We live in a strange, depersonalized era. We’ve coupled the radically accelerated robotization of manufacturing with the encroaching virtuality of everyday life (think telecommuting and Zoom cocktails).
It’s no wonder that consumers tend to feel like something is missing these days: the touch of the human hand.
Computers and AI have made production faster, cheaper, and less error-prone than ever before. Still, multiple studies have found that consumers now long for products made by an actual person—and not an invisible laborer working for some faceless, giant corporation, but an artisan, a maker, a crafter.
In other words, they dream of returning to a time when people made things with their hands because they loved to, and so put love and care into every product that they made.
Enter the Crafting Revolution
Since the late 1990s, an informal and loosely knit (yet mighty in its own way) network of individuals, practices, and spaces (both virtual and real) has materialized across America and other Western nations. It’s a network branded by the terms “crafting,” “handmade,” “do-it-yourself,” and “making.”
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you, too, are part of this new “handmade nation” and are wondering how you can join the legions of other makers monetizing their practice by selling their handmade items online.
To find out, let’s take a closer look at why there’s such a demand for handmade items, where makers can sell them, and how to maximize those sales.
Why Have Crafts and Handmade Items Become so Popular?
Consumers tend to associate handmade goods and crafts with the following qualities and ideals:
- Unique, personal, creative, and innovative—the opposite of the homogenous, “cookie-cutter” items produced by mega-corporations
- Giving back to the community
- Fair labor practices
- Friendly to the environment
Let’s take a closer look at some of these concepts.
Crafts bring back the personal
Some call it “craftivism,” some call it “indie crafting,” others still call it the “handmade nation.” But no matter what you call it, makers are tapping into a powerful desire for the handmade. Crafting fights “to bring back the personal into our daily lives to replace some of the mass-produced,” says crafter, author, and academic Betsy Greer.
Handmade goods create and nourish the community
Consumers perceive that, by buying a handmade item, they’re supporting the maker and the community.
As the website of Handmade Detroit declares: “We believe in the unique value of handmade goods, the act of creation and good old community building. We believe that anyone in Detroit who hems a pair of pants, knits a gift for a friend, or sells their handmade goods is helping to redefine sustainability, consumerism, and the future of our city.”
Handmade crafts are made with love
In the 2015 paper “The Handmade Effect,” first published in the Journal of Marketing, researchers Fuchs, Schreier, and Van Osselaer asked 114 participants to write down their thoughts and feelings about crafts and handmade goods. “Love” was the most prevalent theme that emerged out of the study, with respondents offering musings such as, “Handmade products are…built with care and love,” and “There is something else in that product…It is love.”
In the words of the famous toy- and dollmaker Käthe Kruse, who sells her handmade goods worldwide, “The hand follows the heart. Only the hand can make what goes back through the hand to the heart.”
Crafts and Handmade Items Correlate to a Higher Willingness-to-pay
It logically follows that, due to these perceived intangible values, the purchasers of handmade crafts are willing to pay more for them.
That “Handmade Effect” study, for instance, found that, on average, consumers were willing to pay 17% more for a soap that was advertised as “handmade” than a soap whose advertising did not mention how it was made.
And what’s more, that willingness-to-pay (WTP) exponentially increased for motivated buyers who were already in the market for the focal item before they found out it was handmade. And that WTP keeps going up if customers are looking to buy a gift.
These results were reproduced in a 2018 study by Church and Oakely, “Etsy and the long-tail” (published in Electronic Commerce Research), which found that handmade goods could sell on average for 78% more than their mass-produced counterparts.
They based their research on a survey of a sample of virtual shops on the e-commerce platform Etsy.
What’s the Best Way to Sell Handmade Crafts?
So let’s say you’ve long been doing what you love. Perhaps that’s making baby sweaters in your local knitting group, hand-dipping candles with personalized scents, hand-carving furniture out of reclaimed wood, or what-have-you.
How can you most effectively get your goods in front of those motivated buyers with such a high WTP and attract their attention?
There are two simple pathways, which, of course, are not mutually exclusive.
The Traditional Route: Selling in-person
The traditional way to sell your crafts and handmade items, naturally, is in person, such as by:
- Setting up your own storefront
- Selling by consignment at someone else’s store
- Renting a table or booth at a fair or festival
Pros of selling IRL:
- Get to meet your customer base, thus building community and brand loyalty
- Especially if you’re not setting up your own storefront, you don’t need to have any particular business or technological experience or acumen
- Chances are, if you’re making unique handmade crafts, you’re not going to find very much local competition for your exact product
Cons of selling IRL:
- Loss of income from selling on consignment
- High overhead if running your own storefront, which eats into profits
- Relatively small customer base
Selling 2.0: Sell Your Homemade Crafts Online
Over the past two decades, the web has rapidly become the most prosperous retail landscape. If you want to sell handmade items online, that can entail things like:
- Setting up your own website/virtual storefront
- Selling via social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Selling on a third-party e-commerce platform, like Etsy.com or Handmade by Amazon
Pros of selling handmade items online:
- Much lower overhead than selling in-person
- Higher profit margins than selling on consignment in a brick-and-mortar shop
- More flexibility in terms of workhours
- Vast customer pool—you can reach buyers from all over the world, 24/7, who would never have otherwise encountered your product
- You’re able to swiftly and nimbly react to market fluctuations by dynamically changing prices
Cons of selling handmade items online:
- Facilitating the shipping of items to locations all over the world can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and expensive
- There’s a learning curve in acquiring the skills to run and maintain a website, social media account, etc.
- A vast amount of competition—no one else in your town might be crafting handmade wooden animal puzzles, but move your business online, and your items will suddenly be up against dozens of very similar ones at a variety of price points
- Thanks to dominant e-marketplaces like Amazon, online consumers are accustomed to bargain prices and perks like free shipping
- Due to competition and the relative anonymity of the shopping experience, it can be more challenging to get to know your customers and build brand loyalty
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to choose! Many purveyors of crafts and other handmade items sell their wares in-person and online. And online, they almost always are selling on multiple channels.
Top Three Websites to Sell Crafts
So far, we’ve looked at the rising demand for handmade crafts and the two main ways to sell those handmade items. Since online selling is an essential component to any retail strategy in this day and age, now let’s drill down into the best places to sell crafts online.
Here’s our ranking of the three best websites for online craft sellers, along with the pros and cons of each:
Since its founding in 2005, Etsy has swiftly blossomed into something like the holy mecca for crafters. It provides a robust platform through which online craft sellers can offer their items and connect with buyers. Further, it’s home to a millions-strong community of like-minded makers and indie DIYers.
Pros of selling crafts online on Etsy:
Name recognition and visibility
Etsy has the same kind of name recognition that a site like Amazon does—and with more positive connotations.
It’s often the first stop for buyers in search of anything homemade or DIY. Even when you’re offline, noting in your marketing materials and so forth that you have an Etsy shop lends an air of legitimacy to your enterprise.
A bevy of highly motivated buyers
46.4 million people shopped on Etsy last year, according to the company’s most recent annual report—numbers that a brick-and-mortar store could never even dream of reaching.
And these aren’t just any buyers—unlike shoppers on more generic retail sites, Etsy users tend to be highly motivated to make a purchase, as opposed to just idly “window shopping” on their phones.
Multiple tiers of support
Etsy offers many tools to help sellers optimize their online storefronts and even manage inventory and bookkeeping. The site also provides mediation between vendors and customers should a dispute arise. Furthermore, Etsy forums and affiliated blogs are great spaces for sellers to connect, share tips, pose questions, and offer advice.
Cons of selling crafts online on Etsy:
Remember how we just said that 46.6 million people shopped on Etsy last year? Well, now let’s see how many stores they were shopping at: about 2.7 million sellers were active on Etsy last year, according to that same annual report.
With so many vendors (many of whom are offering similar and related products) vying for the internet user’s attention, rivalry can become intense, making 5-star reviews, strategic pricing, and a picture-perfect online presence all paramount for success (more about this in a little bit.)
Order fulfillment is all on you
Remember, Etsy is just a site where vendors can connect with buyers. Unlike Amazon, Etsy has no warehouses or delivery services of its own.
Online craft sellers are wholly responsible for fulfilling orders on their own—a task that has grown exponentially more challenging now that buyers have grown accustomed to free and fast shipping.
If you choose to sell on Etsy, you may want to consider software tools to support your order fulfillment.
Solutions like SkuVault’s Warehouse Management System, for instance, has a hyper picking feature that radically reduces human error and increases picking speeds. Further, the quality control feature helps you avoid mistakes like mis-picks and damaged items.
What it Costs to Sell Crafts Online on Etsy
There’s no monthly or annual subscription or sign-up fee to sell on Etsy. Instead, the company charges the following fees per listing and per sale:
- Etsy charges online crafts sellers 20 cents per listing, each of which stays up for a 4-month period
- Etsy charges a 5% transaction fee and 3% + 25-cent payment processing fee for each sale
- Etsy charges a 15% fee on any sale made from one of the company’s offsite ads
Founded in 2008 in the heart of Arizona’s Tucson Arts District, ArtFire is one of the most popular Etsy alternatives.
The site architecture is similar in terms of connecting buyers with virtual storefronts, as is the company ethos. ArtFire offers a similar sense of community and support to participating makers.
Its marketplace functions at a much smaller scale than Etsy’s, though some online craft sellers may actually prefer this.
Pros of selling crafts online on ArtFire:
- Smaller marketplace means gentler competition among sellers
- ArtFire doesn’t ran ads on your item pages or shop page
- Depending on your subscription plan, you can have up to 250 active listings for only 23 cents per item. The more you pay ArtFire per month, the more listings you get (and that per item fee goes away)
- ArtFire offers blogs and forums for support, and offers plenty of guidance for marketing and maintaining your online shop
Cons of selling crafts online on ArtFire:
- Smaller marketplace and less visibility means fewer customers
- It’s more expensive to sell on ArtFire than on Etsy, and listings stay up for a shorter period of time
- Less name recognition (and, hence, legitimacy) than sites like Etsy
What it costs to sell crafts online on ArtFire:
ArtFire offers three different subscription plans:
- For $4.95 a month, you can have up to 250 active listings, each of which comes with a 23-cent-per-item listing fee. There is also a 12.75% final valuation fee per sale. Listings are active for two months.
- For $20 a month, you can have up to 1,000 active listings, and the per-item listing fee is eliminated. The final valuation fee drops to 4.5% per sale.
- For $40 a month, you get up to 2,500 active listings. The final valuation fee stays at 4.5%.
Amazon launched its Handmade site in October 2015 (likely due to the encroaching threat of rival Etsy), to create a sequestered retail space only for artisans making handmade items—no mass producers or big brands here.
But here’s the thing about Amazon: the mere mention of this world-dominating corporation often alienates the audience for handmade items and crafts, who prefer to eschew big business in favor of supporting local artisans.
On the other hand, no ecommerce platform has the resources and outreach that Amazon has. That means if you lose some buyers by affiliating with Amazon, there’s a good chance there will be plenty of others ready to step up and replace them.
Pros of selling crafts online on Amazon Handmade:
- It’s Amazon. Enough said, pretty much: no other internet marketplace can open the door to as many potential sales as Amazon can
- Gain visibility, name recognition, and trustworthiness by affiliating with the Amazon brand
- Amazon waves its monthly seller fee for artisans selling on Handmade
- Amazon can help you fulfill your orders, if you so choose. (And if you do, look into tools like SkuVault’s Amazon FBA Inventory Management software, which integrates with Amazon’s fulfillment system, in order to make the process even easier and error-free.)
Cons of selling crafts online on Amazon Handmade:
- Artisans have to undergo an application process and be invited by Amazon to sell on Handmade—not everyone can make the cut.
- Competition, as is to be expected in an Amazon space, is fierce.
- Even though it waves the selling fee, Amazon takes a higher commission on sales than other sites for selling crafts and handmade items.
What it costs to sell crafts online on Amazon Handmade:
There is no subscription service, but Handmade takes a 15% “referral fee” on every sale.
The Runners-up: Ten Other Places Where You Can Sell Crafts Online
The above sites are our top three favoriutes for selling handmade items online, but there are plenty of other reputable sites out there to consider. (Remember, as we mentioned above, you’re most likely going to want to sell across multiple channels to maximize sales).
- Shop Handmade
- Hyena Cart
- You Can Make This
- GLC Craft Mall
How to Sell Crafts Online
Now that we’ve seen the best places to sell crafts online and the pros and cons of each, let’s talk about the best way to sell handmade crafts.
These practical strategies will help all online craft sellers stay organized, attract customers, and efficiently fulfill orders across all the channels they choose to sell on.
Here are the top 5 tips for maximizing your internet craft sales:
1. Hone a unique identity and keep it cohesive
To attract the attention of customers online, you need to make it abundantly clear who you are, what you’re doing, and why they need your product.
Those three “w’s” constitute your identity, and you need to keep that identity easy to understand, succinct, bold, and cohesive.
That means not trying to offer a million things to a million different users, but keeping your focus on one main message.
Here are the three questions you should be asking yourself as you try to determine your identity as an online handmade craft seller:
- What’s the one thing that you do best?
- Do you have something specific to offer that fills a need that other makers aren’t already addressing?
- If you had to boil down your practice into one sentence, what would that sentence be—what message do you want your customers to remember?
2. Create a distinct brand and never stop building it
Now that you’ve determined your identity, it’s time to build your brand around it. Brand-building encompasses:
- Creating a consistent visual identity for all materials (from marketing to packaging) that customers will immediately identify and associate with you
- Keeping all your messaging consistent with your identity, especially the item “headlines” and descriptions that you post with your listings
- Taking excellent, high-quality photos of your items that convey your brand’s professionalism
- Allying your customer service (from answering questions to facilitating your returns) with your identity as a brand
3. Manage your inventory well from the very beginning
One of the biggest mistakes made by online craft sellers who are new to the game is neglecting to develop an inventory management system. This is critical to organize their materials and products before they even start selling.
Trust us, the longer you wait to get a solid foundation of inventory management in place, the more of a headache it will be later on in your ecommerce journey.
An efficient and scalable inventory management system is the key to keeping your production on track, your orders fulfilled in a timely and error-proof manner, and your production costs low.
Here are five basic guidelines to getting started in effectively managing your inventory:
- Implement a system before you start selling, even if it’s just a simple Excel spreadsheet to get started
- Develop an organizational system for your workplace and storage area
- Keep your material and product levels in line with customer demand
- Implement an easy SKU system
- Explore software tools like SkuVault’s Ecommerce Inventory Management system, which automates several tasks and also provides highly accurate forecasting, which in turn lets you make smarter inventory decisions
- Price thoughtfully and price dynamically.
There is a veritable profusion of theories, formulas, and myths out there about how to set retail prices.
Here’s a rundown of some simple and easy-to-use pricing methods to get you started, but it’s worth it to do some further research in this area. Especially as you scale up your operations, which includes, of course, keeping tabs on what your competitors are doing.
Here are the three most important basic retail price formulas:
- Retail Price = Cost of Goods + Markup
- Markup = Retail Price – Cost of Goods
- Cost of Goods = Retail Price – Markup
But remember: in the e-marketplace, dynamic pricing is essential—companies like Amazon may change the prices on an item up to several times a day!
A study by Marn and Rosiello found that retailers who frequently adjusted their prices (even by as little as 2–3%) could see a jump in operating profits by as much as 35%.
So don’t plug numbers into the above formulas and just rest on your laurels. Employing techniques like flash sales, seasonal discounts, repeat-customer coupons, and the like can keep your buyers coming back for more.
4. Get on social media and engage with your audience
In our Web 2.0 (probably 3.0 by this point) age, it’s simply not going to be enough just to hang out your virtual shingle, so to speak, and list your items on one of the sites listed above. You need to engage your buyers in order to get them invested in and loyal to your brand.
To do so, get a business account on all the major social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and post unique content on each channel. Give your audience “behind-the-scenes” footage of how you make your goods, poll them on the kinds of items they’d like to see you make, announce your flash sales—anything to peak user curiosity and get them to want more.
You may also want to consider starting a blog. Even if you don’t have your own store website, you can easily create a WordPress blog that links to your social media.
5. The key to successfully selling handmade items and crafts online: Ask for help
We’ve gone over quite a bit of information pertaining to selling handmade crafts online: from the top e-commerce websites to sell on, to the guiding principles you should keep in mind in order to maximize sales.
And we know it can all seem overwhelming, especially at the beginning—which is one reason why it’s crucial to avail yourself of all the help you can when setting up and running your online craft business.
Technological solutions like those offered by SkuVault often prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle. From managing suppliers and purchase orders, to barcoding and cycle counting, to fulfilling orders across multiple platforms, these software tools minimize the risk of human error while maximizing efficiency, accuracy, and quality.
Now that you’ve got a handle on the basic nuts and bolts of selling handmade items online, a helpful next step might be to do a little more research into these kinds of products to learn more about how they can help your crafting business.
We’d love to show you firsthand how SkuVault can help you transform your crafting side-hustle to a sustainable ecommerce operation. Reach out to our team for a live demo today.