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[120] Can you make a successful living selling OOAK items online?

 

Can you make a living selling OOAK handmade items online?

This is a question I’ve been asked many times over the years, and now that I’ve been in the handmade industry for almost 10 years, I can confirm that my stance on this remains the same.

In short: no, you can’t.

Of course, there are exceptions, and good reasons why this is the case.

In this episode, I outline the reasons why it is extremely difficult to make a living from selling OOAK items online (and I am specifically talking about online selling, not markets, wholesale etc.).

If you happen to make a living selling OOAK items online, I want to hear from you! I’ve been trying to interview someone who does on the podcast from the beginning, but I am yet to find someone. If you are that someone, or know of someone who fits the bill (makes a full-time living from their handmade business, and 90% or more of their sales online exclusively from OOAK items) then I want to hear from you!

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Quotes & Highlights from this Episode:

  • A one of a kind (OOAK) piece is a unique item of which you only make the one.
  • The hard truth, learned from my own research and experience, is that it is not really possible to make a living selling OOAK items online.
  • OOAK can absolutely be successful in handmade business. The challenge is when you move online.
  • The two exceptions to this are:
  1. Expensive items priced in the mid to high hundreds of dollars. These need to be quick to make, have a good mark up and sell daily.
  2. Makers with a large and dedicated following. Time is invested in building a presence, batch making items and managing a big release.
  • “If your OOAK items are mid to low priced, the chances of you making a successful living selling online is very small.” {Jess}
  • Selling an OOAK piece online takes far more work than selling in person.
  • Each product needs to be individually listed with photos, editing, title, keywords and tags, description notes, proofing and more and all of these little pieces of time add up.
  • When starting out there is ample time, energy and enthusiasm to experiment and create OOAK items but as your business grows this becomes less sustainable.
  • As your creativity ebbs and flows having a line of reproducible items provides you with breathing room.
  • “You should have the freedom to make and list OOAK items when the inspiration strikes and you have the time” {Jess}
  • Utilise price points to support these creative endeavours. Your OOAK items should have pricing that reflects their elevated and unique status.
  • Reproducible designs do not mean that the piece is not handmade or a labour of love.
  • If you have OOAK items, list them on your best selling venue and deactivate the listing when at markets.

 

Download or listen to this episode.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

Jess

Van Den has written 375 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at Epheriell.com. You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.

Comments

Penny
Reply

ok so…I’m kinda soap-boxy about this HA! Because I 100% believe you can make a living selling ooak items online. In fact, I think online is *better* for ooak makers because you have that global audience, rather than say a market where you only have the narrow tastes of what people show up that day.

In 2011 I was earning an average of $200 a week on etsy (and only selling on etsy) with ooak jewelry. I know $200 a week isn’t exactly raking it in, and it’s barely half of what I need these days, but my work ethic was terrible – I was very casual about it all, shockingly so. I had no discipline for working decent hours (4 hour workday anyone?), I didn’t have a deliberate brand, had no idea who my ideal customer was… I see these same work ethic issues in a lot of other ooak makers as well, and it doesn’t matter what you make, if you don’t run your business like a proper business, you’ll never make it full-time.

If I’d focused on improving those areas of my work ethic, I am utterly convinced I could’ve made a full time income. (for anyone wondering, I stopped because I had a car accident and while taking time to heal, lost the muse/passion/interest.)

Any to sum up LOL – I think you can absolutely do it, but you have to do it right! You have to be unique (I was) and you have to build a following (took 3 years to get mine). But you also need to develop a brand (I didn’t), to put in decent hours (I didn’t) and to use social media – I blogged and used flickr, but Oh! I wish I’d had instagram back then…and pinterest…

What say you?