How much to help sell clothes online?
April 13, 2008 6:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to sell some used clothing online, and I'm trying to figure out how much to pay for help.

I have a bunch of clothes and accessories that I want to sell online. I plan to list them on a specialized community website that allows sales posts, so there won't be any listing charges. From watching past sales, I think most of my items will move, and I think I'll be able to get an average of $20 per item.

I want to hire a friend to do the following: arrange and photograph each item, upload photos, combine them with descriptive text (which I will write) into a LJ post; package and ship items. I will provide camera, laptop, shipping materials, and postage.

I think it makes more sense for me to pay by the item than by the hour, since I want to give them an incentive to work fast. I'd like to make at least 50% profit, including supplies and postage.

So my first question is, how long would you expect all those tasks to take per item?

My second is, for a job like this paid under the table, what do you think is a fair hourly rate?

My third question is, what should I assume as an average postage cost per item of clothing, using the cheapest available shipping method? Assume US shipping only.

Thanks for your help!
posted by ottereroticist to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's hard to judge how much time it would take per item because the person would most likely be working in batches. Maybe you should try going through the process once yourself. I'd guess about half an hour plus time to get to the post office, but it's really just a guess.

As for pay, it depends on where you (or your assistant) live. I would want about ten, twelve bucks an hour for that job. But where I live you could probably find someone to do it for eight. Without knowing the cost of living and so forth it's hard to say. I'd think about the salary of a good office job -- have a look at temp agency listings for your area for an idea of the going rates.
posted by loiseau at 6:54 PM on April 13, 2008

Sorry, instead of "good office job" I meant entry-level office job.
posted by loiseau at 6:56 PM on April 13, 2008

Best answer: I wonder if you might be better off selling the clothes outright to someone who can then do what they'd like with the items.

I sell vintage clothing online. It's a slightly different game, but I know that it takes much longer than anyone expects to sell a piece.

For me, to sell something it involves: setting up the photo situation, steaming the item, putting it on a dress form, adjusting as necessary (some things need a belt or the proper bra or a crinoline), photographing the item, downloading the photos to my computer, using photoshop to crop the picture and adjust the colors (this can take awhile), then upoloading the photos to a server. After that there's writing the description for (or in your case uploading) the item, which includes measuring, finding flaws, and researching the history/context of the item (again, this takes awhile). Once the piece is listed, there may be questions, which could require more photos or research.

Once the piece is sold, the winning bidder or buyer is contacted with payment information. When they make payment, the item is wrapped (sometimes according to odd buyer specifications), and shipped. As the USPS computes their postal rates according to weight, package size, and zone, it can take a while to figure out the cost of shipping, and it will vary widely. And if you (or the person you hire) are selling a large volume, some means of keeping records will need to be in place (and again, this takes up time).

Even after the item has shipped, there are variables - sometimes the buyer doesn't get the item, or they're not happy with it and want to return it. And the post-sales placating can be time-consuming.

My situation is different - I use eBay and my own website, and it is my livelihood, so I am very invested in presentation and customer satisfaction. But selling online, especially clothing, is far more time intensive than most people realize.

If I were to give an estimate for each piece, from my experience, it's about 35 minutes per - in a best case scenario. And I have a good system set up - I've been making my living this way for years.

I don't mean to dissuade you from doing this, because I think that reselling clothing is a wonderful thing. Feel free to contact me on mefi mail if you have any questions!
posted by suki at 7:32 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've previously been a vintage/second-hand clothing dealer online on and off for the last 10 years. I agree with everything Suki says. I only have a few things to add...

Definitely take the time to properly iron or steam the garments you are selling. Make any minor repairs (missing or loose buttons, breaks in seams). Look the garments over very carefully to see if they have any flaws. There's nothing worse than taking the time to photograph a garment, then when you are writing the description and suddenly noticing it has some kind of condition issue. Also, measure everything very carefully...especially since you are selling plus sized clothing and women's clothing sizes vary so much. Depending on the item, you might want to include arm circumferences, shoulder to waist, etc. List fabric content. Try and get really good clear photos.

If you are paying someone to help you, you might want to pay them per item listed, rather than by hour worked. It's easy to get sucked into spending too much time getting the perfect photo or writing up a clever description.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:28 PM on April 13, 2008

I would also think about using Etsy, unless you're completely married to the idea of the livejournal section.
That will at least get rid of some of the hassle with shipping and such, IIRC.
posted by stvspl at 10:46 PM on April 13, 2008

Response by poster: I would also think about using Etsy, unless you're completely married to the idea of the livejournal section. That will at least get rid of some of the hassle with shipping and such, IIRC.

Really? I thought Etsy was only for crafty stuff. Can I really sell stuff I didn't make? Also, how does Etsy get rid of the hassle of shipping?
posted by ottereroticist at 11:40 PM on April 13, 2008

Selling Policies
What items can I sell on Etsy?

You can sell anything that is handmade or, a bit more loosely put, hand-assembled or hand-altered. For example, screen-printed shirts are OK. A custom-built computer is OK, as long as you're making the case and not buying prefab. Furniture is OK as long as it's nothing mass-produced (yes, you can use power tools to build it). If your human hands put some love into the object, odds are you can sell it on Etsy. Reselling of handmade items is not allowed. Please note: we do allow some non-handmade items in the Supplies and Vintage categories; they must be tagged appropriately. Check out the DOs and DON'Ts of Etsy (under Selling) for detailed rules.

What items can't I sell on Etsy?
Anything that is mass-produced or a knock-off. Yes, some of that stuff may be made by hand, but it's not made in the right spirit. Such items will be unlisted by Etsy Admin and listed fees refunded. Check out the DOs and DON'Ts of Etsy (under Selling) for detailed rules. Please note: we do allow some non-handmade items in the Supplies and Vintage categories; they must be tagged appropriately.posted by loiseau at 2:58 AM on April 14, 2008

If you have not made it yourself, Etsy will only allow you to sell vintage. It has to be more than 20 years old to qualify as vintage under Etsy's rules. And to be honest, only the really top tier vintage items sells strongly on Etsy; there is just too much competition from Ebay.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 PM on April 14, 2008

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