Ok...so here it is. I wrote an article for a magazine and submitted it. It was rejected. And. After rereading this later - I can see why it was rejected. Let's just say, I had been spending a lot of time out in the sun. BUT. I hope you might find something useful in it if you currently or are planning on selling your crafts...here it is.
You hoard fabric. Your drawers are overflowing with notions. You keep buying more fabric when you have no inkling what on earth you will do with it. It’s so pretty, how could you possibly say no?! Come on, just one more yard. What could it hurt?
You start to make excuses for why you must have yet another yard to add to your mountainous stash and then, it starts. The dreams. Colorful, crazy dreams of you being surrounded by fabric and buttons and cute little spools of ribbon and the house – an eerie silence falls upon it and your find yourself, free of distractions.
You dream about sewing the most delicious little quilts and skirts and handbags, gulp, dare I say, uninterrupted. You wake up only to find the imprint of your seam ripper on your face where you fell asleep with your head on your cutting table because you were sewing late into the evening after everyone had gone to bed. It was just a dream.
Unusual? Strange? Not for a craft addict. And the first step is to admit you have a problem. Admit, you can’t let a week go by without stopping into your favorite quilt shop. You can’t let a week go by without sewing a few stitches. If you go more than a few days, the shakes and ticks start and you find yourself sneaking back over to sit at your sewing machine. Just a few stitches…I just need…to…sew…a few…more stitches…and then I’ll be…ok. Really. Just let me sew…a few more stitches!!
The next step is to believe that there is a higher power that you can turn over your addiction to, restore your sanity. Yeah, right!? Who are we kidding? Once a craft addict, always a craft addict and there is no shame in that! Higher power? I’m thinking, like Etsy, Ebay or a local craft show! There comes a time when you might want to undo a little of that guilty fabric hoarding habit. There are lots of ways to make your habit into a guilt free obsession thriving business.
Seriously now, you love to craft and love to create for friends and family but there really are some very simple ways to get your addiction hobby to pay for itself.
When I first started creating handbags and accessories, I found that our local coffeehouse would allow me to set up a little space inside to display my wares. For a nominal cut of the proceeds, I was able to make a fair amount of spending money for the month. I was able to go out with my girlfriends for lunch, maybe buy a new outfit, guilt free, using the money I made from selling my crafts.
Here are a few things to consider when considering selling at a local shop: Will they purchase your crafts from you at a wholesale price or carry it on consignment? A wholesale price is generally 50% of the retail price. For instance, if you make a handbag that would retail at $50.00 then typically, you would sell it to the shopkeeper for $25.00. Does that allow you as the crafter, enough payment for your materials and labor that went into creating the item?
Some shopkeepers may be wary of new products or simply don’t have enough funds to carry a large amount of inventory. One way to offer your product to them, almost risk free, is through consignment. A contract is agreed upon between you and the shopkeeper that states the inventory being offered, a start and end date if necessary of displaying your wares, and a statement of responsibility about what should happen if your products are damaged while in their possession. The shopkeeper gets to offer your product for sale without purchasing it. You decide on your consignment price while the shopkeeper is welcome to mark up your item to whatever retail price they wish. Since they do not own the inventory, often they are willing to mark up only 25% or so and this allows you to get a few more dollars for your product over offering them at wholesale.
Etsy and eBay
Etsy.com and eBay.com are a few of the better-known websites that allow you to set up an online store. Etsy is a wonderful option because it offers only handmade items. Their fees for listing are very affordable and the site is very easy to use. This is a storefront site meaning that customers can visit your site and make a direct purchase, no bidding involved.
Ebay.com conversely is an auction site where you can list an item and people may place bids on it. The drawback is that the fees are a bit higher. However, I don’t think there is anyone who has not heard of eBay. Your chances of getting a higher volume of visitors viewing your wares may be slightly higher on eBay but there is an increased cost to you for that as well. Ebay also has the option of setting up a storefront and you can offer items at a “Buy it Now” price where no bidding is necessary.
A little hint to drive traffic to your online store; list your items frequently. For instance, say you have a potholder you’ve made and you have 12 of them to sell. List them separately, on different days. Here’s why. One of the ways both etsy and ebay are searchable for customers is by “recently listed items”. By frequently listing your items, customers will see your items come up first and then, hopefully, find themselves in your store.
You’ll need to have a PayPal account to accept payment and you’ll have to stock up on shipping supplies. An excellent way to get repeat customers and word of mouth business is that “first impression”. You can purchase inexpensive tissue papers and ribbons or use fabric scraps to wrap your customer’s purchases like a gift. Include a little note and thank them for their business. Who doesn’t love to receive a sweetly packaged little item in the mail? Those personal touches go a long way for sustaining your craft addiction sales.
Arts and Crafts Shows
Sometimes, if you have created enough inventory, you might want to consider entering an Arts and Crafts show. Typically, there is an entrance fee and that gives you a spot at the show to display your wares. I personally have found these to be either great or a huge flop. It depends on the weather, the customers of that one day, and who else you are competing with at that event. They can be long hours but it can be a great way to introduce yourself to new customers in person. People love to meet the person who crafted the item and so you may find wonderful success selling in this venue. I have found that if you create a nice variety of items with a wide range of price points, you’ll have a little something for everyone.
Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Selling your wares really can be quite simple and allow you to continue on with a guilt free addiction to crafting. Rehab doesn’t have to be painful – it’s really rather exciting and satisfying to self support your hobby and maybe a bit more. Who knows? You could be a budding superstar like Martha Stewart or Amy Butler. You’ll never know until you try!
(ps I found another interesting article that you might enjoy if you want more info - check out indiefixx here. Do you have a good experience or advice you'd like to share? Please leave a comment to share with all of us...I'd love to hear what you are doing or trying in sales)
(pps blog reader Denise who owns Feather Your Nest had some retailer insight...she left this in the comments but I didn't want anyone to miss this so here it is again.
Good article Trish. As a retail store owner, I’d like to comment on the consignment percentage, few retail store owners will put items in their shoppes and take only a 25% fee. There are many “hidden” costs in operating a brick and mortar store – credit card processing fees alone can be as much as 5% plus a per transaction fee so if the purchase is made with plastic (and 90% are these days) that’s 5%+ right off the top. then there is the tissue and bags to put it in, insurance, electric, heat and the cost of employees to sell it… it all adds up. Any product that is put out on the sales floor has to earn it’s keep for the square footage that it’s occupying. Generally, store owners that take on consignment do it because they don’t have the cash flow to purchase the product out right from the artist. Net profit on few products is 25% so any shop owner that takes a 25% consignor fee is not doing good business for themselves. That said, some places like a coffee shop, that is not in the retail business, might take a smaller percentage like 25% because it’s not space that would be allocated to retail sales anyway, they might use it as a draw to bring customers in, or as shop-ertainment for their customers.
If I were a crafter wanting to sell my product without selling at wholesale prices I’d look more at renting booth space at a craft mall. Those places are in business to make their money off booth rentals and a smaller percentage of the sale to cover processing costs.