Recipe For Success: Selling Handmade Online & Off

BEGIN WITH SOMETHING YOU REALLY LOVE MAKING….

Someone commented to me the other day, “wow! you sure are doing well selling your jewelry.” And I had to agree with them. While I’ve been selling pretty regularly to family, friends and neighbors, I’ve been slowly cultivating an online group of customers as well. And while getting paid for what you like doing is terrific – the fact that many  customers are repeat buyers means every bit as much to me. (Cue the Sally Field Oscar tape, “You like me. You really, really like me”)

ADD IN SOME RESEARCH TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING…

I checked out tons of online jewelry shops in Etsy and Artfire and the like. And created a niche for myself. It wasn’t that my technique was so outstanding…I learned from others, and others will learn from me. But I always felt I had a somewhat quirky way of combining colors, patterns and shapes that helped to make my bracelets, pendants and earrings stand out.

BLEND IN A HEFTY HELPING OF PATIENCE

Amalfi Coast Sea Glass Pendant

I began making jewelry last July. Opened an Etsy shop. And waited… and waited…and (well, you get the picture.) My first online sale came in September – to someone in Australia. I don’t know what got me more excited – the sale, or the fact that I sold something to someone in Australia. I started reading blogs, forum posts, Etsy seller tips and more to see what more I should be doing to encourage online sales. It was pretty slow going there until I hit October and November, when sales online and offline really started picking up.

THROW IN A HANDFUL OF MONEY

I decided to spend some money on advertising and marketing. I joined Artfire, and later, Zibbet. I took the Pro package at Artfire – giving it a test through the holiday season. I went with the freebie package on Zibbet. I tried FB ads, blog advertising, a few freebie websites, and I took some ads on StumbleUpon and Craftcult. I bought showcases on Etsy, and renewed my items on a fairly regular basis. I started a blog (free) and a FB page just for fat dog beads.

STIR CONSTANTLY...

Honeysuckle Rose Pink One Of A Kind Lampwork Bead Bracelet

Honeysuckle Rose Pink Bracelet by fat dog beads

I realized that even though making and selling jewelry was my hobby, I would need to devote more time to it to get it up and running smoothly. I checked my analytics everyday, as well as other stats. I realized that some things worked WAY better than other things. One thing that really helped (and still does) is having a presence in the Etsy/Artfire community forums and BNR’s. (See one of my earlier posts for explanation of the BNR’s). I began making connections with other Etsy and Artfire sellers – terrific, friendly, helpful people. We are often each other’s customers – a nice turn-of-events.

AND VOILA!

I’ve had over 70 sales on Etsy; 2 on Artfire; and countless numbers offline. But a majority of my offline sales use my Etsy shop to browse for their purchases. They also connect with me via my FB page. I make sure to update that very regularly.

What didn’t work for me: Zibbet, FB ads, Stumble Upon, and blog advertising. Not convinced Artfire is for me. I believe you have to put a lot of effort into sites like Etsy and Artfire – and I don’t have time for both. (need time for the job-that-pays-the-bills). i

What worked for me: Etsy showcases (they got me exposure when I needed it. Though I’ve stopped them because of the price.), Craftcult ads – yes, they can be pricey, but whenever I was on Craftcult, my numbers shot WAY up. It was no coincidence. Being in the Etsy forums/treasuries/BNRs on a daily basis.

And now….a recipe you can really sink your teeth into:

From my daughter Erin. This appetizer recipe is a crowd-pleaser. And couldn’t be simpler. Enjoy!

1 lb hot italian sausage (preferrably patties without casing – otherwise, you have to take the casing off before cooking.)
1 bar of cream cheese (not fat free)
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

Brown the sausage, then add the cream cheese and rotel. Stir well. reheat in the microwave or oven. Serve with Fritos scoop chips.

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Great Way To Sell Your Stuff: Hold An Open House

Held my first Jewelry Open House last night at my daughter’s house. It was fun, relatively easy, very laid back, and terrifically successful. The most stressful part was pre-open house…when I feverishly worked to replenish my stock due to an influx of sales the week before.

Spearmint Green Wire Wrapped Bracelet

Here’s a rough timeline of how I got ready:

• Arranged for daughter to host the party at her house – 6 weeks in advance

• Sent out evites to family, friends, neighbors, customers in the area; posted invite on FB – 3-4 weeks in advance  (My daughters also sent the evite to some of their friends and neighbors)

• Start thinking about HOW to display bracelets, earrings, pendants. Order/purchase any display items 2-3 weeks

• Plan food, drink, etc. Make a list! Ask a few close friends to make some things  – 1- 2 weeks

• Clean and tag all jewelry for the sale – week of sale (NOTE #1: this was a very, very long  process removing tarnish from all my sterling silver items. My fingers were black each night from the polishing cloths. And tagging the items can also be a painful thing if you have a lot of items to sell. )

(NOTE #2: Even though I thought I had tagged everything, I had NO tags on about 6 or 7 items. I had to hop online quickly to look up prices.)

jewelry open house display

Daughters Emily & Erin and some of displayed jewelry

Do Something Special. I’m not big on playing games at parties. I’d rather just share a glass of wine or two with friends and chat a bit. But what I did to, is allow each buyer to pull a folded up piece of paper from a bag before they paid. On each paper was written a different discount. Some were for $3, $4 or $5  off. (my prices run from about $15-$35 for ss earrings…$22-$48 for pendants…$40 to $70+ for ss bracelets) Some discounts were for 5%, 10% or even 20% off. And I even had one or two that were “Buy one item – get the second 1/2 off”. It didn’t matter what they got, everyone was pleasantly surprised to get some kind of discount they weren’t counting on.

• Day of Sale – go to BJ’s and liquor store to get wine, small bottles of water, snacks and something sweet. (Note #3: skip cut up cheese. In warm weather, not an attractive hors d’oeuvre. Should have had chocolate. Dips did well. Everyone loved mini-soft pretzel tray that Emily brought.)

• An hour before sale – arrive at Open House and set up all displays. Make sure everything is within reach and approachable. Items I placed on top of boxes and directly on table were picked up and tried on. Not so much the bracelets I had on a wooden display. People were less likely to move things around – as if they didn’t want to mess things up.

• During sale – be available for questions. But mix and mingle too. I was going for a very laid back, soft sell approach. And it worked. I also took cash (many paid in cash!), checks and credit cards (thank you SQUARE!). I had some cute gift bags I had bought in Target…and boxed all gifts. Make people feel like they are getting something special – because they are!

The results: fewer people showed up than expected. (But I guess that IS to be expected). But just about EVERYONE bought something, some bought 2 or 3 items. All in all, I sold 18 bracelets, pendants and pairs of earrings.

I thought it was a great success. And I recommend it to anyone who sells handmade. Remember – when you’re throwing an OPEN HOUSE, people are coming to buy your things. My profits far outweighed any expenses for the night. If you sell on etsy or artfire, I’d definitely recommend you give it a try.

Keep it simple. Make it fun. Have a blast.

Information Overload…when to say no.

A few things you need to know before we start: ( #1)I have the attention span of a flea. (#2) I am easily amused – but as stated in #1, I constantly need NEWER! BRIGHTER! FUNNIER! MORE AMAZING things to keep me amused. (#3) I am very curious (keep #1 in mind here). (#4) When I do something, I want it done right…or even better than right.

Aegean Sea Blue and Aquamarine Lampwork Pendant with WOW charm $34.

Which leads me to the art and science of making and selling handmade goods. In my case, it’s jewelry. I totally get the “practice makes perfect” thing. I spend countless hours doing and redoing and redoing again to make the piece of jewelry I’m working on different, and better, than the rest. No problem there.

But the marketing/selling aspect of the business? Hmmm. Not doing so well there. Don’t get me wrong – my jewelry sells. And I’m thrilled with the number of repeat customers I get. But in order to really ramp up my marketing efforts, I need to understand and use social media in ways that are totally new to me. There is so much I need to learn. So, I’m doing what a lot of sellers on Etsy and Artfire are doing. I’m clicking and printing and  saving and subscribing to every thing I possibly can that has to do with internet marketing, SEO and the like.

Trouble is, I am spending so much time gathering the info, that I have no time to actually READ and FOLLOW the advice in all those emails, web pages, guides and blogs. Does anyone else have this problem?

Lately, I’ve decided to open and “scan” the material to see if it’s save-worthy. (For example – I now do this with the daily emails from Handmade Spark.). If it’s worth keeping, I will print it out to save for later. If not, it goes out with the trash.

Watercolors - Blue and Teal Lampwork Bead Wire Wrapped Sterling SIlver Bracelet $72

So, that’s it. I’m done. No more.  I am going to stop some of the things I’ve subscribed to that come too often. (Every day? Do I really need to be reading stuff from you every day?) I am NOT going to download anything new until I’ve read/scanned/trashed all the stuff I’ve already downloaded. I am going into voluntary info withdrawal.

Should I approach you and ask for some SEO tips…or some new networking websites…just walk away. We’ll all be better for it.