Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scavenger Life Chat: On Earning $13K in a Month and Using eBay to Live the Dream of Self-Employment

Jay and Ryanne of Scavenger Life found me when they googled "Thrifting in Amsterdam" and landed here. I found them when asked to interviewed me for their reselling video series. And the Scavenger Life found us all. It has a way of doing that. I left copywriting/web marketing to resell, Jay and Ryanne left television production. You may have left a day job or you may be planning to. Whatever the case, Jay and Ryanne have the perfect advice for being successful selling on eBay that will inspire no matter what you want to pursue as an alternative to working for The Man. Check it out:

Jay showcasing his mother-in-law's envious reseller basement. Runs in the family. 

1) Hi Scavenger Life Duo! Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

Ryanne and I worked in television. We quit our jobs and formed our own production company. Got tired of the grind of freelance media work, so we started selling on eBay as a side gig. It’s now our main source of income. We’ve become the people we always wanted to be: Scavengers who like making media. Our goal is to become totally debt-free.

Ryanne and Jay

2) When did you start selling on eBay?

It’s the common story: the economy crashed in 2008 and work dried up. We had to do something to make ends meet. Inspiration through desperation. 

Ryanne's mom's amazing eBay set-up! I'd kill for that, it's hard as hell to resell in a 2-bedroom apartment shared with a boyfriend, a best friend, and a kitty.

3) When did it take over and become your full time work?

We never planned for eBay to be our full time living. It took about 18-24 months before we realized that we could make more money and have more fun scavenging than working for other people. It didn’t seem real at first, but it’s just a numbers game. Make more than you spend. 

We started a podcast at Scavenger Life about two years ago to document our selling lifestyle and never imagined it would become so popular. I guess consistently posting every week is a big attractor. We always post our sale profit/costs so new sellers can get a sense of what’s really possible. There’s a lot of hype out there about how much money people make. We like to keep it real by openly discussing the good and the bad. We love the community that has gathered around us. People are smart and help each other. 

Gorgeous DIY renovations made to their eBay funded home in the country. Doing it themselves, using the thrift store to shop for resources and being generally frugal help them live a rich life on less.

4) How long have you collected vintage?

Neither of us are collectors which is one reason why we are successful. We appreciate vintage items but have no need to keep them. We hate clutter and sell almost everything we find. But we both grew up going to thrift stores to buy our clothes because we’ve always known the value in those places. 

“Vintage” just means good quality and interesting. Most mass-produced items these days lack this quality. Only the high-end brands still produce items with craftsmanship, but the cost is out of reach for most of us. Vintage is affordable. As Baby Boomers start to pass away or downsize their estates, there’s an overabundance of the items out there. The amount of unwanted stuff in this country is staggering. 

Sharing more photos from Ryanne's because...the envy! The ability to stretch out like that! Dayum!

5) Agreed with you there, I hate clutter and try to sell all of my finds. And as a hunter, the amount of unwanted stuff is mind-blogging. Would you credit eBay with helping you transition to more fulfilling self-employment? Were there other helpful factors?

As freelancers, our eBay income gives us the ability to say “no” to any job. We still take on media clients, but we get to pick and choose. Our eBay income also makes us feel secure and calm. I think the calm we bring to our media jobs is one reason why our clients like and recommend us. It’s a positive reinforcing cycle. 

We also chose to move from an urban area (San Francisco) and buy an affordable home + land in a rural area. Because our costs are so low now, anything is possible. We recently bought a rental property using our eBay profits. Rural America is wide open.  We have a mountain and a river in our backyard. The internet keeps us connected to everything.

The gorgeous, rural home the couple purchased and renovated on their own. Living the dream.

6) What would you consider the top resources for eBay sellers?

When we started selling on eBay, we didn’t want to spend any money. All we did was put in the hours to list, be organized, and treat customers the way we wanted to be treated. We still do this now. There are no services to pay for or tools to buy that are shortcuts to success. Anyone who says they can teach you to become rich overnight are just trying to make money off the ignorant rubes. Don’t make it complicated. 

7) You guys are so successful at what you do, any top 5 tips to share at being successful on eBay?

Let’s be clear what success is. We feel successful because we own our time. We aren’t rich by any means, but we wake up naturally without alarm clocks and can comfortably pay our bills. Here’s our Manifesto (read here) detailing in five steps how we created our eBay business. 

Photo 1) I know that stuff-to-be-listed mess well. My hallway looks like that Photo 2) Hundreds of orders packed and ready to go.

8) If you don't mind sharing, what was your most successful month and/or year?

December 2012 was our most successful month. We made $13k. Just one of those months where everything clicked. But again, success is really relative. Some sellers seem to want to build huge empires and keep growing. We make the money we need to live the lives we want. Our eBay business lets us travel overseas every year for a month or two. Rent an apartment and experience another culture slowly. Do it now while we’re still young. This is wealth to us. 

The gorgeous rented apartment the couple shared when they stayed in Amsterdam. 

9) Again, agreed with your philosophy. The draw to reselling is the flexibility to work the hours you want to. You just can't buy that freedom. I won't go back to the 9-5 world even though it represents a high, steady income. 

You guys have bought a house and/or pay all your bills on eBay sales alone? Because that is amazing and so inspiring. I have to let the readers know it's a possible alternative to working for the man.

Yeah, it’s all a numbers game. You start making money on eBay. You become thrifty and keep your costs low. Suddenly you have money. We bought and renovated a foreclosure as you can see in these photos (How We Built Our Dream House Using eBay). Then we bought and renovated a rental property (Are we yuppies?). 

Running an eBay business also means we have a lot of time. And time lets us do all kinds of things. When you work 40+ hours for someone else, there’s no time to do anything outside of work or take advantage of random opportunities. 

10) So inspiring! I'm saving up to buy/renovate foreclosures, too! How about any top articles helpful resources from your website?

If there were just three podcasts we’d want people to listen to, it’d be these:
Ryanne and Jay's eBay Lifestyle

Thank you both for sharing this valuable information! You guys are resourceful, hard-working, and so generous to share so much so candidly on your website. I feel like their tips here and on their website can be applied to any indie business venture. And as we discussed in our first interview, eBay and reselling can be the tool you until you start another career of your choice or simply a way for you to make a living while having a flexible schedule so you can do more living.

Anyone else have questions or tips to share? Let's discuss...
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  1. What a neat couple. I love this - part of the whole success thing is living within your means or even below. That equals freedom

    1. Hell yes it is. :) I've noticed a lot of us resellers particularly realize how little we really need and just keep challenging ourselves more: making our own stuff as much as possible, cooking at home, using the thrifts where we source merch for all of our resources, trading when necessary.

  2. Awesome interview! I'm so impressed that Jay and Ryanne were able to turn their passion into an independent business! By the way, I really appreciate the advice about not paying for services. I couldn't agree more. It's tempting to want to 'buy' your way to success, but the truth is: starting a small business means your time IS money.

    1. PS: This article inspired me to create a Pinterest board to collect REAL, practical small business advice. I included this interview, and I hope more people are inspired by this Ebay success story!

    2. Glad you liked it, and thanks for sharing. I too loved the "hard work is the real secret" tip because it's true. A lot of people want to know how to make it; work as hard as you can every day is a huge part of it!

  3. Great interview! Question though...what do you do for medical/dental benefits? I work full time for a huge firm, the man, and need to stick around for the benefits. I'd love to pursue this lifestyle, but as someone with a chronic medical condition I don't see how it is possible. How is it done?

    1. not to get political or anything, but i just signed up for health and dental on a few days left to sign up to get coverage for Jan 1.

    2. p.s. and with the new law, they can't turn you away for a pre-existing condition.

    3. I have Humana One for dental and am a bad entrepreneur and have not gotten medical yet. I appreciate you guys sharing your advice experience with that on my behalf. When I had medical through The Man I paid a ton and never went to the doctor :P I feel so bad when people ask what I do for medical and my answer is something like, "Look both ways before I cross the street and eat the healthiest diet possible..."

      My plan was to go through, too. There's lots available for indie biz owners. Will research more and write about it.

    4. It also depends on how many people in your family and how much you make combined a year. Unfortunately for me I went from paying $230 a month for my wife and child (my company offers me free HMO) to almost $400.

    5. I started selling on eBay about 6 months ago. I did great now things have slowed down but I need to go and get more inventory. I'm hoping in the near future my husband who is 60 can stop working and we both can commit to this. I really enjoy doing this.

  4. @jilldoubt, you can use as mentioned to compare plans. you can also use e-healthinsurance. We used them in the past when my wife was a SAHM. Rates were fairly reasonable, and the plans covered what we needed them to.

    For dental insurance, unless you have an bad grill, skip it. go to the dentist regularly for cleanings (2x year!), brush (using Van's homemade recipe!), and floss, and you'll be good. Dental work due to accidents is usually covered by health insurance anyway. use the money you save from not buying dental insurance to fund a health savings account for a high-deductible (and tax advantaged) health insurance plan.

    As ryanne points out, health insurers cannot turn you away with the new laws. There are self-employed retirement plans you can take out through almost all popluar mutual fund brokers (vanguard, trowe price, etc.).

    working at a job for "benefits" is a red herring of corporate america, or whatever you call it. we (americans) have been led to believe that without "benefits", we could never go it alone. the truth is, you can create your own benefits package.

    1. Aw, love this. Thanks for sharing all this valuable info! The homemade toothpaste has kept us healthy and cavity-free in this apartment :D And yes, you really can create your own benefits packages. Don't let them fool you into staying in a job you don't like for the insurance.

    2. Thanks for all the info. Definitely something to research and consider now that some options have been presented. Would love a post on your experience with when you have it, Van.
      Gotta try the toothpaste too....

    3. Yep, have plans to post on it all into the future. Gonna have e-books on reselling and starting on your indie biz coming as well. :D And toothpaste for sale, bwahaha.

  5. That is so cool. Having that huge basement space for stock is a serious leg up---I sell out of a 700sq ft house and its very challenging. Never feel like I can get to the point where I could justify paying for a storage unit, so I just keep juggling the mess:)

    1. Oh I know your pain working in a tiny space. I've reached my wit's end. I'm going to find a studio space to work out of somewhere. Jealous of that huge basement! I'm a mess juggler too :) The hallway to my apartment is scary right now, so scary...

  6. Seriously! I never thought your job could be selling in ebay. Thank you so much for this interview Van and also so grateful Jay and Ryanne for all answers. I guess you also need a good eyes for items that might sell. I will check your videos, one by one and start selling on ebay, who knows if I get lucky? I guess I never done it before because
    i dislike the design of ebay, but there is not much we can do about it right?
    All the best luck for you guys, you are a trully inspiration for those who want to have a free life, free of bosses or slavery.

    1. Isn't it awesome? There a lot of people that make it their full-time job with hard work and dedication. Their manifesto is a good place to start, simple action steps that work. I think I'm going to try their manifesto to the letter AFTER I get a dedicated storage space. I can't keep resellling on a big scale in this apartment.

      Just e-mail me if you have any questions along the way Marta :)

    2. Woops I forgot to add, you get an idea of what will sell and what won't versus what you -want- to sell and what you do not after doing it for months and even years. Some are successful grabbing what catches their eye, others come from a background of detailed knowledge in vintage objects, and others research as they go and continue to research as they sell. It IS a lot of hard work, but it's also fun, creative, and rewarding if it's for you.

    3. I'm working on a reselling eBook that'll have more details soon :)

  7. This was great! I loved reading it!

  8. Great story about a very interesting duo. I enjoy listening to their Scavenger Life podcasts while I list.

  9. Wow. I love this kind of stuff. You inspire me

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