And the Pantone color of the year for 2014 is…drumroll….Radiant Orchid. Why does that matter, you ask? Because whether you are making holiday gifts to sell, or making to give or even if you’re buying a gift (handmade of course), you’ll want your goodies to be enjoyed, worn or displayed, not stuck away in a closet or donated to Goodwill, right?
Including this color and hues that coordinate with it in your collections will help buyers or recipients of your creations to recognize that you’re fashion forward and trend savvy. For more about why you should pay attention to this, CLICK HERE
Now that all the hype and hoopla over Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are past, how are you keeping your small business in the forefront of your ideal customer’s shopping psyche?
Discounting your products or services is not going to gain you loyal customers. Markdowns will simply put you in a space to compete with Big Box and you can’t do that. Why would you even want to? The elements that make your small business special have nothing to do with price and everything to do with creating an experience.
Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar business, you can create a unique shopping experience for your customers so that they keep returning and referring friends to your site. Let’s say, for example, you sell handmade candles, soap or jewelry online. You can stand out from big business in a number of ways.
- Offer the best darn customer service on the planet.
- Address the customer by name in all communications.
- Include a card with your bio, your story.
- Use packaging unique to your store.
- Include a poem, quote or inspirational message with each piece.
- Show your clients appreciation for their patronage with a brief handwritten thank you note.
What are you doing to make your own small business stand out from the crowd? What special experiences are you creating to keep your customers coming back? As always, you’re invited to share in the comments below.
If you make jewelry or know someone who does, I want to share this with you. I’ve spent years on all sides of the handmade business and helped many jewelry artists create a successful career but these two know some things I don’t about making it big as a jewelry designer. In fact, I don’t know anyone else in the industry who is teaching a course like this one offered by Flourish and Thrive Academy. Tracy Matthews and her partner Robin Kramer put together a comprehensive course for any jewelry artist who wants a thriving business, not just a hobby. You can listen in HERE as Tracy shares her invaluable expertise around building her super successful jewelry design business. She’s offering a pre-release discount to my readers only for $100. off the course price only until this Friday, Nov. 29th. If you’re serious about making a real living in your jewelry business, listen to the interview and then hop on over to read more about the course HERE . I know many of you are makers of other things and if you have a jewelry artist in your life, this course would make a terrific gift.
How being generous can help you sell more crafts over the holidays (or How you can get others to happily do your marketing for you)
Are you wondering how you are going to find time to market your craft over the holidays? A lot of people let their marketing fall by the way-side between Thanksgiving and New Years but this can lead to slow sales in January and February.
One of the best methods to sell more craft is to make sure it’s seen at holiday parties.
If you have friends or family who host holiday parties in their home or office, ask them if they would like to borrow some of your art for the party. Whether it’s wall art, table-top or wearable, your work will be seen by lots of new potential customers. Just be sure your friend has cards with your contact info handy to give to anyone who admires your work.
Obviously, if your make jewelry or wearable art, you should wear it every single time you leave the house, even to run to the grocery store. And always have cards with your contact info in your pocket. But especially over the holidays, you can get other people to be your billboards as well. My employees and friends always knew they could borrow a piece of handmade jewelry, a scarf or other wearable art to attend special luncheons or parties. The only requirement was that they keep my cards in their handbag and anytime someone complimented the piece, they told them who made it and where they could purchase one or something similar. It’s not imposing. They’ll love wearing and talking about your work. It’s often a good ice-breaker at cocktail parties.
If any of your friends work in a place where they see lots of people every day, they can be a great source of marketing for you just by wearing what you make and telling anyone who admires it how they can contact you.
Don’t over-look how many women are shopping for the perfect outfit to wear to the holiday parties. They will need accessories as well so it’s a great idea to approach some upscale boutiques and ask them to display your work with their dresses. If they don’t already sell jewelry or whatever accessories your make, they can up their average ticket by showing the customer a piece of yours to match the outfit. They have nothing to lose if you do it on consignment. And you have everything to gain.
For more tips on how to sell more crafts for the holidays, check out the Audio Class: “12 Easy Ways to turn your Creative Hobby into an Extra $1200 a Month”. (and if you do all 12 things, your creative hobby could be a $14,000 a month biz. )
- Find a space that’s in a good foot traffic area and has been vacant for awhile. Contact the landlord or property management and tell him/her that you are interested in a temporary lease. Go in knowing that you are expected to negotiate. Normally, a temporary space doesn’t pay the usual common area maintenance and other fees known in the industry as “triple net”. In exchange for paying a lower than going rate, you’ll be asked to agree to vacate with 30 days notice should they find a longterm tenant. If you’re only going to be open for the month of December, you’ll likely just pay a flat fee and possibly a security deposit. Now before you dismiss the idea thinking, “Oh, I don’t have that kind of money”, I’m gong to tell you how you don’t have to come up with most of it alone.
- Make a list of all the artists, crafters, makers and bakers you know and invite them to join you in a monthlong craft fair. Let’s say the rent on the space is $2000. If there are 10 of you, you’d each only have to come up with $200. Ideally, there would be 20 or more so you’d divide the rent and have more variety. Make sure make sure the participating exhibitors represent a diverse selection of categories and price points.
- You can handle managing the store in a few different ways. Each artist can be responsible for manning her own booth, you can divide the responsibilities of and hours among you or handle the shop-keeping yourself and charge each artist a percentage of their sales.
- There are a few general things you’ll have to take care of but they can all be done in a day or two. You’ll need to:
- Secure a resale permit which allows you to collect sales tax
- Call the local municipality and find out if you are required to obtain a business license. If the space has had retail in the past, this shouldn’t be a major undertaking.
- Also find out if you are permitted to use a banner or some other temporary signage and hire a quick-sign maker or make a more artsy sign yourself.
- Rather than spending money on standard store fixtures, be creative with your displays and use objects from around your house, from nature or from flea markets and garage sales.
- Opening a shop might seem like a major undertaking but if you view it as a temporary craft fair, it will feel less daunting and more fun. And remember, if it’s super successful and you love it, there’s always the option of keeping it open year round.
Several readers have asked how they can gear up their sales for the holiday season. They wonder how to stand out in the crowd of Etsy and other online shops.
Some mention a desire to have face-to-face interaction with their buyers but are leery to exhibit at local craft fairs either because the booth costs are prohibitive or they are concerned about the quality and integrity of other exhibiters.
Here I offer up a couple of ideas that will increase both your in-person and online sales:
Alternative #1: Organize your own small craft fair. It’s simple. You can then control the quality of other exhibitors as well as the medium. If you make handcrafted jewelry, you don’t want to get lost in a craft fair with 35 other jewelry artists and you sure don’t want to pay a hefty booth fee and then find out that you are competing with mass produced imports, right?
Why not gather some other crafters and artists together and either have a home craft show or rent a space at a church or school. (tip: if you offer to donate a percentage to the school or a club, they may let you set up for free.) You can then control who the other exhibitors are. You might ask a couple of potters, someone who does hand painted silk scarves, knitter and crocheter, photographer, a couple of painters who make smaller pieces or prints, a woodworker, someone who makes metal sculptures, a couple of jewelers who do different work from your own, etc. If you don’t know enough crafters personally, contact some local craft guilds and connect with artists there. I recommend charging a small booth fee to be sure people honor their commitment to show up and ask emphasize to each person that you all have to do your part to get the word out. Split up the PR chores. One person can contact the local news media, someone else might handle the postings on Facebook and Twitter, someone else create the posters and you should all distribute flyers in coffee shops, libraries, etc.
Alternate idea #2. Organize a virtual craft fair. Here, you invite friends from anywhere in the world to join you. There are several ways to do this. The easiest way to do this is to put up a simple webpage with links to each of your individual sites. Everyone agrees to send out an email invitation to all of their list and friends and to post a link on all their social media sites. Ideally, you each have different groups of friends so even if all your own friends have seen your work, the other artists all share with their friends. So you each have exposure to the others’ lists and friends who’ve never seen your work before.
If you like these ideas, check out “ “12 Easy Ways to turn your Creative Hobby into an Extra $1200 a Month” for a dozen more creative suggestions on free or inexpensive ways to make more money selling your crafts. “
Are you wondering how you can make a full time living when you make every piece by hand one at a time?
Yes, you really can make a full time living selling handmade crafts but you’ll probably need to scale your business.
I’ve talked about ways you can do something once and earn over and over by creating prints of your original paintings or castings of your metal smithing.
But if your craft is one that must be handmade a piece at a time, there’s only so much revenue you can make if you produce every piece yourself.
Expanding doesn’t mean you have to have your items manufactured in China. You can grow your craft business without actually manufacturing at all. One great way to stay in integrity with the handmade movement is to have other crafters help you. Let’s say you make something that must be individually hand or machine stitched. Rather than hiring employees, you can engage some stay-at-home moms or retired folks to do piece work. Maybe you would cut the fabric and they pick it up from you and do the stitching. When they return the finished articles, you can pay them by the piece.
It generally makes sense to purchase all the materials yourself in order to get a consistent quality and price but there are a couple of other ways you can grow your business with the help of others.
Have you thought about selling your designs and brand as a “starter kit” for crafters who want to have their own cottage industries? They purchase the patterns from you (and the materials, if you choose) and then they make the goods and sell them at home parties, crafts fairs, online, however they want. It’s their business. Kind of like the Mary Kay of the craft world. You can charge a percentage of sales, a markup on the material or just sell the designs and patterns, kind of like a franchise. (Different states have laws restricting franchises so you might not want to use that terminology.) You’d be making more money than you can making each piece yourself and you’ll be doing a community service by providing others with a way to earn from home. It’s a win all around, right?
Have you found a way to expand your craft business and still keep it handmade? You’re invited to share your ideas in the comments below.
I just thought of one more great place to sell your handmade work. I bet you didn’t think of this one. I just did.
Every day for the past couple of weeks, I’ve walked Lucy by a gallery with stunning wood sculptures out front. Every tourist who’s staying at the beach front hotels has to pass this corner. But the gallery is never open.
Today I noticed the sculptor in a garage studio behind the gallery. While I would love to speak with him and see inside the gallery, I didn’t want to disturb his concentration. I could tell he was really focused on his work.
And then I had a thought.
I must digress a moment. I’m helping Alexandra, the daughter of my recently deceased friend, start her jewelry business. I have a lot of money invested in materials and want Alexandra to be payed well for her work, plus, I’d like to have enough profit to donate to some causes that meant a lot to my friend. So I’m not wild about selling Alexandra’s pieces wholesale or consigning to a gallery.
I thought about this sculptor and how he, like many artists, obviously loves the creative process and probably is never open because he wants to spend his time in the studio, not selling. Lightbulb moment! What if I approached him with the offer to open his gallery on weekends in the summer and sell his work in exchange for displaying Alexandra’s jewelry? Wouldn’t that be a win for all of us?
Can you think of a gallery or shop that is owned by an artist who might prefer to spend her time in the studio? Why not approach her and offer to gallery-sit in exchange for a place to display and sell your own work? Or, are you that artist? What if you could find someone who has artwork they want to sell and would work in your gallery in exchange for being able to sell and display her own work?
If you’ve had any experience with this idea, please do share in the comments below. If you haven’t ever thought of this, you’re welcome to congratulate me on my brilliant idea.
Yesterday, while writing a guest article for Handmadeartists Blog, I realized there are some important pieces of the pricing puzzle that you all need to be reminded of.
We’ve talked about the process of getting your handmade crafts into galleries and shops, but I want to remind you again that you absolutely should not bite the hand that feeds you. (i.e. compete with your wholesale accounts.) Here are some ways to keep both your wholesale and retail customers happy:
- If you include your web address on your tags, be sure they are removable for the gallery. It would be unfair to them to have shoppers see the work at their gallery and then purchase it online directly from you.
- When you retail your work at craft shows, be sure to charge as much as your shops and galleries sell it for.
- If you sell directly to customers online, price your work just a tad above keystone so that your shops know you aren’t competing with them.
- Ideally, have separate websites for retail and wholesale or at least a wholesale link that is password protected and only those you’ve approved as resellers can access your wholesale prices.
- On your public website, have a “where to find my work” link that lists the stores that carry your craft. In addition to encouraging customers to support your wholesale accounts, you will also reach those who want to touch, feel and see in person. It also shows the shop owners that you are driving traffic to their store.
- If you are able, offer to do periodic trunk shows at the shops or galleries. Customers love to meet the artist and the shop owner benefits because you bring in more traffic.
- Show your wholesale accounts gratitude for their business. Always best, of course, is a hand written note of appreciation.
What have you done to make the transition to wholesaling easier?
note: this is Part 2. If you missed yesterday’s post, go read that first. Then come back. It will make more sense.
Continuing on with the idea of collaborating with other artist friends in order to get your work out there and seen (and purchased) by more qualified buyers, here is a second option. Of course you could do both. Imagine.
Now that you’ve carefully chosen the fellow artisans that you want to collaborate with, make a date to interview each one, maybe one a week. You can either do it in writing, send them email questions, or record through a conference line. Basically, you just both call in to the line and chat. When you hang up, an MP3 arrives in your email. It costs about six dollars. You can then put a link to the audio on your blog with a photo and short bio, some photos of her work and link to her site. Of course, you all agree to feature each other on your blogs. If you do this for 20 weeks straight, with 20 different artists and you each have 250 followers, well, you do the math. Just like the first method, you multiply your list of buyers many times over. Easy peasy, right? Let me know when you’ve tried this how it worked for you, OK?