Sell Crafts Online – 9 Things You Must Do To Succeed
Welcome to Episode 9 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. Today I am going to discuss what I believe to be 9 things you must do to sell crafts online and make more profit!
Listen to the Sell Crafts Online Podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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Transcript of Episode 009
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number nine:
Sell Crafts Online – 9 Things You Must Do!
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
It can sometimes seem that a craft seller’s To Do list is endless. We never have enough hours in the day to do all the things we would like, do we?
So how can you best use your precious time on the road to success?
In today’s podcast, I am going to discuss 9 things that I believe are particularly important if one wants to succesfully sell crafts online. I am going to assume that you would like to make some profit from selling your crafts!
1 – Treat it as a business
Whilst you may have a “main job” that pays the bills and your craft selling may indeed be something you only do for an hour a day. But it is still a business. It is just a very small business.
Many new craft sellers will say things like “Oh, it is just a hobby.” That is fine, but a hobby is something you do for fun, not to make a profit. If you want to make a profit that is a business.
You may have to register for a license, or as self-employed, depending on your country’s laws. You will almost certainly have to report any earnings to the tax man. You will definitely need to follow many online selling regulations that govern your state or country.
And your customers will think of you as a business. They are handing over their hard-earned money and will expect you to behave just as professionally as any other business.
I have heard many craft sellers say they started to make money when they began to think about their shop or craft stalls as a proper business.. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
I confess that I am not the world’s most naturally organized person. Ok, those who know me will be quick to point out that I am a total fluff-head most of the time. But I am surprisingly organized when it comes to my business. I wasn’t at first, it is true. But I soon discovered that the benefits worth seriously worth the effort.
- Keep records of things you will need later
- Store your materials and finished products safely, and in a way, you can find them when you need them.
- Organize your computer so you can find your files, emails and sites you regularly use.
Keep your work area tidy.
- Use a diary, planner or calendar software to ensure you don’t miss any deadlines, bills due or subscription renewals etc.
Many craft sellers have routines that help them get more done. I know that a lot of you have to fit your business around other commitments. Routines are not always possible for everyone.
But if you can at least have a couple of simple ones in place it can make a big difference. For example, I always do my accounts on a Friday. Also, I have noted in my planner to remind me to back up my files, run antivirus scans and so on once a week.
2 – Keep thorough accounts
I am often very surprised when I see people posting on forums that they are doing their accounts for tax time, and it is clear that they haven’t looked at their figures at all throughout the year. Whilst many of us feel our eyes glazing over and our brains freezing up at the very mention of words like accounting, having a basic understanding of your craft business’s accounts is pretty essential if you want to thrive.
I have also seen, sadly quite a few times, people posting that when they have done their yearly taxes they have then discovered that they are actually making a loss. That item they were so proud of, their best seller, actually cost them more to make than the price they were charging for it. They were losing money with every sale!
Be sure you know how much the materials for each of your products cost. This is easier if you sell the same items over and over, of course.
So, if you sell knitted scarves, consider how many balls of yarn each takes. For necklaces, you may need to first work out how many finished chains you can get from one reel of chain, then add the cost of the pendant, and the cost of the catch and any other findings.
Sometimes, when you do this, you may see ways you can save money on your supplies. If you are using a lot of glue and buying a small tube every week, would it be more economical to buy a big tube once a fortnight instead?
Record these figures somewhere, whether in a spreadsheet, a word-processing document or a physical notebook.
Also be aware of your other costs. For example, what percentage of each sale has to go to your payment provider, Paypal for example? If you sell on a marketplace site such as Etsy, Folksy or Amazon Handmade, be sure you know the fees that you will incur with each sale. If you are in the EU, remember that you will probably have to pay VAT on these too. And if you are in the USA, remember that you may have to take state sales taxes into account. Other countries may have their own extra overheads to consider.
If you have to pay income tax on your craft shop earnings, be sure you have an idea of how much that is too.
Other costs you need to think about are packaging supplies, postage costs, stationery such as pens, notebooks, printer paper etc, and the cost of any new tools you require.
When you sell crafts online there are also costs such as web hosting if you have your own website. You may also have domain name costs, subscription costs for plugins, magazines, courses or web services you use, and so on. It can take a while to think of all of these.
I strongly recommend that you use some system to keep your accounts. I will talk more about bookkeeping for craft sellers in a later podcast.
The system that is best for you will depend on how many sales you have, whether you need to consider taxes, how comfortable you are with doing your own accounts and what resources you have to hand.
Many smaller craft sellers keep written accounts in a notebook or printed account book. They just record all their income in one column and their expenses in another. Then at the end of each month, they add both columns up and can see their profit by taking the expenses total from the income total. Simple.
You could use an Excel or similar spreadsheet to record these figures too. It is quite easy to learn how to do this from YouTube videos and online tutorials. The spreadsheet will do the actual maths bits for you!
There are many dedicated programs and apps that you can use to record and understand your accounts.
I personally use Wave Accounting which is an online, cloud-based accounts service. It is free to use. I like it because it is very easy and intuitive. It can handle multiple currencies, which is very handy if you sell on sites based in countries different to your own (I am in the UK but sell on American site Etsy, which bills me in dollars).
GoDaddy has their own bookkeeping service, which I know many craft sellers use. This has a monthly subscription fee.
Larger sellers may want to look into business standards such as Quickbooks and Sage. These are professional programs that many, many self-employed business owners use. They will cost a bit more but offer more features and are ideal if you have employees or complex invoicing to take into consideration in your accounts.
Remember to safely store all the receipts for any expenses relating to your business. You may need this if you are audited for tax purposes at any point.
3 – Move with the times
We live in very exciting times. New technology keeps arriving, new techniques and theories are developed and the way people shop has undergone many mini-revolutions in the last couple of decades.
Whilst this has many benefits for we craft sellers, it also means we do rather have to keep up to date with some of the changes if we want to benefit from them.
Sometimes I see long-term craft sellers saying that their sales have dropped off and they don’t understand why, because “I am doing everything the same as I always have!” What worked a few years ago may not work now. This can be a bit of a hard fact to accept, and something that countless big businesses have been tripped up by.
If you sell crafts online on a marketplace site like Etsy, Folksy or Amazon Handmade be sure to regularly check their forums or announcement areas for any changes to the way the site operates. Ensure you are set up to receive emails about such changes. If something changes and you don’t adjust you may find your sales or visitors suddenly plummeting.
Be aware of changes that affect all online sellers, such as when Google makes significant changes to its search algorithm. There are lots of sites, blogs and forums you can follow to get notification of these things.
To keep up to date on Google and other SEO news, I recommend subscribing to the Yoast newsletter, even if you are not using their tools.
Regularly check out up-to-date articles about online selling.
There are many sources for keeping up to date on the business world and the latest ideas, practices and techniques. Magazines such as Entrepreneur, Inc and Forbes contain many articles that are of use to a small business.
Craft magazines, forums, big company sites, YouTube channels and podcasts can all keep you up to date on your crafting niche.
Follow bloggers and businesses in your niche on social media. So, if you, for example, sell wedding stationery, you might want to follow bloggers who write about celebrity weddings, or wedding dress companies. This way you will get to see all the latest news in your niche as soon as possible.
4 – Understand your target market
Sometimes, when I am mentoring a new craft seller, I will ask them a simple question “Who is the target market of your product?” Many answer “I don’t really know”. Others answer incorrectly.
For example, If someone is selling baby bibs and baby blankets their target market is NOT babies. Babies don’t buy anything. Your target market is who BUYS your items, not who uses them. We need to think about the users of our products when coming up with new designs, and features, but when it comes to selling, we must not forget that our target market may actually be quite different to our end users.
The baby products are probably bought by parents, relatives and maybe friends of new parents, as gifts.
When you first start selling a particular product line it is not always easy to be sure who your target market is actually going to be. Will these products be bought by the end users, or as gifts? Will these designs appeal to teenagers or twenty-somethings? Will more men or more women prefer these products?
Over time you will become better and better at describing your typical customer. For some niches, this will be a very tight description, for others very loose.
For example, if you sell gothic wedding dresses then it is probably fair to say that your target market is going to be female Goths who are about to get married. That is quite precise.
But if you sell hand-knitted beanies in natural colours they may appeal to both men and women, over a wide age range, and with a wide range of characteristics.
As you begin to narrow down who you feel your target market is, keep them strong in your mind so you can tailor your marketing, social media, branding and indeed products better for them.
Many business books and courses recommend that you create one, or a few, personas. These are pretend people who represent your typical customer.
So, going back to the Goth wedding gowns, I might create a person who is a 23-year-old Goth girl called Raven. She wants her wedding to be unique. She loves all things black and dislikes anything that is too “traditional”. Hey, sorry to any Goths out there if I am stereotyping here. Go on to think about what tv programmes Raven watches, what music she listens to, what magazines and blogs she reads. What does she do in her spare time? What are her dreams and ambitions?
Once you have got your persona firmly in your mind you can look online for a picture of someone who seems to represent how you imagine your persona would look like. You could then pin this picture up near your workplace to remind you all the time of who you are aiming your efforts at.
Some people who sell crafts online may need to create a few personas.
5 – Know your competition
OK, let’s get something clear right away. It is not being nosy, being rude or being unethical to be interested in what your competition is doing. In every business sphere “know your competition” is a standard business principle. Countless business textbooks, courses and gurus will tell you this.
But, for some odd reason, there is clearly a feeling amongst many craft sellers that it is a bad thing. I have no idea why.
Sometimes, when a person on craft forums, or social media, posts something that mentions comparing, analysing or assessing one’s competition, a bunch of other people will quickly reply with things like “I mind my own business!” or “Concentrate on what YOU are doing, not on others” and so on.
Whilst I fully agree that it is probably not healthy to be obsessed with what others are doing at the expense of being aware of your own situation, knowing your competition is a tried-and-tested technique.
You are not selling in a vacuum.
Firstly, it is important to understand who your competition is. Are there lots of them? If you sell knitted scarves you will probably have a lot more competition than if you sell knitted bicycle seat covers.
Are they very similar to you, or do you all differ quite a bit? For example, if you sell bracelets made from beads you will probably have a lot of direct competition – people who are selling products that are very like your own. But if you sell prints of your original artwork your competition may have similar subject matter, but their artwork will inevitably be different.
Many sellers try to assess who their main competition is. Is there someone selling something that is particularly similar to you? Perhaps they have the same sort of range or utilize a particular technique of feature that you also do. Think about where your competition is based. There may be many people selling in the same niche as you, but only a handful of them are in the same country as you.
Once you have worked out who a few strong competitors are, have a quick look at their shop now and then.
Look for things like their presentation – do they come off as professional? Why? What things jar, or look bad.
Look at their range of products. Now, obviously, I am not going to suggest that you ever directly copy another seller, for plenty of reasons! But it is wise to be aware of trends that your competition may be embracing. What I mean is, if you sell earrings with gems in them, and you notice that three of your main competitors all have new ranges of emerald earrings, then this may well indicate there is a trend for emerald earrings right now, and perhaps you should consider adding your own emerald designs to your shop.
Or, if you sell knitted hats and gloves and notice that all of your main competitors also have scarves, well, perhaps you could consider adding scarves too.
So I am not talking about copying, just about being aware of what your competition has on offer in general so you can compete better.
Look for ways you can get one up on your competition.
If your rivals all offer 14 days for returns, you could up your returns window to 28 days and instantly you have a tiny edge on them.
Of if your competition includes a gift box with their products, you could add a simple gift tag as well as a box with yours.
You may not always be able to spot ways to boost your brand over others, but if you don’t ever look at your competition then you definitely will not be able to do so!
I will talk more about this in a later podcast.
6 – Be a good ambassador for your brand
Did you wear a uniform when you were at school? If so, you may well recall that at some point you were given a lecture on how, whilst you were in your uniform, you represented the whole school and must not do anything that would bring shame, embarrassment or an apocalypse on the school.
Whenever you are identifiable as the owner of your craft business you are sort of wearing its uniform. Your actions could reflect on your business. For this reason, it is very important to continually remember that you are an ambassador for your brand.
As well as obvious things such as not getting involved in anything illegal, which is a very quick way to ruin a good business, of course, consider situations that might cause you to alienate, upset or put off potential customers.
If you use social media, and most people who sell crafts online do so nowadays, you will sometimes see debates or discussions start up to do with sensitive subjects. Naturally, we often have strong opinions on some things and want to express them. If your social media account is in any way connected to your business, then I recommend that you try to avoid being drawn into any such situations.
The same goes for what information you decide to display in your online shop, on your website or blog and anywhere else your brand has a presence.
If you sell, say, political-themed products, then, of course, you are likely to mention politics, often. But if you sell baby hats, does politics really have anything to do with this? Will displaying a banner showing your political allegiance in an up-coming election really benefit your shop or just alienate a large proportion of your visitors??
Unless you are super-confident that your target market is definitely going to feel the same way as you, why risk losing sales unnecessarily?
Politics and religion are the two biggest subjects to be careful about in this way. Are they relevant to your shop, to your business, or really juston a personal level? Weigh the benefits and risks of posting about them against the benefits of simply not saying anything on this subject.
Be particularly careful on social media and forums when debates flare up over sensitive topics. If you want to argue your position, consider doing it on a personal account that has no connections to your business.
Being able to differentiate between your personal opinions, beliefs and feelings and the character of your business, your brand, is very important.
Your business is not you.
7 – Set goals
When I first read about setting goals, quite a few years ago, half of my brain said: “oh, this sounds like a great idea and clearly there is plenty of evidence that it actually works” but the other half said “surely something so simple can’t really work”. The latter voice won. Big mistake. A few years later I read another book that extolled the benefits of setting goals. This time I was not so skeptical and gave it a go. Oh, my. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it really changed my life. Yes, seriously. I began to see benefits immediately. And of course, I was then kicking myself that I had bit tried ut when I first heard about it!
I will be talking more about goals and goal setting in a later podcast, but for now I will just give you a quick summary.
Take time to think about your goals. This simple step alone can make a difference and is something many people don’t do.
Where would you like your craft business to be in a month’s time? A year’s time? Five year’s time? Don’t be afraid to think big, by the way!
Consider the things you want to do with your business. Concentrate on things that YOU could potentially achieve, things you could actually cause to happen.
Make sure the goals are very specific. So “make more money” is not a goal as it is far too general. Instead “Double my takings by this time next year” is much better as it is a clear, measurable goal. Be sure that you could actually tell when you have reached the goal!
Once you have some goals, set time limits for them. You can change these deadlines if you have to, of course, these are your goals, no one is going to mind! But having a time limit makes it much more likely you will actually achieve the goals, honest.
Then consider the steps you will need to take to realise the goal.
So for the goal “double my taking by this time next year” I would start listing what I needed to do to achieve this. I would need to have enough stock available to be able to sell enough to make the figure, for a start. How many would I need to be selling a month, a week, a day? Could I make that many? How could I improve my advertising to reach new potential customers? Could I raise my prices a little? Would I need to make any changes to the product to enable me to do this? Could I lower my costs a little? Are there any other selling venues I could try? Could I introduce new product lines? And so on.
If the goal was “Introduce five new product lines by October” I would first work out how many per month that required, how would I spread this out so I could handle it. Then I would brainstorm what the five new products are actually going to be. Then plan and schedule how and when I would create each one so that I could have all five available for buyers by October.
Remember, keep your goals specific, with a time limit, and ensure they are things that YOU can actually achieve via your own efforts.
8 – Monitor and analyse
There are many free and easy tools available to help us understand how our shop is operating, where we might have problems and what works and what doesn’t.
Using these tools you can find out lots of very useful information that will help you tweak your business, attract more visitors and get more sales. This is a big subject which I will discuss in more depth in a later podcast. For now, I will mention the two most used sources of data for craft sellers.
If you use an online marketplace such as Etsy or have a shop using a service such as Shopify, have a good look at the statistics they offer you. You may want to record some of these stats on a regular basis.
For example, in my Etsy shop, I record my visitor numbers, sales and takings for each month, and have them all in a spreadsheet. This enables me to easily see how my shop is improving over time.
Google Analytics is used by many, many craft sellers. You can link your standalone shop, blog, many marketplace shops and more to Google Analytics. You can then find out so much about your traffic and visitors.
I regularly use Google Analytics to tell me things like:
How many visitors I have had over different time spans
What pages those visitors arrived on, and where they went next
How long they stayed on my site
How they found me. For example, whether they typed in the URL directly, came from social media or via a link from another site. This is particularly useful information for craft sellers as it enables you to see what marketing techniques are working the best.
I can also see the demographics of my visitors. This includes things like what countries do they come from, whether they are using a pc, tablet or mobile phone and what size screen they are using.
You can also find out information such as their ages, sex and even their interests!
All this data can really help you learn more about your target audience or customer, improve your website or shop and spot potential problems.
Google themselves offer some great, free online courses to help you learn more about Google Analytics and how to get the best from it.
I will talk more about Google Analytics and how it can help you sell crafts online in a dedicated podcast episode later on.
9 – Be confident
When I first started selling online I found it so hard to wax lyrical about my creations, even though I knew that I needed to be positive about them if I wanted to sell them! If someone asked me about my business I would say things like “I have a little shop online, I don’t sell a lot yet, but working on it!” Does this sound familiar?
I often meet fellow craft sellers at crafty functions, workshops and in craft shops. When I ask them about their craft business they oh so often tell me that they “have a little shop on Etsy” or “I don’t sell much” or even “I am not very good yet”. Erm, this is all the very opposite of advertising, isn’t it? They are not doing anything to make me want to rush off and see their shops. But I totally understand why they are saying things like this.
I know that many artists and crafters get a bit embarrassed about “blowing their own trumpet” and talking about their business. Many of us were told, often, as a child that it is very rude to be boastful or to talk about our skills, talents or achievements.
Then one day a friend gave me a bit of a stern telling off. “How on earth,” she said, “Do you expect anyone else to want your products when you act like you don’t think they are wonderful yourself?” She was, of course, dead right!
Always try to talk positively about your craft business, whether in person or online. Try to avoid using words that lessen it or make you sound like you don’t believe in what you are doing. Instead of a “little shop” say you have a “pendant shop” or a “handmade shop” or even just a shop!
Don’t discuss your business problems in public in a negative way, this includes on forums! Avoid things like “I am not getting any sales!” or “I think my photos must really suck!” or “Am I invisible?”Imagine how this would sound to you if you were a potential customer?If you are having problems and want to ask for help, try to phrase your questions in a way that does not knock your shop.
“Any ideas for how I can get more sales, guys?” “Anyone got any great hints for improving photos?”, “What marketing techniques have worked for you?”
Be proud of your little business. Talk about it positively and enthusiastically. Not only will this help make other people interested and excited about your business, but it can also have a great side effect of boosting your own confidence and passion too.
I will be discussing some of the topics referred to in this podcast in more detail in future episodes. I hope this episode will help you to sell crafts online.
Links to all the sites mentioned and a full transcript are in the Show Notes on the Tin Teddy Blog.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, I will be talking about 5 Steps to Start an Etsy Shop.
This episode will be out on the 21st August. Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy. Featuring Deborah Richardson and Matthew French Original music by Matthew French