How to Make Nearly $5,000 a Month Renting Out Clothes You Already Own

  • Paula Pimlott started renting out clothes from her wardrobe in March 2022.
  • Pimlott makes an average of about $5,000 a month on clothing-rental platforms including By Rotation.
  • She shares how finding a niche audience and investing in high-quality dresses built her income.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Paula Pimlott, a stay-at-home mom who started a clothing-rental side hustle. Insider has verified revenue and profit with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I discovered fashion-rental marketplaces around March last year. My husband and I were going out for dinner for the first time since I’d given birth, so I wanted something special to wear. Google told me I could rent a handbag from rental platforms such as Hurr and By Rotation.

I saw a gap in the clothing-rental market 

While browsing the platforms in search of a bag to rent, I noticed there weren’t many clothing options in my size. I’m a size 14 and most of the clothes were in a size 8 or a size 10.

I saw it as an opportunity to start listing my own stuff.

I rented out my first dress that same month. I’d already seen clothing I owned in popular listings on Hurr and By Rotation. As a new mom, I wasn’t wearing these pieces, so I decided to try renting them out instead of selling them to help fund future purchases.

My first listing was a Rixo dress I bought in 2017. It wasn’t the latest season, but the design is timeless. It’s become one of my most popular items. 

My first listing was super popular — so I invested in a second dress

The Rixo dress was so popular that I bought a backup. The second dress cost £250, or about $311, and the full retail price was £300. I’ve rented it out about seven times in the past year for £50 each time.

I started with a portfolio of around 20 items from my closet that I was happy to rent out. I had a lot of interest right away, so I started to invest in more pieces for rentals, especially having seen a gap for certain styles in my size. I first started buying clothes to rent in June 2022.

I only rent out designer items because people look to rent high-quality things for special occasions.

What really helped grow my collection was buying fall and winter styles ahead of time in summer and doing the opposite in winter. I invested in some discounted items from high-end labels, paying close attention to the styles, brands, and customer feedback, which informed my buying decisions. 

I now operate my business more like a professional fashion buyer. I currently rent out 200 items consisting of clothing, bags, and jewelry, and I make £4,000, or about $4,900, a month.

I found my niche audience and built up a loyal following

When I bought items for an audience of women in their 20s, they weren’t being rented. 

I now know my target customer is a middle-aged, professional woman who often goes to dinners and black-tie events, and I buy items with this customer in mind. I also look at what brands and styles are popular on social media. 

I rent out clothes that would be flattering on someone who is my size, and I have regulars that watch my accounts, especially on By Rotation, and get a notification every time I upload. 

I’ve built relationships with them, and I’m happy to offer my regulars discounts. 

The items I buy are in my size and to my taste, but they are mostly investment pieces. I’d love to wear them myself, but as a full-time mom, I don’t do enough to wear these types of clothes. 

I’ve decided the highest I would spend on a rental dress is £1,000.

One of my renters wore a dress of mine to an event and won a “best-dressed” award. I love having a collection of pieces that make women feel confident. 

Renting still drives consumerism, but I try and do my bit by using eco-friendly packaging.

How I run my clothes-rental business 

For each listing, on both platforms, you can input the retail price of an item, and the platforms come back with suggestions for what the rental price should be. 

I often buy more items to rent out from the money I make. Postage and dry cleaning per item come to about £12, or about $15, per rental. 

On Hurr, I rent items out for four days, and on By Rotation, I rent them out for three days. I try to send orders ahead of time every Monday to account for delays, and I send other last-minute orders throughout the week. 

I take pictures of each item before I send them off so I know what condition they’re in when they leave. I then sometimes steam the item. I wrap them in tissue paper and put the dresses in garment bags.

To help my business, I’ve bought a label printer, a new steamer, and a ring light for pictures. I’ve also bought props including a chair and a plant that appear in the backgrounds of my pictures. 

I usually spend 3 hours a day running this business, but during busy periods it can go up to 6

A third of my income comes from Hurr, and the rest is from By Rotation. Now, I make about £4,000, or about $5,000, a month in combined income from the platforms. 

I’m in a good routine where I can balance orders with picking up my child from the babysitters four days a week. 

But during busy periods, I’ve sent out 30 rentals a week and worked for about six hours a day. When it’s busy, it can get difficult to answer questions from renters and deal with delayed shipments. In less busy periods, I work about three hours a day. 

The only drawback is damaged items

Renters can pay for a damage-protection add-on, which covers them for up to £50 of damage. I’ve had incidents where renters have spilled wine on items. But if the item is badly damaged or not repairable, the renter has to cover the item’s retail-market value. 

I also recently had an item go missing in transit — neither I nor the renter was at fault — but they kindly offered to pay part of the value and meet me in the middle. Most of the time, renters do look after the items really well, and if something’s wrong, they usually say so. 

I consider what I do to be a business now, and you have to accept that there could always be some kind of loss. I wouldn’t recommend renting out something that has sentimental value.

In the future, I’d like to hire a unit where potential renters can try on my garments by appointment. At the moment, returns and packaging take over my whole dining room. 

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