I started creating signs and other crafts after a friend asked me to create a sign for her daughter. I took wood shop in junior high and high school but I haven't created anything with wood since then. I now happen to be a graphic designer and programmer, so my friend just assumed I could create a sign.
Well, actually, she was right.. and that got me started down this road of being a maker. Soon I was buying routers and bits and other wood crafting machines, then I started setting up tents at craft shows and just waited for the money to come rolling in.. and I waited.. and waited.. and you know what? They people came, but their money didn't.
At least not right away. Sure, I sold some. But often I'd just ask myself, "what is wrong with my signs?" The short answer is nothing, nothing at all. People loved my signs actually. But there is this longer answer that, well, makes you wonder how you sold anything at all... and that's what this Instructable is1 all about.
This Instructable was written and heavily influenced with permission by my good friend Eric Rhoten's video over at Dave's Sign/Make a Wood Sign channel on YouTube. Please go check them out. And also please check out my channel, Interactive Realm, as well.
Step 1: Selling Can Be Discouraging
So you setup your tent and sat in your both all weekend. You had plenty of people stop by and say great things about your work, you handed out many business cards, but people don't buy anything. In fact, you sold nothing all weekend. You get discouraged and want to give up.
Other times people just walked by your tent, or looked at your signs and didn't say anything to you and moved on.. you can't make it out to be personal. You can't take it as if they are trying to hurt you. We ourselves do this everyday. We look at ads or go into stores and see things we don't want to buy all the time, but we don't mean to hurt those who are selling them.
So don't give up!
You can't base everything on one weekend. You can't even base it on several weekends. That's because every place, every event, every person is different. And they are going to want different things.
Maybe face to face selling doesn't work for you. Maybe you're not a people person. Maybe it has nothing to do with you at all. But you can't let this discouragement dictate whether you're going to continue to sell.
Try selling online. Try the Facebook Market Place, try eBay, try Etsy or any of the other many places you and sell online. Try them all at once even. The more you're out there, the more you'll have a chance at selling.
POSITIVE TAKE AWAYS
1. You now know what doesn't sell in that area.
2. Business cards you handed out may lead to future business.
3. You got a lot of exposure from being there and got some positive feedback.
Trying and failing is probably the most important thing to learn. You will fail many times. But you will never win, or sell, if you don't get out there and try.
Print special business cards that have coupon codes to your Etsy site or other online stores. Think of anything else that you can print on your cards to give people a reason to come back or contact you.
Step 2: Know Who You're Selling To
If you're going to sell at another craft show, say in an open market or maybe you rented space in a vendor ran shop, you should visit there first and get to know the people. I don't mean go out and say hello to everyone, though that could help, but no, I mean find out what they like. How? See what they're buying. Look around and see what others are selling.
Is there more of a western vibe? Maybe try selling a sign that says "Saloon" or "Whiskey."
If you see a lot of tools for sale, try making a sign that says, "Grandpa's Tools."
Is there a major sports team? Try selling something related to that team. (But also do respect copyrights and trademarks.) Try painting a sports sign or craft with their team colors.
Don't be afraid to talk to other similar vendors and ask them what sells. Maybe explore the shops in town to expand your search.
Step 3: Price Points
Selling at the wrong price point can also be a key factor. Again, know who you're selling to. If you're selling at a flea market in a smaller town, you may not want to price your items very high.. or at least don't try to sell your higher priced items unless you don't mind lowering the price.
That being said, if you're at a flea market in an upper class city, you could be under selling and people could get the wrong idea and think your sign or craft isn't very good because it's priced so low.
You need to do your research on the area you're going to sell at, before you sell there.
Perhaps try to create a item that can appeal to everyone's pockets. Something not priced too high but also not too low. Something that may not make you rich if only selling one, but will make you money if you sell many of them.
Step 4: Find You Niche
Try selling what you know.
Perhaps you work in a field that has a tight community.. police officer or fire fighter, for example.. try selling items or signs related to that community within that community.
What's your background?
What kind of people do you hang around with?
What do you like to do?
Shoot photography? Softball or bowling leagues? Disney fans? These are things you can easily get ideas from. But they can also help you see where things can go wrong. For example, trying to sell Harry Potter signs at a Disney convention might not be the best idea.
If you'd like some extra info on Niche Marketing, check out this oldie but goodie video from Dave's Signs on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8heDI2sFxc.
Step 5: Let Them Haggle
If people try to haggle over the price of your items, let them.
Some people just need to get a discount in order to make that purchase. It may be because of how they were raised or perhaps it makes them feel better about themselves to get a good deal.
You can play this 2 different ways.
1. Try to be funny or joke around with these haggling customers.. say something like, "I can't feed my kids at that price" or "I'll have to walk home if I sold it that low!"
2. Calls for a situation where you overprice things by $5 or $10.. that way you have room to wiggle when people try to haggle. Or you can have "sales" on items and lower the price, even though you're getting the price you wanted anyway.
Ask the event organizer if it's okay to pass out flyers during the day. Maybe have someone stand by the door and hand them out to guest as they walk in. Or have them walk around handing out flyers. These flyers could inform people that you're have a special or sale or perhaps even have a coupon for that $5 or $10 off.
Step 6: Google & Pinterest Are You Friends
Running out of ideas? Try doing a Google Image search.
Use Google.com to search for anything you want to sell. Click the images link at the top and find a massive amount of images related to your search. You want to create a funny cowboy sign? Search for it. See what others have made. See what's out there. Get ideas from these signs. If they're not copyrighted, you can probably create the same sign, but maybe use a different font or do it in a different style. Again, it's all about research.
Another valuable method of finding crafts or signs that others have created is Pinterest. You can search for just about anything on there and you will get tons upon tons of ideas and related items.. and sometimes they're linked to how to create them (like to an Instructables) or pehaps linked to a store where you can buy them.
If you'd like some extra advice on how to create stock signs to sell, check out this other video from Dave's Signs on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8nwBbMybhE.
Let's say you launched an online store, maybe on Etsy, great but now what? You still need people to come find you. While Etsy itself has a way to search for goods through out their shops, you need to remember, the number of shops it has is high. And more importantly, the number of shops selling the same things as you, could be high as well. So how do you stand out? How do you get more visitors to your shop? Pinterest!
Yes, that's right, I'm mentioning Pinterest again. Why? Well, like I just said above, not only are a lot of pins linked to how-tos or to the website of the maker, but they are also linked to shops where you can buy them. So grab those URLs to each item in your shop and add them to Pinterest. In fact, I believe you can even add a Pinterest link to your items from within Etsy. It's a great way to drive more visits which hopefully become sales to your shop.
Step 7: Is It Worth It?
Great, now you have lots of sales and you need to spend the time to create these items. Maybe they're stock and you need to create more or perhaps they are custom one-offs.
So now you need to ask yourself:
Am I pricing these crafts and signs appropriately?
Am I actually making money?
Is it worth my time to continue selling at these rates?
Before we talked about pricing to target your audience. But now that you audience has found you, you need to ensure you're able to keep your business going.
A good place to start is to add up the price of all the materials you need to create that craft or sign or item. But don't just stop at the actual materials, like wood and glue and paint.
You also need to account for the electricity you used while making the item. The wear and tear on the machines. The space you create the item in. And other various usables or resources needed in the creation process. And this includes you.
How much do you think your time is worth? Start with a per hour charge. Count how much time it takes you to create this item. Add your hours to the above resources and that's a good starting price. Though, lets me honest, if you were to charge that for the item, you really wouldn't be making too much. It's a good base line, however, a lot of other makers will sometimes double, triple or even quadruple the price of the materials used. And if they need a new machine or tool to help in the creation of the item, they will usually roll that cost over to the custom as well.
You need to take all these things into account and then come up with a suggested hourly price. The key word being, "suggested." Even if you are contracted to create a custom item for a client, you should use the suggested hourly price as an estimate only. In fact, have the client sign off knowing it's only an estimate. This will save you from any unforeseen charges needed or changes to the creation of the item.
Step 8: Final Thoughts
One of the main goals here is basically to learn that you don't or shouldn't have to "sell" your items. If you do things the correct way, by finding out who your audience is, finding out what they want, finding out what they are willing to spend.. then the people are going to buy, because your items will "sell" themselves.
Running a business is not supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. But that doesn't mean it can't be fun. Sure, you have to do your homework, your researching and it may take a while to get going, but there is no better feeling then receiving a email or feedback on a sale, stating how they loved the sign or item and how amazing it is or how it was beyond what they were excepting.
If you get excited listening to people tell their stories, if you like to communicate with lots of people, then running a business like this and trying to sell your goods is probably right where you need to be and you probably love what you do. If not, then you may want to try something else, or again, try selling online only.
I hope these tips and suggestions help you out. There is over 50 years of knowledge put into this information by all the people it came from. And please don't hesitate to ask questions in the comments.
Thanks and good luck!