Welcome to Craft Venture! Last week, we started laying the foundation for your handmade business. This week, we’ll talk about the types of websites that you will use to show your wares.
You may be considering opening up shop for numerous reasons, and I’m confident that at least one of those reasons is related to money. Maybe you need additional income to pay your way through school or to feed your family. Perhaps this is your sole source of income. You might be building your business from the ground up, with plans for future expansion or in preparation for early retirement (your “retirement career”). or you may have stumbled on one of the innumerable online venues for handmade creations and thought, “How hard can that be?”
Visiting even a few of these online venues may be overwhelming. Which website is best for you? Which sites are reputable? How much work do they entail? Are you looking for a marketplace or an exhibition? And what the heck is the difference?
Not all websites are created equal. Some sites are juried; others are not. Some are only for handmade goods; others also accept vintage and supplies. Some are brand new and not widely known yet; others are more established. Today’s column won’t realistically cover every single thing you need to know about marketplaces and exhibitions, but we will cover a couple of basics meant to help you understand the difference.
I sell my handmade creations online at Etsy (a marketplace!). Ive participated in online exhibitions and gift guides, including Paper N Stitch. I advertise on blogs. I link every online presence back to my Etsy shop. When I was brand new to online selling, I didn’t fully understand the difference between a marketplace and an exhibition, and the timing for each.
So which comes first: the marketplace/ecommerce site or the exhibition sites and advertising?
Answer: the marketplace/ecommerce site! If you dont have a website from which to sell your wares or services, you wont be able to participate in the exhibition venues. Think of exhibition sites and gift guides as marketing your website.
Most exhibition sites are “juried,” meaning you apply for acceptance to the site. You will submit photos of your goods and your shops web address, the site administrators will review your application and notify you about acceptance. If accepted, you will likely pay a participation fee, which helps defray the exhibition sites expenses. (The exhibition site administrator(s) spend significant energy, time and other resources promoting the site, including your goods!) These sites are a great way to obtain, maintain or increase exposure to your shop and wares.
Juried sites do not accept all applicants. Increasing your chances for acceptance is crucial! The very first thing you need is an online shop or website, so lets talk about online marketplaces.
Online marketplaces are plentiful! Some sites are juried. Some charge an upfront or a monthly fee, others a percentage of your sales. Before you take the plunge with a new marketplace, do some research! Check out the community or forum sections. Read the About and FAQ pages. Google the site. Talk with sellers! Join as a buyer and then buy something – how easy or difficult was the process?
Be sure that your style is consistent with the marketplaces style. Im not suggesting that you change your style to fit a marketplace; instead, find sites that are a natural fit for your own particular style! Upcycled, recycled, organic, eco-friendly goods are a great fit for Cosa Verde: “a new marketplace connecting independent and emerging artists with environmentally-conscious consumers.” Watch Etsys front page for several days for a good sense of the site administrators aesthetic. Handmade marketplaces are hot right now ““ there seems to be a new one every day. Do your research before joining a site that you might later regret.
After you finish your research, set up your shop on just one site, rather than multiple sites. Setting up a new shop, takes significant time and energy! Learn from your experience with the first shop, which will make setting up subsequent shops easier (we’ll discuss multiple venues in a future column!).
Setting up shop is just the beginning. Acceptance into a juried exhibition site, requires not just good, but great photos! You also want clear and well written descriptions. Include dimensions, using inches and the metric system ““ many of your buyers use the metric system! (Heres a great conversion link: http://www.worldwidemetric.com/metcal.htm) Well talk about photos and descriptions next week.
Remember, you need a site, your own website or an online marketplace, from which to sell your wares. You will link your online exhibition site and gift guide listings, as well as banner ads, to your website. So, your website comes first, then the marketing and other promotional activities to support your business.
Next week: photography, descriptions, policies “¦