Monday, 12 June 2017

Selling; where to start? (in Quebec)

I often get asked for tips as to how to start selling, I consider I still have a lot to learn myself, but I will still try to share what I learnt in nearly 8 years selling! I will be coming back in details on some of the above points in the following days/weeks while I wait to start making items again following my hand surgery of last week.

Selling; where to start? (in Quebec)

You have a cool product? Strangers stop you in the street to know where you purchased your own creations? Your friends are pushing you to sell your work?

Great! But where to start?

A name

First, you want to decide if you will sell under your own name or a “company” name. Legally, in Quebec, if you are not using your full name in your company name, you have to register it with the Registraire des entreprises ofQuebec, the fees are $34 a year, so not much, but something to know and to do soon. Note that you can register a name in any language, but the first name must be in French and then you add a translation of that name in the language of your choice, at no added cost.

So, will you work under Eloïse Paré origami (no obligation to register) or under Eloïse origami or The Green Bunny Workshop (which would both required to be registered)?

Choose something short, easy to remember and that leaves you room for changes; at first I was doing a lot of animal winter hats, but I had chosen The Green Bunny Toques, I would have had to change my name which would have involved a lot of time and fees!

Avoid complex orthography that will make it difficult for people to remember you by heart; my first name was Eölsei Wear, which is an anagram of my first name that no one could remember...

Drop the articles, they make events listings harder to check; am I under “T” or “G” this time (if I had to redo it, I would drop the “The” to be only Green Bunny Workshop).

Web presence

Do you want to sell only in person, only online or a bit of both? Whatever your decision might be, you will need a web presence. Ideally, once you have decided on a name, you should make sure no one is already using it and change it if that’s the case. Your work is unique and your name should be as well!

Once your name is chosen and you made sure you are the only one with it, create the accounts with your chosen name on the platforms you think you will eventually use to reserve your name on each one.
What platforms to choose? Personally, I think Facebook and Instagram are two must have at the moment as well as an email address under your name and a selling platform. Of course, there’s also Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr et Pinterest, to name only those, that could tempt you. In doubt, I created an account on each one of them, so that my name is “reserved” if I ever understand them enough to use them properly?

Selling online

Until now and since 2009, I have been selling on Etsy and haven’t tried any other selling platforms seriously although many more exist. Whichever one you choose, you have to read their rules and understand your obligations as well as your rights.

Keep an eye on:

What are the fees of this platform; monthly, per item, percentage of sale?

Is there a minimum/maximum of items?

Can you set different shipping fees for different countries/items? (yes I have seen a platform that allowed a single shipping fees, not by countries or items, they didn’t survive long)

How many pictures/videos can you put per item?

Business cards

If you plan on doing event, it is important to give as many chances as possible to people who like your work to find you back; a business cards is a must. Whether it is a piece of home printed and cut paper, or a cardstock one straight from the closest printer, you want to put all chances on your side to sell your item by making it easy for your potential clients!

Your card should at minimum indicate your company name and at least one method to reach you (email, facebook, etsy, etc.). Once your first cards are given, don’t forget to keep an eye on the contact(s) noted on them to make sure you don’t miss opportunities.

Putting a price  on your work

Before even making your first sale, you will have the very arduous task of actually putting a price on your work. To be able to do so, you have to keep many factor on your mind:

What are the costs of the materials required to redo this item? Even is the materials used were given to you or that you had them already, the cost is still not $0, you have to determine what is the cost of materials required to redo your item once you have sold it.

How long does it take to make this item?

What hourly rate do you want? (please at least minimum wage!)

What are the other fees linked to making this item (storing space, electricity, equipment rental, etc.)?

What profit margin do you want to get on that item? Yes, it is not all to cover your production costs, you still need to make a profit if you want to have a shot at living from your work. You have to understand that the profit margin, in theory, is the portion of the price that will enable you to live from your work since all the rest calculated until here enables  you only to redo the item sold to fill your inventory.

Do you plan to sell to shops, do consignment and/or sell wholesale in any other way? If yes, you need to take into consideration that shops will take up to 50% of your sale price. So, the minimum price calculated previously must be multiplied by 2 to obtain your retail price to be able to sell wholesale without losing money.

The retail price has to help you make profit, to sell wholesale without losing money and will also take into account the storage place required for your pieces in between sales and all the time spent on all the other tasks that are not production (hours that you would charge to an employer if you were to do this for someone else). In a year, for each hour of production I do taken into account directly in my prices, at least 5 hours are spent on something else: social media management, events, shopping for supply, label your items, taking pictures, writing descriptions, answering potential clients, etc., etc., etc.

And after (or before) all that, you still have to do research to see what the market already has as far as similar items go (and by similar I mean handmade ones, not the mass produced pieces), this enable you to see where your prices are in comparison to the ones already on the market. You don’t have to lower your price to be the lowest; it is totally alright to be more comfortable being at the highest, lowest or average price on the market.

Also note that whichever price you will put on your work, there will always be people making comments like “oh this is way overpriced”, “I can do that / my friend can do that for less”, “I saw the same thing at –shop selling dubious quality/mass produced items”, etc. You have to understand that the comments come mostly from people that are simply NOT your customer and you absolutely must not take them personally. I know it is exceedingly hard, especially when you are first starting up, but once your maths and research are done, still to them, whatever the rude or offensive comments might be, stick to your price and don’t despair!


You want to enter the world of events to sell your work but don’t know where to start?

Ideally, find a few local events to limit cost to a minimum; your first few events are a learning phase and it is unfortunately probable that you will make little sales there. There is no miracle recipe to find a good event for your work before trying a few out to understand your clients better.

Limiting the cost does not necessarily means opting for the cheapest events out there. The price of the table is never a synonym of success or failure, but you need to keep in mind that an event budget often comes in good proportion from the price paid by their exhibitors and that a bigger budget allows more publicity and, usually, more visitors!

Try to make your space pretty, bring a tablecloth to cover your table (most events don’t supply one), bring some boxes to but some of your items on them to add height to your presentation and mostly “build” your presentation at least once before the event to make sure that what you want to do works.

Your objective at an event is to make the task easy for your potential clients; write down your price clearly, get a credit card reader, like for instance the Square if you can, bring enough change to be able to give back what you owe to your customer without asking your neighbors for help, bring boxes or bags to package your items so they will make it to their new home in the same state they were purchased, …

Your second objective should be to always make new contacts. If the event is slower, take those down time and even before it opens, once your setup done, to talk to your neighbors and the organizers. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, ask them what their favorite items are and why not also the one to not try? Are you looking for a good printer, a place to get packaging locally, etc.; chances are your neighbors will know who to contacts or at least what you should look for to find it that you might not have thought of!

Try to engage the visitors walking by your table (when they are in front of your table only, talking to a visitor in front of someone else’s table is considered extremely rude), stand up if your health allows it and definitely don’t slouch and/or spend your time on your phone, tablet, reading, etc.

And try to have fun!

I will try in the next few days/weeks, to come back in more details on some of the points briefly tackled here, if there is something you would want to know specifically, let me know!

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