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 Whether you’re new to selling your own creations, or you’re a seasoned market stallholder, a move to start selling your art online offers a range of benefits over traditional selling methods , but business, no matter what kind, involves effort. Here’s where you should focus some of yours when starting out.

04 June 2021

6 Considerations for Selling Handmade Crafts Online

Whether you’re new to selling your own creations, or you’re a seasoned market stallholder, a move to start selling your art online offers a range of benefits over traditional selling methods:
  1. 1. You’ll reach a larger (global) audience of consumers.
  2. 2. Your weekends will be freed up from selling at markets.
  3. 3. You can define your own hours to fit in around family and other commitments.
  4. 4. You may be able to claim some of your home expenses as tax deductions if operating your business from home.
  5. 5. Unlike markets, work and sales are not weather dependent.
  6. 6. In the current COVID uncertainty of lockdowns, online selling offers continuity.

While the benefits of online selling are clear, the notion that you can pop a few photos up on a website and your items will sell themselves while you sit back and watch the money roll in, is (sadly) not the reality. Business, no matter what kind, will generally involve some effort.

There will be some aspects of your online business that you like less than others, but if you do your research and have a realistic idea of what is involved from the outset, and build the necessary skills, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time, money, and disappointment, and set yourself up for success.

Following are some of the key considerations for effectively selling your art, or craft online.

Finding Your Niche

Chances are, you’re not the first person to think of selling handmade jeweller / soap / candles / toys etc online. While the world wide web gives you access to a much larger audience than your local craft market, you’re also going to be competing with a lot more vendors. To avoid disappearing into a sea of similar products, you need to research your niche and identify your point of difference. What makes you, your brand, and your product stand out from the crowd? Clearly defining this point of difference from the outset will make it easier for you to consistently communicate it across all areas of your business; think branding, product imagery, the tone and style of your product descriptions, etc.

Choosing an Online Selling Platform

The online world offers an array of different selling platforms. You can secure a domain name and create your own website, you can sell directly from a social media profile, you can set up a storefront on a marketplace like Madeit or Ebay or Etsy, or you can employ a combination of these options simultaneously. Each has benefits and drawbacks, which I’ll cover only briefly here.

YOUR OWN WEBSITE

Having your own website is a great way to present a more cohesive brand story and a more professional identity. It also allows you to create a blog to attract a loyal audience and build trust with buyers, and there are now loads of platforms out there that will allow you to build professional looking websites for free.

Once you add a shop checkout, you will generally start to incur costs on most platforms (plus domain name registration fees when you want your own domain name) but if you are serious about building your brand and your business, then some investment is inevitable.

The main challenge of having your own website is that it takes significant time (and sometimes money) to manage your own site, and grow a substantial amount of traffic to your site.

You’ll need to learn about search engine optimisation (SEO), you’ll need to invest money in effective advertising, you’ll need to generate engaging content, and above all you’ll need to be patient. You’re unlikely to see thousands of visitors overnight.

Choosing an Online Selling Platform

DIRECT SELLING ON SOCIAL MEDIA

You can sell directly from your Facebook page or your Instagram account, and this gives you instant and FREE access to a huge audience of potential buyers, including any following you’ve already built on the platform. This doesn’t give you the same degree of branding or flexibility as a private website or even a marketplace, but perhaps the most significant drawback of this option is that it is labour intensive because Facebook doesn’t provide tools to manage the checkout process or anything that happens after the sale.

While lots of buyers can easily find you on these social media channels, they can’t add an item to a shopping cart and make payment without your involvement via messenger. This means you’re faced with more ‘tire-kickers’ asking questions with no real intent to purchase, and for those motivated buyers who are ready to buy, you need to be really responsive to messages (no matter what time they are sent) to avoid missing a sale to someone else who is online and ready to answer questions.

ONLINE MARKETPLACES

Online marketplaces are a simple and low-cost way to get access to large numbers of traffic without the wait.

Many marketplaces allow your own store branding so you can still build your brand name, they provide tools like checkout, invoicing, and inventory management to help you process and manage orders, plus varying degrees of free and paid marketing opportunities.

You have to work extra hard on your branding when selling on marketplaces so that your brand name is what people remember rather than just the name of the marketplace, and although you generally reach more traffic, you can get lost in a sea of your competitors, so your research, branding, photography etc. is all the more important to ensure that you stand out.

CONSIDER A COMBINATION

As there are drawbacks and benefits to each type of platform, I recommend taking a multifaceted approach and using more than one.

For example, you might set up a free Wordpress website for your blog, to build an email subscriber list, display some of your artwork, and present a professional brand image, and include a link to your storefront on one or multiple online marketplaces to manage transactions.

Some marketplaces, like Madeit, also offer ways to integrate your store with social media platforms like Facebook, so you can have a Facebook store to easily reach more traffic, but each product listing points customers back to your marketplace store to complete checkout, thus reducing the manual labour involved in closing the sale.

Of course, the more selling platforms you use, the more work is involved to manage them, but in exchange, you reach more potential buyers. Just keep your branding consistent.

Social Media Marketing

No matter what selling platforms you choose, social media marketing is something you’re going to need to familiarise yourself with.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media is essentially a toolkit of free marketing and brand development opportunities and omitting this toolkit from your business activities is like cooking a BBQ without a pair of tongs – it’s possible, but you’re making life hard for yourself and you’re likely going to get burned.

So, assuming you like to BBQ with the appropriate tools, you’re going to want to be active on social media to help direct traffic to your store, establish a brand identity, and build a loyal following.

Don’t try to be on every social media platform there is. You’re better off to choose a couple that suit your business goals and your products, and where you are likely to find your target audience and do those well.

For handmade and design products, the more visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest tend to be particularly well suited. If you’re targeting a younger audience you may find them on Tik Tok, whereas Gen X and older are more commonly found on Facebook. Work out who you’re marketing to, and where they hang out, and let that guide your decision on which social platforms to invest your time in.

Be sure to create brand-specific pages on each social media platform you use; create a business page or profile rather than just plugging your products using your personal social media profile. The idea is to extend your network beyond your family and friends and your followers are interested in your creative brand rather than your personal life. Even if you are your brand, you need to carefully manage the persona you put forward to the public with your social media strategy so it is best to keep this separate from the profiles you use to espouse political ideals or share pictures of your kids and your last holiday.

Pricing your Products

So many creators make the mistake of under-pricing their products in order to be more competitive. If your product is selling because it is the cheapest, but you’re not making any profit, or worse – you’re making a loss – then those sales really aren’t helping your creative business succeed.

Under-pricing also devalues artisan crafts as a whole. Price wars are for factories and retail chains, not for boutique crafters and independent designers. In fact, identifying your appropriate price point, and pricing for profit can actually increase sales – even when your products aren’t the cheapest on the market!

So, while research into the price range of similar products is useful in understanding your competition, it is more important to be honest with yourself about your true overheads and determine the value of your time.

When calculating the production cost of your items, be sure to include not only raw material costs, but also the cost of packaging, consumables, utilities, tools, web design, hosting fees, sales commissions and anything else that contributes to the cost of making an item.

For example, if you’re a potter, true production cost is not just the cost of your clay and glaze, but the cost of your kiln and other tools, the cost of electricity to run said kiln, plus the rent and/or insurance on your creative space should all be included.

Pricing Your Products

You should also then calculate an hourly rate to charge for your time, and this should be reflective of the skills that you bring to the work you are doing, just as if you were working for someone else. Don’t forget to include all time invested to source supplies, create, photograph, list and market your product, and run your business, as part of your total cost price.

After all this calculation you’ll probably be surprised how much each of your items really costs to produce, and you’ll need to add a profit margin to that if your business is to make a profit, although hobbyists may stop at just charging for their time.

There are plenty of people out there who are willing to pay more than K-Mart prices for handmade, locally crafted, ethical, sustainable and unique products – you just have to be willing to do your research to identify who and where they are, and then brand and market your products accordingly.

Product Photography

This is an area that lets down so many creatives when they first try selling online. You’re excited about the prospect of selling your wares online because you know you’ve got a great product, so you take a quick snap on your phone and upload the image and voila – the sales should start any minute.

But they don’t. Make no mistake, quality product photos are essential to your success, for a number of reasons.

Product Photography

When you’re at the markets, have you ever noticed that people rarely make a purchase without either picking up or at least touching one of your items first? If you sell candles, most people will pick them up and smell a few before buying.

The need to see, touch and experience your product in as many ways as possible is a vital part of the process to convert a browser to a customer, and when shopping online, customers can’t touch or smell your items. So it is absolutely vital that your photographs clearly show your product in as much detail - and from as many angles - as possible.

Your product photos are also an opportunity to evoke a mood or an image for your product and your whole brand, investing the time to get it right is worth-while. It can be daunting at first if you’re not a photographer, but you can start simple, with a plain background and just focus on getting good lighting, and build your way up to styling your shots and experimenting with different looks.

You don’t need a heap of expensive equipment to get great photos and a smart phone and some free online editing tools are generally all it takes to get started.

Postage

Unfortunately the cost of postage in Australia is quite high due to the vast distances goods have to travel, and parcel postage in particular, is getting more expensive.

High postage costs can be a real deterrent to online shoppers so it is important to do your research and ensure that you select the most efficient packaging and postage options for your products.

Postage

There are some emerging low-cost parcel carriers like Sendle that offer much cheaper rates than regular mail services, although their services are not yet available everywhere.

You’ll also want to ensure that your items are well packaged to reduce the cost of replacing damaged items and, of course, to keep your customers happy. And if you don’t include insurance in your standard level of postage, it is a good idea to include this as an optional extra for customers who want the extra reassurance.

Begin

If you’re still with me, then that’s a good indication that you’re willing to put in the hard yards to make your online handmade venture a success, and that’s great.

The above is far from an exhaustive list and you should use it as a starting point for further research, however, don’t research yourself into a corner either. There’s loads of information out there, and you don’t have to know it all and perfect everything before you get started.

Takeaway Tips for Launching Your Craft Business Online:

  1. 1. Choose a selling platform that offers sufficient flexibility, exposure opportunities, and the tools you need to sell effectively
  2. 2. Select one or two social media channels where your ideal audience spends time and post consistently to build an audience
  3. 3. When calculating the production cost of your items, be sure to include not only raw material costs, but also the cost of packaging, consumables, utilities, tools, web design, hosting fees, sales commissions and anything else that contributes to the cost of making an item.
  4. 4. Price for profit to build a sustainable business rather than trying to compete with chain store prices.
  5. 5. Ensure your product imagery is clear, well lit, well styled, and comprehensive in terms of capturing all aspects of your product
  6. 6. Write product descriptions that pre-empt buyer questions, describe your product sufficiently and accurately, convince them to complete the purchase.
  7. 7. Be mindful that buyers find your products based primarily on keyword searches, so comprehensive product descriptions in natural language will put you in front of more potential buyers.
  8. 8. Offer your customers multiple payment options at checkout
  9. 9. Offer free postage if possible, or otherwise minimise perceived postage costs
  10. 10. Ensure products are adequately packages to prevent damage in transit
  11. 11. Set realistic customer expectations around delivery timeframes and proactively communicate as much as possible about delays, even if they’re not within your control.
  12. 12. Begin.

Get a handle on these basics, do some planning, then jump in and give it a try – experimentation is a great way to learn!



Words by:
Madeit Editor, Louise
Editor,

Louise (a.k.a. “Mrs Madeit”)

Wordsmith, art & craft enthusiast, and grand-visionary.

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