Last updated by at .

How to describe your handcrafts to BOOST your sales – Features vs Benefits

Have you entered the draw for a bottle of Amy Butler’s delicious Sola Soak yet? You have until the 2nd Oct.

Would you please help me out by voting on your fave banner? You could win a bag frame. You have until 1st Oct.

A question for you: how do you describe your crafts on etsy, eBay, at your craft stall, or on your product tags? Do you talk about (A) the size, the colour, the price, and the material used, or do you talk about about (B) how wonderful this necklace, bag, picture, etc. is going to be as a present for someone special, how this craft item will save you time, or make you look sophisticated etc. etc. etc. or do you talk about both (A) and (B)? In my shop I talk about both the features and the benefits for my product descriptions.

What is the difference between (A) & (B)? Well, in marketing speak (A) describes is the Features of an item, and (B) describes the Benefits of an item. The features of a given item (i.e. size, colours etc.) are purely pragmatic, cold hard facts about the item, whereas the features of an item (i.e. coolness, sexiness, cosiness, convenience etc.) describe to the consumer the ‘what’s in it for me-ness’ of an item. As busy humans we are all mainly interested in ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘what’s in it for me’ decisions are typically based on emotions. This is important because emotions sell. Yes, we definitely take into account the size and price of an item, but that alone is not enough to convince us to buy the item, we need to get emotional too!

Here is a really good pic that shows the difference between Features and Benefits taken from the excellent Can you tell which column describes the features and which describes the Benefits?

Why is all of this important for your own craft business?

It’s important because a large part of the consumer’s to-buy-or-not-to-buy decision making process is influenced by the features of an item. As a consumer I’m no different; when I’m in a lingerie shop looking at pale green silk camisole I don’t think to myself ‘Hmmm…I’ll buy this camisole because it’s a pale green silk camisole’ I’m actually thinking ‘Hmmm…I’ll buy this camisole because I’m hoping that I’ll look soooo damn hot in it that my husband will clean forget that I dented our car in a little parking accident…Mwah! Ha! Ha!’ So you see, the features and the benefits are two different ways of looking at the same item. Here are some other reasons based on Benefits that make us (me included!) decide to buy a given item:

  • it will save me time
  • it has perceived quality
  • it will make me look attractive, educated, wealthy, talented, generous, humorous, cool, bohemian, individual, etc.
  • it is easy, convenient, quick, versatile etc. to use
  • it will go with lots of different outfits
  • it will save/make me money
  • the item is handmade and rare/precious/limited edition
  • etc. etc. etc.

Now try it yourself

Without cheating get yourself a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, one column for Features and the other for Benefits. Now how would you describe the Features, and the Benefits of the bag handles below?

OK, when you’ve finished (and not before!) click here to see how my description I focused on both the Features and the Benefits of the bag handles.

Well, I hope I made that clear enough. How about going through your own craft product descriptions and describing BOTH the Benefits and the Features? Your customers will appreciate it, and I hope your sales will increase too! :)

Giving great customer service – Win a bottle of Amy Butler’s yummy Sola Soak!

Almost everyone is a customer of someone. My customers buy bag making supplies in small amounts from me, and I buy supplies from manufacturers and wholesalers in great amounts. Now it’s true that MOST of my suppliers give me sh**ty service – unfortunately this appears to be more the norm amongst wholesalers and nothing (hopefully) to do with me being the customer!! (I’ll be looking at ways to try and overcome problems with suppliers in a future post). But luckily there are exceptions (funnily enough almost all of them happen to be women) and all of them provide a very personal and warm service. From a business point of view they understand how important it is to take the time, and maybe spend a little money in treating their customers like VIPs. Because your customers are VIPs! Without their support and their word of mouth, you are sunk (if not sunk than you are at least not going to fulfill your potential to become a growing business).

As a retailer of bag making supplies. I try to provide good service that I hope is memorable. If my customer service is memorable there is a better chance that when a new customer needs bag making supplies again they will hopefully think of me and my shop again, or if they attend sewing classes, or have sewing buddies, they might recommended my shop to others. When I am a customer, bad customer service makes me see red, and I will always make a fuss if an assistant doesn’t say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, or even acknowledge me (even if it makes me look really uptight and I blush like a beetroot!). One of my fave shops in London is John Lewis which isn’t the cheapest department store, but the service is so helpful and polite, that to me it’s worth paying a little bit more to be treated pleasantly (shopping in London is REALLY stressful and most service is rude, so to be treated nice is lovely). Here are some things that I do in my own shop to try and provide memorable customer service. How about trying some of these yourself?:

  • I hand write a little thank you message in every one of my invoice sheets
  • In the weekdays I post orders on the same day that I receive them to cut down waiting time for customers (who don’t want to wait; they just want to sew!)
  • I pop in a sweetie in with the order for the customer to chew whilst they are sewing :)
  • I wrap everything with great care, and use good quality packaging
  • I usually end up gossiping with customers who phone with their orders (I MUST cut down on this a bit!)
  • I try to give full and helpful answers to email inquiries be they sewing or product or craft business queries (I’m not as fast as I would like, but then I’m the only one who can answer the emails!)
  • I believe in getting personal with my customers, if that is also what they would like.
  • I sometimes pop freebies in with the orders if I have any lying around the office
  • I also do things like this! I am writing a blog on how I go about running my business and how you can too. I also write my other blog which is more about me and how to make bags. Hopefully the information contained within these blogs is helpful and entertaining. If yes (please say yes!) then this is another way to provide good customer service. Readers of these blogs may not yet, or ever become customers, but IT’S ALL GOOD, and what goes around, comes around…

I’d like to contrast ways in which (I as) a retailer gives good customer service with how one of my favourite suppliers give great customer service. A fine case in point is the lovely Amy Butler. I have been selling her gorgeous bag patterns in my shop from the very beginning and in that time Amy has taken the time to be warm, friendly, and helpful. I’m sure that will remain a good reason as to why I will always stock her patterns. It’s widely known that Amy is talented and successful, but even better, it is also widely know that she is lovely with it. Here are some of the things that she and her company have done to provide good customer service to me (a retailer):

  • She replies personally to emails swiftly and she likes to be personal too!
  • Her company dispatches patterns swiftly
  • I am always updated about any new releases and I am sent copies of new patterns hot off the press.
  • Amy is very supportive of businesses that carry her products – in all sort of ways.
  • Not only does Amy send retailers samples of new products, she asks you if you would like them first! Which brings me to the other half of the reason that I’m writing this post…

Amy has designed the Sola (evening garden) fragrance for a environmentally friendly wool and delicates soak wash, and she kindly sent me a bottle (thanks Amy! OXO). Soak is the most gorgeous wash for your lacy undies (if you’re that kind of gal – I am on occasion!) and your precious woolies that you’ll ever use. I have used this yummy soak before as I’ve been given a bottle of this very flavour as a pressie (thanks Lauren! OXO) . It’s dead easy to use, you just soak your clothing in a solution of this stuff for 15 mins, and then dry (no need to rinse). What I like most about it is that your clothes smell just wonderful, I go around sniffing the cuffs of my cardi the whole time…bliss! I was very tempted to keep this for myself, but no that’s not good karma… So I am going to give this new bottle of Sola Soak away to one lucky draw winner.

Try Amy’s limited edition Sola on your clothes; it will make the boys think ‘Mmm…!’ This wash is a fabulous way for Amy to expand her lovely brand don’t you think?

To be in with a chance of getting your hands on a bottle of this lovely wash/perfume for your delicates, leave a comment this post by:

  • telling us what crafty things you sell, OR
  • what are you planning to sell in your craft business, OR
  • if you don’t have a craft business what is your fave handmade crafts shop?

I will draw 1 lucky winner using the trusty random number picker in a weeks time, 2nd October. Good luck!

I’m sorry but I can’t reply to comments in draws, but I do love reading every single one of them :)

Ways to Market Yourself & Your Craft (on the cheap).

As I said in a previous post many of us crafters make the mistake of not spending enough time and money marketing ourselves and our crafts. This isn’t surprising because as crafters we love making things and the business side of…er…craft business is not necessarily our forte.  But if you you attend to the business side of things little and often, and from early on, you’ll find that you will be busier, and you’ll find yourself needing to make more craft to fill your inventory! So it’s important to market ourselves, and our business, and to keep on marketing to stay on ahead of the game. That’s why the big companies (the likes of Sony, Walmart, and Louis Vuitton etc. etc. etc.) keep on marketing themselves to ensure that we are aware (or in other words, brand aware) of their presence (as if we needed reminding!). But if they don’t do it they are letting themselves be vulnerable to their competitors. NB: I know I have habit of using the activities of large companies as an example but this is just to (hopefully) better describe things. A business is a business no matter what it’s size. Therefore, the same factors still apply to folks who work at home in their jammies (just on a slightly smaller scale)

Right, so last time we looked a ways to market yourself and your business for free, this time we’ll look at way to market our craft business on the cheap (I have written down what I have done for my own business in italics):

  • Get yourself a blog This is my favourite way to market myself and my business. I use my business blog to promote my products, give my customers an insight to who I am, provide tutorials (that use my products), showcase the bag making skills of others. By doing these things I hope introduce bag making to people who have never made bags before, increase the trust that customers have in me as the owner of my business, encourage others to go into business themselves, and create a little corner (that is less formal, and more casual than my shop) for us bag makers to congregate. Having your own blog gives you another web link (that you can get out there in the internet), and a platform in which to talk about you, show off your craft photos, show off your craft, talk about the craft process for example. I have found blogging absolutely invaluable to my business, and I can’t recommend it for your craft business enough! I use Typepad (which only costs me £4.50 a month – bargain!) because it was recommended to me, I think they look good, and I like their type list function. I had never blogged before I started (Nov 06) and I’ve learned it all on the way. You don’t need to be a computer geek (the help you need is in the help pages). Here are a few well known blog providers, some of which are free (I don’t know about the ones in other countries, sorry!): Sixapart (who provide 4 different types of blog depending on your needs), WordPress, and Blogger.
  • Get yourself your own logo – It’s really worth getting your logo designed by a pro (you can also approach the owners of good looking blogs and ask them who designed their banners, and lots of web designers have their own blogs, see if you can set-up a trade with them!). If you are rubbish at drawing (like I am) don’t attempt to design your own logo yourself because it will look unprofessional and this may well turn potential customers off. In the beginning I had no idea what I wanted for my logo. I just knew that I wanted it to look friendly, approachable, craftish, not too young, and not particularly old. My designer (who is experienced in logo design and branding) and I worked on the logo together and we eventually settled on the final design, font, and colour after almost everyone of my friends said ‘yep, that’s the daddy!’
  • Get yourself a strapline (as defined by Wiki). A strap line is a useful bunch of words that serve to reinforce /inform (in a quick & simple way) just what your craft business is/provides. I’ve had my strapline “Love Bags, Make Bags” from the beginning and I hope that from reading it, it is obvious to the reader that my craft business is involved in handbags, and handbag making. When my strapline appears alongside my logo is serves to inform people of what my business is (in case you can’t tell from looking at the logo in isolation.

I’m guessing that this guy will have to think up a better strapline…

  • Get yourself some labels – and place them on your craft. If you have a pretty logo, in nice colours it will look great on a tag or label and when you put these labels on you craft items it will make them look more professional. When things look more professional the perceived value (what something appears to be worth) increases, making your product look like it is even better quality. Include contact information on your label such as website or telephone number becuase as the owner shows off his or her new craft item (bought from you) you can bet that he or she is going to asked where it was bought from. Also, your craft item may be given as a present and the new owner may well want to know how the get their mitts on more of your craft items. Use you craft items to promote you! You can make your own tags (have a look at these yummy ones,) and/or you can have woven labels made for you. Here are some manufacturers I can think of (there are lots more, have a search on Google). Cashes, Charm Woven, National Weaving, and Clothing labels 4 u.
  • Get yourself some stationary – such as business cards (did you have a look at the Free business cards yet?) postcards, or get creative and think up your own ‘little calling cards’ that you can put your business info on. In the past I have received cute ‘business cards’ that have been made from quilted scraps, cute key rings made from bottle tops, and wire window decorations all of which the creators have used as ‘business cards’. They are so pretty that they haven’t gotten lost or been thrown away! The more attractive and or useful something is the less likely it is headed for the trash, plus they also make you think nice and positive thoughts about the creators (which is important!). If you have a Flickr account (which is free) you can also make up your own Moo Cards, and postcards which are also popular and dead handy becuase you can use pictures of your craft items.

As soon as I hear of more marketing tips like these you can be sure that I’ll write ’em down and share them with you. Do you have any little cheap and cheerful marketing tips that you use, and you would like to share with us?

What is the difference between Marketing Yourself, & Marketing your Craft Product?

Oh wow! Thank you so much everyone for your kind wishes, warm fuzzy words of support, and subscribing to my new blog :) Thanks to your enthusiastic response I didn’t think it was possible to get even more excited about the idea of hopefully assisting loads of crafty folks in setting up their own craft business – I think even my sewing machine might short – out!

OK, I know that I said that I would be talking about Ways to market yourself and your crafts (on the cheap) in this post, but I think that should be in my next post because what I am going to look at today is a good lead-in to that.

In my last post I said that I would talk about the difference between marketing yourself, and marketing your handcraft. Just before I start I want say that as a crafter myself I completely understand that for some of you, the ‘selling and marketing’ bit is a bit harder than the ‘making craft’ bit. This is maybe because you’re not sure about what businessey strategies you can use (I hope to help in that department) and you may feel shy about your work. I know I harp on about this, but you need to work on gaining confidence in your work and your skills because this confidence affects EVERYTHING that you do. I’m not talking about taking the craft world over ‘Dr Evil style’ kind of confidence, just a positive belief in yourself that you work hard at what you do, and that other people out there will appreciate it and some of them will be willing to pay for it. This confidence won’t come straight away, almost everyone sells their handcraft at too modest prices in the beginning (yep, me included), but as soon as you get positive feedback from your customers and other people, you should accept it and build on it. Why am I talking about confidence now? Well, it leads nicely into looking how to market yourself!

There is a difference between confidence and megalomania. Mwah! Ha! Ha!

What does marketing yourself mean?

In short, it is creating a ‘brand’ for yourself, and you HAVE to be confident about yourself and your products when doing this, because if you don’t believe in yourself other people aren’t likely to either! What does branding do for a business? Well a short answer (because branding is a science all of it’s own) is that a company’s brand is: what you understand, what you know, and how you feel about the company. See how this is distinct from what you know about the product of the company? When a company talks about its product, it might tell you about the product’s size, colour, and it’s capabilities.  So back to branding, what sort of feelings, thoughts, and images do you get if I ask you to think about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Come back! I didn’t mean for you to rush to your freezer! I think it would be fair to say that a lot of people would say things like ‘I feel positive toward them’, ‘they make quality ice cream’, ‘they are fun & young at heart’, and ‘they have good company ethics’ etc. If monsieurs Ben & Jerry hadn’t created their own brand in this confident manner (or any manner at all), as far as you or I are concerned Ben & Jerry would just be a couple of beardy guys who happen to make ice cream…big deal, what are their names again? There are squillions of companies selling ice cream and branding helps B & J to stand out from the ice cream crowd in their own special way. You see, to get the competitive edge it’s not enough to make amazing ice cream. Branding is also essential in helping customers understand our business. As humans we generally feel more at ease with things that we can easily understand. For example, we like it when a shop is tidy, organized, where product groups are clearly defined, and the products are clearly labeled.

Drool Drool Drool! Look how fun this tub is? What brand messages (besides EAT ME!) are you getting from looking the label?

Why does all of this branding stuff apply to a small craft business owner like me?

This is a wonderful time for people like you and me to set up their own craft business because the internet makes it so easy to do the necessary research, online shopping is going through the roof, and the set up costs are comparatively low. This means that lots of other people have twigged on to the opportunity too, and this of course creates competition. My own business has competition, and whether you sell in a market, Etsy, eBay, or your own website, your business will too. To give yourself an edge and to get happy customers passing the word around about your business you should try implementing (from as early on as possible) a few branding strategies for your own business. These strategies are worthwhile, they don’t require a masters in business studies, they won’t break the bank, and they DO work! (I’ll be talking about what these branding strategies are in my next post).

So what sort things about our craft business can we convey in our own branding?

  • Whether we specialize in vintage or modern handcraft Japanese etc. style craft.
  • What sort of craft do you make jewelry, quilts, ceramics, illustration, fiber, knitting, craft supplies, etc?
  • Whether you are  young and funky, or traditional, or folk, or urban, or bohemian, etc. etc. etc. type of business
  • Whether you are you high end, or mid, or high turnover and value type of business
  • Whether you are a ready made or commissions, or both kinds of business
  • Whether you are a personal, or not so personal type of business (my own business is deliberately very personal, my mugshot is all over my blog, and I describe my products in my shop in a conversational way).

Next time: I will talk about what things we can do get our own brand for our craft business.

Hellooo I’m HERE!!! Ways to market yourself and your crafts (for free).

When starting up a business many individuals (me included!) make the mistake of not investing enough/some hours (and a bit of cash) into marketing their lovely craft, and marketing themselves (there is a distinct difference between the two, but more about that in the next post).  I know it’s hard to believe, but it isn’t enough to make gorgeous handcraft. In order to run a successful and competitive business you need to tell others about the existence of your lovely craft. This means you need to make marketing your craft an essential and ongoing activity for the life of your business.

Yep, you gotta shout your craft out, loud and proud!

We know that huge corporations plow huge sums of money into marketing their companies and products, and whether we like it or not; it works! How else would we know about the funny names of products, what they do, and who makes them etc.? Well, fortunately for people like you and me who want to run a craft business from home (or close to home, like I do) we don’t need to shell out huge sums of money. There are a few tricks that don’t cost anything, and we’ll look at them here:

  • Sort your email signature out. An email signature is a collections of words, or images, or links (or all 3) that you choose to appear in your outgoing emails. Think of all of those emails that you send each day, week, and year. Each of those emails could be telling all of those recipients about your company (and blog if you have one). Now that could add up to LOTS of recipients. In my email signature I include my name, my role within my company, what my company does, and links to my shop and my blog (see below). I have found this email signature very useful, and I have made sales that I never would have thanks to the links. Here are the instructions on how to change your email signature in Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Googlemail. As with everything else, you can more go deeply into just what you should say, and include (or not) to maximize the marketing benefits of your email signature, but we’ll save that for another post; it is far more beneficial to include some detail about you company than none at all.

    Lisa Lam

    U-Handbag Proprietor

    Bag Making Supplies

  • Word of mouth. You put all of those hours into creating beautiful handcraft, so you MUST be proud of your skills! Show them off, if possible wear your craft; show off your handbags, jewelry, scarves, shoes, etc. Don’t be shy when people ask where you got your lovely bracelet, tote bag, hat (delete as appropriate). Be enthusiastic, joyful, and positive about your love of your craft.  Don’t don’t sell yourself short and play your skills down. Remember enthusiasm is infectious. Tell the girls at work, your friends, your family, the person sat next to you on the bus, parties, at the hair dressers etc.  This is a good time to try to overcome shyness, your business will thank you for it!
  • Want some free business cards? This company gives away 250 FREE no obligation business cards (in the hope that you will order, and pay for more).  Just click on this and then select your country from the top menu. Get them, then give ’em away!
  • The Internet. It’s true, internet users watch less TV. Who can blame them when there is lovely craft to be made and lovely blogs to read and things to learn etc etc. I’ve said before, the craft community is a lovely, warm, and friendly bunch, the amazing internet brings us together in our millions…oh yes, we are a huuuuuge gang of crafters! If I’m not running my shop, making a bag, writing in my blogs, or eating, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m surfing the web and reading other crafty blogs, drooling over the lovely handmade craft in Flickr, or surfing the craft forums. I’m no different to millions of other crafters, they all do the same! This means there is a potentially huge audience out there on the web for you to show off your craft to.  There are lots of social websites out there for you to contribute to and share your craft on. Get your lovely handmade goodness out into the web and blogosphere and contribute! Comment on people’s blogs; show off your lovely handmade goods on craft forums like Craftster, CraftZine, and Whip-up; get your handmade craft pics into Flickr. There’s also Myspace, and Facebook (which I am on).  Get your pictures and web links out there onto site like these, but don’t overtly sell your handcraft in this manner, it looks unprofessional. All of this surfing does eat up time, and how much you decide to spend on it is up to you, but in my experience I have found it to be very beneficial in getting my little company out there, it doesn’t cost me any money, and I would have been surfing for fun anyway!

Next Time: Ways to market yourself and your crafts (on the cheap)

Pricing your bags, or other crafts to sell.

I actually wrote the post for my other blog. Don’t worry though, I won’t be making a habit of cutting and pasting, but because it so relevant, (and asked about so often) I thought it would make sense to have a copy of the post here as well.

Put some thought into pricing your craft, and hopefully you’ll end up as happy as Uncle Scrooge :)

Pricing is not (that) straightforward

Pricing your craft to sell is a slippery fish of thing to get right. I can’t suggest what you should actually charge for a particular piece of craft. Unfortunately there is no neat formula to apply when pricing your items, but I can suggest factors that should be considered when pricing). To my mind, (and the minds of experts) it isn’t a simple case of charging for your time and materials, there are other factors to consider (which I’ll go into in a minute). The price of a item of handcraft doesn’t just serve as a charge for your handmade craft, it serves as a marketing tool, and it also serves as a refection (real & perceived) of the value of your handmade item. So for the purposes of this here post about pricing your craft (except, (as you might have guessed) bags are my thing so I’ll talk about them) I am going to :

  • Things to consider when pricing your bags that don’t include the physical cost of making your bags.
  • Get a little bit psychological (just a little bit, don’t worry!) about pricing

Things to consider when pricing your bags that don’t include the physical cost (materials and time) of making your bags.

  1. are you only just starting out?
  2. what is your method of selling (craft fairs, word of mouth, web)
  3. who are you trying to sell your bags to?
  4. is this your only source of income?
  5. who is your (and how much) competition?

1. Are you only just starting out?

If you have only just started started selling your bags (congratulations!) it’s not only important to get a first few sales under your belt, you NEED to get yourself a bit of a reputation. Nothing beats word of mouth recommendations from happy customers, and new customers always feel more confident buying from you if they know that you have had quite a few customers in the past.

I used to blush with embarrassment when doing it but I almost always asked customers to write in my pretty guest book any comments they had (or at least which bag they bought). This book was left on the stall for everyone else to read.

So you need to sell more bags quickly so that more happy folks will spread the word (and hopefully will be happy to buy more from you in the future). This means that you should consider pricing lower (not too low, more about that later) rather than higher in the beginning. Be prepared (if you can) to just recoup your costs in the beginning (or settle for a smaller profit); I haven’t heard too many stories of folks cleaning up at their first sale.

In the beginning I chose not to charge for my time. I chose to charge only for the materials and the market stall rent.

2. What is your method of selling (craft fairs, word of mouth, web).

You can sell your bags in crafts market; word of mouth at work, amongst friends and family etc; the internet on your own website, or on Ebay or Etsy; or at bag selling parties. Each individual method will incur it’s own different costs and these should factored into the price of your bag. This means that you may want to charge two different prices for the same item…

I used to sell most of my bags a weekly craft market and others I sold to some of the girls (and in turn their friends) at my BORING day job. A stall at my craft market used to cost £35-£50 me day, compare that with selling bags to my work colleagues which cost me nothing. I used to knock off a few pounds off the price of the bag if I was selling to colleagues.

3. Who are you trying to sell your bags to?

Most everyone who teaches business studies will tell you that it is important to identify your target market, in other words, know who you want to sell you bags to. Your bags won’t appeal to everyone, far better to aim to please a group of people rather than everyone (which is impossible). This way you can make and price your bag with a ‘type’ of customer in mind. For instance, do you want to make young and funky bags, or do you prefer to make more luxurious bags with more extravagant trims? A customer who prefers young and funky fashion is going to have a different budget to spend on bags to someone who prefers luxury items.

In this way you can make a cohesive collection of bags and charge for them according to who you are trying to attract. This cohesion is good strategy because this prevents ‘collection confusion’, in as much as customers are put off by an untidy market stall or messy shop, they are put off by ranges that don’t seem to fit together. That’s why lots of shops clearly define their luxury ranges from their value ranges.

My very first bags were cute reversible tote bags, each with their own matching coin purses. I made all of these bags from home furnishing weight silk and velvet and I charged the same price for all of them (£18.50), with a discount for two or more bags. This worked really well because passing customers could see that everything cost the same, it was just a matter of choosing the fabric that they liked best. I had a good idea of who the visitors of my local craft market where (tourists, well heeled locals, and young professionals, and a few students) and roughly how much they would be willing to spend so I tried to make my bags with them in mind.

4. Is this your only source of income?

I have had more than one email asking me is it right to charge for something that you love doing anyway! I also know of a fair few customers who choose not to charge for their time, because they are happy to just to make enough money to buy more materials. This is obviously fine if this is not your only source of income, or your are just starting out and you want to grow your customer base. However, if you want to earn a profit than you need to at least start charging for your time, before you add a percentage on top for profit.

As soon as I was able, I wanted to make a profit from my bags because I dreamt of leaving my day job. In general, I used to charge for my time in two different ways. I chose charge two different rates one rate for simple-could-make-it-with-my-eyes-closed bags, and higher rate for trickier, lots of swearing involved bags. Nowadays I still do sell my bags but selling bags is no longer my main income (as you know) so I’m not too worried about making a profit from my bags. I choose to only charge for the materials and my time.

5. Who is your (and how much) competition?

To get a bit of an edge in the market it’s important to be distinct from your competitors. You can be different from the competition in various ways, sell bags which are unique to you, sell them at different prices to the competition (usually lower), provide tip-top and or fast customer service, or sell them using different methods (see no.2). It’s always a good idea to keep abreast of trends, to know what the IN things are, and it’s good to know what other people are selling, (not so you can copy them!) so you can try to offer something that is different to them. It’s best to do this research before you go whipping up a squillion bags, but it’s also important to keep up this research as your business grows to keep yourself competitive and ultimately it makes you life easier if you aren’t trying to compete with everyone and their granny! If you offer something different to the competition you are less likely to have to lower your prices to compete!

In the beginning my competition was other bag sellers in my local craft market (though they were lovely people, in fact I was surprised to find that almost all of the other traders were really friendly and helpful). Before I sewed a single bag I wandered around the market to check out what other bag sellers where offering, and I made point of offering something different. In the end my best sellers where my reversible totes (made from looky-likey Kath Kidson linen fabric) and Basket Style Bags neither of which where being sold by anyone else.

Getting a little bit psychological (just a little bit; don’t worry!) about pricing .

This is a whole huge area in itself (and if you wanted to you could go very deeply into it (like all of the big chain stores do. Believe me, they all spend millions on research into understanding the mind of the consumer, yerk!) but for the purposes of this post we are only going to touch on a few things:

  • Value your work. It’s important to value your work, or how else will others? Don’t be panicked into dropping your prices of your bags (so you end up making a loss) if things are slow. Have a look at how you can market your bags, or try other ways of selling your bags, before you go selling them for a song. There is a ‘right price’ for everyone and if you price an item (that obviously took lots of work) too low you’ll have folk thinking all sorts like ‘is this really handmade?’ ‘what’s wrong with it, why is it so cheap?’ The same obviously goes for charging high, I personally don’t think think that the ‘reassuringly expensive’ strategy helps in this day and age of competition (it might work for luxury cars and designer clothing). You want to encourage more customers to buy, not to scare them off with inflated prices. Price fairly, because as consumers we are very savvy these days and we have a good idea of what things ought to cost…
  • Actual Value Vs Perceived Value. There’s a difference between actual value (the cost of what it takes to make and sell the item), and Perceived Value (the value that the customer thinks the item is worth). You could take two identical purses and end up charging two different prices for them. For example purse 1. is sold (as is) on a plain looking serviceable market stall for price X, whereas identical purse 2. is sold for more on a prettily decorated market stall, the purse has a cute label of the maker, your service is warm and friendly, and the purse is wrapped in tissue paper…OK, perhaps it costs a bit more to sort out labels, a pretty stall, and some tissue paper, but customers DO appreciate these finishing touches and this can be reflected in the price. It’s about creating a pleasant buying experience for the customer as well as making them feel important (without them, everything is pretty much lost!) in addition to creating pretty bags for them to buy.
  • Psychology of Discounting. Discounting isn’t just for reducing the price of your items, you can also use it to encourage more sales of your bags. You can encourage customers to buy more items by offering various discounts. Such as discounting on multiple purchases, or bundling (buy the bag and get the matching purse at a discount), or buy X, and get Y free. The idea is NOT to appear as a bargain basement (far from it), but to make the customer feel rewarded for spending more money with you. On my old market stall I noticed that most of my customers were buying bags initially as presents for others (fair enough, I’m the same!) this meant that customers weren’t looking to treat themselves. So to encourage more sales I wrote up a cute sign for customers suggesting that on certain bags they could treat themselves too, especially as I was offering a discount on a matching coin purse that they could either give as presents or keep for themselves. I found that this worked very well…

Right I think that’s a lot to be going on with! For those who are still with us, and they have reached the end of this post there’s further reading on the subject (of course you can apply as many, or as little (or none!) of these tips as you like, but I’d just like to say (that for me at least) mugging up in a few books and keeping an eye on craft trends etc. has helped me give me some focus and helped me organise myself, and hopefully run a shop that other people like, (and would buy from again), so I think the time spent on research (might not be the fun part, but) is well worth it :)

Further Reading (including some free and downloadable guides):