This 'tutorial' is a bit different from my normal ones, but just as relevant. Especially now with so many people out of work, more and more are choosing to try their hand at making and selling online. I just wanted to make a quick post to the newer cage set and accessories vendors that are starting out. It may not all be relevant to everyone, but I hope it helps at least some people out.
This blog post will contain affiliate links and/or referral links.
As a quick note, in case you're wondering, it's absolutely fine to sell items you make from my tutorials! All I ask is that you do not copy my set designs or names(ex. please do not re-create and sell my 'Deluxe Hidey Set', etc.), and absolutely do not use my pictures.
Tip 1: Pet Safety & Quality
- Before you start selling anything, you need to make sure your items are safe. Loose stitching can not only be an annoyance, but also dangerous for pets to get caught and tangled in. Low quality items with little care for appearance or sturdiness will result in bad reviews and a bad reputation.
- This blog post covers some of the basics for sugar gliders, but you'll need to do research into the community of the pet(s) you're sewing for. For sugar gliders, the Facebook group 'Safe Sewing for Suggies' is a good starting point.
- Learn what types of fabrics are safe and unsafe for the pets you're making items for, and what sizes they prefer.
Tip 2: Where to Sell
There are tons of different avenues to sell homemade items on. Facebook, Etsy, Craft Shows, Ebay, Amazon, and your own website are some main ones. I'll go over 3(Etsy, Facebook, and your own website), and some pros and cons of each.
- Pros: Easy to start. Just take pictures and post your ads on your page or relevant groups. You can use any payment processor you want, though you should follow the terms of service of each processor.
- Cons: People sometimes tend to be less trustworthy of buying from people on Facebook. Often pet-related sales posts can get flagged and deleted because the algorithm thinks you're selling animals. Sometimes even entire groups or pages can be deleted. Hard to stay organized, and can make bookkeeping difficult. You need to market your items well to be found.
Etsy(Click here for my etsy referral link, which gives both of us 40 free listings):
- Pros: Easier for buyers to find you, since it is a markeplace. Great buyer and seller protection. Easy to see all orders and stay organized.
- Cons: Lots of competition. Takes quite a bit of work to make consistent sales. Etsy can and will suspend your account if you get too many complaints or break the rules(even accidentally). You cannot open another account if you're suspended. There are also fees to take into account.
Website(I use Shopify):
- Pros: Customization. Complete freedom of what your website looks like and how your items are presented. Typically less fees to worry about. You can direct people to the website and not worry that they'll shop around other sellers on it like Etsy.
- Cons: People sometimes trust websites less, as there aren't many buyer protections. There can be a bit of a learning curve setting it up. You'll need to push your own traffic, and it can be a long while to get established enough for people to find you on search engines.
Tip 3: Organization & Bookkeeping
Staying organized can be difficult, but necessary to stay sane.
- When selling with PayPal, try using invoices to keep everything in one place.
- Writing down or printing order sheets can help you keep track of how many orders you have, and what they are.
- Make notes or set reminders, especially if you're forgetful! I use an Echo Dot to set reminders when people ask me to ship earlier or change their address, or when I need to message someone after work. That way, I don't need to stop what I'm doing to write it down, or risk forgetting later.
- Try to keep inventory of your fabric and supplies, so you know how quickly you'll run out and when to order more.
- Save your receipts and keep a mileage log! You'll need them to claim deductions.
- During tax time, using a spreadsheet can help keep tracks of your income and expenses. Check out some great ones here: https://paperandspark.com
Tip 4: Shipping
Shipping is one of the most expensive and annoying parts of selling, but there are a few things you can do do make it more manageable.
- Buy your shipping labels online and print them out at home. You'll need a scale and a printer. You'll get a better price on PayPal or PirateShip than you will at the counter, and often you can drop them off without waiting in line to pay.
- Schedule porch pickups so you won't need to drive to the post office. They're free as long as you want them picked up during your regular mail delivery.
- Consider getting a thermal shipping label printer, like the Rollo. The Dymo 4XL and Zebra ZP450 are also great. They don't use ink, and the labels are inexpensive. They're a bit more expensive than regular printers, but worth it.
- If you can't get a thermal shipping label printer, using label paper with a regular printer is also good. This way, you won't need to worry about the hassle of using regular paper, cutting them out and taping them on.
- Include tracking and insure all packages, even if it's a bit cheaper not to. It'll help protect you from non-delivery claims and make sure neither of you will be out money for packages lost or damaged in transit.
Extra tips and resources
Here are a few extra tips and resources that didn't fit into my other categories.
- Stay motivated to help prevent boredom and burnout! Try listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts while you work. I use Scribd($9.99 per month. Use my link for 2 months free!), which is kinda like Netflix for audiobooks. I also use Audible(price varies, use my link for 2 free books) and it's great too, especially with their new 'Plus' catalog, which is very similar to Scribd, but with a better selection.
- Great customer service can go a long way! Make sure to keep your customers updated with any delays and remember to treat them with respect, even if they upset you.
- Set up clear processing times and refund policies, and be sure to inform buyers of them and/or have them visible on invoices/listing pages.
- Use templates! You can cut cardboard to size for common pieces so you won't need to measure each time, or buy custom cut acrylic pieces.
- Consider getting a P.O. Box, so your main address will not be on all outgoing packages.
- Make sure to follow your local laws and regulations on small businesses, if you'll count as one. You may need to get a DBA, Sales Tax Permit, and more.
- Make sure to price your items correctly and research how to do so. Don't just look at your competitors and base your prices on them, or you may find yourself losing more money than you earn. Base your prices on your own time and supplies.
- When selling on Facebook or other social media, make sure the payment processor you use includes both buyer and seller protections. This helps the buyers feel more secure in the transaction and helps protects you from fraudulent purchases or chargebacks.
Hope this blog post helps a bit with new vendors that are just starting up! Let me know your thoughts or any questions below.