Another question from the email bag — specifically, from our friend and fellow blogger Susan Courtad:
I have an acquaintance who wants to create a web site to sell her handmade jewelry. But she hasn’t a clue how to put together a site. She needs something really easy to figure out. And she has little or no money to invest in this. What do you recommend?
Susan, your friend has a challenge in front of her if she hopes to make a living selling jewelry. With a limited budget, a custom store is out of the question. Selling through an existing online store is a lower cost option, even thoughsuch stores take a cut of the revenue and can also charge monthly fees or listing fees.
The main store to consider: Etsy (http://www.etsy.com), which focuses on handmade goods. Etsy has a good reputation and looks easy to use. Sharing a store with other sellers who make and sell handmade stuff is especially as you’re starting out because you share their traffic â€” and thereby raise awareness of your products faster.
An option that’s more complicated: Yahoo Small Business. For this you pay a monthly fee, plus credit card fees for each transaction, but you retain more control of what you make available for sale.
For what it’s worth, it would cost about $3000 for her to have a firm like Big Big Design build a custom shopping site — and that’s assuming she would input most of the product information herself. If she set up her own store she would still have to pay someone per transaction to process payments: PayPal, Google, a merchant bank, etc. But the site would look exactly right for her and her products, and it would be tailored to her customers. She would also have full control over everything and be able to track traffic most closely.
Your friend should also consider selling offline. Trunk shows and parties are great ways to market and sell unique products, or as are booths at street fairs or in places like Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Booths and tables have fees associated of course, and she’d have to give away some product to hostesses to hold trunk shows and parties.
And of course she can approach owners of boutiques that sell to the clientele she would like to reach: clothing or accessory stores, for example. Such an owner can sell the items on consignment, taking a cut of the sales price.
No matter which avenue she chooses, she has to plan to market her wares, to drive people to the website or to tell them about the trunk show/parties or about the shop that selling on consignment. She can make print flyers with a color copier, go to Staples, and they’ll cut sheets of paper or cardstock for cheap, which is much better than cutting them yourself, plus the color quality is better. For postcards, consider Vistaprint.com; for bookmarks, try Printplace.com.
I’s hard to start up a business like what your friend proposes, in addition to spending money on supplies she’s got to plan for marketing, sales, and all these other things. It would be really smart for her to work out a budget. Then she’ll know at what point she will have paid off the initial investment, and when she can expect to see returns. That point is likely to be discouragingly farther in the future than she probably expects. But it’s critical for her to have a clear view of what’s coming, and to have a way to measure if she’s succeeding in her venture.