Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Should you sell your crafts?

I have been approached many times by folks who know what I do, which is make things and sell them. They make things and want to know if they should sell them too. They want my advice. What do I tell them? Well, it's a very complex question with many nuances.

I make and sell things full time, but I do not make a full time salary, so I am very lucky to have people in my life who help me to make ends meet. Without them I would have a very different lifestyle. Someday I hope to be able to make enough to be independent, but I have no idea when that time will come. People who have it more together would come up with a five year plan. That's not the kind of person I am.

I sell a little bit in lots of venues; on Etsy, in my studio and at craft shows. I also sell in consignment shops and to other shops through wholesale.

I work every minute of the day and well into the evening 7 days a week. I don't mind. I generally don't get burned out because I love what I do and the tasks are varied; item production, new product development, marketing, bookkeeping, show applications, photographing products and listing them, etc. But I am ALWAYS working. And remember, I do not make a full time salary.

So. Should you sell your well-made thing? I have no idea. Your thing might be the hot new thing, or the best version of that already hot thing, or even just another very good thing. Or your thing might not have a market at all, or a very tiny one.

My life up to starting my Etsy shop: I had about 20 years prior experience making and selling things at craft shows before the popularity and ease of internet shops existed. I worked as a production artist for other small business owners all through the 90s. In the aughts I managed two retail businesses, one of which was a fine crafts gallery.

My life now: I am computer literate. I use and enjoy social media. I can take photos of my products and Photoshop them to look enticing. I have graphic design experience. I stay aware of material, color and motif trends in the current handmade marketplace. I am always paying attention and coming up with new ideas.

I am not trying to sell the most items possible, I am not a factory. So I price my items at what I need to make for it to be worth my time, this often puts me at the high end of the market for many of the things I make. That means I sell fewer things.

Will your item sell on Etsy? I don't know. Etsy is only a venue, it's up to you to bring people to your Etsy shop. Does the thing you make have a market? Research it online. Can you invest the time and perseverance it takes to become more than a needle in a haystack on a site as enormous as Etsy? A place as vast as the internet? Since 2006 I have built an online presence that helps people feel comfortable buying from me. I update frequently enough so that people are reminded that I exist but not so much that I become an overexposed pest.

Etsy is NOT expensive. Would it hurt to try? Maybe it would hurt your feelings if it didn't work out. Would that make you so sad it would take all the joy out of making the thing you love to make? Would you be content with a sale here and there? Only a few people are going to become crafting rockstars. I've been in magazines, books, I went on national TV and though I'm certainly a rockstar to my mom and dad, I am not inundated with orders. What is your idea of success?

Though I would like to sell more than I do now, being inundated with orders is not of paramount importance to me. I want to make beautiful things well. I want to sell them to people who appreciate them. I want people to smile when they see what I made. I want my whimsies to mitigate, just for a moment, the existential angst. As long as I make enough money to keep being able to to do that, I feel successful. Would you work this hard for that goal? Would you work this hard for less?

Should you sell that thing you love to make? I don't know, why don't you try? Here is a good resource to help you get a handle on all the possibilities available to you: The Handmade Marketplace.

Pick the marketing methods that appeal to you and try them. If what you are doing doesn't work, adapt. If it turns out the business of making and selling things is not for you, don't sweat it, now you know. Maybe you just want to enjoy making things without the added pressure of selling them. If you do become inundated with orders, write and let me know, I love a success story :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sewing How-To Resources

When I ran my Stitch magazine giveaway, I asked entrants to suggest a link to a sewing tutorial website they found helpful. I really want to thank everyone for their generosity in sharing their faves! I compiled a list of these great resources below:


Pattern Review

Merriment Design

Sew, Mama, Sew!


Maiden Jane

Oh, Fransson!

Amy Butler

Angry Chicken

Anna Maria Horner

Now that I have had a chance to look through all these sites I am going to announce the winner of the bonus round of my giveaway: a free pincushion ring to the person who recommends the site I like the best!

The 4 sites that were the most appealing to me were:


Sew, Mama, Sew!


Oh, Fransson!

But the one I think I will make the most projects from is
, so alamodestuff is the winner of the pincushion ring!

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address to send your pincushion ring :) Thanks again to everyone who entered and offered such useful information!