in its space.
  • A competitor site might be launched, taking a portion of your traffic.
  • A site relying on time-sensitive information will become out of date (news sites, science&technology, health fads) and will need to be updated
  • New browsing technology may require a site rebuild. The best example of this is the smartphone trend toward sites that work on any size screen. A more recent example is the move to SHTML as a more important ranking factor.
Not every sudden change is negative.
  • A direct sale advertiser wants to place sponsored posts or custom ads, doubling your revenue for one or more months but requiring an account manager.
  • Your site explodes in popularity and requires a server move and/or content delivery system.
  • A new affiliate program needs to be integrated site-wide

Where to Buy Websites

I’ve identified these 3 marketplaces as the best at this time.
  • Flippa.com – This is the biggest website exchange as far as I know. Lots of cheap sites but there’s a lot of “pump and dump” type sites for sale – buyer beware and know how to do your due diligence on a site before buying.
  • EmpireFlippers.com I don’t know that much about it but a colleague of mine says its the only one she trusts. I think this was built around a book or something.
  • Quiet Light Brokerage – premium sites, usually costing $1 million and up. Well vetted by the brokerage beforehand, and you have to sign an NDA to get on their list. Not that many sites come through this pipeline.
Craigslist has sites for sale too, although it’s not a great fit because Craigs is local focused. I’ve only ever seen one decent site for sale on craigslist.

Considerations for Vetting a Website

  • Start with using SEMrush. Its stats are much more useful than compete.com or alexa, which are popular but I wouldn’t bother with at all. This gives an indication of a website’s potential for passive income through search engines. Although the subject matter of the site will have a huge effect on its income potential – finance related sites for example can push credit cards and startup business sites can push hosting services, which both pay a positively massive commission.
  • Check the website with mozrank, open site explorer and Google Pagerank. What you’re looking for are high quality links and a decent track record. 
  • Also look into their demographics. I have 2 popular sites, one which caters to males in their 20s and another primarily used by men and women over the age of 55. The site for 20 year olds hardly pays its server expenses, the 55+ site performs amazingly.

Cryptocurrency/Litecoin/Dogecoin Mining Business Plan

I like what Linus Media Group does. I’m not talking about the content they create, which is high quality and very useful by way, but how they run their offices.

They rent a big house out in Langley which they stuff full of computer and camera equipment which they use when it’s time to get some work done. Linus actually uses the kitchen for many of videos, although the recipes he’s teaching the audience have names like “budget gaming build” rather than “beef bourguignon.”

linus-tech-guy

Photo Credit: Linus Media Group and NCIX Tech Tips

But I’ve never had a compelling reason to rent office space myself – until now.

This new crypocurrency stuff allows me to stuff an office full of workers – virtual workers – whom I could manage remotely. I wouldn’t have to be physically present there unless I wanted to be. This office/house project makes a lot of sense for us right now because heavy equipment is about to turn piddlingly small bachelor pad into a 0BR 0Bath literal hole in the ground.

But is it feasible? I have no idea yet. But I’m going to find out right now with the power of spreadsheets!

Dogecoin Mining Earnings per Day

I’ve got about 2 weeks of data now on our new 700 k/h mining rig, which I can scale to find out what my equipment needs would be to pay for the office space + electricity. Meet Milky the Miner, creator of data points.

milky-the-miner

Now for the Data Dump

Based on a dogecoin value of $1.2 USD per 1000 Ð.

crate-stats

 

doge-chart

What Does it All Mean?

In summary, for every 1000 kh/s in processing power, crypto mining is earning around$3.42 a day, or 102$/month.

Breaking Even on a Crypto Apartment

The first task is to earn enough from the space and electricity a mining rig requires to pay for the apartment.

Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in burnaby runs $950/mo which would require around 9 mh/s (9216 kh/s). Based on current energy consumption of “Milky” (400 watts: 700 kh), a rig this size would conservatively demand around 5.5 kilowatts, which in this region costs $356/mo. So you need another 4 mh/s or so to pay for that for a total of 13 mh/s just to pay for the space.

Now we’re up to 13 mh/s for our very conservative rent paying mining array. We could actually shave 10% right off the top just for currency conversion and another 30% if we use the average price of Ð rather than the period low of $1.2/1000. This is a worst case scenario build with tons of margin for volatility.

Cost of a Rent-Paying Mining Build

Over on /r/scryptminingrigs are some great sample builds with detailed cost analysis. This is currently the largest, a sample build for 4000$ that hashes a hair over 7k mh/s. We would need two of these. $8,000 all-in and we can almost guarantee a rig that can pay for the space it lives in. But your living space better be damn secure.

A Sample Crypto Apartment

This 2 bedroom apartment sits near the highway in Burnaby. According to padmapper, 2 it’s 0% more expensive than the typical 2 bedroom apartment in the area.

It would be very important to check how well the circuits in a place like this would handle the large power draw. However that dryer itself would need about 4500 watts which almost brings us to our power needs on its own. I’m not sure if they make adapters for those high amp outlets though.

kitchen

bedroomPictures from Kijiji Listing

What to Do with too much Free Time?

I find myself poking around on job boards just to see what’s out there. If the right thing comes along I apply for it.

I’ve written crazy alternative resumes before, just to gauge response. Since I’m comfortable in the blog format, that’s usually what they look like. Imagine getting sent a blog post in PDF format for a job opening. Side note, is “PDF Format” redundant? I have yet to hear back from someone who was unlucky enough to be sent one of my hipster resumes.

Too much free time is certainly a first world problem. You have to know how to keep yourself happy. That’s never been a problem for me personally, but I know certain humans who aren’t happy unless they’re working their asses off. I know a lot of people like that actually.

Buddhist monks don’t give a shit. They’ll meditate for decades at a time. Some stand in the same place so long they start to sink into the hardwood floor. Do they ever get bored? I assume not, otherwise they would just leave and do something else, wouldn’t they?

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I find time harder to fill out here in the far-flung prairies than I did in the thriving coastal metropolis we lived in before. In Vancouver, you’d take visiting a coffee shop for granted. Here we have to plan cafe visits, it’s a once a week at most affair that requires shifting 2 tons of pickup truck down a highway far too busy for a city this size.

Fortunately even in tar sands country, the internet is always on. So that’s how I’ve been filling all this free time for these past 6 months. It’s the cheapest entertainment, education, and business incubator mankind has ever come up with – thanks Al Gore!

I read a lot of these early retirement websites like ERE and MMM – and I guess this site is just a slightly different angle on the same subject. My experience has been that you don’t need to accumulate even the lowball quarter million that EREman saved up before he quit his job – I quit my job 3 years ago with a net savings of just a few thousand, and have more today than I did then. That’s another thing I love to spend all this free time doing. Finding ways to make more money than I spend, month after month after month. It’s a fun challenge and it gets easier and easier.

So here’s my one-item list of stuff you can do with more free time:

  • Do what you like to do now, but more of it.

I’m not a gym bunny, but if you like going to the gym, you can go more often. Cyclists can go on longer bike rides, even multi-day if you care to. If you like raising kids, well then, go whole hog and join a homeschooling circle.

Hey, it’s a crappy answer I know, but I know nothing about your life and what charges up your batteries. Go on a vision quest or something.

Blogging as a Business

Northern VoiceThis is the abstract for a speech I submitted to the Northern Voice blogging conference. It summarizes a 30 minute lecture into 500 words.

Update: My speech got approved and I delivered it during Northern Voice 2013, making it my first paid speaking gig. 

Every blogger defines success differently. Some want to spread their ideas, and others are building communities. A tiny minority of bloggers write primarily with income in mind – blogging as business.

I like to sell the idea of blogging as a business to people with my “one dollar per week” thought experiment. A well written article on a well selected topic can easily earn one dollar a week. Like a tireless little digital employee, it’ll earn that dollar a week for you year after year – for as long as the internet sticks around! If one article earns one dollar, 100 will earn 100 dollars. Once you’ve accumulated 1000 articles, you’re earning slightly more sitting on your couch than the average Canadian earns working 8 hour days.

Separating the hobbyist blogger from the business blogger stand the same things separating, for example, a professional chef from a home cook who prepares food for just their family. This article will discuss what I’ve learned to be the 3 three most important factors separating hobby bloggers from profit bloggers – market research, consistency, and monetization.

Market Research

The most important work you’ll ever do on your blog is done before you write your first post. Like in choosing a business niche in the offline world, we want to pick a market with plenty of demand, a product that we can sell or promote profitably, and without too much competition. Fortunately, we can research these three factors for our blogging business completely free in just moments.

Consistent Content

A blogger’s business is content creation, and the blogger with an income in mind must make their blog a priority by showing up regularly to create their product. How long would a bakery last, if someone didn’t show up each day at 3 AM to bake bread and greet customers? You might agree that our proverbial bakery store is doomed. Bloggers have it a bit easier, because the internet is “always open,” but the professional blogger must still show up at regular intervals to “take care of business.”

Making it Pay

Finally, a blog must have a way to turn clicks and pageviews into dollars and dimes. With herds of new people flocking online every day, bloggers have never had so many monetization opportunities. Advertising is still a big slice of total blog income, just as with traditional media like television and print. But unlike these “old media,” the advertising pie available to online publishers is GROWING at breakneck speed.

The blogging profession is still in its infancy. “Professional bloggers” are the butt of jokes and are often not taken seriously. As a result many bloggers may not take themselves seriously either. But blogging CAN be a serious business. You CAN make a living from it if you commit to it and adopt the right techniques. There’s never a better time to start building up your 1000 articles!