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How to successfully sell handmade items locally + online

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Both my husband and I have successfully sold handmade items online and locally over several years.  In fact, this very website started out as my online ecommerce store Lylia Rose - an online shop for fashion accessories I set up after successful sales on Etsy and a Facebook page.  If you haven’t read the story then read the story of how Lylia Rose began to see how I ended up blogging!  Between us we have learned how to sell handmade items with success both online and locally.

We will share some tips to help you start your handmade selling journey with success too.

Make use of online handmade marketplaces

Etsy is really where it all began for me.  I started making handmade cards as a hobby and decided to try and sell them.  Etsy is a handmade platform (and vintage too), perfectly set up with easy to use shop listing templates so you can start selling your handmade goods with ease.  The fee to list an item is very low and you pay a commission to Etsy, often known as sellers fees, upon each sale.

The main benefit to using handmade marketplaces like Etsy and Folksy are they have a large customer base already.  Their customers want to buy handmade and they are specifically coming to these websites for this purpose.  Providing you are creating high quality handmade items that people are sourcing you will stand a good chance of success on these platforms.

They also have strong handmade communities which you can choose to get involved in to increase awareness of your handmade goods.

Once you have a proven track record of sales and your business is 'out there' then you can set up an online ecommerce store of your own.  This can have the benefit of less selling fees.  You will need to know all the legal ins and outs of setting up your own website with terms and conditions and privacy policies and so on. 

Utilise social media for free to promote your handmade items

You can’t just list your goods online and wait for the sales to roll in.  For some it does happen, but it’s quite often a rarity.  Online marketplaces are saturated with goods and most people’s creations aren’t totally unique.  There are usually very similar items for sale that someone else is making, so you need to make sure you are maximising the promotion of yours and why someone should choose to buy from you.

The best way to do this, and for free (at least at first), is to utilise social media.  If you are a beginner at social media then it can be overwhelming, so start with one or two social media platforms to get a feel for it rather than trying to launch a profile on every single platform out there.  Personally I like Instagram and Twitter the best for sharing handmade goods.

Instagram: Creativity and visual design is at the heart of handmade goods and you can showcase this best on Instagram, a visual platform.  It’s a great place to share recent makes with relevant hashtags, to show behind the scenes and to ask your customers to tag your account in any images their share of your products.

Twitter: There’s a big handmade community on twitter, all helping one another to expand reach by retweeting each other’s handmade creations through ‘Twitter parties’ or ‘Twitter networking hours’.  These are where a group of people use the same hashtag for one hour, such as #handmadehour, and everyone follows the hashtag to see the handmade goods, have a chat and retweet each other’s posts.  It’s a great way of building followers, reaching new customers and meeting likeminded people.

If you're running a home business then check out these helpful marketing tips and tricks.

Ask your customers to share photos of your handmade items

There’s nothing better than positive feedback, good reviews and testimonials from your happy customers.  When you ship an item include a business card or slip of paper politely asking your customers to tag you on social media when they share their fab new item online!

It’s free advertising and shows your products in real life in situ.  If any photos are really good then ask those customers if they’d be happy for you to share on your own social media or website.  Sharing stories of happy customers helps to build trust in your brand and goods.  You can even start a customer gallery page on your website, alongside testimonials or positive customer feedback you are proud to share.

Brand your handmade goods

Branding of your goods is really important.  By missing this essential step you are missing out on free marketing and advertising for your business.  Depending on the type of handmade goods you sell, you need to come up with a solution to brand the items if possible.

For example, if you make clothing or soft toys then you can brand these with clothing labels from Wunderlabel which feature your brand name or logo.  Then, whenever someone posts a photo of this item or even when they give it as a gift, people will see the label and hear of your brand.

If you make and sell food items, jewellery or other items that seem difficult to brand, then consider the packaging.  You can wrap jewellery in tissue paper with a branded sticker to seal, or use cardboard jewellery boxes or food containers personalised with your logo or company name.  And if this isn’t possible you can always ensure you include a business card with your website/social/contact details in any packages you send to customers. 

People love to show unboxing photos and videos online, especially when they are excited about receiving your handmade goods, and they may include shots with your business card on show.  So it’s something to think about to ensure you don’t miss out on some free advertising of your brand from your customers.

If you make wooden furniture then you can brand the underside or edge with a hot branding iron.  My husband did this with his business and the effect was amazing.  It was the perfect way to get a permanent stamp of his business logo on each item.

List your handmade goods on Facebook Marketplace

As well as using dedicated handmade marketplaces such as Etsy and Folksy which I mentioned above, you can also make use of Facebook Marketplace for free to list your handmade goods, but also to advertise your own website or online Etsy store.

Facebook Marketplace is perfect for raising local awareness of your goods and will save money if you are able to drop orders off locally. Your customers might even come and pick up from you, saving on the cost of postage/fuel.

When listing an item for sale, simply add a cheeky link to any online shop you might have where customers can view and shop even more of your creations!

My husband had great success with Facebook Marketplace for his handmade furniture business with many local sales.

Have business cards to hand

Offline marketing of your handmade goods is still important, even in this digital age.  Quite often when you meet new people they will ask what you do.  Many people are always intrigued and interested by those of us who run our own businesses, and especially people who handmade goods.  If you have a business card to hand then you can simply hand one over whenever someone seems interested in what you make.

It’s also much better than relying on people remembering your business name or website address.  Everyone is busy and it’s easy to forget a business name unless it’s really, really memorable!

Use great photography

Photography is one of the most important ways to get sales when selling online.  It’s easy nowadays to learn some simple photography skills to take great photos with an up-to-date smartphone.  Clear, well lit (in preferably natural light) photos against a plain white background are great for making items pop out as shoppers scroll through busy feeds on online marketplaces.

Also, it’s good to see items in situ, so include a lifestyle image within the scrollable photos.  If you can include ten photos, include ten photos.  For example, my husband sold dining tables and showed a photo against a white wall with just the table, a photo with the dining table laid up and several close up photos as well as different angles.

Pick busy local fairs with a proven track record (and don’t forget to invite everyone you know)

If you plan on selling at local markets and fairs then do your research.  No market stall can ever guarantee sales and it’s truly so disheartening when you’ve put so much effort into making a bunch of stock, pay for a table with great excitement and anticipation, only to leave out of pocket at the end of the day without a single sale.

My best advice is to go to the local fairs and markets first.  Scope them out and ensure they have high foot traffic and appeal to your target audience.  There’s no point selling trendy fashion jewellery at a local library fair when the average age of attendees is 70+ and they are simply not interested in the latest neon statement earrings you’ve created! 

Also, you don’t want to end up with a bad positon at a fair like a hidden corner that misses people entering and existing, and your table can easily be missed.  If possible, ask for a floorplan and pick your spot if they let you.

Make sure you invite all your family and friends.  Let them know about your market stall and ask them to spread the word.  Give them flyers and posters to put up at their workplaces.

Final thoughts

Finally, it’s important to mention that you can’t just make anything and sell it.  Perfect your skill and make sure you are creating something worthy of selling.  If you are doing all the above and not getting any sales or positive feedback then look at the quality of what you are selling. Ask for constructive honest feedback from those who will give it and even look at your price points in case they are too high (but don’t undersell yourself!).

Maybe you're looking for ways to make extra money from home? 

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