Tips and Tricks for New Artisan Craft Shop Owners
|16 min read
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
By GrandmaThunderpants   |   
20 14 784 (1 Today)
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When I first started selling my own clay goodies, I went through all the usual struggles. I got no sales, nothing seemed to attract interest, and no matter how much I bothered my friends, none of them could manage to rake in customers for me. So I realized that only YOU can push your business forward. So I began to read more and more articles and tips and learned quickly a few things that definitely cannot be mentioned enough. I want to share these tips and tricks with you, so that hopefully you don't struggle for months to make sales too!

This article is mostly aimed toward polymer clay artists, but some tips are universal so I think they could help out anybody trying to start their own little business on the internet. :heart:

1.) Item views/likes are not as important as you think they are!

You might say to yourself: How come this item has been viewed 100 times, and not one person has bought it? Maybe you'll lower the price dramatically to help entice people and maybe it'll work a few times but cheap prices don't mean constant customers. Think to yourself instead if 100 people saw something and didn't buy it then what could the problem be?

It could be just a bad time of year to be selling things, or it could be your item is not photographed properly and isn't shining like it should be, or it could be that the item you've made is just not something people currently want to buy.

For polymer clay creators, the two items I would say to not set your heart on selling off quickly are fruit tarts and rainbow cake. These items are super adorable, yes, and you should make them! But they're also all over the place. You can do a search on Etsy for rainbow cake charms and come up with an enormous selection to choose from. Cute little cakes do sell, and they are a good item to keep around, but try not to do what everybody else has done-- or if you do, try to give it something unique about it, like the rainbow cakes with stars added, or maybe a rainbow cake with rainbow icing as well! Little things that make your item unique and not run of the mill. You don't want your product to blend in.

I would also say make sure the item you're photographing is up to quality standards! Don't try to sell off the first item you ever make with clay with all the fibers and cat hairs in it, unless it's super impressive because you're a prodigy. Try making a few of the item you want to sell and pick the best out of the litter to be your showcase item. When you give people the best of what you're offering, they're more excited about making a sale!

2.) Don't low-ball yourself!

Figuring out good prices that everybody can agree on is tough, and the simple answer seems to be "have the lowest prices and you'll come out on top" but that logic is definitely flawed. Yes lowering your prices to entice buyers can be a good thing but keep in mind the costs of the items you used, the time you spent on it, the time it took to take the photos and write the description and buy the postage envelops and get the bubble wrap-- is all of that reflected in the price you've selected?

Remember you're doing this to make money, and while some people may whine and moan about a certain item being $25, if they can't appreciate the time and effort that went into making an item you think is worth that much then you know ... maybe they're not the best customer you want to be attracting as your staple buyer. You want customers who can appreciate hand-made items and will happily give you what you're asking because they understand where you're coming from. People who understand these costs as well are also people who likely have friends who think in a similar way, and then they'll tell a friend, who will tell a friend and so on and on and the customers just keep coming! Hopefully, anyway.

3.) Good, clear, stylized photos of your products are definitely way more important than you think they are!

Is there an adorable prop you love to pose your items with, or just some cute fabric or stationary that makes your items pop? These are great things to have on hand, and the ultimate goal is to have photos of your items that people recognize as yours. A style to them, a certain element that is always present. Photos taken on a pure white background can be good for showing specific details or for a simple photo to show size scale, but the main image for your item should be something eye-catching and bright. Remember the brightness/contrast tool can be your best friend (just don't go crazy!) in helping to make your photos really pop.

If you have a camera that doesn't have macro settings or can't get up close to tiny little items, don't fret and think you have to go buy the most expensive camera out there just to take photos of your work. Cropping your photos is an amazing little trick and can be a huge help!

Here's an original image uncropped.
img.photobucket.com/albums/v62…
Obviously there's a lot of stuff going on and it's hard to focus on the item with all this background junk. But!

img.photobucket.com/albums/v62…
One quick crop, and suddenly things are a lot better aren't they?

img.photobucket.com/albums/v62…
Now clean it up some, adjust brightness and contrast ... also make sure there's no animal hair in the background. Like there is in mine. It's for tutorial purposes, don't judge me baw.  

This is a simple and easy trick to remember, especially if your camera really hates to do things up close and personal. And granted you will definitely get better results if you get a camera with macro capabilities (lots of point and shoot cameras have them, you don't have to invest in a thousand dollar camera) there's always a way to make what you've got work for you!

4.) Try not to be discouraged!

One of the toughest things is just getting your name and products out there in a way people not only respond well to but enjoy and want to spend their money on. The hardest thing to get someone to do is give up their money, and trust me once people start dishing out the funds to buy what you're producing, it's one of the most awesome feelings.

You're going to get a lot of people going "I like this!" or "I want this!" but not actually ever giving you any money for it. It's so hard to not get discouraged by this, but remember someone out there does want that item, you just have to sit tight and keep improving until that person comes along. Try even asking people "If you like this but didn't buy it, please tell me why." You'll find most of the time people who want the item don't currently have spare funds for it, and that's not your fault at all, so lowering the cost of the item isn't going to help you out much... but if you're finding everything you post seems to attract the same kind of people who like it but don't buy it, then it's time to attract some more people---

5.) EXPOSURE! Exposure is the most, cosmically magnificent sparkling top of the world utter most important thing you can do for your new business.

If one out of every hundred people has the means to buy that item you're selling, then out of two-hundred people that's two sales, and a thousand is ten sales and so on and on forever. You need to do any means possible to get your products out to as many people as possible. This means going beyond your personal social circles, venturing out into uncharted territory so to speak. If you've told all your friends to advertise you and still you get no sales, that should be a clear sign that you're not thinking big enough.

Use Google to find blogs related to the types of products you sell and (politely) request that they do a feature on your Etsy shop or your website. Remember that some of the more popular blogs get a lot of requests daily, so a simple "hi, can you feature my Etsy [link]?" isn't very considerate of the blog owner. Include links to your top three favorite products and the ones you think are the bee's knees in a 1, 2, 3 order and give a short description of what the theme and design of your shop is supposed to be. This makes it so much easier on the blog owner and ensures that the item they pick to feature isn't going to be one you think isn't the best.

Don't just stick to sending emails to blog owners, go further than that. List yourself on Craigslist, get a Tumblr, a Youtube for slideshows of your products, a blog, a twitter, any possible social networking site that can expose you to more people. Heck, even ask the people who said "I like this but I don't have money" to do a feature on you. It can't hurt to try. ;D

Also ask fellow creators if they'd like to feature you as well, even if they don't sell the types of products you do. If you sell only hats and limit yourself to just hat blogs and hat people, you're missing out on that one person who is buying shirts and thinks "wow I'd love a hat to go with this!" but doesn't know where to turn. The point is you can never reach out to too many people and the more work you do to promote yourself, the better the outcome will be, I promise.

6.) You will not make a million bucks your first month of business, or even your first year.

It's good to be a dreamer and a creator and a big dream chaser, but it's also good to be practical. I remember my first few months of business were incredibly slow and I was only really selling to friends and family. This is actually kind of a good period, because it lets you beta test your products, find out which things fall apart easy, which materials never to touch again, and which things even your mother doesn't love as much as you do.

Try to trial your products before you immediately start pushing them out there, see what things people comment on when you're out shopping, even ask people who really like an item "How much would you pay for this?" to try and get a good idea of where to aim when you finally do start to sell things. Buyer feedback is one of the most important things to gather and it'll save you time and money in the future if you have good communication with your buyers.

7.) Offer moderate discounts/free shipping/frequent buyer discounts.

A really good way to entice buyers without losing 80% of your profit is to offer percentage discounts! A good example is offering first time buyers a 10% discount off their first purchase, or maybe free shipping on their first purchase. These are small things that will only cut about $1.20-$2.00 out of your profit which is way better than cutting a $15 item down to $5.

Your frequent buyer discount should always be higher than a discount you offer on a flier or a blog. You want people who keep coming back to you to feel like they really matter as a customer-- and they do! And frequent buyer discounts are one of the best ways to let people know you care.

Etsy offers easy to set up coupons for shop owners, and Google Checkout offers these very simple coupons as well, including percentage discounts and set amount discounts (like $2 off your order, no matter what). People love discounts. A lot. And people love to show off when they get a good deal.

8.) Pack your items neatly and leave a hand-written thank you, and a small little free gift if you can!

People buy handmade items because they're tired of the mass-produced machine items. Don't make your buyers feel like what they bought came from some factory, add a little flair to it! You can find so many cute little treat bags at places like the Dollar General or Dollar Tree, and you'd be surprised at how much good it does when someone opens a package and finds something wrapped cutely in a bag with stars and hearts on it. It feels more like a present, and who doesn't love presents? Keep in mind you don't have to spend a fortune to make your packages stand out.

Tiny little plastic bags come in packs of 100 for $2 at Wal-Mart, the Dollar Tree sells zipped treat bags in packs of 50 for $1, and there's plenty of places online where you can find these types of things (but be mindful of shipping costs! it might be worth it to drive down to Wal-Mart instead of dishing out $8 in shipping).

Free gifts are great as well, and if you're like me you're always experimenting with new techniques and ending up with a lot of stuff laying around. These things are great for free gifts, and I would suggest you add in a jump ring for a charm, or maybe a simple little keyring holder.

BAD EXAMPLE
img.photobucket.com/albums/v62…
Don't ever simply toss your items into the postage envelope! If you take care of the items, you're showing the buyer you care about what you're doing, and quality is important to you.

BETTER EXAMPLE
img.photobucket.com/albums/v62…
Each item gets it's own individual bag so it's more professional, and include a business card (with a discount code on it!) so they can hold onto it and remember who you are for future purchases.

BEST EXAMPLE
img.photobucket.com/albums/v62…
Items not only get their own individual bags, you've put them in a larger, printed bag to give it that "gift bag" feel. Also write a quick "thank you!" by hand on the business card, to show you did assemble this with care and you care enough to stop for a minute and write on something the old fashioned way.

9.) Be humble and always try to help your buyers out.

Back when I first started I sold an item for a mere $3. It was a cupcake pin with a "gold" finding that I'd bought years ago at a craft store. The buyer asked for additional beads to be added to the pin, as well as another cupcake charm, and I agreed to do so but didn't charge extra because I was just so happy to have a sale that I forgot I was definitely losing money at this point.

Although the item was fine when I mailed it out, apparently on arrival the gold paint was tarnished and the silver was showing through. The buyer was very disappointed about this, and I wasn't sure what had caused the issue but I offered my apologies, however the buyer was not pleased. I was thinking to myself "you already paid me only $3, and wanted extra things to begin with, what more can I do for you?" But I didn't snap at the buyer or say my hands were tied and I offered to send her something else because I couldn't remake the item, I didn't have the findings for it anymore. I told the buyer I would send her a free gift when I had the chance or sold another item and had to go to the post office anyway. Despite being offered free gifts, the buyer then got annoyed with me that her free things didn't arrive right away and made a point to say so in the feedback she finally left me.

Although we always want to help out our buyers, especially when starting out, keep in mind some people might try to take advantage of your kindness and threaten you with bad feedback or a strike against you on Paypal, etc. You should always do everything possible to help your buyer if they have an issue, but there comes a time when you need to cut your losses and say there's nothing else you can do. You want to help your buyer, 100%, but you can't help them so much that you lose a tonne of profit. You are running a business after all, and when something goes wrong in a retail store they don't offer to let you take two shirts for free as a consolation (though wouldn't it be nice!).

10.) Never stop improving!

There's no shame in asking a fellow craft maker for tips or advice, or even watching tonnes of Youtube tutorials for inspiration and ideas. There's absolutely no way in the world you will learn everything about any form of art, and you will always be finding shortcuts and simpler ways to do things. You may find that two different people have certain techniques that work awesome for them, but when you combine those two techniques for yourself, you've got something SUPER awesome. You can never learn enough, even when you're at the point where you're getting business and you feel comfortable with your current line of products. You will never be absolutely perfect, so don't be ashamed to want to grow as an artist!




---

If you have more tips/comments/questions/farts go ahead and ask! :D
Comments14
anonymous's avatar
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ChaosFay's avatar
ChaosFayProfessional General Artist
I make jewelry and always pack it up in a cotton filled jewelry display box or bubble wrap the hell outta it. Plus I add several business cards, including coupons for free shipping. A few months ago a buyer bought one of my chunky necklaces and said she didn't pay enough for the quality and sent me an extra $25. She then informed me to raise my prices. So I did, by 20% on some and 30% on others. This has improved how many I sell because people see that "Oh, this is more expensive and she's got rave reviews. I'll take her more seriously now."

Always say thank you, and always send a free item. Mine is usually a keychain or dinky bracelet. Things I wouldn't charge more than a couple bucks for. On large orders though, of over $100, I make a custom jewelry box as a thank you gift. This has always been a big hit and makes people come back for more.
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
GrandmaThunderpantsProfessional Artisan Crafter
That was really kind of her to send you extra money, wow! O: That's rare, most people will make off like a bandit even if it's incredible quality, so I'm glad you got a good buyer who suggested you raised your prices. I think it's really the worst mistake someone can make to make their product as cheap as possible because people think "I'm going to get what I pay for, and it's going to fall apart." And the point of buying handmade is that the quality is supposed to be better so you pay a bit more for it.

I did forget to mention that as well, that the higher the order cost the better and more expensive the free gift should be, definitely! Great thing to mention. I always repeat buy from places that give me free stuff, there's the fun of wondering what you'll get so it's a tiny Christmas. :'D
ChaosFay's avatar
ChaosFayProfessional General Artist
Exactly! A couple buyers have said they return because the gifts are always so different and wonderful. One of my buyers custom orders entire sets from me, but because they don't want the jewelry box (I've sent them three) they would rather I put that energy into something else. So I make another item to go with the set (or a few items) to equal the amount of time and worth the box would be. About once every 2 months I receive another commission from them.

Little things make big differences. I buy handmade soaps from one buyer because they send me a few samples of their other stuff. Another person I purchase from is a supplier of coyote teeth and other animal parts for my jewelry. They dock off 15% from my orders because I purchase so frequently and I let them know ahead of time what I'm looking for.

Some people think that macrame, what I create my jewelry with, is nothing but shit from the 60s and 70s (it was shit back then...so freakishly hideous). When they see my work they're taken aback, not really expecting that to be macrame. After they receive it (should they purchase my work) I get rave reviews and more purchases and customers from them because good news goes around fast...and they're wearing an advertisement aka my jewelry.

One way to really get out there is to participate in conventions. Try little ones, like art jams or something. When you see what it's like small visit the bigs ones so you know what to expect. I'm doing my first big one (10k people went through last year) and if just 1% buy my stuff I'll have no inventory. When you visit conventions look at how the tables are set up, the displays used, and the way sellers are dressed. Find out WHO your audience is. The convention I'm attending this weekend is geared towards people of the alternative lifestyle (pagan, metaphysical, homeopathic, etc). This means I can dress casually, but not so much that it's unprofessional. Don't go in a suit or wear matching clothes to the person assisting you. You'll come off as hokey, and not very friendly. When dressed in casual but nice clothes people are warmed up by you.

It'll take practice, but attending conventions as a guest will help a lot. Anime-cons, comic-cons, home shows, etc. Know your audience.
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
GrandmaThunderpantsProfessional Artisan Crafter
You've got some amazing tips! I agree too that you shouldn't limit yourself to just online marketing, because you miss out on all the people who just don't know where to look online for these types of things, either because they're casual internet users or just don't like shopping online, or many other reasons. And what I've found when displaying your goodies at shows too is if someone is sort of the window shopper and they're giving everything that curious look over, if you can it's always best to engage them in conversation, say how everything is handmade and offer them a business card. Even if they don't buy in person, they might be haunted by that one item they really wanted but didn't get, and they have a business card now to look you up and snag that item.

You've also brought up a good point that buying from other sellers who work in artisan crafts or craft supply is also a really good idea, because you can advertise them as a great supplier, and they can advertise you as a prime example of what can be done with what they're selling. It's always good to help out a fellow artisan, networking is just as important as anything else.

I actually don't know anything about macrame so I spent some time thumbing through your gallery and some of your work is just gorgeous! I recognize the style now that I've seen it, and I had no idea it could be so pretty either. I especially love the "unicorn bells" necklace-- unicorns are one of my favorites. ;D
ChaosFay's avatar
ChaosFayProfessional General Artist
Thank you! The unicorn piece is sold, but my etsy shop has all my available pieces listed for purchase.
Celia-Alva's avatar
Celia-AlvaHobbyist Digital Artist
I love this and because it's true through and through.

I hate how customers are like that though. As someone who works in retail, I can say I've had my share of people who just turn on you like that.


I'm pretty sure there are clay artists somewhere reading this and thinking, "Wow, she's right!!!" X3
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
GrandmaThunderpantsProfessional Artisan Crafter
It's definitely kind of surreal how fast a simple transaction can go so bad so quickly. Of course we all want to get the most bang for the buck so to speak but there's a good way and a bad way to go about it and some people just always seem to pick the bad way, haha.

Thankfully any issues I had after that one were quickly and amicably resolved, so I haven't had any further experiences... but oh the horror stories I've heard. D:
Celia-Alva's avatar
Celia-AlvaHobbyist Digital Artist
lol Oh trust me, I know. I've had that same experience.

While working one day, my cousin being my witness, a customer walks in to pick up his reserve. Unfortunately, the collector's edition of the game had came late that day for some reason. (UPS having issues that day.) As he came in and asked for it, I kindly and apologetically explained the situation. His reaction was to get angry and fast. It was downhill from there as he tried to get his money back, but he hadn't even paid with cash, so I couldn't even do that. After awhile, I just gave him cash back just to get him out.

Right behind him is another customer picking up the same game, collector's edition as well. I cringe, explaining the situation and apologizing about the delay only for him to smile and say that it was okay. After explaining that we were going to give him a call as soon as it arrived, he thanked us and kindly left.

I was in shock about how the same transaction had gone in two different directions. XD
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
GrandmaThunderpantsProfessional Artisan Crafter
Geez, I guess some gamers absolutely can't wait haha. I never understood why people demand their money back for an item they want when all they have to do is wait another day for it. You wanted the item, you still want it so you came to pick it up, and you're probably just going to pay for it again ... so why demand your money back? xD
Celia-Alva's avatar
Celia-AlvaHobbyist Digital Artist
lol not to even mention that we got the shipment in an hour later. XD
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
GrandmaThunderpantsProfessional Artisan Crafter
Lmao, geez some people. XD
mrssmithtakestheday's avatar
Great article hun, you should post it in the group.
GrandmaThunderpants's avatar
GrandmaThunderpantsProfessional Artisan Crafter
Thanks. :D You mean post it in a comment to the group?
anonymous's avatar
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