How to Turn your Craft Hobby into a Business

It wasn’t that long ago that selling your hand made wares were limited to market stalls or a bricks and motor shop. Not any more. With the growth of online marketplaces, the WORLD is your market. Here are the top tips on how you can maximise online marketplaces to turn your hobby into a fully-fledged business.

If you’re a crafter, artist or one-of-a-kind purveyor, there’s no lack of online spaces where you can buy and sell your wares. But with popular online marketplaces loosening the policies as to what constitutes ‘handmade’, how can you be sure that the sock monkey you’ve lovingly crafted isn’t being unfairly pitted against cut-priced mass-produced factory rip offs?

We talked to Jonathan Peacock founder of Zibbet about how to maximise your existing sales if you’re already selling online, and how novices can get started.

1. There is a market for every product

Whether you’re selling handcrafted soaps, knitted tea-cozies or vintage tennis racquets, the good news is every product has potential to sell, says Jonathan. “But in order for that to happen there needs to be enough people looking at the item (traffic), be a quality product, well photographed, and priced according to what the market would expect to pay for it.

“Jewellery is currently the best seller on Zibbet. However, it is also the most popular and competitive category as well.”

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2. Get clear on WHY you want to sell your crafts online

“Consider your goals,” advises Jonathan. “What are you trying to achieve by selling your products online? Is it to fund your crafting addiction so you can afford to buy more supplies? Is it to supplement your income? Is it to quit your day job? The answer to these question will change your approach and it may even change the platform you choose to sell on.”

There’s no right or wrong answer, but it does help to get clear on what you want to get out of your online selling experience from the get go.” 

3. Whatever you intend to do, treat it as a business

“I have found that when the seller has the mindset that they are starting a business, they are almost always more successful and make more money,” says Jonathan. So even if you are just wanting to flog your handmade dream-catchers for a bit of cash on the side, if you put time into making it a professional enterprise with great photos and a dedicated social media strategy and promotion, then you have a great base to scale up if it takes off!

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4. Good photos are crucial!!

This brings us to our next point. No matter what your priorities are, good product photography can be the difference between making sales, and hearing crickets.

“After a shopper looks at all of your product pictures they should feel like they have picked up the item and looked it over and are ready to take it to the cash register and buy,” Graphic Designer Melissa Rose writes on the Zibbet Blog. 

“Being able to portray your product’s best assets through a simple photograph is crucial in showing your customer what you offer.”

5. Get stock savvy

One of the benefits of online marketplaces – opposed to a physical store – is that you don’t have to have all your stock made up, if the customer can see an image of the finished product.

“That means you can keep your money in your pocket until you actually have to make the order for your customer, ” Jonathan writes on the Zibbet blog

“It also means that you won’t make up stock which might not be best-sellers. You would then be forced to discount or write-off those precious resources, making your prices go up to accommodate for this.”

Having said that, “a fully stocked store looks much more appealing than an empty one, plus more products in your store always brings you more organic traffic, through being more visible in Zibbet's marketplace and having more pages indexed in Google and other search engines,” says Jonathan.

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6. Consider a two-pronged approach

If you’re serious about building a business and a brand Jonathan advises building your own website separate from a marketplace.

“When you sell only on a marketplace your brand is heavily diluted. People won't say they bought it from "insert_your_brand_here", they'll say they bought it from Etsy, or Zibbet etc. So your brand equity is lost," Jonathan says.

“This is why we highly recommend you also have your own stand-alone website.”

Setting up a website is nowhere near as daunting as it used to be with user friendly platforms such as Shopify and SquareSpace, but in September 2015, Zibbet is launching custom, stand-alone websites as well.

“So, in addition to having a presence within Zibbet's marketplace, you'll also get your own stand-alone website, which has no Zibbet branding on it. Your inventory and orders are completely synced. So if you make a sale on your website, it is automatically removed from your Zibbet marketplace store as well and the order will be managed from the one dashboard.”

7. Don’t discount markets or a physical presence in your marketing mix

It is super cheap to get started selling online, but selling at markets is still a great thing to do to build your brand and direct people online, says Jonathan. It’s important to weigh up the time and costs though… You will have to pay for the stall and have yourself or someone else man the stall or day. And it’s an early start!

“That's valuable time that could be spent with your family!”

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8. Get social media savvy

“If you're not online at least in some capacity – such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or a blog, then you are losing a massive opportunity to connect with a huge number of potential customers,” says Jonathan. Looking after your community is paramount. This also gives you extra scope to answer questions and promote your product. “Your growth potential online is limitless.”

9. Price it right

“Your product is only worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it,” says Jonathan. “You should start by researching similar products online and see what they're selling for. This will give you a guide. It's a good idea to start your prices low (make sure you cover your costs of course) and raise them over time as you build your customer base. There's no point in being stubborn about your high prices if no one is buying.

“Get customers, make them love you, encourage them to bring their friends by giving them things like coupon codes. Build that customer base and no-one will mind as you gradually increase your prices and your profit margins.”

And don’t forget to always provide excellent customer service. Post your items promptly, wrap items well, respond to questions promptly and go the extra mile!

Do you sell hand made items online? What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way? 

For more information on Zibbet, visit www.zibbet.com

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