The Internet has revolutionized the sale of handcrafted artwork. No longer are crafters and artists limited by geography to selling their work in regional shops and galleries, fairs and bazaars. With the development of online shopping and marketplace websites, artists can develop an international clientele.
The wide variety of arts and crafts available online reflects the diversity of this worldwide market. There truly is room for every seller and every artistic tradition, from traditional to contemporary, Victorian to primitive, elegant to shabby chic. It is not too late to get started – in fact, there has never been a better economic and technological environment to build your own success as an online merchant. The Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Online is a great first step, with detailed, common-sense advice and instructions.
Who are your customers? What do they need? How are you giving them what they want?
“Market Need” is one of the elements of a business plan. New business owners often put off writing a business plan for months – years even. They imagine that it’s only needed if they seek a bank loan or formally present to investors. But a business plan is important to your arts success right from the beginning.
The Etsy Blog is a great source of business information for starting an online business, whether or not you choose to have a shop on Etsy. A recent post was titled “How to Write a Creative Business Plan In Under an Hour.” Blog author Caroline Cummings breaks down the standard parts of a formal business plan into short statements. She demonstrates the process with a fictitious Etsy store she calls Haley’s Vintage Hats.
The “Market Need” for Haleys? “My customers love the look of vintage women’s hats, but real vintage hats are difficult to find and very expensive if in excellent condition, while good replica hats are not common.” A short, simple statement.
And Haley’s solution? “I recreate hats from my collection of authentic designer vintage hats of the 1920s-60s and sell these affordably so my customers can own and wear hats in the style of their favorite vintage milliners.” Again, how clear is this? Cummings’ fictitious business owner easily defines her target audience (women who love and want to wear vintage designer fashions) and can fill their needs with handcrafted replica hats.
Why do your customers need the items you sell? What makes them like your work and place an order?
In “The Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Online” you’ll fine a simple common-sense chapter to help new business owners create a business plan. with sections including:
- Parts of a Business Plan
- Keep a Journal
- Product Line (yes, you will begin to think of your creative work as a product!)
- Your Twelve Monthly Landmarks
If you have not yet written a business plan for your new arts business, do it today. What a powerful tool for your success!
Even better than the fictitious Haley, our illustration is from a REAL vintage hat designer on Etsy! Illustration courtesy and ©Kimberley at TheWaughdrobe on Etsy: etsy.com/shop/TheWaughdrobe
Artists and crafters have strong do-it-yourself tendencies. It is, after all, why we create our own artwork. This attitude is helpful in building an arts and crafts business. The most valuable marketing tasks are best accomplished when business owners take personal responsibility for getting things done.
There are abundant free possibilities for promoting your art and artisan crafts. Social media marketing takes time but very little budget. It costs nothing to set up and post regularly on a Twitter account, a Facebook business page, or a Pinterest profile. If you open a marketplace shop on sites such as Etsy or Artfire, you can participate in forums, treasuries and teams as often as you wish. You can use the free services at MailChimp to send regular newsletters to your fans. All of this free marketing will vastly expand your audience!
But there are marketing efforts you should do and must pay for. Setting an appropriate budget for these is often a challenge for new sellers. Just a few worthwhile expenses to consider include:
- Booth rental at arts and handcrafts fairs
- Submission fees for entering shows and competitions
- Investing in professional display systems for shows and product photography
- Well designed packaging, product labels and hang tags
- Printing and mailing post cards for art shows
Good marketing will make you more money than it costs. The basic business rule is to try it, track it, and do it again if it works.
Starting an online business is an attractive idea. Most people like the thought of being their own boss, working from home, and making money doing what they love to do. But is it right for everyone? Is it right for you?
There are some essential questions to ask yourself before you take the online plunge. Here are just a few from a much longer list of start-up questions presented in Chapter 1 of The Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Online:
- Will I enjoy doing my artwork as a job?
- Will the things I create be popular with customers?
- Am I willing to adjust the type of work I make in order to create better products?
- Do I have, or can I get, the tools and equipment I’ll need to get this started?
- Am I ready, willing, and able to learn all the skills I’ll need to run a business?
The bottom line? Take yourself seriously and start today!