Starting your own independent business is totally different from making stuff for fun, and it’s important to know what is expected of you from a buyer standpoint.These are just my opinions, but as someone who has had over 175 sales with a perfect rating score, I thought my tips might be helpful for those just starting out.
1. Be impeccable:Hopefully you check your finished work when you’re gifting it to a friend, but when you’re selling it you need to CHECK it then check it again. You check it for flaws, for durability and errors. If you sew (like I do) some of these include Does it zip open and closed easily without catching fabric? Are there kinks in the zipper teeth causing it to stick? Are there any holes or frayed spots? Any spots that are sewn too close to the edge? Is my tag facing the right direction? Do all my zippers open the same direction? Is it the same size as all the others? Etc…
2. Be consistent:Customers want to know what to expect. This means your listings should explain the product’s dimensions so they know what size they’re purchasing. For the sake of time you’re not going to measure every single finished product and put the exact measurements, so they need to all match. To do this easily make a template. Product that is supposed to be the same size shouldn’t vary more than 1/8 an inch.
3. Be clean & considerate:Seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve definitely seen people lay stuff on their dirty floor to photograph it. If you’re a smoker who smokes inside, consider an out-of-home studio that’s smoke-free. Same goes for pets and kids- keep them out of your work area. Always WASH YOUR HANDS and surface before starting. Don’t eat while you’re making your stuff. Aside from being unsanitary (and I know this seems paranoid) but if you’re eating peanuts and then touching all over your product… you never know the allergies your buyers have. Best to be considerate. Peanut allergies are no joke.
4. Get feedback:Your old aunt Edna and mom will always think what you make is great, but get feedback from others who have no reason to lie to you. Sounds harsh, but I’ve had great tips and adjustments offered to me.
5. Make prototypes:Put your stuff through the ringer to see how it holds up. It’s also a good idea to gift your new creations to a few friends and ask for their updates on how it does. Before I started selling my Little Ladies pouches which are geared toward little girls, I gave one to my 5 month old daughter to go to town on. She pulled and chewed on that thing like crazy. Then I threw it in the washing machine with a load of laundry, and it was totally fine. Then I knew they were machine-washable. I never would’ve made that claim without checking first. Oh, and I gave her that particular pouch because I had a brain fart and sewed the tag on backward. Even though there was nothing functionally wrong with the item it couldn’t be sold with an error (remember consistency.) (Disclaimer: My baby was supervised during said chewfest. Always supervise babies around things with small pieces like zipper pulls.)
6. Customers first:
It’s going to happen. You’re going to get customers who are hard to work with. I’ve had customers complain about the package arriving dirty- obviously not my fault, but rather USPS’. But instead of saying that to them I just apologize and mention politely about why I protect my products in plastic sleeves. Be the ally, not the opponent. You may also have customers reach out to you later about a problem with the piece. Since you’re reading these tips you’re going to know to triple-check that item before it goes out, but since I had no one to guide me in the beginning I did have someone contact me once that a piece of fabric was fraying on a ruffle I’d sewn on a bag. Otherwise, she loved the bag. To rectify this (and you must) I sent her a free pouch. This works for two reasons: the customer feels compensated and is pleased you care, and they also get to see that you DO know how to make quality work free of flaws, which renews their faith in your company.
7. Package for the elements:
Your packages will travel all over the country and sometimes the world. Make sure they’re protected well. It would suck to make an awesome, perfect piece that arrives nasty because of the postal service. I used to sell crayon wraps for kids that came with crayons. I packaged them separately in plastic just incase they melted. None ever did, but had they melted on the fabric wrap it would have been a bad situation. I wrap my products in plastic, then mail them in bubble mailers which are also pretty weather-proof. This has always ensured they arrive clean and dry.
8. Say thank you:
Etsy allows you to write a little default thank you on the invoice (which you should always include, btw) but you can also handwrite one for a personal touch.
9. Be smart:
If you’re making products for babies or toddlers don’t have choking hazards. Leave off the button eyes or beads. Sure you can add a disclaimer, but how horrible would you feel if a child was injured by your piece? Better to be safe than sorry, I say. If you do make children’s items that have buttons or large beads, include an age-appropriate warning for parents. Usually under 3= no buttons in my opinion.
10. Price appropriately:
This is the hardest thing a shop owner has to do. It is such a delicate balance that I’m not sure is ever “right” because it’s so relative. On one hand, you can’t lowball the handmade community but on the other hand you have to actually sell stuff. I have found that the blogging community and handmade-patrons who are familiar with Etsy know fair market value and understand the cost it takes to make handmade items. They are your audience. Your personal Facebook friends will probably think your stuff is too expensive and that’s okay- everyday consumers are used to Walmart, Target dollar bins, and dollar stores. You can’t please everyone, but you should find a balance. Here’s a great article on this topic and an image to get you started:
So there you have it! My top 10 tips for selling your handmades.
To check out my comparison post on which storefront is best for what needs, click here.
If you have any tips to share please feel free to do so in the comments!