Selling your product
In terms of bringing your crafted items to market, there are many ways and means. Fiona recommends starting off at school fairs, and church fetes as well. It’s a good way of spreading word-of-mouth. Someone may buy something from you directly, and perhaps go on to seek out your site.
Of course the site of sale will depend on what your product is. It may need a street presence, or sell better in an established local shop. It may be more suited to craft fairs at seasonal times. If you've done the correct research you'll know. But mistakes can be costly, so be fastidious.
“I chose to sell through Misi and Folksy first,” says Amanda Ryan of Maisielu.com. Both of these are British run craft selling websites. There are others like Notonthehigstreet and Etsy too. “These fitted my needs,” Amanda explains. “With minimal set up costs, you can set up a store within their site, list your products and off you go! You get support from their forums, an online presence, get to test your products on a target audience and all for a very cheap fee and commission rate.”
These kinds of sites are excellent. But do not take it for granted that they are for you as they’re not suited to every craft business. With Maisielu.com, the products are small, so it was not cost effective for Amanda to open a high street store with huge overheads. Your business, should it be a pottery or a wicker workshop, for instance, could benefit from a studio shop, or artisan workspace.
Many crafters set up their own website. It is possible to build your own site at home for free, as Amanda ultimately did. “I felt the major break through for my craft working as a business was when I launched my own website. Selling through my own space rather than sales sites, I don't have to pay fees to others." Even if you are quite technophobic, the process is not extraordinarily difficult. "I used create.net," Amanda says, "a website template company. They were on hand if I ever had questions and made it a joyful project."
Fiona also built her first site, but she was not entirely happy with the result. “You can do things very cheaply,” she explains. “I started with a free website and really that is something I regret. I wish I had gone for website hosting that I have now, straight away. I wish I had not bothered with the free website!"
It's worth considering all of the services you'll need a website to offer your customers: it may be worth investing in a site to ensure usability etc.
If it is going to form a central facet of your business, and you want to encourage repeat custom, it is important to have a good quality site. Have a mailing list and a newsletter too. Look into Twitter feeds and set up a Facebook account – this can link to your online store. Make sure your site boasts a range of features including customer and or/community forums, news updates and images, as well as your basic online 'shop'.
And if you are getting a site built, or hosted, do watch how much you pay. “My hosting costs about £60 a year," says Fiona. "But there are a lot more expensive ones out there." If you are on a budget, watch details such as this.
Depending on how you choose to sell, there can be sellers’ fees, commission taken, insurance, and fete table costs. There can be studio rents, utilities, and so on. You also have to consider Paypal fees, accountant fees and tax, too. Like any business, once you look into it, there is a great deal to arrange. “But none of these should put you off your business idea,” Amanda advises. “These things just need to be researched and managed.”
Similarly, there is much to consider in terms of pricing your product. With a craft business, you must take into the equation not only the cost of materials but also how much time you have put into a product. And weigh up your target market. High end clients will expect to pay a premium for handmade products. “Don't pitch yourself too low,” Joanne Dewberry of Charliemoos.co.uk warns. “When the work starts flying in and you’re up making at all hours and the cash tin is empty you'll struggle to raise them up higher.” So make sure you get your pricing right.
To do this, research is the key. You have to decide where you want your products to be stocked and what price ranges are the norm for your business. Galleries can take up to 50% in commission and the best craft fair table costs can be high. “So think outside the box," Amanda advises. "Do open house events where your living room is your studio and invite friends and family round for the afternoon. Or hire a small venue for the evening for your own gallery evening, and send pieces to local magazines with covering letters for fashion shoots."
The possibilities are endless. In your business set up as well as your craft, it pays to be creative.