The internet is full of options for people who have beautiful homemade goods they wish to share with the world. In fact, it’s so full of options that many artists find themselves stuck – unable to settle on which selling strategy to pursue.
The platforms at your disposal for selling homemade goods online include:
- Launching your own eCommerce website;
- Creating shopfronts on marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon Handmade, and eBay;
- Selling on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram;
- A mix of the above options.
It’s tempting to go all out in the beginning, launching on every platform available in hopes of fast-tracking your success. However, this can lead to a lot of frustration, a lot of unnecessary expenditure, and potentially a full-blown burnout.
A better strategy would be to assess the digital landscape, start with a platform you feel comfortable with (and excited about), and then build gradually from there.
To help you get a feel for the industry, we’ve consulted with online marketplace sellers to bring you this list of all the benefits and challenges they experience.
What are the benefits of using online marketplaces to sell your homemade goods?
Many successful artists are currently making a comfortable living selling their products on marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon Homemade. These are the benefits they’re enjoying:
1. Traffic and trust
With years of experience behind them, the internet’s biggest arts and crafts marketplaces come with pre-established trust and massive amounts of daily traffic. If you set your online store up well, it’s the digital equivalent of placing yourself in the center of a busy mall. Only this mall is open 24/7 and it can be accessed by people all over the world.
This aspect of online marketplaces makes them ideal for artists who don’t yet have a following. You get to piggyback off the success of the marketplaces themselves, using them as a platform to start developing a fanbase.
2. Free marketing
Once your store is set up and filled with products that are well-described and properly tagged, sites like Amazon and eBay will suggest your listings to shoppers looking for similar items. If we stick to the mall analogy, this would be like a shop assistant in one store telling a customer to head over to your shop for a product they might like!
3. Finance and admin made easy(ish)
The big online arts and crafts markets all have superior checkout systems with multiple payment options for customers. Having someone handle the eCommerce side of things will take a huge weight off your shoulders, allowing you to focus more of your energy on the amazing products you create, and less on the tech and admin side of things.
In terms of tech and admin, it’s not just the checkout system that’s taken care of for you. Much of your invoicing and tax requirements will be made easy for you through the well-crafted backend infrastructure these sites offer to sellers. Though you’ll still have work to do, the pre-existing infrastructure does make it more straightforward than if you had to figure it all out for yourself.
4. Easy store setup
If you’re new to the art and science of selling your homemade goods online, then having a structure to your store set up will be monumentally helpful. Though the freedom of having your own website is enticing, the lack of guidance on how to go about building it often stalls people’s progress.
Many successful sellers start out on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay, and then add their own website once they’ve developed a fanbase for their creations and a better understanding of how they want their website to look and function.
5. You get to work from home on projects you love
For creative souls, there really is nothing like being at home and working on developing your own ideas. Though it’s wonderful to be able to step away from the time and money-sucking aspects of commuting to an office everyday, for artists, there’s far more to it than this.
Though you may get to flex your creative muscles in an agency environment, this never quite compares to the thrill you get from directing all your inspiration into your own projects.
What are the challenges of using online marketplaces to sell your homemade goods?
All good things come at a price. Though there are plenty of upside to selling your homemade goods through online marketplaces, you will likely also come up against the following challenges:
1. Customers can’t get a feel for products before they buy
This can be a deal-breaker for many potential customers, particularly when it comes to clothing. Add to this the fact that we all know how deceiving photographs can be, and you may find yourself reaching your target market but not converting any sales.
There are a number of ways you can combat this. First, it is essential to provide clear, high-quality photographs of your goods. Try to avoid filters or any editing that might change the colours too much. You want the item the customer sees online to perfectly match the one they’ll pull from the packaging.
You’ll also need to write clear descriptions and include measurements so the customer can get an idea of whether the item will fit the way they want it to in their home or, in the case of clothes and jewellery, on their body.
If it’s within your capabilities, you may also wish to offer custom-made products, allowing buyers to submit the measurements they’re after and get a product designed to suit.
Though it’s only fair that you pay a fee for all the benefits these marketplaces are giving you, sometimes what you’re asked to pay can seem a little steep. You may be hit with listing fees, commissions, fulfilment fees, and other charges that can sometimes add up to 25% of the sale price.
It’s important that you fully understand the fee structure for the marketplaces you choose to work with, and then factor this into your pricing to ensure you’re still making a profit.
3. The competition is fierce
Remember that free marketing we talked about in the benefits section? It works both ways. While you get to showcase your products on other people’s pages, their’s will also show up as recommendations on your listings. This means a seller with similar products to you may end up getting the sale if a customer decides to pick their item over yours.
To a certain extent, this can be overcome with detailed product descriptions, beautiful images, and unique selling points. However, it will always be something you have to contend with.
4. Limited branding opportunities
Though you do get to take control of certain design aspects within your online store, a browse through Etsy and Amazon Homemade will reveal that most shopfronts look very much alike. The platforms offer an homogeneous experience for users, with their own branding always taking pride of place.
The situation is even more extreme on eBay where people rarely browse stores, sticking mostly to search results and individual product pages.
This can be creatively stifling for you, and it can also lead to customers seeing you as part of something larger rather than an artist in your own right.
For this reason, it’s important to make the aspects you do have control over really pop. Your logo, branding, cover images, and product photos need to be packed full of so much personality they overcome all the sameness shoppers are accustomed to.
Copycattery is rife in online marketplaces, with Etsy sellers seeming to come up against it the most. This means that even if you do a stellar job of making yourself stand out, other sellers may see this, emulate your style, and then suck you back into a sea of sameness.
Some people go beyond mere emulation to fully plagiarizing descriptions and having copycat products made to match the items the original artist put so much work into developing.
Etsy does offer guidance and a reporting system for artists who’ve had their work copied. However, as you can imagine, the process can end up being lengthy, with no guarantees that you’ll get the outcome you’re looking for.
Even if their store is taken down, you’ll still have to operate under a lot of stress and frustration while sorting it out… unless you have your anxiety-busting meditation game on point!
Selling homemade goods online: final thoughts
There are plenty of headaches involved in selling your homemade goods online through art and craft marketplaces. However, for budding creatives, the simplicity and huge customer base these sites offer can make it a viable way to get a foot in the digital door.
If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to set yourself up for success in this industry, check out our complete guide to selling your homemade goods online.