There is a staggering amount of variety available when you shop online. It seems like every field is crowded, no matter how niche or obscure. If you think you’re the only person selling Disney-themed yarn laptop cases, then you’re wrong. Thanks to the rise of online platforms like Etsy and Shopify, it’s easier than ever to showcase and sell homemade goods online, to the point where DIY handicrafts are something of a cottage industry. According to the Association For Creative Industries, the value of the creative industry increased by 45% between 2011 and 2017, up to a staggering $43.9 billion.
If you are a member of this industry, this news is both good and bad. On the one hand, it means that demand for DIY goods has shot up, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing yet. The downside is that the market is far more crowded than it was before. With this level of competition, things aren’t as simple as just finding your niche anymore; now you need to make sure that your products stand out above the rest. With a little bit of extra effort, you can make your DIY e-commerce business into a thriving industry. Here are a few steps you can take to get you through that extra mile.
The first step...
is to get your own website. This cannot be emphasized enough. Marketplaces like Etsy are fine if you want to sell your crafts on the side, but if you are serious about running an e-commerce business, you need to move beyond it. If all of your social media sends people to an Etsy shop, they will be inundated with suggestions of other sellers who sell products similar to your own. It is also a killer on any type of brand identity you hope to create. People won’t think of it as your business, they’ll think of it as an Etsy shop.
On the other hand, if you do have your own website then you have a piece of digital real estate that’s yours to define as you wish. This will let you build up your brand identity in a unique way, and will keep you from relying on third party search engines and marketplaces. Nowadays it’s very simple to build an effectively designed website, even for somebody who has never coded before. Services like Wix and Squarespace have professionally designed templates available that will give your business’s site a polished look.
Once you have a website...
you need to be able to show your products in the best possible light. To do this, you need high quality photographs. Customers are very visually focused, so if presented with two products that are functionally identical, they will go for the one that is more visually appealing. A good photo can also serve as an eyecatch, grabbing interest before the user even knows that this is something that they want. Getting this quality of photograph takes time, and investment in a high-quality camera. Chances are that your phone camera will not do the trick.
To create an effective photograph, make sure that you are using natural or filtered light; a camera flash will make the entire thing look awful. Make sure that the entire product is within the frame, and is set against a simple but eye-pleasing backdrop. While you must have at least one photograph that shows the whole product to scale, it pays to also have photographs shot from interesting or creative angles. These photos can grab a shopper’s attention, and then the scale photo will help them make up their minds.
Another effective tool in your belt is the humble mailing list
Even if you’re a social media luminary, there is no way to ensure that every customer sees every post you make. However, if you can convince your customers to join your mailing list, then you have a surefire way of getting them information. Getting people to join your list shouldn’t be hard if they already trust you with their money and address, and you can give people on that list exclusive access to perks and sales. Having a regular mailer will help you turn one-time customers into loyal customers, and if you have good deals through the mailing list, word-of-mouth will bring in even more.
Perhaps this seems dreadfully obvious, but it bears repeating; be professional and courteous in all official business interactions. If you went to a store and were treated rudely by the staff, and then heard them complaining about you on your way out, you’d make sure everybody knew to stay away from that store. Don’t let the anonymity of online interactions deprive you of your courtesy, because things on the internet stay forever. If you have a negative interaction with a customer, don’t talk about it on Twitter. The more you act like a professional, the more others will treat you like one.
The last piece of advice is the biggest, but also the most difficult. Make sure that what you’re selling has an audience. There may be a market for every product under the sun, but sometimes that market is tiny. As cynical as it sounds, following your own personal bliss isn’t the best way to run a thriving business. Do some research on market trends, and find out what types of products are selling best in your target demographic. Then make your own unique version of it, and make it as best you can.
They say that doing what you love will mean you never work a day in your life. Maybe so, but you should do what you love in as smart and effective a way as you can. With a bit of effort and a lot of preparation, you can turn your crafting skills into a profitable business.