How to Make Money as a Flea Market Vendor
Making Money With Junk
All of us to some degree have a lot of junk just laying around in our closets or attics or basements or garages. For some, this clutter presents a major problem because unless you live in a mansion it can be pretty difficult to find places for storing all of these things.
Most of us could also always use a little extra cash. Maybe it could help you with paying off some of your debt, or maybe you could use it toward getting something you really want and will use, like a new HDTV perhaps.
At any rate, a great way to make some extra cash is to become a flea market vendor. I've found that I always do pretty good at the flea market, making anywhere from $100 selling most things for a quarter to walking away with more than I'd make in your typical 9-5 job. It's not something I do full time (especially since having kids!) but I do enjoy it and since I'm planning to go sell a bunch of junk this weekend I thought I'd share my tips to help others as well as help me organize to make sure I do it the "easy way".
The first thing you need to do to make money at the flea market is to find a good flea market. In some areas this can be really hard - we used to have a great one just ten minutes away from my house but it since closed and now I have to travel farther, which eats up more of my time and reduces my profits since I'll have to pay a lot extra in gas. However, most people can find a decent one within an hour of their house, so it's not too bad.
Here's what I look for in a flea market when I am choosing one to sell at:
Open Year Round: If it's open year round, that means that people go to it enough that it can sell stuff even in the winter and its snowing. While especially in Northern Climates you'll always do better in the spring, summer, and fall, it's always promising to see one that is open rain or shine and has consistent hours.
Over 100 Vendors: The more vendors, the more popular it is, and the more of a crowd it will bring each day. If 100 vendors are there, those guys are making money and it means you can make money too. You can do okay at other smaller venues, but you'll likely end up compromising on prices or end up not selling as much of that old junk as you would like.
Clean Restrooms: This is a matter of personal preference, but I don't do porta-potties. And I don't like restrooms that are gross and dirty either. You'll be sitting at your table for about 6-8 hours, so it is very likely you'll end up using the restroom at least once. I also think that if a place has clean restrooms it shows that they are "professional" and it also helps attract a larger crowd.
Cheap Table Rate: Most flea markets charge their vendors an admission as part of renting their table space fee. This can vary from being free (usually in new flea markets without a lot of traffic yet) to being extraordinarily high at $300 a spot for some craft fairs or trade exhibits. I like my table rate to be around $10-$20 because I know I will make at least that much back from the things I sell and the low price also attracts a lot of other vendors. You can get inside spaces at a lot of flea markets, but I usually like the outdoor ones better. If it's your first time, always do the outside one first.
Website & Owners: If I can't find any information on the flea market before driving out there, I will not go. I need at the very least to have a clear address so I can find it okay and the rules of what you are and are not allowed to sell as well as the table fee. Usually you can get all this info on a flea market's website or there will be a phone number where you can call the owners direct. This way you know exactly what to expect - and there won't be any surprises when you get there. Some places require reservations ahead of time to get a table space, others assign spots on a first come first serve basis. If you are getting up at 5 am to drive and hour and sell a bunch of junk you've packed into your car, you don't want to make any mistakes.
So now you know what I look for in a flea market, you can hopefully use that to find one that offers the right conditions to sell all of your stuff cheaply and easily.
An old guitar can mean extra cash
So What Should You Sell and For How Much?
You can sell almost anything at a flea market. Some venues will have a few basic rules on things that are regulated by the government: ie don't sell crack and other illegal drugs. Other things that usually have limitations and rules specifying what you can and can't do involve foods and beverages (this is a health department rule in some states) as well as things you must be 18 or 21 years old or older to buy, such as lighters, ammunition, firearms, weapons, hunting equipment, alcohol, etc. Don't worry though - most of this stuff you'd probably not want to sell anyway.
The best thing to do is first scavenge around your house and find all of the items you are not using and don't want anymore.That's right - it's time to put all those closet organizing tips you've learned into action! After you've cleared out all of your stuff, you might also want to check with your friends and family. Tell them you're going to the flea market to make some extra cash, if they have anything they don't need you'd really appreciate it because it would help you with earning money for your cause. You'll be surprised how many people will do this gladly! Everybody has junk they don't want or need or know what to do with!
If you're going to be doing the flea market vendor thing full time and on a regular basis, another thing you could do is check out sites like Craigslist.org where people are constantly listing things they don't want anymore and will give away for free. You could even post your own "Wanted Ad" for types of things you like to sell - you might be able to get just about anything you want to sell this way. Once you get really good and experienced at this and if you want to make a full time living doing it, then you can also start scouring garage sales, finding people who do estate cleaning to network with, dumpster diving and other things that will get you inventory. (Okay, I don't actually recommend the dumpster diving thing - though a lot of people do regularly throw out perfectly good stuff that could be making you money!)
Out of my experience, here are the things that always sell really well and fast at a flea market:
Household Items: Pots, pans, dishes, microwaves, electric yogurt makers, coffee pots, knives, cup and mug sets, towels, ice cream makers, kitchen utensils, apple peelers, noodle makers, vintage kitchen stuff, and just about anything you would think of as a housewarming present. This is because people are constantly moving into new places, especially college students, and are always in a good demand year round.
Electronics: TV's, stereos, radios, DVD players, VCR's, old video game consoles and parts, computers, computer accessories, and more. If you can plug it in, you're going to sell it if the price is right. Don't think that something is old and obsolete (like that old record player) won't sell - because there are people now collecting these things and paying good money for it!
Musical Instruments: People won't want to pay you a few hundred dollars for musical instruments initially, but if you're willing to stay firm on your price and it is reasonable, you'll eventually find the right buyer. Vintage electric guitars, flutes, oboes, keyboards, amplifiers, trumpets, french horns, and accessories like guitar straps or strings can do pretty well if you are familiar with these things and know what to charge for them.
Movies, Games, & Music: I've noticed VHS and cassette tapes aren't selling as well as they used to, but you can almost always sell DVD's and CD's. Computer games and video games for just about any system will also sell pretty well.
Hobby Stuff: People who have hobbies like crafting or model trains or collecting other kind of obscure but interesting things are always at flea markets. They live for it! So things like trading cards, key chains, costume jewelry, matchbox cars, craft supplies, and train items can make a killing at the flea market if it is something interesting enough that a lot of people do it or like it.
Your Own Hand Made Stuff: If you make homemade soaps or candles or craft little dinosaur bunny necklaces out of sea shells then you are in luck because you can usually sell this stuff pretty easily at flea markets, too. For these types of things I recommend that you have it at a separate table than the "junk" because people won't realize it was lovingly made and handcrafted by you! Make sure you have business cards and put your website name on the items you sell, too - that way they'll know how to find you again.
Books: Books are always good sellers for me at the flea market. I get books for free in droves from quite a lot of different sources and so it is a great way for me to get rid of the ones I can't possibly find room to store in my house. I've found that with books if they are hard cover, that is better because people always think hard covers are worth more. They should also be in good shape - no torn covers or pages. I sell most books between a quarter for paperbacks and a dollar for hardcovers. This is a lot cheaper than the other vendors, and so my pile of books is usually sold out before I'm ready to pack up and leave for the day.(You of course though can charge more if you'd like - but you may not sell them all. My goal is to get rid of junk and make extra cash, not make a full-time living doing this)
Kid & Baby Items: If you've ever had kids you can know how much all the gear they need can be! So you can usually sell kids clothes, shoes, toys, and baby gear like high chairs and playpens pretty easily. Please do one very important thing before you sell any kid's stuff: make sure all pieces and parts are working properly and go online and ensure that none of the products you want to sell have been recalled. I don't want any kids to get hurt or killed from a toy - and you don't want to be found responsible for it either.
These are just a few examples of my personal best sellers. There's tons more things you can sell. Some people sell a variety of things, others go for just one little niche like lawnmowers or wooden lawn gnomes.
Here's a few more tips on how to sell your junk at a flea market for good profits:
1. Arrange Everything Neatly: If people can't see what you are selling on the table, they will never buy it. Avoid sticking stuff in boxes on the ground if possible. Put tablecloths or sheets over your tables to make your stuff look nicer.
2. Clean & Check Pieces: People will pay better for something that is clean and has all of its pieces. If it's not clean or is missing stuff or doesn't work, make sure you tell the person who will be buying it this and tell them if it were in perfect condition you'd sell it for X dollars but since its missing pieces you'll give it to them for Y dollars. They might buy it thinking they can fix it up or use it for something and feel like they got a great deal - and you won't be stuck with it cluttering up your house anymore!
3. Organize Before You Get There: Something I like to do before I go to set up at 5 am in the dark is set up my own mock flea market in my driveway. (I did it my living room when I was living in an apartment!) This way I know exactly how to set everything up and how many tables I'll need. I can also pack it up neatly so that when I go to set up my site it's done very quickly and efficiently. Most flea markets I've gone to I'm in the process of just unfolding and setting up my tables and already I have the "Vendor Vultures" hovering over me with flashlights asking me if I happen to have XYZ item. The faster you get set up, the sooner you can start selling stuff and making money.
4. Bring Lots of Change: You're going to need at least the amount of the table fee, and then I also like to have about 25 dollars in ones, four fives, and a roll of quarters with me to start. I've never needed more than this or even used this much, but you never know what kind of bills you will be getting and what kind of change you'll need to give out. You'll get people all the time who say "I only have a $20" and they're naturally the guys buying something you're selling for $1.50 - and if you can't give them change you are going to lose that sale.
5. Bring Bags: I have no idea why people shopping at a flea market feel like you should supply grocery bags to them, but they do. I've had some people yelling at me because I had run out of bags before. What I do is I usually collect any ones I've used or gotten from different stores and then save them and bring those with me. I'll also bring along other bags that I don't really use or want and can't really sell (Ie: the packaging from a blanket you bought) This helps out when someone wants to buy a bunch of books but complains they can't carry it all. You can usually convince them to buy something when you say "Hey, I can get you a bag for all this if you'd like" - and then a lot of times they'll keep buying at your table until their bag is full. Boxes work too, but bags are way easier to store and transport.
6. Don't List Prices: The only time I'll put a price something is if I decide to set up a $1 or 25 cent table where anything on that table is that price. Everything else I think of a minimum price in my mind that I'd accept and then let others haggle with me. That's part of the reason why people shop at flea markets - they want to haggle. They want to get that bargain. You could spend all your time pricing things only for someone to say "Will you take a dollar for this?" any ways, so you might as well save yourself the aggravation.
7. Bring a Friend: It gets boring and lonely at that table all by yourself sometimes. Other times, you'll be so busy you won't even have enough hands to take care of everyone at once. An extra person helps immensely too if you need to use the flea market's clean and accessible restroom.
8. Bring Shade, Chairs, Snacks, Water, and Sunscreen: These are all things for your personal comfort and safety. I use a little $40 camping tent I have (I use it mostly for camping) and it keeps us dry if it rains or in the shade if it's hotter than a snake's tail out there. You're going to get hungry and thirsty too - so instead of spending all the money you're earning on food and drinks you'll have everything you need.
9. Don't Expect Top Dollar: A lot of people mistakenly think they're going to bring some antique or vintage item and get top market value for it. Don't expect that at a flea market unless it's a specific trade show type of event. The people there are either antique dealers looking for stuff they will mark up and resell themselves or someone else just wanting a good bargain. It's likely most things won't sell for even half of regular retail value. If your prices are too high, you're not going to make any money and you're going to be stuck with a lot of junk afterward!
So there you have it, my top "How to Sell Stuff at a Flea Market" tips. Hope you enjoy them and hope you make some money from it!