source: Tambako the Jaguar
I’ve had many crafty businesses over the years. I sold paper earrings, ink drawings on glass and decoupage platters. I sold hats, hair accessories, and greeting cards. I even sold custom skirts and batik wall hangings.
One thing I learned from all my crafty ventures is that without the proper marketing, your business has no chance of succeeding.
Here are 21 offline and online craft markets, with the pros and cons of each.
Offline Ways to Market Crafts
Sell at consignments shops
Pros: Consignment shops are an easy way to break into the craft business. Since the store owner is not putting out any cash for your craft item, they are frequently willing to take chances with newbies.
Cons: Consignment stores fees are on the steep side. They charge approximately 1/3 of the sale price and a monthly fee for selling your product. You only get paid once the sale has been completed. You do not get reimbursed for damaged or stolen inventory.
Sell outright at wholesale rates to gift shops
Pros: If you are unable to snag a sales rep, this is the simplest way to get your craft item into stores.
Cons: Selling to stores is hard work. You’ll need to carry boxes of products around from store to store. In addition, not all store owners are approachable. Plus, many stores do not pay for 30-90 days.
Sell through sales rep
Pros: Sales reps generally get paid on commission, so if you don’t earn money, they don’t earn money.
Cons: Sales reps can be hard to get and harder to keep. You also need to be able to provide a LOT of product if your item is successful.
Sell through museum shops
Pros: The staff is generally volunteer so they usually very approachable. They will help you to find a price point that will work for their customers.
Cons: Sales in museum shops can be very slow. Do not expect to make a killing from this venue. In addition, many museum shops sell on consignment, so it can be months before you receive any money.
Sell at craft shows
Pros: Craft shows allow you to make a lot of money within a several day period. You are completely in charge of price, display and sales.
Cons: The better craft shows charge many hundreds of dollars to enter, and will only accept carefully juried crafts. The cheaper, unjuried shows generally bring in less money.
Sell direct to consumers
Pros: This can be done using an Avon type business model. You can do the selling yourself or pay sales people on commission.
Cons: Direct sales is a lot of very hard work. Even if you find people to do the selling for you, you may not be able to retain them.
Sell higher class antique flea markets
Pros: Fast turnover. Low table costs. Fun and friendly environment.
Cons: This sales venue is only viable for crafts utilizing collectibles. For instance, vests created from salvaged quilts or bath powder packaged in old bottles.
Sell through community fundraisers/women’s meetings
Pros: Friendly environment. Close to home. Immediate cash and lots of valuable feedback from customers. Low cost table fees.
Cons: Community fundraisers vary in buying power and size due to the abilities of the volunteers running them.
Sell classy farmer’s markets
Pros: Low table cost. Nature crafts, such as pressed flower cars, dried flower bouquets and woven baskets can sell very successfully in this atmosphere.
Cons: Even in the higher class farmer’s markets, there is still a bargain basement mentality. You probably won’t receive high prices for your crafts.
Sell through community bazaars (schools, churches)
Pros: During November and December there are an abundance of community bazaars throughout the country. The table fees are usually cheap and these shows are almost never juried.
Cons: You’ll need to approach the winter months with an enormous amount of stock made up. If your designs don’t sell, you’re out of a lot of time and money. There is no time for making adjustment to your business plan.
Sell at trade shows
Pros: You can make a year’s worth of sales in just a few days. Trade shows are packed with buyers and orders are usually large.
Cons: Trade shows cost a fortune to participate in. There are table fees, transportation costs, hotel rentals and more. Plus, you need to produce more product than the average home craftsman could possibly manage.
Sell at craft malls
Pros: The advantage of a craft mall is that you have complete control over the price, selection and set up of your crafts.
Cons: Sales at craft malls can be slow. Many sellers barely make back the cost of their rent.
Sell from your home
Pros: Even after the cost of advertising, selling from your home can be one of the most cost effective ways of marketing a product. This is especially true for those products (like custom clothing) that can’t easily be sold online.
Cons: Unless you’re willing to turn away business, you’re on calling at least 12 hours a day. That’s 12 hours a day of high heels, well behaved children and a spotless house. In addition, you’ll need to have a product that is not readily available in retail stores.
Pros: Selling your product through free classes is a tried and true business model. People are much more likely to purchase your item once they feel an affinity with you.
Cons: The only products that sell successfully through this method are craft supplies and equipment. That means handcrafted weaving looms will sell, finished woven scarves will not.
Online Ways to Market Crafts
Sell through Etsy
Pros: Low start up costs and plenty of online support are very appealing.
Cons: There is tons of competition on Etsy. Your product needs to be very special to stand out from the crowd.
Sell through Ebay
Pros: No waiting around for months for your product to be sold. You’ll know within a week what the fate of your merchandise is.
Cons: Because the buyers on Ebay are looking for a bargain, not every product can be sold at online auction. Products need to be either very special, very inexpensive or hard to find elsewhere.
Sell through your own website
Pros: You have complete control over every aspect of the sales process.
Cons: Setting up a website and driving customers in to see your product is extremely time consuming.
Sell through Amazon
Pros: Many categories of handmade products do quite well through Amazon. Sellers can often get reasonable prices. Not as much competition as Etsy.
Cons: Amazon isn’t nearly as easy to get started with as Etsy. Fees are much higher than on Etsy.
Sell through CafePress
Pros: Easy to use. CafePress will use your designs to create the products, take care of shipping and deliver payment right to you.
Cons: CafePress charges a steep percentage for their great service, so your price to the customer will need to be high.
Sell through online stores (other than Etsy)
Pros: If Etsy doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other online stores. If your product and price is well thought out, at least one is bound to be successful.
Cons: Etsy has the highest traffic of all the online stores. Sales at other venues may be slower than at Etsy. Other online stores may not offer the support or the finely honed business procedures that Etsy has developed.
Be sure to match the sales method to the product. For instance, fine art will never sell well at a flea market, but I have seen sellers of inexpensive (and quick to make) dangle earrings do a vigorous business.
Never underestimate the importance of a lovely display. Whether selling online or offline, your customers need to see a display that make them desperate to own your product.
Reasonable prices are important, but never sell yourself short. If you’re unable to make a decent profit on your product, figure out how to add additional perceived value or change marketing tactics. For instance, when I was selling greeting cards in museum shops, I placed a small information sheet detailing how each card was made, in a clearly visible location.
Be sure to calculate the time and cost of making sales into your pricing formula. When I first started selling hats from home, I didn’t include the time cost of dealing with customers. This was a big mistake and caused me to make less per hour than I had initially hoped for.
- The Handmade Marketplace
- How to Show & Sell Your Crafts
- How to Sell Your Crafts Online
- Grow Your Handmade Business
The links listed above are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase using one of these links I will earn a few cents profit. The price of the books remains the same; it is not increased to account for my earnings.