30 Tips to Sell Handmade products

May 31, 2013

Do you create and sell handmade products? Whether you have your own website or sell your handmade products on sites like Etsy or ArtFire, one of the challenges you might face is to get your products in front of your customers. There’s social media, trade shows, craft fairs, email marketing – and the list goes on! How do you know what to focus on to get the most return on your time?

We reached out to successful entrepreneurs who sell handmade products and asked them to share their best tips with us. Here are 30 of their best tips to sell handmade.

When handcrafting a product, consistency can be a challenge. It’s important to work out all of the potential kinks before marketing a product, this includes packaging and shipping.  Your packaging should compliment your product, protect it and be durable enough for retail shelves.  The reality is if you don’t do these things it can kill your product right out of the gate. - Thanks to Ellen Cagnassola of Sweet Soaps

Get your product in front of as many people as possible and offer a variety of options within your specific line of products. For example, I create custom portrait paintings for weddings, newborns, memorial services, pets, families, and business/organization founders (and more!) It is one product (portraits), but offering many types. - Thanks to Arlissa Vaughn of Special Event Painter

Find a team of people who love your product, offer them an attractive monetary incentive and have them sell at local events that relate to your product and target market. - Thanks to Lisa Riedel of Corky Kouture Collections, LLC

Many use Etsy or Ebay.  I market through good old SEO with my website and word of mouth.  Search engine optimization is tedious but necessary.  The more photos you post the more you get indexed. - Thanks to Kevin Ellis of Tack Tux, LLC

My number one tip for selling unique, one of a kind products online is to take plenty of good, honest pictures.  The pictures set the expectation that the customer has for the product that will show up in the mail.  It’s important to set that expectation and then meet it.  You know what your product is, what it looks like and how it is made.  Try to look at the pictures of your product from your customers point of view with out all of that bias. When you think about it your customer is really buying the picture.   If  a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. - Thanks to Jeremy Pellani of Adirondack Stone Works

My tip for selling your one of a kind product is to be passionate about your work and truly believe that you have a unique product (hopefully you do!), then go about getting it out to the public. I think my original artwork digitally printed on silk scarves fit the criteria.  I explore every avenue to get it out in public, be it social networks, blogs, newspapers, or retail stores. Whatever you do, don’t give up! - Thanks to Chetna Singh of CHETNASINGH

My best tip for selling my handmade and one-of-a-kind products online is to make sure you take high-quality, hi-res photographs of the product so that your customer can get a sense of the quality of the product.  Using social media to interact with people who have great influence or websites that focus on handmade or one of a kind products is essential.  There is a growing focus on locally sourced and produced consumer goods which should be leveraged to your benefit.  Using local media outlets, such a neighborhood print and online news sites, is a great place to start. Share your story and your passion for your product, your brand and your vision. - Thanks to RJ Diaz of Industry Portage Co.

Promote they are handmade, and one of a kind. Make sure to provide the buyer with information on how they an acquire more at another time, or if they want to refer a friend, how they can do that. Make sure to also ask for their email address or to friend you on Facebook so you can stay in front of them with new products as they come out. Social media is extremely important, and the cheapest way of keeping your brand in front of your customers. – Thanks to Hanh Tran of The Hanh Collection

Be extremely passionate about the problem you are trying to solve for your customers. This adds to the credibility of your product or service, and engages a potential customer on a personal level. The problem I want to solve is teaching Excel keyboard shortcuts for Mac users in the easiest way possible, and my solution is described on the website in full detail. A potential customer first needs to understand the problem, but showing your passion for your solution will turn a potential customer into a paying customer. My ultimate goal is to increase the productivity of individuals and businesses so that they can succeed in their own businesses, and your job as an individual is to get this goal or passion across to your customer in the easiest way possible. - Thanks to Al Chen of KeyCuts

Know what it is you are selling; who your customer is – and how you fill a need for that customer.  Make it with the highest standards.  It has your mark on it and needs to be honored..  Have passion for what you bring to the market.  Stay true to your mission. And when things get tough and they will. ”Rest, but don’t quit.”  Our products evolve along with the amazing women we serve. We are proud to have brought an idea to reality and to market.  For women.  By women. - Thanks to Marsha Bartenetti & Rachael Sudul of Just in Case, Inc

SafetyBunns donates samples for trials throughout the USA and Canada, making connections via LinkedIn networking groups dealing with seniors/handicap in all capacities. Word of mouth is our number one seller. SafetyBunns, non-slip pants is a win/win situation for everyone– keeping residents safe, warm and comfortable, families can rest assured,  lessen caregiver injuries and decrease nursing facilities workman’s compensation claims and law suits.  Keeping everyone healthy and wealthy!! - Thanks to Barb Przybylowicz of SafetyBunns®, LLC

We realized that before we launched RAINRAPS that to market our product we would need to have a PR person.  We had limited funds but agreed that this was an expense we could afford.  We were lucky to find a person who loved our product and has worked as hard as we have to help spread the  RAINRAPS word. – Thanks to Rachel Teyssier and Stacy Struminger of RAINRAPS

Include a lengthy product description (at least 200 words) that has all the right product keywords.  A detailed description gives our customers more confidence in the product (which, in our case, is a business document).  I think it creates a perception of higher quality.  Having product keywords ensures the document shows up in the site’s internal searches and helps with SEO.  All this leads to higher sales. - Thanks to David Tang of Flevy

Tell your story! No one has a better story about how they got started, the process to manufacture their products and why they do what they do than handmade artisans.  Is this a technique passed down from your grandmother? What tools do you use?  Did this start as a hobby that grew and grew? What trials and tribulations did you go through in your journey and how did you overcome them?  Remember that your story will be retold by your customers – whenever someone compliments your piece, or if it’s given as a gift, it will become a conversation starter.  So spend time making sure it’s a good one, and tell it every chance you get. - Thanks to Alexandra Ferguson of Alexandra Ferguson

Diligence is my best tip for selling handmade products.  It is a tough market to compete in for any business just starting out, especially the small work at home Mom.  I never give up on my dream to have a successful business from home and to be able to contribute to the family budget, which pays for my ongoing medical care.  If you have determination and will power, you will succeed! - Thanks to Marsha Jaramillo of Markets of Sunshine (formerly Sunshine Farm Girl Co-op)

Whether you’re selling to a passerby at a farmer’s market or a buyer for a retail store, what separates your stuff from most of what’s out there is the thought, energy and effort embodied in EACH product and when you’re a small company with a beautiful product it shows, but only up close and personal.  So here’s our tip: get out there and bring your product to people – let them touch it, hold it, feel the weight and texture that separates it from the mass-production we have all grown accustomed to.  This isn’t to say mass production is evil, rather, it’s allowed us to live, as a whole, in a way our ancestors would have never thought possible BUT, in a world where things are made in the millions a day and an individual product may reach the shelf without ever being looked at by another human being, YOUR handmade product is all the more precious — be proud and show it off — in person; it’s the biggest advantage you have. – Thanks to Michael Galea & Catherine O’Sullivan of Wee Rock Toy Co.

Packaging matters. After asking the customer to pay $2.99 for a custom wholefood bar, we used to stuff our boxes inside a USPS flat rate envelope to save a dollar on shipping. The first experience of the customer was this overstuffed envelope and it wasn’t a positive experience  I wish we had spent more on packaging and shipping when we started the company. - Thanks to Jonathan Miller of Element Bars

Get the product out in the marketplace as much as you can, which means a combination of internal promotion (newsletter to customers), public relations (pitching media) and advertising (in print, online and radio). Much of this depends on developing relationships with each entity and listening to their needs. For example, our customers – we produce personalized romance novels made one-at-time – suggested we start offering e-books and we became the first customized book company to do so. Now 20% of our business is comprised of e-book sales. – Thanks to JS Fletcher of YourNovel.com

Use social media to promote your product(s).  Word of mouth is your best advertising avenue.  But remember that’s “social” media so don’t overwhelm followers with constant sales pitches.  They will tune out and ultimately walk away.  Instead, find ways to engage them.  One example – ask for their feedback on your product/product ideas.  What do they like/not like.   And solicit bloggers input as well.  They are incredibly influential and often overlooked.  Remember to update your social media regularly and keep it current, relevant and interesting. – Thanks to Amy Maurer Creel of Amy Maurer Creel

From a digital perspective Email still drives about 60-70% commerce transactions so collecting your customers email is extremely important for optimizing interactions with existing customers.  To help your product be Discovered the pictures above all need to be of stellar quality and then utilize Pinterest to help your product get discovered.  Only about 1 in 1000 Pinterest pins go “viral” or have over 100,000 interactions.  So it’s a blend of Quality and Scale.  Of course you can use an affiliate company like SeQR Pay to sell your product for you in which the affiliate will take 10-25% of the transaction. – Thanks to Bryan Colligan of SeQr Pay

I just finished all my gazebo/pavilion late last summer, as its a summer product, my season just starting now. I am using Google advertising, because with it I can specify the region where I try to sell and limit my spending, but also using Ebay as its really cheap to set up and don’t have to pay big  until its sold. - Thanks to Tamas Fodor of Fodors Cabinetry Inc

My suggestions are two fold: take great pics that speak to human eyes, and do your best to describe and position your products in a way that speaks to search engines.  Handmade-loving-humans are your customers but sadly they can’t find you without the help of search engines.  As to the great photos, make sure to get a normal view that shows the scale and use of the item at a glance, and also a detailed close-up.  For making your products findable, use Google keywords to see what phrases people are searching for.  For example “recycled jewelry” brought back more results than “recycled necklaces.”  Then make sure to use those terms in your description and in your URL. When you are determining your pricing, try to foresee if you want to sell wholesale or not.  If so you will need to multiply your comfortable price time 2 – 2.5.  It sounds painful to give more than half of the sell price to your retail partner, but it could be worth it because they have access to customers who don’t know you exist yet.  Talking with retailers about price points is also a great way of getting a second opinion on what your item is “worth.”  You might be underestimating what a customer would pay for your handmade item, and a retailer’s opinion is invaluable. – Thanks to Betsy Kaufman of Near and Far

I try to make all my dog dresses thinking about what customers can not find in the regular pet store. I use unique fabric, the finest embellishments and apply it to the dog’s structure. Of course, quality is the best seller for my designs. I also take custom orders so customers can relay to me exactly what they want to have made.  This is what makes my business successful and sets me apart from the other pet clothing companies. – Thanks to Olga Zabelinskaya of Elite Pawtique

Establish your presence in the social media world.  Grab your company or product name and begin to post information that people in your niche find helpful.  Answer questions, refer to information and sell minimally.  It’s not about YOU… its all about your community. - Thanks to Chris Melton of Joint Mechanix, LLC

To start with, keep a limited product line(build a niche) and focus on the presentation and branding of your products. Never ever compromise on quality of the handmade products that you make or are getting made. Quality check them at various stages – since handmade products provide a lot of flexibility to do so. Then comes the most important part – getting your products in front of potential buyers. If your target market is a mix of  different segments – then prioritize and conquer one market segment at a time. For instance, I am starting a range of handmade accessories for women. To start with, I am launching my store for the Wedding Market – focusing all my energy on building and designing accessories for weddings and focusing my marketing efforts on just the wedding market. - Thanks to Anjum Gadhok of Fair Intentions

My handmade items are an outgrowth of my graphic design work, so I am, needless to say, a big fan of a good presentation, with branding and a professionally designed line sheet. I also have a “one-sheet” that is easy to attach to email inquiries — a kind of “pared down” line sheet that shows sample products and a blurb in one glance. The other tip, which is harder, is really believing in your own creations. - Thanks to Jean Roth of Rotem Limited Edition

I think my best tip in selling my brownies is giving free samples when I am selling them in person at some type of boutique or sale and another great tip that gets attention is when I tell people that Mariee’s Magnificent Morsels are the preferred brownies for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  The Tonight Show has been buying brownies from me for over a year.  They buy anywhere from 10 to 20 boxes a week and put them in gift bags that are given to the guests that appear on the show.  Making my brownies is a labor of love and it is evident to all that are lucky enough to get some that they are enjoying something very special…from the baking to the packaging they are a bit of heaven on earth. – Thanks to Marilee Mahoney of Marilee’s Magnificent Morsels

The best way to sell a handmade or one of a kind product is by first yielding the power of social media, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Google + and twitter but do not push it, the other important thing to do is target those who really need this product and not try to get the whole world to like it, and finally be patient and focused. - Thanks to Nasser Mahamadeen of SSS Trade LLc.

The best tip I can offer for selling handmade one of a kind items is to make your product stand out by using branding and marketing. If you develop a brand for your product, it will help people gain familiarity and brand recognition for your product vs a competitor. It also helps to use marketing tools, signs/handouts/website and social media to grow your audience. I love selling my handmade/one of a kind items at local farmers markets, art fairs, green festivals and through my website. Find your niche market and start promoting yourself and gaining brand awareness today! - Thanks to Holly Slawter of Fiddlebump’s

Do you sell handmade products and have a tip you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment below.

11 Comments. Leave new

The tips given here re-affirm what I have been reading many times before- meaning;take note- they work! Many I currently use and once again am reminded of several I need to work on.

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I think that should read “29 excellent and helpful tips, and one marketing spiel.” Thanks to the 29 for being so generous with their suggestions. I’ve learned a lot this morning. :-)

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Thank you so much. Will have to tick them out as I implement, one by one.

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Great List!
I’m always open to new ideas or reminders of what I should be doing.
Thanks…

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I concur with Karen; how did Thomas Kisner of SmartEnergetics slip through the net…. or is his the example of how NOT to do it? Thanks to the other 29 – invaluable help and insight.

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not sure how he got in there, but i’ve removed it :)

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Wow this is a great list of 30, err I mean 29 great ways to improve your online sales. What shops do you use to sell? I have been trying out new ones all the time and had some real success with TheCraftStar.com

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Thanks for sharing your helpful list. I’ve read so many lists and tips over the years, I didn’t think I’d find anything I didn’t already know or haven’t tried in your list but I was surprised to find 4 new ones that I’m going to try this week!

Christy Bartlett
San Diego Bath & Body Company

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I would add that making sure your handmade item is innovative is key. Develop the handmade work within the context of trends that are happening now is so important….and oh…make sure the work is not boring and completely derivative!

The essence of handmade work is that it delights the buyer in a way that manufactured wares never will. This quality needs to be evident in the work itself, not just the marketing materials.

I love the emphasis on marketing, branding, seo here as I need to start selling online to avoid the costs of selling at craft events. It used to be that we just made the work, then sold it all at events and galleries. Now we are just bombarded with new toys and tasks to master. Thanks so much, holly

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Some great advice here.

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[…] go for it. But people have lost the fine art of walking into a small shop and asking if they sell handmade products or on consignment. Why compete with the whole world on Etsy when you can narrow your competition down to a local […]

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