Designers of all levels explain how they decide what crafts to make and sell.
Selling your crafts, either at fairs or online, can be daunting. Of course there are all of the concerns that come with starting a business — cost, profit margin, branding — plus the added psychological factor that the product may seem like an extension of your personal creativity. Here are tips and advice given by designers at various levels of success, from just starting out to selling their wares wholesale to large retail chains.
Watch, learn and get inspired!
Still deciding what you want to sell? Be sure you can make a lot of it.
As Geneva of 126Gmac explains, you don’t want to rent a table at a craft show with only six items on your table to sell. Many crafters do well online and at shows by selling a relatively large volume of mid-tier items. Have at least 50 things on your table if you’re going to sell at a show, Geneva advises.
Her suggestion also raises other immediate questions. Do you know that you can make a lot of what you want to sell? Do you have the time and energy to make numerous items?
You may want to pick a signature item that’s relatively easy for you to do, but distinctive. Or perhaps your craft (like a necklace) is easy to assemble, and uses memorable materials (like Scrabble tiles). You should track how long it takes you to make an item and figure out how many hours you need to devote to sewing or knitting several of them same item.
Some designers hire other creators to help make all of the items they sell. Of course that adds to the cost of doing business. Materials for creating a lot of one craft can also be an expensive investment. You’ll need to calculate what you can afford to invest and still turn a profit.
Evan and Katelyn sell their products to West Elm so they understand how to flip handmade objects into mass market sales. For starters, they research what’s trending and get inspiration from a variety designs that jibe and even conflict with their tastes. They've utilized 3-D printing and concrete molds to make a large number of products at a relatively low per-item cost. While some people might not consider those approaches a “traditional” handmade ones, it’s hard to disagree that the couple has been a big success.
In the above video, Evan and Katelyn also talk about the upside and downside of being able to create a pop-up shop in West Elm and sell wholesale to large decor companies. They also discuss the importance of promotion, which can include social media, SEO-minded posts and brochures. If you don’t have the time or skillset to create those promotional materials, you can often get them done for a reasonable price with a writing service such as Essay Online. Evan and Katelyn also underscore the importance of consumer experience. Wrapping and boxes all contribute to the perception of your brand.
When just starting a handmade business, a lot of creators are confused about how to set prices. Of course you want to make a profit, but you also need your prices to be competitive. How do you evaluate the various costs and still make a profit?
Melanie Ham explains how she learned the mathematics of product pricing from her stepmother. For starters, figure out how much your materials are, hopefully down to the penny. If you buy 20 yards of satin or 50 zippers at a time, figure out how that divides between the numerous items the materials make. Don’t forget to include easy to forget costs like shipping and tax.
Next, figure out the amount you want to be paid per hour. Melanie looked at the competition for her products and decided that $15 an hour was a reasonable amount for sewing pouches. Depending on the skill level needed to make your product you may want to set your price higher or lower.
Now you add together the materials and labor and you have a wholesale cost for your product.
Standard markup from wholesale to retail is doubling the price. Now that you have a retail price, you’ll want to compare that amount with similar products. Consider if your retail price is higher or lower than your competitors. A low retail price can be good if you’re just starting, but keep in mind that if you expect to increase your profit down the road you don’t want to offend your customers by increasing the amount by a large percentage.
Keep in mind that product pricing takes a little experimentation so you may want to test out different amounts for similar items to see what the market will bear.
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