Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Need extra cash? This is prime time for a second job

By Robyn Davis Sekula

All of us would like to have more savings and pay off debt. Sometimes, the only way we have to get ahead is to increase our incomes. I’ve done that during the past five years by changing my day job and building my own business, and I’m really pleased with how that’s gone. I’ve also pursued a few simple side businesses that I think virtually anyone could do if they’re willing to take the time and energy to do so. Between now and December 25, opportunities abound for those who need extra cash, and I’m going to outline a few options here.

Here’s a key thing to remember as you read:
Everything that makes a strong profit requires knowledge and research. And everything adheres to the general economic principle of supply and demand. You have something that someone else wants, badly. They’re willing to pay a lot for it. The key is knowing what the items are and placing them for sale in a public market place.

But there’s nothing here that’s rocket science. You can do this, too, if you’d like.

I sell items on eBay. Every time I tell people this, they want to know what. Mostly it’s things my husband has picked up at yard sales. Sometimes, he’s bought things that have done very, very well. He pays very little for these antiques, sometimes, as little as $1 to $5 each.

Our best sellers are Art Deco items and things that I’d refer to as “old house parts,” meaning certain types of doorknobs, faucets, bathroom accessories, light fixtures, glass shades, and so on. We also look for antiques that pertain to a certain town but that are far removed from that town. Souvenir porcelain pieces commemorating a particular town park or building were common in the 1920s, and they are highly collectible. Every now and then I get stuck with one (anyone want a vase from Reedsburg, Wis.?) but for the most part, they do well. One I bought three years ago for $7 sold for $302 and returned to its hometown in Florida. There are things that I do price low because they simply will not go. I have a set of 1960s vases in a pale green color that look like they walked off the set of Mad Men and I cannot sell them. But I guarantee you Greg didn’t pay more than $1 for it, so I’m OK with that.

My friend Kate sells items on Amazon. I don’t want to give too much detail because she’s in better physical condition than me and she might really hurt me if I tell you too much. I became a partner with her this summer in picking up items that we could resell on eBay for a large profit. There was a certain type of Crest toothpaste (Lemon Ice, if you must know) that Crest discontinued, and it began showing up at discount stores. I started hunting for that, and then a few other things in the health and beauty area, for Kate. We’d buy the toothpaste for $2 per tube and sell it for $20. She paid a modest fee to Amazon for the listings and we’d split the profit. During the fall, she stocks up on hot toys for the holiday season. How does she determines what’s hot? She goes through the entire Sunday ad of a mainstream toy retailer and runs each and every item through Amazon to see if they’re selling strong and if the item is selling at a higher price than they are in the stores. If so, she buys it when she can, places it on Amazon, and sells it. In almost every instance, she finds that with enough determination, she can buy and resell desirable toys for a large profit margin. “Just about every year, I can find every hot toy with just some determined looking,” Kate tells me. She profits from her knowledge, research and determination, and really, from the other side of it, which is someone’s lack of determination. And yes, I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve ordered from Amazon and sold with Kate on Amazon. Which side are you? There’s no right or wrong here. If you have a high-paying job where you are paid by the hour, it may in fact be a better deal for you to pay the profit margin to someone like Kate than to spend your time driving from store to store in search of presents for your family and friends. Convenience has a price, and it’s perfectly fine to pay it.

My friend Elizabeth sells on etsy.com, a site for crafters. She buys certain types of old board games, magazines and other items inexpensively and then combines items in packages to sell to crafters and scrapbookers all over the world. I’ve found a few things for her here and there and given them to her to divide up and sell.

My neighbor Chris does handyman jobs, cuts down trees and yard work for extra cash year-round. In fact, he’s scheduled to cut down a tree in our yard and clean the leaves up with this giant leaf-sucker machine soon. Since we have an acre yard and three kids six and under, having him do the yard is a bargain.

Other people refinish furniture, paint, or repair lawnmowers for extra cash. There are all kinds of options – and anything you can do where you work for yourself will make you a lot more money than if you work for someone else. The UPS box-throwing job at nights is good work, and so are the retail jobs you can score this time of year. But those are not jobs that require knowledge or skill. Stay away from the multi-level marketing gigs such as Mary Kay. Those are not side jobs. The people who are good at MLM jobs spend all day, every day on it.

So – what do you do to make extra money? Post it in the comments section.

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