How to Make Money Selling Clothes: The Ultimate Guide

What to Expect in this How to Sell Clothes Online Guide

It seems that the industry of selling clothes online has gotten bigger and bigger in recent years. Everyone and their cousin is listing clothing items for sale on sites like Poshmark, Depop, Mercari and others. But what does it really take to make actual money selling clothes? And what are the necessary steps to ensure that you aren’t just wasting time and spinning your wheels getting started on your resale venture?

In 2022 I made nearly $50,000 in resale revenue thanks to years of experience that gave me a strategic edge and commitment to sweat equity that helped supercharge my success.

While I can’t promise you a specific amount of revenue or profits, what I can help you with is a comprehensive review of everything I know about making money as a secondhand clothing seller. This is the ultimate guide of exactly what you need to do and what you need to consider in order to have profitable success. I started my resale journey in 2009 and have experienced the highs and lows of resale over the years.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did to get where I am today. Read on for the step by step ultimate guide to making money doing something you hopefully love, and that’s slinging secondhand clothing.

Research and Sourcing (Decide what to sell)

One of the top mistakes I see newbie and even long-time resellers make is not including “the trends” with what they are sourcing to sell.

Right now, the Y2K trend of late 90s and early 00s pieces is quite popular. These trends aren’t just within the vintage market, but also, the mainstream fashion market of high end designers and runway styles. What often happens with resellers is that they source only what they like, versus what the mainstream market would potentially like.
I’m not saying that a reseller’s personal taste is trash. What I’m saying is that oftentimes a reseller just “assumes” that whatever they like, most of their following will like. They justify their buying decisions with this idea that they are building a brand that will “attract the right people.”

To a certain extent, this notion that building a brand based on personal sourcing preferences will attract the ideal client can work. But the big mistake here is that the ideal client could be such a small percentage of the market share, that the reseller ends up missing out on quickly and lucratively selling trending and popular pieces that they overlooked.

As a 37 year old woman myself, the Y2K and late 90s trends aren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse of personal taste. I prefer bold sequins and bold prints, big shoulders and mom jeans. But what’s selling right now are minimalist styles in solid colors, low rise and baggy cargo pants, trench coats and denim maxi skirts (as a few quick examples).

If I’m out sourcing secondhand items to sell from the wild (meaning, shopping thrift and vintage stores to buy inventory) and I choose to consistently overlook buying the trends and instead ONLY focus on what I like, then I am in essence cutting off an income stream of profits from the biggest market that exists in fashion. What is that market? The market of people who prefer to buy the trends.

No matter what a reseller might think, they are not trendsetters. Sorry to break it to everyone, but just because we like a niche style of Peter Pan collars from the 60s doesn’t mean that every single one of our followers on Poshmark are going to like that style and rush to the digital doors to buy it.

The mistake I see resellers make is only focus on buying what they love and not thinking about what the mainstream market loves. In a way it’s kind of selfish. I don’t want to sound petty or nasty, but if you are ignoring buying trending styles, then you are denying your audience of buying something affordable and sustainable from you that represents something they want.

Instead of thinking of resale as a service for yourself, start thinking of it as a service for yourself 20 percent of the time (as in, buy what only YOU love 20 percent of the time) and 80 percent as a service for others (as in, buy the trends for the mainstream market 80 percent of the time).

Now that my rant is done, let’s explore how to research current fashion trends and demand:

  • Instagram accounts that showcase street style (pictured above: Watching New York on Instagram)
  • Tik Tok & Instagram accounts that detail the trends 
  • Media websites with trend forecasting, like Refinery29 and Vogue
  • Reviewing comps on sites like Poshmark & eBay, where it’s easy to look up what something SOLD for 
  • Literally observing what people under 30 are wearing in a city near you (possible in suburbs too, but the cities typically drive trends via online sales)

 

What I personally tend to stay away from is actually reviewing “the runways” for the “the trends.” I think what’s very interesting about the runway trend culture is that it’s really lost its foothold in the zeitgeist of culture over the last 5-10 years. Why? Two words: Social Media.

Social media has become the most powerful force for creating trends. Of course, some of the trends ‘start in the streets’ but they eventually find their way online and then the repetition spreads like wildfire. 

A quick example of witnessing a trend spread like wildfire thanks to social media was “cottage core.” While this trend is now super micro (as in: I wouldn’t go buying a ton of cottage core because its’ not necessarily hot “right now”) it was super hot in the depths of the pandemic. 

Identifying the clothes that you want to sell and creating a winning inventory takes practice. There are going to be items you buy that you might have thought “would sell like a flash” and nope, you sit on them for months. However, I promise that over time you will look back at your buying duds and recognize WHY they didn’t sell. You know what they say: Hindsight is 20/20 vision. The key is to learn from your buying mistakes and become soooooo picky with what you buy. Personally, I only try to buy items that I think are a 10/10 WIN. This means that I can see someone buying the item off my back as soon as I leave the store or wherever I am sourcing. 

So how do I decide when an item is truly a 10/10 touchdown? I put myself in the shoes of the consumer and I ask myself a few questions.

 

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before deciding to purchase an item for resale: 

Q: Is this item in the best condition possible congruent with its potential value? Would I buy this item for a certain price based on its condition?

Q: Does this item make me soooooooo excited? Will this item get immediate likes if I promote on social media? 

Q: Does this item make my intuition go “yes!” or does it make my intuition go “hmmm, maybe?” 

Q: Did I take a minute to look up the brand and its average selling prices on Poshmark, eBay or wherever else I can review “solds”? 

Q: Based on my experience as a reseller, have I seen this type of item sell well for others or have I sold it previously? 

Q: Is this item potentially size inclusive i.e. it isn’t too small or too big (unless you specifically cater to a size XS or plus size market, I personally stay within the size 2- 12 range). 

Q: Can I see one of my previous clients (based on your experience as a reseller) wearing this?

The reason these questions are important is because you are focusing out on your client base or potential client base versus just thinking “Oh I love this, I’d wear this, this fits me, I want this for my closet,” and other self-centered thoughts. These thoughts aren’t bad necessarily, but as a business owner you want to start making your customers needs top priority. When you can do this consistently, you will more easily recognize the best inventory to invest your hard earned money with a higher chance of a return on investment. 

Now, like everything in life, there are going to be those situations where an item surprises you. An example was a Marlboro brand (yes, the cigarette brand) vintage sweatshirt that I sourced from my stepfather’s closet that was literally holey and covered in paint. But, I took a chance on it because a.) It was Marlboro, which I know is a trending vintage brand right now and b.) the paint and the holes sort of made it look cool, like a Rick Owens piece. So, I took a chance and lo and behold after about 8 weeks in a Brooklyn vintage market, it sold. 

The key is to ask yourself the right questions before sealing the deal on purchasing an item so that you feel confident and assured it will eventually sell — or else you are just using the resale business to justify a hoarding habit. No shade or judgment – we have ALL been there, but I am here to help you avoid inventory debt and to actually make a profit on your purchases. 

Now, let’s recap, shall we? Before choosing the right platform for your clothing business and building an online presence, it’s important to strategically identify the clothes that you want to sell and curate a winning inventory, or you will end up sitting on a ton of stale inventory (stale as in, unsold) that will possibly discourage you from feeling successful and of course, lower your overall profits. 

How to strategize the winning inventory? Follow the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of items that represent what YOU love, and 80 percent inventory that represents the trends and what mainstream fashion is wearing now. 

You can discover what’s trending every month by scheduling time to review street style social media accounts, fashion media sites like Refinery29 and Vogue, catching up with trend forecasting social accounts or YouTube channels, checking comps on trends/brands via sites like eBay and Poshmark which give you SOLD records, and last, keeping your eyes open to examine what young people are wearing in a metropolitan area near you. 

Finally, before committing to the purchase of an item that will become inventory for resale, ask yourself the questions listed above to decide if the item is a “10/10.” While it’s totally fine to take risks (such as my Marlboro sweatshirt example), you will decrease your chance of inventory debt by being super picky with your inventory.

Building an Online Presence (Decide where to sell)

When I started reselling in 2009, selling vintage online was a very small amount of the overall resale market. So instead of focusing online, I focused on in-person sales, choosing to sell at Brooklyn flea markets and hosting in person pop up events.

Looking back, I wish I had focused on building an online business but to be honest the technology tools weren’t as accessible as they are today. I mean my goodness, our mobile cameras are now better than a mid-level DSLR back in 2009!! 

Today, resellers have a plethora of options that I didn’t back in 2009. Here’s a recap of all the ways you can sell secondhand and vintage clothing. This is by no means a complete list, as more and more manners of selling are being created. 

1. Flea markets, which happen regularly (monthly, weekly, daily).

2. Pop up markets that are “branded” for special events and are usually branded for a specific audience 

3. Pop up markets that are local only, pop up markets that are more like “traveling vintage/secondhand fashion clothing sales.” An example of a popular traveling secondhand clothing show is called Thrift Con. 

4. Collective store fronts. These are stores where you can invest in a “rack fee” or “item fee” and then the store usually takes a small cut of commission, or requires you or someone you pay to work designated days at the store as a salesperson. These are typically local to an area and don’t travel. These can be effective for more “passive” income since you don’t have to be at the store selling. 

4. Opening your own store! Having a brick & mortar store front is still the dream for many resellers. Most resellers open their own store and still maintain participation with pop ups local to their area or online selling.

5. Speaking of online selling, the amount of resale marketplace platforms that have popped up in the last few years is mind boggling. Here’s a short list of the best ones for secondhand fashion and vintage clothing: 

    1. Depop
    2. Mercari 
    3. Poshmark 
    4. eBay 
    5. Etsy 
    6. Vinted 
    7. Tradesy 
    8. Thredup 
    9. District

6. LIVE sales. This is the newest manner of selling vintage and secondhand clothing. The trend swept the nation – and world – during the pandemic of 2020, but live selling has actually been around long before the pandemic thanks to international apps like ShopShops. Here’s a short list of live sale platforms you can sign up for in the US: 

    1. WhatNot
    2. Poshmark LIVE 
    3. Jamble 
    4. ShopShops (best for brick & mortar)

7. And then there is building your own audience and hosting LIVE sales to them exclusively. You can do this with Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch or anywhere you can build a following and go LIVE. Some of these platforms accept third-party software that will help you to gather “claims” on the items you present, while others you have to manually record the claims and send an invoice to the customer.

8. Interested in building your own audience and hosting a live sale where they can watch and easily claim items for sale? Loyal Shops is an excellent software that integrates easily with Facebook.

9. Buy-sell-trade stores. While the potential for return on investment is less with selling to buy-sell-trade stores, there is the opportunity to make an easy and quick profit if you are buying your inventory low enough. Most buy-sell-trade stores give 20-30 percent of their resale value to you in cash, and up to 50 percent in credit. Chains include Crossroads Trading, Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, Second Street Consignment and, specific to New York City, Beacon’s Closet. Crossroads and Beacons Closet have ‘mail in’ buy-sell-trade opportunities so that you don’t have to physically visit the store.

10. Finally, building your own marketplace via a website. WordPress, Shopify, Wix and other website platforms make it easy for you to design a site with your branded domain. With a little bit of elbow grease or hiring others to help, your website can have an integrated checkout where customers purchase the items listed. Most resellers launch a website when they know they can market to an online following or customer list (usually via email marketing) that they have built and have faith will convert to online purchases when marketed to.

Setting up an attractive and user-friendly website or online store

On the topic of branded website, how does one set up a user-friendly site or online store? Whether you choose to create your own website and market to a following or create an online store via a platform that does the marketing for you, it’s important to treat both like the “online version” of your brick & mortar store.

In other words, when the customer “digitally walks” into the store, they should feel like they understand the brand, know how to contact the seller if any questions arise, can easily find items they want by size and category, and overall can “trust” the brand with their money when making a purchase.

A few suggestions to ensure that your website or online store (via Poshmark, Depop, eBay, Etsy or any of the other marketplaces mentioned) is attractive and user-friendly: 

1. Create a logo for your brand. I love Fiverr. It’s best to have a vision for the logo and to sketch it out for the designer. Most designers will give you 3-5 versions of a logo based on your initial suggestions. From there, you can choose your favorite and ask for specific tweaks. The logo does not need to be perfect, and remember that you can always change it later as your brand evolves.

2. Typically a resale platform like Etsy, Depop, Poshmark etc. allows you to add a “header” that represents your brand. It usually appears integrated into the platform design, but it sets your online shop apart from others. It’s wise to design this header in a manner that makes you look professional. You can also visit Fiverr to find a header designer. Type in the search bar “Etsy banner designer,” or “Depop banner designer,” etc. 

3. Write a succinct and professional summary for your online shop. Include a professional email where allowed. Make a professional email using a separate Gmail account that has your brand name versus your personal name. 

4. Include shop policies such as return policy, how the customer can best ask questions, and when the customer should expect new inventory to drop. Not every platform gives you space to include information like that, but definitely use it when possible.

5. You might not think they matter, but tags do matter when listing your items for sale. The tags help customers to find your items among the hundreds to thousands on any given platform. Plus, categorizing your item by “blazer” or “outerwear” or “small” or “extra large” will also help them to shop your online store more effectively and in the direction they want, versus stumbling around until they find something they like. 

6. Take as many photos of the item as possible. Trust me on this! And if the platform allows you to include videos, do it. The video makes the item seem real and therefore, trustable. Plus, I have a hunch that platforms promote the listings with videos, simply because they are more user-friendly. 

7. Write accurate and detailed descriptions. Do not write your descriptions in stream of consciousness but rather, in a structured and duplicatable format. We’ll get into how to do that shortly! 

8. Always include measurements, and an average “US size (insert size here” for the buyer to compare to their measurements and average size. If you are using a model or mannequin (click here for some great examples) for the photos, then write in the description what the average size and measurements of the model and mannequin are. If you’re using a model, always include height. 

9. Consistently check on your online shop or branded domain. Don’t just let it “sit.” There’s so much more to discuss on this, but an active online storefront = active customers. Try to check and/or update with new listings at least every other day, if not every day.

10. Finally, and definitely not the least important but perhaps even more important than previous suggestions, is to get to know the platform where you are selling. For example, there are going to be trends per platform that will “help promote your listings” in search. We’re going to dive into this later, but the bottom line is that not every platform is the same. Pick and choose the best platforms for you after recognizing if the trends of that platform (both with clothing and listing) seem suitable for you. For example, some platforms seem to be more model friendly, but not every reseller can model their own styles or have funds to hire a model. If that’s the case, it might make sense for that reseller to choose a platform which doesn’t focus on models, but supports flat lays or mannequin shots.

Effective Product Presentation

Now that we’ve covered a checklist of foundational principles to make your online shop presentable and attractive, now we are going to dive into the best tips for effective product presentation. These nitty gritty tips will give you insights that took me years to figure out.

Next to noticing that resellers aren’t listening to the wants and needs of the mainstream market, the next mistake I notice many resellers make is not prioritizing quality photography when marketing their products.

Understandably, you can’t expect to be a professional photographer with a dedicated studio and the best lights, backdrop, etc. to shoot your products. And the good news is that in 2023, you definitely don’t have to be a professional photographer or even know how to use Adobe photoshop to edit your photos. All you need is a recent iPhone or Android camera (ideally from the last two years), a white wall, a hanger and nail, and one app called “Photo Room” that will help remove the backgrounds from your photos.

 

How to easily take high-quality photos for your online store

The easiest and least time-consuming way to take photos for your online store is to use a nail on a clean wall (although you can remove the background later – more on that shortly). Buy a ring light that stands up to six feet tall. Put the ring light on the item so that its evenly and brightly lit. Take your photo of the item with your iPhone or Android (no older than 2-3 years old so it has a decent camera). Rinse and repeat by taking photos of the item from multiple angles, close ups of details, front, back, side and label.

 

Let’s recap:

  • Hang item on the wall. Add a nail if you need to. Hang item with hanger. If you’re photographing pants, you can use a little bit of scotch tape to pin them to the wall in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and shows that they are pants.
  • Use a ring light to create even light
  • Use a fairly new iPhone or Android phone camera.
  • Take photos of the following angles of item: Front, back, side, close up of details like buttons, zippers, design, shoulders, sleeves, or anything else unusual/unique about item. Also take a photo of the label (if applicable) and brand material / care tag (if applicable). Film a 30 second video of the item. You can just film the front or, if the back is uniquely different, film the back too.
  • Use the app Photoroom to remove the background of the item.
  • Upload to your chosen platform or branded domain. Boom! You’re in resale business.

Above: Example of photo taken of item hung on a room divider.

 

To use or not to use a mannequin or not to use a mannequin?

When coaching newbie resellers, I’m often asked the age-old question of “should I use a mannequin?” to photograph my items.

The short answer is: no.

The long answer is: Yes, a mannequin can up the quality of your photos by helping the garment to “lay” well in the photo, as if it were on a body.

There are so many different kinds of mannequins. There are body forms (with arms and legs). There are half bodies (without legs, but have a head, arms, and torsos). There are headless mannequins. There are wooden vintage-esque mannequins. There are modern, all-black and minimalist mannequins. There are headless mannequins, and mannequins with heads and literal faux makeup on their faces.

Honestly, the mannequin you choose for your business has to be a decision you feel represents your brand and/or how easy you desire it to be for dressing the mannequin. For example, a mannequin with arms and legs means you have a literal “body” that can wear the clothing like a real human. But my personal experience of removing those arms and legs from the mannequin body in order to get the clothes on is time consuming and tedious. I personally just want to have a mannequin where I can “throw a garment” on quickly and boom, take my picture. But, if the mannequin doesn’t have arms that means the long sleeves of the garment may hang strange. It also means that for a half torso mannequin, there’s nowhere to put pants.

So honestly the best part about using a mannequin is that aesthetically, certain kinds of mannequins can help you to show the way an item might appear on a real human’s body. But the worst part? It can be really annoying to prepare the mannequin each time between shots.

The choice is yours and ultimately deciding on whether to buy a mannequin or not is up to you and your personal brand preference!

Whether you use a nail on the wall to hang items for photography, a flat lay on the ground or a mannequin and/or background, it’s wise to remove the background of your photos so that they have uniform design and the focus is on the item for sale itself.

If you’re scrolling through an online shop and notice that some of the photos have brick backgrounds and some of them have wooden floor backgrounds, it might throw you off a little. Or, it might not throw you off consciously but rather, subconsciously. Believe it or not, our brains make micro judgments on “quality” all the time.

While there are plenty of apps that are available to remove the background of photos, Photoroom was designed for resellers and is so easy for anyone to use. Plus, it offers a ton of free features to try before actually purchasing some of their bells and whistles. Download the Photoroom app today.

 

Next level suggestions for taking high quality photos for your online store (advanced)

My suggestion for any newbie reseller is to photograph your items for sale in the easiest and most duplicatable fashion. But, as you progress and gain confidence, you will understandably want to upgrade the quality of your photos and infuse your personal style into them.

Enter: Using models for photography.

I want to start out by saying that while it can be helpful to take photos of yourself wearing the garments to send to potential garments, I would never use a photo like the one above for selling an item on a website. This is because it’s so clearly a mirror selfie and just comes across as very casual and uncaring.

Thankfully, our phones have timers so that you can set the phone in a timer with a ring light behind it, stand against a wall wearing the garment and bam! 10 seconds later, have your photo. I do this with many outfits which fit me because I love showing potential customers how they would fit on my frame, and I can relay my measurements using the description on the items listing for sale.

When taking photos of the item on yourself as the model, don’t forget to photograph the back and other features of the garment. An idea is to take a photo of yourself wearing the garment from the front, and then still use the wall or a mannequin to capture the other features.

Writing engaging product descriptions and features

Yes, being a reseller isn’t just about finding the items and selling the items – it’s also about taking photos of the items, writing descriptions of the items and finally, listing the items! Plus so many more things, but we’ll get into that later.

Writing engaging product descriptions for your items doesn’t mean you need to write a novel.

My suggestion to create an easy structure that is duplicatable so you don’t have to “think” about what to write. Here’s a quick an easy plug & chug format. Thank me later!

1 – 2 sentences describing garment. A few things to consider: Is this a label or piece from a specific collection? Can you speak to the era or history of garment? Does this this garment remind you of a past or current cultural icon (think Jackie O, Stevie Knicks for past; Haley Beiber or Oliva Rodrigo for present)? Is there something super special to point out, such as the fact that’s reversible or has a hood? Whatever you want to say here will describe the garment from your lens, but without being long-winded.

Next, lay out the exact measurements where applicable. For US sellers, we will use inches. It’s usually best to measure and then double for the “all around” measurement for the bust and waist. For example: If the waist is 18 inches across, it’s a total of 36. If the bust is 15 across, its’ a total of 30.

Bust:

Waist (mention if high or low):

Length:

Length of arms:

Inseam:

Length of legs:

Other applicable measurements:

Approximate US size:

 

Remember to include flaws or anything the buyer should know before purchasing.

Make a note to finish on the used condition. Is it excellent, very good, good, or OK?

Sometimes sellers copy and paste their return / purchase / shipping policy in the item description as a reminder, or link to where it can be found in their online shop.

Want to include more? Include a link where the buyer can find items in the same category (such as “more shirts” or “more jumpsuits.”) Include your social media, business email, or any other form of contact.

The thing about descriptions is that the buyer wants to see all of the information up front and not go “looking for it.” So that’s why I would suggest including as much information in the description as you can, even if it can be found somewhere else on your site (for example, the shipping policy, which is probably somewhere else on the site but the customer might not go looking for it so better to include in description as well).

Feeling like you want to write a novel of a description for the item? AI technology for writing product descriptions is an emerging market. I personally haven’t used AI technology for my product descriptions but I’ve heard that eBay has introduced it to sellers and I predict it will be a quickly growing field as more and more resellers catch hold and understand how to optimize.

Here are a few AI technology companies you can refer to for copy writing and product description writing. Each have different bells and whistles and payment plans.

  1. ClickUp
  2. Magiscriptor
  3. Jasper
  4. Copy.ai
  5. Writesonic
  6. CopySmith
  7. Hypotenuse
  8. Descrii
  9. Quicktools by Picsart
  10. B12

Creating Compelling Product Listings and Marketing

Not only does a compelling product listing require high quality photos and a thoughtful, customer-service oriented description, but it requires a handful of marketing techniques that will help your listings to get seen and ultimately – purchased.

Search engine optimization best practices, social media and digital media marketing strategies as well as influencer and blogger marketing campaigns are some of the topics we are about to review. These are considered advanced level and so if you are just starting out in resale and listing products via an online shop, then don’t feel about skipping these steps for the time being.

Overwhelm can create inaction. The key to resale success is to list items for sale first and foremost. The rest of your resale journey is a step by step, day by day process.

Optimizing product listings for search engines

SEO or search engine optimization is the practice of correctly inputting relevant information to a product listing (or other piece of digital content) that will essentially tell “Google” or any other search engine “what the product / digital content exactly is.” 

The world of SEO is one of many layers and ever-changing priorities. So, please don’t feel like you need to become an expert in order to use SEO best practices for your resale business.

Here’s a checklist of what to do when listing your products to ensure that SEO is being utilized to its greatest potential, therefore increasing the chances that your item pops up in search results either on a platform or via a search engine like Google. 

  1. Always tag your listings. Tag your listings with relevant search terms. For example: 1920s dress, vintage dress, vintage 1920s dress, designer vintage dress, red vintage dress, 20s vintage fashion. Some platforms such as Poshmark limit the amount of tags you can use – so choose the ones which apply the most. You can also tag on a branded domain listing. This will appear differently if you are using Shopify vs Woocommerce vs Wix. But, the end goal is that the listing will include tags. 
  2. Title the listing with search terms that are relevant. Sometimes you need the knowledge to do this correctly, such as identifying that a style of clothing is specific to a search term that is trending, for example “music festival dress” or “art deco necklace.” The key is to be clear in the title but also to use the best search terms most relevant for the item. 
  3. Include search terms in the description of the item. If you are following my 1-2 sentence description rule of thumb, you will most likely automatically include search terms. 
  4. Next level and sometimes very tedious is to title your photos with the search term. This is called “meta tagging” and is very helpful for image search on search engines. So instead of uploading a photo to a listing as img4567 or whatever it comes out of the camera as,  you will manually change the title of the photo to something with search keywords. For example: “1950s-vintage-circle-skirt” or “grunge-revival-90s-cotton-maxi-dress.” 
  5. Last, when relevant on your branded domain, include content via the site blog and about/ more information pages that discuss vintage fashion, vintage clothing, secondhand shopping, and other relevant topics. By building a branded domain website to sell your secondhand goods, you have the opportunity to also grow a SEO optimized site with consistent content updates. Take a mini course on SEO perhaps via Skillshare or hire a professional on Fiverr to help you with the next steps.

Utilizing social media platforms and digital marketing strategies for promotion

Trust me, I get that there are so many things to do in a resellers day and sometimes social media just has to fall at the bottom of the list. 

However, I am here to be real with you. Listing your items on resale platforms and via your own website will not always “automatically draw customers in.” In fact, it’s becoming more difficult to attract customers passively on websites and marketplaces as in fact they are quite saturated with sellers and your listings can get lost in the mix. 

What you can control, however, is how you market your listings to a growing social media audience. 

There are an array of ways to build a social media audience. From personal experience, I’ve found that for one person to actually succeed building and converting a social media following into an audience, it’s best to focus on two platforms at most. 

Platforms where you could post relevant content to the secondhand and vintage fashion world to build an audience include: Instagram, Facebook / Facebook groups – pages, TikTok, YouTube

While there are plenty of other social media apps, the ones just mentioned have the largest amount of potential buyers into your product and are designed to help you grow quickly when producing quality and engaging content. 

Building the right content to attract an audience of potential customers takes time. But, what’s most important is that you are consistently making offers “to buy” your products via social media. This is one of the mistakes I also see resellers make when focusing on their social media audience: They believe it has to be a “certain size” before they ask for the sale. Not true! If you have 300 followers, yes, you can begin marketing your items for sale. But, don’t market items for sale all the time. The rule of thumb is that for every 1 marketing post, there should be 3 posts that are sharing things of value, entertainment, intrigue, etc. 

While I can’t teach you social media content strategy and inspiration today, what I can do is suggest that you visit Skillshare to take a course on social media or Fiverr to hire a social media marketing professional. 

I am also here to reassure you that creating quality content does not have to be perfect. Look to see what others are doing, gain some ideas, and then get to work. You will learn as you go and as your followers and sales grow, your motivation to keep going and learning from there will increase.

Collaborating with fashion influencers and bloggers

Last, we are going to discuss collaborations with social media influencers, blogs, stores and other fashion-forward digital properties. 

As you build your following on social media you are bound to actually use social media for what it was intended to be: socializing! 

I have met many friends on the internet including Thrifters Anonymous and the Dress Fiend (shown above), both of whom have collaborated with me via social media to promote my brand and my business activities. 

Collaborating with others is the fast way to success, especially when it can be mutually beneficial. This means that you are truly giving something in return for whatever they are giving you. And also that you aren’t “expecting results.” When you have a mindset of expectation, it actually can derail your progress. Because the truth is that we never know how a collaboration is going to go, but what we can control is our attitude and our excitement around it. This is a mindset of gratitude that will attract more opportunities without even having to try.

 

Here’s a short list of ways you can reach out to other fashion-forward individuals and digital properties to create a collaboration that grows your brand, attracts customers and converts sales: 

  1. Ask to interview an influencer via IG live, Tik Tok live, Facebook live, etc. Ask that individual to promote the live interview to their following before and after, therefore encouraging their following to check out you.
  2. Offer to send a fashion influencer (preferably who wears secondhand/vintage and aligns with your brand) some free pieces and to wear them and promote your online shop. Ask them to include your online shop in their profile link for a period of time. 
  3. Host a giveaway with a few other online shops and/or fashion influencers. Make the giveaway as big as possible by combining giveaway items from everyone. For example, if you + 3 other online shops host a giveaway, then there will be a giveaway prize of four combined efforts, such as each contributing a $75 gift card. The giveaway must include an activity that attracts the following of all participating parties. If all participating parties promote the giveaway, then the cross promotion potential is quite high – and effective! Note: Giveaways can be tricky, so always do your due diligent research to learn more about safely and professionally hosting them. 
  4. Ask local fashion influencers and bloggers to model for your online shop in exchange for free clothing. Ask them if its OK to tag them in promotion of the photos on social media, and ask if they would promote some of the photos and encourage their followers to support you as well. 
  5. Pay an influencer or blogger to create a sponsored post about your brand, website, event, store, etc. Ensure that the payment = the value of the requirements of the post. This post might be similar to what they would have created by showing off the free clothing you sent them, but ideally you ask them to do something that is specific and advantageous to promoting your brand. 

That was just a short list of some ways you can use digital marketing to expand the reach of your business and increase your online following. And the best part? The list above doesn’t even include publicity opportunities with local press or online magazines! 

When it comes to attracting press, I’ve found that with your organic growth, the press will find you. Or better yet, you naturally connect with the press online or in person and can more easily say “oh, I can do this for you, if you need.” Chasing press is very time consuming and is better suited for larger brands that can hire a publicist or even a part time employee to help with press outreach. 

Effective Pricing and Profit Maximization

The number one question I get from more seasoned secondhand clothing sellers is “how do I price my garments?”

There are many tips and strategies for pricing your garments. This topic requires an entire post, course and coaching session in and of itself!

But what I can share with you is that pricing is both a formulaic approach, a personal approach, and a “what is trending right now” and “what are the comps saying” approach. As well as sometimes you can sell something for a lot of money somewhere and you can’t sell it for anything somewhere else!

Here is a breakdown of how you can approach pricing. I suggest choosing the method that’s best for you to maintain “overall” but also keeping in mind that how you price something is also contingent on where you are selling it, the season or trend season you are selling it, and how long you have kept it within your inventory.

Calculating costs, implementing effective discounting strategies for profits

Pricing method #1: The most basic rule of thumb is the 2.5 multiplication of the initial price rule. This means if you bought it for $20, you want to be able to charge $20 x 2.5 = $50. Now, let’s say you bought something for $1. Then perhaps selling it for $2.50 is not really what you want to do. But, this rule of thumb is very helpful when you are investing in higher dollar pieces. If you don’t think you can make a return of at least 2.5, then it’s wise to re-consider buying the piece at all just so that you aren’t wasting time making a small amount of money.

 

Pricing method #2: Checking the comps on sites like eBay and Poshmark to discern an average selling / sold cost. OK ya’ll – this is another method of pricing that really truly depends on the item you are specifically selling. So what does “comp” mean? It means comparable, and is actually a real estate term in its origin. When real estate agents are pricing homes in an particular area, they go by the “solds” of homes in the area to calculate part of the value of a newly listed home. So if the homes in an area have recently sold in the low 200s, and you try to list your home in the high 500,000, the chances of you selling your home for that much is much slimmer than if you were to price closer to the “average sold costs” of similar homes in your area. Remember the key word here is similar: If your home is 20 acres and 8 bedrooms, and the other recently sold homes are 1 acre and 3 bedrooms, then yes, there is going to be a price difference between your home and the recently sold homes. 

Let’s translate this to a resale perspective. Using comps works best when you can compare your item to the exact item as sold on resale platforms or, similar enough items. But the more specific, the better, and the more confident you can feel in your pricing. Let’s say you have a specific designer piece from Alice & Olivia. You can possibly find that piece as sold and being sold for online. 

If the piece sold for say, $58, $78, $60 and $72, you can take all of those costs and average them together for an average “sold cost.” 

Then you can refer to see if the item is currently selling. Sometimes it’s not, but oftentimes with  modern items, it is. Let’s say the average selling costs are $100, $125, $80 and $72. Well, you can also average these together and you’ll get the average selling cost of: 

But, do you want to sell your item more quickly? Then most likely you will want to be slightly below or right at the bottom of the pack.

 

Pricing method #3: A combination of the above two, plus, what you intuitively feel it will sell for depending on where you are selling it, how “special” it is, the “size” of it, the “trending qualities” of it and other variables that are going to make it a more desirable piece. 

Let’s take a nearly floor length black leather trench coat in great vintage condition. At the time of this article, this is quite the desirable piece. The brand might not be something you can specifically find via running comps online, but you can still find similar styles by typing in the right keywords such as “floor length leather trench coat” or “vintage leather trench coat.” Now, let’s also consider that you are selling this leather trench coat on consignment at a brick & mortar store in an urban area. And just to add another spice to the mix, you happened to purchase this piece for just $10. Wowza! 

You might find via comps that the average sold prices and selling prices are somewhere between $100-$350. Yes, that’s quite the range! But you also know what pieces have historically sold for in this particular store because you’ve been selling there for some time and understand the market. You’ve seen leather jackets generally sell for between $175-$275 at the store. These were pretty unique leather jackets, but you have a leather trench coat which is truly one of those grail items. 

So, with all of these factors in mind and also knowing that you bought it for $10, you decide to price the coat at $225. 

This might be a little on the “higher side” but you know that if you start high, you can always bring the cost of the item down. You also know that its November, which is prime season for investing in a coat like this. So if it doesn’t sell in the next 4-6 weeks, it’s time to mark it down. 

As you read above, knowing “how” and “what” to price a vintage item is part formulaic, part circumstance, part gut instinct. 

The next question I am often asked with pricing is the following: “how much should I put an item on sale when I run a sale?” 

There are many different perspectives on how to price an item for sale in the secondhand clothing market. 

Again, it really depends on where, when and how you are selling it. For example, if you selling your items via an online sale, you can put them “on” sale by selling things easily in “lots” or “multiples.” This means that for one price, you can purchase multiple items together which originally cost much more when priced separately. 

Or, if you choose to sell at a flea market, you can easily do a “buy 1, get 1 ½ off” sale. This encourages sales in the moment so that you have less to lug home at the end of market day. It’s also very easy to verbally translate to shoppers in the both. 

When selling online via an online shop or branded domain, it’s easiest to do a direct mark down meaning “this item was once $55 and now it’s $25” or a percentage-wide markdown of everything on the site or within a designated sale section, such as “20 percent off everything sitewide for the next 48 hours.” 

Knowing when to run a sale is ultimately up to you. If you are sourcing quality inventory that is stellar in appearance, trend and condition, then you should really only consider hosting quarterly sales. Anything more than this is going to decrease your brand value and train your customers to expect that you put everything on sale and that they should just wait.

Quarterly sales are a great way to push out stale inventory every 3 months that is taking up valuable real estate in your resale room, storage unit, storefront or wherever else you have a designated business space. 

Remember that the “inventory debt” of an item is not just the amount you spent buying it, but the time you spent buying it, the gas money, and the cost of real estate it eats up month after month. For example, if your storage unit costs $150 per month and and 25 percent of your inventory isn’t selling each month, then your inventory is costing $37.50 per month of real estate value. Makes you look at things differently, right?! 

Another approach to hosting sales is to host one sale per year that is an epic “blow out sale.” This approach is great because you can run multiple discounts and incentives. The negative is that you will have to hold onto your inventory until sale time, which means that you are allowing that unsold inventory to take up valuable real estate. 

But, on the flipside, having one yearly massive blow out sale gives you options. It also gives your customers something to really look forward to. Think of the yearly blowout sale as a “sample sale” of your items. They are heavily marked down and the more a customer buys, the better discounts they get. For example, spend $300 and get $50 off. Or, spend $300 and get free shipping. Or, but 2 and get 1 of equal or lesser value, half off. 

If your social media or in person following is strong and you can drive traffic to a yearly or quarterly blow out sale, then you are going to have great results. The goal is to price things high enough that when you do in fact run a sale, you are STILL making profit.

Selling things for the same price or LESS than what you bought them for is a reseller’s nightmare. It’s OK – I’ve been there! Back to being more selective with the inventory you purchase. The more selective you are, then the less likely you are going to have inventory that won’t sell or will only sell at the cost you bought it.

Utilizing accounting software and tools

The most basic of accounting software to help you keep your resale cost of goods, revenue and business expenses organized is Quickbooks. 

If you are like most resellers you will be taking payment in a variety of ways. You’ll receive monies from the platforms where you sell, you’ll receive cash, Venmo payments, PayPal payments, and more. 

You might not like hearing this, but try to limit the amount of ways you accept payments so that you can have an easier approach to managing your books. 

Using Quickbooks is not necessarily a skill that you would have learned in college or through your job, but it is designed to help non-bookkeepers to keep track of what flows in, and what flows out. Another leading software is called Zoho. 

The super positive thing about using software to track your income and expenses is that it helps with taxes immensely. No more scrambling to review your expenses from credit cards and payment process systems. If you keep it all in one place and make an effort to review monthly and quarterly, come tax season, you are 90 percent better off than most small business owners. 

If you feel like manually entering your data without investing in software then you can use Google docs to access spreadsheets for free. 

I recommend creating one spreadsheet with multiple tabs. One of the tabs would be the cost of goods (COG) tab. The columns would identify different pieces of the product listing and price. For example, one column is the product name, next is the cost of the product/item, next is the asking price, then the selling price or perhaps a column identifying if it were placed on sale or not and then another column showing the $$ gained in numerical or percentage amounts. See an example below.

Now, you will need to know a thing or two about excel formulas (knowledge that not everyone has gained in their lifetime!) But if you don’t mind doing it all manually, it is a great practice to maintain these “do it yourself” books so that you can review monthly and see what is actually going on in your business. One of my favorite business quotes is “numbers don’t lie.” 

The next tab of the excel spreadsheet can be documenting other areas of your business, such as expenses, social media followers, website views and anything else that you want to track on a weekly or monthly basis. 

And finally, I suggest adding a tab to the excel spreadsheet that itemizes your “goals” per month. This can be numerical or even an action list. Think of it as a vision board, accountability checklist and inner-corporate review, all at the same time.

I am not an accredited tax professional and by no means am a credible source for all the things you need to know about taxes and managing your business accounts, but what I can say from a personal point of view is that keeping your money in a business checking account and business credit card is the easiest way to track your income and expenses throughout the year. 

If you blend your business monies with your personal monies, well, that’s just a recipe for disaster. 

My next rule of thumb is to hire a trusted tax professional in advance of tax season to handle your tax needs for the end of fiscal year. Trust me on this one – doing your business taxes is a nightmare you do not have to endure, plus, the chances of accuracy for what you owe or are owed will be much more likely with a professional.

Providing Excellent Customer Service

Just like any other industry, customer service is the lifeblood of resale in that it creates a trusted connection between you and the client. Resale is an industry where you can easily create recurring purchases from clients who know, like and trust you simply based on your customer service skills!

 

Ensuring prompt and professional communication

We are living in an era where digital communication can happen in a variety of ways. From email, to direct messages on Facebook, to Instagram comments and even direct text message marketing or Zoom calls. 

The key to it all is taking time to type your response in a professional, kind and service-oriented manner.

I have learned that in some instances I become very “casual” and I drop my professional demeanor. This does not help my relationship with the client in the long run. It also does not create healthy boundaries, so that on Instagram I am maintaining a professional conversation only rather than oversharing about my life or whatever is happening that day. 

Of course we want to be friendly with our clients and sometimes they become friends. But in matters of business – be it with strangers, trusted clients or friends/family – maintaining business professionalism is key for overall success and long-term success.

 

Here are a few suggestions to help maintain professional with your communication: 

  • Reply within 24 hours, and if you can’t fully reply in 24 hours, message the client back letting them know when you can fully reply. I will say something like, “Hello (insert name here). Thank you so much for your message! I’m sorry to delay but I am offline until (xyz date and time). I’ll be able to properly reply to this message by end of day on (xyz) date. If you don’t hear from me by then please don’t hesitate looping back! Thank you in advance for your patience.” 
  • Always err on the side of “kind curiosity.” Sometimes my defense mode kicks in and instead of listening to a customer fully, I automatically go into “defense mode.” I think that this is a sign of being burnt out and over worked and so if you begin to notice this in yourself, be kind to yourself and then share that kindness with your customer. 
  • If you make a mistake – fix it – or do something to make it right. I recently shipped a package to a customer and it was literally opened, an item pulled out, worn and then put back into the polymailer. The mailer was taped shut and arrived to the client. Well, we both could tell that the package has been tampered with and the item worn. I refunded the customer and processed my claim with USPS. The claim was denied (horrible right) but I did the right thing by refunding the customer. Of course the issue wasn’t her fault and of course it wasn’t my fault. But in business we do have to take into consideration that there will be losses. This customer continued her business with me and purchased it again within two weeks. We created a stronger bond of trust because of the incident, even though I may not receive money from USPS and may take a loss in the end. 
  • Sounds basic but, capitalize your sentences, address the customer by their name, say things like “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.” These basic things go a long way. 
  • Is the customer frustrated, upset, angry at you? Always say “I understand you are feeling this way because (xyz).” Instead of being defensive and deflecting their emotion, empathize with it. Even if you aren’t truly feeling empathy – it’s good to relieve their feelings by siding with them. If you go against the customer, you are only going to fuel the fire, lose the customer, and create a bigger issue than need be. 

Of course there are more suggestions for professional and courteous customer service in the resale industry that is specific to secondhand clothing and vintage fashion. If there’s anything left to consider its to “imagine you are your own customer.” With this in mind, you’ll begin to see how you can be a better reseller and more seasoned professional all around.

 

Encouraging customer reviews and referrals

Many newbies in any business sector assume that “if you build it, they will come.” Of course, yes, some people will come. But not all the people will come until you begin to ask! 

Asking for what you want is a key to life and definitely a key to growing your business. Did you know word of mouth is the most valued form of “spreading business awareness?” This is because we trust the referrals of others who are in our social or professional circles. We believe their opinions even more than the reviews we read online. 

Have you ever asked someone for “their favorite pizza spot” or “best vacation destination?” Of course, these questions can be answered by typing into Google and an array of options will appear. But we still prefer the suggestions and answers of those we know, like and trust. This is because as humans we like to do what others close to us are doing, and enjoy that shared experience. 

So, with each customer you make, don’t hesitate to tell them directly and authentically: “Referrals are the lifeblood of this business! Your word is gold to others. If you refer my business to a peer and they make a purchase, I’ll give you 50 percent off your next purchase with me. Thank you so much in advance. Here’s a flier you can forward to a few of your fashion friends to make it easy.” 

This is called “referral marketing” and while it does take time and can feel tedious up front, referral marketing absolutely works and actually makes your referred clients so excited to work with you … all because they were referred to you by someone they know, like and trust. 

As suggested in the hypothetical ask above, it’s good to create a flier that you can digitally send your customers either over email or social media (or if you’re close enough, text message) so that they have something to share with others. 

Depending on the platform where you are selling, reviews will be an integral part of your success when clients who have never purchased from you before land on your online shop. 

Also, different platforms will promote online shops with more reviews and more favorable reviews. This means that if you get negative reviews, your online shop could potentially fall lower in the listings and have less chance of being found by customers searching for items you have. 

When asking customers for reviews, it’s also important to authentically and directly ask. Don’t just assume because the platform “requests a review from them” that they will automatically write a review. We are honestly so busy doing so many things that ignoring automated emails is pretty much part of our everyday nature. 

But when you take the time to write your customer an ask for a review and explain why you need it, then they are more likely to stop what they are doing and fulfill that ask. 

Now, there are going to be times (unfortunately) when a customer isn’t satisfied with their purchase. You might not know that, so it’s best to ask for reviews this way: “Thank you so much for your recent purchase from my online shop! It was a pleasure shipping this to you. I hope you absolutely love it. If you love my customer service and this product, would you kindly leave a 5 star review and a line of testimonial? 5 star reviews are the lifeblood of my business. If you have feedback for me in lieu of writing a 5 star review, please don’t hesitate sharing that with me here. I am always looking to improve my business practices. Thank you in advance!” 

Basically what this type of ask is insinuating is the following: Only write a review if you’re going to leave me 5 stars and also, if you aren’t going to leave me 5 stars, instead of leaving a review at all please give me feedback here that I am open to hearing. 

If you happen to have a branded domain where there is no easy way to automate the review process, then you will most likely have to message your clients individually for reviews and testimonials and build a review page within your website. It’s great to keep that updated and to incentivize your customers to share reviews by offering coupons for future purchases. 

  • Last, maintaining a Google business profile is a great way to gather reviews in one location and link that business profile to your preferred website of choice.

My Google business profile for my secondhand shopping tours, for example, has gathered a few reviews. I am working on asking my past clients to leave a review on Google because I know that future customers might see this profile before they click into my secondhand shopping tour booking platforms, which have hundreds of reviews. 

You can create a Google business profile for free by clicking here.

Tips for Success and Pitfalls to Avoid

By now you are probably thinking to yourself, “Yikes! There is so much to remember about resale! This is overwhelming.” 

Truthfully, when I set out to write this article the first thing I considered was how much of a comprehensive piece I wanted to create for any aspiring or current resellers.

I decided to include all the information I could possibly squeeze into a page because honestly, I think that this information should be free and accessible to everyone who wants it. I find a ton of information on the internet is scattered and also not in depth. In other words, it only scratches the surface. 

However, you still might have questions, concerns, insecurities. And I want to say that is totally normally. I am constantly learning about this ever changing industry. My commitment to stay ahead of the trends and to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. That way, when I meet with sellers on my platform or perhaps meet with them for one on one coaching, I truly know what’s going on and can relate to their current situation. 

Business is business and the most important principles do not change, no matter the industry. Here’s a quick recap of what to maintain as a resale business owner, as well as common challenges and mistakes to look out for.

Need more support? Check out my coaching services. After working with literally hundreds of sellers and being on the receiving end of coaching services myself, I’ve designed my 1 on 1 consulting and coaching to be super affordable (no crazy $$ requests here). Ultimately, my goal is for you to get the answers and support you need with motivation to take the right actions for the best results. I look forward to potentially working with you!

 

Resale business best practices:

  1. Don’t over invest on inventory. Be picky about what you buy.
  2. Practice the rule of 2.5x your investment – minimum, when charging for cost of goods. 
  3. Create consistency in your marketing, whether it be hosting live sales, listing on platforms, or promoting on social media. Ask for the sale consistently. 
  4. Only buy high quality and nearly excellent condition goods, unless its a super rare and desirable piece (like a beat up valuable T-shirt that you know will sell for hundreds regardless of condition)
  5. Choose no more than 2 platforms to truly “put all of your effort into.” Consider software like List Perfectly to cross list to multiple platforms and save time. 
  6. Think like your customer. What do they want and need from you, in order to feel happy and trusting in buying from your online or in person store? 

Plus so many more best practices and suggestions!

 

Common challenges and mistakes to look out for:

  1. This is repetitive but it bears the needs for repeating: Remember that holding onto stale inventory equals inventory debt, simply because it’s taking up space that you are paying rent, mortgage, or utilities on. 
  2. Buying only what you love and not the trends that the mainstream market loves 
  3. Taking photos of your inventory with inconsistent backgrounds. One photo has a brick background, another granite, and another one is a white wall. Use a background removal app to create consistency. 
  4. Purchasing items that aren’t super wearable, such as size 0 or teeny tiny garments. Yes there is a market for that, but statistically it’s not the main stream market. 
  5. Spending more time sourcing than selling. 
  6. Not providing your customers with the information they need up front on the listing, such as measurements.

Final Thoughts

How to resell clothing is a topic of many depths, perspectives and approaches. What I’ve provided in this article is a catch-all guide for all kinds of resellers (whether it’s clothing or furniture; T-shirts or women’s classic vintage; appliances to motorcycles and beyond) to use for their longterm resale success. 

Of course, there are going to be various nuances per resale  market. A great example is that the T-shirt market has such rare pieces that even in terrible quality, will sell for hundreds to thousands. 

As you get to know the market of resale you are dealing with you will also absorb the nuances. Sometimes an article can’t teach things, only experience can.

My approach to how to resell clothing focused on women’s secondhand and vintage clothing. The global secondhand clothing industry is predicted to grow into a 350 billion dollar industry by 2027, according to ThredUp, a leading online secondhand store. When I first started reselling, the idea of evening buying your clothes from a thrift store was looked down upon. These days, if you aren’t buying secondhand, then what the heck are you even doing?! 

Thankfully we are living in a world where secondhand clothing is becoming more and more the norm and expectation. This means that there will be more and more room for new sellers to emerge and gain a portion of the market share. While you might not have the energy or desire to make a multi six figure business in resale, there is absolutely opportunity for a part time to full income with the right sweat equity and strategy, as well as consistent selling and marketing strategy. 

 

Sell Vintage with Vintage & Luxe Boss Babes

If you are an aspiring or current reseller of women’s secondhand fashion and vintage clothing, I encourage you to join my growing marketplace and live sale platform, Vintage & Luxe Boss Babes. Click here to join (it’s free!). We encourage resellers of all levels to apply! 

For more tips on resale and to keep in touch about the Vintage & Luxe Boss Babes community, click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

 

Learn More About the Art of Resale 

Shipping Guide – Everything You Should Exactly Buy 

Dating Vintage Clothing – The Ultimate How-To 

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