As a mother of twins, it goes without saying that money is tight. With my guys getting further and further apart in both weight and height, that challenge is now increasing exponentially as the volume of items they are able to share gets smaller and smaller. Thankfully this opens up the possibility of hand-me-downs from one twin to the other, but the result always seems to be that the larger twin has a short supply while the smaller twin has a wardrobe that rivals my own packed closet.
Buying used clothing has pretty much been a requirement since they were born. Beyond gifts from family and some basic essentials from Wal-mart and Target, both their wardrobes and toy collections have primarily been sourced from other families. This not only helps us save money, it also gives me some peace of mind that if they totally annihilate some article of clothing (Have you read YUCK. Life with Boys?) there’s not too much of a loss.
Likewise, selling used clothing, equipment and toys has been a huge resource for our family and provides the budget for the next season’s needs. When it is time for me to buy for the next season, I usually round up last season’s gear and try to sell it first. That way when it comes time to buy, I have some funds already allotted and ready to go.
Here are the methods I have explored and tried to both source and sell used items.
1. Consignment Sales (Typically bi-annually or seasonally held, high volume and greater buyer “panic” – most items sell because of the “thrill of the chase” environment that these exclusive events generate.)
- For the buyer: Use a website like ConsignmentSaleFinder.org or other local resources to find sales in your area. Many of these sales advertise on a variety of social media platforms, newspapers and local kid hangouts. (BONUS TIP: Be sure to follow their Facebook page if they have one. Most sneak peeks are posted here, plus tips and tricks for getting in early or the actual sale layout. Plan your strategy in advance!) Ask around to see if anyone you know has attended to get a feeling for the sale’s reputation and whether items are higher quality, clean, fairly priced, etc. Bring a friend. Divide and conquer!
- For the seller: Reach out to the local sales and explore their consignor/consignee policies. Be sure to pay close attention to fees and/or the percentage you’ll take home from each item, any other restrictions or requirements, and whether you are responsible for hangers, tags, etc. Be sure to do the math and consider how you price your items so that all of these fees and potential responsibilities are taken into consideration and you come home with profit! If possible, join the hosting group and see if there are opportunities to contribute volunteer time towards planning and manning the sale. Oftentimes, you can get a greater percentage back on your sales for time served. (BONUS TIP: Be sure to ask around for appropriate pricing. You want to blend in with the bunch, and certainly not leave money on the table or worse yet, be the high priced seller whose items get left behind!)
2. Consignment/Resale Shops (Constant availability, usually high traffic around the holidays and seasonal changes, but can be otherwise spotty in sales.)
- For the buyer: Facebook is another great asset here. Local shops often post flash sales or the arrival of big ticket items on social media. Stop in to the store and develop a relationship with the owner. Let them know if you’re looking for specific items and sometimes they can source them for you or give you a special head’s up if inventory has arrived that would meet your needs.
- For the seller: Pay attention! Different stores have different policies. Make sure you understand exactly what you’ll be getting when you hand over your used items and exactly what is required of you to consign. Sometimes you will get paid for items on the spot (generally the least dollar option but immediate cash), sometimes you will get paid a percentage when items sell (can be a higher value but patience is a must!) and sometimes you simply get store credit (great value, but make sure the store stocks items you might need/want so that you can put store credit to use!). (BONUS TIP: Take a good look at the store set up, community reputation, etc. Is the store clean and organized? Messy and cluttered? You want the best environment for your items to sell. Adding items to a disaster-area heap of a mess that potential buyers have to sift through is a recipe for your items never selling.)
3. Craigslist (Constant availability, online network boosts high traffic, but posts can be buried quickly in busy categories. Bigger ticket items usually fly at higher prices.)
- For the buyer: Ask questions. Lots of them! Be sure to see pictures, ask about safety, recalls, age of the item…basically anything that might affect the quality and longevity of the item. Your best bet is to see items in person before committing to sale. Don’t be afraid to bargain on pricing, but don’t be cheap! It’s annoying and unfair and you wouldn’t want it done to you.
- For the seller: Be specific (and honest!) when describing your item. Post high quality images. Make sure your tagline on your post is simple but draws attention to a high quality item. Be sure to list any requirements (i.e. cash only, must be local to pick up, first come, first served) that you may have before you sell. Be sure your price takes shipping costs into account if you’re willing to ship it. Post items with an anonymous email and don’t use your personal email address.
4. Facebook Groups (Constant availability, online network boosts high traffic, items sell quickly.)
- For the buyer: Search for local groups in your area or check out national groups (I’m a big fan of Mothers of Multiples Resale and Mothers of Multiples Resale: Singles Edition.). Read the policies carefully and start sifting through the albums. You will need a PayPal address for national groups, but local transactions may be in cash depending on the seller. If items require shipping, be sure to do the math and make sure the price + shipping is still a bargain. (BONUS TIP: If having items shipped, try to buy multiple items from one seller to reduce the shipping cost overall and add value to your purchase!)
- For the seller: Double check the policies for any groups you join to be sure your items aren’t deleted. List location and pricing with high quality images with specific descriptors. If you have any requirements, like cash only or buyer to cover shipping or shipping included, be sure to specify on the post. If you don’t specify on the front end, you risk losing money and/or causing drama. Price fairly and consider selling groups of items together in lots, especially clothes. Pay attention to the group dynamics and avoid problem buyers and sellers. They are usually easily identified. (BONUS TIP: Ask in the group for shipping tips. Many of these people are seasoned sellers and have awesome tricks to minimize your shipping costs!)
5. Yard Sales (Your choice! Traffic can be hit or miss and value per item is significantly decreased.)
- For the buyer: Unless I’m absolutely certain it’s not going to be a problem, I avoid clothes, stuffed animals and anything with cloth/fabric and such. With pests like dust mites and bed bugs alive and well and running rampant, I just don’t want to risk it, and yard sales are prime time lower quality/care hot spots. The good thing about yard sales is that items are typically cheaper here than anywhere else. I just make sure I purchase items that can be sanitized completely to my level of OCD satisfaction. Bargain to your little heart’s content. Yard sellers do NOT want their items coming back in their home/garage.
- For the seller: Check with your local city office to see if you need a permit to host a yard sale at your home (lame, but it is what it is). Post on social media so that your friends can check it out and share with their friends. Make sure signs are in high traffic areas with the least amount of words possible. WRITE BIG! Use arrows! Organize yourself and have items priced ahead of time. You will have early birds that arrive while you’re setting up. Be ready! Postpone if the weather is bad. It kills sales. Be sure to have change at the ready.
6. Network with Moms with Older and Younger Children (WIN! WIN! WIN! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Happy Mama here!)
- This is the power house option that will save you time, money and sanity in the long run. The benefits to buyer and seller are the same! If you have a relationship with another parent or a small group of parents that have kids both younger and older than yours, you have immediately set up your pipeline to sell them your used items and to buy their used items. Or simply trade! When the seasons turn, I always reach out to a specific list of ladies with kids older than mine with a “Hey, I’m looking for anything fall size 4T. Got anything to sell?” Likewise, I’ll reach out to my go to parents with a “The kids just outgrew a bunch of stuff sized 3T. Want to come take a look?” I also often get requests for items other parents are seeking. There is great trust in those types of relationships, ease of transaction, the assurance that items will be sold and no legwork or staging to prep items for sale. Seriously, I have one gal that just comes over and digs through my kid’s closet!
1. Always meet in public places. No homes! No night time pick ups unless it is in a super well-lit, highly populated area. Make sure people know where you are going and when you are expected to return. Bring a friend or spouse if possible. You can never be too careful these days.
2. Always do sales in cash or money order (no checks!). Or PayPal if you do it online. Point being…do it securely and always make sure money is collected before you ship. Never hand over items without payment unless you plan on generously donating to their cause. Likewise, when paying for items, pay in cash and have money ready to hand over when they arrive. No purse/wallet digging!
3. Don’t give people your home address. In fact, keep personal information to an absolute minimum. The less they know, the better. It’s just safer that way.
4. Trust your gut. If something feels off, walk away. Fast. You know the feeling. No bargain is worth tempting fate if your insides are sending you a red flag warning.
Stay tuned for another post on How to Store and Prepare Your Items for Sale! Coming soon!
How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized
I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is Scrum? Stick with me here – I promise it will be worth it. Scrum is a management and control process that software developers use to break complex projects into incremental pieces, driving focus and productivity with more effective, higher quality results. I came across it in the corporate world and quite frankly, didn’t give it much thought. Since Scrum was designed for software developers, which I most certainly am not, I figured it didn’t apply to me.
Then Somer and I ran into a problem with our brand management. As you know, we have The Studio Hampton Roads, Modern Femme Movement and the Hampton Roads Creative (plus this blog!). Sometimes our to do list is so long, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and even harder to prioritize. We do our best to Think Big, Focus Small, but sometimes the sheer volume of work has us wide-eyed and frozen.
It occurred to me that we needed some process management. Something definitive that detailed our workflow and developed our priorities and set our intentions. Something like…Scrum. Scrum works with these ideas, called sprints, where you focus the team’s energy on selected projects and selected projects ONLY. That’s the key. Software developers have to get to the end goal, but all of the code necessary to reach the end goal can leave developers overwhelmed, and hopping from one project to the next and back again, producing stress and lower quality work.
Once a sprint has been defined, the team must stay on the specified work for the duration of the sprint. They cannot be pulled to other projects, redirected or given more work. They are “in sprint” and any additional projects or adjustments are to be assigned to future sprints.
BINGO. Well, I guess SCRUM is better here.
We reviewed our projects lists for each brand and broke them up into sprints. Once we assigned the sprints, we were off and running. While we were in one sprint, we were 100% focused on the work assigned to that particular sprint. We couldn’t veer off course, swap to another brand, or take on new work. Before we knew it, more was being accomplished with less stress and less mistakes.
For the software development world, sprints are usually two weeks in length due to the complexity of their work. For us, a week long sprint worked best. In a pinch, we’d break into three day sprints. You can choose what length of time works best for you. The important piece is to stay focused on what is in the sprint and embrace the peace of mind that comes with knowing other work that must (and will) be accomplished is assigned to future sprint.
This can apply to small business, blogging, school work, just about anything! Focus your energy, organize your workload, and accomplish a larger volume of higher quality work. Don’t get lost in the busy of bouncing back and forth between everything you have to get done, accomplishing nothing well or maybe not even at all. Scrum can be your key to focused professional energy and long-term small business (or life!) success.
Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics
Why is social media scheduling important?
Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.
If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?
Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.
Where do I start?
I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.
If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.
I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.
Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating). I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:
- Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
- Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
- Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life.
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Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!
How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale
Using Your Resources: How to Resell Your Used Items and Buy Second Hand was the first post in this “series,” and hopefully, by now you’ve had an opportunity to read through that and determine where you want to attempt to sell your used items.
The next logical step is how in the world to keep yourself organized so that you have a steady flow of items ready for sale and can keep product “moving through the pipeline” without sucking hours from your already jam-packed schedule. The key here is ambitious preparation and forethought. A little “do it now!” vs. a “I’ll do it later!” can make staying organized a breeze.
Here are some things that I do to stay organized with my sale items. Note: These particular steps make the most sense for consignment sales, yard sales and/or mommy swaps. Consignment stores are a bit different, but you can glean some useful tips for how to store for those too!
1. NEARBY STORAGE: I have available storage bins at the ready for new additions that no longer fit the boys in their bedroom. The most recent size(s) or season are stored under their train table so that if they try something on and it doesn’t fit, it immediately goes into the boxes. This keeps our drawers full of clothes that fit and prevents me from having to do massive sorts constantly. I try not to mix sizes and keep like items together, especially pajama sets or coordinating sets, so no hunting for missing pieces later and I know with a glance what size/season is in each box.
2. BE THE OVERACHIEVER: Yup, I am that person that starts prepping for the next consignment sale the day after the most recent consignment sale is over. As soon as the hosting group’s ticketing system is cleared out and released for the next event, I start entering my items for the next sale. I print and apply tags and even hang items on hangers if required. If things need to be zip-tied or put in plastic bags and taped closed, I do it right when I am moving items from the nearby storage in #1 to the long-term storage I’m going to describe here shortly. By the time those items hit the long-term storage bin, they are prepped and ready for sale and I don’t need to see them again until I drop them off to be sold. Similar can be done for yard sales too. As you are going through items to sell, stick a price tag on them and box them up. When your next yard sale comes around, you get out the box and you’re good to go! This prevents the brutal all-nighters trying to price items or get them entered into a consignment system before the deadline. (BONUS TIP: If you are selling items online, a great time saver is to list all of your available items on a spreadsheet with their price tag and where you posted them so that you can track what is sold and what is still available. This also helps you compare which online sources are producing the best results for you!)
3. LONG-TERM STORAGE: I have a gigantic bin in my garage that stores all of my “ready to sell” items. It’s easily moved from the garage to the car (by the husband) and easily stored out of the way until the next event. Anything that is in that bin has been itemized, tagged, priced, etc. etc. and is literally ready to come out of the box and onto the sales floor, wherever and whatever that may be. In that box I keep everything I need to get items sale ready. I have safety pins, ticket paper, plastic bags, zip ties and hangers (which you can get free usually at your local dry cleaners or keep an eye out for the super cheap ones when they go on sale!), pens and markers. And tape! I don’t have to hunt for anything. Super efficient and super fast. A great tip for those items getting shipped would be to have packing envelopes in there too! If I have items in there that cross seasons (this can be tricky with consignments sales), I keep the furthest away season on the bottom and layer a trash bag on top to separate from the next upcoming sale items. That way I know when I deliver my items, I empty the bin until I hit the trash bag and the know those items underneath are for the next, next sale. (See!! Crazy overachiever!)
4. CAR QUICK STORAGE: If I’ve posted an item online that I am sure is going to sell quickly locally, I pop it in my car so I have it with me in case someone contacts me to buy while I’m at work. That gives me the instant opportunity to meet at a public place during my lunch hour or right after I finish up for the day, rather than having to schedule a time/location later in the week. Get it gone!