Saturday, February 25, 2006

Selling Hobby Items Online

Sharing your hobby with the world has never been easier than it is right now. That is because you can open up shop online without much of the overhead that goes into traditional storefronts. The downside is that there is a whole new list of ideas and mistakes you should know about before you begin your online adventure.

If you will be starting your craft business online, know that many of the same principles apply. Just because you can rent space online for only a few bucks a month, compared to a few hundred for a retail store, does not mean that you should not have a marketing plan. You should work out your budget before you begin. Know what capital you have to invest in your business and treat your endeavor seriously. Do not be content just to let your business flow; make a concerted effort to make your business viable.

Customer service is another realm that exists in brick and mortar businesses that you will find also is important when you are dealing with online businesses. Unlike in the offline world, however, your only contact with a customer will be through email and possibly phone conversations. That means that you need to be prompt in getting back to customers. People who communicate online frequently become accustomed to the instant access they have to information, and they expect others to respond as quickly.

You should check your email often. Do not become a slave to email, but you can work to be sure that you answer your emails frequently. Try to make it a point to check your email in the mornings, at noon, and at the end of your workday. That way there is never more than a few hours during the work day between receiving a message and responding to it.

Also know that you have to make every effort to let your customers know that they are important to you. Consider sending them coupons, such as 1/2 off at an upcoming holiday. Also include a business card in every package so that your customers can get in contact. You also will want them to remember your company, and since they cannot recall it based on location, the business card is your best bet.

Be sure that your URL, or web address, is easy to remember. An incredibly lengthy URL will make it hard for people to remember. That will mean that they likely will not return to your site. Instead you should help them out by getting something that they will remember.

Because customers cannot pick up the items when they are shopping online, which can put you at a disadvantage as a crafter, you need to be sure that you are providing an excellent quality of photographs. Instead of providing only one angle, show them the item from several angles. One great idea is to put a ruler standing up against the item so that they will see how tall it is. Also have the option of seeing the picture in a larger display so that people can really tell whether or not they want to purchase.

The item descriptions you include on your site should provide everything that the customer wants to know. Include the size, the colors, the smells, and any relevant information. Imagine that someone were standing in a store. What would they ask about the product? That is what you need to include in your description.

Also think about the fact that online customers cannot ask you questions in real time. You should help them out by providing a frequently asked questions page so that they can learn about you, your hobby, and your company policies. If you are asked a question via email more than twice, you should add it to your FAQ page.

These quick tips will allow you to stay in the comfort of your own home and still earn an income. You will be able to spend time with your family and still manage to have a workable business plan. Just be sure that you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of working online before you begin your business venture. As with anything else, have a plan before you get started.
By Julia Mercer

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