From the feedback I have been getting, I've learned that many people are working long and hard at their crafts, but are still having a hard time realizing home business success. I don't pretend to have all the answers. There is just too much going on for one person to be able to solve all problems. However, let' s break them down into two parts and then try to apply basic business solutions to each part.
Here are a few selling tips to consider.
I'm a pretty good cook. I've won awards from my local culinary arts society and have even been invited to give a lesson or two. However, when I try to make a new recipe, especially from some of the most popular food and lifestyle magazines, I am usually very disappointed. Why? In my opinion it is because something is usually missing, either from the ingredients or the instructions.
Now you're saying to yourselves, "what" s this got to do with anything?' Well, most crafters are constantly searching books, magazines and web sites for free craft patterns. Like the "free recipes' noted above, however, I think something is always missing. Simply put, the best crafters are not going to give away their best designs. Much of what you get for free can be helpful, but only if used as a starting point.
Even on my website, the designs I offer must be electronically condensed in order for the page to load in a reasonable amount of time. If you want to enlarge them, you most likely will be disappointed in the fidelity of the result.
You wouldn't be reading this article if you weren't interested in discovering some new selling tips for your craft.
So put yourself in the buyer's position. Is she seeing the same craft over and over again at the same show? If she is, the only reason she will buy from you is if your price is lowest. You don' t want to find yourself in a price war.
Ideally you want to earn a premium for your efforts. So let' s try to do something to differentiate you - to make a common pattern special - to make it you. Some selling tips to consider:
• Oversize it or miniaturize it.
• Use metal instead of wood, or wood instead of plastic.
• Change the designs to make the craft prettier or more practical.
• Instead of painting on a design or applying a decal, add a carving or incision that adds texture and dimension.
• Use your imagination and sense of creativity.
Always use the best materials and methods of manufacture. If you shop carefully, you can get fine supplies either on sale or in the clearance bins. Many online sellers are offering the same supplies you see in the stores for 40 percent to 50 percent less.
The quality of your materials is one of the first things a buyer will notice. Don't turn her off by using cheap, chintzy materials.
Do the same with your manufacturing methods.
Are your seams straight and even? Did you use a nice copper braid, even when glue would do? Is you paint or stain evenly applied and unstreaked?
For every craft, there is always some extra little touch that shows you're a pro - that your product is worth more than the guy's at the next table. These steps might take you a little longer at first, but once you get the rhythm down, you'll find it really adds little to the time and cost of making your craft.
Once you get this far, you face the more daunting problem ...
When you are trying to sell a product, you're up against a whole universe of retailers, not all of whom are crafters. There are millions of products for sale in all price ranges in all sorts of different venues. How do you sell yours?
In this age of mass production, where every store in every mall seems to be selling the same thing, people have an appreciation for the unique handmade product that required more than movement down an assembly line. If you followed some of the tips in the first part of this article, you are already a step or two ahead of the field.
So you have to consider how the product is packaged and marketed. Can you put it in a nice box? Can you make hang tags explaining how you made it, the materials you used and why it is unique?
Look around any store and notice how the pros package everything from breakfast cereal to TV's. Follow their lead - they're giving you free selling tips.
Professional marketers are trying to get their product to stand out from the competition. They are trying to make it appear different or special whether it is or not. They are trying to draw attention to it by their packaging and shelf positioning. Try to do the same thing.
If you are going to display at shows, set up your table in a way that every product is shown off properly. If you have an inventory, just keep one piece on display: hide the rest under the table. Keep you table neat and clean. Talk to your prospective customers. Try to get them interested in your craft. Try to get some feedback from them,
Have a handout available with an explanation of the product or your production methods. Have a business card. Be prepared to take and make custom orders.
If you're trying to sell your craft in stores or galleries, depending on the product, wrap it so it doesn' t get dirty or worn. Use attractive packaging, decorative ribbons, etc. so it stands out on the shelves.
Make it easy for the store owner to contact you, when necessary and be open to change.
If you're selling crafts online, make sure you get some good pictures of the craft up in the ad. Use the space in the ad to explain why your craft is different or better. Plug your offline business and⁄or website.
If necessary, do as the stores do. Give away a free gift with purchase, hopefully some little trinket you can make or buy inexpensively. Try a "buy one get the second for half price' deal.
Or bundle complementary products together to create a perceived value greater than the cost of the parts. For example, if you're selling a handmade nutcracker, package it with a can of premium unshelled nuts: if you're selling a ceramic vase add a few silk flowers: if you make a guitar, give away a songbook. You will find you can often charge more for a well bundled package than you could if you were selling the pieces individually.
If you want to try eBay, Yahoo or Overstock online auctions, you will find that you can have the choice of selling in any of numerous different categories. Some of these categories can be quite competitive, others much less so. You might do much better in the less competitive areas.
Maybe you should use Yahoo rather than eBay, or vice versa, if one site is overstocked with what you have to sell and the other isn't.
I also suggest you look at some of craft marketing books. Learning is a never-ending process and many of these have advice and tips you will find invaluable. Even if you know 99% of what the author says, it's that 1 percent you didn' t know that makes the effort worthwhile.
Life is full of challenges but that's what makes it interesting. If you're finding building a successful home-based craft business especially challenging, try some of these techniques.
The more engaged you become, the more you learn. The more you learn, the greater your chances for success. If in the course of your study and development, you have one of those "ah hah!" moments that gets you past whatever was blocking your success, please write me so I can share it with my readers.
By Eileen Bergen, the editor of The Artful Crafter, your guide to making and selling original crafts.
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