A Handmade World
The future (and past) of small business is made by hand. Artisans, craftspeople—these soldiers fighting against mass-produced, low-quality foreign goods carry messages of ancient tradition and culture through their veins, and keep us connected in a tangible way to the past. History books can tell us only so much, yet artifacts of an ancient time are transcendent. So while these small business owners pass on ancestral traditions by the sweat of their brow, where does modern-day marketing fit in?
The world needs bakers, weavers, knitters, and carpenters. Without their tactile skill and artistry, our connection to the past and to our ancestors will likely be forever severed. As someone who enjoys making anything and everything by hand, I’m a firm believer that craftspeople need effective marketing to sustain their business.
Here are 5 business to-dos that should be on every crafter and maker’s list:
#1: Etsy is Your Friend…but Not Your Only Friend
Etsy has long-since been a household name for handmade goods. Because starting an Etsy shop is inexpensive and easy, anyone can be an Etsy seller…which means that the spectrum of quality is wide-ranging. It’s up to the seller to determine how much time, energy and money they want to invest in their Etsy account. Because of that, Etsy is a great place to start.
Some business owners I’ve talked to have said that Etsy is a necessary stepping stone to bigger and better things. Some have moved on to their own dedicated Shopify account, while others invest everything they can in their Etsy store.
But guess what? Etsy isn’t the only player in the handmade marketplace. If you can afford it, why not try setting up duplicate accounts on other websites. Here are other sites to consider selling on:
- DaWanda: pretty much a European version of Etsy.
- ArtFire: very similar to Etsy, possibly more simplified.
- Yokaboo: create your own online store using a different kind of payment structure.
- shopHandmade: a similar marketplace to Etsy with more of an Amazon-like layout
#2: Spend a Little Extra on Branding
If you’re unsure about spending money on proper branding, why not scroll through the most successful Etsy stores. You may quickly notice that each seller has its own unique, streamlined brand that makes it instantly recognizable and different. One of the most successful Etsypreneurs is Yokoo, who has sold over 5000 of her gigantic scarves and hats. Her branding is simple and clean, but most importantly, consistent. Her simplicity is intentional and her style natural and authentic.
If you think you’re the only soap maker on the block, you’re in for a big surprise. There are only so many ways to make and package soap. It’s all be done before. BUT there is only one of you. Let your handmade business be as unique as you are with beautiful branding.
Branding isn’t just about your logo. It’s the very identity of your business. It encompasses your mission statement, packaging, images, and web design. You’ll be surprised by how quickly our superficial minds will be attracted to appealing branding.
Want to know more about the importance of branding your handmade business? Click here.
Examples of excellent branding:
#3: Word of Mouth Goes Viral
For some of you, word of mouth may have been how you got your first sale. First, you make something special for a friend as a gift. Then that friend brags about how their totally awesome friend made them that totally awesome something or other and then soon everyone they know is asking them to hook them up and voilà! You have a sweet little side business.
But you’d be surprised to learn that many people don’t capitalize on the power of free publicity. My sister writes self-published erotic novels but she’s so shy and private about it that it took years for her to tell her friends and family about her project. If this is you, take your shyness and kill it. Your trepidations will be the downfall of your business. Sure, it can feel weird at first to publicize something that might very well be dear to your heart, but without the support of your friends and family to get you started, your quest for total world domination will be a much harder one.
Word of mouth is more than just a grapevine. Word of mouth is, essentially, social media. If your business’ popularity can spread through a network of friends, relatives, acquaintances and grocery store cashiers, then think of how it can spread with killer social media and shareable content marketing. (Psst! If you have a static basic website, inject some essential SEO juice with noteworthy, informative and digestible blogs that will keep your customers happy. Contact me for details.)
#4: Marketplaces, One of a Kind Shows, Garage Sales!
The beauty of the handmade industry is that it’s comprised of makers and customers who are as equally as passionate about slow living, one-of-a-kind items. Your customers are already invested in contributing to the handmade economy, which is why it’s so important to understand their motives of buying small batch–produced things. When customers buy handmade goods, they certainly aren’t motivated by cost, since non-mass-produced products cost much more than their Made in China counterparts. They’re buying your handmade hats, scarves, pottery, jewelry, and chairs because they’re local, unique, and likely more ethically produced. And if you’re a small business owner who makes a living with your own two hands, chances are your core values are similar.
If only there existed a place where you could meet with other kindred spirits and discuss the beauty of slow living, artisanal bread, home-brewed beer, hand-dyed fibres and 100% natural soap. Oh yeah, that place does exist.
It’s called the marketplace. Markets, in some guise or another, have been around since the dawn of commerce. Markets, One-of-a-Kind (OOAK) shows, garage sales and kiosks are a great way to show your products where they will be appreciated and immerse yourself in the handmade world. It’s also a great way to meet future collaborators and to build a network of supporters.
#5: Whatever You Do, Do it Well
Yes, this needs to be said. You can dress up your business with the highest quality branding, images, and packaging money can buy, but if you’re not good at what you do, you won’t have a roster of returning customers. What’s more, word of mouth will spread that your products aren’t worth the handmade premium.
The last thing you want to happen to your business’ reputation is to wind up on a site like the now-defunct Regretsy. If you’re like anyone else I’ve met in the handmade world, you take intense pride in your work, and the thought of your craftsmanship falling apart in your customers’ hands will likely send a chill of shame through you.
Just because you’re passionate about knitting, basket weaving, sewing, woodworking or designing, it doesn’t mean that you’re ready to sell your wares to the public and to people who don’t know you. Like any other business, a good reputation takes years to build and moments to destroy. If your ultimate goal is to build a business around your hobby, your skills have to be nigh-perfect.
How Many of These Must-Haves can you check off your list? Whether you’re a veteran crafter or just starting out, these fundamentals are a basis for success. Boost your SEO and improve your sales with content marketing. Contact me or visit my Services & Rates page for more information.