As someone who genuinely appreciates arts and crafts, I have found it to be very discouraging to hear the countless stories from my crafty peers who share their frustrations about selling (or rather NOT selling) their crafts online. What I have found to be even more discouraging is the lack of support they receive when searching for advice, critiques and help from their peers. I know that when I first started selling my handmade items, the last thing I wanted to hear was "Wow, that is really ugly," or "You'll never find a buyer for that," but oddly enough, these are the types of responses that are commonly received. And if that's not bad enough, in every discussion about this topic, there's sure to be that one person who is always there to let you know that no matter what you do, you'll never sell your crafts online because it's just too hard.
Yes, selling crafts online is much harder and competitive than it used to be. Each year, thousands of personal craft sites are popping up all over the Internet, and websites such as Etsy, Artfire and ShopHandmade are saturated with similar products. But even with all of that, selling crafts online is not impossible and I'm living proof of that. Am I a millionaire from my crafts? No, of course not; but I do have steady sales per week and a long list of customers which is all most crafters who try to sell online are looking for.
Selling Crafts Online
Here is my top 8 list of steps I took to get the steady orders that I receive (without all that search engine optimization mumbo jumbo you can find anywhere).
1.) Get together a pilot group.
The first thing I knew I needed was a pilot group to bounce my designs off of so that I could see what the most popular types of items were and what prices everyone seemed to be comfortable with. I decided that my co-workers would be the perfect group of guinea pigs and brought some of my handmade, jewelry, greeting cards, and because it was Christmas time, a few mini Christmas trees and wreaths in to work to see how it'd go. That same day, everything sold. I remember it being such a great feeling to know that people actually liked the things that I had made and it inspired me to keep going.
2.) Find a user-friendly website that comes with a secure shopping cart.
After my intial run at selling, my friends, family and co-workers encouraged me to branch out and recommended I try creating a website where I could showcase all of my products. I did a little research and decided to sign up for a website that came with a secure shopping cart, realizing that people can be very leery when buying off the Internet and the last thing I wanted to do was give them the impression that buying from my website would not be safe.
3.) Offer a large selection of items.
In all the books I had been reading on successful marketing websites, I learned that the #1 key to having success selling online was to offer a wide variety of items to give people many options while they browsed your site. That meant that my next step was to work on significantly building up my inventory whenever I had the chance.
4.) Post detailed descriptions of your items.
What I came to find was that the inventory itself was only half the battle. High-quality pictures, descriptions and cataloging took up much more time than I could have ever imagined, but I knew how necessary it was. I reminded myself that my prospective customers could not pick up, touch or see my products, and knew that if my pictures and descriptions weren't clear, I was going to lose a majority of them.
5.) Create a company-specific e-mail.
Though I have had my own personal e-mail address for years, I knew it was imperative to keep personal e-mails separate from business e-mails and created a new one that directly linked to my shop. Having a company e-mail also gave me the option of putting my website address directly into the signature so that any e-mail I sent out included my shop link. I customized my signature not only for my e-mail, but for any profile I had that was used in forums or message boards.
7.) Brand your company.
Once my website was "up" and inventory stocked, my next step was to brand my company, knowing full well that just because I had a site on the Internet didn't mean I would just start grabbing customers off of Yahoo! and Google searches. To do this, I ran over to VistaPrint and purchased the new small business package which included business cards, address labels, regular labels and a rubber stamp of my company logo and website address. I used the rubber stamp to mark the backs of all my handmade cards, the labels to put on the boxes of my handmade jewelry, and business cards to pack in all of my shipments, hoping that anyone receiving my products as gifts would come back and visit me.
For the next few months, the only people who I received orders from were those who I had given my business cards to, but shortly after that, I noticed I was getting orders from strangers who claimed they were friends of people who bought from me. And then those friends had friends who had bought from me and so on and so forth. Before I knew it, I was getting e-mails and orders from people all over the country and it was very, very exciting.
7.) Offer custom designs and special requests.
Shortly after this little burst in sales, my inbox always seemed to be full and I ended up going out and buying a BlackBerry just so I could check my messages throughout the day. And it wasn't just straight orders anymore; I was getting custom order requests for specific color schemes for jewelry, special names, poems or sentiments for cards, and unique themes for scrapbooks. To this day, I sell many more custom orders than I do anything else. In fact, most of the inventory on my website ends up serving as samples. I have to say that though I love making all the things I do, I seem to get the most satisfaction from the custom orders just simply because they are tailor made for special people, for special reasons.
8.) Start your own craft blog.
One of the last steps I have recently taken in regards to selling online is the creation of my blog. I had fought the idea of having a blog for years based on the fact that I'm a very shy person in nature, and thought no one would ever really care to read what I had to say, but ultimately it's been one of the more rewarding parts. Whereas before I found myself constantly answering individual e-mails from people asking what new designs I was working on, I could now use my blog posts to update friends, customers and followers. On a personal level, I have built relationships with fellow bloggers and have truly enjoyed the interactions with others.
So, in a nutshell, that is how I have been able to be what I consider somewhat successful in selling my handmade crafts online. I decided to write this hub not because I think I'm some kind of expert, but because I hope to offer some positive encouragement to those frustrated crafters who are feeling so disheartened right now.
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Tiffany Delite from Wichita, KS on November 02, 2012:
thank you for this great hub with some very sound advice for anyone desiring to sell craft online...or sell craft period! i wish you the best with your venture...blessings!