hand made

A little known secret to turn your craft into cash this last couple of weeks of December and into January

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

Don’t Miss this Last Minute Craft Marketing Opportunity

Tomorrow’s Mother’s Day and while I’m sure YOU have your mom’s hand made gift all wrapped in an earth-friendly, re-usable treasure, do you know there are many people who take their mom out on Mother’s Day and let them choose their own gift? Some actually send their mom’s money to buy their own. I didn’t realize this until I had a gallery and Mother’s Day, not just the days prior, but actually on Mother’s day, our sales were always up there with the Christmas holidays. Women would come in with or without their families, see something they loved and a pay cash. We always heard, “my daughter (or son) sent me the money to buy myself something.” This surprised me because for me the fun in giving is coming up with the idea.

People feel very generous towards their moms on Mother’s Day (as they should everyday) and as an artist or crafter you’re missing the boat if you don’t make sure that your creations are in their line of vision tomorrow. No, it isn’t too late. The shopping isn’t over yet…

Last minute IDEA! Particularly Continue reading

What Eco Conscious Gifts or Crafts are you giving for Mother’s Day?

I’d love to believe that this year I won’t wait until the eleventh hour to make or purchase a mother’s day gift. It’s not that I don’t think about it ahead of time.  It’s just that tomorrow is always here before I expect it. (that alone is a topic for a future post.) So, for those of you who haven’t yet crafted or purchased a gift for mom, or even if you have but haven’t wrapped or carded, let’s look at some ideas for giving mom a sustainable gift.

If you are efficient and have mom’s gift wrapped and shipped, these ideas work for  Continue reading

Should You Consign to Galleries?

The question of consignment keeps coming up and while I’ll address it in more detail in the tele-seminar series this summer,  let’s touch base on some basics since it’s the time of year to get started.

Assuming you’ve selected the galleries where your crafts will be most compatible, you’ve narrowed down the choices and set up appointments, it’s time to prepare for your meeting.

Show up well prepared with your pieces attractively tagged, with the information we’ve discussed. Price the pieces at retail. Number each piece so that it coincides with a number on your inventory list. (which you will duplicate and leave a copy with the gallery.) Ideally, a thumbnail photograph of each piece next to the number will help you and the gallery owner identify them easily. This doesn’t need to be a high resolution photo, it’s for reference only, not a marketing piece. If your objects are fairly flat, for example jewelry, a simple way to do it is to just place it on your photocopier, scan it and reduce to thumbnail size..

Also, if you have a display that shows your work off well, present the gallery owner with that option. You always want to have display recommendations.

If you are consigning work to gallery far from home, consider asking someone in the area to periodically “shop”  the gallery for you.  (they are actually your spies.) I can’t count the times I’ve walked into galleries to see a particular artist’s work and it’s nowhere on display. The artist has no idea why he isn’t receiving commission checks and it turns out

Continue reading

Are you supporting the stores that are going to put you or your friends out of business?

Last week, I attended a first birthday party.  I went to a local store that often carries all lot of fair trade items in search of a handmade gift . I found some puzzles perfect for a one year old boy but when I checked the labels, they were made in China. I went home to search online for handmade wooden puzzles. The ones I found were significantly more expensive. I know I could have found something larger and just as cute at Toys R Us or Target for a fraction of the price and the baby sure wouldn’t know the difference.  BUT I WOULD. I wanted to support indie craftspeople so I ordered the puzzles from a couple who make them in their shop in Oregon.

I know that the socks you hand-knit and the jewelry or lotions or candles you lovingly make take more time and are better quality than a seemingly similar item made on a machine in China so of course you have to charge more for your hand crafted products than the big box stores do.

I also know you’re a sensitive, empathetic person so let’s turn the tables and as you’re holiday shopping this month, think about this:

If you want consumers to support you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made because if you are are buying from Walmart or other discount shops, you’re supporting companies that will eventually put YOU and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, you want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize about buying imports because they are cheaper.

Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs.   If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.

Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade because you have the choice.

Collaborate with artist friends to get your work seen (and purchased) by more qualified buyers

note: this is Part 2. If you missed yesterday’s post, go read that first. Then come back. It will make more sense. 

Continuing on with the idea of collaborating with other artist friends in order to get your work out there and seen (and purchased) by more qualified buyers, here is a second option. Of course you could do both. Imagine.

Now that you’ve carefully chosen the fellow artisans that you want to collaborate with, make a date to interview each one, maybe one a week. You can either do it in writing, send them email questions, or record through a conference line. Basically, you just both call in to the line and chat. When you hang up, an MP3 arrives in your email. It costs about six dollars. You can then put a link to the audio on your blog with a photo and short bio, some photos of her work and link to her site. Of course, you all agree to feature each other on your blogs. If you do this for 20 weeks straight, with 20 different artists and you each have 250 followers, well, you do the math. Just like the first method, you multiply your list of buyers many times over. Easy peasy, right? Let me know when you’ve tried this how it worked for you, OK?

2 More Easy Ways to Sell A lot More Crafts and Bring in Bundles More Cash

Are you feeling a slump in sales of your craft after the holidays? Maybe you have a website or an Etsy site and a mailing list but you feel like everyone you know has already seen your work and you want exposure to new buyers.

It’s great to have a presence on Etsy, Artfire, etc but honestly, you’re missing a lot of qualified buyers who value handmade and have the money to buy your creations but don’t have the time to hang out on those mega-sites. Honestly, even though I make my living helping artists make theirs, I get overwhelmed on Etsy. There’s just too much choice.

So how do you get exposure to more qualified buyers who will be return customers and loyal collectors? Here are two very simple ways.

Both these tips involved gathering some of your online artist friends. Look for people whose work compliments yours and each others.

Ideally, choose artists from different parts of the country because you will have completely different friends. While all of your friends, I hope, have seen your work and all of their friends have seen their work, your friends haven’t seen the things each other make. Make sense?

For purpose of demonstration, let’s say you gather together 20 crafter friends. You put together a simple word press site that shows the craft and a short artist bio of each of you. You don’t have to put a shopping cart up but rather can just link to each artist’s own site. So, even if you don’t have a formal email capturing system set up, although you should, let’s say you have a mailing list of just 100 friends and fans. (and of course include previous buyers.) Now you send out a letter to all of your 50 friends telling them you want to invite them to a virtual invitation-only craft fair with 20 of your online crafter friends. Each of the artists sends this email with link to group site to just 50 friends. Now you each have 1000 new people looking at your handmade jewelry, scarves, soap, candles or other craft. And that’s if you each only had 50 names on your email list. You probably each have more like 250 contacts, right? So that’s 5000 new people seeing your work. And they aren’t just any 5000 people. They’re already fans of your friends’ handmade work. Now, imagine if you got together a group of 40 friends instead of 20 and each sent the link for your virtual craft fair to 250 of your contacts, you’d have 20,000 new people viewing your work.  And this isn’t even taking into consideration that you each have Twitter followers and Facebook friends and Pinterest followers.

Think, mini Esty. But, these people won’t be overwhelmed like they would on Etsy so they’ll buy. And the whole thing hasn’t cost any of you anything except the shared price of a domain name and a site. So maybe you’d each chip in $10. That’s not much to pay for 20,000 new viewers who are qualified buyers, is it?

Check back tomorrow for the 2nd Way to Sell A lot More Crafts and Bring in Bundles More Cash. You can find lots more ideas like this at “12 Easy Ways to turn your Creative Hobby into an Extra $1200 a Month’ HERE

6 Ways you can make your small business stand out from the crowd

It’s been a week since all the hype and hoopla over Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  So how are you keeping your small business in the forefront of your ideal customer’s shopping psyche?

Discounting your products or services is not going to gain you loyal customers. Markdowns will simply put you in a space to compete with Big Box and you can’t do that. Why would you even want to? The elements that make your small business special have nothing to do with price and everything to do with creating an experience.

Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar business, you can create a unique shopping experience for your customers so that they keep returning and referring friends to your site. Let’s say, for example, you sell handmade candles, soap or jewelry online. You can stand out from big business in a number of ways.

  1. Offer the best darn customer service on the planet.
  2. Address the customer by name in all communications.
  3. Include a card with your bio, your story.
  4. Use packaging unique to your store.
  5. Include a poem, quote or inspirational message with each piece.
  6. Show your clients appreciation for their patronage with a brief handwritten thank you note.

What are you doing to make your own small business stand out from the crowd? What special experiences are you creating to keep your customers coming back? As always, you’re invited to share in the comments below.

Should you grow your handmade business by exhibiting at trade shows?

Are you wondering if it’s time to begin exhibiting your work at trade shows in order to get your art into more shops and galleries?  I think it comes down to asking yourself a few simple questions.

Does each of your pieces require significant hands-on time and do they have to be your own two hands or  can you get help with some of the process? For example, you design and create all the components for your line of jewelry but you pay someone to do your soldering.

Do you handcraft the original and then make reproductions such as art prints or metal casting?

Are you ready to seriously gear up your production when you receive a lot of orders?

How quickly can you fill those orders?

Do you have access to someone to handle the administrative tasks such as billing, shipping, receivables, ordering supplies and tracking inventory?

The idea of picking up several new accounts and writing huge orders may sound appealing but you have to be ready to gear up your business rapidly. The costs involved in exhibiting at a major trade show are significant and you have to sell several times the amount of your expenses and be ready to rapidly transition from cottage craft business to serious enterprise.

Many craftspeople dream of getting picked up by Sundance Catalog or Nordstrom. It’s an exciting prospect but be careful what you wish for. In order to fulfill mega orders and satisfy your new big customers, you are going to have to purchase supplies in much larger quantities and hire staff or outsource some of the administrative tasks and assembly. Do you have the cash flow to purchase those supplies and hire the helpers you will need? Or will you be floating on credit cards and soliciting labor from friends and family in the early stages? Will you require a larger workspace?

I’m not trying to frighten or discourage you from branching out to wholesale trade shows. I’m just letting you know that along with the notoriety and big bucks comes some big stress and financial risk.  If you’re not sure you’re up for it yet, there’s nothing wrong with  the slow and steady growth model. You can thrive by building your business a few loyal accounts at a time. When you are ready to take the leap, go with Godspeed.

Is there something you know you should be doing for your craft business but you just feel overwhelmed with it?

Are there tasks you know you should be doing for your craft business that  you don’t know how to do?   Things you have no interest in becoming proficient at?

Do you ever wish you had a fairy godmother who could handle a part of the craft business you dread doing?  It could be a step in the process of making your craft or an administrative task. Not all parts of being an artist are creative. For example, you love to design and make one-of-a-kind jewelry but if you have to replicate the design, you find it boring. Or, you might find you enjoy making an original mold but casting or finishing might feel too tedious. Maybe throwing clay on the wheel and making your own glazes excites you but you’d love to have someone else handle the whole firing process.

If you’re like many creative people, you  find the technical or book keeping end of the business overwhelming.

It may be your goal to eventually hire an assistant but as you’re building your business, how can you get someone else to do the work you don’t want to do?  Believe it or not, there are probably people you know who enjoy doing the tasks you find downright boring. And it’s likely that some of those same people have difficulty with skills that are second nature to you.

There are a number of ways you can get the “icky” aspects of your craft business done without having to hire an employee. By teaming up with someone whose skills are complimentary, you can save time and energy for the parts of your handmade business you enjoy.

If you want someone who’s really invested in your success, you can partner with a more left-brained, linear type and share the profits. One of my favorite ways to get things accomplished without exchanging cash is to barter: trade skills or products. Get the word out that you love to know pearls and hand forge silver but you’re looking for someone to solder or stain or do your books. You might find a virtual assistant who’s happy to update your website in exchange for some pieces of your pottery or jewelry.

The first step to getting help is to know there really is someone out there who loves doing that thing you despise and can not do something you excel at.  Believe she exists. Then,  get out there and find her.