Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Top Ten Habits of Successful Online Artists and Crafters – Habit Number One

Selling art and artisan crafts on the Internet is an amazing opportunity, open to everyone and promising abundant rewards!

It can be your road to success at whatever level you imagine, from turning your hobby into a satisfying small part-time business to creating a substantial full-time job and income for yourself.

Woman-and-LaptopThe secret to your success will be a combination of talent, quality, and intuition.  But there are a few things that successful online sellers have in common… Continue reading

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Great Product Photos

The single most essential element to your online selling success is product photography.  Show your work with wonderful photos and everything else will fall smoothly into place.  The opposite is sadly true – you may have the best products in the world, the finest craftsmanship, charming product descriptions packed with powerful search words, great prices and excellent customer service – but if your photos are grey, fuzzy, filled with shadows and dull contrast, you won’t sell a thing online.

On the Internet, photos are the only thing a customer has to judge your work and decide to click the “Add to Cart” button. Your photos must replace the experience of picking up the item, feeling its texture and quality, looking closely at the craftsmanship, and imagining it in use.

Good selling platforms allow you to display multiple photos.  Etsy, for example, gives you 5 photo spots for each item.  So what sort of photos work best and how do you take these photos with your own digital camera?  You’ll find an entire chapter on photography in Selling Arts and Crafts Online, with great illustrations and links to online resources and tutorials.  Here are a couple tips from the book.

 

A beautiful product and photo from Nancy at MidwestGypsy. Click the photo to visit her Etsy shop.

A beautiful product and photo from Nancy at MidwestGypsy. Click the photo to visit her Etsy shop.

1. The Plain White Background Photo
This classic “studio” photo is the best way to show off your product. It is simply the whole item on a seamless white background.  Look at the products selected to show on Etsy’s homepage (https://www.etsy.com) and you’ll see great examples.
Tips: For small items, lay them flat on a plain stretched canvas from the art store, or tape white paper to the wall and let it curve smoothly down onto the tabletop.  For larger items, hang white cloth on the wall curved smoothly onto the floor.  A white bed sheet will do in a pinch, but visit a fabric store to buy a large piece of heavy white cloth that will hang smoothly, without wrinkles. Indirect sunlight on a bright day is an ideal light source. If you use spotlights, set up a couple lights shining on the object from different directions to minimize shadows. You can even hold a sheet of white paper or foamboard to reflect light back onto the product. Get full-spectrum lightbulbs for the best product color.

2. The Detail Photo
A close-up shot captures the quality of workmanship in your product. It shows the fine stitching, the details of paint, the texture of wood and clay and stone.  Move in closer and closer and take many different photos from which you will select the best after you download them to your computer.
Tips: Use the close-up or “macro” setting on your digital camera to get the best detail shots.  If you use your mobile phone as a camera, consider buying a “macro lens” (for example see http://store.apple.com/us/product/HE421ZM/A/olloclip-4-in-1-lens-system-for-iphone-55s). Resting your camera on a tripod or simple beanbag helps avoid fuzzy, out of focus photos. Learn how to use a photo editing app or program to crop your photos.

3. A Photo Showing Scale
One of your product photos needs to show the size of the item by placing it in a setting with something easily recognizable.
Tips: Including a human being can be the most intuitive way to communicate this.  Photograph a tiny item in the palm of a hand, show a bracelet on a wrist, hold a vase, have a model wear a garment.  Other common items can provide visual clues.  In the photography chapter of Selling Arts and Crafts Online, Deb from BlueSkyPottery https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueSkyPotteryCO explains how she includes pieces of fruit to show the scale of her ceramics.

And there’s so much your photos can accomplish!  Products in charming room settings.  Interesting angles.  Eye-catching composition.  Outdoor locations and natural backgrounds like sand, rock, weathered wood.  Free online services to help you crop, edit and enhance the photos you take.

Pick up a copy of Selling Arts and Crafts Online to begin improving your own product photography!
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Illustration “Tiger Eye Swarovski Crystal Silver Bracelet” courtesy of and © MidwestGypsy on Etsy.

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Elf Dolls and Pricing

One of the toughest things is to find the right price to charge for your artwork…If prices are too high, sales will drop…or simply not even begin. If prices are too low, you’ll find yourself unable to continue making new items. The sweet spot between these extremes, the price that is just right for your wonderful products, is not that hard to discover.

Chapter 14 in Selling Arts and Crafts Online is all about pricing, and gives you the power of a simple formula to help you succeed!

The formula. It’s been around for decades and has been the backbone of many successful businesses. It goes like this:

Materials + Labor + Overhead + Profit = Wholesale price.

Wholesale X2 = Retail price.

elfdollThe first element, Materials, is everything that goes into your product. If you are sewing elf dolls, like this fabulous example from LittleElfsToyshop, it’s the cost of fabric, stuffing, buttons, ribbon and yarn. Remember to include little things like the cost of thread. Figure this cost of a batch – buying everything you’ll need to produce 10 items for example – then dividing by 10 to get your cost per item.

The next element, Labor, is the time it takes you to make and ship the item, and how much is this time worth per hour. Be sure to calculate this at a fair wage. You don’t want to base your business on “sweatshop” wages, whether for yourself or anyone else. Likewise, if you value your time too highly, you will soon price yourself out of the market. Be fair but don’t be greedy.

Overhead: Add up everything it costs for you to be in business for a month…then divide by the number of items you plan to sell each month. What do you spend on your business that you would not otherwise need to pay for? These costs are things such as

  • office supplies and packing tape to seal shipping boxes
  • the cost of your business bank account if you opened one
  • rent for studio space
  • the fee your tax person charges
  • long term costs should also be factored into this…a new computer every few years, repair on the sewing machine
  • ….and so on

At the beginning there will be expenses you do not include. If you are working out of your home, in a spare bedroom perhaps, you might choose to ignore expenses like rent, electricity and heat. After all, you’re living there and would need to pay rent and utilities anyway. But remember that such costs are a legitimate part of doing business. As you grow, you may want to add these costs in anticipation of the day you will need to rent larger studio and office space.

The number of items you will sell should be an honest guess if you are just starting out. After a few months of sales, you will be able to track and project the real number. So overhead total divided by number of sales = the per item amount.

The last element in the formula is Profit. This is the value you put on your investment of energy, your creative spark, your unique talent, and the money you’d like to make to expand your business. Accounting for profit right from the beginning will give you a wholesale price you can live with. Some people double the manufacturing price to get their profit – saying that “materials + labor + overhead X2 = profit”. Other folks add much more, while yet others set their profit far lower. The profit figure is yours to set and to change as time goes by. Only you can decide what it should be.

Back to elf dolls then…let’s say you carefully track what it takes to make dolls.

Materials: You buy enough cloth, yarn, stuffing and buttons to make 10 dolls. The bill is $30 at the fabric store, so that gives you a materials price of $3.00 per doll.

Labor: After carefully logging in the time you spend, you discover that it takes you 5 hours to sew 10 dolls start to finish, another 2 hours to photo them all and add them to your Etsy shop, and finally about 18 minutes to package and mail a doll order (another 3 hours of your time if you sell 10 of them). This all comes to 10 hours per 10 dolls, or an hour each. If you figure a fair wage is $12 per hour, the labor for each doll comes to $12.00.

Overhead: After figuring all of your costs for Etsy fees, Paypal fees, the packing materials, office supplies, sewing supplies, and every other business detail, you come up with a monthly overhead cost of $40.00. You’re working at home, so right now you are not including rent or utilities into overhead. You also have a computer and Internet access for personal use, so you are not going to count that cost either. You average 10 doll sales per month. So $40 divided by 10 sales means each doll sale needs to cover $4.00 of overhead.

Profit: You decide to add $5.00 per doll for business expansion and because your dolls are so unique and awesome!

$3 + $12 + $4 + $5 = $24 is your wholesale price. Double that to get retail, so you sell your dolls on Etsy for $48.

More on how to tweak the pricing formula and make it work for you in Chapter 14.  You’ll absolutely love this book!

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Illustration “Hazel the Girl Gnome” courtesy of and © LittleElfsToyshop on Etsy.

 

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