It started like any other typical day, I had just run out of inventory for Craigslist and was on the hunt for bikes. As I have mentioned before, I enjoy buying, fixing, and re-selling bicycles on the side. It has been a fun little side project. I have had the opportunity to test drive some pretty sweet rides while putting a bit of extra cash toward my early retirement.
This is just one of many side hustles I have tried, however it is the only one that have ever really earned me money, and as of last night, I am convinced it has grown enough to be my full-time job over the summer (which for me starts tomorrow, whoo!).
While cruising through listings last night, I noticed the Craigslist bike section was going through a dry spell this week. Out of curiosity, I started looking at the bicycle parts section just to see what was there. I have tried to tinker with bicycle parts in the past, only to find that it was another niche that was not working for me. There only seemed to be a market for new parts, not used. I noticed an ad that read “Warehouse of bicycle parts, $200”.
I called the number on the ad and spoke to the owner of the parts. He let me know that his buddy owned a bicycle shop that recently went out of business, and that now the shop’s entire inventory is sitting in boxes in his storage space and he wants them out. He told me everything was new and still in it original packaging, and that he wanted it all gone because he has no use for bicycle parts.
I excitedly drove over to meet him and together we dug through an ocean of factory sealed shimano shifters, cables, derailleurs, brake pads, lubricants, seats and seat posts…it was like Christmas morning for me. This guy was equally as excited to be getting rid of the stuff. It turned out this man made his living off of flipping objects of all kinds. While we packed every square inch of my Volvo sedan with an entire bicycle shop’s inventory, the man told me stories of some of the more ridiculous things he has flipped, like how one time he mad $5,000 of flipping a marble he got at a yard sale.
Now tomorrow when I move back to Frederick for the summer, I will do so with about 300 pounds of bicycle related equipment, shoved into the trunk and cabin of my car.
This guy knew the value of what he was giving me. There was a front shock in the mix that should go for $100 alone, not to mention the other 150 or so items will go for anywhere from $15-$50. I knew I hit the jackpot, but I also have the enormous job of taking inventory, pricing and listing all these items. This was a job for a bicycle enthusiast who enjoys the work, which was not for him, so he was happy to be selling the stuff to me. He acquired the pile of stuff from his friend for $80, so he made $120 profit selling it to me, and I now have enough work for the whole summer, everybody wins. I am now the proud owner of a bike shop. This has been a long term dream of mine, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to start it now.
As much as I love to talk about my obsession with everything bikes, let talk a bit about running a successful side business.
For those of you out there who aspire to run your own side business, whether it just be supplemental income or you plan to replace your day job, I understand the ups and downs you will experience. It is not uncommon for self employment to only pay out $1-$2 an hour for many hours starting out. Many ideas end up being scrapped, while a select few flourish. What you make work depends on your individual interests and expertise.
For me, well, I am not much of a book salesman, I had no success with neck ties either. After long hours invested in both, I realized that even if I made money with these ideas, I still wouldn’t have interest in what I was doing. So I decided to stay with what I enjoy, regardless of the money. To my surprise, my keen interest in working on what I love has allowed my to finally make something profitable.
After a year of sticking with this project, I have gone from flipping a cheap bike once or twice a month to having the ability to do a quick sweep of Craigslist and send 5-10 emails in a few minutes, and be working on/have posted anywhere from 5-10 bikes at once. I have also keep spreadsheets for tracking which models are more profitable investments. I have also gotten much quicker at the actually handiwork that goes into fixing these two-wheeled wonders..
Along the way, there are a few things I have learned about running a side business, I would like to share with you here.
1-Stick with what you know.
This has really allowed me to keep steady motivation with this project. Because I have a high level of interest, many aspects of the job do not feel like work. This has two effects on a business, you will enjoy the work even if you aren’t making much, and ironically, you will make more doing it in the long run.
2-Once you find your niche, focus on it
By sticking with one thing that has been profitable for me, I have increased my dollar per hour wage significantly. At first, I struggled with the mindset of wanting to diversify my trade, after all, the more different things i deal with, the more profit there is to be made, right? I now realize it is a mistake in the long run to be thinking this way, instead focus on how you can streamline your most profitable trade. By focusing on my bike trading, I have become very fast at sending emails, I know exactly what to say at meetings (I have even picked up a few negotiating tactics) and the fixing and listing merchandise has become second nature. Through focusing in on one thing, I have increased it’s efficiency to the point where it is making me more per hour than any summer job could.
3-Minimize the boring work
When you are out to make a profit, there will always be aspects of a job you will not enjoy. Many times we can work to minimize the time spent on these things, however. This is another motivational tactic that will keep you sticking with a project longer. For me, sending emails it probably my least favorite part of the process, yet it is essential to making it all happen. This it one of the things that has been sped up the most by repetition. Starting out, i spent a total of about 20 minutes per bike emailing back and forth. A combination of becoming a faster typist and know exactly what to say has reduced my email time to about 3 minuets per bike.
When you find work that you truly enjoy, you can only win. By starting as a side gig alongside your regular income, there is no need to worry about the money, if it eventually produces enough income to become your main source, great! if not, you are still spending your free time doing what you love.
I will keep you up to date on my bicycle adventures as time goes on. Maybe I can even devote an article to some of my experiences I have learned the most from.
The Money Mechanic