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Have you ever wanted to sell your crafts online? Many of you already sell your handmade items in person at craft fairs but selling online can be a whole different world. The book Sell Your Crafts Online by James Dillehay will guide you through the process from your very first thoughts all the way through successful marketing and sales. The author sent me a free copy of this book to review for you.
Who is James Dillehay?
James Dillehay is an accomplished fiber artist, teacher, and author. He is a former gallery owner who has sold his products online and in person.
Check out his other books, courses, and offerings on his Craft Marketer website.
Sell Your Crafts Online
I was sent a pdf version of this book, and at 120 pages, I thought it would take me a while to get through it. But it’s large print, well spaced, and well organized so it was actually a fairly quick read! You can buy this book directly from the author’s website, or it is also available on Amazon in paperback, spiral bound, and Kindle editions.
If you want to sell your crafts online, I suggest reading through the whole book quickly and then going back for a deeper dive into each subject. It’s easy to get distracted by the nitty-gritty details of setting up a new business, and having an overview in mind can keep you from falling down the various rabbit holes along the way.
This book is about as comprehensive a guide as I’ve seen, but setting up any business is complex and the rules are constantly changing. No single book will ever be able to cover all of it, because by the time it’s written things will have changed again.
In a couple of spots in this review, I’ve pointed out a few items that were not mentioned in the book. These are things I struggled with or had to learn myself in running an online business.
Setting up a Business
It’s tempting to jump right into creating a store, but having a good foundation can save you some headaches down the road. The first 2 chapters of Sell Your Crafts Online focus on getting your business started. They cover choosing a name, getting appropriate permits and licenses, setting up your recordkeeping, and developing your brand identity.
When it comes to business registration and licenses, it varies so much from county to county within the US and moreso in other countries. I like that the author included links to resources in Canada, the UK, and Australia as well.
The US has laws and guidelines from multiple agencies that apply to safety, testing, and labelling of various consumer products. These are things like care labels on clothing, testing for small parts and seam strength on children’s products, etc.
Yes, this does apply to small crafters like us, though we get lots of exemptions that make compliance much easier. I know other countries have similar laws as well. Many (if not most) crafters ignore these rules, but that doesn’t mean you should. A great resource to find out more (for US laws) is the US Product Safety Compliance Facebook group.
Chapters 3-6 walk you through pricing and marketing your products. This includes an extensive and well-thought-out discussion of how to come up with pricing that works for you. There are also tips on taking different types of photos for different needs. Finally, you’ll find an in-depth discussion of search engine optimization to help online shoppers find your products.
Flip to Appendix 1 at the back of the book for tips on writing really great product descriptions that make people want to buy your products!
Chapters 7-9 focus on different sales platforms, including Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, and other alternatives. Chapter 10 discusses setting up a shop on your own site, including adding a blog.
Just like the author, I’m a big fan of being in several places at once. You can find my patterns for free here on my site, or for sale as pdfs in my Ravelry store. Then, visit the Stitches n Scraps Yarn Shop for the yarn you need!
Appendices 2 & 3 at the end of the book talk about selling your products wholesale to local stores, as well as a huge list of alternative selling platforms in various countries. Appendix 4 talks about platforms for selling “on-demand” products.
Various laws govern online privacy and collection of personal information. Among other things, this is why you get those annoying pop-up notifications about cookies, and why you usually have to confirm your subscription when you join a mailing list. There are templates you can follow, as well as services (or attorneys) who you can pay to write these important legal pages for you.
Sales Tax: I saw no reference to collecting sales tax – If you’re in the US, it’s important to know the laws in your own state as well as in other states. These are constantly changing, and your local small business administration should be able to help point you in the right direction. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to an accountant familiar with online shops.
International considerations: Anything done online has an international reach. There are some international laws that do apply to us here in the US anytime we do business outside of the US. GDPR governs privacy and use of personal information for any users in the EU. Also, several countries in Europe have a tax called VAT that has to be collected any time you sell to someone in those countries.
Most sales platforms and email services will handle these things for you. But it’s still important to know about them, particularly if you are selling on your own site.
Social Media Marketing
These days, social media is everything when it comes to bringing customers to your shop. The book takes a long and thoughtful journey through each of the main platforms in turn. Chapters 11-15 cover Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, though I didn’t see any mention of TikTok.
The topics include the different types of posts you can make on each platform, and how to use them to drive sales. There’s also discussion about choosing and using hashtags effectively, and scheduling your social media posts.
Chapter 16 talks about selling on multiple platforms at the same time. The next 2 chapters talk about influencer marketing and paid ads on various platforms. Finally, chapter 19 lists a few pitfalls to watch out for along the way.
Overall, this is a remarkably thorough and informative book. If you’ve ever wanted to sell your crafts online, it’s a great place to start!
Free Companion eBook!
James Dillehay has just released a new ebook called Blueprint for Selling Handmade Products. This quick reference guide makes a great companion to the larger Sell Your Crafts Online book.
For a limited time, you can get this ebook for FREE (no coupon code needed) by subscribing to the author’s free “The Handmaker’s Life” newsletter. But hurry, this offer ends on October 15th, 2022!
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