If shaky markets have you thinking about moonlighting for extra cash, it might be time to consider ticket scalping. You can call it ticket brokering if you want to gussy up the title, but it is what it is: You'd be hawking event tickets above face value for your own gain.
"Selling concert and sports tickets online for profit is a great way to make extra money, work from home and be your own boss," Brittany Menard, author of "The Ticket Broker Guide," tells DailyFinance.
The timing is ideal. Big summer concert acts are still on tour. Baseball's division races are heating up. And football is around the corner.
Here are 10 tips from Menard and other experts on conquering the ticket trade as a part-time job.
1. Get familiar with your product: "If you're just starting out, choose a team or an artist that you know really well and know will make money on the secondary ticket market," Menard says. "Think about all the factors that contribute to their success and why fans are willing to pay big bucks to see them. Now start applying that same knowledge to other artists and teams and follow the market." Some scalpers choose an emphasis, such as basketball or hard rock, to suit their interests.
2. Don't be a mercenary: Love what you're doing, Menard urges. Having fun will come in handy on the days you'll have to take a loss. Enthusiasm for a pursuit leads to mastery of it, which translates into profit.
3. Get organized: You're the boss. Act like it. Keep track of your time, your expenses and your gains (and losses). Try a spreadsheet. Detailing your exploits allows you to learn from past performance, Menard says. As in any other profession, you'll need to refine your technique.
4. Don't expect to get love: Be prepared to feel the chill when you bargain with fans at the venues. You're marking up the merchandise, not curing cancer.
5. Know your laws: There's no federal law against scalping, but you'll need to find out what's in play where you live. In New York, for instance, the state let its sky's-the-limit scalping permission lapse in June 2010. Now somewhat strict, but cloudy, rules supposedly govern both online and onsite transactions there. Whether the activity is being rigorously monitored is anyone's guess.
6. Be prepared to take a loss on occasion: Negotiations get tricky as the start of an event approaches, or when it's already in progress. The dynamic of buyers who routinely try to wait out scalpers to score deals can defy scalpers' expectations, even after thorough online research. This is where practice comes in handy, Menard says.
StubHub, eBay,Craigslist, RazorGator and the like. You need to know the ceiling and floor prices. They're the basis for doing solid business in cyberspace and in the parking lot. Clark Howard, author of Living Large in Lean Times (Avery Penguin $18), recommends SeatGeek.com, a one-stop shop to help buyers compare different vendors. While it's targeted at buyers, scalpers also can benefit from the information.
8. Look for presales: While Ticketmaster and the aforementioned sites will be your main sources for buying tickets, any serious scalper should try to get in on presales through fan clubs, credit card perks, radio promotions and venues' VIP lists, one site called ticketbrokerjob.info advises. But you'll need the passwords. Services such as presalepassword.net ($19.95 a month) promise to get you those passwords on a regular basis.
9. Avoid trafficking in club or executive-suite seats: They're way overpriced to begin with, and they're generally one level too far away for hardcore fans willing to pay a premium price, tickettip.com says. Best to go after tickets closer to the action.
10. Don't do what I do: This DailyFinance reporter has dabbled in scalping. I thought I could be a dynasty. Instead I performed like the '62 Mets. A few things I learned in trying to conduct Internet commerce for baseball and college basketball: Don't buy singles. (Duh, right?) Study what buyers are actually paying instead of what fellow sellers are asking. Keep in mind the size of the venue, because some monster stadiums and arenas can create a surplus. And compute the purchase fees into your profit forecast. You'll fork over 15% to StubHub for selling and a $5 service charge plus $4.95 email delivery on the buying. That's a lot to overcome if you're working both ends.
Good luck. Happy scalping.