Two years ago, my parents stopped giving me an allowance. It was the summer before my sophomore year and I didn’t want to be held back from going to the mall or movies with my friends because of money. I was desperate for a job.
I searched for jobs at the mall but was shot down by six places. One day my friend suggested I try selling my clothes to secondhand stores such as Wasteland in Santa Monica. My sister and I rifled through our closets and filled a huge cardboard box with our old clothes that we’d outgrown. I hoped to make at least $10 for each item.
When I arrived at Wasteland and emptied my box of clothes on the counter, the woman behind the counter offered us barely any money, like $1 for the shirts. I told her that the shirts were worth more than what she offered but she said that they were only willing to pay 35 percent of what they thought they could sell them for. She pinched at the corners of my shirt as if it were infested with germs. My clothing was in good condition and it’s not like I had been running miles and rolling in the dirt with them on. I picked up my box of clothes and left.
I hated the idea of the store taking so much of my cut. I’d heard about eBay, a website where people can sell used and new clothes and other things. The site offered two ways to sell: auction, where the seller allows people to bid on an item for a set period of time, and “buy it now” where the seller gives a set price. I trusted eBay because a lot of people have used it for a long time.
I read tips from people who’d made a lot of money on eBay
Before I started selling, I Googled tips for a beginning seller. Most of the online guides were written by top eBay sellers who sold for a living. I never knew people could actually make a living from eBay. I thought the website was just something people used occasionally when they needed to sell their junk. Most of the guides told me to begin by selling in-demand items, such as bestselling novels, popular video games or brand name clothing. Most of the clothes I’d taken to Wasteland were from stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister and I knew those brands were popular among teenagers.
The first item I put up for sale was a red Hollister button-down shirt, which I had bought on a whim for $10 during their winter sale but had never worn. I was so anxious to sell that I modeled the shirt and took the picture myself. My right arm couldn’t stretch far enough to get a good angle so the flash ended up whitening a large portion of the picture. I used the photo anyway. There was nothing special about the shirt but the material was soft, so for the description I wrote, “Very soft shirt” and clicked submit.
I auctioned the shirt for a seven-day period and tracked its progress online every day after school. It was exciting to see my starting price of 99 cents increase each day. It eventually sold for $5, which wasn’t much but it was still more than what Wasteland offered.
I was so excited to receive my first e-mail that read, “You received an instant payment of $5.” The money was deposited into my bank account through an online service called PayPal. It felt like receiving a paycheck and it felt good to start making money.
I wanted to sell more, but I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I had made with my first sell. So I asked my sister to photograph my clothes for me as I modeled them. I tried to copy the professional pictures of other sellers and posed in front of my white closet door. The image didn’t look as cluttered. I also provided a description of the condition of my items. Listings that stated “navy blue, 100% cotton, like new hoodie with patterned kangaroo pocket” attracted more attention than “blue jacket.”
My clothes began attracting more bidders and selling for around $20 to $30 after I took better pictures and gave clearer descriptions. After two months, I ran out of clothes to sell. I’d sold about 40 items and made about $600. I saved half of it for college and spent the other half. I loved the feeling of having a full wallet again. I was able to treat my friends to dinner, go to movies whenever I wanted and go shopping without worrying about the price tag.
When I ran out of clothes I sold my books and video games
Selling things online became a part-time job for me when I needed money. I listed my old SAT books and Sims video games and was able to easily sell them for more than $10 each. Sometimes I spent three hours a week listing items and two hours making trips to the post office shipping them out. I also went on eBay three times a day to check my listing and answer questions from potential buyers.
A year after I joined eBay, I began buying clothes just to sell them. I didn’t want to sell any more of my own things but I still needed the money. I looked for bargains and flipped through the sales rack of thrift shops. Some of the shirts I bought on sale for $10 sold for double the price on eBay.
My friends and I went to a factory sale at American Apparel where they sold last season’s clothes for 50 percent off. I bought dresses for $8 and T-shirts for $6 but they sold for more than three times as much on eBay.
After I turned 16 last year, I decided to look for a job again. I knew I couldn’t rely entirely on eBay for money because it was inconsistent. Sometimes the things I auctioned didn’t sell or I ran out of things to sell.
My search for a steady job at the mall wasn’t very successful so I went around to nearby middle schools and after-school centers to advertise myself as a tutor. A lot of people responded but I accepted only five students because I didn’t want to work more than 10 hours a week. Getting a job as a private tutor gave me a steady income.
I’m thankful for my stable job because I went back to eBay two months ago to sell my old jackets and it wasn’t as easy. There were a lot more sellers and fewer buyers. The brands I sold were going for less than half of what they used to. Although eBay isn’t what it used to be, it taught me to be creative when searching for ways to make money.