The question of how to sell your woodworking projects begs asking a few more questions…
- What level of woodworking are you engaged in?
- Are you making small projects for larger pieces of furniture?
- Are you looking to sell the crafts you make yourself or are you also looking for custom woodworking jobs?
- How comfortable are you selling online?
- Are you able to learn online methods of marketing using Facebook, Instagram et cetera?
- What methods of selling are you comfortable with, that is, are you willing to approach stores, sell in craft fairs, flea markets, exhibitions et cetera?
Sales in art and craft were reported to amount to close to $50 BN per annum in the US and woodworking topped the chart as the number one best selling category. But finding a market and selling takes work. Maybe it is even more of a challenge for a crafter because of the disorganised sector, at least at the individual level. There is perhaps no one single place where you can sell your woodworking projects. And maybe that's a blessing in disguise. So let's explore a few options.
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When you are selling small wood crafts like puzzles, pen stands, cases et cetera
The ideas for making small wood crafts are endless and this is actually a great segment to be in as far as marketing and selling is concerned. Primarily because of the size as well as the price range you can sell small wood crafts in several places including stores, fairs, exhibitions, online and through your own home.
Selling in stores
Whether or not you like it, it is a good idea to do some promotional and marketing footwork close to home. Even if it seems tedious to begin with, a deal to sell through a local store or seller will probably be the most convenient arrangement that you will make.
- Find a local seller and you will make things easier for yourself.
- It will become easy to transport your projects (you only have to take them till the sellers store).
- You will have the freedom to make and sell larger projects that could mean more profit for you, provided the seller agrees.
- You will save on shipping costs adding to your profit per sale.
- You will save on other costs like participation fee for craft fairs, flea markets et cetera et cetera. Even more than that you will save time and effort. You don't have to spend hours getting to a venue and staying with your stall for the entire day. Many crafters actually enjoy the buzz and the networking that comes with participating in a craft fair so they do not mind the effort. But nevertheless it is nice to know that you have another source of sales and income working for you regardless.
Sell online will be a learning curve if you have not done that work before and it will require you to perform other functions like uploading product pictures, updating inventory, managing your promotional campaigns, posting on social media et cetera.
Having a local seller makes it possible to develop a healthy business relationship that can open more opportunities like referrals. The seller can send more potential customers your way for custom work. You will also find it easier and faster to get paid.
The one downside of selling your woodcrafts in stores will be that the seller will want to mark up the price to add their own profit margin to it. In some instances this can be as much hundred percent, meaning double you're selling price. This could mean that you will be forced to reduce your selling price so that the final selling price stays reasonable.
However, establishing a relationship with a local seller is well worth me the effort and the initial awkwardness. I know many people feel hesitant in approaching complete strangers for work related queries. But I can assure you, you begin to feel quite alright with it after having done it to the first couple of times.
How to find a local seller or store to sell your wood projects?
You might already be familiar with a few places, or you might need to take the help of Yellow Pages, online directories and the good ol’ search engine. Once you have a few addresses in hand it's time to go out on the town and meet a few people. But before you head out you need to get your travel bag ready.
Getting ready for the meeting
- You need some smart and attractive credentials, that is, a visiting card and a sample of your work. You don't have to carry actual physical samples but a few good photographs will do as a conversation starter as well.
- You can organise a few samples of your woodwork, click high-quality pictures, print them out on a photo paper and maybe even make a small brochure out of it. That's not very difficult to do. Do read our tips here on taking good product photos. Little bit of experimentation and you will get the hang of it. Like I already said, the initial effort that you put in to find one or more local sellers will be well worth your time.
- Try and call up the store in advance to make an appointment for a visit. Or if you prefer, walk in to get a feel of the place and the people who are running it. Always try to meet someone in charge and don't just leave your card and your sample pictures.
- Follow up with a call for another visit If you need to do. Usually the first interaction with the seller will guide you on how to proceed further.
- If negotiations are required take time to think things through. There is no need to give an answer then and there. Hear the seller out and a polite “kindly give me time to mull things over and get back to you “, is a very acceptable response.
- You can set up a longer meeting in a more friendly setting such as over a cup of coffee. A business relationship, a healthy one, is not just about the terms and conditions but also about how personable you both are with each other. Another meeting will help you explore that compatibility. Anyhow, any kind of arrangement is unlikely to happen with just one meeting.
- Also, remember that many times a store or a seller may not be able to accommodate you presently but might be able to do so in the future. So it's actually a good idea to concentrate on striking up a rapport as well so that you can stay in touch. Like I said before, a local seller might be able to give you more business in more than one way. He can give your reference to potential customers and buyers and also refer you to other sellers.
Tip: I would like you to make a mental note about something. I feel one of the most important steps you can take is to create a small online store for yourself. It has become a drastically simple to do with a service called Shopify.
I am not exaggerating when I say that you can have yourself a very good looking e-commerce store within one hour even if you have never done something like this ever before. Everything is automated like order processing and accepting payments. You need to have no technical know-how to do this.
This is something that you should consider doing even before you start approaching stores. Presenting your e-commerce store makes you look professional and gives the impression that your woodcrafts are in demand and selling which will be an encouragement for the seller to house your products.
Try Shopify today. I will talk more about why this step is important later this post.
How to start selling your wood crafts online
The option of selling your wood crafts online also tops our list for ease of selling.
Creating an online store or a website is simple. Reaching more customers becomes simple. Learn a little about how to advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Google and Bing ads and you will have access to millions of potential buyers.
Opening free online stores on 3rd party platforms.
There are a few popular platforms where you can open a free online store. The ones of note are:
- MadeitMyself.com etc.
Also see 31 places to sell crafts online.
They only charge a nominal charge for listing an item and then take a percentage as a cut when something sells. Sounds good so far. But the sites are only good for having ‘organic' sales.
‘Organic' means that the customer finds you on their own through a search engine or through the local search feature on the website. Etsy has millions of users every day can you do stand a good chance of getting some exposure. But there is also a lot of competition. Which is why I would never recommend sending your promotional and paid the traffic to your Etsy shop. You could as well be sending your hard earned, procured or paid traffic to your competitors.
It's very easy on these sites to browse away from where you landed and end up buying something else from another seller. There are thousands of other seller with millions of other craft items and that makes getting distracted very easy. So whenever you want to tell people about your projects, promote your work online, or if you are using paid advertisements to generate traffic, you should always refer them to your own e-commerce store or website.
Etsy will not mind if your traffic buys from your competitors. They will end up making a commission anyway. And that's another thing. You will not be parting with a chunk of your profit when you sell on your own site. Starting a store with Shopify is just as easy as creating a store on any of these third-party platforms. The difference is that it will look 10 times better and offer you complete control and individuality.
At the end of the day you want your brand to be known and not get lost in a sea of sellers on some other website. This is probably why all the best performing sellers on the Etsy also include a link to their existing e-commerce store or website in their profile.
Online store is just as effective for making local sales
What deserves a very important to mention at this point is that selling online is not just about reaching remote customers in faraway locations. An e-commerce store is an excellent tool to sell locally and reach many more people in your own vicinity.
Today virtually everyone searches online for things and services. So it is vital to have a presence online to be discovered by local customers. Your online store can also be an outlet to sell larger projects locally. You can easily create a separate section on your e-commerce store for local buyers.
You can also advertise other woodworking services such as furniture making, custom woodworking et cetera for the local customers. You can also consider starting a blog if you would like to write, post pictures and videos about the things that you do. The blog itself can become a means to some extra income but that's another topic altogether.
Selling wood projects in Craft fairs / Exhibitions / Flea markets
Honestly speaking, this is my least favourite way to sell anything. It's just tough transporting your things, packing and un-packing numerous times and spending the entire day or a few days trying to sell your things while, most likely, being uncomfortable most of the time. You have to be on your feet the entire day and the deal with hundreds of people most of whom won't end up buying anything . But then this is true for every participant in a craft fair and if everybody thought this way no one would come to sell! Well it's a good thing that not everybody does.
With my personal misgivings out of the way, it remains a fact that participating in a popular craft fair is a very profitable endeavour and that is why so many crafters make the effort of showing up. Some genuinely enjoy the experience of participating in exhibitions with all the buzz and the networking activity that it brings. If that's you, you should be checking out for the closest and earliest craft fair scheduled to happen. Check out the following and similar sites for a schedule of craft fairs near and far.
A few things to keep in mind when traveling to a fair or an exhibition:
- You need to choose what you are going to take depending on what things you expect to sell.
- You can also experiment with the slow moving items that you have not managed to sell through other mediums.
- Pack your items well to ensure you do not face any damage during transit.
- Take part in the best and the most well-known craft fairs and exhibitions and you can find. Don't go for advertisement hype. All events to that.
- If you have a local craft fair that might be a good place to go because you might already know the number of people it attracts. Farmer’s and holiday markets are usually very reasonable to participate in.
My speciality is selling online but I have helped my friends many times to take part in exhibitions all over the country. They have mostly been carefully curated names in major cities. Some have been expensive enough to charge $15,000 as participant fee. These were organised by some popular publications and it included coverage in the magazines as well. For the rest, up to $2000 for a very popular exhibition is common as a participation fee. You will find local fairs and markets to be much more reasonable. I will include some links for more reading into the subject of participation in a craft fair and how to show up in your best form.
Methods of promoting your wood work
Regardless of whether or not you sell online you must work at creating an online presence. There is perhaps no easier and faster way of reaching people today. How many people do you know how to not use Facebook or Instagram at all? It will cost you pennies to come in front of these people. But in order to do that you have to have a Facebook page, or Instagram account or a blog, website or an e-commerce store.
This medium of advertising has become so accessible and powerful in recent times that it takes that it makes no sense to ignore it anymore. So our first marketing tip for your woodworking is to get online the best way that you know how.
Start by taking good pictures of the stuff that you make. When the pictures are done you can use them on multiple places like Facebook, Instagram, a blog or an e-commerce store. Choose one platform to begin with and get going from there. Like we have already mention create an online store with Shopify. Creating your online store will compel you to think about pricing your crafts. It will be great to include that information on your business cards that you hand out at the fairs and exhibitions.
You can run ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google And Bing to reach more people. There is no denying the fact that paid and sponsored listing is the fastest way to reach people. You can have hundreds of visitors the same day that you create your online store. But since there is a learning curve involved here we would like you to take things slow.
You need to figure out how a ad successful campaign is made. Once you have that figured out you can increase your ad budget from there to reach more and more people. This is the power behind paid and advising.
I know that this might seem like a whole new bunch of things to learn and do, and it is. But that's the thing about running a business. You need to learn and try new things. Besides, remember what we said about finding a local store to sell as being your simplest option? Makes more and more sense doesn't it?
But still, you cannot dispute the power of an online presence and online reach for a business. So take that leap and learn more about it. Here are a few helpful links.
- How to do product photography
- How to start a blog on WordPress
- Understand Google Ads
- Help with Facebook Ads
Target a woodworking niche
I cannot emphasise this enough. If you do this you will make your life a lot easier. Targeting a niche means getting specific about what you want to make and sell. The more specific you can get, the more you can narrow this down, the better.
I understand that you are a woodworker with dozens of skills. There is nothing you cannot build when you get down to it. So limiting yourself to a specific item or a few items seems counter-productive to making more money. How can you earn more if you limit yourself to a particular kind of project?
The idea behind finding a niche is this. It doesn't mean that just by making lesser items you will be successful. That single item also needs to be an item in demand. So with careful research and experience you need to choose your woodworking project or projects. These are items that you know are in demand and people will appreciate. Maybe experimenting and getting some feedback would be required as well. But try and narrow things down as much as you can.
Your niche can be a broad one like garden furniture which can encompass many projects or a more narrow one like wooden dining set or single items like bird houses, customised phone covers et cetera.
The advantages are obvious. When marketing and promoting you are not promoting a vague idea of wood crafts. You are advertising something specific and that makes targeting the right people a hundred times more effective. Your posters, your online ads are absolutely precise about what you are selling and the people who respond are all the people who are already interested in buying your wood project.
It is the difference between a casual browser who comes to a store looking for nothing and everything, and a focused buyer who comes to you because he knows you have the exact thing that he wants. Which of the two do you think are likely to end up buying?
Find a profitable niche and you will multiply the result of your marketing efforts manifold. You will learn with a little experiment and experience exactly who the target customer is, where he or she lives, how old, income bracket etc. Your online campaigns will become a razor sharp and give results with remarkable precision.
Online marketing is where things are really going to shine for you. With online ad campaigns it is possible to target people according to their interests, age, location, income bracket, family status and so much more. So once you figure out the exact combination of demographics that buys into your niche, you can target them again and again by launching ad campaigns.
Every time you target this select audience you will have sales. You will save a ton of money advertising because you are being very specific who you are advertising do. This kind of targeted advertising is impossible if do not advertise in a niche. Your budget and audience will be all over the place and you will spend a lot of money without seeing the results .
And we haven't even spoken about how much easier the manufacturing is going to get. It is faster to make 10 pieces of the same woodworking project rather than five different projects.