I have a degree in Marketing and Communications, I am not saying that I am an expert but I have learned a few lessons along the way to get where I am today. In December I quit my office job to become a full time fiber artisan. I make money crocheting. Not enough to retire on, but enough to pay for groceries. ?
So here are a few pointers so that you can skip learning the hard way and start selling your crochet items right away.
First you need to start with the 4 P's of marketing: Product, Price, Place & Promotion.
Let's start with your product. What are you going to make? What are you good at making? I started with making scarves and toques. I made a ton of toques, some special order and a lot for craft shows. Toques drove me crazy! Customers were so picky - it drove me nuts.
At craft fairs so many people would try on the hats that I got worried about lice and even a few of them were stolen because I would be busy helping one customer and someone asking to try one on and someone would walk away with my item on their head. I did not want to make any more toques.
I knew that wasn't my thing, so I kept creating until I found what I liked to make and wear. I choose to use higher end yarn and make more elegant items that I have designed myself. I did not want to compete with the Grandmas and their dishcloths and baby hats. I wanted to be different.
Discover what you like to do, do it well and make it unique.
Your Business Name
I started with another name and it just wasn't suited to what I create. So I thought a lot and asked a few people and came up with Living Skies Crochet. Why that name? I live in Saskatchewan, Canada. Saskatchewan is called the Land of the Living Skies due to our huge open skies, Northern Lights displays and amazing sunsets.
Saskatchewan has winter for at least six months of the year, that is a lot of time to wear crocheted items. Because I chose a name that reflects where I live I have received a lot of press coverage, lots of local sales and even worldwide sales because they think Saskatchewan is exotic for crochet designing? My name change has increased my sales and exposure exponentially.
*Update: my name has changed to Living Skies Fibre Studio. You can read about why here.
When choosing a name be sure to google it. You do not want to be the 500th Happy Hooker shop. Find something that is unique, ask for help. Don't worry it will come; until then keep creating you have a shop to fill.
After you have your name, create a logo and use the same one everywhere. Facebook, your website, Etsy, Ravelry keep it consistent.
I am really frustrated with people undervaluing their items. Just because you are sitting watching TV when you are crocheting items does not mean that your time should not be figured into the cost.
Your work is hand-made and unique, customers will recognize the quality and be willing to pay for it.
Don't undervalue it or you will be crocheting like a mad woman trying to keep up to orders and you will feel like you are not making any money.
I charge more than most, but after people feel the quality of the yarn and see the handmade quality of the item I have no problem with purchases and repeat customers.
This has lots of variables.
I have attended a lot of craft shows and farmers markets. This is where you need to be careful and plan well. The majority that I have attended in the past have been a waste of time and money.
What to consider:
Who are your buyers (this will depend on your prices), who is your competition, what advertising does the sale do? If you have never heard of the sale before, most likely no one else has either. There is nothing worse than sitting there all day with no customers. (at least you can get some crocheting done?)
Be over prepared and have the best looking booth. Customers will decide if they will look at your merchandise based on their first impression of your booth. I created a board on Pinterest that has a lot of great ideas. Click on it and check it out.
I did not want to waste my time on a table at yet another craft fair but I didn't want to spend hundreds on a booth at a big show. So I compromised and paid $60 for a booth at a local Christmas Artisan Market. This is a juried show and because I sell higher end items I thought this would be a perfect fit. I advertised on my Facebook page and my website that I would be there and where I would be located and it was my best sale ever! The market was open Friday from 4-9 and Saturday 10-5 and I made $1,000.
After Friday night I had sold out of my Madison Necklace design and Gwendolyn Cowl designs, I had no idea what a big hit they would be. I stayed up till 2am to make more for the next day. All day Saturday I crocheted while I was at my table, I was selling them before I had them made. My table was practically sold out by 2pm. I did end up taking pre-orders with deposits at the sale.
**All it took was figuring out what I am selling and doing it well in the right location. That market continues to give me sales and people still call and ask for items. I can't wait to see what happens this year! (*update I made 300% more my second year because of return customer and I also took pre-orders that I had customers pick up at the show - it saved a lot of running around and then they purchased from other booths as well. Supporting each other is really important)
I have also done Farmers Markets, you can read about my experience here.
A website: I have been a website designer in the past and I now only use Weebly. It is so easy! All you do is pick a template and click and drag boxes where you want add text, pictures, forms, video, you name it. The free version gives you what you need. I highly recommend it, I have designed 15 websites using it and I do not know anything easier.
Social Media: Facebook is a must, it is how you can keep in contact your customers and showcase new items. Remember your crochet business is a page not a person or a group.
Twitter is something that I haven't spent a lot of time on. I haven't seen much return using it, I have it linked with Facebook and Instagram but I usually just get people trying to sell me something. It is more a news source.
Instagram has worked for a lot of people, my friend Becky grew her leather cuff business through her blog and Instagram. It has been incredible to watch - you can purchase custom leather cuffs from so many people on Etsy and at a cheaper price but Becky's sales continue to grow. Why? Because via social media her customers are connecting with her and therefore want something that her hands have created. Becky also spends a lot of time praying for her business and listening to God for direction. Being grounded is a good place to be. You can find me on Instagram here.
With all social media it is something that you have to invest time in and you have to keep posting. Facebook pages makes it easy with scheduled postings. You can sit down for 10 minutes and create a full week of Facebook posts. (I teach a full hour class on just this subject.)
Another avenue that has worked for me is selling via consignment at local Art Galleries. I do not need to sit anywhere for hours, other people sell my items for me. Win, Win! Again going back to choosing the right name, I now sell at Tourism gift shops because of my Saskatchewan themed name.
Etsy: I sell a lot of patterns via my Etsy shop. Shipping from Canada is so expensive that I usually loose money when I ship a finished item. If you are going to have an Etsy shop you need to have merchandise. Fill it up! Make sure you have used all your search tags when you are listing. Have a great description and watch your stats. When are people looking, what keywords are they using to find your item. Build on those. If you see that one item is getting more visits than others make that item in a variety of colors.
If you want to start an Etsy shop, CLICK HERE and receive your first 40 listings for free!
Ravelry- I love to design crochet patterns, Ravelry gives me the option to either sell or offer my patterns for free. It is a great place to hang out with fellow fiber artisans. Anyone involved in this craft should be hanging out on Ravelry.
Listening to your customers is key! Let them help guide and grow your business.
This is where you spend your money wisely. One of the best investments I made in this area is my mannequin for $80 from Winners. I have a friend that will come and be my model and all she requires for payment is a free item or two. But my mannequin in always ready for a picture. I use it for product shots (great photography = more sales on Etsy and Ravelry) and it is also great for driving traffic to my table at craft shows. At craft shows I change the item on the mannequin often but usually whatever the mannequin is wearing sells faster (especially if the item is blue, a little something that I have noticed).
Watermark all your pictures, I use Canva. This way if someone likes your item so much and they want to steal your picture your name is on it. Canva is great because it sizes what you need for each social media and has fabulous templates to make it look professional. Represent your business well.
Facebook giveaways may be good to drive a bit of traffic to your page but those likes are usually people wanting something for free not people who will be willing to put money into something that you are selling. I have also paid for advertising without much return. I have taken a few "Facebook" classes and they say that the first 2,000 likes are the hardest and then it gets easier. I now have over 7,000 followers on Facebook and it is still work to keep engaged with everyone. But I have such encouraging and supportive people on my page that I just love hanging out with them.
I teach crochet classes at the local arts center and fibre festivals. This is a great way to connect with other fiber artisans in my community but it also helps build my network. My students are also people I have test my patterns and help me in the future. A support system is always a good idea.
I am a member of Handmade Saskatchewan, The Saskatchewan Craft Council and The Crochet Guild of America. There are many networking opportunities on Etsy and Ravelry. Connect, get to know people.
Always wear your own items when possible. I get stopped and asked all the time. Usually it is because people notice my labels, they ask what store I purchased it from. It is exciting to tell people that it is my own design!
I use the Square for all my purchases. This has made keeping track of sales so much easier! I use it for not only credit card sales but every sale. It gives me tons of stats about my sales and I have to the option to input what payment, how they paid and to send receipts all from my phone, where ever I am. I love this! To receive $1,000 free processing fees, sign up HERE.
In conclusion, selling crocheting for a profit is not for everyone. It takes a lot of work and commitment. I have had to tell myself over and over again that it is okay that I am crocheting and watching tv in the middle of the day because it is my job. Sometimes I get tired of crocheting but I know that I have to stick with it.
I hope that I was able to share a few new things for you, good luck with your endeavor!
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I love to create with yarn and I love living in Saskatchewan. This is where the two merge to become one.
Find Living Skies Crochet on Ravelry!