Tips for Selling Crafts: Through Hard Earned Lessons


One of the hardest lessons for me and struggles for success has not been the building of The Crochet Crowd, in fact, it’s been trying to market selling my finished goods. I needed extra money at the time and so I invested into making jewelry and selling my pieces. For a reasonable price of $40 you could have a one-of-a-kind bracelet… Over a summer my prices were forced down to the point of only $10 so I could get my initial investment back.

It was a very difficult summer but did I learn something this summer. I learned through a fabulous East Indian vendor who taught me the important of engaging, sales pitch and presentation. The lessons I learned from him went much further than just this failure of a summer for me and ended up changing my outlook on life in the crafting marketplace.

Michael Sellick, Jewelry Making

Crochet Jewelry: Mikey Tries to Sell Jewelry to Raise Funds for The Crochet Crowd.

For me, when I hear people are selling jewelry or crafts, my heart goes out to them as I am unsure whether they have already learned the lessons I did.

Getting Your Materials, Displays & Packaging

  1. If you want any hope of selling your jewelry or crafts, you cannot buy your jewelry components or yarn at retail prices. If you want to make any money and be flexible on your price. You need to look into finding yourself a wholesaler or use great sales to keep your raw materials investment low.
  2. I’ve had amazing luck with online wholesalers and getting jaw dropping wholesale rates. Even with shipping, I have paid 10 – 20% of the price so I can make more money on the finished product.
  3. Your crafts must be designed with your customer’s purse in mind. Will someone pay $150 for that or could you have changed some components or yarn to be cheaper and affordable.
  4. Don’t throw your items on a table without considering a design element to your table.  Your customer needs inspiration and see value in your products.
  5. When completing a sale, how will the customer leave with their item? Some may opt to wear their finished product or have their own bags. Again, a wholesaler for packaging is an absolute must.

Picking Your Venue

This is probably thee most biggest factor for my success or lack of. I committed to a summer of selling my jewelry at a farmers market. For those who sell jewelry or crafting items, you know where I am going with my comments below.

  1. How much rent do you need to pay to be at the venue? Do you think you can achieve the sales you need to pay this rent, transportation and possibly food if you eat there.
  2. With farmer markets, people are primarily looking for a rock bottom deal that will go below your wholesale. I know first hand because I could have clubbed a lady who offered me $5 for my bracelet. I wished her a very nice day. She can’t have my jewelry if she doesn’t think my creativity and my bottom line costs aren’t worth anything.
  3. I find other vendors lie to consumers about the origin of their products. If you can buy 3 blown glass necklaces that have a unique design for only $10. It’s not North American made. People get suckered. This false information wrecks it for all of the vendors as consumers expect everyone else is trying to scam them. This realization finished me at the farmer’s market as you cannot compete with deceptive consumer marketing.
  4. Education of the consumer is a huge thing. I had this one lady bitch that my bracelet was too expensive at $20 in my final days. She showed me a necklace that she paid $30 for and they gave her 2 more for free. She was on cloud nine. She told me that vendor hand torches the beads themselves. Knowing bead torch makers in person, there was no way a vendor would give three necklaces for $30. So I closed up early out of curiousity and found the vendor and this woman had been duped. It wasn’t hand made by the vendor, it was a Chinese import.
  5. Consumers cross compare your stuff with other vendors. One vendor was offering buy 3 Bracelets for $10. That’s fine but my bracelets aren’t a black cord with some knots with three beads on it. There’s a huge difference. Besides the vendor had 1000’s of them on display. There’s no one-of-a-kind with these.
  6. The best places for sales I have been medium to high end craft shows. These shows usually come with a cost of giving up a portion of your revenue and table rental. One show, I did more sales in 4 hours of just under $1000 verses the farmers market. I made $800 at the farmer’s market over 8 weeks. With these craft shows, people are expecting to find one-of-a-kind and draw in an audience who appreciates creativity and artwork. I had a lot of fun on that day as the type of people who appreciate my creativity were surrounding me and it made for an exciting and rewarding day.

Sales Tactics

After a while you start to realize who your target audience is.

  1. Understand the type of person who would be inclined to buy your goods. Once you know who the type of person is, you can save your breathe in trying to sell to people who are wasting your time. Many people try to reverse engineer your creativity and devalue your goods knowing they can figure out your work. Annoying I know.
  2. “Oh, I wish that one small colour wasn’t used!” Another opportunity to club someone when 1 minor colour in the deciding factor. Creativity is about uniqueness. Bottom line, this person is looking for a reason to snoop but isn’t your customer and will waste your time. You have to get a thick skin and leave your baseball bat at home or you may just lose your temper and start going psycho on someone!
  3. Signs are really key. We are in a society where saying ‘Hello’ is a big deal. I said good morning for 8 weeks straight and you will not believe my statistics of people who turned away after looking me in the eye and not wishing me good morning in return. They heard me but feel I am about to sales pitch them. Common courtesy is perceived as a sales tactic. Human courtesy of being acknowledge is free. If they asked me a further question, I was happy to educate.
  4. When speaking to people, don’t jump into your sales pitch immediately. Say “Hello”, “Are you enjoying this venue?”, and whatever you do, don’t complain about anything. Offering a negative comment will bring you back a negative comment. Example would be, “Really quiet here today at this venue!” It makes you look like you are whining. Negativity attracts negativity.
  5. Know when to shut up! I think I have talked myself out of so many sales by trying to oversell the benefits of owning one of my jewelry pieces. Sharing too much of my creativity process and thoughts about jewelry pieces. I needed to duct tape my mouth shut a few times as I knew in the very moment… ‘Shut it Mikey… you just crossed the line and lost a sale!’
  6. Do NOT sit down behind a table. Position yourself either on a high stool or stand for your venue. Sitting down in a lawn chair hides you behind a table. It also gives a look of you don’t care and are bored out of your mind. Sitting on a high stool and/or standing gives you the look that you are ready to help in a moments notice. I stand BESIDE the table and not behind it so the table isn’t my barrier between my customer and I.
  7. There’s nothing ruder than a vendor sitting with a friend gossiping or using their cell phone. Though I always went to the show on my own, it bugs me half to death when you approach and exhibitor and they have brought a friend or family member and are sitting behind the table gossiping. You immediately feel like you have intruded on their space. Most of these situations, they don’t stop talking and continue their conversation. As a consumer, I tend to walk away regardless of their product as I think it’s rude.

Biggest and Ultimate Lesson That Finished My Market Experiences

I told you in the very beginning the prices of my bracelets went from $40 and then eventually fell to $10 as the summer drew to a close. I had 200 bracelets made in the early spring. I sat for weeks with a friend making these up. The costs of the bracelets were about $16 each. I couldn’t afford to go any lower than $20 due to venue rent, transportation and my time. Even at $20, I wasn’t hardly selling anything. Essentially, now I am in a mode to get my money invested back.

  1. Realizing that my stuff wasn’t selling fast enough, I dropped the price throughout the summer.
  2. I had to offer several refunds to people who would run into me again the week later when I had lowered my price from the week before.
  3. One lady who I remembered purchased a bracelet for $45 at the beginning of the summer demanded a refund of $25 for me over charging her in the beginning of the summer when I thought my creativity and bracelets were going to sell.
  4. I called my whole jewelry selling quits after this encounter. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, I love making jewelry and I love the pieces but I didn’t do a good enough job to figure out what the general public would want. Though I did well at the medium to high end craft show, there isn’t enough of these shows to make a living for it for what I was doing. If I were to re-attempt this again, I would do the following:

  1. I would do formal marketing research to what people are looking for. Many people settle on Jewelry at Walmart for $19.99 and these are the same types of people at the Farmer’s Market. So my mission would be to make jewelry to fit the $20 budget but be produced for $5 – $10 maximum.
  2. For higher end shows, I would obviously change my price point and offer more higher end materials to match this demographic.
  3. My explosive colour palette isn’t for everyone, the pieces that sold the fastest were boring plain jewelry as 100’s of people commented that they thought the colours were really pretty but they were too bold to wear.
  4. I would be more selective on where I displayed my products and not settle for a farmers market because it seems like many people are there. Fact is, I think many people go to those things to waste a morning and you see 1000’s of people walking around with nothing in their hands.

Consign Your Jewelry

Try doing your jewelry on consignment with local fashion stores. I have had a lot of luck in that.

  1. I offer my jewelry at a wholesale price and whatever they increase the price to is their business.
  2. I have had several re-orders in short time periods because the jewelry tends to sell quicker.
  3. You don’t have to haggle or be there as the shop owner basically sees the profit that is potentially there and will do the work.
  4. Just keep accurate records of what you take to the store so that you can keep inventory.
  5. Listen to the shop owner to what sells in their store, they know their customers and know the colour trends that are coming out in the following season. Your jewelry can be made to match their store theme colours to quickly sell your products.

Have you had experiences with this type of selling? Share with me below your thoughts and advice you would share to someone else!

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About Mikey, The Crochet Crowd

I am Mikey, owner of The Crochet Crowd Blog. I'm a 'hooker' at heart with the passion to crochet. I am from Ontario Canada and teach how to crochet online through YouTube Video Tutorials. From a simple idea and being at the right place and time in my life back in 2008, the concept of The Crochet Crowd was developed. I'm here to hook and share. Come follow my crochet journey and share yours with comments here and you are most welcome to share your creativity within our Facebook page.
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24 Responses to Tips for Selling Crafts: Through Hard Earned Lessons

  1. Alethia Douglass says:

    Thank you for the ideas. I have realized the same issues as a crafter of knit and crochet items. I looked for yarn sales and close-outs on different colors for scarfs and hats. Pricing is difficult when certain fairs claim limited types of vendors and then they bring other items to sell which is what I am selling. The vendor owners do not confirm that these items were not approved for this specific vendor. I look for unique patterns to also help.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I really appreciated your article. I went thru the same thing you did and finally quit doing craft fairs. I finally realized that crafters would carefully look at your item so they could go home and make it themselves. On the other hand, non-crafters have no idea the amount of time and material that it took to make it, and wanted it for practically nothing and would get quite rude if you didn’t comply. Since then, I still do all my crocheting, quilting, and crafting that I enjoy and I give it away as gifts or donate to some worthy charity. I get satisfaction out of giving and gave up on making money from my crafts.

  3. Karolin says:

    Silly question, but do you have any bracelets left?? Are these the crocheted brackets like your tutorial?? Have you tried posting them on Etsy at all??

  4. Rosalie Wright says:

    Excuse my typos I’m sing an iPad

  5. Rosalie Wright says:

    I did a winter festival with my photography and had 11×16 prints that were matted and clear bagged for 30.00 each and no one bought them although I had lots of compliments…someone suggested I have larger prints to go over a fireplace but they don’t realize it would cost me over 150.00 to have the. Photo blown up then about that much to get it matted and more for the clear bag which is not cost effective nor can you have the choices. I didn’t make any sales at that Venus so I went the route of consignment stored and gave the owner who was my friend about 300 worth of my photography all matted and put in clear bags in various sizes and she only gave me 3.00 for one photo and the rest she now claims is her property in the store because they did not sell and I cannot have them back. So I am out all those pictures. I did a display at a library hoping that would give me exposure and while the library said their was a huge response and everyone loved my work I still did not get a sale. So now I have tons of photography prints sitting in a dresser. I now my work is great but I am worn out emotionally. Hoping that I can figure out a solution because I have student loans I need to pay off. I cannot do the large craft shows I only have 100 a month to spend on my craft. I have thought about selling my crochet items instead of photography but with arthritis in my hands I cannot produce large quantities so I struggle with finding the balance between crochet and photography.

  6. Sue Bowers says:

    great info, I havent done markets for a while but had never thought of using a stool ( cant stand for long periods) I had one lady that tried to lower my already discounted price of an original designed and appliqued childs hat. She came back at the end and again tried to get me to lower my price. I thanked her and said no thanks. All items I had not sold were donated to charity after I gave up markets, there was no way I was giving it away to someone dressed in designer clothes.at the market.

  7. I did this for four years! I maybe made enough to buy mor supplies. Fact is you absolutely right, you can’t compete with china. But it was fun and I miss it all the time. Would I do it again, oh heck yea. Also my best venues were art shows.

  8. Lynn MK says:

    I am considering selling my crafts. Some of the items that I have decided to make are time consuming and may not sell at a price to break even. Therefore, I have decided to give the items that do not sell as gifts or to donate them to a charitable cause. I try to recycle items to lower my production cost. I plan to use my surplus of supplies that I have acquired over the years to offset my costs. I enjoy crafting so I do not mind the time needed to make items. I am not planning on selling crafts as a living but extra income is definitely a plus these days.

  9. Thanks for the info!! I think I’m still too intimidated to actually try to sell things I make… Although, I’m considering it a lot lately to help support my crafting addiction 😉 I, too, LOVE a lot of color… and bold colors… Thanks for pointing out that most people like the boring colors… you’re right… that’s what I normally see on people…, but I would’ve made bright things lol… just because I like it and it’s so pretty! I don’t know if I would like making boring, plain things, though… hmm… You’ve given me a lot to consider! Thank you so very much!

  10. Diana says:

    Excellent, excellent information! I’ve made items for craft sales for many years (30?), and have learned a lot of the lessons you mentioned. I often stand up at a sale, usually while working on an item I plan to sell. If folks look at me when I say “Hello”, they will usually stop to see what I’m making (“You can crochet standing up?!”) and look at my merchandise instead of just walking by because I’ve made it interesting. I’ve also had the experience of people asking me for the pattern for the items I have for sale, because they’d like to make their own! I don’t bother to be angry about that any more, but just wonder at “the nerve of SOME people”! Pricing has always been a stickler for me, because there is no way in a primarily small town and rural area to sell some things if you charge even a 50 cents per hour of work on a fun, but labor intensive item! People who don’t knit or crochet don’t have any idea how much work is involved in making some items, especially if they can buy something similar, but not handmade, from China! I think many crafters will benefit from the information you’ve provided here. Thank you!

  11. Tanya Neal says:

    Great info!

  12. embertouchtehfire says:

    I have had issues selling as well.

    I make Amigurumi, most popularly small green monsters that are Cthulhu like. Depending on if its sold threw the physical store that gives me a little shelf space or online the price is different. In store its $10 online its $15– why the price difference? Packaging, shipping cost almost $5 depending on how far away I have to ship. I have gotten complaints that the ‘toys’ are to small to be worth $10/15 and I am always polite and offer a 100% refund if they want to return it (no one has ever took me up on the return) which means I would loses out on shipping twice if it was mailed.

    I actually talked with one of the ladys who was in the store at the same time I was, and over heard her telling the owner that my Amigurumi where way over priced, and I explained why I price like I do.

    I don’t get whole sale prices on my material, but I do factor out how much it cost per foot of yarn that I am working with and how much I used into the price. I total up how long it took me start to finish to make the project, most are roughly 6 hours, if its a patter I know well it can some times go faster, if its a complex patter or has a lot of pieces that need to be crochet then attached those can take 8-10 hours. What this lady wanted to by was a Dalmation that I had hand felted spots onto, she said it looked like the dog she had growing up but the toy was so small she didnt think it was worth $10, when I told her from start to finish that Dalmatian took me roughly 12 hours (I put in 98 spots) and all the work that when into make it she seemed shocked, she actually over paid me ($20) she didn’t realize that it was a one of a kind hand crafted item she had just assumed it was poorly made with the cheapest quality material and that is what alot of people think. So I had some info cards printed up to ‘inform’ people about the process and work put into making the items I make.

    Now I also have people telling me I need to up my prices, that I should sell for $15-20 instead. I would love to do that I am just happy crafting, so long as I can make my money back on materials and have a small profit I am happy. I price depending on how much I would pay, and I am a penny pinching stingy old bat. I have found that at conventions more people overpay for my items telling me to keep the change, it always surprises me and I know then that item will be treasured and it makes me happy, but I am just as happy to not sell to someone who offers me $5 for something marked over $10 because I know if I let them have it, it will not be a treasure to them but just cheap junk.

    So in the end, what I learned-
    1. Know your material costs
    2. Decide what your time is worth
    3. Know your market (if you need to inform them have a pamphlet/flyer/sign or business cards)
    4. Know how much you (or a good friend who is penny pincher) would at top dollar pay

    I also learned that even if my items didnt sell at 10 I would just keep them, and still keep making them because it makes me happy. I have actually give quite a few toys away to kids for free because I could see their eyes light up the second they saw them, and the look on their parents faces usaly read ‘I am not paying $10 for that.’ One of the times I gave one way the kids Dad brought him back thinking he stole it while he was at the shop with his mom, I explained I saw how much he loved the toy and knew he would treat it right so I gave it to him. The dad thanked me, and a few days latter the store owner called me to say he came back and bough 2 more and over paid enough to cover the cost of the one I gave for free. So dont let people get you down if they dont want to pay what your asking that is ok because there is someone out there who will love it and treasure it just wait.

  13. Zella Richardson says:

    Thanks for all the info!!! I have gone thru EXACTLY the same thing with my ruffle crochet scarfs. But the absolute worst thing that happened to me AT MY OWN SHOW was a new crafter/vendor came over to my table and started asking questions like how long have I been crocheting, where did I learn, have I been in business very long, etc. She made me her friend and mentor (I thought.)
    She even bought a scarf from me. Two weeks later she was selling them on Facebook for half of my price!!!!! I had to drop my price just to keep selling, even though my yarn quality was much better than hers and more expensive.
    My advice: other crafters will and do steal your ideas and under sell you and steal your customers. Don’t give anyone your material sources or show them how to make something.
    I’m still selling. Still dealing with frustrations. But I’m also having fun and making money.
    You have to be very thick skinned to be in this business and make money. Keep your chin up. It can be done.

    • Jane says:

      That’s happened to me to. it’s a shame you had to drop your prices. I would keep my prices as they were and put in your description that they are made from high quality yarn. don’t put the other lady’s stuff down though. if she’s selling stuff made from cheap yarn then the quality wont be as good and people will soon notice they don’t last as long and will prefer to buy from you cos they know they are getting something better for their money..

      It’s people like that who sell their stuff ultra cheap that undermine the true value of hand made goods. Maybe talk to her and ask her how she came up with her prices or how she’s able to sell them so cheap.
      good luck

  14. Cyndy says:

    I thought this article was very helpful. Thank you sooo much.

  15. Jane says:

    I hear you loud and clear. my mum and me sell handmade unique jewellery as well as crocheted bags, purses and accessories, all unique one of pieces. we were invited to a weekly indoor market, the stall was really cheap and we thought it was worth a go. at christmas we sold a little but over the past few months we’ve been lucky if we even cover the cost of the stall and thats only £10.
    We have now just stopped doing this market 2 weeks ago, as you said I think people didn’t appreciate the fact it was hand made and the time and care and creativity that went into making it. also the other stalls sold cheap tat. 2nd hand stuff, the kind of thing I’d expect to see in a car boot sale or garage sale. A month or 2 ago I went to a belly dance hareem afternoon and I was invited to take the stall. in the 3 hours we were there we sold more than we had in the past 6months and we had been there for 7hours (every week)

    Tomorrow we are going to a craft fair. it’s for a charity event but we’ve been told the stalls they are having there are all handmade goodies so I think we should fit in better there. fingers crossed.

    Thank you for this advice, I’m definitely gonna be showing my mum and implementing much of it tomorrow
    xxxx

  16. Alice says:

    Thanks Mikey I needed this information. It helped answer many questions I had about selling things that I’ve made.

  17. Marti Albers says:

    Great tips!!!!! Hope you can share more information like this, One can never stop learning or the brain goes to mush! lol

  18. Pam Wells says:

    I used to own a chocolate business. Ran it for 13 years. The first 12 were out of my home and I would sell wholesale to stores but most of my income came from setting up seasonally in malls. Love your comments above! I couldn’t handle standing for a full day at the mall but definitely made a point of standing to greet customers when they approached my booth. I often had a friend or family member come along to help – but always – conversation between us came to a halt when a customer approached. Totally agree with your comments – it’s rude if you don’t acknowledge the customer and you will loose a sale if you don’t!

    I have also walked away when shopping at craft sales simply because the vendor didn’t get off their cell phone or was too busy talking with another vendor to wait on me. All your advice above is excellent and well said! Good job!!!

    The biggest mistake I made in my business was my last year. It got too big to run privately out of my home so I took on a partner (she was my best friend at the time) and we opened up a store. It was a disaster. The business and the friendship didn’t last. Sadly. Do not go into business with your best friend! I was warned – I didn’t listen. Lesson learned.

  19. Chris Horner says:

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts about etsy. I haven’t tried it yet. I have had the same experience as you with selling my jewelry.

  20. I stopped doping craft shows for that very reason.China can make it cheaper than I could.People were passing off made in China as made in USA…I could not compete.The last straw was a woman wanted to buy a throw I had made.I had spent $40.00 on yarn and 30 hours making it.I was asking $80.00.She offered me $15.00 and when I said no she said “well I can get someone else to make it cheaper”.I then said fine go ahead you get what you pay for..I never went back to another craft show.I did try to consign my items.I create handmade one of a kind greeting cards and when people handle them they are either eating or have dirty hands.The piece is ruined.I even invested in plastic sleeves and people seem to think they need to take it out of that and feel it.I also consigned dolls and hand made throws to a store.I went there the next month and she said almost all of my items had sold.She would be putting a check in the mail the following week.My amount due was over a thousand dollars.Check did not come so I went back up there—store was closed and empty.The woman had stolen all of my merchandise.I filed a police report but was told I would have to sue her but first would have to find her.Needless to say I could not afford to do either.I love to craft but finding a way to make money off of that craft is very hard and almost impossible in my area of MI.

  21. Dorothy says:

    This was extremely helpful information as I am thinking of selling my crocheting (although I need a year just to get the inventory done right now, lol). Thanks for sharing!

  22. Jenny McLaren says:

    Thanks hun I am struggling at the moment trying to sell my hand knitted dolls and needed this advice x

  23. Anna Pinkham says:

    great info! that really gives me insight on how the selling process works. =)

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