Small business advice personalized for those who are new to business
I love a good yard sale, I love throwing them and shopping them. And I’ve been to more than my fair share. I’ve got some great tips to make your next yard sale your Most Successful Sale EVER! And I’m confident if you follow my advice, you’re going to have your best yard sale yet!
Not only are yard sales fun, they’re a great way to turn clutter into cash and more importantly, they’re a great way to get the start-up cash you need to launch your small business.
If you’ve been saying to yourself “well, I would start a business, but I need a few hundred dollars to get started” then today’s blog post is for you! Yes, I’m confident that you can earn a few hundred bucks at a yard sale if you follow my tips, even if you’ve never had a yard sale before!
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, the company will provide me with a small reward at no additional cost to you. All links are for products or services I use on a daily basis. Opinions are my own. See my full affiliate policy here.
Psst… let’s assume that you actually have some stuff to get rid of, as most of us do. Start cleaning out those closets, basements, garage, and outbuildings. Let’s make some money!
Tip #1 - Have GREAT signs or call it quits right now. What signs should I make for my garage sale?
I have a huge pet peeve with bad yard sale signs. The most important thing you can do for your yard sale is having GREAT signs. I’m not talking “just okay”, I’m talking GREAT! And before you roll your eyes and think you cannot afford professional signs made for your garage sale, stop! They need to be great, but they don’t have to be expensive. I never spend more than $10 on garage sale signs and I don’t expect you to either.
First, make ALL your signs the same style and color. There’s nothing worse as a yard sale patron than trying to follow a route of yard sale signs of different styles -- I don’t know if this was the yard sale I set out to find or if I missed it. Make sure your text contrasts your sign color. Nothing worse than black pen ink on a brown cardboard sign. Also, put the info on BOTH sides of the sign.
Second, keep the sign simple! People are driving, they cannot stop to read a paragraph of text! All you need is “YARD SALE” with an ARROW in the direction they should drive and the TIME & DAY of the week that you’re open. What about an address? It’s unnecessary! It clutters the sign and most people can’t stop to read it anyway. If you're out in the country, you might also put the estimated mileage on the sign if the signs are going to be far apart “I.e. Yard Sale, ARROW, Thurs & Fri 8-3pm, 2 miles”
Third, make PLENTY of signs. I like to do at least 20 signs - 10 in each direction of the road you’re on. When you place them out, start putting them out either late the night before or right before you open up in the morning. Start hanging the signs closest to your house and move farther away, that way there’s a complete trail of signs from the moment you start to put them out. Try to hit the closest major intersections where someone will be stopping for a bit and will be able to read your sign, and put at least two signs at these intersections so all directions can see them clearly. My favorite place to get signs is the Dollar Tree. I get large neon colored poster board and cut it in half. They’re $0.50 a piece so my sign cost is only $0.25 a piece! Use a broad tip marker to write and if you don’t have good handwriting, ask someone else to write them for you.
Fourth, make sure to remove your signs at the end of your weekend! You don't want people to still drive to your house when you're all done.
Tip #2 - Price to Sell! How much should I sell stuff for at my yard sale?
Everyone who goes to yard sales does so to get a great deal. If you actually want to get rid of your stuff and make some money, then you need to price to sell.
First, everything must have a price. I know it’s tedious to price everything, but oh so worth it. The few times I’ve gone to yard sales without prices, I’ve always walked away empty handed. Even if you say “make an offer”, you’re putting your potential customers on the spot to come up with a price and to not insult you at the same time. To speed up the pricing process, group your items into like groups, i.e. $1 items, $2 items, $5 items, etc and then price them. You might be able to outsource stickering them with the price to a kid or someone else if you’ve previously decided what they should be. If you’re really crunched for time or you’re overwhelmed with stuff to price, you can price the table or bin that stuff is on. I.e. “$1 table” an “$5 table” the downside of this method is remembering what the prices are and also trusting customers to be honest where they found it.
Second, skip the “odd something cents” prices. Stick to prices in whole dollars or in $0.25 increments. If you want to price something $0.35, just round up to $0.50. Someone who is willing to pay $0.35 isn’t going to bat an eye at $0.50. If you really want to move some stuff, use multiple pricing, i.e. “books 2 for $1”, even though it’s the same as $0.50, you’ll sell more.
Third, skip the eBay prices. I’m serious, if you’re trying to get top dollar for a collectible item, go sell it on eBay. You can also skip the eBay print out of the same item listed for top dollar. It’s deceiving. Collectors know what it is worth, so you don’t need to inform them. Also, just because someone is asking top dollar on eBay doesn’t mean it’ll sell for that price. Just put a decent price on your item and a little sticker or sign with “collectible” on it. Regular folks won’t complain about the higher price when they see “collectible” on it and collectors will already know you’re giving them a deal.
Tip #3 - Slay the Display! How should I set up my garage sale?
Just because you’re not in a store, doesn’t mean things shouldn’t look nice. You’ll sell more if your stuff is easy to look through and browse.
First, try to get as much of your stuff off the ground as possible. Set up some tables, if you don’t have folding tables, you may be able to borrow them or rent them. You can also improvise some tables by using upside down totes, crates, or sawhorses and placing a board or old doors on top of them.
Second, the biggest hangup is clothing (pun intended). At most yard sales, clothing seems to be the slowest mover and what you have the most of at the end. Shoppers don’t pick up a lot of clothes because they can’t try them on, it slows down their shopping, and they can find similarly priced clothes at the thrift store in air conditioning. So how do you actually move clothing at a yard sale? It’s all about pricing and display. Hanging them up is a good option, but you might not have enough hanging space to accommodate them all. Hang up your best stuff: designer labels, jackets, nice dresses, new with tags, etc. Place the rest of your clothes on tables nicely folded. You should group them according to gender and like sizes (men's vs women's, juniors vs plus, newborn vs toddler, etc). And if you have a lot of clothes, the best way to get rid of them is to do a “fill a bag” table. Place all the clothes on a table (you don’t have to worry about sorting as much), provide bags that are roughly the same size (brown paper bags or plastic shopping bags, for example), and a sign with “Clothes, fill a bag $5 per bag”. $5 may seem too low, but if you go much higher, shoppers will lose interest and you’ll still end up taking them all to Goodwill.
Tip #4 - Timing is everything! When should I have my garage sale?
The best time to have a garage sale will vary depending on your local area.
First, there's the time of year. You want it to be warm enough to have it outside, but not so warm that people would rather stay inside. Around here the best time is in May and August. But in warmer places, the winter months might be a better fit. If your city does a city wide sale, that’ll be a good weekend to do it as well. People will travel to the area to go to a good city wide sale.
Second, there’s the day of the week. Around here Thursdays and Fridays are prime yard sale days. In some places Wednesday is picking up speed as the top yard sale day. My favorite is Thursday through Saturday. I highly suggest doing at least two days to make the most of all your effort, but not to do more than four days. When the yard sale goes too long shoppers lose interest.
Third, there’s the time of day. Traditionally yard sales start and end early. 8 am to 3 pm is a solid choice. Although there’s some strategy in going later on Thursday and Friday to catch the coming home from work crowd.
If I was going to have a yard sale, I would host Thursday through Saturday 8 am to 3 pm. Ask around your area about the best time to have a yard sale.
Tip #5 - Get Help!
Hosting a yard sale can be an exhausting couple of days. At the very least you need someone to keep watch when you need to use the bathroom or get snacks. At best, you’ll have a lot of fun hanging out with a friend. Just don’t get too chatty and engrossed with your bestie that you forget common sense customer service - a smile and a “how are you today?” goes a long way.
Tip #6 - Combine forces
When it comes to yard sales, the bigger the better. If you can get a few friends or neighbors to join you, you’ll get more traffic and more sales. You can encourage your neighbors to host their own sale at the same time as yours and maximize the foot traffic. You can also offer to sell their stuff at your sale. You might think it would distract from your sales, but the opposite is true. When people see more at a yard sale, they’ll take their time to look through it all and will be more inclined to pick up some extra things if they’re already found at least one thing.
Tip #7 - Cash is King
Go to the bank and get lots of $1s and $5s. Your first 10 customers will only have $20 bills. You can also buy a counterfeit bill marker to test large bills ($50 and $100) on the spot. Rarely does a customer who says “I’ll just run to the ATM and come back” ever do that, so it’s better to be prepared to break large bills on the spot.
Tip #8 - Practice Customer Service
As I said before, a friendly smile and a “how are you today?” will go a long way to making someone feel more welcomed and be more inclined to shop. If they’re comfortable, they’ll stay and shop more. Placing your stuff under the shade on a hot day is a great way to make people feel inclined to stay and shop. When someone has their arms full, ask them if they’d like you to take their items and set it aside for them while they keep shopping. With their arms freed up, they’ll keep shopping! Playing some soft agreeable music at a volume you can still talk over will provide a welcoming atmosphere.
So, when is your yard sale happening? I'd love to know if you used my tips and how your yard sale turned out! Once you have your yard sale and got the cash to start your small business idea, let's talk through your next steps. Hiring a business coach early will save you money in the long run! If you would like personalized one-on-one coaching, book a free session with me.
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Hey! My name is Christine and I'm an entrepreneur and small business coach. I've learned most of what I know through trial and error. I help women who are new to business to take their next steps with confidence and clarity.