Increase sales with these business tips for selling merchandise, online and off

Hi guys! Every so often, I get these intriguing questions that I attempt to answer. But I think this one has lots of value for most anyone that is wishing to fire up doing something they love for their life’s work.

So after Paula’s permission, here is her question… and my answers.

I also invite any suggestions you may have for Paula too!

– – – – –

How can I grow my ‘making things’ business?

Good Afternoon Donna,

I stumbled upon your website today from Pinterest as I was searching for refinished items. I was absolutely floored when I read your story and how successful and amazing you have become! I admire your hard work and humble beginnings and congratulate you on your success! 
 
I have recently opened up my own shop here in BC, Vernon to be exact and was wondering if you could give me some advice?
 
I am currently reading Jack Canfields “The Success Principles”. seems like you live by them. A must read if you haven’t as I see you growing expansionally larger if you do:)
 
Anyway, one of the chapters is to make a mind map of your goal, and most people wonder… “How do I even get to my goal?” So the book answers with ” Ask how!”. It tells us to talk to people who have already made it big, and are doing what you want to be doing. Because chances are, every goal has already been accomplished by someone. So we can ask them how they did it, what obstacles they needed to over come and maybe some tips of how to go about it better. 
 
My point is, your website came up just a day after reading this chapter and I feel like it was meant to be. Your character, style of writing and obvious extreme talent really spoke to me and I just need to reach out. 
 
My little business “Beach & Barn” started on December 30th, 2015. I also work part time as an Events / Fundraiser Coordinator for my best friends company called Luxury Sheets Canada. (Beautiful sheets by the way if you need any:) ) 
 
2015 was a tough year financially, so I made all of my Christmas gifts from pottery, wine, signs, drift wood pieces, stained glass, you name it! I had so much positive feedback and comments that I should sell my creations, that I started my little Facebook store! In one week I have almost 100 likes and 5 orders, but I’m not really sure how to go about it. 
 
I have marketing, sales, and customer service experience, but I feel like I get so excited I don’t actually do anything, lol! I know I can be successful, but I always have this big financial fear. You see, I need to make a whole lot more money to make this a viable business. I’m always nervous of purchasing things because I hope they will sell. I know I have some orders already, but I’d like to make sure I’m starting on the right foot. 
 
So I guess I’m asking this, can you help me? May you please give me advice as to what you did, and perhaps of what you’ve learned along the way? Or perhaps you know of someone you think could help me? I want to make 2016 my year and have some large, but attainable goals in mind. I know I can be a success, I just need a map to get there. 
 
I believe you have helped, and touched thousands of peoples lives, just by being who you are! I commend you for that, and truly admire you! 
 
Cheers and many thanks,

Paula

Dear Paula, or any wanna be entrepreneur out there…

First of all, I’m completely honoured you’d even dream of asking me how to grow your business!

I honestly had no business plan. I was working full time, when I just started dabbling at this junk thing in my spare time. Once my passion took hold, I started putting more time into the blog vs. my main job. Once they made equal amounts, I left the dayjob, and have never (had time to) look back!

Read: How to build a dreamjob when you work a dayjob. This is EXACTLY how I did it.

A blogger’s business is structured a little differently than one just selling merchandise, but I believe I can offer you some valuable tips that can help expand the great work you’ve already done.

Note: Paula works from home, and sells her creations strictly through Facebook, with pickup by appointment only.


1. Create a permanent home base online.

Facebook is a great place to test the waters biz wise. Most anyone hangs out on Facebook these days! 

But being that Facebook belongs to another, it’s really important to establish a home base for just yourself online, as in a website, blog, or store of your own.

If Facebook disappeared one day, where would your business be? You want to build your own secure foundation.

Website, store, blog, or all?

For a website, the minimum suggested would be to have areas of About, Contact, Location, Hours, and a portfolio of your work.

For a blog, you’ll want to make regular entries, so those that follow you get alerted to your new creations. If you create your posts in tutorial form, they will become even more valuable than simply showing after shots. Teaching is very powerful, but it also takes more time.

For a store, you have options, for different reasons…

Etsy is a self run community, so if you are just beginning, this choice can help you greatly if you learn how to use it effectively. Etsy is fee driven, based on sales.

Big Cartel is an online presence, much like a website, that will require your own shout outs for visitors to find you. Big Cartel is free for up to so many items for sale, then becomes x amount for x amount of items. It’s very easy and cost effective imo.

So once you assess which way you wish to head….

1. Purchase a url, via .com if possible.

2. At the least, build a website, or blog. You can build a blog for free using Blogger if you desire. I personally use WordPress, but I started with Blogger, because it was free, and I could do it myself.

3. Brand everything with the same name, look, artwork, etc. This will strengthen your brand and become recognizable at a glance. I like to suggest a professionally done logo, but do the best you can until you can afford that.

Then start using social media as a tool to guide your customers to your home base.

Even if you don’t use your website to sell, think of it as a place to find out more about you, and what you sell. People love to know that there’s a person behind a product. 

Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils on Big Cartel / How to increase sales online and off / funkyjunkinteriors.net

What I do:

a) I share my how-tos on my blog. Like this writeup. 🙂

b) I started my store, Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils on Big Cartel HERE, when I was ready to sell a product. (because it was super easy to set up myself) I pay $19.99 / mo. for under 25 products.

c) I create cool things on my blog, but link back to the store if I use a stencil I sell.

d) I use social media to highlight new blog posts on the blog, sending folks to my home base.

e) I use ALL the social medias to some degree. I rotate new projects with older ones, so newer readers can learn from them too.

2. Grow your Social Media presence.

Social media is imperative! Imagine if a store stocked goods, but never advertised the store was even there. No one would know.

You need to shout out your own work from the rooftops. So join every social media you can. Even if you don’t use them, at the very least, you’ve snagged your name so no one else can.

And do use your business name for business, for easy brand recognition.

Facebook – Starting a biz page is a must, which is different than your personal profile. Most are on FB, so you need to be on this bandwagon.

Instagram – showcase enticing beauty shots for the most fuel.

Pinterest – create boards with just your product so they are easy to find and advertise.

Twitter – tweet out new additions to your store or website.

G+ – valuable to build SEO, so you are retrieved in google searches moreso

Periscope – broadcast something you are currently working on, sharing a small, valuable tip

The best way to grow your social media presence is to use them! This takes lots of learning, trial and error, and diligence. But basically put, the higher your numbers, the more that see your work. Advertise your own social medias from time to time too.

What I do:

I use them all, even if not all daily. Each one serves its own community, so they all have value. I showcase things I make AND sell, but generally within a tutorial setting.

Here is my Pinterest board of my work.

Here is my Pinterest board of my stencils.

Here is my Facebook business page.


** Fill out all the ABOUT areas IN FULL.

It’s time to sell…YOU. There’s loads of free space on any ABOUT area on any social media platform, so fill it out to the hilt! 

The most overlooked area is on a personal facebook profile. If you use your personal profile for ANY biz, your info needs to be on that page. Please don’t make it hard for readers and customers to try and remember your personal name vs your biz name. Connect the dots!

What I do:

I do it all. Blatantly! 🙂 See above.

Here is my ABOUT on Facebook.

Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils Getaway Collection
Getaway Collection Stencils taken in my photo studio

Funky Junk's 2015 Summer Home Junk Tour
Grocery old sign stencils taken in my kitchen

3. Up your photo staging

I work from home, so I know how difficult it is to find a blank wall with great lighting.

But if you are selling things online, good, clear, sharp photos are your only selling tool. The better your photos and staging is, the more you will sell.

I gutted a south facing room I now call my photo studio, that offers good light all day, where I can carry smaller projects to be photographed.

But when possible, I like to stage the product in my home, so others can see how I personally put it to work.

Quick photo tips:

Natural lighting is key!

Using a tripod is a must for sharp photos.

You can still use phone pictures, but I suggest to move one step up to what you have when you can afford it. Better cameras let in more light with interior shots.

What cameras I started with:

I started with a point and shoot. I’m glad it broke, because it pushed me into getting my first DSLR which I was long ready for. When that one broke, I was more than ready to purchase a DSLR fullframe.

See a trend? I waited until my cameras broke! Don’t be like me. Get what you can afford… NOW! You know it’s time to upgrade, when you can’t get more out of your camera.


Hot cocoa tray mug holder
Hot cocoa tray turned mug holder – tutorial

Old shutter shelf made with signs
Old shutter shelf – tutorial

Antiques paint cart from a cupboard

Antiques cupboard turned paint cart – tutorial

4. Stage your projects doing something productive

See the above 3 projects? They all possess something I sell. (the stencils). But I’ve created projects with them, that not only are fun to look at, they are productive. And that is the key.

This is hard to do in tight spaces, but if you can, hang a project doing something valuable, vs. just being there.

When others see how they can use that item, or how it looks positioned on a real wall, they will be more likely to purchase it.

I do this with every one of my projects, even when I don’t sell a specific product. 

You can see how I stage ALL MY PROJECTS HERE.

5. Consider having products available somewhere in town for the public to browse.

It’s ok to work from home. I do too! But when you are talking products that people would love to feel and hold, it may be in your best interest to place your items in a booth or commission store. Or, attend local craft or vintage shows.

How I sell:

When I sold stuff I made, I placed them in a local restaurant, so basically, she got free decorating for selling my stuff. Win-win!

Today, I just sell stencils in my online store. But.. they will soon be open to retailers, so they will soon be avail in many stores for my readers to check out in person.

Wish to sell my stencils? Sign up HERE

Wish to find a retailer? Find them HERE

Also, consider an online store, such as Etsy or Big Cartel, so you can sell beyond locals.

Beach and Barn Home Decor on Facebook, featured on Funky Junk Interiors
Well Paula and everyone else, I talked your ear off. Just over 2k words, this thing is long enough.

So… here is Paula’s page. Her creations are darling! But they need a larger audience.

Like Beach and Barn on Facebook HERE and comment on a few of her wonderful creations, and let’s help her grow a little more today! 

One day I’ll write about the merits of interaction on Facebook… if you wish to hear more wordy words! 🙂

Did you guys find these business tips helpful?

Do you have any tips for Paula to consider trying?

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Categories: Blog, Blogging Tips, Business, Career building, Inspiration, Junk Drawer, Readers Ask
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  1. Donna,

    You truly are a godsend! I am so blessed and thankful for your post about my questions! You answered them with such detail and personal experience! This is truly an invaluable experience for myself! Not only have you generously helped me by your time in writing this truly amazing blog, but you’ve helped promote me! What!! Just amazing!!

    I am honestly still in shock, nearly an hour after I’ve read this post for the 3’rd tim!, I tried to post a comment on my phone but that didn’t work, so here’s another go!

    I am so grateful for your words and will honestly apply them to my life and business! I won’t give up! I hope to meet you someday soon so I can give you a huge hug and express my gratitude!

    You are such an in inspiration, and I admire you more than you can believe! I know my business is still quite new, but you have given me the tools and information I need to set off on the right path! This is enormous for my business, and priceless – I will find a way to someday repay you!

    Thank you for not only helping myself, but for the thousands of other fans who think so highly of you. This information is appreciated beyond comprehension, and again I thank you for your time and generosity!

    Many thanks and sending a BIG hug and lots of love,
    Paula Coulter
    Beach & Barn
    http://www.facebook.com/BeachandBarnHomeDecor

  2. Morning, what a wealth of information…thank-you!

    You have always offered an amazing platform to showcase others work…so appreciated!

    I wondered your opinion on growing social media…some showcase only their own work and some share others. Often the top bloggers only showcase their content…which is understandable with their following. I guess what I’m trying to figure out is when you should just focus on your own business or is it best when your growing to find your tribe?

    Thanks a bunch for your opinion!

    Jane

    • Hi Jane!

      From a blogger’s perspective that is after traffic and higher insights, things change.

      For example, FB does best if you use it frequently. So if you can’t fill your page with enough content, it’s helpful to share others for your page and for them.

      It’s a fine line though. One needs to decide how they wish to portray their page… if you put lots of others, it tends to weaken your own brand a little, so it’s a balancing act.

      I myself try and keep my content strong, with the sprinkling of a few others in between. That way, readers aren’t confused when they land on my social medias…. “who’s page is this anyway?”

      It’s truly a personal preference!

  3. Sorry, but this is a long comment. I admit I’m not an entrepreneur & also not a big consumer, but when I buy, I don’t use social media. I tried to look at the Beach & Barn link but because I’m not a Facebook member (and will never be) I couldn’t access it. Facebook won’t let non-members see anything.–Neither will stores like Zulily. I refuse to be forced into signing up for something before seeing what they sell first.

    For those like me, a website that lets everyone (member or not) in without having to join or an online marketplace such as Etsy are where we buy.

    Here are my purchases from Etsy over the last 6 months (doesn’t include shipping):

    Table lamp – $80.00
    Faucet heads/valves – $14.00
    Iron vent cover – $50.00
    Necklace for my granddaughter – $20.00
    Bandana – $3.00
    Brass ornate escutcheon – $10.50
    Dog Tag – $9.00
    Sculptured clay face for garden – $86.00

    Some purchases from the last year:
    Dog coat – $40.00
    Print – $10.00
    Earrings – $12.00
    Earrings – $20.00
    Hanging brass lamp part – $25.00
    Stained glass panel – $129.00

    Etsy searches:
    Looked for dragonfly items (Christmas present)
    Looked for leather satchel
    Looked at cotton skirts
    Looking for handmade knit booties ‘cause my dog chewed up my favorite pair
    Looked for vintage bottles/jars
    Looked for a vintage lantern to hang beside my gate
    Looked for specialty plants I can’t buy locally
    Handmade wreaths (not too expensive)
    Looked at salvaged iron and copper items
    Looked at stained glass items

    I moved twice in the past year so I might have purchased more had I not been moving.

    And Donna, it may be my computer, but every time I access your blog, the page freezes and a message states there is a script error. I use Firefox as my browser.

    • Hi Laura, I thought everyone could view a FB biz page without being a member! Interesting and valuable to those that sell on FB for sure.

      Sorry about the freezing up, are you on mobile, desktop or laptop? I’ll report it!

  4. What a great article to share. I have saved it so I can absorb it all in detail, a little at a time. I have always wondered what it would be like to sell some of my art work; intimidated by the process most of the time.
    My husband has a small on line business and we both will benefit from your experience. thank you again.

  5. You are awesome! You have answered so many questions I have had for so long, but was struck with fear to ask. Thank you so much for this article, I think it will be the little push I have needed to ‘just do it’!

  6. Thank you for all of the great info. I need to sell my extensive collections of vintage china, silverware, and stemware but have been petrified to get started. Paula’s statement of “I get so excited I don’t actually do anything” applies to me as well. I get all wound up and end up not getting anything accomplished. I am not social media savvy and I do need to step up my game by becoming well versed on the in’s and outs on using a much wider variety of social applications. This is a daunting task for a senior such as myself, but by no means impossible.

  7. Hi Donna,

    I so admire you and your work. You are a very special person. Thank you for taking the time to make this post as detailed as you did. I too have been thinking for a long time about selling my crafts, however, just like Laura on the comment below, I don’t have a face book account and really would not like to have one even though I know that there is a lot of “traffic” on FB. and just for the record I have tried to see other people’s businesses on FB and have not been able to because I don’t have an account so I guess my best bet would be to use Etsy as my selling point.

    Love,
    Isabel

    • Hi Isabel, Etsy is a great choice!

      But I will say this about Facebook. Some see it as a means to trouble, but it’s all dependent how one chooses to use it. I use it to reach many of my readers, and for private groups that help educate each other. There’s so much good potential with it, I honestly don’t know how I’d manage without it at this point!

      I even have a private group of those that are cleaning their homes behind the scenes for my Crap to Clean series. It’s been a wonderful tool for many!

      • Oh Donna! Thank you for taking the time to reply. I will look into FB since I trust your judgement and I will consider this option thanks to you.

        Sincerely,
        Isabel

  8. Donna…thank you so much! Your posts are always so inspirational and I get so much from them all! I too, am in the position of trying to grow my business and this has been so valuable to me right now. I have new motivation and solid ideas of how to move forward…thank you ever so much 🙂