Currently in my life I am a part time metal smith and full time student getting my Masters in Library Science. In one of my early classes we learned about Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Libraries. The five laws of library science are:
1) Books are for use
2) Every reader his or her book
3) Every book its reader.
4) Save the time of the reader.
5) The library is a growing organism
What do these laws or rules have to do with selling handmade goods? Well, I actually believe that if you slightly change these rules they become extremely applicable to being a successful seller of handmade goods. Let’s start with the first rule…
Handmade Goods are Meant to be Used
Handmade goods are meant to be used, this rule is pretty important. Don’t make something that someone can’t use in some way. In addition, these goods are meant to belong to someone and be used, not sitting in a closet somewhere. Focus on items that have a use and if that use can be explained then people will buy them.
There is a market for the occasional regretsy item out there but in general only make them if you know the niche. For example a few months ago I stumbled upon brooksbot75 and his main item is metal bras. Now most people don’t want or need a metal bra, yet at the same time there is a sub culture out there that loves them and he has had over 400 sales in less than 2 years.
Every Buyer has His or Her Handmade Good
This rule is slightly different than the last rule. Buyers like to buy things, that is why they are buyers. Even people who hate to shop are forced to be buyers just to survive or get gifts. Sometimes buyers know what they want. For example the other day I needed to buy a stone for a commission piece and the customer told me exactly what he wanted. I went out to find the stone and bought it.
Often the buyers don’t know what they want to buy and they are browsing. They could be shopping online and could be at several different phases of the online shopping cycle. But when they stumble upon that item they want or must have, they will get it. This buyer has the good they want.
Every Handmade Good has its Buyer
The opposite is true also. Every handmade item has a buyer out there that wants to buy it. The problem is that many times the buyer doesn’t know this item exists or even how to find it. Just remember no matter what you are selling, as long as it can be used, most likely someone wants to buy it.
The key thing with this rule is being patient and presenting that item over and over again. I have heard of Etsy sellers refusing to re-list items. This policy is silly, new shoppers come to your shop every day and you don’t know what they want. That item’s buyer could come any day, just be patient. I had cuttlebone cast pendants for years before the right buyer came along.
Save the Time of the Buyer
This is crucial. Saving the time of the buyer is possibly the most important rule. You must assume shoppers are busy and fickle. It is your duty as the seller to save their time. What does this mean?
First clean crisp photos will attract shoppers and they will know more about your item more quickly. Second, your item descriptions should be short and easy to read. Don’t use big words that could confuse potential customers and lengthy verbose text that looks too long to read. Have the crucial information in descriptions and leave it at that. This is not a sophomore college English Essay where you are trying to add an extra page, the shorter the better.
Third, respond to messages and convos quickly, 24 hours is almost too long. I have decided not to buy things because the seller took too long to respond to a convo on Etsy. Fourth, ship things quickly and provide a tracking number, I know it costs more but customers love it. In addition the tracking number allows you to know when it arrived.
Your Shop is a Growing Organism
Your shop is going to change. This reality is a given. Current fashions and trends will affect how well your items are going to sell. Even if your style doesn’t really change with the times you will change. Either you will be exposed to new ideas or in my case your technical ability will continue to improve.
A clear example of this change for me was my cut out designs that I do on the backside of my pendants. These designs started out pretty simple and gradually became more complex. As my sawing got better I learned how far I could push the design. But my change is not just limited to cut outs, I can see a distinct difference among my pieces that I have made in different years.
The style of everyone’s work is constantly growing and your items are slowly going to progress in a different direction. It is odd to look at work that I can date because of the different style I used at that time. I would recommend not fighting this gradual evolution but to just let it happen and see where you and your products go.
These five laws may seem and bit abstract and simple when first read. Upon deeper inspection it can be seen that these laws apply to selling handmade goods. The simplest ideas are sometimes the hardest to follow. In general if you keep these 5 laws in the back of your mind when you design and sell your items it will be easier to find the right buyer for them.
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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States! Because of the holiday there will only be one blog post this week instead of the usual two.