The advent of the World Wide Web means crafters can buy craft materials and cards and also sell their wares to an international audience. According to research, 64% of the population currently use the Internet and over a third of these regularly shop online. If you’re a keen crafter and have been thinking for a while about trying to sell some of your work then there is no better way to reach local and international customers than through the World Wide Web. Whether it’s setting up your own website or trading through someone else’s, read this invaluable guide to discover how to sell online.
Going, Going, Gone
The easiest way to buy and sell cards is through online auctions. With millions of items for sale at any one time and millions of registered users on auction sites; they are a virtual crafter’s haven, where you can sell anything, from handmade cards to fabric butterflies. So how do you go about it?
First, you need to register yourself as a seller on the site, giving payment details. There is norammly an initial listing fee on these aution sites, which varies depending on services used. Once registered, you generally need to fill out a form describing your card, including a title, description, auction length, starting bid, postage charges and countries you are willing to ship to. A good tip is to add a photo of your card – you may know what angel hair is, but others may not.
Choose a popular time to finish your auction when you think there will be bidders about, such as evenings. There are two ways of buying and selling at an online auction; either through a proxy bidding system (buyers set their highest bid from the start and the computer will automatically place their bid at one increment above the current highest) or for a fixed duration (the highest bidder at the end of a fixed time wins). Decide whether you want people to bid for your item or have a fixed price option. If you want people to bid, you can ensure your card doesn’t get sold at ‘bargain basement prices’, by either setting a high minimum opening bid or setting a reserve price. Some people believe you should never set high opening bids as it scares off bidders, however, others maintain that many buyers are put off by reserves. Generally, unless you set a ridiculously high starting bid, it won’t make much difference.
After the sale, the buyers and sellers contact each other via email and the buyer then pays for the item, via cheques, postal orders, banker’s drafts. Alternatively they might use the secure system PayPal, whereby you pay PayPal and they pass the funds to the trader. After receipt of payment, the seller then posts the item to the buyer. Be warned, if you take someone’s money and don’t send them the goods you are breaking the law and can be prosecuted.
One of people’s main concerns about online trading is safety. Most auction sites ensure that information such as passwords and bank account details are protected because payment software always encrypts this data and maintains it on secure servers that cannot be accessed by any merchant or third party. They are also quick to assure that the vast majority of buyers and sellers on auction sites are honest and reliable and millions of transactions take place every day without any problem. Always be friendly and answer any questions a buyer may have via email. Also keep clear, complete records of everything, to protect yourself.
Handmade cards are popular all year round but they will generally sell for higher prices around November and December, as people are looking for Christmas cards.
If you want to sell your cards as a business and are thinking of aiming higher than online auctions then you may want to consider setting up a website. One of the easiest ways is to get a professional web designer to build it for you. If you want a creative look, you will need a bespoke package where the site is built to your specification and can include all kinds of tailor-made extras. Unfortunately though, this can cost anything between £5,000-£10,000.
Go it Alone
For a cheaper way of setting one up, you may want to do it yourself. If you are technically-minded or have a friend or relative who is, you may be able to collar them into building one for you. You can buy an ‘off the shelf’ package, then all you have to do is find a host for your site, which can cost from as little as £30 a year and choose and register your website address. Packages are well worth it if you want to do it yourself. However be aware that you do need to know quite a bit about computers to be able to use this. Alternatively you can pay a web design company to set it up for you, which will probably take around three days.
When set up, a good way to get your site noticed is by interacting with other websites within the craft marketplace. If you get together with other craft sites and both display reciprocal links or banners on your sites, you will be sending traffic (visitors) back and forth between you. Anything which gets you noticed on a site which has more traffic than you will encourage visitors to your site. Or if you could arrange an advertorial, whereby each site mentions the other, for example, ‘check out www….’ then that will increase visitors to your site. This in turn will then improve your search engine ranking, as the more traffic you get the more this will be picked up on by ‘crawlers’.
Despite the apparent ease of doing it yourself, be warned things are never as simple as they seem. Setting up your own site is not necessarily as easy as people may think. Once you have set up your site the work isn’t over yet, it will be a full-time job just to maintain it. Unlike a shop, a website is open 24/7, which requires a certain level of commitment. If your site is to crash then volume of business as well as your reputation can be damaged.