Many thanks to Gail for taking the time to write the post which follows!
My name is Gail Rodgers and I go by Moonwishes online. I was a nurse by trade and had to keep changing jobs as my knees got worse and worse. Then one day about three weeks after marring my husband, I got so sick that we didn't know what was wrong. Three weeks after that I left my office, never to go back to paid labor again. Over the course of the next year I was diagnosed with arthritis. I have been on disability for around 10 years now and consider my selling online to be my occupational therapy.
Then in my reading of my sewing magazines I kept seeing the same complaints about projects that people had seen featured in the magazine: the readers couldn't find the patterns to buy as they had been discontinued. After seeing that happen about three times, I started selling all new, uncut sewing patterns that I could find. We were fortunate enough to have several stores go out of business in our area, and we picked up their pattern stock to resell. We were now in the pattern business. I also divested us of most of the books for sale as they were getting heavier and heavier for me to hold, package, carry to the mail, etc. We still sell some sewing-related books, needlework magazines, and craft booklets, but in general no other books.
Over the years we have sold on Half.com, Alibris, eBay, Amazon and ecrater. We currently sell on Amazon and ecrater. Our store selling name on both sites is Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts; we are located at http://MoonwishesStore.ecrater.com and on Amazon and we are Amazon Featured merchants, http://www.amazon.com/shops/moonwishes. No matter where you go on the net, if you see Moonwishes Sewing, that is us. We have been working hard to get our brand out there.
For a long time we sold on eBay and had a store there until eBay started making significant changes and became less and less user-friendly. I didn't like the stress or the huge fees they were sucking out of us. While Amazon has some fees after a sale, there are no listing fees, nor does ecrater charge listing fees which makes for much easier finances for online sellers. We choose these sites because they were cheaper to list on. Also, Amazon has great prominence in the marketplace, and ecrater was not sending rules down the line constantly of things we had to do and not do, and up until this year there were no fees. Ecrater now charges a small fee if something is purchased through their marketplace, but if a buyer comes and buys directly from our stores, we have no fee to pay. Much nicer than the huge amounts we used to fork over. I also liked the fact that with ecrater, our success depended highly on how hard we worked to promote our store. I like seeing the results of my work.
We sell in what is called a niche. We don't sell patterns, toothbrushes, old shoes, and china teacups. Everything is needlework-related that we sell. My husband knits and crochets. I sew most of my clothing and have since junior high school. I make quilts and do hand and machine embroidery. I am fascinated by all the needlecrafts, and nothing comforts me more that a new magazine or book, especially on a day I'm not feeling well, to read and lose myself in the pages. I have read many books and magazines on sewing, quilting, and embroidery techniques, so when a customer asks a question concerning a pattern or book that they are buying, I can answer them.
I have had several letters to the editors published in several major sewing magazines. I immerse myself in sewing. I have a Pinterest page and help to immerse my followers there as well. I have boards for different pattern categories, quilting, embroidery, crochet, other types of needlecrafts, sewing blogs, and tips on how to decorate and set up your sewing room. So my page is a great resource for anyone wanting to see some inspirational ideas and links to how to make what they are seeing. Selling within a niche and being somewhat of an expert in my field shows in my listings as I know what a buyer needs to see to buy. I have seen some sellers list patterns without indicating a size or say that it is cut but again don't bother to say what the pattern is cut to. I've seen sellers describe a pattern envelope in minute detail, and then they don't say a thing about what is inside of it. I have seen sellers state that they don't know anything about patterns so basically take your chances! Who would you like to buy from? Someone that knows their product or someone who doesn't?
Whatever niche you sell in, know your products. It will help you write coherent descriptions of your products. You will be able to answer questions with knowledge. You will be able to promote your products better. Since sewing is my passion, I also spend time on sewing sites online, so it is easy to promote my store.
One of the difficulties I see with those selling in the craft niches is underpricing themselves. For homemade articles they don't charge enough to pay for the products to make the item. For selling supplies they sell at prices so low as to make barely a dollar profit. If you are only making a $1 per item sold, you might want to consider either raising your prices or finding a different way to make money online. One of the things I had great difficulties with was setting prices. My husband, however, who has been self-employed most of his adult life along with the rest of his family, didn't seem to have that problem with pricing and greatly encouraged me to sell for a decent price. The first book I ever sold for over $50 I had to literally close my eyes when entering its price. It sold!
In my head I have imagined my type of customer. A woman who loves to sew, maybe doesn't have time to get to a store to look at the patterns, or in this day with many fabric stores closing there isn't one close enough to her, or she prefers to pop the kids in bed before checking out my patterns. Then she can spend her time and find what she wants. My patterns sell all over the world with speedy service and all orders go out in less than 24 hours from a paid order. My customers are happy, and I'm happy, and we make enough to make it worth our while. While I seem to be the one running the business, hubby is right there backing me up and helping every step of the way. Physically I couldn't do it without him.
When it comes to selling online, as I have time, I'm trying to write an ebook on the first steps you need to take before opening your online store anywhere. One of the things that I think is most important is take your time to figure out what you want to do and why. Why do you want to sell online? What do you want to sell? Where will you get your inventory from? How will you keep your records? When someone decides to open a brick and mortar store, they don't decide and then start digging ground five minutes later. No, they make plans, get permits, and research what they are doing, being sure that the business (customers) are there. I've seen many first-time sellers (newbies) open a store and then go to the forum of a selling venue and start asking what should they sell and where can they get it. I even saw once someone ask if ecrater would ship the product that they sold! If you don't know what you want to sell, don't open a store.
Likewise, f you don't have any clue what the selling venue will do for you, don't sign up. Wait until you can answer those questions. Most venue forums have friendly, helpful people but don't expect them to do your prep work for you. They have their own businesses to run. Spend some good quality time planning and preparing, and don't be afraid to take a couple of months to figure things out ahead of time. Each selling venue is somewhat different, and you need to really research each of them prior to signing up for one.
I know that at this point most people have heard of eBay as THE place to sell online. Many of us sellers have left eBay with no intentions of ever returning. The fees are exorbitant, the rules are ridiculous, and although technically the sellers are eBay's actual customers, they treat sellers like bugs to be squashed. I do know that some are still making good money there, but others are dying on the vine. Use eBay at your own risk and actually use any venue at your own risk. This is why it is so important to do your research and dip your toes in the water instead of jumping into the deep end before remembering you don't know how to swim.
Thanks again, Gail, and we will be keeping an eye out for your ebook!