Friday, June 25, 2010

Running A Craft Business ~ Selling on the web

Many people start out with Ebay, but Ebay is not really geared towards handmade items, and is frequented by those after a bargain rather than those who want an artisan product. Your handmade item has been made with time, care etc and you need to sell at a realistic price. Most people find this the hardest thing to do. If you under price, it is difficult to hike the prices in the future. You undermine the concept of artisan products and do not differentiate yourself from the mass produced merchandise available all over.
It’s all part of the marketing.

Web sites that work on a similar basis to Ebay, but that are purely for handmade goods are:

Folksy ~ UK based


Etsy ~ USA based, but used by UK sellers

The benefit of these type of sites is that they promote the handmade item, the artisan and have large followings, are picked up easily by Google etc.
When you feel that the time is right, you may want to start with your own web site.
There are several web site providers, packages etc to suit every budget.
The general rule of thumb is : avoid free sites.  They do not look profewssional and mean that your URL (the bit you type in the address bar is long winded and looks cheap.
You need a site where you can own the domain. That is www. YOUR (or .com)
Mr site is a great start out option. The basic package has 50 pages, the ability to have a shop and receive online payments (through Paypal), A range of templates, the ability to set up how you want.
It retails at £34 ish from Mr site, but you can get it on Amazon for less than £20.
You basically receive a card telling you your password.
You also get the purchase of a domain.
The pages are really easy to use, there is lots of help on the web and in the handbook for telling you how to do things.
When you start out it is a good idea to map out on paper the sections you want and how you will link them together. Think about the future as well. How might your site/ product range develop in the future.
Be careful choosing your domain name. If you currently make Jam, but in the future you intend to increase your line into pies, you don’t want to be called Jenny’s Jam. You’d think more along the lines of Jenny’s kitchen!
The sites can easily be updated and altered, but you really want to be doing big changes as little as possible due to the Google bots etc.
There are other e commerce sites available, but it will depend on what you think your client base, product lines etc are going to be.
You can also get a professional to make your site. This is expensive and often means that any changes you may want to make to your products etc have to be done by the creator, costing you more each time etc.
It’s important that you learn to do the updates, product listings etc yourself. It’s bad practice to be reliant of others to do it for you and it means that rather than just doing it, you are waiting until your “helper” has time to do it for you. You can ask for help, but should try to do as much as possible yourself. Don’t be scared. There is so much help out there should you need it.
Photography: it is really important to have good images. Take time over your photography, use editor suits etc and make sure your products are photographed well. Poor photography = poor quality! The macro button (looks like a tulip) is essential for getting good close up shots. (I'll be talking more about photography in the future posts.)
Contact details: UK law stares that if you are distance selling (i.e. selling through a website) then you must display your address and a contact phone number.
Design: Keep it simple and easy to navigate. A client should be able to locate what they are looking for with 2 – 3 clicks at the most.
You need to apply a counter and keep an eye on where people are viewing your site from. This can be done for free with Google analytics or a free counter web site.  They allow you to see where your readers come from, how long they stay, what they look at etc.  It can be very useful when you are targetting advertising etc.
When you start up a web site, you need to constantly check things out, keep promoting it etc.  Outdated details etc are a turn off and don't show a professional image.

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