Ways To Sell Your Crafts Online
Welcome to Episode 3 of the Craft Seller Success podcast – Ways to Sell Your Crafts Online.
In this episode I am talking about different ways you can sell your handmade crafts online. Nowadays there are so many options, so you can find the one (or ones) that work well for you and your business.
Listen to the Podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
Transcript of Episode 003
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number three, Ways to Sell your Crafts Online
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
In this episode, I will be talking about the different options available nowadays for selling your handmade crafts online. Which is right for you?
Why sell crafts online?
Back at the beginning of the 90s, I used to make miniature teddy bears. I would make a one-off design and photograph it. I would pay to have multiple copies printed. A week later, when the pictures came back from the developer, I would glue them on to a typed-out and photocopied page with descriptions of the bears. A paid advert would be placed in the popular teddy bear collecting magazines and readers would send me a stamped self-addressed envelope. I then sent them the page and photos. They picked a bear they wanted and rang me up so I could reserve it for them. Then they sent me a cheque, which I took to the bank. Once it had cleared I would send out their bear.
Now clearly, you can see that this was a pretty messy procedure. Nowadays I could just list the bears online with digital pictures and a seller can click and buy in seconds. No messing around, no waiting, no worrying about two people trying to buy the same bear, simples.
Basically, it is very easy to sell online nowadays. You can get your item seen by eager buyers from all over the world and deliver a quick, efficient sales service, all from the comfort of your own home – and for a ridiculously low cost!
So how do you get a bit of that juicy online craft selling action?
You need an online shop. Somewhere you can display your products. You also need a way to take payments from your buyers. And to collect their shipping details etc. So let’s look at the various options for doing this.
Using a Marketplace website
This is a website where you pay to display your products. They are usually easy to set up and run with little computery knowledge required. You will have an area of the site that is your shop which you will be able to brand to some degree. The marketplace will handle payments from your customers and then pay you.
Marketplace sites are great if you are new to selling crafts as they require the least up-front investment and the least technical or retail knowledge. Having said that, any business will probably require some upfront and ongoing investment. Selling online always needs a bit of research and knowledge if you are going to make a success of it. There is more to it than just listing and waiting.
The most well-known marketplace for handmade items is probably Etsy which now has around two million! In episode 10 I will be talking about how to create an Etsy shop.
Retail giants, Amazon have recently joined the handmade market with their Amazon Handmade service. With a massive customer base and a trusted name, many craft sellers have found this to be a good option for their business.
And there are also sites that specialise in particular types of products, such as the art selling marketplace, Artfire.
Auction and retail site, eBay is another marketplace site where you could sell your crafts. It appears that some crafts do very well there, but others struggle due to the immediate competition from mass-produced items on the site.
Imagine that a marketplace website is a real life market. Your shop is a rented stall in that market. You will benefit from customers who come to the market to look around and shop. If the market owners advertise the market, then you benefit from the increase in potential customers.
Customers may be happier about buying from a marketplace site rather than an individual business’s website. They may recognise the marketplace name and trust them. Plus the marketplace offers additional protection for the buyer, which encourages more sales.
These benefits come at a price, of course.
You may have to pay a fee for each listing, and/or a monthly fee for the service. You will probably also have to pay a percentage of the final sale price when your items sell. This makes a marketplace website one of the most expensive ways to sell your items online.
You may also be restricted as to what you can sell. Etsy, for example, only allow items that are handmade by you, vintage, which they define as over 20 years old, and supplies for crafting. So if you sell handmade candles, you could not sell mass-produced candle snuffers as an optional extra.
Visitors to your shop may see items from other shops on the marketplace, especially when they are checking out. The marketplace’s branding is probably going to be quite prominent.
As your shop is on the marketplace’s website you are somewhat at their mercy. If they decide to close your shop, they can. Obviously this is unlikely to happen if you follow the rules, but I have heard stories of people who have been closed for accidental misdemeanours or confusions. If the marketplace site closes, your shop goes too. And if the marketplace is involved in any sort of scandal then your shop could be tarred with the same brush because it is trading on the site – another thing to consider in today’s world.
When looking into marketplace sites be sure to understand the fees, what you can and can’t sell, how the marketplace’s SEO (Search engine optimization works) – that is how do you get your items seen by potential customers, and what else may you need to know, such as having particular returns policies or collecting taxes.
I would recommend hanging out in the site’s forums for a while. You will learn a lot about the potential problems facing sellers on the site. But please do remember that people are far more likely to post when they are having problems or things are not going well than when everything is hunky-dory. For every person moaning about something there are dozens of happy sellers who are busy, well, selling.
I just wanted to mention Etsy Pattern here. Pattern is sort of an add on to an Etsy shop. It costs an additional $15 a month and for this you get a some what customizable storefront. You can sell a wider range of products than Etsy normally allows. The Pattern shop is linked to your main Etsy shop (you do require both) and so inventory etc is shared between the two. Etsy handle the checkout for you. If you already have an Etsy shop and wanted something a bit individual, and very simple to set up, then Pattern might be worth considering. However, as you will still be paying the Etsy final sales fees, there is a limited amount of customization available at present, you will not be getting any traffic from Etsy’s internal search engine and the shop lacks many basic features that other options will give you, such as the ability to offer buy-one-get-one-free and similar sales. So there may be better choices.
It is definitely not a standalone shop (despite some of Etsy’s advertising material saying it is), and it is not quite a full Ecommerce platform.
Thinking of it as an expansion or enhancement for an Etsy shop is probably a reasonable definition.
One other related option that I would like to mention is Not On The High Street. This is a curated marketplace site, which means they vet prospective sellers. There is a one-off joining fee of around £200 and the site takes 25-30% commission on every sale. You will also need to be able to produce quite high quantities of your products. Whilst all this might sound a bit off-putting, there are many craft sellers who have done very well on this marketplace. Not On The High Street advertise extensively, distribute beautiful catalogues and have a very good reputation as a source of high quality, original, handmade products.
Using an E-Commerce platform
This could be considered a half-way house between a marketplace website and having a standalone shop website.
An Ecommerce platform will, for a monthly or annual fee, provide you with software to create your own shop on their servers. This software will be user-friendly and not require previous website creation experience. It is usually a case of simply dragging and dropping things into templates.
The site will handle the financial transaction for you and any maintenance or updates. This makes this a great option for new sellers.
Your shop will be more independent than the marketplace “stall” from the previous section. You will probably be able to customise it more and have your branding more prominent. Visitors to your shop will not see items from other shops.
You will, however, have to drive all the traffic to your shop yourself. You will not be benefiting from “passing footfall” as you would on a marketplace site.
This means you will need to learn about SEO, search engine optimization and marketing an online business.
Shopify are the biggest and most well Ecommerce platform at present. Their monthly plans are very reasonable and you get a lot of features for your money. You can pay for additional features if you want.
The lowest priced Shopify option (currently just $9 a month) is slightly different to the other options as it does not include an actual store front. I will mention this plan again in the next section.
The other Shopify plans include your own store and various extras. Different plans are optimized for different volumes of sales. The bigger your store grows, the more benefits, both technically and financially, of moving to higher plan options. The basic $29 a month option is ideal for the majority of new sellers.
Shopify shops are very easy to set up and run. Once signed up, you provide your payment details etc and you then choose from their many templates and just add your product photos and descriptions. You can even import listings from, for example, an Etsy or other marketplace shop.
Other popular companies that offer similar services are BigCommerce, Magneto, BigCartel, Wix and Weebly and there are numerous others. Each offers its own features, so do shop around and see which is right for your products, budget and lifestyle. Again, I recommend checking out the forums to get an idea of what issues affect sellers on each particular platform.
So, if you want your own shop with more independence than a marketplace site, but you would like it to be easy to set up and use, then an Ecommerce platform could be a great fit for you.
If you are selling very little a month then a Shopify-type shop might work out quite a bit more expensive than a Marketplace shop, such as Etsy. But if you are selling regularly, or have higher priced items, then the Shopify option may prove to be more economical. You will need to test the figures for your particular situation if this is an important consideration for you.
Using Social media
There are some craft sellers who only sell their crafts via social media.
Some people use the lowest priced Shopify plan, the one I mentioned earlier, which is just $9 a month. This plan does not provide an actual shop website, but allows you to use Shopify’s checkout system etc for social media posts via coded buttons you can include on various sites. This is a very low cost option that gives you many of the benefits of a full Shopify shop, but you provide the selling location yourself. You can also use this option to create buyable pins for Pinterest, something which I know many sellers enjoy.
You can do these two Shopify powered options with any of the Shopify plans, by the way.
If you are well established on a social media platform, and it allows some way of selling items, then this is definitely something to consider.
Facebook now has its own Craig-list style marketplace. It was designed to allow people to sell locally. This could be ideal if you sell bulky items that are hard to post.
Instagram is hugely popular amongst the crafting community. It is a very visual medium and ideal for showing off your lovely creations. There are a number of apps that will allow you to sell via Instagram. There are quite a few craft sellers who run their business solely through Instagram.
Earlier I mentioned buyable pins on Pinterest. These are available for users of Shopify, Magneto, BigCommerce and a few other Ecommerce platforms. At the moment they are available only to users in the United States.
For more on Pinterest see Episode 12 – Pinterest for Craft Sellers
There are also crafters who sell their products on Social media simply by sending a Paypal invoice to anyone who wants to buy an item offered. This is a very simple system, but can be a bit more risky than a more structured selling system. Some people could be reluctant to deal this way as they may feel unprotected. I suspect that this way of selling works much better if you have built up a good following on your social media and are trusted there.
I will talk more about social media in Episode 8 – Social Media for Craft Sellers 101.
Selling on your Own Website
The two big attractions of a true standalone website of your own are control and long-term cost.
It is your website and you can customised it as you wish. You will not have any other companies branding anywhere to distract from your own. And you will not have to follow any rules about what you can or can not sell – though obviously you will still need to follow the laws of your country! You can’t go selling illegal products no matter what sort of online store you have!
Your costs will be the hosting costs for your website etc, as detailed in the previous episode. When selling your products you will only need to pay your payment providers fees, for example, if you use popular payment provider, Paypal, then you will be paying about 3-5% per sale – it varies depending on your country, type of product and type of Paypal account. You will not have to pay another company any commission on each sale. This can be quite a bit saving for many small businesses.
The two big cons of a standalone website are that you are responsible for setting it up and maintaining it. This might be something you will require help with at first. Whilst it is easier now than it used to be, and there are new developments coming which will probably make it even easier (more on that in a future episode!), a standalone website is rarely going to be anywhere near as quick and easy as the Marketplace or build-your-own-shop solutions.
The other con is you will have to drive all the traffic to your site yourself. It may be slightly harder than doing so for a shop on an Ecommerce platform as they produce shops that are already strongly optimized for search engines to find. So you will definitely need to learn a bit about SEO, Search Engine Optimization, and online marketing. Your website will be one amongst many, many millions and totally invisible unless you are actively promoting it.
In the next episode, episode 4, I will be talking about creating your own WordPress site. Link to Episode 004 – A Self Hosted WordPress Blog for Craft Sellers
In episode 20 I talk more about Building a Standalone Craft Shop Using WordPress and Woocommerce.
What Do I use?
I have two stores on Etsy. One sells my digital graphics for crafters, and the others is a vintage store selling antique dog prints. I have been with Etsy for years now and am generally very happy. I benefit from the internal traffic and this makes the fees well worth paying. For the types of product I sell, the Marketplace type of shop is, I believe, the most profitable option for me, right now.
I also have a standalone shop selling physical gift items that incorporate my artwork. This shop is a self-hosted WordPress site with the free plugin called WooCommerce handling the checkout and financial side. I will talk more about this in a later episode.
I am currently planning another shop, this time using WordPress to build the actual store with the popular, free Woocommerce plugin powering the checkout side of things.
Links to all the sites mentioned are in the Show Notes.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast I will be talking about why I recommend a self-hosted WordPress site for your business blog and how to get one.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, byee
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson and Matthew French
Original music by Matthew French
Episode 4 – A Self-Hosted WordPress site for Craft Sellers – will be out on 29th May 2018.
Use this link when signing up for an Etsy shop and you will get 40 free listings! – Etsy shop free listings
Do you already have an online shop to sell your crafts? Here are two popular Tin Teddy blog articles that might help you to sell your crafts online.
12 Things to do whilst you wait for that first Etsy sale…
7 Pro Tips when Selling Crafts Online
10 Ways to Look More Professional When Selling Crafts Online
Helping craft sellers to sell their crafts.