Has anyone ever told you:
Don’t put all your eggs into one basket.
The concept is simple. It’s often easier to put all our efforts into one choice. But, if the results of our choices fail, our efforts were all for nothing.
The same applies to creatives selling creations online. When you put your heart and soul into creating beautiful products, your work deserves to be seen by the world.
Naturally, the next step is making sales and money as a creative. But how?
It makes sense to promote your creations on social media. And it makes sense to put a small amount of money and resources into getting your products seen through advertising. But many creatives often overlook a super simple and effective marketing strategy for sales…
With a small amount of time, you can diversify and distribute your products on a heap of different sales channels. You can easily quadruple your current sales just by listing and adding your product to different sales channels.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper…
Where else can you sell your handmade creations?
My aim for this lesson is to open you to the world of multiple income streams. Let’s look at the massive variety of online and offline platforms, and why you should be jumping on them.
There are two main ways to get your product seen by more people:
- Online, and
- In Person
Promoting your products online gives you a huge advantage. It means that you can craft your item, shoot beautiful product photos and start putting it in front of millions of people tomorrow.
Some online channels to consider listing your items:
- Your standalone website
- Social media platforms and search engines
- Handmade marketplaces
- On-demand printing and licensing marketplaces
- Wholesaling to online boutiques
- Curated subscription boxes
On the other hand, getting your products offline means your customers can see your creations in the flesh.
Some in-person sales channels to consider:
- Craft shows, fairs, and markets
- Trade shows
- Wholesale to bricks and mortar retailers
- Pop-up shops
Why should I sell on multiple channels?
There are 4 billion internet users. Your customers are out there and all you need to do is put your products where they shop.
Sell where your customers are.
Selling on multiple channels gives you access to all of your customer base, no matter where they are and what their shopping preferences are.
Here are my three favorite reasons why you should be selling on multiple channels:
Sell more online
Let’s say you’re making 10 sales every single month on Etsy…
Imagine if you start selling on another channel and make another 10 sales over there? How about a third channel? Or a fourth…?
The more channels you sell on, the more people see your stuff, and more opportunities are opened up for buyers to purchase your creations. You can easily double, triple and even quadruple your sales, simply by listing in all the places your customers are.
Reduce your risk
Recently, in July 2018, the handmade marketplace DaWanda announced that it was shutting down. That left 70,000 active sellers without a DaWanda storefront and for many users their only online storefront.
Starting a business and putting yourself out there is already a huge risk. You’re putting your own money, energy and hard work in for the possibility of profit.
The risk increases when you leave the fate of your business in the hands of another platform. By selling on multiple platforms, you’re spreading your risk out. If a platform shuts down, your account gets deleted or something equally devastating happens, your product listings are still available on a different channel for your customers to buy from.
Reach more people
On Etsy, there are 54 million registered members, Instagram just tipped the 1 billion users milestone and they’re rolling out shoppable product tags, and there are 300 million shoppers on Amazon. Basically, the more places you list your product, the more people you’ll reach.
When you reach more people, you also have the luxury of meeting your customers’ preferences. Some people prefer shopping online at home in their underwear, while others love being able to see, touch and try on something before they purchase.
If you’re strategic about the channels you choose to sell on, you can un-tap new geographic markets. Some marketplaces are well known to service specific markets: Folksy has more customers from the UK, MadeIt has a customer base in Australia and you could be getting your items stocked in China through Alibaba.
What channels should I be selling on?
It is all good and well knowing about these platforms. But identifying where you find the most success is a whole new ball game.
The first step is to narrow your focus to the platforms that make the most sense for your brand, business, product and customer base.
Before diving headfirst into the entire collection of sales platforms available, ask yourself a few important questions about your creative business and product:
- Your business. What is your business model? Do you create unique made-to-order items? Do you create batches of inventory? Do you have a bespoke manufacturer or production team? Or do you sell the same digital goods over and over again?
- Your audience. What are your audience’s habits? What are their needs? Where do they spend most of their shopping time? Where are they located in the world?
- Your product. How have you positioned your product? Is it niche, luxurious or budget-friendly?
- Your ability to grow. Will your profits cover commission fees of these platforms? Do you offer a variety of payment options for your customer?
Online handmade marketplaces
There are so many handmade marketplaces which make it easy for you to reach and sell to a broader customer base. These platforms make the sales process easy for you so you can focus on making beautiful products.
Here are a few of my favorite marketplaces for handmade sellers and creatives:
Why you should list your products on handmade marketplaces
Get listing because there are so many benefits when it comes to selling your goods on online handmade marketplaces:
- Customer search traffic. Some marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon are household names, which means millions of shoppers log in every single month and actively search for items like yours.
- Marketing done for you. Marketplaces spend huge amounts of their budget on marketing, building a large email list and bringing more customers to their site. Guess who directly benefits from this? You, the seller!
- Simple to use. Marketplaces have been built so that it’s ridiculously easy for anyone to use. You don’t need to be super tech savvy to have a shop set up in a few hours.
The downfalls of handmade marketplaces
These platforms help give you a leg up, get your name out there and you can quickly broaden your reach. But there are a few downsides to consider when selling on online marketplaces:
- Lack of personal branding. These marketplaces are large businesses themselves and will often prioritize their branding and marketing over yours.
- Competition. Due to the vast size and availability of these platforms, there is a high level of competition from other sellers with similar products. You’ll need to stand out among the sea of sellers to convince shoppers to buy from you.
- Platform fees. Marketplaces will charge a small commission, listing or monthly subscription fee. Fees vary, but on average there is a 5 to 10% fee per item sold.
Start selling on marketplaces
The process is simple to get started selling on handmade marketplaces. First, find out which marketplaces you’d like to start selling on. You’ll want to assess the popularity, fees and what type of shoppers visit each platform. After that, it’s as simple as setting up a seller account, listing your products and your shop is ready to go.
On-demand printing and licensing
Print-on-demand platforms take care of the printing and production side of things. As an artist, this means you can focus on making art and your customers can choose from a variety of items with your artwork printed on them.
Here are some print-on-demand platforms perfect for creatives, artists, and designers:
- Society6. Unique art prints on tapestries, stationery, coffee mugs, and more.
- Spoonflower. Pattern designers can upload their art for customers to purchase unique fabric and wallpaper.
- Minted. Graphic designers are welcome to submit designs for invitations, cards, and other paper stationery.
- Casetify. Sell art printed on tech gadgets such as phone cases, laptop covers, and smartwatch straps.
- Zazzle. Artists are able to customize and create designs as well as purchase prints easily.
- Redbubble. Simple interface for a large variety of products and prints.
Alternatively, you can sell your digital goods on a licensing platform which sells digital downloads, such as stock photos, clip art and design elements.
These platforms are great for aspiring photographers or designers:
- Creative Market. Creative marketplace for digital downloads
- Shutterstock and Stocksy. Stock photography
- Envato. Group of online marketplaces selling digital assets to web designers.
Why you should use on-demand printing and licensing platforms
For many artists and designers, it makes sense to use on-demand services because it’s a simple way to sell more:
- Generate passive income. If you want to earn money while you sleep, on-demand platforms are the perfect way to do it. Upload your artwork once, select the items customers can buy and you’re done. Now you can spend more time creating art and listing new creations.
- Leave the production to the pros. Using on-demand platforms, you can open doors to sell a unique range of products. Feel like designing pillows this month? Nothing is stopping you anymore – you don’t need to visit a fabric printing manufacturer, sew the pillowcases, manage the stock in your home, or ship them to your customers.
- A gateway towards big licensing opportunities. Large companies like Target, Hallmark or West Elm often treat these platforms as a way to discover new talent. Minted often holds competitions on their site and the winners are tee’d up with a retailer like Target who will license their artwork and use them in physical Target products.
The downfalls of on-demand platforms
Despite the benefits, when you start listing your creative work on these platforms, you’ll need to be wary of a few negatives.
- Smaller profits. Many of these printing and licensing avenues will take a larger percentage of your profits compared to online marketplaces because they are handling all the production and manufacturing. That leaves you, the artist, with a small commission. On average, the artist will only get back 10% to 20% of the total sale price for on-demand printing. Sellers using on-demand licensing platforms get a little bit more and average pocketing 50% to 70% of the sale price.
- Quality of production. Many on-demand printing platforms work with their preferred manufacturer. This means you have absolutely no say over the quality of the item your customer is receiving. If your shoppers receive something less than satisfactory, in the end, your artwork, your name, and your reputation are on that product.
Start selling your artwork on on-demand websites
These sites vary in terms of fees and even acceptance of designs. Some of them it’s a simple registration process, others require a registration fee, while some require you to submit artworks into an applicant pool. There’s no harm in putting as much work out there as possible – but make sure you strategize and price your work accordingly to account for the high fees.
Selling in person
Veering towards more offline sales avenues, let’s have a look at selling in person. This is the most personal way to reach out and connect with your customers. Selling offline is a good choice to share physical handmade goods in a real-life setting.
Selling in person can take the shape of:
- Craft fairs and markets
- Trade shows
- Pop up shops
- Brick and mortar shops
Why you should sell in person
Before online platforms were available, selling in person was the only way you could succeed in business. Sometimes it’s a good idea to get back to basics and here are my favorite reasons why:
- Connect with local customers. Selling offline let’s you be personal with your customers. They get to know you as part of the product – the maker. Customers get to see your creations in real life. They can see, touch, smell, taste and try on what you have to offer.
- Less neighboring competitors. When you’re selling at shows, markets or pop up locations, your only competitors are the sellers who also have a shop at your event. Unlike online, you’re not competing with a sea of people from all over the world. Certain shows will put restrictions in so that there aren’t two competing businesses in one event.
- Foot traffic. Behind every event is a team of organizers who market the event, or have secured space in a high foot traffic area. That means your customers will be flocking to you, and you might even catch the eye of a passerby and convince an impulse buyer.
The downfalls of selling in person
But with every successful in-person selling event, there are a few cons that you need to consider.
- You can’t control external factors. Rain, hail or sunshine. If the weather isn’t perfect, the event will still go ahead, and you’ve already paid to secure your spot. Sometimes a successful event is a matter of timing, and bad timing can be disastrous.
- The high upfront fixed cost. If you’re selling at a fair, you’ll often need to book a booth in advance and pay a large fixed cost. Some of the more popular craft shows cost upwards of thousands of dollars per stall. If you have your own physical shop front, consider the rental costs that don’t budge even when you’re having a bad month.
- It’s physically tiring. Setting up, packing up, the constant cheeryness and salesman-mode on. Don’t forget the fact that you’ll probably have to plan and make a good amount of inventory before the day so you don’t sell out. Real life events are tiring and it’s easy to feel completely knackered after a single day out at the booths.
Start selling in person
Are you interested in selling offline? Haul yourself off your butt and get yourself out there. Inspect physical spaces, send in craft show applications and keep a calendar of closing dates for event submissions. The more applications you submit, the likelier you will be accepted into an event.
After that, hit the studio and stock up on your stock, plan your shopfront design and let your community know when and where they can find you in real life.
Wholesaling your products to retailers
Wholesaling is the process of selling your products in big batches to retailers or stockists who will sell and distribute your creations for you.
You can wholesale your products to both online and bricks and mortar shops:
- Boutiques and speciality shops
- Gift shops
- Online curated subscription boxes
Why you should wholesale your handmade goods
When you wholesale, you’ll be selling your creations in large amounts to a retailer at a lower price than usual. These retailers later sell your product at a higher price, keeping the profits. Now, this may sound completely bizarre at first.
Why sell your product at a lower price, only for someone else to make profit?
The trick is to see the ‘value exchange’ here:
- You don’t need to sell. Once you’ve made your first ‘sale’ to the retailer, that’s it. You won’t need to sell to the customers, you no longer have to deal with complaints and answering customer enquiries.
- Consistent and predictable sales. Once you have a solid relationship with your stockist, it’s easier to predict how many sales you will be getting regularly based on monthly and seasonal orders.
- Public exposure of your brand. Your business will gain exposure by being sold in a new sales channel. Depending on who you work with, your creations can be stocked in locations all around your city or across the world.
The downfalls of handmade wholesaling
But, on the downside, wholesaling can be a different kind of beast in your sales strategy:
- Selling your products at a lower price. At the end of the day, your retailer is a business too so they’ll need to be profiting from your creations too. If you’re a handmade maker, selling at wholesale might mean that you end up with less profit than you would selling through other avenues.
- Creating large batches of products at once. Wholesaling will suit you if you’re able to produce physical products in large quantities in one go. The entire process can be stressful and it’s not uncommon to hear about creatives locking themselves up in a studio for weeks in order to deliver a batch order.
Start wholesaling your creations
The first step to getting started with wholesaling is to create your line sheet. A line sheet is like a simplified product catalog that provides shop owners with all the necessary information about buying your products.
Once you have your line sheet, it’s time to hit the trade shows, knock on doors of businesses and create an account on online wholesale platforms like Etsy Wholesale.
Let these stores and retailers know you exist. Convince them that they need your product in their store. Strike up a conversation with store owners – you seriously never know what can happen.
Create your own multi-channel strategy
There’s no longer a right or wrong way to run a creative business. Having your shop on multiple sales channels is a great way to bump up sales, but at the same time, it can be difficult to set up and manage your inventory across so many channels.
To start dipping your toe into a multi-channel strategy, break it down into these 3 steps.
As with most things, success does not happen overnight. Multi-channel selling is no different. If these platforms are all new to you, then take a more gradual approach that suits you and your community of customers. Start with adding an extra platform, and once you’re comfortable running two shops, ramp it up and add more.
Test and experiment with different platforms and ways of selling. Just remember: building a successful business means experimenting with all the marketing options available to you and finding which ones work for you.
Know what tools you need
There will be specific tools you’ll need to sell on certain channels to keep things smooth sailing. Depending on where you are selling, make sure that you’ve equipped yourself with the tools that you need:
- Line sheets and product catalogs for your wholesale channels
- Credit card readers like Square for your offline events
- PayPal and Stripe set up so you can start selling as soon as you integrate a platform
- A way to track all your orders and stock levels in one place
Managing your channels
Unfortunately, if a multi-channel strategy was simple, more creatives would be selling their work everywhere. There will be days where your stock isn’t synced up or you’ve forgotten to list an item on a different platform.
The easiest way to keep track of everything is to download my inventory management spreadsheet as part of the Multi-channel selling tools bundle. It keeps track of your orders, contains all your product descriptions in one place so you can quickly create new listings and you can see all your stock levels in one place.
Where do you sell your creations? Are you listing your products in more than one place? How do you personally manage to sell on multiple channels? I would love to hear your thoughts or questions on expanding to new sales channels in the comments below.