Make What You Love Or What The Market Wants

The European Etsy Street Team has put together a very informative blog over at Handmade-Europe.com.  We are launching a series covering some of the top posts from their blog that we feel will help improve your handmade/craft business.  We hope you enjoy!  Today’s article is about deciding if artists should sell and make what they love or what the market wants. Click here for the original article

scrabble pendant by LaVieIllustree
article by Minna from karuski

Have you ever wondered why online selling seems so challenging? Sales usually don’t pick up right away, you probably need to do a whole lot of marketing to spread to word and make yourself visible. Meanwhile you might be even thinking, are you on a right track at all. Be assured you are not alone with your thoughts. To make you feel more comfortable when the times are hard we decided to put together an article to gather opinions from an experienced Etsy seller Ira of iragrant (gorgeous bags made from Switzerland) and Tuija of Tuuni (lovely home ware from Finland) with a newer Etsy shop. Hopefully you will find some useful and encouraging ideas and perhaps some new points of view from the interview below. Enjoy!

Being an artist today is not easy, well the creative juices may be eternal, but one has to understand what market wants from them and adjust to tweak in their passion and find a good way to cash in the wave of online digital marketing of handmade products. HB Swiss robot trading investment tool and ,this review  will help beginners in the financial world to navigate and make profit .

The first important question to ask yourself: Do you make what you love or what the market wants?
IRA:
I make what I love but I don’t turn a blind eye and hope for the best! I follow the trends and see what is going on out there but I always make something that I love and I can be proud to use it anytime I want. For me it is this simple: How do you expect someone will trust, buy and love your product if you don’t.
TUIJA:
I started my business by doing what I felt passionate about: rescuing old handmade bed linen from flea markets (you know, the white sheets with beautiful handmade lace) and turning them into something useful and up to date. During my first craft show I learned that white wasn’t the most popular choice of color for home décor in peoples minds. Gladly, when I started looking for more colorful materials it opened up a whole new world of ideas for me! Conclusion is, I adjusted to what market wants and I’m still doing what I love. (And there is a growing market for white items too. At least I’d like to think so).

About your items: How did you come up with your current product line?
IRA:
By looking the latest trends, believe me or not I bought Vogue, Elle and Harper Bazaar monthly. They show the latest colours, style etc. and helped me to decide which bag I will make or which one will stay as sketches in my drawing book.
TUIJA:
It all starts from the materials I find. The fabrics sort of “tell” me what to do. I let them lead the way and greatest ideas always occur to me when I’m sewing or shopping in flea markets.

the key to my heart by ArtMind

Story telling is everywhere today. Is it important to have a story behind your collection?
IRA:
I don’t know about this, I know the story behind my collection but unfortunately I’m not good in telling them!
TUIJA:
That helps a lot. It adds value to the product and gives it a soul. It is very nice to give gifts with meaning and story behind them. It feels more personal. And if you are showing off your new home with handmade goods, there is always a topic of discussion when guests arrive.

pop art pendant by VKnO

How much do you think about existing markets and your potential customers when designing something new?
IRA:
I don’t really think about that, the first thing I do before I make a dummy from my sketches was asking myself, does anyone will use this bag?
I don’t want to make something that is so fantastic that people love them but don’t want to buy them. But Having said that, it’s important also to really believe in your design and product. If you can afford of course you can just go for it even though you know the result won’t be all that popular.

In fact that’s how I came with my Burlap Bags. I didn’t have any clue if those bags will sell at the first time, but I love them and after some time I find buyers who love them too. Maybe I don’t sell them enough to make any profit yet but I feel good about them already and that’s important for my creativity proccess.
TUIJA:
My creative process starts from the material. I’m always looking for materials that have a strong sense of history. Something that is recognizable. So that way I think about customers – can they identify with this color, pattern, texture etc.

happy happy poster by farouche

Handmade life is not always easy. What motivates you?
IRA:
My answer might be little bit silly, beside the sales which I need, I always get excited to see ‘iragrant’ bag spread up around the world!
TUIJA:
The fact that I can create something new every day is a good motivator for me. My dream is to do this full time someday. Its good to have goals (even if they seem like daydreams).

Are you happy with your current situation (sales wise, how your items look like, how to get customer feedback etc.)? What would you like to improve, if anything?
IRA:
I’m ok with my current situation not too satisfied though, sales could be better if I had more time to make and list new products. My pictures aren’t the best but I continue learning to make them better. And for the feedback, I always convo my buyers once the bag has been shipped and ask them to let me know once they received the bag which usually leads to feedback and some friendly convos too.

Etsy is my sole income, I don’t do craft fairs, consignment or wholesale. I just don’t want to do that, I have my own reasons why. So it means I have to make my Etsy shop work for me!
I always want to improve everything but I make peace with myself, for now with my current situation or family wise, this is the best I can do. Of course I want much better situation for the future, but I will do it one at the time.
TUIJA:
Sales could be better. But I’m happy for the time being. I’m taking small steps and learning on the way. The one thing I struggle with is the consistence of my product line. I have two very different “groups” of items -housewares (pillows,
baskets etc) and accessories. Most of my sales comes from the houseware section on Etsy but there is a wider market for accessories in my local resellers. The question is, should I focus on one thing or make everything? Would I sell more on Etsy if my shop had only the home décor items? I’ve been thinking about opening another shop just for accessories, but I don’t think I would have the time to manage them both.

letterpress mini callingcards by sweetharvey

To find your buyers can be a challenge itself. Do you know your target group and does it affect your creative process?
IRA:
I do, sometimes it does but not necessarily.
TUIJA:
I haven’t done any research on this subject. Online, it is hard to know your target group when customers are anonymous. I can only assume what that is. Well, I know the country they come from and that they are mostly women, but that’s about it. From local shops that sell my creations I get information from shop keepers about who is buying what. They have also very different customers and I offer them different kind of product lines. That clearly affects my creative process – I have to think about what kind of products I offer them to match the shop’s product range.

custom card by nounces

Do you know what your target group/customers really like and what they might need? How do you collect customer feedback if any?
IRA:
I don’t go to specific details with what my buyers want from me, I do custom orders for them when I can personally cater their needs.
TUIJA:
I send them a message after purchase to thank and info about the shipping times. I usually also say: “if you have the time, please give me a quick note when item(s) arrive.” I avoid asking for feedback but when customers reply to this message, they usually write something nice about the products too. I also add: “you can contact me with this e-mail if you have any questions”. (I know that line has brought me at least one custom order!).

Do you ever feel like creating something that might sell really easily? If yes, do you get mixed feelings about this?
IRA:
Let’s be honest, I love if my bags sell really well, but I only can make certain numbers of bags every month. [editor’s note: I assume Ira feels she does not want to offer bargains because the time to create is so limited]
TUIJA:
Yes. Sometimes. I’m usually thrilled when I finish something new and cant wait to get it listed. Then, it gets only few views and no hearts… this kind of disappointments happen and its frustrating when you put your time and effort to something you love and then there is no audience for it. But I try to think that maybe it was a wrong time for this item (like flowers in December or candles in June). If it doesn’t sell in few months, I usually move on and focus on other things. There is also big difference what sells off Etsy and online. That is very confusing sometimes.

art print by pocketcarnival

Any advice for your fellow Etsians who might be depating all these questions?
IRA:
Little bit advice from me for my fellow Etsian, it takes time to establish a shop on Etsy and I notice some of the products just don’t work on Etsy. Don’t beat yourself too harsh when sales don’t come as you want. By working hard and improving your shop does make your situation better!
TUIJA:
Try different things. Don’t be afraid to “play” with your shop a little. Look your shop from customers perspective – what would you buy and is buying from this shop easy or does it take effort to find what you are looking for.

These were all very valuable opinions for each of us, Thank you Ira and Tuija