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Veteran Seller Shares eBay Selling Tips

Selling on eBay means merchant will never 'work' again.
profile-d. coleman

We recently wrote about former Navy man Adam Coleman, who passed up an opportunity to re-enlist to make online selling his full-time career. Since he attributes much of his love for “treasure hunting” to his mother, we decided to find out how she started her online selling career.

His mother, Doreen Coleman, has been selling on eBay for more than eight years.

Her eBay Store, Imetalconsignments, has about 600 items at any one time, most of which are considered hard-to-find mid-century products.

A variety of products made in the U.S.

If your mother’s lawn chair is frayed and threatens to drop guests on the ground, Doreen Coleman has listings for replacement webbing. If you’d rather dry your hair salon-style, Imetalconsignments can sell you a portable soft bonnet hair dryer.

Not only do the mid-1900s remind her of her childhood, Coleman also appreciates the construction of the products sold back then

From green dishware to retro furniture, this eBay seller has her niche figured out right down to the cocktail swizzle stick.

Not only do the mid-1900s remind her of her childhood, Coleman also appreciates the construction of the products sold back then and the sense of pride the U.S. had in its workmanship.

“I love the mid-century modern era, a time when almost everything was made in the USA,” she adds. “And that seems to be the direction my store has taken.”

Yet Coleman does tell people she’ll pretty much sell anything she can make money on, as long as it’s made in America, she reports. And now that more people are looking for American-made items, she believes her eBay Store will stay its course for a long time.

From ‘real job’ to real joy

As with most people, Coleman says she started selling online to supplement her income.

“I had what some people call ‘a real job,’ an ongoing joke in my household,” she quips.

For more than 20 years, the single mom owned a brick-and-mortar antique business. The summer seasons were profitable, but winter times were hard, so Coleman joined a co-op instead. For a rental fee, she could display her items in various shops throughout the area.

“Unfortunately, when that business decides to close its doors, there’s not much one can do,” she notes.

When the co-op no longer worked for Coleman, she found herself packing her items and going to work for someone else.

For more than 20 years, the single mom owned a brick-and-mortar antique business. The summer seasons were profitable, but winter times were hard

But in her “real job,” she missed retail sales. After a few years, she decided to try selling on eBay.

In the beginning, Coleman sourced her first listings with merchandise from thrift stores and garage sales, but then a friend approached her with an opportunity to help him liquidate his farm equipment.

Consignment venture starts niche

Not knowing yet what her niche market was going to be, Coleman took advantage of the chance to be a consignor.

“It was a pretty brave step,” she notes. “Luckily, every transaction went smoothly.”

Selling farm equipment can be risky if you don’t know the consignee well and he or she doesn’t give you full disclosure on the equipment. For that reason, Coleman suggests sellers know and trust those they might do business with on such large-scale equipment.

“One would think selling full-sized farm equipment would be tough online, but it was one of the easiest items to sell,” she says.

It seemed Coleman found her niche, so she named her business Imetalconsignments. But when her friend’s farm equipment was all sold off, she had to find other farmers to sell for. That only lasted so long. When those wells dried up, Coleman went back to selling her own merchandise.

“Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to change directions of your business,” she says.

Making the switch to full time

Eventually, Coleman found herself bringing in more income through online sales than through her “real job.” She was ready to take her business to full-time status, but still had a few reservations to overcome.

As a single mother, giving up the security of a regular paycheck can be frightening, so she called her oldest son, Adam, who was serving in the Navy.

“Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to change directions of your business”

“He asked me a single question: ‘Do you love selling online?’” she recalls.

She responded positively, so he told her to do it. Plus, her son agreed to back her up financially if things went wrong, and that gave Coleman the security she needed to move forward.

Selling worldwide

Though Coleman had 20 years of experience selling antiques in her town, it was a new learning curve for her to do it online.

“Buying merchandise for my brick-and-mortar business was based on my local clientele,” Coleman adds. “Now I’m selling to the whole world.”

This meant the merchant selling on eBay had to change her buying habits to appeal to customers from as far away as Australia.

“The buzz in this small town is I’m keeping the post office open,” she says.

While she laughs about the joke, Coleman notes that the U.S. Postal Service’s new price increase will make her rethink how she ships. However, she loves eBay’s ShipSaver Insurance program, which is important for those who buy and sell rare, breakable products.

Recently, the eBay seller bought a building across from the post office. It’s just big enough to house her inventory and give her some studio space. Plus, getting her orders out in a timely manner is only a matter of a short walk.

Finding merchandise is like vacation to her. Working on her listings in her “overgrown playhouse” is a daily pleasure

If you love it, it’s not work

Coleman’s son recently asked her if she was ever going to retire.

“What would I do?” she responded. “I am already retired. If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work again.”

Finding merchandise is like vacation to her, the eBay seller notes. Working on her listings in her “overgrown playhouse” is a daily pleasure, and if she wants to take a day off, she’ll do it without guilt.

Visit Imetalconsignments on eBay.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.