Selling Your Crafts Online

If you're a crafter, you've probably thought about trying to sell your crafts online. Here are three ways to do it, and some tips and hints to keep in mind.

If you're at all interested in crafting, you've probably made a few gifts for friends and family members through the years. And at one time or another someone has probably said to you "You should sell those, you'd make a fortune." Maybe you've toyed with the idea of crafting for cash as a way to make a little extra cash (very few people make "a fortune" from crafting) but you aren't sure how to go about it.

Gone are the days when you had to set up shop at a flea market, church bazaar or craft fair if you wanted to sell your crafts. Today there are many possibilities for selling crafts, particularly on the Internet.

Online auction sites

One of the first places people think of when they think of selling crafts online is the plethora of online auction sites that have proliferated the web. And this is a good place to start selling your crafts if you don't want to go to the level of commitment of some of the other options we will talk about. Selling individual items (or even setting up a "store") on one of these sites does not cost a lot of money, and you are guaranteed a lot of traffic will be on the site constantly looking for things.

If someone is looking for what you have when you have it posted, you're in business. But if you're selling very specific things (such as Christmas ornaments or other holiday decorations, or intricate or artistic works) it may be hard to find the perfect buyer right away. You might need to make your auction time very long or forego the auction option entirely and set it up so the buyer will have to pay however much you are asking. It might take longer to sell this way but you may also get closer to the price you would like.

The main problem with auction sites when it comes to something handcrafted is that it is hard to know how to price your items so they will get attention but make you enough money that you can afford to keep selling them. People on these sites are used to bargains, so if you aren't willing to sell your wares for pennies this may not be the best choice for you.

Online craft fairs

There are numerous sites on the Internet devoted to selling crafts. (Search for online craft mall in your favorite search engine to see a sample.) These sites vary widely in the number of participating crafters, the amount of traffic and the percentage of sales you have to give back to the web site or pay to post items. These sites either require a membership fee to be paid monthly regardless of whether you sell anything or they ask for a percentage of your sale when you do sell something.

These sites cater to people who want to buy crafts, so you're likely to find a more discerning customer who is willing to pay a little more for well made handcrafted items. The downside is the potential lack of traffic or getting involved with a site that doesn't have really great products.

You need to do a lot of homework before deciding to use one of these sites. Look around at the different things they have on offer, not just in the category you wish to sell in but throughout the site. Find out if you can what the site traffic is like and what, if any, marketing the site does. You might also want to contact a vendor to see what his or her experience has been like with the site and whether the money the site charges is worth it.

Selling crafts on your own site

Of course another great alternative is to build your own web site from which you can sell your crafts. This way you can charge whatever you want and keep all the profits. But of course you are then in charge of everything, from the web design to the mechanism for sales, delivery and marketing. That's not necessarily bad, but all that extra work will take you away from crafting.

But if you can draw visitors to your site by having really great content (and great products at good prices, of course) then having your own web site devoted to your crafts can be a very good thing. Consider writing how-to articles, a free book of patterns or a newsletter to draw people to your site and let them see that you really are an expert before they buy your products. This process is a little slower than just putting your wares on someone else's site, but it is much easier to develop a following if your work is the only thing the shoppers see.

Tips for selling crafts online

No matter where online you decide to sell your products, there are some important things to be kept in mind.

Think about holidays and seasons when you design your crafts. Everyone loves giving homemade gifts for Christmas, but also think about what items you could offer for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, St. Patrick's Day and so on. Start planning for winter about six months in advance to get your stocks up and to allow for those people who shop early.

Don't make too much of the same thing. It can be tempting to mass produce an item you love that you are sure is going to sell well, but consider how disappointed and poor you will feel if you can't sell all those items. It's hard to say how many of an item are enough to make in advance of sales, particularly if the item is hard or time-intensive to make. If this is the case, you can always say on your site that it will take up to a week (or however long it would reasonably take you to make an item) to ship because items are made by hand upon placement of the order. This may annoy some potential buyers, but others will like it.

Be flexible. Just because you love teal doesn't mean all your buyers will. And they won't all be a size 10, or a size 20. Make a sample or two and allow customers the option to buy your item in a different color, size or style. Someone may love your handmade scarf but hate the color purple. If you're rigid you won't make a sale but if you offer it to her in brown, you'll have a happy customer who tells all her friends about you.

Have fun. Remember, you are getting paid to play, to be creative and to make things. There's almost nothing better than that. Don't get too stressed over whether something will sell, just create and then see if you can find a market for it.

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