“Create It and They Will Come” is Not a Good Handmade Business Plan

There’s no doubt that the internet has fundamentally changed and enhanced marketing methods in the handmade business niche.  Yet, many who still rely on conventional marketing methods may be missing out on increased visibility and profits.  Full-time artisans, already experienced in business, understand that sound management and internet marketing are the foundation to a wider audience resulting  in sales and increased profits.

At best, outsourcing the mundane non creative functions of the handmade business comes with financial success, allowing full-time creation of product-if that’s what is desired.  At worst, learning the basics of handmade marketing, living in the handmade niche, and becoming the dreaded sales person, can leave them short on time for product creation.  Upon eventual success, the handmade artisan will gain valuable business acumen needed for a stable career.

Business Myths and Misquotes

Business basics don’t always come natural, but lucky for us, there are coaches, books and websites to the rescue.  As humans, we are not immune to internalizing common myths the throw us off our path.  It’s time to put those tall tales to bed.  If you are still relying on that old idiom “build it and they will come,” and it various illogical versions,  lets first prove it wrong.

The above phrase is believed to be attributed to PresidentRoosevelt regarding Panama Canal, later re-coined by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. It is not a good thought process when building your product or website much less anything else.

Build it and they will come’ is not a business plan

The early days of developing a business should include development of a quality business plan. This includes the business structure, financial requirements, proposed expenditures, milestones, and commercialization strategy. Failure to develop the business model early enough leaves too many pitfalls for the entrepreneur.

Many times in extended diligence reviews, the entrepreneur is ultra-excited about the product. They feel the product will sell itself and simply making it and being first on the market is enough to be the dominate player. This “build it and they will come” attitude is common but, many times the buyers or users do not show up. Building a successful company requires strategic planning and thinking about all aspects of the business and identifying weak areas and plans to resolve those weaknesses…Examiner


We might as well cover “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”  The way people use the phase, doesn’t necessarily mean mouse trap, it could be anything.  Both statements are commonly heard.  Just type it in Google and you’ll see hundreds of posts.

Caught in the Mousetrap

Recall Emerson’s famous line: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” People are obsessed with building better mousetraps….Emerson’s advice is simply wrong—and for two reasons. First, because he never said it. In fact, he actually said, “I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles, or church organs, than any body else, you will find a broad, hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”

Emerson’s advice was not to the revolutionaries of the world, but rather to the more traditional businessman hoping to compete in the market. Seven years after his death, a journalist turned those relatively unremarkable lines into a siren song luring scientists and entrepreneurs to their death, endlessly pursuing the better idea.

When all of the attention goes to coming up with new ideas, three bad things happen…

… Misinterpreting Emerson’s advice creates the notion that the idea is the end of the innovation process. It’s not.  It’s not even the beginning of the end… AndreWhargadon

Very good article be sure to stop by and read it.


Confidence is hard to muster when you feel lost; all you want to do is create your craft and sell it.  Sounds simple.  The struggles that sellers face can wear a you down and erode self esteem, but when one knows what they may be up against from the get go, resilience is easier to come by.  Confidence and resilience comes in the form of knowledge and  experience. Sometimes we start off half baked hoping things will fall into place as we go; this strategy can lead to wasted time and money, and possibly the end of your dream.  That’s not to say that you can’t learn as you go, but where exactly does one start?

Any handmade business owner can visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) . You’ll find inspiration for artisans seeking to mesh their creative energies with entrepreneurial skills.  There is information about taxes, loans, any business question you can possibly encounter.

Small Business Administration Handmade Client Testimonials

The internet is a great place, but misinformation, self described experts, out dated or confusing instruction exists.  Thankfully there are many outstanding artisan and crafter forums for each niche, listing them all would take pages. If you are brand new to handmade business check out the  Etsy Seller Handbook for a little direction.

Getting your handmade product out in front of the buyer

Some artisans freely admit, artisans, marketing and business mix together like oil and vinegar. No patience grasping platform code, website templates, shopping carts and terms meant for a techie. Too many vendor pages for the same or similar item.  Can’t be found in the first few pages of Google, dwindling keyword search results, few website visitors and no sales emanating from your product page. What is keyword research anyways?  Add to this list, brick and mortar businesses in handmade niches are closing their doors in many cities across the world.  Have you run up against any of these mind bending obstacles or worries yet?  How do you get your product out in front of your customer without going crazy.

Meylah Releases Findings on Why Artisans Have Difficulty Selling Online

Key findings indicate that over 75% of the artisans surveyed are serious about their business and are involved either on a full-time or part-time basis, but less than half are currently selling their creative goods online. Of those who are not currently selling online, over 90% indicated they would like to bring their business online. When asked why they are not selling online, artisans pointed to three major hurdles:

• Online Business Takes Too Much Time – The time it takes for an artisan to manage a blog, list their products in a marketplace and promote their business through social media in order to make sales takes significant time away from creating their work. One respondent mentioned, “By the time I finish promoting my business online, I feel like I have no time left to devote to actually creating my jewelry.”
• Online Solutions Are Not Easy To Use -The overwhelming majority said the challenges of selling online include finding the right tools, marketing their business, converting website and booth visitors to customers, and the amount of time required to actually make an impact. Another respondent said, “Taking my business online is confusing and I just don’t know where to start.”
• Websites Are Too Expensive – 50% of artisans surveyed spend less than $250 per year in marketing their business. One artisan stated, “I spend over $200 each year on my website and it doesn’t even allow me to sell through it, I know I’m losing sales because of this…it’s so frustrating.”…1888PressRelease


Finding a Good Handmade Marketing Strategy

Business success often depends on risks taken and the handmade business is no different, but you want to start with and idea of a good strategy that will help to minimize those risks. The link in the last sentence goes to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a pdf on the business cycle for artisans and craft entrepreneurs.

The basics as it pertains to the handmade trade is similar to other small business on the web, but handmade does have it’s own set of pitfalls, mostly competitors duplicating their craft idea.  The bad news is, it’s actually legal.

When your handmade idea is stolen, what can you do?  Its a common pitfall.  She how the fashion industry deals with it.

If you started out your handmade biz as a hobby, you are no doubt an expert in your particular niche or perhaps you may have acquired your product by other means, either way, business acumen naturally accrues along the way.  Nothing can replace firsthand experience as you will undoubtedly discover with each mistake, every lost sale, obstacles and success.

It’s a given that artisans must sell if it is their intention to build a business.   As mentioned above, many artists struggle with  that part of the business equation, as they are just happy creating.  In order to avoid starving artist syndrome, the basics of selling should probably be the first thing you learn before setting up a product site.  Oh, that creative side got ahead of you didn’t it?  If you’ve already built your website or product page, the information found on this site is still applicable in building a solid business foundation.

Conventional Marketing vs Internet Marketing in the Handmade Niche

Since marketing factors first into selling products, lets revisit conventional marketing.  While targeted direct advertising in magazines, mailings, newspapers or classified ads are still one avenue to spread the word about your handmade items, it’s expensive.  While this kind of marketing creates too many obstacles thereby preventing a sale.  The recipient has to fill out an order form and mail it, call a number, request more information or perhaps show up to a location in order to make the purchase.

In opposition, when the same targeted ad is appropriately placed on a webpage by niche and/or location, or a pay per click add on search engine page, fewer barriers to sale exist.  Just point and click and the buyer can be immediately led to payment processing such as PayPal Instant Payment or to your product page.  Either way, impulsive buyers get satisfaction quickly and a sale is made without a possible interruption via the conventional method of marketing.

Who can afford a television commercial on a tiny small biz budget?  With the advent of YouTube, one can produce a video “commercial” and post it on the web in multiple locations.  While your production can have actors, you don’t need any.  A simple converted PowerPoint slide show, some promo material or a few photos and headlines can work for a beginner.  You can also hire a video professional when you are ready to upgrade.

How to produce your own commercial on a tight budget

Marketing Strategy: 10 Basics to Market and Sell Handmade Items


We know marketing is key, but so is a good business strategy.  We’ll do a quick rundown of the 10 basics of marketing and selling of handmade items. Bookmark Handmade-Marketing because you don’t want to miss the next posts as we flesh out in detail each factor with examples.  It’ll be something you can sink your teeth into and put to use immediately.

  1. You must sell yourself first.  Do you have  a story that makes your unique?  What make you stand out from the rest?
  2. The second most important concern is creating a need for your handmade item. Out of all similar products available, why do I need yours now?
  3. Dominate all aspects of your niche, or otherwise known as stamping your authority or establishing  your brand online at social media and blogging platforms.
  4. Learn a little SEO — Search Engine Optimization on page and off page.  You don’t need to be an expert.  This is how your product gets found in the search results (out of millions) on Google and sites like Etsy.
  5. Creating a sense of urgency helps to sell your product. This can be accomplished via blogs, social status updates and blurbs.  Learn how to use the right headlines and which emotional words work.
  6. How to use freebies to build your email list, it’s your life line really, even in handmade. This is how to create word of mouth atmosphere.
  7. Nobody likes return/refund policies, but how else does a handmade seller convey devotion to his loyal customers? Only you can answer this, but give it a lot of thought.
  8. Keep your customers,  blog readers, social media followers interested as often as possible. Find a hook to reel them into your blog or product pages, use attention getters.
  9. Big bad taboos-there exists a tiny common sense list of do’s and don’ts when selling handmade.  Plagiarism, copyright, disclaimers can apply to written material and product. Even shipping certain material to different countries can be a problem sometimes.  Make sure you know the postal rules for each location you shop to.
  10. Don’t cry over split milk, everyone make mistakes, it the best learning tool we have. Google webmaster tools and Analytics is free, other analytic packages can be purchased but may not necessarily be needed at this point.  Beware:
  • The only mistake some have cried over is when they purchased SEO gigs that got them penalized in the search engines.  Beware of Fiverr (or the like) gigs or experts offering SEO services.  Right now, anyone can claim to be an expert with no proof.  There are ways to vet SEO experts, but that is another post.
  • Don’t buy 1000 social likes, the coveted .edu backlink or 1000 backlinks to you page for $5.00.  Sounds like a bargain, right?  If you don’t know why you need these things in detail and the possible penalties involved, research first.  There are numerous posts on the web regarding those who were penalized by Google and their website gone from the search results.  To recover they had to change the name of their business and start over.  That’s a lot of wasted time and money.

There are ebooks dedicated to each category of the ten basics for marketing and selling.  We aren’t going to dive in that deep here at Handmade-marketing, we don’t need to.  We will break each basic down by explaining the though behind it, how to accomplish it and provide examples.  You will be able to work it out at your own pace.

Baby steps work just fine, in fact, that is the best way to absorb internet marketing methods.  Just remember that over reading, leads to inaction. Read a little, then put what you read in motion.  The biggest mistake new handmade sellers make is trying to absorb every tidbit before moving forward.

You are never going to know every aspect in this fast and ever changing place we call our alternate reality, the internet.  Social and blogging platforms and tools come and go. If you aren’t using handmade marketing  methods correctly or are still stuck in the conventional methods then you are missing out on handmade sales every day.

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