A Greek historian once said; “The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.”
Seriously, what is life without freedom and liberty to do what we love whenever we want? As bag makers we all know how much we crave to make bags all day, every day, non-stop.
It’s an addictive hobby!
But we are always restrained by the costs and supplies and the huge pile of finished but no-where-to-go bags.
If only there was a way to stay immersed in this creative world- all day, every day. If only there was a way to start a business based on the thing you love the most, which is sewing bags.
An online handmade bag business!
In this post, I’m sharing a step-by-step guide on how you can start an online handmade bag biz. You can use this as a roadmap to go from one step to another. Hopefully, with this guide, you would be able to know where to begin and what route to follow. Let’s get started!
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Why This Post?
Before we get started, I want to take some time and let you know why you need a guide, a solid plan to start an online handmade bag biz.
Etsy is so populated with so many sellers, how will anyone ever notice my bags? 🙁
Nobody wants to pay the price my bags are worth! 😥
That woman asked me for a bargain on a bag I made with so much love and time. 😡
I don’t know who to sell my bags to! 😐
I have an Etsy store but I’ve never made any sales. 🙁
I really want a way to earn some income doing what I love which is sewing bags.
Do these sound familiar? I’m sure I’ve heard each of these statements more than once at different occasions.
Let’s talk about why it’s so difficult to sell a handmade bag at times.
The thing is, starting an online shop on Etsy has become easier than ever, everyone and their cat has access to Esty so everyone who can sew a bag has a shop on Etsy. And that’s it. So when someone wants to buy a bag and has no appreciation for the uniqueness of handmade items she would just go for the cheapest one available or the first one she likes. And the lucky seller with the lowest price wins. And you who have put so much effort and love in making that gorgeous bag are left without a sale.
Now that we have understood the scenario, let’s talk about WHY you need a solid plan to start an online bag biz.
The market is too saturated. There are too many talented people out there (which is a good thing and a bag thing) making oh, so gorgeous bags which means there’s more supply than demand. Therefore if you really want this to work, you need a precise plan, a strategy to get ahead of others and make a mark.
If you start right from the beginning with a pre-planned process you will be spending less time in figuring things out instead you can focus on things that are working and will provide fruitful results in the end.
Now that we know why it’s so important to have a plan, let’s dive into how to actually start an online handmade bag biz.
How to Start an Online Handmade Bag Business
The entire process can be divided into 5 major steps and can take up to a month or more depending on the amount of time you have in hand.
Step 1: Define Your Brand
Since everyone and their cute cat is selling all kinds of handmade bags, to be successful it’s very important to start with a small targeted niche. Study the shops on Etsy, hangout in mommy groups or groups for general discussion and do a major research for what’s actually lacking in the market and go for it. For example, you can specialize in making gorgeous handmade kits for diabetic patients because I’ve never seen such a thing.
The thing is, even though you like to make beautiful totes and cross-body bags, you’d have to switch to something different if you really want to be successful. Once you’ve established a connection with the customer giving what they really want, you can then proceed with your next offering which is a gorgeous tote bag.
You just don’t want to be another Etsy seller with all different kinds of totes sitting in the shop without any sales.
Brainstorm unique handmade bag ideas, think about who your target customers will be, come up with a store theme that resonates with your target customers. If your shop sells handmade lunch bags for school kids you don’t want your logo to look like you sell vintage items to grown-ups. You would need a bright and cheery look for your shop. Design your shop graphics and business cards to reflect your theme.
Once you have this sorted out, it’s time to go to the next step.
Step 2: Take Good Pictures
If your store is all beautiful with everything in place and according to the theme, making a brilliant impression on the customer, guess what’s that one thing you can do to push your customer away?
I think you know. Grainy, dark, unedited pictures.
Have you ever seen an online store with pictures anything but pro? Never!
You see, when you’re shopping online pictures and videos are the ONLY way you can deliver the feel of the bag to your customer. And dark, grainy pictures or pictures with glaring sunlight just ruins the image of your bag. It’s a major turn off.
So you need to invest in some basic photography skills as well as a good camera. Doesn’t matter if you buy a used one, just make sure it’s in a good working condition.
Once you have a good camera preferably a DSLR, get out and experiment with it. Learn the basics of photography from the gazillion resources available online. Look at some retail store websites and how they photograph their bags for ideas and inspiration. Try to achieve the same look and feel that you get from those bag pictures.
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Step 3: Set Up Your Website
There are several reasons why you need to have your own separate website instead of just an Etsy store. First and foremost, it will give a better impression to your customers, a more professional look. Secondly, there are fewer chances for someone to click over and end up on a different store. If someone wants to recommend your store they can easily give the name of your site, it’s easier to remember. I can go on and on about this but you can find more reasons to have your site by just searching for it on Google.
So once you have decided to set up your site, it’s time to work on it.
If you ask me, the best option is to go for Square Space instead of WordPress.
Let me tell you why based on my personal experience.
I’m a moderate when it comes to tech, I can copy paste code etc. but that’s just it. I have been on WordPress for past 5 years and yet I get butterflies in my stomach when it comes to handling things at the back-end of the site. And this is one reason I do not have a usual shop for my sewing patterns on my blog.
On the other hand, setting up a store on Square Space was a BREEZE. It took me a day to set up the entire store along with uploading the inventory of 29 bags. Had it been WP, I’m sure it would’ve taken me more than a week and a hell lot of frustration. You can check out my store here.
Currently, I’m on the cheapest plan which is $12/mo if paid annually and $16/mo if paid monthly and it’s more than awesome.
Now that your store is set up, it’s time for the next step.
Step 4: Set up Social Media Accounts
Having just a website and good photography is not the end of the process. Now you need to work on finding your customers who can get to your site. So, where do you find them? On social media.
You only need THREE social media platforms for your bag biz since it’s all about visual content.
That’s it! Make sure the theme of these accounts resonate with the theme of your store. If you’re selling bags for kids you don’t want a Pinterest board about DIY garden furniture or ancient homes.
Similarly, the theme of your Instagram account should also revolve around the theme of your store. Also, don’t just post pictures of your bags, post quotes, promos, dressing styles, in progress shots etc. etc. to interact with the customers.
Step 5: Set up Email Marketing Plan
Email is THE most important thing when it comes to an online business. It’s the best way to get to the heart of your customer so you NEED to have an email marketing plan. This is one thing you CANNOT ignore.
The first and foremost thing you gotta make your potential customer do is to get them to sign up for your email list. Once they’re on the list, you can easily get them to buy your bags by sending out promos and relationship building emails.
You see, in this crowded world, you NEED to develop a relationship with your customer before you can get them to trust you and purchase from you. Emails are THE best way to do that.
So, once you have your site set up, it’s time to sign up for a newsletter service and integrate it with your site. Mailchimp is the best option for beginners but once you cross the free mark make sure you switch to ConvertKit because MailChimp charges twice for one email if the same email exists in two different categories.
Step 6: Developing a Marketing Strategy
Now that you have everything in place. It’s time to put them into action. Consider steps 1-5 as wheels of the machine and step 6 the fuel. Once you feed the fuel to the machine the wheels will turn and start generating the sales.
Steps 1-5 are the foundations but mean nothing if you do not have a marketing strategy.
Marketing strategy varies for different social media channels as well as email service.
To make your online bag biz successful you would need to learn and focus on each of these separately.
For Pinterest, you would need to have a blog and engaging content which features your bags so that you can link it to the boards on Pinterest.
For Instagram, you would need curated posts and hashtags that reflect your bag business.
Same goes for email marketing.
And that my dear friend is the complete step-by-step guide on how to start an online handmade bag biz.
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