Selling Your Work On the Internet
Many turners at some point like to take their hobby and turn it into a business. For those of you who are considering this, here are some tips for selling your work over the internet.
Online Sales Services Vs. Building Your Own Site -
There are many online services available for selling just about anything. Most of us are familiar with sites such as Ebay.com® or Amazon.com©, but there are other options as well. Etsy.com is a site geared towards the sale of handcrafted items and is very popular amongst our customers. These services are an excellent choice for persons not familiar with building web sites, and already have a built-in customer base which brings people to view your stuff. Everything is set up for ease of use, and typically requires nothing more than a few photos and brief information about an item to get it ready for sale. The only downside to these sites: you'll pay for a monthly membership and/or a per-transaction fee. These costs will need to be factored in to the price charged for each item.
Building your own web site can be a difficult task for most. To create your own site, you'll need to learn how to get a site set up, how to create the pages within the site, and how to market that site effectively. An inexperienced person will likely get frustrated very quickly, as many skills are required to effectively create a site. For non-technically savvy persons, it may be wise to use an online sales service to learn the ins and outs of online selling, then gradually switch over to a self-created web site. If you are able to create your own site, you will see a considerable savings as far as fees are concerned, which you can pass on as savings to your potential customers.
Tips for Using Online Sales Services-
Begin by looking closely at the titles and descriptions that you use for your items. Use as many relevant "key words" as possible to describe your product. For instance...if you were trying to sell a cherry bowl which you had turned...it would not be wise to simply describe it as a "Cherry Bowl". A better example would be, "Cherry Bowl Wood Turning - Hand Turned Salad Bowl by #yournamehere#". This will allow your item to show up much more frequently in search results, as there are more potential words related to your product which someone might use when searching for just such an item. Remember to think like your customer would when writing your information!
Do some comparison shopping. Take a look at a few different online retailing outlets to see which one will work best for you. If cost is the most important thing, then compare costs. If exposure is the most important thing, then consider which site will likely have visitors looking for exactly the items you are trying to sell.
Tips for Building Your Own Site -
If you remember the movie Field of Dreams, then you will likely remember the quote "If you build it, they will come". While this may apply to bringing ghosts of baseball players into your corn field, it certainly does not apply to your web site! To have a successful web site, you'll need to drive traffic to it through marketing.
Links are a great way to bring traffic to your web site. Browse the internet, looking for web sites which your potential customers might visit. Once you find them, email the site's web manager (aka web master), and ask to exchange links. The more relevant links you can have set up pointing to your site, the more likely someone will find you.
Search engine traffic will account for a large amount of a site's visitors. If you don't make yourself noticeable by being within the first 10-20 search results, you probably won't get many visitors this way. Setting up links on other web sites will assist in improving your ranking in search engines. Re-writing your web site's content to include as many key words as possible will also help (see the first tip in the section prior to this one). Also, consider using the advertising services provided by different search engines. This will randomly include your web site as one of the top three web sites listed initially in search results, based on any key words or phrases you choose. This does have some cost associated with it, but its a great way to get a boost when getting started out.
Think carefully when setting up your checkout and payment options. While you can get away with having someone call to set up an order, you'll end up with far greater sales revenue if you can automate the process for your visitors. Setting up online credit card payment options will not only streamline your operation, it will also make you appear to be a more credible business, and will build trust with your potential customers, thereby leading to increased sales.
Shipping Your Items-
Shipping is an inevitable part of selling online. You'll need to consider the costs of shipping supplies and the costs of time involved in shipping into the costs of your product. UPS and Fedex are easy to get set up with and ship through, with excellent service. The US Postal Service has some useful "Flat Rate" boxes which allow you to ship anywhere in the continental US for a single, flat fee. Weigh your options, and choose which service works best for you.
Remember to ship promptly, and give the customer information to track their package. Would you expect anything less if you made a purchase online?
Photography will certainly become important once you start selling online. Try to learn as much as you can about cameras, lighting and basic graphic editing programs. The better you are able to photograph your pieces and accurately portray them, the easier it will be to sell. Always make sure to use large images (no more than 1000 pixels wide typically) that show clear details.
Remember to offer a variety of items. While you may be able to get away with selling nothing but 6" bowls, you'll likely be more successful if you can offer a variety of items with a wide range of pricing. It may take many months or years to sell a $2000 piece, so find something simple, elegant and reproducible that can generate your sales in the meantime.