A passion for fashion: How this student works the gig economy

College student, Lauren Lee, loves fashion, so doing it for others through e-commerce sites has proven the perfect side hustle.

Tags: Gig economy
Published: October 17, 2019

Instead of waiting tables through college, Lauren Lee is studying labels, fabric and the telltale signs of counterfeit. 

And she’s good at it. The 21-year-old at the University of California, Davis, makes about $550 a month reselling garments and accessories on sites like Poshmark, Mercari, Depop and eBay. 
That’s likely higher than the norm, a U.S. Bank analysis found. 

The bank looked at total earnings deposited in customer accounts by 45 companies associated with gig work. Poshmark ranked sixth on the list, depositing $12.2 million in customer accounts between July 2018 and June 2019. But with thousands of customers receiving payments, that amounted to only $150 per customer per month.  

Another resale site on the list, Mercari, deposited $4.6 million in accounts, averaging $147 per person per month.  

Resale is one of the most popular ways that people make extra money, but it’s not necessarily the most lucrative. It can take more time, knowledge and care than people realize, Lauren says.  

We talked to her about how she got started, what it takes to be successful, and her advice for others considering the same path. 

Lauren’s gig started in 2017, when she became interested in the impact of fashion on landfills. “It’s incredible the amount of clothing waste that gets dropped off every day,” she says. “Reselling is good for the environment, and I’m really excited to be part of it, because I think this is how we need to go forward.” 

For her first sales, she turned to her mother, whose closet included a few vintage Coach bags and barely worn designer shoes. As word spread about her goal of earning spending money for college, she began receiving other donations from family friends, her doctor and even some of her doctor’s clients.  

Today, she supplements such contributions with finds from thrift stores in the Bay Area, where designer clothes are abundant. At each store, she might spend an hour or two sifting through the racks, with a goal of spending $5 to $7 per item.  

“Now I’m knowledgeable enough that I can just touch something and say, ‘Oh, this is real leather,’ or ‘Oh, this is really well-constructed,’ or ‘This seems expensive.’” 

After reading blogs and eBay guides, she also knows everything from how to spot fake designer goods to which Levis label is from the brand’s most sought-after era. (Spoiler: It’s 1975 to ’79.) 

After purchasing an item, Lauren takes clear, closeup photos in natural light, then posts the pictures and detailed descriptions online. 

Her Poshmark closet contains about 500 items for sale, each of which is carefully stored in bins or hanging in the guest room at her family’s home. When an item is purchased, she pulls up a spreadsheet that tells her which bin to find it in. 

She loves the freedom of working on her own schedule, while at the same time building her résumé. The message she hopes to send to future employers: “I have the maturity and responsibility to handle something of this scale and pull it off and make money. I think those are valuable skills to have.” 


Laurens’ resale tips: 

  • Provide great customer service. Answer questions promptly. Be nice. Ship as quickly as possible, making sure items are clean and neatly packaged. 
  • Top brands are important, but don’t buy something for the brand alone. Look at the style as well. “If there’s not a buyer willing to pay for it, then you don’t really have a market. It’s worthless,” Lauren says.
  • Per the rules on some resale sites, your buyer won’t be able to return an item if it doesn’t fit, so make sure you include detailed measurements. 
  • Rule of thumb: The more standardized the fit, the more people are willing to pay. You can earn more with sneakers, coats, purses and the like because they are a safer bet for buyers than a slinky dress. 
  • When buying for resale, avoid fast-fashion items that retail for $30 or $40. By the time you discount your original price and then negotiate with the buyer (as is typical on resale sites) you’ll be left with little profit.  
  • When shipping, don’t overdo the wrapping. Many buyers are environmentally conscious and frown on waste, Lauren says. 
  • Regardless of the gig you choose, make sure you’re doing something you enjoy, because you are your own taskmaster. “Find something you’re passionate about,” Lauren says. “If you don’t like it, you won’t do it.”  


Do you have a gig story to share? Email socialmedia@usbank.com

Or, click here to learn more about the gig economy and meet more people who gig either on the side or full-time.

You can find Lauren Lee’s closet on Poshmark and Depop under the name @hyacin, and on eBay as @hyaceen.