Tips for selling online

This article has been provided by Handmade Harbour a new blog for the handmade community with interviews, tips, printables and more.

Top ten tips for selling online

Most small businesses aim to sell online nowadays.  It's a good way to create flexibility in your business for yourself (by working the hours that suit you) and your family (by working around the kids) as well as potentially selling to a worldwide audience.  For most craft sellers, it can work really well.

However, many people set up a website (which is quite an undertaking in itself!) and then . . . nobody turns up!  Why?

Well, there's much more to it than "just" setting up a website.  If you've set up a website, or a shop on Etsy or Folksy, consider these ten top tips for increasing your online sales:

1.  Check your site is easy to navigate and that your shopping cart is working properly.  If you haven't got a shopping cart, get one as it makes it much easier for people to buy from you.  PayPal is really easy to set up, with no upfront fees.  The buttons can be customised so your customers can enter personalisation details such as names and colours.  Test your site out as if you were a customer or ask on a forum like UK Crafts Forum for reviews.

2. You product images must be the best you can make them.  A decent point-and-shoot camera is useful (keen photographers will probably want to upgrade).  Use the macro setting for close-ups, use natural daylight without a flash and make sure you crop and edit your photos, you may want to make the image brighter, or change the colour slightly. Try lots of different angles, experiment, take several shots and use the best.  Use a plain background – preferably white - and don't clutter your shots if you're using lifestyle shots or props.  Your product needs to be the star!

1st Unique Gifts - Wendy Massey

Photograph against a plain white background
clock available here

Use social media to get your name "out there".  Don't post link after link (you won't generate much interest that way and might even put people off) but get involved in conversations.  You don't need to use all the social media available (you'd never get anything else done!) but consider using Twitter and Facebook.  The key is in the name, of course - it's called social media for a reason, so interact with others and try to post things that might interest your followers.

4.  Start a blog - and update your blog regularly.  There are some pointers for getting search engine visitors to your website via your blog on this post.  Your blog can help you get found in search engines, as well as being a showcase for your new work, a social platform and your place to tell the world the story of you and your business.  I'm a big fan of blogging and I can tell you from experience it can help sales.

Blogging to promote your business

Promote your website at any events you do, such as craft fairs, wedding shows, school fairs, etc.  Talk to customers as they browse and tell them they can buy your products online. You may find some of them become customers – even regular customers - at a later date.

6.  Use every opportunity you can to spread the word about your website and always have business cards with you.  Tuck a few in your purse or even make yourself a keyring card holder to house them!  You want to be able to whip one out at the drop of a hat!  Consider having product photos printed onto the reverse of business cards or on postcards as you can then use them like a mini product catalogue which you can show off to interested people.  Look at Moo - you can have a different image printed on the back of every card.

Business cards from Moo

Keep checking that your range of products is fresh and current.  Add new things on a regular basis and take off anything that really doesn’t sell.  If things are going slowly in general, you might want to do some market research into what's selling for other people.  You can do searches on Etsy and Folksy for items to yours and look what type of products people seem to be buying.  You can also find out a lot by reading blogs and forums. Don't ever copy someone else's design, but you can get a strong feel for the type of thing that works.

8. Get your products in magazines!  Start with specialist or niche magazines because they're more likely to use you and you’ll find them a gentler introduction to how popular your products could be (the bigger magazines sometimes produce a level of interest that can be hard to keep up with for a small craft business).  Have a good look at each magazine before submitting and see where your products might fit – maybe on their shopping page or "what's new" page.  Email the relevant editor or features editor with your image and description. Think sewing, craft, cat, dog, wedding, car and even caravan magazines - but make it relevant and think about the time of year it might be published, remembering that most magazines plan their content a few months in advance of publication.

Getting featured in magazines

  Provide excellent customer service and you'll get repeat customers.  Post out your items as promptly as possible (We all know anything handmade to order can take time, but make sure your customer knows exactly what to expect - in most cases you should aim to exceed their expectation); wrap items well; respond to any communication as quickly and efficiently as you can; say sorry and make things right if you make a mistake.  If there is any way you can go the extra mile, then do so - it will usually impress.

10. Be persistent.  A successful website won’t happen overnight.  Keep on doing what you're doing (and do it well) and you will see results.  Apart from magazine coverage (which can occasionally be a huge short-term boost and often results in a longer-term boost too), doing all the above should ensure you see a gradual but steady increase in visitors and sales.

I wish you the best of luck with your website.  Selling your own handmade goodies online can be really rewarding, and working at home certainly makes for a quick, pleasant and easy commute!Written by Wendy Massey from Handmade Harbour.