Selling Crafts Online: The 6 Proven Rules You Need to Know About!

Selling crafts online used to be an easy game and back when I started in mid-2006, selling my craft products was as easy as listing and crossing my fingers - well almost! Today online retail is much more competitive and so starting a craft business and growing it to make a sustainable income can be challenging.

Here on the blog I want to lay out a guide for the key things I think you need to be doing with your online craft business to make sure it works for you.

The amazing difficulty in actually selling crafts online today

In 2018 there were a reported 1,805,260,010 internet websites (Tek Eye), of which ecommerce sites accounted for roughly $2.8 trillion US Dollars in sales globally (Statista). So today selling online can be a lucrative, if not highly competitive choice. We only need to look at the worrying state of high street retail to see the trend towards online purchasing and therefore the increasing movement to trading online by retailers.

Retail isn’t the only sector to see vast growth online. We are now seeing a much bigger push to online forms of entertainment, as well as a huge growth in social media.

The truth is that it’s now much harder to make a living selling your crafts products online to a sea of consumers who are having their head turned at every corner by growing online entertainment, seductive retail marketing and social media.

It doesn’t mean that it cannot be done though!

Selling Crafts Online: The 6 Proven Rules You Need to Know About

The 6 Proven Rules You Need to Know About When Selling Crafts Online

Watch the podcast to find out what I think you need to be doing well in order to succeed in selling your craft products online;

or listen;

If you don’t have time to watch the episode today, then check out my selling crafts online rule list below and take action notes, because you aren’t going to want to miss a thing!

Let’s start from the top;

1. The ‘perfect’ core product

In order to sell anything, you need to understand your customer and their needs. Knowing this is key to designing the product your customer will most desire. This process always starts with good market research, that helps you determine more about your customer, your competitors, market trends and most importantly where your products fit (or will fit) in to it all… understanding this is where you can find a spot where you can stand out. Creation from this point is a much easier and less risky approach, because you understand your customer’s ‘problem’, or needs and can solve it with a valuable product.

Starting with a core product means starting with a carefully selected range that shows the consumer clearly what your business is about. By doing this you are alleviating any risk of confusion among your customers, leading to a much clearer reason to revisit your website, if they don’t buy immediately.

We must also remember that consumers are much savvier and more knowledgeable with the growth of the internet, about product purchasing, and so designing product that is a good fit for the customer is one thing and designing something that encourages loyalty comes through higher quality. Investing in understanding how to manufacture at a high level is key to winning over customers who will come back to you time and again.

An example of a creative independent doing this well is;

Image copyright - Marley's Monsters

Image copyright - Marley's Monsters

Marley’s Monsters – Sarah has grown her business from a great understanding of what her customers are looking for and the potential gaps in the market.

Starting out in 2013 Sarah has grown Marley’s Monsters from a small business she started while on maternity leave to a business that employs local staff in a bricks and mortar store, with a thriving online presence and wholesale customer list too! She has done this through creating the perfect ‘must haves’ her customers crave.

2. An inspiring brand story

With so much chatter online it’s those who have a unique perspective, or brand story that really stand out.

An example of a creative independent doing this well is;

Image copyright - Fyberspates

Image copyright - Fyberspates

Fyberspates – Jeni Hewlett started her hand dyed yarn company in 2005 when there really weren’t many people selling luxury indie-dyed yarns outside of the US. Spotting a gap in the market and a consumer desire Jeni started Fyberspates in her back bedroom. Today that same business is an internationally known independent, with a business arm (Chester Wool) that sources top quality yarns for smaller independents (myself included) and helps aspiring commercial yarn independents and designers, such as Rachel Coopey produce and distribute their commercial yarns.

The unique aspect to Fyberspates back in the day, dyeing small batches of luxury yarn for knitters was the initial inspiration point for a great brand story, but today this business is inspirational in so many more ways.

3. Understanding profit margin

To be able to pay yourself a wage you need a very clear understanding of what your business income and outgoings are. The gap in between is ultimately where you carve out your monthly wage and reinvest in times of growth.

In order to help get to this figure you also need to understand your product costings. A products’ profit margin is calculated based on the direct costs and indirect expenses relating to the product manufacture and sale.

Selling crafts online can be a competitive game, so my top tip is to avoid price wars with competitors and strive to make your offer different enough to stand out, without lowering your prices to make a sale. Fight to preserve your margins at all times!

4. Knowing how much you need to sell in order to make a wage

This is a point that most will overlook, even if they have managed to understand profit margins, and it’s a real struggle to claw your way back from a mistake like this.

Take any product from your range and knowing its profit margin, work out how many you would need to make in order to receive the income you’d like to make each week. Then balance this by looking at how many you can produce this week in order to sell the amount you desire. Are the two figures comparable? This is very much a part of knowing if your product is viable.

Let’s look at an example; Imagine I make 100g bars of soap at £4.50 (profit makes up £2 of the retail price). If I wanted to make a weekly income of £300, I would need to sell approximately 150 bars of soap.

£300 (income goal) divided by £2 (profit per product) = 150 bars of soap (number of products)

This is, of course, before any business running costs not included in your product retail cost.

5. Leveraged marketing

When I started my craft business the term ‘marketing’ meant magazine ads, local ads, mailouts and other print marketing; like flyers, business cards, etc. Today marketing has a whole new face and includes things like; social media, newsletters, features by influencers or important websites. It’s a lot to take in and a lot to produce content for!

For those who do it well and strive to understand the ever-changing arena, leveraging marketing for sales gain is an important part of how they drive traffic to their online stores and a great strategy for selling crafts online generally.

Here is some help to get you started – 15 FREE ways to market your artisan products online

We must also remember that marketing isn’t just a tool for driving traffic to our online stores. Instead it follows through to your site, for when your potential customer gets there - with great photos, keyword driven titles and winning sales copy descriptions. Here’s some advice on product listings (originally written for Etsy shops, some of the ideas follow through for websites and other platforms too).

6. High-touch customer service

Customer service is very much a part of your business’s reputation and it starts in your marketing with authentically produced campaigns and on your store with informative product descriptions and terms of sale. It extends past that to cover the aftercare any customer may need when receiving, or using your product and it’s the one thing I learned over the 11 years of running my own craft business that customers expect a very high standard on… and why shouldn’t they?!

Businesses that treat their customers well are rewarded with loyalty, good reviews and referrals.

An example of a creative independent doing this well is;

 
Image copyright - Lucy & Yak

Image copyright - Lucy & Yak

 

Lucy & Yak - I’ve been really impressed with Lucy & Yak in a recent transaction I had with them. Let’s look at the process I went through.

I had heard about the company and their products from friends Instagram feeds, where they had shown off their latest dungaree purchases, and seeing the wide choice of colours I knew I had to follow the company’s Instagram account . It didn’t take me much persuading to go to their online store thereafter!

When I was there, I was able to find my way through their range very quickly and easily. I have a habit of checking out the terms of sale for a return policy when I’m buying clothes especially, because having come from the fashion industry myself I know that sizing can vary. Everything seemed straight forward.

I bought two pairs; one in Hawaiian corduroy (pictured) and one in Claret (I think). The checkout was easy, and they emailed me throughout the dispatch and delivery process.

When the package arrived, I was so excited… beautiful packaging aside I ran to the bathroom, dungarees in hand, to try them on. The Hawaiian pair were a perfect fit and oh how I loved the colour! The claret pair didn’t work so well for me and that sat a bit hard in my stomach… how I hate the hassle of returning things!

The team made it easy though, so I really had nothing to worry about. In fact, with a few clicks of a button and without any need to talk to anyone I had my return label printed out and was wrapping my return for the post within an hour. A few days later the refund was in my account and there was an email feedback form if I needed it. I cannot tell you how grateful I was for such an easy returns experience. Now I eagerly watch their Insta feed for new shopping inspiration!

Selling crafts online in 2019 and beyond will be as much about product as it is about the customer service you provide. So take notes from companies you encounter. How can you improve your customer’s experience based on the best examples you have come across?

 

Takeaway

Selling crafts online is a harder challenge than it was when I started in 2006, but with a mindful and strategic approach to the 6 proven rules for success you can be off to a healthy start sooner than you think. My best advice is to treat your business journey as a work-in-progress, not in the way that it is never ‘ready’, but instead that it is always improving.

  • Look out for examples of better practise and see what you can learn from them.

  • Make sure you understand how you can make money and how much work it will take to make what you desire.

  • Always engage with your customers and online audience

  • And always work on what sets you apart.

 

Tell me; what do you think are the golden rules to selling crafts online? What do you struggle with?

I’d love to know your thoughts – comment below! 👇

 

You can also catch the podcast on;


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