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Tips for new crafters Part I

Updated: May 11, 2022

Recently a friend asked if I could help her young daughter create a brand for her bath bomb hobby. Initially this was a little tricky as I had to think about the most important basics to successfully sell homemade crafts and so I am writing this blog. Everything I will be mentioning has been tried and tested with excellent results. Every crafter has a different way to approach selling their business online, so here are some thoughts and opinions that I hope will help.

START UP PRODUCTION OPTIONS

Invest at the start and wait for the rewards This is the easiest way to start making and producing but not everyone has spare cash, and getting a loan is counterproductive. Starting out in debt is an uphill struggle and should be avoided. This system however leaves you with made up stock ready for quick dispatch that'll need appropriate storage

Make to order has its advantages as no lump sum investment is needed, but production will be slow as you'll have to buy in materials with each cash sale before you can start making and you won't benefit from the financial opportunity of bulk buys or sales of raw materials.


Top tip: Start selling to friends on a commission basis, getting 50% upfront (for materials) either in person or on a selling platform. On completion of the commission save the rest of the money. During these commissions you can perfect your skills and develop a making system that is time efficient and enjoyable. By the time you have enough saved from your making of repeatedly tried and tested items by family and friends you'll have the security of knowing that your item is working as it should and is ready for production

Pay attention to detail

INITIAL GOALS

When you first start out you are starting out into a world of wonder, creativity, enjoyment, stress, anxiety, fraud and reward. It's hard, there's no other way to put it, so be prepared for more dark days than light at the beginning. Your main goal from the start is to stand out from the thousands of other people you are in competition with and this is something to bear in mind as you develop and progress as your business grows.

The best ways to stand out are:

Sell something unique that appeals to a minority. If you have an excellent item promoted to your niche audience, you will dominate the market and do well

Selling something everyone wants. Unless your item is promoted to perfection, selling in a high traffic search means you are in competition with lots of other people. You may have the greatest item in the world but with high competition you have to ensure the wording you use will bring people straight to you.


Top tips: With an example of bath bombs, everyone and their mother are making them, so options to stand out could be to have them appeal to popular genres, eg rainbows or animal shapes, or to minorities such as Goths or Steampunk themes using dark, rich colours. Not everyone likes pastels! If you're appealing to a minority search, you may be the first person to make the item, coining the market. Try mixing genres and themes, so you may come up with a dark coloured rainbow shaped like a bat bath bomb! (a rubbish item, but you get the idea). Ask yourself what else dissolves in water? If there was a rice paper that completely dissolves, you could add painted paper flowers to the bath bombs. Think outside the box and never stop researching

Handmade information tag

Presentation is everything. My opinion of packaging is at the extravagant end of the scale as I invested at the start in bulk brown paper, cello wrap and organza ribbon and I donate 20 minutes to each order to ensure my item is packed to perfection. Packing has multiple purposes, from protecting the item for safe delivery, to advertising your business as it goes through the postal service. Make your parcel spellbinding, wonderous and creative so on receipt your customer will have an exciting, bespoke experience. People love to feel special and as a craftisan your packaging should reflect the quality of your item


Top tips: The easiest way to look really professional is to use hand stamps. I use a rubber stamp of my logo a lot. I stamp tissue to wrap things in and it looks so classy and is so easy. Make a template on a sheet of paper as to where you want your stamps to be. Lay the tissue over the top and you can produce sheet after sheet that are exactly the same. Remember when you wrap something to reverse the tissue if your stamp has writing otherwise the wording will be backwards. Classy tissue needs a classy finish so avoid sticky tape. but consider maybe a short length of ribbon, or natural jute twine or invest in an unusual sticker. You could even buy blank stickers and stamp them with something completely unique to you. All these little details create a great buying experience

Logo hand stamp with brown ink pad

Be individual and unique. Research your competition on selling platforms and read their reviews. They will give a good indication as to what expectations customers have and it may help you create a solution to a general problem. The goal is to have none of the complaints you're reading about. You also need to note how people in your genre photograph their items and the wording that is used in listings. Your goal is to look and sound better than your competition.


Top tip: Excellent photography is essential. It is fundamentally a make or break deal and poor photography will not be engaging. Ensure the colours are true, photograph the item from every side paying attention to fixings and mechanics. When people are shopping they may scroll pages and pages of listings so ensure your item is clear, fills the thumbnail and isn't cluttered with photo props. A great item will excel on its own and shouldn't need enhancing. There have been so many times when I've thought the prop looks nicer than the item!

Logo transfer on gift bags

Five Star Review: Now that you have a product that stands out from the rest and you post it out in a beautiful parcel, the next goal is a 5 star review. This is the cruellest part of selling crafts and so everything you send out must exceed the majority of expectations. You can't make all the people happy all of the time, but there are things you can do to help your cause.

  • Dispatch very quickly. Anyone who orders a pre-made thing from me will have it posted the same day if they order before about 3 pm. Go to the post office as late as possible each day you have something to post

  • Ensure your packaging will cause excitement and intrigue on receipt. Customers buying handmade like an 'experience' and to feel special

  • Include a handwritten note thanking the person on a personal level.

  • Giving a gifty is a tricky thing. Personally I give a gifty to each first sale as I do not pay for advertising. I give the customer on their first purchase a miniature of one of my best sellers. This way the money I invest to promote my business goes to the people who support me and not to some fat cat advertising platform. The purpose of the gifty is to remind buyers how fabulous you are, so ensure your shop name is on it somewhere

  • If you decide to give a gifty it must be fabulous and well worth keeping

  • You want people to buy again and tell their friends so pay attention to every detail.

  • Never ask for a review, it is so tacky. If your item is good enough customers will message you the minute they receive it and probably tell you they'll post a glowing review.

  • If you sell internationally make sure 'Made in England' is somewhere on your item

Top tips: Every item you post has to be faultless, never send out a defect. Each item is an advert for your business and you want people to love the experience and the item that they have bought. You want them telling their friends, repeat buying for gifts and to leave great reviews each time. Consistency, honesty, punctuality, reliability and professionalism are all things your items represent so you can never do too much in producing a great item packed like a pro!

Gifty worth keeping

DEVELOPING YOUR BRAND AND ONLINE SHOP

Once you have an item that is bringing in great reviews, consider expanding by making more variations, bettering the packaging to impressive gift boxes or start a new range. With any business you need to constantly develop, better it and invest in its growth. The key is to invest wisely, don't be too adventurous at the start, but instead stick with what you know works. If it's not broken you don't need to fix it! However, to have a range based around a theme will encourage a wider range of people to your shop and they may find something they didn't know they wanted or needed.


Ask yourself whether your shop offers a great range for repeat buyers and if it is a bit limited try to develop so you introduce new items. I started out with lavender filled birds, then lavender wands and now lavender filled hares. These items all fit within a theme but they are all so different. My next development is large hare doorstops! Over the last five years I have added pom pom drafties, pom pom wreaths and loose craft pom poms. These are all a whole different range, but the use of wool and colour blends is evident in the birds and hares so all my items are linked.

New gift wrap design

Top tips: The ultimate online shop will have ranges for all budgets, slight discounts on multi-buys and a balance that suits you (the maker) of made-to-order and pre-made items. Having only made-to-order will be a slightly slower return and so having things already made that can be shipped straight away will speed up the development of your shop. Personally I would find it very stressful if every order needed to be made afresh. When a pre-made item is bought the customer already knows exactly what they are getting as they have seen the photographs on your listing. With something that is being made to order the crafter and customer have to have a very clear understanding of what exactly is to be made. If one of you isn't completely clear and the item is made wrong a whole ugly scene can ensue. I have always been lucky with customers responding really quickly but be prepared for people not getting back to you if you ask questions.


STORAGE

Whatever it is you make, it has to be stored in a dust free, dry clean place. Personally, all of my Stuff is stored in plastic containers. It is very easy for household smells to travel with items and it is something that needs careful attention. Smoking, household pets, strong cooking and damp can all generate a scent that you may be unaware of, but they can all travel easily


Top tip: If you don't have a room that can be closed off from the rest of the house just be mindful if you've cooked garlic, fried onions or had the dog come in soggy from the garden.

SUMMARY

  1. Make something that isn't already being made, or theme it to suit specific people. The less competition the better

  2. Invest in a cheap way to look fabulously classy, tissue, a suitable inked stamp and a cute sticker is hugely appealing and aesthetic, shows you've made the effort

  3. Use fit for purpose packaging cheaply dressed up to look really unique and memorable. First impressions are crucial with online shopping

  4. Constantly research the competition and stay ahead of the trends. If you're producing seasonal items remember they need to be available a few months ahead of time, so think four months ahead, eg have Christmas stuff made by the end of August!

  5. Treat each customer like they are the only person of importance to you. Never leave them wondering, give plenty of information so they don't have to ask and if you should have a problem be upfront and honest.






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