AUSTIN — Late Monday morning, a group of 75 or so artists and crafters crammed into a meeting room in the Austin Convention Center to solve a problem: How do you sell your creations online? Everyone from photographers to T-shirt makers to jewelery makers to painters and musicians were present.
Ideas were bandied about, and what follows is the best of the ideas I heard:
1) Get thee to Etsy: For those already selling online, this is a no-brainer. But if you haven’t carved out space for yourself at etsy.com, that’s a good place to start. The site is an online marketplace for all things handmade. The site has other cool features, including a section called alchemy, where buyers who want things made can make requests and sellers bid for the job.
2) Tap Your Network: Those social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) aren’t just for catching up with people from high school. They are also places where your friends can be your advocates. Start out by letting your immediate network of friends know what you are making and let them help spread the word for you. You’d be surprised how many people actually want to help. If you are having trouble setting up our Web site or need pro marketing help, offer to trade some of your work for the services your friends specialize in.
3) Price it right: The question of what to charge seemed to touch a nerve with nearly everyone in the room. The easiest formula suggested actually comes from the retail industry: basically just take your core cost (including what you pay yourself) and multiply that by 2.5. Does that number sound too high? It might not be. Several in the room said that undercutting yourself can be as dangerous as selling for too much. A higher price also brings with it a perception of higher quality (and vice-versa).
4) Consider a kit: If the thing you make is very time consuming and can’t be mass produced, consider making smaller versions of that thing that can be made more quickly and sold for a lower price. Another brilliant idea was to sell a kit containing all the materials and teach the buyer how to make it whether through an online video or instructions. You pass the labor onto the buyer, and that person enjoys participating in the creation.
5) Sell the story: Part of the appeal to buyers of purchasing handmade goods is having the backstory to pass along. It’s one of the things that separates those items from mass-produced stuff you can buy in big-box store. If you learned how to make that wooden jewelry box while serving as a missionary in Africa or your family has been knitting scarves for three generations, let people know! It adds value to your creation, and the buyer will get a kick out of passing your story along when they show off what you made.
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