It has been a while since I delved into the “Why Quilts Matter“ discussion guide. Browsing the topics this week, the one that jumped out at me that I want to focus on in this post is:
If you sell your work, what methods do you use? How successful have you been?
On one hand, I feel like this topic is discussed a lot in blogs and in social media. There are fantastic resources available to read about in the We are $ew Worth it! movement (and the popular Molli Sparkles discusses this on occasion). On the other hand, I have seen firsthand that there are a lot of questions about how to sell work, where to go, and how to get started.
In general, I expect that my blog readers know that I am a budding quilt pattern designer, and I will occasionally blog about and discuss my patterns that I have for sale (along with offering many free tutorials as well). However, I typically shy away from talking about the fact that I have an active Etsy store. I feel like my blog readers are not my target audience for trying to sell quilts, quilted items, and small sewing projects.
In the light of this topic, though, I thought it would be worth explaining why I tend to differentiate where I discuss these kinds of things on social media along with how I got started, methods I have used to market myself, and how successful I feel like the endeavor has been.
So let’s take it from the top, shall we?
Do you sell your work?
What methods do you use?
I sell my quilt patterns in my Craftsy, Payhip, and Etsy stores.
I sell quilts, quilted items, and other small sewing projects in my Etsy store. I also rely on word of mouth, Facebook page referrals / messages, and email for commissioned work.
About a year ago I was contacted through Etsy by a woman looking for large muslin archival drawstring bags. She had been able to purchase them online in the past for her work as a museum curator, but they were no longer available. She mailed me one of hers and I created a pattern that has been rather successful in my shop since then. Serendipity has played a role in many of my sales.
While I prefer to make custom quilts, I have found that having a stock of quick to make smaller projects like the crib sheet quilts is also wise. As you might have noticed, my quilted placemats are another item people have a lot of interest in.
How successful have you been?
In general, I would categorize myself as successful. I have been self-employed since April 2014, and I am able to earn enough money to keep buying more fabric and making more quilts. My business is currently in the red from my long arm purchase last year, but over time I hope to slowly nibble away at that investment and break even.
By far I would not categorize myself as an expert in this area. But, for what it’s worth, here are what I have tried and my thoughts on marketing myself and my products.
In general, I have chosen not to discuss my Etsy store or sales on my blog. As I mentioned earlier, I just do not think that my blog readers are my target audience. I will definitely discuss topics that I think overlap, like how I worked through the design phases of a commission and developed a design for the Lighthouse Lens Placemats. And because they are a quilted item, I will blog about their finish and any interesting details that I might have learned from making them.
I have used the promoted listings within Etsy to try and capture more sales. I have found the promoted listings to generate more views of my listings, but I have only had 1 sale related to the promoted listings after almost a year. I tried increasing the budget I allocated and saw no real change in views or sales. After a year long experiment, I cancelled my promoted listings earlier this week.
I use my Quilting Jetgirl Facebook page to share about content on my blog, sewing related images / facts / information (sometimes leaning toward the silly and away from the practical), and to occasionally promote my Etsy store. I have used paid Facebook advertising to share a discount code for my Etsy store, which was very successful once and very unsuccessful on another occasion. Choosing the correct demographic and keywords for a Facebook ad seems to be tricky and something that I need to probably understand better.
Sharing posts from my Quilting Jetgirl Facebook page is a free way to also get more people to see my content. This can have consequences, however. If I share my content with another Facebook page or group and it is later deleted by an admin of that group or page, then Facebook will drastically stop sharing even the original post with my own audience.
I currently do not have an email distribution, although I have considered looking into it. Right now my main focus for content is my blog because I enjoy the community and discussions. I am content enough with the occasional sales and word of mouth references. As I work more on developing my pattern writing, though, I will probably need consider the right way to discuss that without alienating people, and an email distribution is probably the option I will explore first.
Other Social Media Resources (Instagram, Twitter, Periscope…)
Learning how not to be too “spammy” or direct in marketing my content is a fine line. Sometimes I am just genuinely excited about my latest fun project or great idea, but sharing it all at once on every social media channel will probably be viewed by my core followers and seen as overkill. This is a balance that I know I struggle with, and hopefully with time will improve. 🙂
What about you?
The bottom line is that I am still learning as I go, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say regarding this topic. Do you sell your work? Why or why not? What does and does not work for you as a seller and/or as a reader of blogs of people who do sell?
14 thoughts on “Selling Your Work”
I am not interested in starting a business doing quilting. My day job involves several of my passions, and quilting is still a very personal thing for me, meaning I’m not ready to open myself up to scrutiny from buyers. However, I decided to make a t-shirt quilt for a coworker using her son’s little league and high school baseball jerseys and t-shirts. I did this mainly for the experience, since I’m sure my niece will want one, too, one day, but also because she’s footing the bill for any materials. Anyone who wants to buy fabric, thread and stabilizer for me to play with is okay by me! However, I kept trying to gently suggest that she use a longarmer to quilt it, but she kept saying, “Oh, no, you can do it!” So, I did. Or well, I’m in the middle of it. It’s supposed to be a Christmas present, so I have time. But I’m custom quilting on a domestic machine, which is very time consuming. Now some caveats – I did take a t-shirt quilt class from Martha DeLeonardis herself, and I did piece and half-way quilt my own t-shirt quilt. However, I am still learning, and this quilt is pretty big compared to mine. From this experience, I have decided that I will definitely design and piece for someone at cost (I’m not running a business, remember?), but I will not quilt it. I will need to make this very clear up-front, and I will provide some resources and examples there. Lesson learned – the hard way, of course!
I’ve thought and written about this topic a lot, too. I don’t sell my quilts for a number of reasons. I won’t mass-produce them, making each one original. I’m not willing to sell them for cost of materials, because my time has value, too. Each quilt I make (other than deliberate donation quilts) takes a minimum of 40 hours, and well upwards from there, and I’m not going to give away $1000 of labor or more except to someone very special to me. I’ve also decided that I want to spend my time making, not promoting. I don’t have interest in going through the process you are, with figuring out where and how to promote. (But I applaud those who go that way.)
If you’re interested in any of my blog posts on this, let me know and I’ll give you links. Thanks as always for bringing the topic out again. I think the conversation is valuable.
Here are some of my posts on selling. I hope the links all work. Thanks!
I have considered selling quilts and quilted items before, but so far I’ve stayed fairly firm on the ‘no’ side of the debate. A lot of family and friends encourage me to sell what I make, which is flattering, but most people who don’t quilt don’t understand the cost. I think about Molli Sparkles and his quilt that blew up the internet on this one! Lol. I used to try and explain away the debate with ‘nobody would buy what I make if I sold it for what it’s worth’ but people still didn’t get it. Now I just say that I”m simply too busy to use my limited sewing time to make stuff to sell rather than stuff I really enjoy and want to keep.
I’ve done one ‘commission’ quilt for my Mom, with my Dad footing the bill for materials and some extra thrown in. My boss has also requested a quilt next year after her trip to New Zealand (her home) and she brings some more supplies back. If the job sounds interesting or I really want to do it anyway, I accept and work out a price. Maybe if I stop working full time and can split my time between work sewing and fun sewing, I’ll consider selling some of my creations. For now, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. 🙂
Yvonne, I applaud you for taking on the challenge of selling your quilts and other items. My husband has been successful at selling a few of my quilts to people on the internet after he has posted pictures and bragging about my latest accomplishment. I have made it clear to him that he must make sure these people understand that I am not a professional and I do make mistakes; therefore, there is absolutely no garauntee the quilt will last any amount of time. My husband and a few other family members are really pushing for me to start an Etsy store, but oh my goodness, it is extremely hard to make things to sell, make things for charity, make things for family and make things for myself. You know that I am disabled and can not work, well I also am not a quick quilter either. LOL. So, I do not know what will happen there. As always, I enjoy reading your posts and trying to contribute when asked I also feel that sharing a subject like this is always a great idea because new people are always searching for information and everyone’s selling adventure is valuable information for someone to consider whether good or bad. Have a wonderful creative day!
For myself , I sew for fun , I’m not accomplished enough to sell but wish those that do well . I enjoy those bloggers who are friendly , fun and include the personal . Those who are just a sales pitch or perfect don’t appeal to me. I do however enjoy the pattern development and tutorials you do. Have to go ,got a new pfaff today and I have to go play
Like Helen I don’t think I am accomplished enough to sell and like some others I don’t feel I have enough time at present. I enjoy the discussion however as you never know what may be around the corner.
Hi Yvonne. I find this a thought provoking subject. I’ve come up with a lot of reasons not to make quilts to sell. They include: time, being able to do a professional job; taking the fun out of something I really love to do. Perhaps though, the biggest thing is having someone look at my quilt and judge it. I’ve entered a couple of quilts in a quilt show and find that diminishes my enjoyment of the project. So perhaps it is better not to sell for me. I’ve gifted quilts and donate regularly to a local organization. After all, my family only wants/needs so many quilts.
It’s tough to set up shop and try to sell things. I haven’t done so, and am not sure I will. (Though, maybe…maybe some little things that aren’t too pricey would sell before Christmas.)
From time to time people seek me out and ask if I have any quilts to sell, so I show them what I have. The price has to make me happy (I have a price list made out for the quilts I’m willing to sell), or I won’t let them go.
Sometimes people seek me out for commissions. If I have time, I will consider it. Word of mouth is everything…it helps that I live in a small community. It also helps to be able to direct people to my blog so they can see my work. There has only been one instance where I’ve quoted a price and the buyer didn’t go ahead with the project. That’s okay with me. I know my work is worth what I charge, so I won’t be cowed.
(Side bar: I’ve learned that after an initial consultation I like to be left to my own devices. Waiting for feedback and decisions stalls my creative drive, and quite often jams up my schedule…argh!)
I do make patchwork quilts, cushions and table runners for sale. A shop on Folksy, local craft fairs and just recently space in a shopping centre pop up craft shop are my ‘outlets’. Sales are unpredictable and don’t cover much more than material and venue costs, so it’s certainly not working as a business but is enabling me to buy fresh materials and be creative. I think I’ve been more successful doing commission work for friends, family and neighbours, although I struggle to stay interested in commission work. Using my Facebook business page to share projects in progress as well as more chatty posts has generated some interest and orders. I think it’s very difficult to find buyers willing to pay for the hours of work that goes into a quilt. Designing and selling patterns seems like a better prospect Yvonne – at least the purchasers being quilters should appreciate the time and effort that goes into designing and writing an original pattern.
Yvonne, thanks for discussing about this topic. It’s been very touchy topic for many quilters, I’m sure. For myself I sell more of other items that I make, such as handbags, jewelry and other craft than quilts. I only sold a few baby quilts and quickly found out that not many people wanted to pay the price I was asking for. I don’t have an on-line store. Every year for the past 8 years, I’ve held a party either at my own home or at my friends’. I will have gifts for friends who are willing to host a party for me. The gifts are any items I have in the show and they can pick up to 10% of the total sale that I make. And believe me, they were very happy with what they got. We have great refreshments and a very good time together. I’m enjoying it because it’s my time to have a party with my friends and I make some new friends every year. I don’t do this to get rich, I just like making things and enjoy showing them off to people. I like to see how they like my items and so far it’s been great because I take pride in everything I make. The most difficult thing is pricing my items. When I price an item, I’d ask myself this question, ‘if someone orders this item, would I enjoy making it for the price that I’m charging’. If the answer is yes, then that’s the price I’d charge. If the price seems too high and nobody wants them, I’d give them as holiday gift to family and friends.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Yvonne. It’s something I think about a lot. I’d love to give up babysitting and contribute to the family finances through quilting. I’d most like to see it happening through designing and selling patterns, rather than selling the quilted/sewn items themselves, though a combination of both could potentially work too. I don’t think I can sew fast enough to make much money selling what I make, so selling patterns seems like the better route 🙂 Right now I have a few patterns for sale, but sales are few and far between. I’d say that’s a combination of being new at it (otherwise known as pretty much unknown) and not having a lot of patterns yet. I’m working to increase the number of patterns I have available, and looking at different ways to increase my exposure so that more people see my patterns. It’s a work in progress, for sure, and I know it will take time. I’m enjoying myself in the meantime!
My girlfriend came by today and spotted a clamshell pouch I had made. ‘Why don’t you set up a stall and sell stuff like this?’ She asked.
‘That little thing took me at least two days to painstakingly sew by hand. Who is going to pay me two days’ wages for something so small?’
I like to make silly, complicated things and will stay amateur. Smart sewers with hopes of earning a livelihood are much cleverer in judging costs/materials/time vs sales price. I have seen your calculations; I put you in the clever category!
This was a good one to read late – the comments are interesting as well as your content. Your Etsy experiences are very interesting, especially given my recent shop opening there, I’ve been steering clear of trying to make quilts to sell, I take far too much time to be able to make it in any way viable and I’d be worried about the quality of my quilting. Having said that I do have an urge to make a couple of baby quilts and with no babies on the horizon amongst friends/family they’d maybe have to be to try and sell. I do think it’s very tough to make anything as an individual item to sell. Having something that can be sold on a larger scale seems much more likely to succeed, so hopefully your pattern designing has more potential. and yes, much more compatible with your blog audience generally. The other avenue (not selling as such but oriented towards money making) that I’d like to explore some more is holding workshops etc for others. Is that something you’ve considered?