Yesterday a client asked me to check out her Etsy shop and advise her on why she wasn’t making many sales. There were a number of reasons which I’ll talk about in future posts but the very first thing that stood out for me was how few listings she had.
Her product was gorgeous and the photographs weren’t bad. There just weren’t enough of them. She makes adorable purses in some really cute fabrics but because she only has three styles, she showed images of the three styles in two sizes and a handful of different fabrics. She had a total of nine photos.
Imagine you’re out walking through a cute village with a bunch of sweet little shops. You step into one and there are only two racks of handbags in the whole place. If your online shop has only a few listings, it’s like walking into a brick and mortar store that looks like they’re going out of business. You’d quickly move on to the next one, right?
Can you make money selling handmade online if your shop looks like you’re almost out of inventory? No way. Can you be successful on Etsy if you only make a few items? Absolutely. Here’s how:
Let’s use the handbag example. Photograph each purse you make in as many different fabrics as you offer. You may only have two styles. Let’s say you have a polka dot, a gingham, a chevron pattern, a floral and a paisley and you offer a variety of color-ways in each pattern. You might be inclined to just show each of the two styles in each of the five patterns with a drop-down menu for color but that only gives you ten photographs. Instead, make up samples of every single color offered in each design and that will give you at least a couple of pages of images. Make each image a separate listing. (You can still use a dropdown menu with color choices.) This gives you the appearance of a well-stocked shop and shoppers will stay on your site longer and be more likely to purchase your handmade items.
Watch your inbox because in the next article, I’ll address another reason my client’s shop wasn’t making enough sales and what we’re going to do to solve it and get her making money.
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If you’re like most makers, you’ve got more craft supplies than you’ll ever use. Maybe that’s not a problem if you have a huge, well organized art studio but let’s face it, there’s always some new yarn, paint, fabric or tool that you just have to have, right?
Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of the supplies that you no longer want and turn them into cash? You could always list them individually on Etsy or Ebay but I have a better idea that’s fun, easier and will bring you recurring monthly income. (Or extra cash to buy more new brushes, paint, beads or fiber.)
When I look at my crafty stash, I see ideas for combining different elements like wire, yarn, beads and fabric. You’re obviously a creative type too or you probably wouldn’t be here now. Here’s a great way to turn those excess craft supplies into what I call a subscription for ongoing monthly income.
Gather the supplies that you’re no longer using and design a project that uses those supplies. (It should incorporate supplies you have a lot of.) Write up, illustrate or make video instructions of the project and offer a program of monthly bundles. Depending on the quality of supplies and uniqueness of design, you could charge anywhere from $5 to $50 monthly. Your social media friends can subscribe to receive a different bundle for a new project each month. If you have only 150 subscribers at $10 a month, you’ve created an extra $1500 a month. That’s a pretty significant profit center, don’t you think?
Please share some of your cool designs for your new project-of-the-month-bundle. You can post them over on the Craft Biz Blog Facebook page. I look forward to seeing the magic you come up with from your craft stash. For more great ideas on how to turn your craft into cash, check out “12 Easy Ways to Turn Your Hobby into an Extra $1200. a Month” HERE
I received so questions about co-op galleries that I am reposting this article from 2009 to give you some helpful pointers on starting your own. Lots of you have expressed interest in opening your own gallery or craft shop and said you are concerned because so many fail. It’s true that many co-op style craft galleries don’t make it but artists who approach it as a business rather than a hobby can do very well. There are some co-op galleries in this county that have lasted decades.
First, let’s look at the advantages of a co-op:
- Customarily, the cash output initially is minimal since it is shared amongst members.
- You don’t need to purchase inventory to start up since it is the members who make up the artists represented.
- As an artist you will not be stuck sitting the gallery yourself full time at the cost of precious studio time.
- You don’t ever have to advertise for help. The members all put in time.
The reasons they frequently don’t work are:
- There are too many “cooks”and not enough sous-chefs. You need a director or a team of directors.
- Every one does every task so you have people taking on responsibilities that they are not qualified for or don’t enjoy so they can’t do their best job.
- In an attempt to save money on rent, co-op galleries are frequently poorly located. There is often no jury process so members display any work they chose. One or two amateurish artists can ruin the professional image and reputation.
- The mix of price-point or media is out of balance.
- No one’s promoting the gallery.
- The artists have their individual contact information on their tags so customers will try to go directly to the artist rather than through the gallery. They believe they’ll save money.
- Some artists charge more for their work in a co-op to make up for the percentage the gallery takes. If you are trying to bypass the gallery’s commission, you’re sabotaging everyone’s efforts to make it a success.
What can you do differently to make sure you are one of the success stories?
- Choose three people with a good sense for business to be the directors. We’re not talking about members with a business degree. Just those who are a bit more right-brain balanced or detail oriented. Three because an odd number means there will always be a tie breaker rather than two directors possibly butting heads. If there are not 3 members of your co-op who fit the profile, select members of the small business community. Ideally, they will be retailers whose business is complimentary, not competitive.
- Divide the tasks according to members strengths. You may have some members who are better at display, others who are good at handling behind the scenes like paperwork or public relations. Someone else who is good at event planning to handle the show details. Of course, you don’t want to put everyone on the sales floor. Many artists find it difficult to ask for the sale and while you don’t want to hard-sell or pressure customers, the purpose is to sell art. The members can be trained at good sales skills but some people are going to be naturally comfortable speaking and educating the customer.
- Don’t skimp on location. I’m always amazed when coops take locations on a second floor or side street to save money. There is no costlier mistake in retail. You may save $800. a month but you’ll lose $8,000. or more in sales. This doesn’t mean that you will only succeed if you choose a very high end location. There are many factors and specific criteria for the right location. If you aren’t sure, it is definitely worth hiring a consultant to help you chose the best location. I’ve had the experiences that someone has hired me to help them open a gallery and they do everything right except go for the locations we’ve helped them choose and negotiate. They opt to save a few dollars on rent and and their sales figures suffer.
- Appoint a jury to approve what is displayed. As friends, members are often concerned with hurting someone’s feelings but the quality must be consistent. You might ask a few local artists from the local art association or even a nearby college to serve this role. They will most likely be flattered to have been asked. This keeps the selection neutral and professional.
- Every member should agree to charge at least keystone (double) the price they wholesale to other galleries or shops and agree to never undersell the gallery price at craft fairs or online. Keeping your prices consistent maintains integrity for the whole gallery.
- As tempting as it is to bring your work in and paint or make your art when it is your turn to work the gallery, it should be agreed that no one does work during their assigned gallery hours. As artists, we get involved in the creative process and find it an inconvenience to be interrupted. The customers feel that and you will loose sales. While having a working artist in the gallery is good for traffic and sales, it should not be the person whose turn it is to be on the sales floor. Customers want connection with you, to hear the story behind the work, a little about the technique and some bio tidbits. They’re not just buying the piece of art. They’re buying the human element.
If you’d like more detailed information about opening your own gallery or craft cooperative with low or no investment, you can purchse the “How to Start Your Own Gallery or Craft Co-op” HERE for only $19.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I like to give you ideas to leverage your art so that you don’t have to rely solely on one-off items. For two-dimensional work, it’s easy. You can make prints of some of your originals. If you create bonze sculpture or carve jewelry forms in wax, you can scale your art by casting. It takes as much time to hand fabricate a piece in sterling as in platinum or gold but if you cast your originals, you can offer price upgrades without additional hours.
Begin thinking in terms of collections. If, for example, you do wire-wrapped dangly beaded bracelets, developing a line of “modular” or add-on pieces or charms so that you can give the customer the option of a lower price point but will encourage repeat sales. (I’ll tell you a secret. Customers actually end up spending more, not less because they seldom purchase just one component. They see how great the pieces you have assembled look and can’t resist adding on). The great news is, they still perceive it as a bargain because they have the option of spending less. This isn’t tricking anyone-it’s just giving them the benefit of more choices.
Can you think of ways that you can offer ad-on components or create collections to sell more art?