handmade

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

Days before Christmas and you still have time to turn your craft into cash NOW

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

Does your Etsy site look like you’re closing up shop? Here’s how to fix it.

sell lhandmade scarves 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.
If you’re not receiving these tips, fill in your name and email in the box on the right and you won’t miss out. You’ll also get a great resource of the best places to sell handmade crafts online.

 

When it’s time to take your art back to the drawing board

 

poetry writer bracelet
poetry writer bracelet

When I told my writer friends about my idea to make custom bracelets for writers and poets to wear their own words, they all loved it. I made up some samples and debuted the custom bracelets at a writers and artist event in April. The response: Everyone said they were beautiful.

But they bombed.
Yesterday, I took them along with my hand-dyed silk scarves to a show at my friends office. (great idea if you haven’t done this.) My scarves and other jewelry sold. The bracelets, not one custom order. I did sell some already engraved. This told me something.

Was I discouraged? Yes, a bit. Mostly, not because I know sometimes a great idea needs a few tweaks before it is a success. So I asked myself a few questions:

Was the product priced correctly?
Were they bracelets displayed well?
Did I have enough variety?
What were people saying as they looked at the bracelets?

Here’s what I learned from evaluating responses:
My prices were right on target.
A few people told me that hadn’t even noticed the bracelets because my scarves were so colorful. Lesson-display the bracelets on a white background away from the scarves.

Variety was good but not necessary. I had samples in two widths and 3 metals: silver, yellow gold and rose gold. The hand-dyed silk wrap-ribbons were across the rainbow. Was the problem too many choices?
I don’t think so.
One comment I heard over and over was, “I love this idea but don’t know what line or phrase to have you engrave on it.” Seriously, even in a group of writers and poets, these wordsmiths couldn’t choose one line from their own writing on the spot.

Conclusion: I was making the customer work too hard. They didn’t want to have to come up with their own words. They wanted to just choose one and go home with it. I think this product will do better online than at shows because that gives the buyer time to decide what phrase or line of poetry to order.
I needed to give more examples- maybe lines of classic poetry or quotes.

Will I go forward with this new product? You bet. I’ll take what I learned from my test market and tweak a couple of things about display and I know it will be a winner.

This reminded of another event, also attracting mostly artists and writers, where my friend showed her handmade journals. What better audience for beautiful journals than a bunch of writers, right? Her journals flopped. What she realized is that most of these writers were very specific about the kind of paper and the size adn weight of their journals. Pretty wasn’t enough. These probably would have been better gift items for a different crowd.
I also noticed that while writers and poets are my ideal market, the bracelet I made for pet lovers was the favorite. Did that tell me I was wrong about the potential “target market”? Not at all. It reminded me that there’s not just one ideal market for a product. I will also expand my line for pet people.
Why do I tell you this? Because you may have brought a new product to market only once and it was a flop. If so, don’t assume it’s not a winner. Instead, ask yourself all the above questions and see if there are a few minor adjustments you can make.

Have you had a similar experience? What changes made your product a winner?

Make your Craft and Make a Difference

Do you have a product you love making and people are buying but you’re struggling to produce enough to meet the demand and make a living?

One of my favorite solutions also answers the “must have more meaning” criteria that is integral to inspired livelihood. Rather than hire employees to help produce your craft  or seek a licensing agreement to have your work mass produced overseas, what if you were to find a group of people who want to make money from home?

Rather than having to find a larger studio space and hiring employees, you can help people create their own cottage industries who then sell to you on a piecework basis.

Consider either stay-at -home parents who love crafts and want to make money without leaving their children OR  a group of people in an underdeveloped country who have no industry, training or marketable skills.  Either way, train those people to make your craft according to your designs and techniques, furnish them with the supplies and outsource the fabrication. If you love to travel, you can visit  a different culture to source and train the crafters (joyful and deductible).  You’ll be bringing satisfying gainful employment to people in need and you’ll have enough handmade inventory to make a living.

Did you enjoy this article?  For more great ideas on how to make your craft more meaningful and profitable, you can

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Demo Your Craft to Establish Yourself as the Expert

The best way  to market your craft is to find every opportunity to get your work in front of an audience. This seems obvious, but so often artists hide out in their studio. Some of us shy away from the spotlight.  But, to succeed, it isn’t enough to have your work on a good website. You need to make an effort to do some in person appearances as well.

How do you go about getting your name and face out there as well as your work? (remember, part of the appeal of handmade is knowing the human behind the work. ) Demonstrating every chance you have will begin to establish you as the expert in your medium. Craft supply stores, galleries, workshops and trade shows are all opportunities to demonstrate your craft. Approach the manufacturers of the materials you use, either in person or by sending them a nice professional looking portfolio with examples of  different techniques for using their products. Offer to make appearances in stores that carry their products, showing both the staff and customers the benefits of using their  products,  and at craft trade shows demonstrating to retailers. Not only will this give you Continue reading

Why Crafters Should Visit Wholesale Gift Shows

January is the start of  winter trade show season. As a maker,  you should plan to walk at least one show. Whether you sell directly to the public or you’re considering selling to retail shops and galleries.  If you can only attend one, I  recommend you make it a general gift show rather than craft show. I know that sounds like a contradiction since you are in the business of crafts but you need to know what’s going on in the general gift wholesale trade for a number of reasons.

What should you be looking for as you walk the aisles?

  • Trends: Even if you do vintage crafts or very traditional work, it’s still important to keep up with the trends.
  • Notice themes.  Are particular patterns, symbols or icons showing up across many lines? Sometimes a certain flower or animal print is popular. Remember when everything from clothing to home decor featured palm trees, owls or sunflowers? Last year, vintage trailers were the trend on fabrics like sheets and pajamas.
  • Colors and fabrics. You should be aware of the current color palette so that your work will coorinate and compliment.  Who knew chenille would ever make a comeback?
  • Copy Cats: You also need to know if someone is knocking off your work, having it produced overseas and selling it for a fraction of what you sell it for. The likelihood of of getting the copycat to cease making it is questionable and you obviously aren’t going to lower your prices to compete but you should know that customers are seeing similar work at import prices.  You may be able to tweak your line just enough to make it more apparent that it is  handmade and you definitely will want to have other additional lines that aren’t being seen in mainstream shops.

If you’re considering wholesaling your work, try to visit several different trade shows. As you walk the aisles, notice which booths are busy.  Who is writing orders?  What do the artists who are writing the most orders have in common?   Continue reading

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

Are you looking for more ways to get exposure and sales for your handmade jewelry and craft?

How can your work translate into something that you and/or  your friends can showcase in the workplace? Even if you don’t work outside the home, here are some tips for getting more people to see and buy your craft.
If you or your friends work in a hospital, bank or institution that requires employees to wear a badge, you have a great opportunity to get your handmade jewelry or other craft noticed. Particularly if you make beaded jewelry, you can add a badge holder attachment to any of your necklaces. Invite your friends or co-workers to wear them and make sure they have your card or contact info. Then when patients, clients or other employees compliment the badge holder, you or your friends can let them know you make these and can make them as necklaces or eyeglass holders as well.
If you are a metalsmith, you can also make a version of badge or eyeglass holder as a pin with a loop to hold the badge or glasses.
Whatever your medium, be creative about making pieces that people can see in the workplace and spread the word about your work. If, for example, you work in ceramic,  polymer clay or even fused glass,  consider making a business card holder that you and your friends can put on their desk where others will see and comment on them. You can also make picture frames that you keep on your desk and when people will comment on them, let them know about all the other work you do.
Even if you create high end pieces, putting more moderate work out where people can see it will interest them in your art and give you an opportunity to introduce them to the rest of your line.
Think about what other objects can can you add to your line that will showcase your art in the work arena.
The whole idea is, get it out there because you aren’t going to sell it if it’s sitting in your studio unseen.