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Introduction to setting up your store

Mon May 19, 2014, 6:00 PM


Introduction to setting up your store


I have been there, deciding to sell your work is a scary decision. What do I do? How do I sell? How do I accept money? What do I do so that I don't lose money? What if no one buys my work? I went through every emotion and scary thought before I began. Three years after I opened my store I finally feel comfortable giving advice about it. This is a huge topic and I could write tons of info about it, so I'll begin with this introduction and build up on future articles. I will also write a second article about taking commissions, wait for it later this week!

Last year I wrote some guidelines with some more information about selling your work online, please consider reading it too! This article will focus on setting up your store.

Disclaimer: I'm not the most successful online seller, and I don't intend to be - I'm pretty busy with my studies, and most of my business comes from custom commissions, not my shop. I included a lot of my personal experience, conversations with friends, and things I've noticed from watching other sellers. Still, I hope this will be helpful.

Build a reputation.

In the interwebs, no one can see you. You can't trust what you can't see, and people are going to be careful with their money. A big chunk of the people that ask me why they're not successful fail at this step, people are a lot more likely to buy things from artists they know and like.

I began making polymer clay art for fun, and posted it in DA for feedback (and to showoff :ashamed:). People came and looked at my work, commented, and I replied or gave tips. These same people came back to look at my future work, and after a while they began to ask me if I would sell it. I never planned to sell anything before, but I accepted because I considered them my friends, I posted what I sold on DA. People started to notice I was selling my work and asked for things of their own, and eventually I decided to open a store.

Tips:
  • Have a strong online presence. Fill your gallery with your work, post often, comment on other people's work, answer comments, write journals about your life (tastefully), etc. Make sure people know you're a person.
  • Make sure everything you do is of the best quality possible! You want to build a good reputation for selling quality work, not a bad one.
  • Don't expect people to come throwing money at you, it takes time to build a reputation.

    In A Galaxy Far Far Away by maytel

Know (and love) your work.

Before you even consider selling your work, know what you're doing and know your materials. Test everything for at least 6 months, polish your skills, try new techniques, make sure you are ready to start producing crafts for clients. Make sure that what you're doing will last for a long time, and it won't break, fade or tear after a few uses.

Also, make sure that you know what are the best traits of your work, and love them. Maybe your wire is perfectly wrapped without any dents or marks, or your amigurumi is posable and can stand on its own. It's okay to brag!! There's a lot of competition and you want to stand out, so know your strengths and highlight them. But don't lie or exaggerate, it can ruin your reputation.

I'm using my polymer clay work as an example again: my customers often have questions about how strong the material is, if it'll be heavy on earrings, if I can create certain shapes, if the colors will fade, or if it will get damaged with water or sweat. Anticipate any questions your clients can make, and know the answers.

Tip:
  • Your friends and family are great test groups! When I create something new, or when I use a new material, I give it away to them and ask them to try it for a few weeks. They tell me if it's comfortable to wear, if it breaks, what can I improve, etc.

LeGrandzillagurumi by Brookette


Set prices. And set them right.

Please, never never never never underprice your work. You're putting your time, heart and soul in every creation, so don't sell yourself cheap. I often see new and young artists underpricing their work, and it pains me. The logic is understandable: they believe that by setting cheap prices they'll be more likely to attract customers, but this is not always true. Buyers will often believe that cheap price=cheap product, so anything too cheap is dismissed as a bad product. This reputation will be difficult to shake it off once your business begins getting more serious.

So get your prices right from the beginning! Consider the cost of the materials (include the price for ordering them online, driving or taking a bus to get them), the time you spend working on every item, the tools and wear caused to them, fees from your credit card or Paypal, any resources you need (if you use an electric oven as part of your process, and you're paying the light bill yourself, you have to add it up to your final price), etc. Even if this is just your hobby, don't underprice yourself! If you don't respect yourself and your own work, no one will.

GrandmaThunderpants explains further why you should never undercharge, and gives you tips to set your prices. Check her article here!

Tae's Pendant by Aryiea

Know your options

So you got a reputation and a following interested in your work, you have practiced and you're sure that your product is worth selling, and you have a good idea of how much you need to charge to make a decent profit. Great work so far! Now you need a way to receive payments and some place to host your store.

The most popular options are using PayPal to receive and manage payments, and Etsy to host your store. These two options are trusted and well known by most people, but they're not the only options. I'm going to mention them briefly for know, and I'll work on a more intensive article later.

To receive payments
  • Paypal: Well known and trusted, most people already have an account. Read their rules and documentation to protect yourself as a seller, and set your account as "Business" or "Premier". Make sure that you understand their fees and check them often, as they like to raise them every once in a while. Paypal fee's are usually the highest, and there's many horror stories surrounding them.
  • Other online options: There's a lot of options to Paypal, their fees are usually lower but I have yet to meet anyone asking me to receive payments through them. WePay and Braintree are two of the largest, or you can even use Amazon. Google Checkout was a popular alternative to Paypal, but it was retired last year. If you decide to use Etsy, your clients can use their credit card to checkout securely, as if they were using Paypal.
  • Bank deposits: (May not work in every country) I accept bank deposits from people living in my same country because I don't have to pay any fees :) Check with your bank to find out how to do it! You may be able to accept deposits from other countries, but the fees are usually insane.


To host your store

  • Etsy: Etsy is sometimes a necessary evil. It's popular and it has a lot of traffic, so placing your work there gives you a better chance to be seen. Their fees are among the highest, they constantly make updates that make no sense, they will try to extract every penny from you and they don't offer any customization, but more than once I've seen people run back to Etsy after their sales drop. Just like Paypal, make sure to read their documentation to protect yourself as a seller and avoid scammers. Etsy will let you receive payments via Paypal, check, gift cards, and will let your clients pay directly with their credit card.
  • Storenvy: This is an interesting alternative to Etsy that is gaining popularity. Storenvy charges NO FEES at all and they allow you to fully customize your storefront, so you can easily blend Storenvy with your website. They set no ads, but they charge for additional functions (like advanced coupon codes). Storenvy will only let you receive payments via Paypal. I wish Storenvy was more popular since I really like their model, but so far I've only sold ONE item there :lol:
  • Artfire: Artfire used to be completely free like Storenvy, but later changed to charging $15 per month, no matter how much you sell. If your Etsy fees get unbearable, and for some reason Storenvy is not an option, you can consider Artfire. Personally, I dislike Artfire since I once tried to setup a store to try it, but their system kept crashing every time I tried to pay for my first month. I contacted their customer service and they were very unhelpful, and I have a policy against giving my money to people that won't help me give it to them XD
  • Other options: I know some people use Ebay successfully, it's huge and it has lots of traffic, but there's a lot of competition. Dawanda is popular with European crafters. You can also choose to use Paypal's checkout service and manage your own store in your blog or webpage, but it requires more time to setup.

Marshall Lee and Fionna Charms by GrandmaThunderpants

Never trust your portal service

Find out in advance how much it will cost to ship everything, you don't want to pay for shipping yourself! Most postal services have a webpage with prices, but I advice you to go and ask in person. The information can be outdated, inaccurate, or your lovely craft may be an exception.

Find out how they'll ask you to prepare your package, and decide what's the cheapest and best materials to use. Small and flat items can be shipped in bubble envelopes, but larger items will require boxes. Some postal services will ask you to use special boxes, others will let you use recycled boxes (raid the supermarket). None of them will let you use boxes that used to contain eggs, chicken, perishable items or alcohol. In Mexico, they even require us to wrap the box with a specific color of a specific paper :lol:

They may not let you ship anything that contains glass (I can't). They may require you to insurance jewelry or any expensive items, so consider it when you're setting your prices and shipping costs.  Ask often about changes, postal service offices don't work the same way the rest of the world does.

Tips

  • Practice! Send gifts to some friends in different countries or try a couple of art trades.  That way you'll know how long it takes for your packages to arrive to a different country, how much it was, how to prepare your package, and you'll know if anything broke or got damaged in transit from a friend, not an angry client.
  • Ask your friends and family to save bubble wrap or boxes for you. Everyone was more than happy to help me and I've never had to buy wrapping materials :) and you're recycling too!
  • If you're planning to sell for a long time, get a small scale to weight your products.

Princess Mononoke - Kodama Flask by Ganjamira

Decide your business model

There's several options for you to choose, or you can do a mix of everything. Think ahead of time how long it takes you to create an average item, how much time you have to spare from your other activities, how much interest there's in your work, if it's more efficient to craft on batches, etc.

  • Selling from a stock: You can make a stock, that way you'll be able to ship your sales immediately. It's a good choice if you have periods of time with few things to do followed by busy months. A great option for students with time to spare on vacations.
  • Selling on demand: List things in your store, and craft them once they sell.  This is a good option if you're not sure how well every item is going to sell, if you use expensive materials, or if you don't have the space to store a stock. If some items sell better than others, it may be a good idea to create a stock of them.
  • Selling as you craft: If every craft you create is unique, you can't sell them on demand or from a stock. You'll craft what your inspiration dictates you, take photos, and put it up in your store.
  • Selling on commission: Taking commissions is a whole different thing, and I'll cover that in my next article to be published this week.

Soot Sprite Rings by moofestgirl


Promotion

Even if people expressed interest in your work in the past, don't expect them to start throwing money at you immediately.  Be patient, most stores will take months (or even years) to pick up and get regular sales. Some ge reallyt popular really fast, but they're exceptional cases.

Please don't open your store and think that your work is done, it has just begun. There's a lot of competition online, and people are not going to randomly type your name and find you. You'll need to do a lot of work to promote your store: post updates and more samples of your work often, use social networks wisely, if you have the money you can even buy advertisement.

Post the link to your store in your submissions, profile, Facebook page, make your store easy to find! Some sellers often forget to use the keywords, they'll help potential clients find you. Do whatever you can to promote your store, and don't give up! Be patient.

Spring Fresh Fruit Tart by chat-noir


Conclusion

Opening a store is a very complex process, a lot more complex than I initially believed. If you think it's easy, I ask you to think it over and do more research. It's not as easy as trying a craft for a few months, realize that there's other artists selling it, open an Etsy account and believe that you'll be rich in no time. If you do that, you'll only be loosing money and time. It takes patience, lots of time, and hard work.

This article got really long really quick, and I believe I barely scratched the surface. I tried to cover the very basics without going too in depth. I have a lot more to say about every subject, and I'll try to write more articles in the future. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!




Add a Comment:
 
:icondawnnscuteboutique:
DawnnsCuteBoutique Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm having a hard time finding places because of a making a paypal account when I was 15 I can't have one unless I change my name and because ebay and paypal are the same I can't sell there. I don't sell enough to make artfire or shopify worth it & I misunderstood the selling rules of etsy and so can't sell there anymore. I'm F'ed with the only world it seems.
Reply
:iconrubyjulie:
RubyJulie Featured By Owner May 23, 2014
This is really helpful! Well written and full of good ideas Love 
The one reason I haven't started up a shop is that I don't get what all the sales tax/tax filing rules would be. Is that something I don't even need to worry about, or is it as complicated as it seems?
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 24, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Thanks! :love:

I explained the bit about taxes and laws in this other article: fav.me/d5v10kn :lol:
Reply
:iconember-eyes:
Ember-Eyes Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Very informative article here! I probably won't ever open an online store (just reading this article makes it seem terrifying!), but if I ever reached a skill level where I feasibly could, this is seriously a great resource to turn to. Lots of good advice. :clap:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 22, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Ouch I was afraid it would be discouraging :( I'm sorry it wasn't my intention!

I'm glad you still enjoyed it XD
Reply
:iconember-eyes:
Ember-Eyes Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No no no, it's not discouraging! :XD: It's honest and up-front about everything, which is good. I just meant that even before reading this article, I probably wasn't ever going to open a shop, 'cause I don't think I'll ever be disciplined and dedicated enough to upkeep it; not to mention, get to a point where I'd feel comfortable or confident in selling any of my stuff. That's all! :dummy:

Trust me, if somebody was thinking about opening a store, and were serious about it, I don't think this article would scare them away! It's chock full of good info and makes a lot of good points and is overall really helpful. It probably answers a lot of questions someone in that situation would have. So no need for apologies. :hug:
Reply
:iconsplash-light:
splash-light Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Great article.
I'll definitely remember to never trust my portal service.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
hahaha I love you <3 I noticed that typo this morning and wondered how no one, including me, found it. I left it because I couldn't stop thinking about Portal :lol:
Reply
:iconsplash-light:
splash-light Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
:)
Reply
:icontheresahelmer:
theresahelmer Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Professional Photographer
Wonderful and informative, thank you!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
You're welcome, thanks for reading!
Reply
:iconkateknitsalot:
kateknitsalot Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Great advice! *takesnotes*
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Thanks! :) I'm glad you found it interesting.
Reply
:iconinvisig0th:
INVISIG0TH Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I hate trying to price things, so I never sell anything  :/
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
lol I used to be like that, but you get used to it! :)
Reply
:iconxpantherartx:
XPantherArtX Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thank you for that! It was a very nice read! <3 I know I have a hard time being 'present' online, it's a little hard for me to just talk about myself and all! ^^; I was planning to open a youtube account and post videos on the process of my sculptures... maybe that'll help. And I should update my store more often ^^' Need to work on that! :la:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Oh I would love to see videos of your process, it must be super interesting! :la:

Being present online has been difficult for me this last year, now that I'm married I'm so happy with my "real" life that I don't even want to do anything that distracts me from it.
Reply
:iconxpantherartx:
XPantherArtX Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Ahah thanks! :la: 

Yeah I understand that! ^^ well I'm glad to see you back anyway! :D
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Thanks! It's good to be back :D
Reply
:iconjosegoncalo:
josegoncalo Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:clap:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Thank you :huggle:
Reply
:iconquirkyhime:
quirkyhime Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I have been toying with the idea of selling my stuff, but I think for now I want to try art trades or something. I'm not quite there yet quality wise, though, so it will be a while. ^^;

This article is super important to people like me. Thank you for writing and I look forward to the next one. :D :huggle:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
I'm glad that you found it helpful! Yes starting with art trades is a good idea, it'll give you a good feeling of the process :) I wish you the best when you decide to go for it!
Reply
:iconquirkyhime:
quirkyhime Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thank you! I just have to work on my quality. ^^;
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2014   Artisan Crafter
No problem. We all do, I'm constantly trying to improve my quality.
Reply
:iconquirkyhime:
quirkyhime Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Yours is basically professional quality (from a novice's pov). :) I dare not compare anything I make with someone else's work. I will always say theirs is better.  ^^; :shrug:
Reply
:iconpaixi:
Paixi Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Student
I know from selling commissions and commissioning people if you offer three services, cheap, regular, and expensive, people rarely buy the cheapest one even if it's good quality or a great deal. A cheap price just feels cheap and low value, and makes you feel cheap buying it.
:iconmingplz:

Thanks for the article! I look forward to your article on commissions :)
P.S. Ctrl+F ge reallyt
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
I agree completely! I think that setting cheap prices hurts everyone, the industry, the buyer, but mainly the artist that keeps trying to figure out why they don't sell anything, even if they keep lowering their prices.
Reply
:iconpegasus2013:
Pegasus2013 Featured By Owner May 20, 2014
Nice article. I've recently opened up a shop on etsy, and found this information to be helpful.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
I'm glad I could help :love:
Reply
:iconcarlsbergensis:
Carlsbergensis Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
It was time someone made the effort to do something like this. Well done! You have covered a lot of ground. I'm impressed.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Thank you! :la: I tried to cover as much ground as possible without making this article super long, there's a lot of things to talk about. I'll try to write more in-depth articles about specific subjects :nod:
Reply
:iconmankydonkey:
mankydonkey Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
excellent article. so much to learn. exciting tho!
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Thanks I'm glad you enjoyed it :la:
Reply
:iconcapnskusting:
CapnSkusting Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Professional General Artist
A very good and educational piece here. Very informative.
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
I appreciate the comment, thanks for reading!
Reply
:iconcapnskusting:
CapnSkusting Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Professional General Artist
Well worth it.
Reply
:iconganjamira:
Ganjamira Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
A wonderfull article all arround!:clap: It will definately help alot of crafters to start their buissness!

Its great that you included the issue with postal services and the prices they tell you -
I needed about two years to finally get all prices. (In my case the people I asked in person never told me the cheapest options, only the expensive ones...At the end it was a retailed flyer including all options that helped me out=D)
The first time I shipped an item internationally I payed roughly 16€, now I use a option that only cost 3,50€ with insurance and all.

Also thanks or featuring my flask here:tighthug:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
Wow that's a huge price difference! Well I guess the post office worker can't be trusted either, lol! thank you for sharing your experience :meow:
Reply
:iconganjamira:
Ganjamira Featured By Owner May 21, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Indeed... Its best to check double and tripple from all sides^^
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 21, 2014   Artisan Crafter
:nod: agreed!
Reply
:icon5happy5:
5Happy5 Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thanks for this article, loads of really helpful info :D
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 20, 2014   Artisan Crafter
You're welcome, thank you so much for reading it :meow:
Reply
:icontheowl68:
TheOwl68 Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wonderfully written, informative article~ Thank you so much! :love:
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 20, 2014   Artisan Crafter
You're welcome, thank you for reading!
Reply
:iconemisbakery:
EmisBakery Featured By Owner May 20, 2014
Thank you for this!

I have been twisting and turning if I want to open a shop yet. Not being well known and the prizing/paying thing is a big issue for me Nuu 
Reply
:icontalty:
Talty Featured By Owner May 20, 2014   Artisan Crafter
If you think you can do it go for it! Plan your prices accordingly to your awesome work :nod:
Reply
:iconganjamira:
Ganjamira Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
I think your work is really great and worth to be sold for a good price - your miniature ood for example is totally amazing:heart:
Reply
:iconemisbakery:
EmisBakery Featured By Owner May 20, 2014
:eager: by darkmoon3636  You have no idea how much your kind words mean to me! Thank you! Cry forever 
Reply
:iconganjamira:
Ganjamira Featured By Owner May 20, 2014  Professional Artisan Crafter
Nawwwww:iconsupertighthugplz: You´re most welcome! When I first browsed your gallery a few weks ago I really wondered there were no links to an etsy shop or such, I really thought you just forgot to copy them in the description xD
Reply
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