I love yarn in all its fibers and colors and weights (except fingering and lace weights which are terrible). I love knitting needles and crochet hooks in wood and metal and plastic. And most of all, I love to knit and crochet things with yarn and hooks and needles. I love the process as much as, if not more than, the finished products. It’s so relaxing when I get in the groove and my hands automatically make the motions and out comes this smooth fabric. I can make attractive, useful things out of string, and that’s awesome to me.
Because of all of that, I end up with a lot of knitted and crocheted things. My kids have a lovely assortment of hats, a few scarves, some fingerless gloves. Even the husband, who doesn’t typically wear these things, has some. I have some, my siblings and mothers and nieces and nephews, they all have been on the receiving end of my yarn-loving habit. I love it when I wear my knitted items out in public and get compliments, especially the surprised look when I say I made them myself. What usually follows is some variation of “You should sell those on Etsy!”
Well. Yes. Believe me, I try. I know these people mean well, and I do take it as a compliment because they’re saying they think people would pay money for something I’ve made, and I appreciate that. But it’s also frustrating, because it implies a simplicity that’s not there. I’ve been on Etsy for several months now, with 22 items currently listed. I’ve paid for promoted listings, not a lot but some, and in that time I’ve sold a whopping two items. I’ve made $3 more than I paid to promote the listings. I know there are a lot of factors at play here: am I listing the right kind of items? Am I tagging well enough? Is my ad budget high enough? Am I not being patient enough? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. All I know is that it doesn’t appear to be the right business model for me, at least right now.
I’ve done several craft shows, and all of them have been more successful than Etsy has been. For my stuff, it’s about the colors, touch, the feel, the fit–those are the things that make my pieces sell. I use high-quality fibers that make my prices a bit higher than things made from acrylic, but it’s hard for someone to see the difference on a computer screen. And even in craft shows, my booth is different than a lot of the other yarn booths because there’s so much variety on my table. I don’t pick two things and make them in every color. It’s rare for me to have even two of anything. I create based on the yarn, and very few yarns want to be the same thing. I know I would probably benefit from some duplication, and there a few hats I want to make in other colors, but I’m never going to be the booth with stacks of the same hat. I’m not disparaging that, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not how I like to work. I don’t want to make stuff based on what I think people want. I want people to want what I make.
So I’m a little discouraged right now. I’m struggling to figure out where to focus my business energy right now. There’s a handmade market in a really cool downtown area that’s looking for vendors, and I’m seriously considering submitting an application. You set up the booth and they man the store and process sales. The monthly fee, plus commission, is less than I’d pay for the average craft show. Really, the only hitch right now is that I don’t have any furniture to set up in a booth. But I can see that in my future. You sign a three-month contract, and based on the traffic I’ve seen out there, it would totally be worth it. And today I signed up for a big, well-known, three-day craft show in October.
I guess I’ve got my answer. I need to step back from Etsy and focus on the personal connections. I’ll keep Etsy open, but I won’t do more promoted listings. Instead I’ll invest my money in booth fees where I know people will actually see my pieces. But for now, since I’ve got a little time, I think I’ll spend a little more time making stuff for me.
What are your tips for a successful knit/crochet business?