Thursday, 6 August 2009

Selling Online: Product

When I first set up shop on Etsy I had no idea really what I was going to sell. I liked making stuff and I looked at all these fantastic artists and crafters and how easy it was to set up shop and I thought "oooh, I could do that." I chose my username almost on a whim, set up my shop and filled it with a few hastily photographed crafty bits and pieces. I did make some sales, but it took me about 9 months of tinkering with my Etsy shop and trying out making lots of different things to sell before I began to find my own style and to have real confidence in my products and my shop's identity.

If you're happy to make a few things and see if they sell and use the money to make more things then you can carry on doing that forever (having a self-funding hobby is pretty cool). But if you're looking to build up a business and maybe eventually "quit your day job" you need to take a long hard look at the whole of your business, and that begins with your product.

It sounds a bit flippant, but essentially are you making something awesome and special that people want to buy? If a buyer finds your shop, why would they stay and shop when the whole internet and thousands of other crafty businesses are just a click away?

It can be hard as an artist or creative person to think about your works as "products", but it's well worth taking the time to think about your shop from a buyer's point of view and to start thinking about your shop as a "brand" with a distinct style of its own.

Be prepared to experiment, to try new things, to develop a new collection or offer a different option to your customers. E.g. if you're an artist you don't have to change your style or anything drastic like that but you could investigate selling your work as prints or on notecards or badges or branching out into things like making embroidery patterns from your illustrations.

Look at your competition and the market for the sort of things you sell. Is there a niche that hasn't been filled? The internet is very well suited to selling a niche product, e.g. you could specialise in fun jewellery aimed at computer geeks or knitters or book lovers via the internet, but you might have trouble finding lots of those customers at your local craft fair!

Try and make your shop as cohesive as possible. Variety is good and can help keep your shop fresh, but when a shopper clicks into your shop from search or seeing your work on a blog you want them to see more things they like and to think of you when they want to buy a certain type of item. Focus on a style (e.g. simple modern jewellery) or a product (e.g. pendants) or a customer (e.g. mums buying children's products) or an occasion (e.g. wedding jewellery and other bridal accessories).

Keep an eye on the trends, the fashionable colours and popular motifs but don't slavishly follow them or you'll be left without a saleable product when the fashion changes again. Also try to resist the urge to make something just because everyone else is - again, when the fashion changes you will lose out, and you'll just be one of many sellers jumping on a bandwagon and competing to sell the same items.

Perhaps most importantly, be honest with yourself when something isn't selling. Just because you love something doesn't mean there is a market for it. I quite often make new things that I'm super excited about, and then no-one buys them! :)

17 comments:

treaclezoo said...

brilliant - concise with a lot for the beginning craftisan... looking forward to the next instalment ;o)

Louana said...

Very interesting. Some good food for thought, thanks!

niftyknits said...

excellent post. contrariwise, I sometimes find a buyer falls madly in love with something I was less sure of - so hard to tell!

Kate said...

Delurking to say what a helpful and insightful post! Thank you - it's always so generous when peoople share their expertise.

Gillian said...

Thanks for this post - I'll definitely take on your sound advice! G

Karens Hopes said...

There is some very helpfull advice there, thankyou.
Karen

Dark Fairy said...

Wise words Laura, very helpful to everyonex

Odds'n'Blobs said...

this was such a fantastic post! you remind me of myself when I first started selling. Keep up the great posts :) I love your blog :)

gingerwine said...

Wow what a bloomin helpful post!
I'm gonna give selling a few painting on my blog - not completely convinced that people will buy - but worth a shot!

Sam x

SweetPeaknits said...

Great article. Well done. Its given me a kick up the backside to dust the cobwebs out of my shop. Thanks.

Lisa said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. I am currently struggling with turning a hobby into a business. I look forward to more of your posts.

poppyart said...

fantastic advice. thank you. and i love your stuff. how do you think etsy compare with folksy... i have just ventured onto folksy but it doesn't seem to have the mass sales of etsy??? are we in the uk just getting around to the concept?

Midsummer Stitches said...

Great post! thanks for sharing.

Snowberry and Lime said...

Brilliantly written advice! It really reminded me once again of what is important in creating a cohesive look, thanks!

Bobo Bun said...

Really glad you're taking the time to share this as so helpful. Been selling at fairs, through shops and by commission for a few years, but not entered online selling yet. Must pull my finger out and enter into this world too.

Thanks again.

Issabella The Cat said...

Thank you for sharing this, I found your blog through the Etsy forum and popped over to read this post as it was linked in the thread. As an utter newbie with a dream of crafting full time I'm thankful for all the inspirational helpful posts I can read to get me going!
Thank you!

BugsandFishes said...

No problem Issabella, I'm glad you found it helpful!

Best of luck with your shop :)

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