Have you ever said to yourself that you wish you could go back and live five or ten years ago with the knowledge you have now?
Well, what if I told you, you CAN.
So you love making awesome things, with your hands. And you’ve probably also told yourself how great it would be to make money doing just that. We all have!
But you don’t know how to even start going about it. Turning your crafty passion into a career is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Don’t make things any harder for yourself than they have to be. If you’re looking to start a handmade/online business, there’s one thing you should know before all else…
You are not alone.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from speaking with online sellers, it’s that everyone pretty much has the same struggles. Anything you are experiencing right now, or will experience starting an online business has probably been dealt with by someone else. And there is a huge community by the sellers, for the sellers where these experiences are shared.
All details aside, community is the common thread between online sellers. They all crochet with different yarn, but they come together to make one fantastic scarf.
So if you’re looking to contribute to the community scarf and get into the online selling world, I’ll introduce you to some awesome members, straight out of MadeFreshly. I asked them 7 big questions for some firsthand insight into this community, and you’ve got an invitation to listen in on their answers…
They’re dishing out years of wisdom they learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.
Q&A with the Freshest of the Fresh
1. What inspired you to start your own business as opposed to working for one?
I always knew I wanted to be my own boss when I was young. I was never the type to conform to rules, and I promised myself that someday I would make my own rules by designing my own brand. ~Jodie
I worked for really expensive brands that sold in places like Barneys and I always thought to myself, there’s a lot of people like me who appreciate fashion but can never really afford $700 coats. So we started the brand 2 years ago and the whole point was to have a progressive collection and contemporary aesthetic, but also have it really affordable. ~Brian
2. What’s the most rewarding part of being an online seller?
We got a bit of a head start that other stores may not have. Since we started online, I already started with a little bit of a following, but there are many businesses out there that are just starting off (brick and mortars) who don’t have an online store. It’s crucial as a business to be online because that’s the first place people will look for you. ~Shella
The most rewarding thing about selling online is having the freedom to work on my own time. I don’t actually have to be present on the computer 8 hours a day. I could be drawing up new designs at a local park, getting inspiration at a flea market, or grabbing a coffee and networking while at the same time answering customers’ questions via email on my phone. ~Jodie
When I get an email from a customer who says they love my products and my selection. That my products are unique. Like nothing they have found before. That makes me smile from ear to ear! ~Kitty
3. What is your biggest tip for online selling?
My biggest tip for online selling is definitely taking advantage of social media. I find that a lot of my sales come from posts on Instagram and Facebook. Connecting with followers on social media and developing those relationships really help them see that you care. You’re nothing without your customers, so show them some love! ~Jodie
Asking the right people for advice. We have a community of local business owners that get together once a month. We just went and introduced ourselves to local businesses and realized that we could probably help each other. The SBDC gives out free info and has people that work with you, from helping you get your business license all the way to setting up your website and SEO.
Also, do your research as far as how you’re going to be seen in a sea of other stores in the web. Go to flea markets and meet the right people to help you tap into the right market. The more engagement you have online and the more times your website is mentioned, the better your ranking. Try to collaborate with other people in the social media industry, like bloggers that can promote you. We found the right person and from there, the customers found us. ~Shella
4. What’s been your biggest struggle with online selling? How did you overcome it?
My biggest struggle is reaching out to more potential customers. My business is less than a year old, so I’m still in the baby stages of making a name for myself. Everyone always asks why I don’t have my products on platforms that come with a community of shoppers and sellers (ie. Etsy). I love that I started from scratch and I have my own domain and own website. It’s more professional and shows people that I’m not doing this as a side gig to get extra cash. I’m doing this for the long run because I’m very serious about what I’m doing. It’s tough getting new customers to the site, but it’s a challenge that will definitely help me grow and will be well worth it in the end. I’m still overcoming it, but I think so far I’ve done a pretty good job with networking with influencers, using social media, and spreading it as much as I can by word of mouth. ~Jodie
Being patient. It took me about a year to become established with my own site. Find a good, reputable SEO company that will focus on your specific brand’s needs. I am an artist/salesperson and I knew nothing about SEO 2 years ago. Learn and research as much as you can about it. This is where a good chunk of your advertising budget should go. ~Kitty
5. What’s something you wish you had known about before starting out?
Protecting myself as a business and the brands that I carry. It would be smart to work with your sales rep to ask for exclusivity or proximity, because as a boutique owner you want to set yourself apart from everyone else. ~Shella
Having to wear many hats. Learning a little about SEO, HTML, Photography, Marketing, etc. You really need to research and learn as much as you can about all of the many aspects of the online retail world which is always changing. ~Kitty
Doing the numbers and the paperwork. It always helps to know that kind of stuff ahead of time. Merchant id, tags, authorizing on the net… you won’t understand that before you jump right into it, but you can easily look it up, all the information is online, you just really gotta spend some time doing it. ~Brian
6. When times get tough and the business end of things gets frustrating, how do you keep the passion alive?
I do something new on my site. Play with the pictures, ask some of the incredibly talented jewelry designers out there for suggestions, take a breath and play with my laugh with my husband, kids and Stinky Dogs! 🙂 ~Kitty
The frustration comes from wanting to do well. You have to start of small, and I have to remind myself that it takes time, patience, and a lot of hard work and dedication. I just remind myself that if I just keep working at what I believe in and what my passion is, then it’s going to pay off. And I also confide in my colleagues or my friends. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else that you’re doing fine, and that’s what they are for. ~Shella
Did you get all that?
Dang. that was a lot of seller wisdom thrown at you. But don’t be overwhelmed! If you’ve searched around the seller forums and blogs you already know how easy it is to suffer from information overload, but the trick is filtering through the insane amount of information to find the real gold.
Here’s the best nuggets from Jodie, Brian, Shella, and Kitty:
Perks of starting your own online business:
• You’re the man! You get to call the shots and be your own boss.
• Things get personal. You can connect with customers on a level that giant conglomerates don’t get to.
• You get direct feedback from customer interactions.
• An online presence is crucial for any type of business (handmade, brick and mortar, all of the above!)
Things to keep in mind BEFORE starting your business:
• The online selling world is constantly changing, be ready to hit the books to stay up on trends.
• It’s no walk in the park, piece of cake, (or pie for that matter).Times get tough… if you don’t have patience, you better go get some.
• You will have to work really hard… which makes the success that much sweeter.
Wisdom comin’ at ya:
• Use social media to engage and interact with customers, and build relationships with influencers.
• Find likeminded businesses/influencers to work with to promote yourself.
• Don’t lose sight of why you got started in the first place.
• Open up to colleagues, family, friends…you’re not alone, remember!
• Protect your brand/business to stay unique in your industry.
• Provide something of value… something unique.
• Above all else… social media + customer service = #1!
Starting and running your own online store is no easy task, don’t get me wrong. But the good news is, the community of other sellers out there have tons of knowledge and support to offer you.
Hopefully through all this you have a better idea of what it takes to be an online seller, how great it can be, and have a new-found resolve to get out there and launch your idea.
Once you have a good grasp on what you want to sell and your target market, you need to create your own online store! Find an ecommerce platform that works for you, take some crisp product photos, and get your products out there online.
Your handmade crafts already bring you happiness, why not share that with everyone else?
What is your biggest question about selling online? Let us know in the comments!
Connect with Rachel of MadeFreshly
Rachel is the resident content fairy over at MadeFreshly. Helpful and inspirational advice for eCommerce is her specialty there, but when she’s not busy writing, you will probably find her at a track meet or adventuring around California with her Canon T2i. Follow her on Twitter.