For crafters that would like to expand their businesses a bit, and go beyond the typical craft shows and renting a space in shops, I have a suggestion for you. Try a home party! There are two different types of home parties that I am going to discuss here, the first will be a party to sell the inventory you have in stock and the other a party in which you will take orders for “new” items.
After my Christmas shows, I seem to have quite a few items left in my stock from my year of doing shows. I hold a craft open house in my home after my last show of the season, this generally takes place the second week of December, but you could actually have this show for any season. I choose Christmas, number one, because this means I won’t have as many craft items to store, and second my house is already decorated for Christmas and I love to show it off.
I generally put up my Christmas tree the day before this show, and decorate my tree with my ornaments that I make and sell. This way people can see what the ornaments look like hanging on a tree, and they are all for sale. No having to dig through your own personal ornaments to get to the items that are for sale. I set up several tables with craft displays, but I also set some of my items that are for sale on my dining room table, kitchen counters, end tables, coffee table and even in my bathroom! Again, you may want to leave your own personal items put away until the show is over, that way you won’t have customers asking if an item is for sale or not. If you sell wreathes, hang them on your walls, if you sell baking mixes or hand made food items, be sure to sit them out with a sample for your guests to try, if you make stained glass, hang them in a sunny window to really show off the colors.
Be sure to have a little Christmas music on your stereo, have your Christmas lights all lit, really make the mood in your home festive. Also if you live in an area that has snow, be sure to have the driveway plowed, and the walks shoveled and salted. A few well placed signs in your yard may also draw in unexpected customers. You may also want to have an area available for guests to remove coats and boots, you want to be sure to make your customers comfortable.
I also have a pot of coffee on, Christmas cookies set out along with some other refreshments, for my guests to enjoy while shopping.
Several other tips, I generally do mark my items down a bit for my home show. Or just place small signs around in your home stating that all items are, let’s say, 10% off the tagged price. Also be sure to label the prices on everything, many customers will not ask for the price of an item if it is not marked clearly. Be sure to have plenty of bags and change. Keep your change with you at all times, a Christmas type apron with large pockets will work well for this. Not only will this be more convenient, it will also keep anyone from walking off with your money.
The second home party that I am going to discuss is a Catalog party. This one will take a little more preparation, and is similar to other “Tupperware Type Parties”. I like doing this type of party because while I do have some items for sale immediately, most are order items. This way you are not making a lot of items that are the wrong color or style for your customers' homes. They can custom order their craft items to suit their needs. You can hold your first party in your home and invite again, just about anyone, or ask a good friend or relative to hold the first party in their home. Be sure to give that person a “hostess gift” and perhaps even offer them a discount on their order. I generally offer the hostess 10% of the party proceedings in free merchandise, plus another bonus if someone books a party from them.
The first thing you will need to do for this type of party is to have a sample of all items that you will be selling made up. For me this is not a problem, since many of the items that I make, I already have at least one in my home. I don’t know about you, but I always keep the first of any item that I make for myself. So I just pack up my items and take them with me to the show. You will need to either take a folding table with you to the show, to set your items on, or if the hostess has such a table available, ask her to set it up in an area that everyone will be able to look at.
You will also need to make up several catalogs for your customers to browse through while making their decisions. I just took pictures of my craft items, then when I had the pictures developed, I asked for a certain number of copies of each photo. (You do not have to have a large number of catalogs available, the guests will not mind sharing) I then, using a printing program on my computer made a page for each item, leaving a space to attach the picture. Be sure to give each item a number, and put a slight description of each item, along with colors available, and the price. Now attach your picture to the page and slip this into a plastic cover and place in a heavy three ring binder. You are basically making a photo album, but in a catalog format. If you are handy with the computer, you can also make brochures, business cards and order sheets on your own. This will save quite a bit of money, it will just take a little bit of time.
The possibilities with this type of show are endless. It can be held as an open house, or an actual sit down type party, where you show your items, one by one and give the description of what would be available to the customers, or even let your hostess keep several of your catalogs and take orders that way. That is why the descriptions in the catalog are important, be sure to include measurements, this way if someone is just seeing the catalog, instead of the real item, they will know exactly what they are getting.
The one thing that I do ask of my customers in this type of party is that they give me a deposit on their order. While I ask for 50% down, you can set any deposit that you are comfortable with. Not only does the deposit help out when purchasing any supplies you may need for the order, if someone happens to decide that they aren’t going to purchase the order after it has been completed, you are not out any money. Also be sure to have any orders completed and delivered in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, if it is a large order, it is going to take a bit longer than a small order, but keep your customers informed as to how you are progressing. Keep in mind, reputation is everything when you are in business for yourself.
I also do offer a total money back guarantee, if a customer is not happy with a craft item, I will totally refund their money. Although I have never had this happen, I still will stand behind my work.
I hope this will give you some suggestions on some different ways to sell your hand crafted items. Expand on these suggestions to suit your needs, and the needs of your customers.