Tuesday 30 October 2012

Selling your handmade crafts online: Is it for you?

In this first part of a two part feature I look at the perks and pitfalls of running your own online handmade business. Part two, coming soon, will offer some practical tips and advice.

Are you the kind of person who prefers to make gifts instead of buying them at the shopping mall? Do you scour little tucked-away shops for inspiration and unique finds that you could incorporate into your crafts? Are you always dreaming about your next project and constantly have several things on the go at once? Do you live to create, whittling away into the wee hours because you are ever so slightly obsessed with what you're making? (Me too!) Have you been toying with the idea of selling your handmade crafts online but don't know where to start? Maybe I can help you with that.

Folksy Best Seller List

If you're looking for a definitive business plan to guarantee instant sales and skyrocketing profits within your first week, I'm probably not the best role model for you. I'm not sure if there even is a formula to success (but I am pretty sure it's not independent + handmade + business = fast buck). And if there was some secret recipe for direct results, I'd probably be inclined to deviate anyway, tempted by the more meandering but infinitely more enjoyable scenic route. I've never been a very strategic planner, I'm more of a feet-first, in-at-the-deep-end, see-where-I-end-up kind of girl. I figure the journey is largely the reward and not simply a means to an end.

What I can do for you is assure you that running your own online business is very liberating and loads of fun – way better than dragging yourself to a job that you're only mildly interested in. And in case you were wondering, selling your handmade wares online can be your full-time job, if you are prepared to commit to and stick with it. It's hard work with long hours and it will likely take months to build it up to a point of sustaining you. Persistence, a supportive partner, a side job and/or savings you're prepared to dig in to with gusto all play their vital roles. So before you hand in your notice (and relieve your pigeon hole of its contents with one decisive swoop of your arm, as I did!) it's probably worthwhile reflecting on the possibility that the idea of it may not truly mirror the reality.

Ominous storm cloud lurking
The Pitfalls:

It can be lonely doing everything all by yourself. And solitude invites doubt. It can also be really repetitive. For example, if an item starts trending you may have to make multiples to fulfill demand. Take it from me, the line between 'independent creative' and 'crazed seamstress' becomes pretty blurry pretty quickly.

While we're on the subject of disillusionment, don't even get me started on posting and packaging! (You make the effort to write the address neatly, put the stickers on nice and straight, sign and date your customs labels with dotted 'i's' and crossed 't's', and even get a little proof of posting certificate to seal the deal. Then your pretty little package flies proudly away, over the horizon and beyond, to the land of lost packages. It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen and when it does, it's so discouraging!)

It makes my brain feel like this...
The other big gut-kicker can be negative feedback. Especially when you put your heart and soul into what you do. But as in life, rudeness exists in the online realm too. The trick is to always do your best so you can confidently stand behind your products and service in the face of criticism. Cutting corners does not save you anything in the long run.

The feeling of being responsible for every aspect of the business can get stressful and it's hard to switch off from it. The workday bleeds into the evenings and the working week is busiest on weekends. And closing your shop to take a break – heaven forbid! – feels like parting with your only child on their first day of school. The term 'full-time job' starts to take on a whole new meaning and those eight hour shifts you used to complain about begin to radiate with a faint rosy hue.

This is what my boyfriend, family and friends see of me
The Perks:

Still reading? Good! Here's the reward: the upside is totally worth it!!! For a start, you are your own boss, which is the best feeling in the world. It fills you with a sense of pride to know that you've built your own business from the ground up through your own talent and determination.

You get to set your own daily schedule, which is priceless on a hot summer's day, while your friends are trapped at their desks and you are stepping out for a swim. If you're tired or hung over you can sleep in, or if you're simply not in the mood then just stay in bed. All day. Imagine a screen with a line down the middle: on the left side your friends are typing up excel spreadsheets or doing whatever it is they do at work while on the right you are watching movies in your pyjamas and dunking biscuits in your tea.

Etsy: a happy online commiunity

Although I mentioned loneliness, it wasn't an entirely accurate depiction. In truth, I get so many lovely messages every day from satisfied customers and admirers of my work. Joining an online selling community, like Etsy, feels like being taken under the wing of a big family. It really is a happy and friendly place to choose to spend your time and make contact with like-minded people.

Building a business is rewarding. Once you start making a profit you can invest back into your business. You can afford more materials, which, in turn, inspires new designs and the whole thing gains momentum. It really is so gratifying when people actually want to buy what you've made with your own two hands. 

Sales on the up - whoop!

(Just a word of warning: that feeling is addictive and before too long you'll be talking about nothing else. You'll get that glazed look from friends and family as you harp on about your latest listings, shop stats, item views and recent favourites. But don't be deterred! There are others out there just like you, who understand exactly how your heart skips a beat with every 'ping' of a new message. How you wake up each morning with sales on your mind and check your email before your brain has even booted up.)

As any handmade junkie can tell you, we do it mainly for the love of it. But that's not to say that you can't make a living from it, too, so long as you're willing to put in the hard graft. These days everyone wants to be successful but we're seeing it from the wrong angle. It's all about becoming successful: that's the fun part.

This is what today looked like

Stay tuned for part two coming soon: Top 5 tips for growing a successful online handmade business

Bye for now! Leanne xx


  1. Lovely post!! Thank you!! Can't wait for the tips!!

  2. Thank you!!! Tips are coming soon, thanks for reading :o) xx

  3. Thanks for informative post, but toying with the idea for a while! Kids all at school now so plenty of spare time, no excuses! Xxx

    1. Thanks for your message Allison! Go for it! It would be great for you to focus on something just for you after concentrating on looking after your children for the last few years :o)

      Or you could use having kids to your advantage and choose to make children's clothes and accessories. That way you would have your own live-in models!

      Good luck with it all!
      Leanne xx

  4. Part two is here: http://chichideehandmade.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/top-5-tips-for-growing-successful.html

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