Last post, I introduced James Dillehay’s book on “How to Price Crafts”. Later that week, I was fortunate to talk with with him about his business and his website CraftsU.
Here is his story ….
Tell us about yourself and CraftsU and what you hope it will do for professional crafters and producers?
I began making and selling handwovens in 1984. Coming from a background in retail, I looked for different ways to market my products beyond craft shows. I regularly found myself teaching other artisans how to increase their sales which led to writing a series of books on craft business topics. When the internet started sparking more interest as a commercial tool, I looked at how social media was playing a larger role. CraftsU.com is a social network for those who make and sell their handmade items. Artisans can share their thoughts, experiences and products with others, so it is both a social network and a tool for self-promotion.
What motivated you to develop CraftsU?
At the time I started the site, I did not find a social media site specifically for professional craft artists, other than networks for Etsy sellers. Research for one of my books revealed a substantially larger online world outside Etsy for artisans including other internet shops, review blogs, ad networks and other venues for promoting crafts. It was a risk investing the time and expense to develop a social networking site but I had a strong feeling the project would find a warm audience. Though CraftsU.com was originally designed to be a Facebook-like community for subscribers to my craft business newsletter, it started attracting craft artists from all over the world and continues to add new members daily.
What does CraftsU offer handcrafters that Etsy, Artfire or other online catalogs does not?
Though Etsy and Artfire provide active community forums, they were mainly designed as catalog store fronts for artists to list and sell their items from. CraftsU.com allows for a friendlier social environment for communicating with other members, like photo-sharing, Twitter tweeting, video uploads, event listings, discussion and blog posting and more. The home page of CraftsU.com delivers a slideshow of all members’ uploaded items, shown at random whenever a visitor arrives on the site. Clicking on a photo takes you to the artist’s page for that product.
How does your site work and is there a cost to join – now or in the future?
CraftsU.com functions like Facebook and other social network sites so it’s intuitive by design. Most everyone who joins CraftsU.com has already experienced some level of interaction on sites like Etsy or Facebook, so the learning curve is very brief. There is no cost to join, no cost to list and promote your items, nor is there a plan to charge in the future. The site supports itself with a small number of ads that are specifically relevant to craft artists.
What must a producer do to get their products listed?
Once a new member has been accepted, she or he can immediately start uploading their images, adding product descriptions, posting to their wall, tweeting posts to their Twitter followers, adding videos and interact with other members. There is a link on the main menu bar named “Start Here” which leads to an overview of getting started. Note that CraftsU.com doesn’t provide a shopping cart; but you can link directly to an Etsy listing or include a PayPal buy button.
Is there anything more you would like to add?
Promoting online can be challenging. CraftsU.com adds another venue in the artisan’s toolbox for getting their product listings out into the world of online shoppers. It’s widely accepted that the more links from social media you can provide to your Etsy, Artfire or personal website store can help your rankings in the search engines. Creating a presence on CraftsU.com grows your online presence, plus it’s easy and it’s free.
NOTE: James tells me that CraftsU is looking for a new owner. He is only interested in selling to someone who intends to grow the network. If you are interested, contact James at email@example.com
Interested in more books by James Dillehay? Check out the link below: