Many times after an individual completes their first few woodworking crafts or projects they begin to ponder if this is something they could turn into a full time career. Before the internet, craft makers were limited in the number of potential customers they could reach.
Nowadays, a single post or photo can go viral and your product can be seen by millions of people within just a few hours. The quick and easy answer as to whether or not you can make woodworking a full time career is “Yes.” However, in order to do so you need to understand the options available to you for reaching your potential customers. This will vary from person to person. Below are the 12 best options for selling your work along with advantages and disadvantages of each.
Etsy launched in 2005 and has become the go-to source for hobbyist to sell their creations. Buyers can find crafts made from just about any type of material they can imagine. Even after 13 years, the site continues to grow year after year in popularity, users and profits. According to Statista.com, an estimated 33.4 users had made a purchased on the site in 2017 which was up by approximately 5 million users from 2016. Currently there is an estimated 1.9 million sellers listing on the site. In 2016, the site was responsible for almost $2.7 BILLION worth of goods sold.
Etsy does an excellent job at keeping up with trends and the changing marketplace. Their mobile site is extremely user friendly and recent estimates indicate that 66% of the site’s traffic is from their mobile app.These numbers are impressive, but they don’t necessarily indicate that Etsy is the best platform for you. The popularity of the site also causes fierce competition. It’s common for other members to try to replicate your item if they think it will sell well and on top of that, try to sell it at a lower cost.
Starting out can be difficult on the site due to the vast number of users. It will take some practice and patience to gain a solid following for your store. In my experience, it is best to list as many items as possible to pull in traffic from as many directions as possible. Don’t expect a large amount of sales in the beginning. It’s very possible that you could go a couple months before obtaining your first sale.It’s also important to learn how to create a good product listing. There’s endless Youtube videos available on this subject, but you will want to gain a basic understanding of the importance of keywords and search engine optimization (SEO) practices.
Etsy does offer the ability to advertise your listings thru promoted listings. The basic premise to these listing is that you bid on an amount you are willing to pay for your listing to appear for certain keywords. Other sellers are placing similar bids for the same keywords. If you win the bid, your listing gets displayed. Then, if a potential buyer clicks on your promoted listing, you pay an advertising fee. The key to remember is that you pay the fee whether the buyer purchases your item or not.
There are options available for free advertising, but it will take more work on your part. You can always promote your listings on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest which can drive traffic to your pages with no out of pocket costs.Another option to explore is joining an Etsy team that trades likes. The more likes your listings receive the more likely they are to rank higher. There are groups in place that will allow you to get people to go into your listings and favorite them. In return, you are expected to go to other members listings and favorite their items. This can be time consuming depending on how active you get, but it’s also free advertising.
The average salary of an American is about $50,000. If you sold 2,000 items over the course of a year for $50 a piece, your total sales would be $100,000. Etsy fees would take an estimated 10% of those sales. You could profit $50,000 if you were able to keep your cost of material, labor and shipping at $40,000 or less.
Advantages: User friendly site for both buyers and seller, Most popular craft selling platform on the web, Potential buyers of 30+ million people
Disadvantages: Fierce competition, Undercut pricing, Fees, Starting out can be difficult, Need to understand keyword and SEO tatics
Costs: .20 cents per listing plus 5% of purchase price and shipping costs, plus payment process fees of 3% + .25 cents. Sales of a $50 item would result in fees of approximately $3.70.
Facebook (FB) is the social media giant. It has been for a number of years. It’s estimated that there are 2.3 BILLION active Facebook users per month. That means almost one third of the entire world’s population signs into their Facebook profile at least once per month!
Over the past couple of years, FB has taken steps to expand their capabilities of bringing buyers and sellers together using Facebook Marketplace. This allows users to post items for sale in their general area. The nice thing about this feature is that it’s tied to their FB profile, something that is not done when using Craiglist. This helps increase buyer and sellers level of perceived security for a transaction.Facebook has also added the capability of users buying ads to promote their listings in areas further away from their current location. This of course requires that the seller is able to ship their products to the buyer.
There is mixed opinions on the effectiveness of using Facebook ads to advertise. Some users have seen a pickup in their sales while others feel like it’s an unnecessary costs that hasn’t produced a significant increase in sales.
Advantages: Free to use, Easy interface, Can post multiple items for sale within just a few minutes
Disadvantages: Limited target audience, Requires a meet up to complete transaction, Competition (though not as bad as Etsy)
Costs: No transaction fee other than gas expense and time to get to meeting location
Instagram (IG) may not be a site that you might expect to sell products. Most people are accustomed to using it to share selfies and photos of their latest explorations. As of the middle of 2018, it is estimated that more 1 BILLION people are using the platform each month. Due to this number of users, it was a matter of time before people discovered how to begin using the social media giant as a means for promoting and selling their goods.
If you decide to go the route of using Instagram to promote your items, you have a couple of different options to choose from. Both methods use the same process within Instagram, the difference is how the sales transaction itself is completed.The first step to getting your item in front of IG’s large group of users is to take a good quality picture of your item. If you’ve used the app before, you are aware that their built in filters can easily turn a plain boring photo into a professional looking image made for a post card.
Once you’ve taken your photo and chosen a filter that you like, you are prompted to enter a description. In the photo’s description you should type a short description of your item. Details to include might be: short title, size, material and price.
Next is the important step!! You will want to include as many hashtags as you can think of that is relevant to your product. Remember a hashtag always starts with a “#” symbol. Once you enter the hashtag symbol and begin typing, you’ll see that IG begins displaying relevant tags based on the letters you type. They also display a number by the tags indicating the number of other photos that have used the same tag recently. Try to choose tags with high numbers. Now, when people search IG by that hashtag, your photo/post will apply.
As I mentioned above, you have two options for completing a sales transaction when using IG. Inside your photo description, it’s also important to put how a potential buyer should contact you. In your photo description, you can direct the buyer to your bio which would include a link to your stores website where they will find and (hopefully purchase your item OR you can tell them to message you thru IG. If you don’t have a website built, you’ll have to go the direct message route. In order to protect yourself and the buyer, I suggest using Paypal to complete the transaction.
TIP! Get in the habit of posting your photos at high traffic times. Statistics show that IG usage increases during the hours of lunch, just before people leave work in the afternoons and right before bedtime.
An example photo description may look like this:For Sale! Wooden Spoon made from Maple. Measures 5″ long. Priced at $10 – See website in bio. #woodspoon #woodcreation #forsale #crafts #sellingstuff
Advantages: Free advertising, Quick and easy to use interface, Easy to gain followers by using hashtags
Disadvantages: Need to constantly post images to stay at the top of search results, Uncertainty of success
Costs: Time, Paypal fees of about 3% if items are sold via direct message method
4) Flea Markets & Craft Shows
Craft shows can be a great way to get your name and products out to a large group of people in a short amount of time. If you are ambitious and live in a relatively populated area, you can probably spend every weekend participating in a show and stay within a relatively small driving radius of your home.
Craft shows are an excellent way to find out what people do and do not like about your products. Assuming you work your booth, you will mostly likely be interacting and talking with potential customers all day. This is a great way to find out if your products are priced correctly and if there are small changes that could be made to make your products even better!
The fact that you are interacting with people so often, can be draining for those people that are introverts. If you don’t like meeting and talking to new people, you may find working a booth to be overwhelming. Don’t let this discourage you from participating. Find a friend or relative to sit with you or even hire someone to work your booth for you. There are too many advantages to a craft show to let this one aspect be a complete turn off for participating.
There is a considerable about of preparation required before arriving to your show that you need to be aware of. Several weeks before your show, you need to have decided one what products you will have on display at your booth. You will also need to decide on how you will display your products. Will you need tables or will you build a display board that allows you to hang your products? Do you need electrical outlets in your booth? These are all things that need to be decided well in advance.
A couple of weeks prior to the show, I would suggest doing a “test booth” at your home. When you apply to a show, you are typically assigned a booth that is a set size. For instance, you may get a booth that is a 10×10. The shows will require that you stay inside your assigned footprint to due safety and traffic flow.During your “test booth” you should measure out the size of your booth. I’d suggest placing painters tape on the floor to give you a good visual. Next, set up your display exactly like you intend to set it up at the show. This will help you find any issues ahead of time rather than at the show. Once you are satisfied with the layout, take multiple pictures to ensure you can replicate it later.
It’s also a good idea to make sure everything in your booth will fit in your car!! You may find out that you will need a bigger vehicle or be required to make multiple trips home.
The actual costs of participating in a show is limited to the booth fee which you will pay at the time of applying for a booth. Depending on your area and the size of the show and your booth, this can vary from $50 to a few hundred dollars.Take a look on Facebook for upcoming shows in your area. There are many regional groups that advertise upcoming shows that are looking for participants.
The potential for sales can really be unlimited for a show. It’s a great way to see a lot of sales in a short amount of time. I highly recommend researching any shows you are thinking of participating in. Not all craft shows are the same. The type of other participants at the show will dictate the potential buyers. For instance, if you are selling wood products, you probably should shy away from a craft show that is geared more toward art and photography. It’s best to find this out when you first reach out to the craft show organizer.
Advantages: Great way to see what products people like, Quick sales in a short amount of time
Disadvantages: Lots of work in short amount of time, Can be draining for introverts, Some shows are unorganized and have low attendance, Takes away your weekends
Costs: Booth Fees, Cost to create displays
5) Antique Booth
Depending on the location and amount of foot traffic that a antique store gets, it could provide a solid and consistent means of income for your woodworking crafts. The requirements by antique malls vary from one to another. Some stores require very few antiques to be present in your booth whereas others may want up to 50-60% of the contents to be antique. This mix will need to be taken into account when scouting potential locations.
It is actually relatively easy to find antiques to place in your booth to meet these requirements. I have flipped products in the past, and visiting a local Goodwill and a few yard sales on an early Saturday morning will quickly give you enough items to put in your booth along with the items you’ve created. Even if you break even on the antiques that you resell, it’s still allowing you to get your woodworking items in front of an audience of potential customers and that’s the ultimate goal.Sales will vary significantly based on how the overall shop is run and where it’s located. Take time to visit potential stores at different times of the week to gauge their foot traffic volume.
If you decide to go this route, make sure to call around to stores to see if there is a waiting list well in advance of when you want to setup. In my area, I called 5 or 6 stores and they each had a waiting list and didn’t expect an opening for another 3-4 months. This is also a good sign, as it means there isn’t high turnover. I wouldn’t expect people to stay in a booth that isn’t making them profits.
A couple things to be aware of when calling around. It’s likely that you will have to sign a lease for your booth. The time frame can be anywhere from 6-12 months. The cost to rent the booth will be heavily dependent on location. In my area, some of the shops out in the country charge as little as .50 center per foot. However, when I get into the sit, that price skyrockets to about $4 per foot.In addition to the monthly rent, it is also likely that you will need to pay a commission for each transaction. This will also vary from store to store but 10-20% is not uncommon.
Advantages: Typically consistent sales if you find the right store, If you enjoy antiquing it allows you to flip some of your yard sale finds
Disadvantages: Constant need for restocking, Costs can be high, Leases that lock you into the store for a number of months
Costs: Monthly rent plus commissions, Time and gas expense to travel to the store to restock items
6) Selling on Consignment
Selling on consignment is similar to renting a booth at antique mall, but without the monthly commitment of a lease. In this setup, you agree to display your items a store. When your item sells, you give a percentage of the sale to the store. Since you aren’t paying rent, the commissions are quite a bit higher than what you will find in an antique store setting. Commissions when selling on consignment can be 30-50% on average.
Advantages: No monthly rent, Consistent foot traffic, Ability to display in multiple stores if available in your area
Disadvantages: High commissions, Constant need to restock items
Costs: Typically 30-50% of the sale price of your item
7) Word of Mouth
This method of getting your work in front of potential clients can allow you to get creative which may be more appealing to some more than others. Obviously, there is the basic methods of getting your creations in front of those you know by making a post on Facebook or Instagram. However, there are many more options available!
One suggestion is to make some items for friends and family and give it to them at no cost. In return, just ask them if they will post it to their social media sites and mention you were responsible for creating their newest home decor piece. Not sure, which of your friends and family would want your piece? Post a picture to your favorite social media sites and see who comments. Odds are, a few of your friends will comment that they love it or have to have one. Start with them!
Providing free items to people in high traffic areas is another route. My wife is an elementary social studies teacher in our town. I made a small 3D topographic cutout of our state for her to use in her class as a teaching aid. After having it in her class for a couple months, I started getting emails from parents who had visited my wife’s class wanting one of my cutouts for their home. I really never had to advertise. My artwork did the advertising for me!
Teachers are always looking for new and creative ways to teach. Creating something for free for local teachers is a great way to get your name out there. Think about other careers that have lots of traffic each day that need nice decor hanging in their office. One suggestion is a doctors office, but don’t limit yourself to just family practices – look also at orthopedics, oncologists, dentists, etc. In return for them displaying your work, make sure they understand that you want to display your website or contact information in a small professional display next to your piece.
Advantages: Unlimited potential sales, If successful able to slowly scale your business by adding more locations with free art displays, Relatively lost cost of advertising
Disadvantages: Potential for no sales, Possible rejection from people not interested in displaying/advertising your work
Costs: Limited to cost of materials and labor used giveaways
Craiglist was founded in 1995 and grew in popularity when people learned you can easily buy and sell items locally when it wasn’t practical to ship it. In recent years, it feels that Craigslist has lost some of its appeal to users for a variety of reasons. The two most notable reasons being the overall safety of a transaction and the flakiness of a buyers commitment to complete the transaction. Speaking from experience, it can be highly frustrating to show up for a sale only to have the buyer never arrive.Using Craigslist to promote your products is still a viable option. There are still millions of people who use the website on a daily basis. An additional benefit to this method is the fact that it is free to use. You can post as many ads as you like, and there is no costs for completing a sale.
The user interface is very easy to learn if you haven’t been on the site before. The key to having a good listing is to take as many photos as you can of your product and be very descriptive in your ad. You are allowed to upload a max of 12 images on the site, and I suggest you take advantage of all of them.
Advantages: Free to use, Locally based
Disadvantages: No shows during meet up appointments, Limited audience
Costs: Time to post, Travel time and gas expense to get to meeting location
9) Launch website
Launching your own website may be one of the best options for you early on. In my opinion, you need a webpage or at least a Facebook page if you decide to set up at a craft show. It won’t be possible to bring every item you make to a show. You will want people to leave you booth with a web address in mind for them to check when they get home. Even if they don’t buy something from you while at the show, at least you’ve left them with a good impression where they might want to order something from your site.
Building your own site can be a bit overwhelming at first. However, there are numerous guides available online that make it very easy. Many sites also offer platforms solely for individuals looking to sell their own creations. If you are looking for very easy start up where you can literally click and drag and have a website up and running with a couple hours, I highly recommend trying Shopify. Pricing for their plans start at about $30 per month plus credit card processing fees of around 3% of sales.
If you are comfortable going a route that will require a few more steps to set up, but still easy enough for a beginner, you can try creating a WordPress site. This option will be cheaper than Shopify. The first step would be to sign up for a web host company. I use Blue Host, and I love them. If you use my link, you can get hosting for as little as $2.75 per month with a free domain name depending on the package you choose. Their customer support has been the best of any company I’ve used in the past.
Creating your own site will take time to be picked up by Google search engine. However, once you get comfortable managing your site, you should look into advertising using Google Adwords as a possibility to pull even more visitors to your site.
Advantages: Unlimited audience potential, Cheaper than renting booths or physical locations, Allows customers to stay connected to your business
Disadvantages: Some work to get setup
Costs: Depends on which plan and company you choose. Could be as little as $3 a month for hosting and go up to several hundred dollars per month for a very large site.
In late 2015, Amazon launched a site to compete with Etsy called Amazon Handmade. You can find the section by going to their main page and looking for it under the Departments tab. In order to have your products listed on their site, you have to apply for an account to ensure your creations meet their expectations. The nice thing about this program, is that you can ship your products into an Amazon facility so they are eligible for Amazon Prime shipping. Amazon will charge a higher rate for this level of service, but typically people are willing to pay more with Prime to get the free 2 day shipping perk.
Pricing for Amazon’s program is more expensive than Etsy, but you are reaching 95 million customers located in the United States. The monthly fee for their program is $40. In addition, you will pay about 12% in sales commissions.
Advantages: Once approved Amazon has made this extremely easy, Huge customer base, Credibility by being listed on their site
Disadvantages: Costs can be high to some, Application process
Costs: $40 per month and approximately 12% in commissions for each sale.
This option will probably be one of the least likely options for you of the others in our list. However, I wanted to include it because it is a unique option that could be a huge start for someone. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. Perhaps there is an idea or product you want to produce but don’t have the capital to do so. Kickstarter would be a viable option.
For our example, let’s say there is an awesome Happy Birthday sign you want to make out of wood that is different than anything on the market. You can go to Kickstarter and start a campaign. During the creation, you set a deadline and a funding goal. You’ll also want to provide a detailed summary of your project and what your goals are.
Once the campaign goes live, members of the community have the ability to pledge money towards your campaign. You can set pledge levels that earn the donors gifts. Perhaps a $20 donation earns the donor a wooden keychain that you can easily create. A $50 donation earns them an early release of your Happy Birthday sign.
If you meet your pledge goal by the deadline, you get the money and the donors are billed their pledge amounts. If you don’t meet your pledge amount, the donors are not charged.Again, this option may not be for everyone, but some people could use it to launch their business. I personally know someone who has led 12 different campaigns. Two of his campaigns earned more than $250,000 each. The other 10 earned between $40,000 and $180,000.
Advantages: Great way to build a following and customer base, Low risk
Disadvantages: Newer platform that most people aren’t familiar with, All or nothing success
Costs: Kickstarter charges a flat 5% fee plus payment processing fees of 3% to 5%.
Of the options we have reviewed, opening your own store is easily the most expensive option. This option allows you to decide who your target audience will be but it also forces you to take on a significant amount of risk.
One potential option for offsetting some of the risk involved in opening your own store is to rent booths or floor space to others. This will allow you to capture some consistent income and allow you to dictate what products lessee’s are allowed to put in your store.
The sales potential is really unlimited. Your physical store audience will be limited to the local market, however you could also list products online using any of the methods described above.
Advantages: Choose your location and target customers, Diversify expenses by renting booths to others
Disadvantages: High startup costs, Overhead Costs, Local Audience
Costs: Startup and overhead costs associated with renting and maintaining a building. Will also need need to include labor costs.
There you have it, 12 ways for you to sell your woodworking crafts. In the end, you may find that there’s not one single approach that will work best for you. Your most likely route to success may be to take advantage of several of these options and try to diversify and capture sales from multiple outlets.