Sites like Etsy and eBay have made it easier than ever for enterprising individuals to turn their hobbies into profitable eCommerce businesses. However, those same sites have made the competition fierce in the handmade goods market. Many artisans end up underpricing their crafts in an attempt to stay competitive and continue to make sales. This is exactly the wrong tact to take. Even if you are making a small profit above material costs, you are probably breaking even after website fees and definitely selling at a loss if you try to account for your time. Mastering a craft and producing unique, high-quality goods deserves more than a losing venture. To market your goods properly, you need to reach the right audience, and that means rethinking your eCommerce business plan.
Setting Up a Professional Image
Perhaps the most important step in setting up any eCommerce business is creating a professional and functional website. You have many options here, so don’t worry if you are not familiar with Web design. You can build the site from scratch, work from templates, or hire a Web design company to build (and possibly manage) it for you. The important thing is that you move beyond stock templates and multi-user marketplaces. You want a site that is clearly identified with your product, and your product alone.
There are a few things you should include in your website. The first is an appealing logo. This image should complement the overall appearance of your website, be clean and precise, and represent your product or business. If you don’t have graphics design resources, you will want to hire a professional to make your logo. You will also want a clean and effective electronic POS system, detailed product display pages, and some social media outreach, like a blog. A clean, elegant, and professional website will appeal to the customers you want to attract. It will give the impression that your crafts are just as clean, elegant, and professional.
Just like it’s important to have your own eCommerce website, rather than being part of a general marketplace, you need to be present at the right venues when you are selling offline. Look for juried craft shows – they are more likely to attract customers who will pay for the quality you produce. Stay away from venues like church craft fairs, farmers markets, and small fairs or conventions unless you have another purpose for being there.
Building Your Reputation
To customers who will appreciate the value of what you create, you need to reach the right audience. Part of this is establishing yourself as an expert in your craft. Join crafting communities and social media sites. Post actively, and try to be friendly, supportive, and informative. Don’t limit yourself just to the crafting community, however. After all, these are people who, while perhaps not as skilled as you, are capable of creating the same type of objects. Reach out to peripherally related blogs, sites, and organizations. Offer to do guest posts, demonstrations, or Q&A sessions on your craft as it relates to their broader contexts.
On your eCommerce site, have a steady stream of content going on your blog. This should all be directly related to your craft, and should be engaging and interesting to your visitors. You can link some posts to specific projects, but keep most of them general and just about your craft. If you are posting about a specific project, include something like a video detailing part of the process to make the post more engaging. Focus on the details that make your products stand out, such as the origins and history of specific materials and techniques.
Turning your hobby into a successful business means reaching customers who understand the quality they are getting. eCommerce sites offer you more opportunity than ever to do so, but you need to use your site in the right way to take advantage of that.