All this week, you have the perfect opportunity to sell your handmade jewelry and crafts for Valentine’s Day. Even if you’re snowed in, just pick up the phone and set up some trunk shows at galleries, men’s salons, health clubs, office buildings or all of the above. Do you have any idea how many people would love to have your help in choosing a piece of hand crafted jewelry or a silk scarf for their wives or girlfriends rather than have to scour shops trying to figure out what the women in their lives would like? Whether you need to generate cash to pay off your holiday credit card bills or turn your crafts into cash so that you can go to the Gem Shows and buy more supplies, right now, today is the time to make those calls. After a successful sale, you’ll have an open invitation to return for Mother’s Day. See the December post on how to sell handmade jewelry to procrastinators. (It talks about Christmas but the ideas are great for Valentines Day as well.)
You know the increase in creative energy when you’re in the company of enthusiastic, like-minded artists or crafters? We keep hearing that the most successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with other successful entrepreneurs, right?
Well, that’s all true but there are times when you can actually sabotage your creative business if you’re hanging out with the wrong tribe. What do I mean by the “wrong” tribe? Aren’t all aspiring or growing entrepreneurs the right peeps to connect with? Not all. Here’s why:
Let’s say you’re starting a business making organic herbed olive oils. You tested them at a local farmers’ market and had a great response so you’ve decided to give an Etsy shop a try. You buy a few how-to-sell-on-Etsy books or videos and put up your shop and wait. Nothing’s happening. No one is buying.
You’re not even getting many page views. You’re feeling a little discouraged but you realize it takes awhile to grow a business so you try to connect with other makers to see what they are doing. The obvious place to go would be to get on the Etsy forums and connect with other sellers. Maybe you can get some positive suggestions so you post in a chat room and ask for help. You might be lucky and get some helpful tips but you’re more likely to find people saying things like “oh, you can’t make it selling that on Etsy. There are 700 other people selling infused olive oil on Etsy.” They aren’t asking you what you’re doing to stand out from the competition or giving you advice on how to get traffic to your page. Most likely, you’ll find other newish sellers who are on there complaining that they aren’t doing well either and you all start commiserating and discourage one another.
Recently, I asked a friend who is an uber successful Etsy seller if she ever goes on the forums to help newer makers or goes to meet-ups with local Etsy teams. Her answer: “Are you kidding? Successful Etsy sellers don’t have time to be hanging out on the forums. We’re busy filling orders. When I take a break from making, packaging and shipping, I’m updating listings and posting new photos on Pinterest to drive traffic to my site.”
So how, as a fledgling creative entrepreneur can you find people who not only answer your questions but understand what you’re going through and encourage and support you?
Here’s what I would do. I’d look for a few successful sellers whose products are complementary but not in competition with yours. Let’s say you make custom diaper bags. You might look for someone who is successfully selling baby shower invitations or hand knit baby sweaters. Contact them and be honest. Tell them you admire their work and were wondering if they would be willing to chat with you. You might even contact a few successful makers in your local area and invite the to meet for coffee. If they are so busy that they don’t have time to help you, hopefully they’ll at least give you the names of resources they used or a coach who helped them get started.
If you’ve already found people who boost you up, please share in the comments-we’d all love to hear your successes and cheer you on.
A recent article in Entrepreneur article titled “10 Businesses You Can Start From Your Dorm Room” listed IT consultant, social media consultant , web designer, photographer, personal trainer, event planner, graphic designer, cleaning service, makeup artist, landscaper and snow removal. I found it interesting that there was no mention of all the crafty businesses students can run from their dorm room, particularly since so many students are crafters.
There’s so much opportunity to sell handmade items both on and off campus and if you have an item that appeals to a young, trendy population, you have a built in customer set of tens of thousands of qualified buyers. and that’s without even taking your business online. If you are a college student or parent of a college student, check out the e-guide “Crafting Your Way Through College” for lots of craft businesses you can start while still in school. Most of these you can even start while still in high school. If you’re not a maker or want ideas beyond crafting check out “Create Your Own Summer Job”. (you can do most of these businesses any time of year.)
Are you still buying your supplies at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or JoAnn Fabrics? If you’re just starting out, of course you need to figure out what sells best before you invest in large bolts of fabric, quantities of yarn, gemstones or glass.
If you’re going to make a sustainable living selling crafts, you have to make some items that aren’t one-offs. You need to have a bread and butter line that you can produce with fast turnaround even if your pieces are made-to-order.
Let’s say you make baby onesies, for example. You find five yards of adorable fabric on closeout at JoAnn’s and it’s a hit. You sell a ton of that item and people are favoriting it and coming back to your site to purchase but YOU CAN’T GET ANYMORE of that fabric. Yikes!
We live in an instant gratification world. Customers want everything now. If a customer is searching on Etsy for amethyst earrings and you run out of the beads to make your best-selling amethyst earrings, they are going to go to the shop with a similar product that can ship in a couple of days. And you’ve lost them. Probably for good.
So how do you make sure you can always deliver your best selling products AND put a good profit margin on your handmade crafts? If you’re a professional and you’re going to make a living selling crafts, you find a reliable supplier and purchase your materials in bulk. Now you’re probably thinking, “OK, so I’ll Google ‘fabrics wholesale’.” but that’s definitely not the way to find the best suppliers.
Here’s a tip: trade shows. Google “trade shows” + your industry. Of course, if there’s a trade show near you, by all means go to a trade show. You’ll learn a lot and be inspired but you don’t have to do that anymore to find suppliers. Simply go to your industry’s trade shows websites and study the exhibitor list. Then call the rep or distributor for the products you need and that’s how you’ll get the best price. Also, the rep should let you know if they’ll be closing out a particular item. If you can purchase a large enough quantity to keep you stocked through the season, great. Otherwise, select materials that they will be able to continue supplying.
You can also fnd a huge list of trade shows for the maker industry in the Beyond Etsy E-course.
The most successful Etsy sellers I know have a line of at least a dozen products that they can replicate again and again and ship quickly.
If you plan to make a full-time living selling crafts professionally, it’s time to buy your materials like a professional.
In addition to selling your finished crafts, a great way to turn some inventory into cash is to sell some of your excess supplies and tools of your craft. .Any of us who are crafters know that we can’t pass up a bead shop, yarn shop, fabric store, etc and especially since people can see what you make out of the materials, it is more attractive than the same supplies look loose in a craft store. We all have tools and supplies that we purchased on impulse and either haven’t gotten the inspiration to use them yet or lost interest in them. An attractive way to merchandise them is to bundle them with instructions for a simple piece that can be made out of the supplies. Your market is not only crafters but family and friends of crafters who give them as gifts.
You can put them up Continue reading
It may seem like days before Christmas is too late to plan a sale of your handcrafted gifts but this is actually perfect timing. Surveys report that most consumers have not even begun their holiday shopping and even those who say they’re finished are still likely to purchase more if they see something really special.
The days prior to the holidays, everyone is feeling rushed and wondering how they’ll find time after work to get to the stores to shop. It seems employers are not falling for the frequent “sick days” employees are taking to get their shopping done.
In order to have their employees come to work rather than play hookie at the mall, or spend on-the-clock time shopping online, companies are now very receptive to vendors coming in to sell to their staff during lunch breaks.
Most corporations don’t take a percentage of the sales or ask for a space rental fee. Apparently they recognize that it is to their advantage to have the option for their employees to get some of their shopping done during business hours.
It’s always nice to hold an event with no fees or percentages going out. If you’re used to there always being a trade-off, it may seem odd that there are people who simply would love the convenience of being able to shop at their workplace. Talk to Continue reading
Have you noticed that many of the small boutiques that sell handmade are low in inventory the last couple of weeks in December? As a maker with crafts to sell, it’s to your advantage.
Many indiependent retailers respond to the media’s fear-based projections by ordering light this season in anticipation of slow sales due to ever increasing online buying. But the trend of discerning consumers searching for unique, handcrafted, meaningful gifts is catching retailers unprepared with insufficient supply and no time to re-order handmade gifts. Last minute shoppers are too late to order from Etsy sellers in time for Christmas and shop owners are missing out on revenue if they don’t have inventory.
This is where YOU come in. Boutiques and galleries that may Continue reading
Author’s Note: (Even if you’re short on inventory or time to do these tips for Christmas, you’ll find this article valuable because you can do this days before Valentines Day or Mother’s Day. It really WORKS. Many crafts people report making more money IN A FEW HOURS this way than at a huge craft fair.)
Do you think it’s too late to sell your crafts the last few days before Christmas? You’d be amazed at how many crafts people tell me they have made more sales in a couple of hours a day or two before a holiday than in the three previous weeks combined. It’s all about using the bad habits of procrastinators to your advantage.
Here are a few tips for making some last minute cash:
Many people wait until the last minute to shop. I don’t want to stereotype or alienate my male readers, friends and loved ones but from my experience, guys tend to shop at the 11th hour and this is a good thing for YOU as a crafter. Hanging out where men are captive audiences is a guaranteed way to turn your craft into cash at the last minute. Particularly if you make wearables like jewelry or scarves, jump on this. Many guys have no idea what to buy their wives, girlfriends, sisters and mothers so they appreciate your suggestions.
- Pick the most upscale men’s salon or barber shop and offer to set up a display of your wares at peak hours. Make sure and approach it as if you’re doing THEM a favor rather than the other way around because you are. (The owner and operators likely haven’t done holiday shopping yet either so they can have first pick without having to leave work.) Also, mention that setting this up will be an attraction for them as well so it will draw in new customers for the salon. You will sell more than you would in a craft show or retail setting because guys won’t be cheap in front of other guys. There’s kind of a magnet effect. One buys and they all start opening their wallets.
- Even as late as the 24th, if you get permission to set up at a large office building in the lobby or break room, you’ll be doing the employees and the employers a favor because lots of guys (and gals) are planning to leave work early on Christmas Eve and stop on the way home to pick up last minute gifts. I’ve heard crafters say they sold more in a lunch hour Christmas eve than all month long.
- Medical personnel often have to work on Christmas eve so a hospital is a great place to have a last minute sale. Ask the HR department if you can set up in an area that the nurses and doctors gather on their breaks.
- Another great place to set up a last minute pop-up display is a nice neighborhood sports bar where regulars gather for lunch and dinner. (think Cheers). If you get the guys at lunch time, you have a captive audience. Many of us eat out the days before Christmas because we’re going to be cooking the next few days, so you have the advantage of couples as well and believe me, if there is a table of handmade jewelry set up, women will crowd around. They’ll not only buy for friends and family but will show the guys the pieces they like.
In all of the above instances, be sure to have plenty of cards and brochures with your contact info and write a description on the card what the person liked if they don’t buy it so that they can call or email you later. Also, do a drawing for a piece of your work. Just put out a bowl to collect business cards or scraps of paper for them to put their name and email address on. Ask permission to add the to your newsletter list so that you can let them know in advance when you’ll be back at that location or somewhere near by. (Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, etc.)
There are lots more ideas like this in ““21 Ways to Turn Your Craft into a Cash Cow”
My sister-in-saw Nancy was a resourceful recycler long before being green was vogue. Raising four children in the 70‘s on a very limited income, she creatively reused and repurposed everything. When other kids were ferociously ripping wrapping paper and balling it up for the trash, Nancy’s’ gang carefully cut the scotch tape and folded the gift wrap for re-giving. Ribbons and bows were saved in a box for next year. The kids learned not to be disappointed if a box from Radio shack contained hand-crocheted slippers. (The box had probably once contained a remote-control airplane before.) It wasn’t unusual to open a Christmas card from Nancy that we’d sent her a previous year. She’d cut the fronts off all the cards she received and paste them to construction paper to create a new card. Coffee cans and jelly jars were saved all year, decoupaged and repurposed for cookie giving. She’d put a coat of glossy Modge podge on stale Christmas cookies and use them as tree ornaments. She wasn’t trying to save the environment. She was just using what she had to make the holidays special but we could all take lessons from Nancy in being green.
When I attend a holiday gathering that involves gift-giving, I’m often appalled at the heaps of gift wrap, cardboard boxes, ribbon and other disposable waste. Most people don’t realize that shiny gift wrap Continue reading
Are you wondering how you are going to find time to market your craft over the holidays? A lot of people let their marketing fall by the way-side between Thanksgiving and New Years but this can lead to slow sales in January and February.
One of the best methods to sell more craft is to make sure it’s seen at holiday parties.
If you have friends or family who host holiday parties in their home or office, ask them if they would like to borrow some of your art for the party. Whether it’s wall art, table-top or wearable, your work will be seen by lots of new potential customers. Just be sure your friend has cards with your contact info handy to give to anyone who admires your work.
If your make jewelry or wearable art, you should wear it every single time you leave the house, even to run to the grocery store. And always have cards with your contact info in your pocket. But especially over the holidays, you can get other people to be your billboards as well. My employees and friends always knew they could borrow a piece of handmade jewelry, a scarf or other wearable art to attend special luncheons or parties. The only requirement was that they keep my cards in their handbag and anytime someone complimented the piece, they told them who made it and where they could purchase one or something similar. It’s not imposing. They’ll love wearing and talking about your work. It’s often a good ice-breaker at cocktail parties.
If any of your friends work in a place where they see lots of people every day, they can be a great source of marketing for you just by wearing what you make and telling anyone who admires it how they can contact you.
Don’t over-look how many women are shopping for the perfect outfit to wear to the holiday parties. They will need accessories as well so it’s a great idea to approach some upscale boutiques and ask them to display your work with their dresses. If they don’t already sell jewelry or whatever accessories your make, they can up their average ticket by showing the customer a piece of yours to match the outfit. They have nothing to lose if you do it on consignment. And you have everything to gain.
For more easy, fun ways to sell more crafts, check out the audio course: “12 Easy Ways to turn your Creative Hobby into an Extra $1200 a Month”