The internet has grown phenomenally over recent years, and it presents great opportunities to everyone.
There are many ways to take advantage of these opportunities, and one of them is to sell things. That statement, of course, begs the question – sell what? Well, almost anything you can think of. Not only that, but you can sell to a customer on the other side of the world, too, the only slight drawback being how long your product will take to reach that customer. That’s not too much of a problem because international postal services today are very efficient, and customers are more than happy to wait for a quality item.
Sell Your Skills
You may have decided to sell, say, your hand-knitted soft toys; you’ll have done your market research by studying what the big-name stores are selling, taking into account seasonal variations, and you will most likely have sounded out family and friends for their opinions. You will have worked out costs, taking into account not only materials, but your time (which you must include, even if it’s a hobby you enjoy), and decided on a pricing structure that makes it worth your while, but doesn’t scare potential customers away.
Many different ways exist to sell your wares via the internet. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of eBay. This is a great way to sell things, either directly or by auction, but the site takes a cut from your sales to pay for hosting your advert. Etsy, another online store, works in much the same way, but is more specifically aimed at arts and crafts products and, like eBay, takes a percentage from your sales. The big drawback with either of these sites is that you are in direct competition with others who are selling similar products, and their prices may influence how you price your own items. One way around that is to have links on these sites that takes visitors to your shop but, if they buy that way, the site-owners will still take their cut.
There is a better way to sell your product; it allows you to stay in control of your store, to set your own product prices, and, best of all, it doesn’t expect you to sacrifice a percentage of your profits to keep your marketplace operating. You do your own marketing in the form of unique write-ups, without having to follow a set format, and you can keep those write-ups fresh and up-to-the-minute as trends change. You can even link your store to your Facebook or Twitter page, so increasing your traffic. All you have to do is choose a user-friendly website builder that includes an ecommerce option; it will cost you little by way of set-up fees and maintenance, and could pay for itself in no time at all.
Some examples of great website builders offering this option are shown below; they all provide excellent guidance and easy-to-follow instructions, and will have your store operating within hours. All you have to do is add the pages you need, upload photos of your products, add attractive descriptions, and set your prices. As you start building your site, all the instructions you need, for adding the ecommerce option as well as all the other features, will be just a click away.
Many of today’s online store owners may have started their internet business quite by accident; this is particularly so with people who are good at handicrafts such as sewing, knitting, crochet, woodwork, jewellery-making, and so on. They may have spent many years making items as gifts for family and friends, or to sell at local fund-raising events. Their much-loved hobby will have progressed to the stage where someone has admired an item they have made, and placed an order; from there, word will have spread, and further orders will have been placed, and that crafty person may have wondered whether or not to open a shop of their own.
The best way to own a shop is to start your own online store; this is simple to do and, best of all, need not cost too much money. Just remember to choose a website builder that offers the ecommerce option, which enables you to add a virtual shopping cart into which your customers can place their purchases, along with a checkout with payment options. PayPal is one of the most trusted methods of transferring money online, so always make sure that that option is available. It’s simple and quick; just what you and your customers want.
There are lots of downsides to opening a ‘real’ shop, not just the running costs such as rent, rates, insurances, and utilities, but also other expenses like staff wages and so on. After all, you won’t be able to produce what you sell if you have to stand behind a counter dealing with customers, so you will need at least one member of staff to run the shop while you produce the products, probably from your own home. Operating from home in this way is ideal because the work can be tailored around other commitments.
There are a few stages to complete as you add pages to your site; here are the essentials, along with a few suggestions for extra pages that will enhance your store, and your product:
Name your store: Ideally, your online store’s name should reflect the product you are selling.
Home page: this is where you will introduce your store and your products. It’s the first page a customer will see when they visit your store. Keep the wording simple, because long write-ups don’t appeal to everyone, especially those who are visiting several sites looking for a particular item. They will want to get straight to the products. You will also need at least one eye-catching photo on this page, showing a sample of your product. The home page is your ‘shop window’ so make it as attractive and inviting as you can.
‘About me’ page: This is where you will put a profile of yourself, and this can be as personal as you wish. Some online store owners keep it simple; others will be more elaborate, perhaps describing their family situation, how they learnt their craft, and so on. Personalise it by adding a photo of yourself and, if you want, the place where you do all your crafting.
Online Store: This is the exciting bit; it’s where you will list your products, along with photos and descriptions and, of course, prices. Make your photos as clear and as colourful as possible, using props if necessary, to showcase your wares. For example, if you are selling, say, knitted teddy bears, you could display several of them on a picnic rug, with a few plates of sandwiches. For jewellery, you could find some slender architectural twigs from the garden, plant them in a pot, and hang necklaces and bracelets from them. You will soon start coming up with display ideas of your own and, if you devise something unique or quirky, it could become your ‘signature’. Another thing that you could offer to your customers is the products in kit form, at a slightly lower price, so that they can make their own versions. For a knitted toy, for example, this should include an illustrated pattern, the yarn in the amount and colour required, stuffing material, and any embellishments such as ribbons, buttons, and so on. Packaged in an appealing way, this option could increase your sales with minimum effort on your part.
For all hand-crafted products, you should add a description of the materials used, cleaning and care instructions, and safety information if relevant.
Contact Form: This will allow people to ask any questions they may have, or to discuss a custom order with you.
Customer Feedback: Invite your customers to tell you what they thought of their purchases, and post the results on this page. Potential customers will find this very useful.
Blog: Many websites include a blog. This can be about any aspect of your craft and the items you are selling; keep it relevant to your online store.
Links: You can link to all sorts of other sites here, including other online stores, and blogs. You’ll find that other blog-owners link back to you, and this will increase your visitor numbers. Before long, you’ll have a number of followers, and that number will grow.
How to Pay, Postage Information, and Terms: this should include methods by which your customers can pay for their purchases, an idea of postage and packing costs, or an online calculator so that they can work it out themselves, and clear guidance on how you will deal with returns in the event of any problems. Customers would also appreciate an idea about how soon they can expect you to dispatch their order. Additional information could include how you package products. A lot of sellers today make a point of saying that they use recycled envelopes and packing materials; in our environmentally-friendly age, this may make a difference to your customer numbers. Another way to attract customers is to offer free postage under certain criteria, which could be, for example, on orders over a certain value; or you could offer a discount for bulk purchases. If you offer either or both of these, make sure it is stated on the home page, too. Similarly, if you take commissions, add this to the home page, as well.
As your online store grows, so will the recognition of your product, and you will soon find that what was once your favourite hobby has turned into a new-found career, with a great future. To make the very best of this opportunity, you need the right website; there are plenty of great website builders out there that will make this easy for you; before very long, you’ll have wondered why you didn’t do it years ago.