James Dillehay Talks about CraftsU

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 ….

CRAFTSU Social Network,

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 4jamesd@gmail.com

Interested in more books by James Dillehay?  Check out the link below:

Marketplaces vs. Ecommerce Websites

Which is the best online venue:  Marketplaces or Ecommerce Websites?

As you probably remember, my eguides are featured on Meylah, a marketplace platform where I am listed as a certified expert for the last year.  Actually, I never pursued Meylah — they contacted me!

meylah-smallI have looked into both Etsy and Artfire at one time.  Artfire featured some of my articles, but I never really opened a store on either platform.  I guess I am old school and just stuck with my own websites.

But which is better?  Personally, both can work for you in different ways.  Meylah has given my eguides and articles better exposure to professional crafters in a way that I could probably never create on my own.  I am part of a community on Meylah and, like I said, am one of their certified experts.

I am also aware that there are artisans that are wildly successful with online marketplaces.  (Artsy Shark has a wonderful list of over 200 marketplaces)  But I would never advice using a marketplace in place of your own website.  Here are some of the reasons:

  • You don’t own a shop on these platforms – the company does!
  • You don’t have much control over outside platforms – the company does!
  • You can get lost on outside platforms amongst all the other ‘stores’!
  • You cannot use your own URL on outside platforms

See my post from last year, Etsy Shop or Your Own Website, for more details.  Also, Quora published an interesting discussion about online marketplaces you might want to check out.

Setting up your own website is really quite easy, and it does not have to be expensive.  Since I have so many folks asking me what software and tools I use, here is my recommendations:

Recently, we discovered a wonderful ecommerce platform that offers some wonderful featured that we love:  3DCart!

Some of the benefits of 3DCart include the following:

•    REASONABLE pricing!11224135.gif
•    Effective RETAIL AND WHOLESALE pricing on the same website!
•    Ability to drop ship directly from vendors with Automatic Notifications to them!
•    An INTEGRATED affiliate program!
•    ROBUST shipping options!
•    Ability to take orders directly online for my rep clients – including multi-source shipping costs – with ONE online order!
•    An integrated GIFT REGISTRY!
•    An integrated Auto-Responder email system!
•    Rich SEO (Search Engine Optimization) options!
•    Integration with major SOCIAL MEDIA (fairly recent requirement)!!

Read more about 3DCart in my post:  Amazing E-Commerce Shopping Cart Software.

I set up my first site, Gem Berry, using 3DCart and am very happy with the software and their customer service.  Since I set the site up hurriedly right before the holiday rush, I am still tweaking it and finding more options I plan to implement.

DPD Shopping CartFor my eguides, I use DPD Shopping Cart that is specially made for delivering digital products.  DPD is not a full ecommerce shopping cart, meaning, you will need a website to add links or buttons to buy.  I use this on my WordPress sites and with my XSite Pro created websites.

Each platform has its own purpose — just like marketplaces.  You will need to decide what works best for you.

 

8 Website Tips for Online Sellers

I am part of the Meylah community.  In contrast with most of the artisans and crafters there, I share my eguides and other resources in my own store.  I love the community and the resources that are shared with the member sellers.  (NOTE:  If you are looking for a wonderful online marketing venue, check out Meylah!)

Chaitra Vedullapalli, Marketing Manager for Meylah published a articles on getting your store ready for the meylah-smallholidays.  Although the information is pointed to sellers who have mini-stores on Meylah, I feel the tips will work for any web presence.  Here are her suggestions:

Online Shopping Tips : How To See Your Online Store from a Customer’s Perspective

…here are the top eight things that we know from our research that customers want to experience when visiting a(online) store:

  1. They want a store to appear fresh and up to date with new products and new posts.
  2. They want to know what they are buying – what is the product and what are the product specifics?
  3. More than the product descriptions customers are attracted to top notch photos – so they don’t want fuzzy, grainy, out of focus or boring photographs of your products.
  4. They want to feel that they are buying from a real business – so they look for a variety of products which tells them that this is more than just someone’s hobby.
  5. They want to know if their order is secure – not only will their payment be secure but can they return an item if they are not happy with it?
  6. They want to know if there is customer service assistance with your store – so they look for contact information.
  7. They want to know if you have a following – so they look to see what type of social media activity you have going on.
  8. They want to know what other people’s experiences have been with a store and since many websites allow people to post reviews of their products people will look for customer testimonials.

READ FULL ARTICLE

Chaitra’s 8 tips are a great place to start evaluating your website ‘from a customer’s perspective’.

What do you think?  As a shopper, what do you look for in a website that makes you feel comfortable enough to buy?

Etsy Wholesale Update

Nearly one year ago in September of 2012, Etsy announced their intent to launch a wholesale marketplace for their sellers.  At the time there was much excitement and buzz around the industry over this announcement — but not everyone in the industry applauded this decision.  At the time, I blogged about information in my post:  Sell Wholesale on Etsy?

Because I was curious, I immediately signed up for their wholesale newsletter last year and waited to hear how this would develop.  Finally, on September 3, 2013, I received an email from Etsy:

Etsy Thank you for your interest in Etsy Wholesale! We are thrilled to welcome you to our marketplace! Get started setting up your account here: www.etsy.com/wholesale/welcome

So I went to the ‘Welcome’ page — and it was blank!!  After contacting customer support, I was told that I needed to sign in to Etsy before I could access the ‘Welcome’ page (I was signed in).

A few days later, on September 5, 2013, I received another email from Etsy:

Thank you for your application and interest in Etsy Wholesale!

After carefully reviewing your application materials, we’ve decided to add you to our vendor wait-list for future consideration. Your work has great potential for Etsy Wholesale, but we’ve noted that you don’t meet our current requirements for prior wholesale experience.

Okay, if you know me, you are probably laughing as loud as I am over that note!!

Despite their humorous email, I did do a bit or research and found some resources to share with you:

Wholesale 101: Vendors and Sellers Share Insider TipsEtsy Success Series

Included on the blog post are three half hour videos from Etsy store owners who have successfully wholesaled.  Some interesting information for Etsy owners who are interested in wholesaling!

I am guessing that Etsy has not gotten all of the bugs out of their system — even after working on it for a year!  Regardless, below are some of the links if you wish to be added to their list for beta testing of the wholesale marketing system:

Application page:  http://www.etsy.com/wholesale/apply

Etsy Wholesale FAQ page: http://www.etsy.com/help/article/3919?ref=footer_menu

Should you pursue this option for wholesaling, please keep in touch and let us know how it unfolds!

125+ Online Venues to Sell your Products

Back a few years ago, I posted an article listing 84 venues to selling your products online.  Since that time, the link went dead and I was very sorry to see it go!!

Thankfully, Carolyn Edlund posted a new list of 125 online venues on her Artsy Shark blog!

On her list are five businesses that I have interviewed this last year:Computer gifts 20911141.thm

Make sure to check out Carolyn’s list of 125 places to sell your art or craft online.  You should find a couple venues that will be perfect for your business

SPECIAL NOTE: 

Since posting this original article and link, the Artsy Shark post has listed 220 Places to Sell Your Products Online!!

Of course, my favorite is Meylah!

November 2016: Artsy Shark has updating this list again and adding more interesting tips.  Check this out on her article:  Where to Sell Art Online

Where to Sell Art Online

Save

Save

Save