Are you thinking about selling your art, craft or designs online? Folksy is one of the best places to sell handmade in the UK and a great alternative to Etsy. They are a small team, based in Sheffield, who are all passionate about craft and handmade. In this article, Camilla Westergaard from the Folksy team shares her top tips for selling online. You’ll find loads more advice on the Folksy blog too – check out the Folksy Sellers’ Handbook for tons of articles and everything you need to know about selling craft online and at craft fairs.
Above…The Folksy website, featuring one of their sellers Alma Caira
Essential tips for selling art and craft online
There is a craft to selling online. It’s no good making something, snapping a quick picture, listing it in your shop, then sitting back and waiting for it to sell. The makers movement that we’ve seen grow over the last decade or so, combined with the changing internet, means that there is now so much competition for people’s attention that you have to work hard to get seen. It can be a challenge but it’s also fun learning those skills and a huge thrill when you get that first sale – knowing that someone has chosen to spend their money on something you have made is an incredible feeling and worth chasing!
In this article, we’re going to look at seven things you can do to build a successful online shop.
1. Define your niche
When you’re starting out, it’s a common mistake to think that you need to offer lots of choice and a wide variety of products. If you try to please everyone your shop will end up feeling muddled and it will be harder to build a brand and reach your target market. It’s much better to choose one thing and carve out a niche doing that. Do one thing well.
As artist Susie West explains in this interview: “When we first started out, we sold a variety of artwork, but the business didn’t really take off until the focus was on the travel poster prints, giving us an obvious, recognisable product.”
Customers need to understand who you are and what you make, and trust that they are buying from someone who really knows what they are doing. If you can build a reputation as the expert in your field, you’ll have a stronger brand and a more sustainable business.
Read how to find your niche – http://blog.folksy.com/2015/09/14/how-to-find-your-niche
2. Start to think of yourself as a brand
You may be an artist or an indie maker, but if you can start to think of yourself as a brand, you’ll be able to build a strong identity for yourself across your social media channels and your online shop.
This starts by understanding what your story is, why you make, why what you do is special and what your values are. Once you have identified those, you can start to project them in everything you do – from your shop name to how you style your product shots, how your write your product descriptions and how you talk to your audience on social media.
Read how to build a strong brand identity for your craft business here – http://blog.folksy.com/2015/01/21/how-to-build-a-strong-brand-identity
3. Price your products so you can make a profit
Pricing is a headache for most artists and makers, especially when you’re starting out. It helps to think about pricing as a quest to find the ‘sweet spot’ where your work sells well and you can make a profit. It’s no use pricing your work so cheaply that you get lots of sales but you aren’t making a profit, as ultimately your business will fail (unless you’re Amazon and you plan to sell trillions of things at a minuiscule profit). It also doesn’t help to under-price your work because if you don’t value your time or skills, you can’t really expect other people to!
Unfortunately, there is no magic one-size-fits-all formula for pricing handmade work, but there are some methods that can help you work out a price that gives you enough profit to maintain a sustainable business. This article should help and has a handy profit calculator too – https://blog.folksy.com/2018/01/23/how-to-make-more-profit
Remember to factor in ALL your costs when pricing your work (time, materials, packaging etc) and consider whether you want to sell your products wholesale in the future, as this will affect the retail price. Don’t forget potential promotions either. If your margins are rock-bottom slim, you’ll struggle to offer any discounts. You also need to think about where you want to sit in the market. Would you put yourself in the luxury, fine art or artisan bracket, or are would you rather make affordable pieces for the masses? Research similar products that are available – how are they priced and how do you compare in terms of quality, experience and skill?
Once you know the cost price of your products, there are various ways to calculate the retail price. You could set a multiple of your cost price, or add on a set amount as your profit. Or you might prefer to set your retail price based on comparable products and what a customer expects to spend. Find the one that is right for you, but bear in mind that if you sell to shops they will take a percentage of the retail price (often 50% or more), that it’s useful to leave room for offers and promotions, and also that if you go below your cost price you will be making a loss.
We have a whole section on the blog dedicated to pricing, with lots of tips and advice. Find it here http://blog.folksy.com/category/seller-tips/pricing-tips
4. Make sure you have brilliant product photos
If you’re reading this article, you probably know this already but it’s worth saying again: to sell online you NEED to have good photos. It’s proven that shops with good product photos sell more. No matter how amazing your products are, if you don’t have great photos, they are less likely to sell. Your pictures can make the difference between a sale and a scroll – and it’s not just about grabbing their attention, it’s also about giving a customer confidence in you and your product.
In our ever-more social world, photos are increasingly important in getting attention, follows, shares, as well as press and features. They also play a part in SEO, as the more shares you get, the more Google and other search engines will love you and show your shop in their search results.
Aim for a consistent style in your photos as this will help reinforce your brand and make your product shots instantly recognisable as yours – and remember that when shown on index pages on Folksy (so search results, gift guides, recently listed), photographs will be cropped to a square, so make sure your product is the hero of the shot and that the photo works well when resized.
5. Learn how to write titles and descriptions that get found by target customers
Once you have your amazing photos, have set your prices, understand your niche, your brand and your values, you’re ready to get your products listed and in front of people.
To get your listings seen on search engines like Google and showing up within Folksy, you need to write clear, easy-to-read titles and descriptions that contain words people will actually use to find your product (these are called keywords). A search engine can’t “see” your photos, so think how you would describe your product to someone over the telephone.
It’s really worth spending some time researching the best words and phrases to use here, so that you can reach your ideal customers. The aim is to identify words and phrases that you can rank for, rather than ones which are dominated by the big online sites, but also the exact phrase that your audience are actually using to find pieces like yours.
We have some really great free tools and advice on our blog that can help you here, including product listing review videos that you can watch and learn from – http://blog.folksy.com/category/seller-tips/product-listing-tips
Include as many details as possible so the customer has all the information they need, and don’t forget to add tags to your listing as these will help your product get found too.
6. Make social media part of your daily routine
Social media is an amazing tool for sellers – not only is it free but it allows you to build a relationship with your customers. It enables you to build a customer base of fans who love your work and want to know more about what you do. The trap a lot of people fall into, though, is to broadcast rather than connect and interact. If you approach social media just as a place to promote your products, it’s unlikely to work. Social media is all about being sociable – the clue is in the name.
There are lots of different channels you can use – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – each with its pros and cons. The good thing is you don’t need to cover them all. In an ideal world, you want to spend most of your time on the same channel as your customers, but if you’re brand new to social media it’s ok to focus on the one you find easiest to get your head around, and go from there.
Always keep this in mind though: you need to interact with your followers, not just post and run. So use hashtags to find people interested in similar things and start conversations, join in with Instagram challenges, be interesting, engaging and genuine, and spend as much time commenting on other people’s posts as you do on your own.
7. List often, review your shop regularly and keep up to date with Folksy news and features
Once your shop is up and running, check in every day to ensure you haven’t missed any messages or sale notifications, and make sure there are no items still listed that have already sold at a craft fair or elsewhere (eek!).
If you can keep your online shop well stocked and updated regularly with fresh products it encourages people to come back to see what’s new. If you’ve had the same items in your shop for a while, they can start looking a bit tired and you might find your shop views and sales start to drop, as regular customers lose interest. Introducing new pieces or even just photographing your best-sellers in new ways will give you new content to share and new opportunities to tempt customers to your shop.
The Folksy Plus Account comes in handy here as you can list and relist as often as you like for just £5 a month – read more here https://blog.folksy.com/why-open-a-folksy-plus-account
Listing regularly also puts your shop and products in front of more people, as new items appear on the Folksy front page, in our Recently Listed section and in customers’ Favourites. Recent listings are one of the factors used to sort results in Folksy Categories and Gift Guides too, meaning new items appear closer to the top. We also send Folksy subscribers an email that features new items from their favourites sellers, so every time you add a new item to your shop, you increase your chance of going directly to a customer’s inbox.
It’s worth checking your Stats page every month, to see which items are getting the most views and where those views are coming from. If there are particular products that are getting more views than others, are there lessons from these listings that you could apply to others, for example popular tags or particular titles that are working well? Are you getting lots of views from one social media changes – if so can you spend more time growing your presence and following on there?
Keep up to date with what’s happening on Folksy too, by joining our Folksy Clubhouse Facebook Group or the Talk Folksy forums, and reading our Seller Tips emails. That way you won’t miss out on any new features, updates or opportunities. Our forum and Facebook group are also a great way to connect with other sellers and pick up tips.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be off to a great start but you can find even more advice here – https://blog.folksy.com/2017/07/11/how-to-sell-craft-online-beginners-guide
Ready to start selling? Open a shop on Folksy today and get three FREE listings to help you on your way. Join Folksy – https://folksy.com/selling
Camilla Westergaard is an occasional designer and maker, and owner of a hedgehog called Herb. She is in charge of words and pictures at Folksy.