sell  craftsThere’s never been a better time to make money selling handcrafted items. The last decade has seen a huge market shift in consumers’ buying habits to purchasing more original, hand-crafted items. There are two major reasons for this trend.

The first is a new and widespread commitment to the home-based designer and crafter. Consumers have come to understand and appreciate that they can make a direct difference in the world simply in the kinds of purchases that they make.

Many consumers prefer that the money that they spend ends up in the pocket of an entrepreneur rather than in the numbered bank account of a big box store or impersonal corporation. They’d rather feel that they are making an investment in the life of a small business owner; it’s a rewarding feeling to know that the money you handed over to purchase a hand-crafted item is helping to feed a young family or send a teenager to college as opposed to buying a second or third home for a corporate executive.

The second reason is consumers’ general commitment to a healthier, sustainable planet. Hand-crafted items tend to incorporate the use of more recycled and earth-friendly materials. Plus, hand-crafted items almost always took less energy and natural resources to produce than mass-manufactured goods. A purchase of a hand-crafted item is like a vote for the good of the planet and humankind.

There’s also a third reason that many buyers of handmade items prefer to avoid chain and big-box stores for their craft purchases: they want originals. Buying from an artisan often means getting items that are unique, exclusive and one-of-a-kind.

Fortunately, it’s also easier than ever to market home-made, hand-crafted, unique and original items. The Internet makes it possible for entrepreneurs and designers of all kinds, from anywhere in the world, to reach a world-wide audience. And today crafters don’t even have to have their own Websites to reach the mass market.

Getting Started

Ready to start marketing your own hand-made craft items? Here are four of the Web’s best places to sell your original items:

1) Esty.com: was the first of its genre when it first launched in 2005. It’s been compared to a cross between eBay and Amazon.com. It’s like a big flea market dedicated to hand-crafted goods as well as craft supplies, but in a virtual format.

How Etsy Works

Crafters /sellers must first create a basic account with the site. Go to the Etsy sign up page and fill in the required information. (Facebook customers can create an Etsy account instantly using their Facebook sign-in. Simply click on the button marked “Sign in using Facebook.”) You’ll be required to select a user name and password. You must confirm your account by clicking on the confirmation link that’s sent to your email address.

To be eligible to sell items on Etsy, you must provide a valid credit card number. This number is for verification purposes only because it’s free to set up a seller’s account/storefront. You may also use this credit card to pay any seller’s fees that you accumulate (more on that later.)

To become a seller, you can go to the seller’s sign up page and fill out the required information. This includes your name and address, plus your credit card number.

Once you’ve created your seller’s account, you’re free to set up your “storefront.” This page is like your flea market table or booth. You can customize it with the templates that Etsy provides or even upload your own graphics or images.

Now it’s time to fill your store with products! Each item that you list will cost you 20 cents. You must pay this listing fee whether your item sells or not. Etsy also makes money by taking a 3.5 percent share of your item’s selling price. So be sure to keep these fees in mind as you’re deciding how to price your products.

Unlike eBay, Etsy.com is not a timed-auction site. You can list items for as long as you like, and buyers pay a set price rather than bidding on your products.

What Kinds of Products You Can Sell on Etsy.com?

Etsy has specific guidelines on the types of products that you can sell. They must fall into at least one of three categories: handmade, vintage or supplies.

Items in the hand-made category must be just that: made by hand. That’s not to say you can’t use a sewing machine, but rather that the item must not be mass-produced by robotic machinery. Just about anything that’s made by hand can be sold on Etsy, including ceramics, jewelry, clothing, accessories, soap, candles, knit items, toys, original artwork and graphic designs, housewares and more.

Items in the “vintage” category must be at least 20 years old. “Vintage” items don’t necessarily have to be hand-made. (However, if you happen to have an item that’s vintage AND hand-made, it is probably a sure-fire seller!)

The “supplies” category is somewhat broad, but basically refers to products that are designed to be used as components in making some bigger item. Etsy is a fantastic place to find not only general, everyday kinds of supplies like beads and fabric, but also eclectic arts and crafts supplies like bottle caps, charms, die cuts, wood shapes, coins and much more.

The great thing about Etsy is that its visitors are highly motivated to buy. They’ve come to Etsy specifically for the purpose of looking at hand-crafted items, unlike visitors to eBay who may be looking for just about anything. Etsy has developed a strong following and fan base, and has carved out a very individual niche for itself in the marketplace.

Our Evaluation of Etsy

We like the fact that the selling fees on Etsy are relatively low in comparison to similar sites. The only downside is that you must pay the 20 cent listing fee for each item regardless of whether the item actually sells or not.

We like the fact that Etsy.com is a very well-known site. Almost everyone’s heard of it and knows what it is, even if they’ve never visited it. Because it is so well known and well-established, it tends to rank very highly in the major search engines, which is a definite plus for Etsy sellers.

2) Artfire.com: Artfire is similar to Etsy, sometimes referred to as an Etsy “knock-off.” Be that as it may, we still think Artfire is a fabulous place to find original artisan hand-crafted items, and therefore a great place to sell them.

How Artfire Works

Artfire has a number of similarities to Etsy. Like Etsy, you get your own, customizable “storefront” on Artfire. Like Etsy, visitors can browse your (and other sellers’) wares by category. And, like Etsy, Artfire sells hand-made crafts and vintage items, plus arts and crafts supplies. However, Artfire differs from Etsy in that it also permits the sale of items that are made from original designs (but not hand-made) as well as arts and crafts products that are neither hand-made nor original.

What really sets Artfire apart from Etsy is how it charges its sellers/artisans. While Etsy charges a 20 cents per item listing fee and makes 3.5 percent on the back end, Artfire simply charges a flat monthly fee (around 13 dollars per month).

In fact, this is Artfire’s major selling feature over Etsy. Not only do pay only a flat fee, but you get unlimited listings plus all the other features Etsy offers, like the ability to post pictures of your items.

To get started, go to Artfire’s sign up page. Click on the button marked “Seller,” provide your email and create a password. (Facebook users can sign up using their Facebook account. Just click on the “Login with Facebook” button.”)

Next, follow the instructions and answer some basic questions about your products and yourself. You’ll also be asked for your address and credit card number, which is how you will be charged your monthly shop fee. Finally, you’ll be able to customize and set up your shop and start selling.

Our Evaluation of Artfire

It may be to your advantage to sell your items on Artfire because your fees will always be predictable. They will never change, and your credit card will automatically be billed for the same amount each month. Artfire can be especially advantageous for crafters who have a lot of items to list, since there’s no listing fee and no commission on items sold.

Though Artfire isn’t as well known as Etsy, it is gaining a foothold in the virtual artisan’s market. The site is aesthetically pleasing and easy to use, so it appeals to potential buyers, making it a good place for sellers, too.

3) Tophatter.com: Tophatter is one of the most unique concepts in online buying and selling. Tophatter is an auction site, but it’s no eBay. Tophatter only features live, in-real-time auctions.

How Tophatter Works

The items on Tophatter are not limited to hand-made-only. However, Tophatter only auctions items that are artisan in nature. Buyers can find jewelry (hand-made, vintage and one-of-a-kind), gourmet food, decorative items, purses/handbags and craft supplies, including fabrics. The items that you’ll find for sale on Tophatter are not cookie-cutter, mass-produced, big-box chain store products but eclectic, artistic and limited edition.

Tophatter works just like a regular live auction. Tophatter bidders gather in real-time in a virtual room, the “auction house.” They compete against each other for the item that’s currently being auctioned. Whoever bids the highest wins the item. Auctions last only minutes, and auctions are scheduled at specific times throughout the day, every day of the week.

To participate in an auction, a bidder must actually be online while an item is being auctioned off. Bids are posted in real time. The winner is announced at the end of the auction.

How to Sell on Tophatter

The process for selling your hand-crafted items on Tophatter is much simpler than selling on Etsy or Artfire. There’s no profile to fill out, no virtual store to set up. You simply list your item, known as a “lot,” set a minimum price (the opening bid price) and choose the date and time you want your item auctioned.

To get started, go to Tophatter.com and sign up for a basic account by providing your email address and creating a password. (Facebook users can sign up using their Facebook account.) You must have a PayPal account to sell items on Tophatter.

Next, go to the list a new item page. Provide the required information, including your PayPal account, plus a description of your item and a picture. You will be able to choose when (time and date) your auction will take place.

You are allowed to upload up to three photos of the item you’re selling. We suggest that you always upload three. (Take pictures from three different angles, or submit at least one photo of the item by itself and another photo of someone wearing the item, if applicable.) Items with more pictures tend to sell for more money.

Once your item has been auctioned and a winner announced, you will be notified, as will the bidder. It is the bidder’s responsibility to pay you directly for the item via your PayPal account.

Tophatter does not participate in the exchange of money between buyers and sellers, nor does it facilitate transactions. It’s possible, for this reason, that a successful bidder may not end up paying you for your item. Keep this in mind when making your decision whether or not to list an item on Tophatter.com. You won’t lose any money (since there are no fees for listing items), but it is a hassle to go through the auction process only to get stiffed at the end.

So how does Tophatter actually make money? You might have already guessed that Tophatter gets its cut at the back end of every deal. It takes a 10 percent commission off of every item sold. It only takes its cut after you’ve been paid, so you don’t have to worry about losing money in the event that a successful bidder does not end up paying you for your item.

Our Evaluation of Tophatter

The biggest advantage of using Tophatter to sell your original craft items is that it doesn’t cost you a dime unless you actually make a successful sale. We like Tophatter because of this. We also like the fact that you don’t have to spend time setting up a storefront. Some artisans don’t want to bother with this, and so Tophatter lets you sell your items even without a storefront.

One of the downsides of Tophatter is that it’s possible that no one will actually bid on your item, and therefore, you won’t sell it. Another fact that some sellers might consider to be a disadvantage of using Tophatter is that their commission is much higher than sites like Etsy. However, the fact that there are no listing fees may balance out the high price of commission.

4) Handmade Catalog: You might have inferred from the name that this is an online catalog of hand-crafted items. The site (catalog) contains hundreds of hand-made items, including things like jewelry, housewares, clothing and accessories, toys, artwork, decorative items and many more categories of products. The Handmade Catalog carries only items that are home-made/handcrafted, plus craft supplies.

How the Handmade Catalog Works

The Handmade Catalog has some similarities to Etsy and Artfire. Its overall structure, though, is unique.

There’s no bidding. Prices are fixed and set by the individual crafter. Visitors simply browse the online catalog by product category to find the kinds of goods they’re looking for. To purchase, a buyer clicks on the item and pays for it via PayPal.

The seller receives notification from the Handmade Catalog whenever one of their products is purchased. It is the crafter’s responsibility to ship the item to the buyer.

The Handmade Catalog makes its money not off of listing fees but on membership fees and commissions. Crafters must pay a membership fee. For this, the member gets product uploading and handling of financial transactions. The number of uploads depends on the type of membership purchased.

Membership fees and types vary. The Handmade Catalog offers three types of memberships: Basic, Standard and Professional.

Basic membership: The cost for a Basic membership is $4.95 per month or $40 for a year if you pay for a whole year at once. Basic membership gets you up to 50 product uploads. The Handmade Catalog takes a 15 percent commission on each item sold by a Basic member.

Standard membership: The cost for a Standard membership is $7.95 per month or $60 for a whole year paid in full. Standard members get 250 uploads, and the commission fee is reduced to 10 percent.

Professional membership: This membership package costs $12.95 per month or $100 for a year paid up front. Pro members can have up to 1200 product uploads, plus their business name on the site’s list of crafters. Commission also drops to 5 percent on each item sold.

How to Sell on the Handmade Catalog

You must create a seller’s account by going to the Handmade Catalog’s sign-up page. Fill out the required information, choose your membership package and agree to the site’s terms of use. You must submit a credit card number or use your PayPal account to pay your membership fee. Once you’ve paid, you can begin to upload your products to the online catalog.

Our Evaluation of the Handmade Catalog

One of the things we like best about selling handcrafts through the Handmade Catalog is the ability to choose different membership packages. This may be a better venue than Artfire if you only have a few dozen products to sell because it will probably cost you much less overall.

However, if you have several hundred products that you want to list, Artfire or Etsy may end up costing you less. Be sure to keep The Handmade Catalog’s fee structure in mind when you’re considering joining and/or deciding what membership package to opt into.

The Handmade Catalog isn’t as flashy a Website as Artfire or Etsy, but “flashiness” may not be a big deal. What may be a bigger deal is the fact that The Handmade Catalog.com is far less well known than Etsy and Artfire as a place to purchase handcrafted items. It doesn’t rank as highly as Etsy and Artfire in the major search engines. Therefore, you might find it more challenging to sell on The Handmade Catalog than on some of the more publicized online artisan marketplaces.

We think, overall, that The Handmade Catalog may be a worthwhile investment. We recommend opting for a Basic Membership to begin, paying for a full year (to save a bit of money), and then with trying it out for twelve months. After a year you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether your investment is going to pay off in the long term and if you wish to renew and/or upgrade your membership package.

Some Tips for Online Selling of Handcrafted Items

These are general selling tips, and some points may not apply to all of the venues we’ve looked at. Those that do apply should be taken seriously because they will greatly increase your chances of selling success, no matter which one(s) you decide to invest in.

* Photos of your items are a must! You don’t have to have professional photos taken. Just get a good digital camera that takes quality pictures.

All of the sites we’ve looked at allow users to upload at least one photo of each item they list. If you’re allowed to upload more than one photo, do it! Take full advantage of uploading privileges to get the most out of your fees.

* Equally important to your success as pictures of your items are good descriptions. Make sure that you write persuasive, colorful product descriptions. A few things to remember about writing product descriptions:

Describe the item as if there were no picture available. Pretend that potential buyers can’t see the item and instead must visualize it mentally. Here’s an example:

“This black patent-leather, one-of-a-kind black belt has been hand-stitched in a pink and white daisy-chain motif and finished with a brushed-chrome, antique-look buckle.”

Be sure to include any details about features that are unique and that make your item stand out from similar items by competitors. “Earrings are made from hand-harvested Oregon coast beach glass” is an example.

Use colorful, descriptive language, and try to avoid words that are general or cliché. Use words like “dazzling,” “stunning,” “bewitching” or “refined” instead of “pretty” or “beautiful.”

Include a reason or two why someone should buy the item. In other words, what benefit(s) will it offer? “Brighten up a dark room with this hand-crafted, exclusive seashell-studded table lamp” is an example of this idea.

Include important details like size/measurements of the item, materials and contents, colors, etc.

Make sure that your description is an accurate and fair representation of the item that you’re selling.

Make your description just long enough to be thorough, but brief enough to keep readers interested. A description that’s too short may not persuade potential buyers, and one that’s too long will cause readers to lose interest quickly and leave the page.

Hope this helps,

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