12 Ways to Get Free Items to Flip for a Profit


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free items to flip for a profit

One of my favorite side hustles is buying low and selling high.

This is the business model of Amazon, Walmart, and pretty much every other store in the history of stores. You buy inventory at one price and resell it at a higher price. It works great, but you still have to buy that initial inventory.

What if you wanted to start with super low upfront costs?

Turns out, there are lots of ways to get “free” stuff to resell, and I want to walk you through 10 of those methods in today’s show.

Let’s get right to it!

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1. Get Free Stuff From Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace

Years ago, I spoke with Ryan Finlay about how he made a full-time living buying and selling used appliances on Craigslist.

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are teeming with free items you can resell, especially in bigger cities. Ryan found out about this tactic when someone posted an ad for a broken 42-inch LCD TV.

Ryan was the first to respond, and he drove to the man’s home some 25 minutes away to pick it up. By the time he got there, the man already had over 90 emails inquiring about the free TV!

Competition for free stuff is stiff, so you have to be fast!

If you’re late to the party but still want the item, Ryan’s advice was to make a cash offer.

With this tactic, you may be able to cut through the clutter of all the other freebie-seekers.

2. “Reverse Logistics” Reselling

Another way to score some free inventory to resell is to do reverse logistics.

Direct-to-consumer brands typically offer some a money-back guarantee to help convince people to buy.

But when a customer wants to return the product, the company can’t really turn around and resell that product as new anymore — because it’s not. And they can’t resell it as used themselves without undercutting or cannibalizing their primary business.

That’s why they turn to companies like Sharetown.

Sharetown helps direct-to-consumer brands deal with return requests. In turn, the company dispatches local reps to pick up the products, clean them up, and list them for resale.

side hustle with sharetown

And to make it easy and attractive for those reps, they only have to pay for the product after it sells.

Staci Aburto reported earning $3,000-$4,000 a month flipping furniture as a Sharetown rep in Phoenix, Arizona. She and her husband spend 6-10 hours a week on the business.

If I take the low end of her earning estimate ($3,000) and the high end of her hourly input (10 hours a week), that works out to about $75 an hour or around $37 per hour each (if both she and her husband are putting in the 10 hours a week).

No matter how you slice it, that’s a pretty well-paying side hustle!

Side Hustle Nation Approved
Become a Sharetown Rep
4.0

Sharetown reps make money by reselling gently-used furniture and bed-in-a-box mattresses. Top reps earn $4000+ per month.

Pros:
  • Low startup costs
  • Great earning power
  • No hunting for inventory
Cons:
  • Requires a truck or SUV
  • Bulky items to store
  • Not available in all areas

3. Dumpster Diving

Tiffany She’ree is known as Dumpster Diving Mama on TikTok, where she now has over 3 million followers.

The mom of four told Yahoo News that she made over $30,000 in 2018 just selling her dumpster finds.

Examples of treasures she’s found include:

  • a $3,000 armoire
  • brand-new unopened makeup
  • a Michael Kors handbag
  • boxes of brand-new pet food

dumpster diving

Tiffany keeps some of the items she finds, but she sells the majority of her scores via garage sales and platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, and Poshmark.

As far as strategy goes, dumpsters behind higher-end stores in more affluent neighborhoods would probably be your best bet.

Tiffany stressed that consistency is key. “I just go every day and it’s a hit or miss. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s part of the fun!”

4. Print on Demand

Print on demand is a “hybrid” product business because you’re selling physical goods but you never see or touch them. You don’t have any physical inventory to hold. You’re just uploading digital designs, which makes this a super low overhead business to start.

Heather Johnson of HeatherXStudio.com shared how she thinks about pricing this “free inventory” business. She doesn’t have to buy the product until she has a paying customer!

“I try to generally price my items with a 30-40% profit margin,” Heather told me.

With T-shirts sourced from Printify, this works out to about a $10 profit. But Heather often runs a 15-20% off sale on her Etsy store, so that eats into the profit margin. Plus, there are fees to take into account.

Similar models would include printables and digital products on Etsy or e-books or paperback journals on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

The other advantage here is you can create something once and sell it over and over again.

5. eBay Consignment

You probably know someone who’s got a bunch of things they want to get rid of but never gets around to it because they don’t want to take pictures, create listings, and deal with shipping.

This is where eBay brokers like Jamie McGlothlin come in. For a fee, she’ll take the item out of your hands and sell it for you.

Jamie has been doing this side hustle for years, and it’s turned into a full-time business.

ebay-consignment-jamie-mcglothlin

A co-worker asked Jamie if she could help them sell some dolls they wanted to get rid of. Jamie agreed and listed the dolls at a starting price of $9.99.

Almost all of the dolls sold for $100-150, much to Jamie and her co-worker’s excitement.

Jamie’s co-worker had a large collection of dolls, and that kept her busy for a while. Eventually, she started meeting other doll collectors through her online interactions.

Jamie now charges a 37% commission, which covers all eBay and merchant fees as well as shipping costs. Her average annual gross sales amount is around $350,000.

6. Consignment Events and Flash Sales

Continuing with the consignment theme, Megan Church started Pineapple Consignment as an events-based business. She’d spend months organizing the venue, curating her inventory, and marketing the event.

consignment events and flash sales

The whole process was a lot of fun, even if the first one was only modestly profitable. However, the pandemic forced Megan to take her consignment business online. The process she set up to sell online looks like this:

  1. Sellers submit pictures and measurements of the items they want to sell through a Google form.
  2. Megan picks 30-50 items of the best items for sale.
  3. She creates graphics for each one using Canva. The graphics include the price and measurements of the items.
  4. She drops a sneak peek of each graphic on her Instagram to promote the items ahead of the sale.
  5. On sale day, she lists the items for sale, operating on a first-come, first-served basis.

Megan keeps track of the items using Excel spreadsheets and creates waitlists for each one to keep things fair. Once an item is paid for, she connects the buyer and seller through Instagram direct messages to monitor the transaction.

Megan often never saw or held the items she sold. But by being involved in the transaction, she was able to curate a safe environment for people. “It was similar to Facebook Marketplace in model, but I took out the pain points,” she explained.

For online sales, Megan takes 30% of the sales price and passes 70% on to the seller.

7. Flyp

One interesting way to source free inventory to flip is with the Flyp app. Flyp connects resellers with people who have name-brand clothes, shoes, or vintage accessories they want to get rid of.

flyp

Inside the app, you can bid on “lots” (bundles of products) from Flyp members by sharing what you think the items should sell for and the commission percentage you’ll charge for selling them.

Typical commission rates on Flyp are 30-50% but note that you’ll need to pay marketplace fees with those earnings. That said, I think it’s worth a look if you’re focused on the clothing niche.

8. Estate Sales and Auctions

I connected with a Side Hustle Show listener who specializes in estate sales. He reaches out to local realtors getting ready to list a property.

Realtors have a vested interest in getting inventory and items cleared out of houses so they can get them staged and sold to collect their own paycheck.

The estate sale organizer will take 25% of everything that sells, and they typically enlist the help of some online auction networks to reach a wider audience of buyers. He even mentioned tacking on a 15% fee to the buyer.

So, if there’s a $100 item, the estate sale organizer will earn $25 from the seller and the buyer will end up paying $115 for it after the buyer fee. The organizer would earn $40 in total.

Now, this side hustle does take a lot of work in terms of organizing the inventory and prepping it for sale, but you can see how it can pay off pretty nicely if a house has $10,000-20,000 worth of stuff in it.

9. Pallet Flipping

This next side hustle has been described as “the middleman method,” where you essentially take business byproducts and play matchmaker between buyers and suppliers.

In Varnie Sambola’s case, he flips wooden pallets for profit. Varnie started his business, MV Pallet Solutions, in 2020 and has already scaled it to $1,000 a day (and beyond).

He credits John Wilker’s Simplest Biz course with helping him get started.

What he does is buy used pallets at a very low price from companies that receive pallets daily as part of their product shipments.

He then posts the pallets online on Facebook, waits for companies to reach out, or goes out himself to look for businesses that could use pallets.

Sometimes, Varnie would even score inventory for free.

10. Drop Shipping

Rounding out this list is drop shipping, which comes in a lot of different flavors. The specific type I have in mind is what might be called “high ticket” drop shipping.

In broad strokes, drop shipping is where you sell a product on behalf of a manufacturer or supplier but don’t touch the inventory. When you make a sale, they ship it to the customer on your behalf, so you don’t have the inventory risk of having purchased it on speculation up front. You don’t have the storage and shipping logistics either.

Rene Delgado described starting an online drop shipping store for bounce houses. He had the following criteria in choosing his niche. The products needed to:

  • Cost over $500
  • Be drop shipping-friendly
  • Be hard to find in brick-and-mortar stores
  • Have over 20,000 Google searches every month

By “drop shipping-friendly,” Rene meant products from industries where he could easily establish a relationship with manufacturers. Using that criteria, Rene narrowed down his niche to three items, ultimately selecting bounce houses. He started BounceHouseStore.com, where he sells bounce houses. He made $300k in sales in his first year in business.

high ticket dropshipping

Rene says he aims for 12-15% profit margins, meaning for every $1,000 worth of product he sells, $120-150 of that will flow through to his bottom line.

Now, this business model does take a lot of work upfront to develop the storefront and build supplier relationships, but it’s viable nonetheless.

One thing to consider though is how you’ll differentiate yourself from other drop shippers selling the same product from the same suppliers at the same price.

11. Real Estate Wholesaling

The idea with real estate wholesaling is to:

  • find a distressed property / motivated seller
  • get the property under contract for a fixed price
  • quickly flip it to another investor or buyer before the closing
  • make a profit on the spread between your acquisition contract price and the sales price to your buyer

The real key is building your network of buyers first, so you have a hungry audience to sell to once you find a great deal.

12. Reselling Software

Chris Lollini makes a multi-6-figure income reselling software. He sells “seats” or licenses to specific software products that already exist, and provides a layer of support and consulting in the middle.

Basically you’re buying access to these tools at wholesale rates, and re-selling them at retail, and profiting on the spread. But you wouldn’t necessarily have to buy your own licenses until you had a customer ready to go.

Software reselling can be a great business with recurring revenue and strong margins — without the upfront development expense. (And potentially without a lot of the technical ongoing maintenance and support as well.)

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

1 thought on “12 Ways to Get Free Items to Flip for a Profit”

  1. Hello All the stuff your suggesting seems to be very american and yes it would work in your country but i can’t see how it would work in western sydney australia?

    Great site by the way.

    Regards,

    Fiona

    Reply

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