In this second part of a two part feature (part 1 here) I look at some practical tips to help build your own online handmade business.
Tip 1: Make Product Ranges
It may seem obvious but it helps if you make a range of products that are similar to one another. It will mean your shop appears cohesive and will enable shoppers to make sense of your brand. This needn't be a creativity stifler! And please don't feel you need to become a manufacturer of one product only. After all, you want your collection to remain special and unique. You can still make an assortment of eclectic items, but how about working in limited edition sets according to a specific theme or colour palette?
Tip 2: Photography is Everything
Of course there are no hard and fast 'rules'. Your photography will depend on your own taste and sense of aesthetic, but there are a few general things to bear in mind. Dimly lit photos don't allow shoppers to see what you are selling, so make sure your photography is clear and bright. Uncluttered backgrounds work best. That said, a few well-chosen props can really add a sense of mood and style, as well as giving perspective to the product, allowing the shopper to instantly recognise its size in relation to other objects. The best advice is to take lots of photos. And then take some more. The more you have, the higher your chances of getting a really great one. Use a tripod and when you find a good angle for your products, stick to it. Don't crowd the composition. Leave enough white space around the edges to frame your product. Learn how to use a photo editing software to make your images pop.
|Have a clear and unobstructed overview of the product|
|Show customers how to wear or display your product|
|Include a close up to show texture and detail|
Tip 3: Get Organised
So your sales are picking up – that's great! But after daily trips to the post office and the accumulative hours spent waiting in queues, the novelty inevitably starts to wane. The key is getting organised and developing a system that helps save you time. This may mean allocating set days to do your postal runs, like Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for example. Become friendly with your local Postal Clerk to make the whole experience more enjoyable and be sure to avoid the lunchtime rush at all costs. Don't forget to write a return address on the packet just in case anything goes wrong along the way. I find it useful to bulk print return address stickers that double as a way to secure the opening of your parcel instead of using tape.
|You can also stamp or print your logo onto stickers to personalize your package.|
It's worth noting if you have access to a printer you can pay for and print your own postage labels through Paypal. It also means that the sender and recipient addresses are automatically printed along with the stamp, which saves you a lot of time and reduces the risk of error if you've previously been handwriting them. It also takes care of customs stickers if you're sending internationally.
Tip 4: Evolve (but stay true to your roots)
Take note of which items are most popular and tune in to that customer demand. Expand on your bestsellers by making variations in an assortment of colours, patterns, sizes or materials. Custom orders can also be a great way to push your own boundaries and develop new designs. Be flexible and adapt to changing trends and seasons whilst staying true to your own motivations. There's no point making something you don't believe in just to jump on the coat tails of a flimsy fashion trend. It's about finding the balance that suits you. Change is good and keeps things fresh while consistency helps to build a brand image that your customers can rely on.
|New designs: tank tops, displayed alongside my popular headbands in a variety of colours and styles. A mixture of summer and winter items catering to both northern and southern hemisphere seasons.|
Tip 5: Stay Active
So you've made a selection of lovely items, photographed them beautifully and listed them in your shop. Hooray! But don't just sit around now, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for someone to buy something. Move on to the next task straight away. The thing about being in charge of all aspects of your business is that there is always something for you to do. Make new items often so that the listings in your shop are always current and high-listed. Don't be disheartened by a lag in sales. It's a good opportunity to stock up, reshoot some of the weaker photos in your shop, tweak item descriptions to make them sound better, order more materials, tidy your work space, type up that blog post you've been meaning to write, catch up with correspondence that you've let slip, update your website or Facebook page, have a scout round to see what your favourite makers have been up to lately... You get my drift! Keep busy and before you know it you'll be harvesting the abundant fruits of your labour. And since you put in all the hard work yourself, you get to enjoy all the rewards.
Leanne is a London-based freelance author, designer-maker and owner of indie fashion accessories label, Chi Chi Dee Handmade.
Connect with her:
Shop US: www.chichidee.etsy.com
Shop UK: www.folksy.com/shops/chichidee