If you are thinking about creating an online craft business, you will have to consider the work involved, the decisions that you will need to make before you start, and the ongoing needs of your business. There are several options available for setting up an online craft business.
Social Media Tools
You can readily create an online profile through social media tools such as:
These options have no costs associated with setup, but can have some fees for promotions. They provide an easy means of reaching a wide market and are an excellent option to test the marketplace and test the interest in your products. Facebook allows easy posting of new photos and product descriptions. Twitter is an excellent tool to promote sales, events and/or new products. LinkedIn is useful to promote yourself.
Marketplace shops offer the quickest and easiest way to get started selling online. You don’t need technical skills: they offer an easy, step-by-step process to create your online shop. The most common marketplace shops for crafts include:
- Etsy – etsy.ca and etsy.com
- eBay – ebay.ca and ebay.com
- Folksy – folksy.com
- Zazzle – zazzle.ca and zazzle.com
These options provide you with easy access to ready-made markets and are a cost-effective way to enter the world of online sales. These marketplaces usually charge a small commission on each sale and in some cases charge a small upload fee for photographs or registration. Shipping charges must be kept in mind when pricing, or must be noted as being in addition to the item cost. Payment is generally handled through the market shop and is then passed along to the seller, less the commission. It is important to remember that promotion of the marketplace shop will be required in order for your shop to receive attention and to make sales.
Your Own Website
Creating your own website involves more upfront work and normally will have some ongoing costs associated with it. There are local web development companies available for contract to do your website from start to finish, or you can chose to learn and complete your own site through an online website builder solution.
You can research and learn more about online website builder solutions by googling “online e-commerce website builders”. There is a wide range of online services available. These solutions offer a step by step process and makes it fairly easy for someone who has basic understanding of the components of a website. However, it must be recognized that this option may still seem a little overwhelming for someone totally new to the world of creating web pages and ecommerce sites.
A website built for you by a web development company will provide a greater degree of control over how your website looks and how it functions. You would work in conjunction with the developer to review and approve the site design during the development process. Once done, you would have the ability to add/remove as many products as you like, whenever you like, without additional charges. Many website development companies will provide ongoing support, to help you with your website when you need it.
A website built by a web development company will generally incur greater upfront costs than using an online website builder solution. Both options will have ongoing fees, on a monthly or annual basis.
Which to Choose?
Having your own website, as opposed to using marketplace shops, will provide more control over your business brand and can be an excellent marketing tool for your business. On the other hand, marketplace shops provide ready access to a “registered audience” of potential buyers. It takes time and effort to attract an audience to a new website.
Of course, these two options are not exclusive of each other. You could use marketplace shops and have your own website as well. You might sell your products through the marketplace shop, and use your website to build your brand and identity — with in-depth information about your crafts, the traditions that inspire them, your craft techniques, etc.
Running an Online Business
Some considerations before you start
Informal selling on Facebook to local people is fairly easy. Taking the next step to selling online nationally or internationally can be a big step. Producers wishing to sell online need to be ready for the changes this will make to their craft business. Running an online shop is very similar to running a real shop. Before selling outside of your home community, you should consider what you need to have in place:
- Pricing: Are your prices competitive and are you getting paid adequately for your work? Consider that online selling adds to your workload.
- Inventory: Consider what items you are selling online and how you present them. If you are selling one-of-a-kind work you need to keep your online shop updated as you sell.
- Photographs: You need the best photos possible of your work and multiple views of each item, or each type of item.
- Product Descriptions: You need accurate and attractive descriptions of each type of your work. This can be hard to do. Look at similar craft items online, and see how other sellers are describing them. If you have one-of-a-kind items make sure you explain the uniqueness of your products. If you are making traditional items, tell your customers about the traditional skills and materials that went into making them.
- Shipping Options: What is the real cost of shipping from Labrador to national or international customers? Do you have a flat rate per item? Do you offer free shipping and build it into the cost of the craft? Or do you have an individual cost for each parcel and contact the customer to let them know? You need to know the answer and to know how much work is involved before you set your prices. You also need to communicate how long shipping will take and that you are shipping from a remote, northern location. You will need to monitor the parcels you have shipped and communicate any possible delays to customers.
- Packaging: If you have several sizes of products, you need appropriate packaging for each in order to ship them. Packaging costs need to be considered in your pricing.
- Payment Options: PayPal? Credit Card? What are the costs to you? What is easiest for the customer?
- Customer Service: Customers expect a quick response to questions or problems. Make sure you check for emails or messages and respond as soon as possible.
- Tax Information: Be prepared – find out ahead of time what you need to know about the taxes you have to charge customers. When you sell on the internet, you are selling potentially to the world. The taxes you charge will differ according to the location of the buyer. You can check with your local office of the Dept. of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development for advice.
- Marketing Materials: Tell the customer about you and your products with hangtags and inserts. This way, you are promoting yourself every time you sell something to ensure repeat customers.
- Drive Traffic to Your Shop: Use social media to send potential customers to visit your shop, and work to get links to your website placed on other, related, websites.
- Reviews: Monitor reviews and respond to unfavourable ones with a positive message that corrects or clarifies the issue. If you are selling in an online marketplace, reviews are very important to letting customers know you have a quality product and quality service.