Get Your Craft On

7 Newbie Seller Mistakes

Starting a handmade business is daunting, exhausting, and confusing. You’re bound to make mistakes (and that’s okay!). But here are 7 common pitfalls you can try to avoid.

1. You listen to the people that say your prices are too high.

There will always be someone that wants it for cheaper… if you price based on how much money someone wants to spend, you might as well give it away for free.

Just as many people made comments about my “high prices” or asked for discounts when my dresses were priced at $25 (good god, what was I thinking?) as they do now that my dresses are priced at $125 and higher. I ignore them because generally, bargain shoppers aren’t my market.

polka dot swing dress by SmarmyClothes

2. You believe that raising your prices would scare away your buyers.

As I mentioned above- when I started out, I really was selling things for $15-25 a piece. I’ve steadily increased prices over the years, as I’ve grown more comfortable with valuing my time and my work. Raising prices has never EVER killed my sales.

I had a friend that was selling handmade corsets for $100. She should have been charging at least double that, considering the amount of work and attention to detail she put in. She was constantly swamped with orders, and one of the ways she was finally convinced to raise prices was that it might slow the orders down a bit. She raised her prices by $25 as an experiment. Her orders actually increased over the next few months, which was a bit of a mixed blessing. But at the very least, she was making a little more money to justify the long hours.

scared comic book girl earrings by SugarPlumRobots

3. You value quantity of sales over quality of sales.

What does that mean? That means you make the mistake of thinking that selling 10 items is better than selling one item. But if you sell 10 items priced at $50 is that really better than selling one item priced at $500? Selling one high ticket item instead of 10 smaller ticket items will likely require more patience and the need to budget if this is how you make your living, but the $500 sale is better for many reasons.

Firstly, if you’re paying any sort of listing/selling fee, the fees will be slightly less on the single $500 item versus the 10 sales equaling $500.

Secondly, you’re probably working a lot harder when you sell 10 items than when you sell one.

Lastly, and most importantly, you’re likely making more profit and a higher wage per hour with the $500 item. The higher your wage and profit, the more likely your business will be successful in the long term.

This is a bit of an exaggerated example, for simplicity’s sake. So let’s use my friend the corset maker as a more realistic example.

Let’s say she spends 5 hours on each corset. At the $100 price point, she sells an average of 20 corsets a month. That means she’s working 100 hours a month and making $2000 (gross).

If she raises prices to $125, she only has to sell 16 corsets to make $2000. That’s 20 hours less work! Likewise, if she still sells 20 corsets, she’s increased her gross to $2500.

4. You assume that if you can’t afford your prices, no one else can either.

Think of yourself as a starving artist. You live in a drafty little studio apartment. Every cent you scrape together goes for ramen and more paint. Your masterpieces take 300 hours to complete. You complete a painting… now you need someone to buy it. Who do you target? Other artists, like you? The people living on ramen and paint fumes? NO! You want to get your work into that fancy pants gallery on Main Street, that sells art to fancy pants people that can afford real art!

Stop judging your prices based on your own budget. YOU ARE NOT YOUR TARGET MARKET!

And stop thinking of your work as “just a thing I  made, anyone could do it”. If everyone could do it, the handmade marketplace wouldn’t exist.

Ghost Eating Ramen Illustration by waitominute

5. You gauge your success by comparing to established sellers.

I can not believe how often I see sellers saying, “My shop has no sales! Other shops with similar items have thousands of visitors and hundreds of sales! Should I just give up now?” Then I look at their shop info and they’ve been selling for TWO WEEKS.

This is would be like a 10 year old that wants to play basketball watching Lebron James and wanting to give up when they realize they’re not as good.

Every successful seller started out exactly where you are right now. And if they’d quit then, they never would have had a chance to be successful. Be patient and give yourself a chance.

6. You think the secret to sales must be about finding the magic key words.

The most frequent advice I’ve seen given to newbies in the Etsy forums is “improve your tags and titles”. And don’t get me wrong- SEO (Seach Engine Optimization) is important. The problem is that it’s only looking at one side of generating sales, which bringing the customer to your shop. The other side of the coin is Promoting, which is bringing your shop to the customer.

Let’s say you make bridal wear. From an SEO standpoint, your goal would be to come up with the keywords someone searching for a wedding gown is most likely to use. From the Promoting standpoint, your goal would be to think of where you could find a lot of potential customers and tell them about your gowns. This could be by targeting a Facebook ad for fans of a popular wedding themed page. Or buying ad space on a big wedding blog.

7. You say you want to learn other ways to promote your shop, but you “don’t like” Facebook and Twitter.

Social networking sites are great promotional tools, and if you’re willing to put in the time, they’re FREE. If you’re short on time, there are even paid options (Facebook ads, etc.). If you’re not willing to put in either time or money into promotion, you’re likely going to end up disappointed (and not very successful).

Silver Hashtag Stud Earrings by DaliaShamirJewelry

7 comments to 7 Newbie Seller Mistakes

  • Great post :) I think that if I hadn’t been so resistant to charging higher prices when I started my business I would have made a lot more progress by now. Now that I’m charging more I have time to come up with new designs at a much faster rate. I still eat tons of ramen though, haha!

  • Great post!

    When I started making my plush monsters 2 years ago, I was selling them at $25 a piece. I wasn’t even paying myself, only my expenses. And then I raised my prices by 40%, and I’m respected more as an artist than when I wasn’t paying myself. I still have to stop comparing myself with established sellers, but that’s because they’ve been doing it for 7-8 years, and I’ve only been doing it for 2. :)

  • I’m considering opening my etsy shop again – I had one, but I did it all wrong, and didn’t put in the effort. Now I feel like I’m getting ready again, and it’s really nice to get some tips on the way. So thank you very much! :)

  • Sarah Kim

    Thank ypu, thats a great post!

  • All people like discounts. Sometimes it seems to me that it even doesn`t matter for them whether goods are of good quality or not. I often faced this problem while selling jewelry I was making. People want to buy cheap things and it doesn`t matter for them what material was used and how much time was spent.

  • Honestly you really hit the spot with this! You really have to charge what you believe you are worth because in reality there is always going to be someone who is looking for something cheaper! :) Anyways love your stuff! Would love to connect with you. :)

  • Thank you for this! I wish I had been given this advice sooner. I started just making things as gifts and now that I want to expand, I keep making the mistake #4. I will now try to keep in mind that I am not my target market. Also, I do kind of have the frame of mind that it is “just a thing I made, anyone could do it”, so I will have to shift my perspective a little. Thank you again!

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