Tuesday, October 25, 2011

{what I've learned}:: starting a handmade shop!

Some of the emails I get most often are about how to start up a handmade shop. In fact, the idea for this {what i've learned} series blossomed after receiving a few of these emails. I am not an expert by any means and I know that there are many many people out there who do it better than I do. But one of the things that I love most about the blogging world is seeing each person's individual point of view. So here is a not-at-all-extensive list of a few key elements I learned when starting a handmade shop.

{To see the other posts in this series (blogging, blog-commenting and twitter), click here}

Have passion

 Before you even start thinking about running a handmade shop, ask yourself if you are passionate about creating, running a business, working hard. You'll need that passion when the going gets tough, when sales are slow, and when negativity comes your way. Running a handmade biz is not for everyone and that's okay! It's not an easy way to make money-- it's hard and it takes a lot of work. Wherever your passion is-- follow it. If you find that you are developing a passion for handmade, then get ready for the beautiful journey in front of you.

Create beautiful/unique/quality products

As I said, selling handmade is a tough business. I've come up with an idea for a painting many times, only to find out that someone else already had that idea before me. What a bummer! Back to the drawing board.  It's tough work to create unique, beautiful and quality products. Trust me, I know! But it is well worth the time and effort you put into your product. If you are thinking of starting a shop to sell, say, wreaths-- do your research, find out what kind of wreaths are out there and do your best to create something unique that you haven't seen yet.

It's tempting to re-create a product that is already successful, but where's the joy, integrity and innovation in that? Even if it takes a few months to develop a few unique and gorgeous ideas, take the time and I think you'll find that you'll be more successful, respected and sought after as a business owner and artist.

Make an impression -- Brand yourself!

Ok, so you've got your passion, you've got your beautiful and unique product, now it's time to brand yourself. I'll be honest with you-- looks matter. If you don't have design skills, find a designer to help you create branding that is beautiful, consistent with your product and has "you" written all over it. But branding is more than just the design element of your shop. It's the general aesthetic, the feeling that you want your customers to come away with. Do you want it to feel cozy and warm? Bright and fresh? Serene and calm?

You'll want to extend your branding to all parts of your shop-- banner/header, packaging, blog, even your photos and how you respond to emails! It took me several tries and almost a whole year to get to the branding that I have now and that I feel embodies Aisle to Aloha Studio. Colorful, bright, fresh, modern-- I hope that those are the words that my visitors think when they come to my shop.

I'll be going into branding more extensively in its own {what i've learned} post, so stay tuned for that down the road.

Fill up that shop!

One of the most common questions when opening a shop is how many items to have on that first day? Here are my thoughts-- however many items it takes to give the customer some choices and an idea of your aesthetic- that's what you should shoot for. I started out with 11 paintings in my shop on the first day I opened. I think 10-11 is probably a good minimum number, more if you can. Any less than that and your shop may look "empty" and uninviting.

Continue to fill your shop up. That number can be whatever you want it to be. Some people have 300 items in their shop, while I personally keep about 30 paintings in my shop. Part of that is because I spend a lot of time on custom paintings and don't always have time to fill the shop more. But I also enjoy shops that are easier to browse and not quite so overwhelming. You decide for yourself.

Get your name out.

Your shop is open, yay! Now it's time to get your name out there. How do you do that? I suggest running giveaways on blogs as well as sponsorships. Work within an advertising budget for both giveaways and sponsorships and spend some time researching and deciding which blogs could be a good fit for your shop. Consider the audience, size, content and aesthetics of the blog, as well as, obviously, the cost for advertising. Not all blogs will be a perfect fit for advertising and it might take some trial-and-error to figure that out. I've had fabulous traffic on some smaller blogs and not so great traffic on larger blogs. 

I asked fellow shop owners on my Facebook page and Twitter to chime in with their tips for new handmade shop owners. Here's what they had to say.

Moriah of Moriah Makes says:: Clear and accurate product photos are important!

Jill of Ernestine Edna says:: 'Be patient. Enough said, I think'

Nicole, of The Lovely Poppy says, "Make something unique to you and don't imitate others! Everyone has unique talents."

Bri of Mod Memento says, "There's an art to tagging your products appropriately..."

Erika of Stitched Simplicity says, 'Don't get discouraged when you don't have instant success. Keep at it if it is something you love and recognition will come."

So are you thinking of starting a handmade biz? I'd love to hear all about it! Are you a handmade biz owner and want to chime in with your own tips? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Print from Etsy found here:: 1, 2, 3



  1. I've always thought about opening up a shop, but I could never put my finger on what yet. Photography is more of a passion for me, so maybe I'll do something in that realm!

    I'm just a HUGE fan of supporting handmade shops + artists, so I'd like to do that more in the blogging world, showcasing the handmade markets out there. You know, kind of be the middle man :)

    These are great tips though for sure. It's hard work and it looks like you've done pretty well for yourself! I seriously do like your work. I'm just saving up to a Lindsay original one day ;)

  2. I have to agree with all of these!
    One thing I would add is to not put your self worth into how much you sell. I just started out in July and when I got no sales in 3 weeks, I felt unworthy to even keep making what I loved. My hubby encouraged me and now I keep going just because I can wear the stuff I make no matter what!
    So confidence is key for me! In order to be a good salesman, you have confidence too :-)

  3. I've really enjoyed this series. You have given some really great advice! In fact, I had a friend contact me recently who is trying to grow her blog and business and wanted some advice. I told her to read your series.

  4. I loved this post and all the tips. I've been thinking about opening an Etsy shop for a while, I just haven't found the time and energy to put it into action. With a hubby and a full-time job, it's hard to cave out the time to create products to fill a shop... but I am still thinking and reading and learning until one day, I'll make it happen :)

  5. such a great post and I love, love what one of my fav girls Erika says: "Don't get discouraged when you don't have instant success. Keep at it if it is something you love and recognition will come."

    she is a brilliant lady.. I wonder if it's cuz she's named Erika too? heehee.

  6. You hit on what seem like the main points to consider when starting/thinking of starting a handmade business. While I'm not considering that right now, it's good to hear these things and tuck them away for the day I may decide to embark on that journey. I think I'd start a photography business, if I were to start a business (since I'm not so talented at crafts and photography is my hobby.) Several of the points to consider are similar. I think you've done a great job with creating an image for your business. :)

  7. i've been toying around with the idea of having a little side business of making nanas (basically fabric pouches filled with deer corn that you microwave to heat up. kinda like a heating pouch instead of a pad that you plug in) so this post came at just the right time! i will file this in my "handmade" mind files, ha! :)

  8. So interesting! I don't have a handmade shop but I feel like a lot of this can apply to blogging as well. Very cool!

  9. I agree with all of these. And patience is KEY. I have an etsy shop ANd to tell the truth I have not put much time into lately, I am hoping that changes real soon. It took forever to get that fisrt sale but I love what I make and will keep doing it. Even now I don't get a lot of sales, maybe one a month if that but I love doing it so I will keep at it:)

  10. just like jessica said, patience is KEY. i've been at this for several years now and it is just now really coming to fruition for me. because sewing is something that i love so much--oh, and the fact that i have wanted to own my own business for my entire life--the time put in with little results is worth it! i'm excited for the future & with people like you sharing what you've learned, i feel like i'm in a good place right now!

  11. this is so great! thanks so much for sharing. :) xxo

  12. Oh hey you posted my She Believed print!! thanks haha
    xo dana


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