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Tips for selling handmade items online

Have you thought about turning your hobby into a business? It would be nice to work from the comfort of your own art studio, wouldn’t it? Well, even though it’s possible, it won’t be easy.

Here are several tips that might help you along the way as you tackle the growing (and perhaps even over saturated) market. There have never been more platforms you could use to sell your items online, from Etsy to Ebay, but don’t dive into it without research first. That’s one of the reasons why many don’t succeed in selling. Now, let’s take a closer look.

#1 Choose where to sell

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well… it can sometimes be tricky. For example, let’s say you are interested in joining Etsy and opening a shop. It seems easy, all you need is a username, a shop name, fill in information about yourself and your bank account and that’s it. Is it? Not really.

First of all, try to find the right marketplace for your items. If you’re selling jewelry, Etsy might not be the right choice unless you make unique pieces that are different from millions of others listed on Etsy. The market is extremely saturated and it results in lowering the price by desperate sellers who want to attract more customers. Then others have to lower the price as well and it all loses sense.

The same thing is with many other items, from digital scrapbooking paper to natural cosmetics. Don’t be discouraged by all of that, but keep in mind that you will have to work hard to get your shop’s name out there.

Try out smaller marketplaces and websites as well, especially if there is one that sells exactly what you are making. Craftsy, for example, offers tutorials – from cooking to painting, so if you would like to teach something you are good at, why not try it? You can share your recipes or explain how to paint breathtaking landscapes in watercolours.

A completely different option is to open a shop on your own website. It will take a lot of time to build the shop, but it’s worth it. Plus, it’s your own so there are no extra fees and you have the freedom to make it look exactly how you want it. If you open a shop on Ebay, for example, any changes they impose will affect your shop and you’ll either agree with it or leave.

#2 Write down all fees and expenses

It’s a good idea to write down your business plan, as well as compare fees from different websites. If the e-commerce corporation you would like to use takes more than 5% of the total amount of your sale and another corporation wants 3%, it’s a good idea to compare all other aspects.

Common fees are for transaction/per sale, posting an item (listing it), promoted listings, monthly fees etc. Besides, if you receive payments online, via Paypal or similar, they also have fees.

#3 Set the right price

Evaluate all of these fees to make sure it would still be profitable to sell. If you’re left with almost nothing after a sale, then it’s not worth it. Make sure to calculate the price properly, take into account all expenses, your hard work and never underestimate yourself.

If you designed a papercut, bought expensive tools and premium papers, spent hours cutting and framing it, you can’t sell it for five pounds and be left with five after paying all fees. It would not only beat the purpose, but you would also put other paper cutter artists into a tough position as they would have to lower their price and lose value.

There are many calculators already available online so give them a chance. Make sure to include everything into the price, from the hours you spent working on it to how expensive it was to purchase all supplies. You are charging for your skills, never forget that.

#4 Choose your name and develop a brand

The sooner you do this, the easier it will be. Your business name can be inspired by anything, but it would be ideal if it represented what you do. It should be easy to remember, polite (make sure that whatever words you are using are not offensive in other languages just in case) and preferably short.

Avoid complicated names that people would have trouble remembering or spelling and don’t forget to check if it’s already taken.

Think about the logo and your brand colors. Again, all you need is to type ”brand colours meaning” and thousands of articles and photos will appear in the results that will help you choose a colour that represents your business.

Even though you can change your name and brand, it will be hard to do afterwards. Once you build a community of followers and customers that have become used to the name, it’s tricky to suddenly change it. Some people won’t recognize it is still you, so you should send out emails and have your old name mentioned in the shop as well to clear any confusion.

#5 Paperwork

Once you’re ready to start selling, there are a few things to take care of first. Register for tax, make sure you have all the documents ready and are allowed to sell.

This can take up to a month or be done in a couple of days, depending where you live, so it’s best to do it sooner than to leave it for later. If your business expands, you might need to hire an accountant to keep track of your sales and manage all the paperwork as you will be busy creating new listings.

#6 Listing an item

There is nothing worse than poorly presenting your lovely handmade product. Upload up to 5 (if allowed) clear photos that show off your product. Use a simple background rather than something distracting or too colourful. If you’re selling digital items, mockups are usually allowed.

Phone cameras have improved, but if you have a DSLR, don’t be afraid to use it.

Experiment with different settings, watch tutorials on Youtube and compare photos you like from other sellers. Find what makes them good and why someone would click on them.

Your item should be in focus and use the rest of the photos to show small details or other sides. For example, if you are selling a body scrub in a jar, offer a closeup of the label and ingredients as well as show it in use. You can be the model in your photos, or anyone who agrees. Try to find someone from your family or friends to save money.

As for description, it has to be accurate. Don’t state that your item is better or worse than it is and it’s best to use neutral words. Describing it as ”the best soap you will ever use” is definitely not the way to go. Instead, focus on its traits: does it leave the skin soft and moisturised with a nice smell? If yes, why not include that instead?

Your listing description should always have the following:

  1. introduce your product in one or two sentences
  2. describe all supplies used to make it
  3. tell the customer how they can use it or what it is used for in general
  4. shop policy (returns, refunds, do you allow commercial use or not etc.)
  5. contact information
  6. any other information you think is relevant

#7 Use relevant tags

Keep track of what tags bring you the most traffic and always use tags that are relevant.

If allowed, put more than one word in a single tag. For example, instead of ”pearl” and ”necklace”, put a single tag: ”pearl necklace”. Ask yourself what you would type in the search box, it helps to get an idea. Other examples of good tags are ”scrapbooking paper digital download”, ”alloy pendant necklace” or ”emerald cuff bracelet”.

Avoid tags such as ”blue necklace” or ”beautiful dress”. They are meaningless and thousands of results will appear. Just like your item, tags should be unique and precise.

#8 Observe stats

Several marketplaces have built-in stats so you can see what is currently your best item, which one sells faster, where your customers are from, how many people visited your shop and so on.

It helps you to promote and learn what’s good to do and what’s not. If most of your customers come from Europe, see what they are interested in and promote yourself on websites they visit. If your traffic comes from your Facebook page and not from your Twitter account, then focus on uploading refreshing content on the first social network.

The general rule is: know your customers.

#9 Promotion

E-mail subscription lists are still popular, even though I’m not sure it will stay like that for long. Never send your subscribers repetitive emails or emails with boring content just to be able to say you did it. It’s better to spend time writing interesting content and providing them with something unique, such as featuring a product in the newsletter and explaining what inspired you to make it and how you made it.

Sending emails with poor structure and content with a bunch of links is not something you should do.

Apart from discounts and newsletters, you can always set up a blog, shoot videos, make a Facebook or Twitter page, share photos on Instagram, Pinterest and similar. Changes come quickly, so check what’s in and what’s out.

The golden rule: interact with your customers.

#10 Stay organised

Keep track of all of your sales, bills, profit and expenses. Back up all data, including your listings and orders on your PC in case the website goes down and to be sure it won’t be lost. If you choose to leave the website and close the shop at some time, having saved all the data already will save you a lot of effort (not to mention how stressful it would be otherwise) and it will be easier to move your listings to another shop.


Selling handmade online can be challenging, but it’s amazing to see that people still appreciate what craftsmen and artists do. Almost all products we use today are mass-produced and it’s truly refreshing to receive a handmade gift or use handmade beauty products.

Be creative, don’t copy other artists’ styles and products and double-check that you are not infringing copyright (for example, you can’t sell something that has other companies’ logos and similar). I’m sad to see people making things with Disney theme for example without permission and making money off someone else’s hard work to create all those characters or stories.

Finally, take some time for yourself. Managing a shop and crafting at the same time is hard work so it’s a good idea to write blog or social network posts in advance and set the publishing date. That way you can go on a vacation but your readers and customers will still have access to new content.

If you have any tips or would like to share your experience, I encourage you to write a comment. It would be interesting to see how it selling handmade turned out for others. Even though there are some ups and downs, I believe it’s still enjoyable and doing what you love while also making money is amazing. What do you think? I’d love to hear what you make and why you decided to turn it into a business.


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