Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Old Equipment - Sell, Trade, Rent, or Donate?

As I've been taking a look at all the assets I built in my photography business and what I might do with them now that I'm focusing more exclusively on consulting and reiki work, here's the process I've been going through...

1.  Decide How Long You'll Keep the Equipment As Backup

Maybe you're just upgrading equipment  and want to keep some backup equipment around.  In my case, I decided that I'd hold onto my equipment for 6 to 12 months after announcing to my clients that they'd need to start finding another photographer.  I created a timeline on how long I'd keep gear so I could really gauge for myself how much I'd actually use my gear for my own personal fine art or creative interests once I wasn't doing commercial photography work full time.  Gear loses value pretty quickly as new gear comes out, so months eventually become dollars lost too.

If you've already got great working backups but still have a few pieces of equipment laying around after your upgrade, act sooner rather than later to help get a return on your upgrade cycle.

I needed to know if I'd realistically have any desire to pull out my professional equipment, after some time and distance from the daily work of commercial photography would open up my creative juices again.  It took me about 4 months, but today I actually thought of a photography project I would need my specialized equipment for and might actually want to spend time doing when I need a break from working on other things.

I share this just as an example of how sometimes we can feel really, fully, done when we make a decision about something, but given some extra time and space, we may change our mind about a few things.  I can always rent equipment whenever I want, but that takes some planning, and I didn't want that to be a barrier for those spur of the moment creative ideas I might have.

2. Assess The Remaining Value & Demand

Once you've decided what pieces you're definitely willing to let go of, take a look at what it's actually worth right now when sold as a USED piece of equipment.  Also, take into consideration how old that piece of equipment is with regard to how in demand it would be for someone to search for it online and want to purchase it.

For example, if it's a digital camera body that's more than 5 years old, you might try to sell it, but it may be highly unlikely that anyone will actually want to buy it.  A lens is likely to hold more value over time, but take a good look at your equipment to see what kind of shape it's in and if you'd considering buy it in that condition from someone else.  Taking a look at the USED sale value of items should help give you a more accurate picture of what is actually worth selling and what has such low value or demand that you might as well keep it or donate it.

3. Listing What's Worth Selling

I'm not a fan of craigslist because of the number of scammers that seem to troll the site, so I'm more a fan of the Facebook Marketplace or specialty Facebook Groups for selling equipment under a certain manufacturer from one person to another.  At least there's a little more accountability and specialized interest in the equipment you have to offer and a better idea of where people are located when they're inquiring, but if you can't sell it there, try EBay next, then Craigslist as a last resort.

Buyers are 10x more likely to buy used equipment that has fully accurate, detailed photos of the actual condition of the equipment.  They want to see any scratches, worn paint, dents, etc.  Don't try to hide these things or make it look better than it really is, just be super real in order to establish trust with a future buyer.  If you use stock photos or don't show detail of equipment, expect less interest and more questions.  Accurate photos save you time in your effort to sell.

4. Trading In What Has Value but Isn't Worth Listing

If listing your equipment and managing inquiries about sales is your least favorite thing in the world and you don't care that you'd be losing money, one last ditch effort to get some value out of your equipment that might be using it as trade-in value for something else.

Best Buy has a trade-in program that will take working equipment and provide a trade-in value that you can use at Best Buy toward a current product in stores.  This is a great way to get rid of your equipment soon and not deal with shipping hassles or negotiations.

5. Renting What's Worth Keeping

In the last few years of crowd-sourcing, we now have the option to also crowd-source our gear and rent it out to other image creators and professionals.  As photography rental outlets become more difficult to rent from and require more up front business identification and insurance, crowd-sourced rentals become easier with insurance options built into the renting process.

One of the companies currently pioneering this effort is KitSplit.  Before listing your own gear, you can search for the gear you're thinking of renting and see what options are already available in your area.  If you're outside of a major city, my guess is that you may actually dominate your local area as a rental option if you want to, otherwise you can see who else is in your area and how often they appear to be renting out their equipment or equipment similar to yours.  This is also a great option to share with the other image makers in your area who know you already- and may want to rent some of your gear when you're not planning to use it.  Do you know of any other crowd-source rental options available?  If so- post them in the comments!

5. Donating What's Not Worth Keeping, Trading-In, or Selling

If it's really old gear that no one is likely to search for, and it's just taking up space as a hazard or liability sitting in your storage area, it would be much better put to use as a donation to a school or a youth organization that doesn't have the budget to update electronic equipment each year.  Schools and youth organizations absolutely value any working gear that could be provided to help students with their projects, and think about how much happiness your equipment can give someone else when it isn't sitting in your storage area.

Before clearing out my portrait studio, I got in touch with the local Boys & Girls Club and asked them if they'd like my office supplies, old photo equipment, and other odds and ends like markers and poster board, etc.  They were SO HAPPY to get so many creative tools donated!  They turned around and gave me a tax-deductible donation form that I could record with my accountant that year, which was worth way more than letting it all continue to gather dust in my closet.

6. When It Isn't Even Worth Donating

Sometimes schools or youth programs will actually take equipment that doesn't work in order to be used for electronics dissecting or other electronic repair projects, but always ask first before dropping off something that doesn't work.

One last way to make your old equipment do just a little more good in the world, is to send it to Recycling for Charities, which takes old equipment and donates any income earned from the donation to the participating charity of your choosing.

If you aren't going to use it, give it a chance to get into the hands of someone who will.

If you have other great resources for selling, trade-ins, rentals, or donations - please add yours to the comments!

Anne Ruthmann is a constantly evolving creative soul based in New York City. With over a decade of success as a full-time professional photographer, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems and finding more ways to travel the world. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.