Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Selling Your Handmade Books: The Checklist

I recently taught a local class on how to sell handmade items on Etsy.com. It was requested by many wonderful crafters in my area, so I left my bookbinding tools at home and went to work with this wonderful group. The goal of the class was to have them set up their business by the end of the six week class. I created a check list for starting and operating a small business. The checklist is basically a list of questions to ask your self, or things to do to set your business in a path for success. For the next several weeks, you'll receive some of the tips I shared in that class.

Check list numbers 1-3

1- What are you going to create to sell to others? 

This encourages other questions such as, would you like to create one-of-a-kinds, one item in a variety of colors? Or would you like to create several types of things: books, jewelry, aprons, furniture? Write down what you want to make to sell, not just everything you can create. Be specific with colors, sizes, and the materials you want to use. Be original! Don't go on etsy and browse and say "I'll make what they're making." Find something that shows others a bit of you. Find your niche and create your own! For example: I know that when I see this book below, it comes from Renate of Kreativlink.etsy.com as she's know for her felt soft cover books in which she hand draws fun designs, one design being this famous 
swirled tree.

And I know if I see one of these longstitch books below with a fabulous quote in the front, it's from Beverly of lapaperie.etsy.com as she's known for the quotes on the first page of her books.

Making books is great, but try and find your own style and niche.

2- What level do you want to work at? 

Pick the level you want to open up shot at and the level you might consider moving up-to, or down-to some day. This is important as it sets your mind and goals in the right direction for your business. I wrote a post on this over a year ago which can be read by clicking here but the levels are listed below.

Hobby Level - You love making books and want to continue but materials can sometimes be pricey. At the hobby level, you really just want to make back enough money to cover costs and help pay for future materials for more books. All your money goes directly back into the books and your creative ventures.

Side Income Level - Since you're in need of a bit of extra income and you really don't want to sacrifice making books to get a second job, you've turned to selling your handmade books in hopes that you can do what you love and still contribute money to the monthly cash inflow.

Full Time Level - You love making books and want to make it your full time job. Part of your sales income will go back to materials for books, with most of the income going toward your spending budget to pay off bills and living costs.

3- Pick a shop name. 

For most of you reading this post, you may already have a shop name. I encourage you to leave a comment about your shop name and why you picked it. If you had to choose again, would you pick the same name? 

For those who don't have a shop name yet, this may be the hardest thing you have to do on the checklist. Here are some tips to picking a name: Keep it simple, keep it short and keep it relevant. When I started out a few years ago on Etsy, I wasn't sure what I wanted to sell. I thought I'd just add things here and there to my shop and see what took off. The first item we sold on there: two dozen cinnamon rolls.

Daniel made them. They look scrumptious don't they? We quickly learned that cinnamon rolls were NOT what we wanted to sell after trying to figure out the timing to ship and the packaging. Good thing I didn't call the shop "Cinnamon Sweets" which was on my list of potential shop names. I would be selling handmade journals and photo albums under that name!

I chose a shop name in which I could add anything I wanted to my shop: Karleigh Jae. However, my name is spelled in a complicated way. Yes, compliments to my mom for a pretty spelling but it's not the best for an online business.  I have to spell my website out for anyone who asks and for my customers, they have the hard time of telling friends, when they get a compliment on their new journal, "I bought it off etsy, her name is Karleigh Jae but I forget how it's spelled." Word of mouth is the best advertising for anyone, so make sure your shop name is easy to pass around as not everyone will have a business card on hand! 

Also remember to keep it simple. Apple. Gap. Kraft. Nike. These are brand names that kept it simple and they are therefor easy to remember. I had a student who wanted to use something like "Rose Maria's handmade treasured gifts". Think about your customers who want to come directly to your shop. They have to type that long name in! It's also easily forgettable. However, think Calvin Klein. Wouldn't it be weird if it were: "Calvin Klein's Fashionable Clothes and Accessories For Men"? Let's see them fit that on the clothing tag!

I suggested that she shorten her shop name to Rose Maria. I had all the students try and come up with they way they would spell that name and they all spelled it the same way, compared to my name of Karleigh Jae (everyone always starts it with "C" and let's not even discuss the "eigh" part). Ask friends for shop name ideas if you are having a hard time coming up with a name and remember to keep it simple, short and relevant.

One more note about my shop name. I picked my own name because it was just something I was trying out and I didn't know what I wanted to sell. Difficult spelling put aside, I still wouldn't have picked it. Currently, my etsy shop is working on the full time level and my husband, Daniel actually puts in more time with it than I do (he even made the first thing that sold, remember the cinnamon rolls?) But, the shop is still in my name. So, I wish I had picked a name which allowed everyone to know right off that it's not just a one woman business but a husband and wife team. If I had picked the hobby level and stayed there, my name would be ok. For a business that I planned on growing, I should have thought on my name a bit more.

The checklist is super long so keep up with my Tuesday posts here on the BEST blog to grow your business!


Amber said...

Thanks for the post! Really good advice for us newbies.

I just opened my etsy shop a few weeks ago, and I chose the name "MakingMyRent" as a joke, really, because I'm unemployed right now. I wanted it to be easy to spell and do ok by word of mouth, but it's not really a good brand name.

Lizzie said...

Karleigh Jae (see I can spell it!), thank you for this post - I can see that it will be a very useful series! I'll be following along.

I think I have recently crossed over from the "Hobby" to the "Small / second Income" level. It's been an exciting time and I've hardly had time to draw breath. I have had a steep learning curve - book binding and business methods and ideas alike. I'm having to learn to be more efficient in my working methods, keep better records (!) and calculate prices, postage etc more accurately. I have had a lot of inspiration and ideas from my BEST Colleagues, which I appreciate so much!

As for my shop name: I chose "LizzieMade" because I had been selling handmade items - mainly greetings cards - using this name, before I opened my Etsy shop. It seemed like a good idea. However, the name doesn't really say what I do and someone I know hurt my feelings by copying it - she used her first name, with "Made" on the end - even though she knew I had a shop on Etsy. I know I don't have a monopoly on this kind of name, but somehow I didn't think someone I knew would "steal" my idea...
So, if I was starting now, I would choose a more specifically "Book Binder" type of shop name, that told my potential customers what I do and that someone else wouldn't really want to copy.
And actually, I have "spelling problems", though perhaps not as much as you, because there is more than one way to spell "Lizzie/y/ssie/ssy...." you see... and also there could be a space before "Made"... and there is also "Maid" (though I did wonder at the sort of brain that came up with that idea for a bookbinder's shop!). Still, I'm making sales and getting orders, so it can't be so bad!

Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us.

Gracie "Neky White" said...

Thanks for this post, I'm newbie in the bussiness and I'm trying to open a etsy store in the future too. For now I choose the name "El rey Gato" (king cat) for my shop because I want to make so many things....(i Know, the name doesn't have any sense)=p. Well. thank you again!

Veterok. said...

I chose Veterok for my shop's name because I have used it as a nickname & username for over ten years now - it's not the most awesome/descriptive shop name, but it's a single word (which I really, really like), simple & stylish (...) and I feel it would be confusing to change it because so many people already associate me & my artwork with the name.

In a way I do wish I had some other name than a nonsensical Russian word which no-one knows & which always gets spelled wrong in the English-speaking world, but Veterok has really grown on me and I can't imagine changing it even if I hate it or question it every now and then. Ha!

Honestly, I have no idea how other people see my name. (Feel free to come over my blog & comment with your associations if you want to)

Karleigh Jae said...

Amber: It's a fun name though :)

Lizzie: I do love your lizziemade name. My name is hard to spell but I have a lot of sales still, so hard to spell names aren't necessarily bad but I know that some of my friends (who know how to spell my name) have had a hardtime finding my shop online. So I always recommend to find something simple and something that is easy to spell or easy to tell how it's spelled. Kraft spells it with a K instead of a C. Which makes it unique, yet it's still simple. I think you'll do wonderfully with Lizziemade :)

Gracey, I think "Gato" is one of those funny words that gets changed in translation. In Spanish it's "Cat" and "Gateaux" said in the same way in the french language means "Cake". I still think El Rey Gato is a fun name.

E: I love the shop name Veterok. It's a fun word to say and it's unique and I can remember it.

Antico Valore said...

thank you!!