Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and the credit card bills) to prove it.
To help you avoid some of my personal crafting mistakes, I'm putting together series of blogs about what to do/what not to do to try and save you some money, some time, and some dignity.
The most important piece of advice I would give to crafters is this: do the math.
The almighty law of odds and averages
1. Face the facts-- your chances of becoming a millionaire from your craft are about as likely as the chances that your fat little cousin will get into the NBA and that your neighbor's son is going to be a professional rapper. *bling, bling* There are more crafters out there than wanna-be celebrities, and you are just a speck in the cosmos of compulsive crafters.
2. Don't quit your day job -- I would love to tell you that I'm not trying to shatter your dreams, but that would be a lie; however, it is my civic duty (and also a mandate according to my compulsive candor) to present you with a healthy dose of reality. Hey... craft supplies cost more than Prozac and overdraft fees. Just sayin... Chances are, if I get 300,000 readers, fewer than 10 will have the luck, the skill, the resources, the personality, the connections, and the cognitive prowess to actually take a one-person business and build it into a recognizable brand. Numbers don't lie (unless you refer to Bush, Jr. being elected President not once, but twice), and you probably are not on top of the tropological food chain.
3. Prioritize your priorities -- Yes, I'm aware of the seemingly redundant sub-heading of this section. It was intentional. Lists are a beautiful thing, and making a bulleted list of what you want from your art is key in being successful. You may or may not measure success in terms of profit margins or monetary rewards. Maybe you are a natural starving artist, primarily involved in making a statement or expressing yourself for therapeutic reasons. Perhaps you are sentimental and want to preserve memories and give gifts in a creative way. Maybe you just need some extra cash and would like to make it doing something you enjoy. Whatever your reasons, prioritize them. At times your priorities may change dependent on your creative whimsy and financial situation, but you can re-adjust your strategies later.
Here is a sample of how you might prioritize (for the visual nuts, try a pie chart or bar graph. Tactile/ kinesthetic learners... use Legos):
My crafting priorities:
1. Avoid homelessness (70%)
2. A selfish endeavor to do something better than my sister-in-law (13%)
3. I love attention and want public recognition for my work (12%)
4. Crafting is fun (5%)
Since the primary motivator in the above scenario is financial, then my goal would be to make the largest profit I can. I might do things to save time like make multiples of the same item so I don't have to photograph, Photoshop, edit, describe, and tag as often. Also, if profit is my main objective, then making less time-intensive items is something I'd want to do. Sometimes, you will have to sacrifice your artistic desires and not spend 85 hours on a painting when the market just isn't skewed toward investing in the original art of a complete unknown.
Conversely, if you're really just interested in crafting for fun, and you want to just get a few items out there for the experience of sharing your art, then ignore the market and price your items as to what you think they're worth. The remainder of this article is geared more toward the former category, though, and will mainly be helpful for those who are looking to make money.
4. More is More: If your objective is to make money, you will have a much better chance of getting sales if you have a broad variety of products. While someone looking to buy a camera might go to a camera store, someone looking to buy an ambiguous gift for a friend will more likely go to a store with broad range of products and find something there. You have a lot better chance of having someone hit your store if you have more targets. Tag your items according to a variety of interests, professions, and possible search terms. A necklace with black beads can be tagged as goth, emo, classy, and formal. Also, have a range of prices in your shop. Someone looking to spend a certain amount on a gift might overlook your store if you don't have something within his/her range. For instance, someone looking for a gift for her kid's teacher and a second gift for her mother might buy something listed for five dollars for the teacher and something for fifty for the mom. As the "sort by price" feature becomes the primary way to search, the law of odds and averages allows that you will have a better chance to be seen if your products appear all over the price scale.
5. Don't Follow Guidance from Gold-Diggers: If you're looking for ideas, ignore the blogs and circulations that hundreds of thousands of your competition receives. If you're selling on Etsy or Ebay or any other worldwide market, emails from those places are not designed to make you successful; they're designed to advance the agenda of the entire company. Just like you, the agenda of major marketplaces is to make as much money as possible. That means to bring in everyone who is willing to click links and spend money. They aren't as invested in your success as an individual.
6. Your Days are Numbered: Considering the numbers, the amount of time you are around is relevant. When buyers know that your items are reliable, your shipping is fair, and your customer service is consistent, they are more likely to revisit your shop. Be patient. With millions of sellers out there, you can expect that you will have to wait your turn in que to be recognized. Just be persistent while all of the weaker sellers either burn out or give up. You'll find yourself closer and closer to the top as time advances.
You might not make it rich by crocheting diaper bags or weaving pot holders, but you might at least recover your investment, you crazy shopaholic.