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

Read more…

Crafty Business Advice: Make your handmade goods truly unique.

I’ve read your article about pricing, and while I love the theory of pricing based on labor and I agree that my skills should be at least $20 or more, who in the world would pay $60 for a little scarf just because it’s handmade?

Take a look at Etsy and there are plenty of scarves selling (just check the seller’s sold items and number of sales) for $60 and more. Yes, there really are people who will pay the price of handmade simply because they appreciate the time, and they value the quality.

There are even more people who will pay a premium if it’s really something special- perhaps it’s because you use the highest quality fibers, or dye the yarn yourself in patterns and colors no one has seen before, or because the particular crochet pattern is something unique.

Rococo Knit Shawl / Wrap by ElenaRosenberg

This is where the frustration comes from when people say, “I could get that for $5 at Walmart.” Because no- there is not a single item in my shop you could get a Walmart. Yes, you can buy a dress at Walmart or a dress from me, but they are certainly not the same dress. Not even close.

That being said, if you are selling something that really could be had for $5 at Walmart, then that may be a problem. It would be very difficult to compete directly with the largest retailer in the world- even other large retailers have failed at that.

The trick is to find that magic “something” that makes people go, “Oh! I really can’t get that anywhere else!” That takes the competition right out of the game.

The Jayne Cobb hat debacle

If you’re a knitter, a maker, or a Firefly fan, chances are you’ve heard about Fox’s mass take-down of all unlicensed Jayne Cobb hats from various handmade selling venues. The argument I keep hearing over and over against this action is that a hat is a useful article and useful articles can’t be copyrighted. And that’s true.

Jayne Cobb in The Hat. Pretty cunning, don’t ya think?

But it’s not the end of the argument, because the names “Jayne Cobb” and “Firefly” and “Serenity” are all the intellectual property of Fox. If anyone selling a Jayne Cobb hat is calling it a Jayne Cobb hat, then they are absolutely infringing on a trademark. It doesn’t matter if you slap “inspired” on there, either. A name is a name, and if it’s trademarked, it’s trademarked.

The Catch 22 is that if you don’t use the name, you could (in theory) sell the hat free and clear and perfectly legally. But if you don’t use the name, how will Firefly fans find it?  And that is exactly why these companies trademark everything. If you’re in the market for a “Jayne Cobb hat”, they want their hat and only their hat to be what you find.

I say “in theory” because the other aspect of this equation is that the person reporting your hat to Etsy (or whatever selling venue you use) probably doesn’t totally understand the how’s and why’s themselves. I’ve dealt with some of these people and believe me that they are not copyright experts. They don’t generally even seem to be law experts.

It’s perfectly likely that this representative or Fox as a whole actually believes that you can not sell a hat that looks like the Jayne Cobb hat, regardless of what you call it. They’re wrong, but they’re also rich. They will send you and your selling venues cease and desists all day long. And sites like Etsy will remove your listing without question when asked to. It’s in their TOS.

So what are you to do if you’ve had your Jayne Cobb hat removed? Trademark violation or no, my personal rule of thumb is this: when Etsy removes an item, I leave it down. I have yet to find anyone that says their shop was shut down for the sole reason of copyright violations, but I personally would rather not chance it.

The moral of the story… Does Fox have a right to remove these hats? Yes, but perhaps not for the reason they think they do.

Kind of an off-topic aside:

I’m playing devil’s advocate here. Most of me thinks Fox is a big fat doucheballoon for throwing their weight around against a bunch of small business people and stay-at-home-knitter. But there is a small part of me that understands copyright holders are under an obligation to defend their copyrights. If they don’t, they risk losing the copyright.  Unfortunately, being able to defend a copyright tends to be a luxury of rich corporations. There are countless examples of small artists having designs stolen by shops like Urban Outfitters and Hot Topic, and unless you’ve got the funds to bring a lawsuit (or the company actually respects your cease and desist, HA!), you might find that your copyright is essentially worthless.

Is it legal to mention the brand name of a yarn in my shop listing?

Today’s Crafty Business Advice Question comes from Heather.

I was wondering: Is it legal to mention the brand name of a yarn used when selling an original knitted design? Does this involve copyright law? I hope I am not doing anything wrong in mentioning the brand name along with fiber content of a yarn used.

Technically they could ask you to stop using their name, since it could be considered a trademark violation. However, this usually seems to be an issue with licensed t-shirts (which, you could argue, aren’t really intended as craft supplies) and licensed fabric (which is usually printed with a warning about being “for personal use only”). 

Sock Organic Merino “Ino” Purple Semi Solid by Gynx Yarns

I would imagine most supply companies would be ecstatic to have their customers getting the word out about their product. You’re essentially advertising for them for free!  I would be surprised if you ever ran into any trouble with it.

5 Tips to Keep Your Shipping Costs Low

With the cost of shipping increasing every year like clockwork, you’re probably looking for ways to get a little thrifty. Here are my five tips to keep your shipping costs low:

1. Up with the Envelope! Down with the Box!
Obviously there are instances when this simply won’t work. If you’re shipping large or fragile goods, there’s just going to be no way around using a box. But if you sell small, fairly non-breakable items, you will save a ton shipping in an envelope instead of a box.

Take one of my items. Let’s say this top weighs about 10 ounces.

by SmarmyClothes

If I wrap this item in a sheet of tissue paper, put it in one of my poly mailers (I get mine from threerb on Ebay), and toss in a few of my business cards, the final weight is 11 ounces. Light enough to ship inside the US via First Class.

Cost to ship
Inside US (1st Class) – about $3.50
To Canada – $8.24
Everywhere Else – $13.41

If I put it in a small box, the final weight is 16 ounces. That’s too heavy for 1st Class in the US, so I have to go up to Priority.

Cost to ship
Inside US (Priority) – $5.05
To Canada – $9.50
Everywhere Else – $15.08

My poly mailers weigh about 0.5 ounces. The box weighs over 4 ounces! And of course, the bigger the box, the more it weighs.

Most of my jewelry weighs less than an ounce- if I shipped it in a box, I’d be paying more to ship the box itself than the item in it! My jewelry is fragile, but not that fragile. Wrap your items well and they will survive just fine in an envelope. Bubble wrap is your friend!Read more…