I remember years ago, my great aunt saw the centerpiece I had created for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah and said to me “you know, you can make a living off this….” And it’s true. People value handmade items and selling crafts online can be an amazing side gig, or even a full time job!
In this article, I will share with you some ideas, some tips, and some extremely valuable resources to help you launch your online handmade shop. You can also check out my top crafts to make and sell online for some inspiration.
Disclosure: this post contains commissioned links.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds…
Here’s a classic scenario. Sam is a stay at home mom/dad. (S)he has been creative all of his/her life. (S)he was the crafter and artist of the family, always knitting someone something, going through a scrapbooking phase, and handmaking every birthday gift.
Sam sees some really adorable knit baby photo props on Etsy. (S)he knows (s)he can make them just as well if not better. So Sam knits up five, lists them on Etsy, and waits for them to sell.
I can pinpoint roughly 8 mistakes that Sam made when researching selling crafts online:
- (S)he started with something (s)he saw online.
- (S)he chose a craft that is not efficient to produce (more on that later.)
- (S)he may or may not be a parent – but even if (s)he is, his/her baby will soon no longer be a baby.
- (S)he looked on Etsy for inspiration, instead of on his/her friends social media accounts.
- (S)he is limiting his/her scope of how (s)he can make it to quality.
- (S)he started with five.
- (S)he started by listing them on Etsy.
- (S)he waited instead of taking further action.
Now before we elaborate on Sam’s mistakes, I’ll walk you through the process that you should take instead. Then we’ll revisit Sam’s scenario and discuss how (s)he SHOULD have done it.
Tip: Read through this and take notes. And then bookmark it. Treat it like a step-by-step course, and revisit this post as you complete it. Comment below with any questions you have along the way.
You’ll see that this post on selling crafts online includes links to various articles. I summarized each one in short for you but do read through each one in-depth! It was simply too long to include in one post.
Choosing the right craft for selling crafts online:
Most crafters, when choosing their inventory for selling crafts online, don’t think too much about what they’ll sell. They just take whatever their crafting comfort zone is, and sell that.
However, when it comes to labor vs. market value, there are certain niches where craftsmanship isn’t valued in the same way, and where pricing scales for non-designer markets can be very limited.
So sometimes you need to think outside the box.
If you’re a crafter who is used to creating different types of crafts (like me) you can adjust the craft you choose to sell accordingly.
If you really have a niche specialty, you may need to think outside the box. For example, you can sell patterns for your knits, create quick knit accessories (such as bows) that others can use in their crafts, etc.
There’s more to it than just pricing: there’s repeatability. While I used to take pride in one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, my one listing went to bed the second someone bought it, and I spent too much time on just creating Etsy listings.
I ended up focusing on my graphic design and illustration skills in my Etsy shop. Today, I sell items that require no order fulfillment on my part on multiple websites (Etsy, Gumroad and my own website craftwithanything.com, as well as various Print on Demand websites)
You can read all about the best crafts to sell online as well as how to choose which craft to sell in your Etsy shop in-depth here.
Setting up your shop for selling crafts online:
The next step is to set up your Etsy shop for success. Listing an item is not something that’s likely to lead to a sale – unless you’re directly driving your friends and family to the shop, in which case, the well will dry up quickly.
You want to think of your Etsy shop the same way as anyone who is setting up a storefront – you’re building a whole storefront.
Build that up to at least 100 listings.
Now, consider your brand. Consider your shop, what it looks like, and how people can trust you as a company selling crafts online.
Read in-depth on how to set up an Etsy shop for success!
Making it sell:
Once your shop is set up, your job isn’t done. Running and maintaining an Etsy shop, or any online shop, is a full-time job (or whatever you make it – but it’s not a “set up and go” endeavor).
You want to build up a brand off Etsy and create a social media marketing plan.
My best advice is to work up a strong email list. One disadvantage of selling on Etsy is that they don’t exactly allow you to cultivate an email list through their platform, even among those who have already purchased from you. This makes it harder to retain customers.
Building up an email list through a platform like ConvertKit (the tool that I personally use) is a wonderful way to cultivate a community of true fans of your product. This works especially for niche products, or audiences.
You should definitely read my tips for selling on Etsy and marketing your shop in depth.
Two final tips for selling crafts online:
1. Protect yourself!
If you’re new to conducting serious business online, you may not have looked into digital protection much. In this post I share some tips for how to stop hackers.
2. Make sure you price well.
Let’s revisit Sam’s experience selling crafts online:
Remember our good friend Sam? Let’s rewrite his/her story now that we know the right way to go about selling crafts online.
Sam is really good at designing home decor from upcycled pallets. (S)he knows that it’s hard to find those with a bit of glam, so (s)he adds some shiny copper touches to his/hers.
Sam finds a source that can supply pallets to him/her regularly at a low price and a source for his/her copper findings. (S)he makes a few samples of planters, end tables, and shelves and posts them on his/her personal Facebook page and in a few home decor and interior design groups that (s)he’s already in.
People like the end tables and shelves but not the planters, so (s)he realizes the finishes might not be a match for those types of products. (S)he designs a few more shapes and styles of shelves, adds some hammered brass to the mix, and creates a serving tray, a dining table, and a desk. (S)he realizes that the dining table isn’t sustainable to repeat regularly and that she needs to focus more on lower ticket items with the occasional piece of furniture. (S)he posts these in groups, gets the right feedback, and is ready to set up his/her shop.
(S)he tweaks her product until (s)he has 50 repeatable designs to list. (S)he knows (s)he can’t create 100 totally different products, but (s)he can change sizes and placement or color of the fittings so (s)he makes it to 50. Since his/her product is larger, it’s harder for him/her to do the full 100 I recommended and maintain quality, so Sam correctly chooses to stick with something (s)he CAN manage, while maintaining a solid shop.
Now, Sam brainstorms a name with friends and family, buys the domain name, reserves the Instagram handle and Etsy shop name, and designs a few logos. (S)he narrows it down to one (s)he loves and starts building a rustic-chic interior design inspiration group. (S)he is ready to start selling crafts online!
(S)he builds her Etsy shop, takes care of the sales tax logistics and all the other legal stuff, and is ready to start selling. (S)he sets up his/her website and features a beautiful gallery, a link to her shop, and possibly a blog for updates and for newsletter opt-ins.
(S)he sets up a website with ConvertKit and creates a series of emails for people who opt-in for the discount code, as well as one for a “free printable room design cheat sheet” opt-in. (S)he adds a pop-up form to his/her site, offering a 20% discount code for those who subscribe for updates. (S)he adds a blog post with the opt-in for the printable cheat sheet.
(S)he reaches out to a few home decor bloggers whose homes would fit and offers them a beautiful tray (one of her easiest products to reproduce) in exchange for an Instagram post, tagging his/her handle and disclosing with the #ad hashtag that it’s sponsored. In his/her pitch, (s)he does mention that (s)he sells on Etsy so that they can earn a commission off any sales, providing additional benefit to the bloggers.
Sam keeps on marketing his/her product and slowly builds his/her handmade business, sending regular “style guide” newsletters featuring his/her products and offering value to his/her ideal consumer.
Sam is a happy, successful crafter who has quit his/her 9-5 to stay at home with the kids, and loves doing what (s)he does – selling crafts online!
Isn’t that the dream?
What are your best tips for selling crafts online? Comment below!