Sell Your Bags & Purses
Starting Your Own Bag or Purse Making Business?
Why are hand made bags and purse so popular? Well, no woman likes to have exactly the same dress or accessory the same as the next woman and with the decline of so many small shops, choice is restricted. This, together with a change in attitude towards handmade products, they are perceived as an individual design rather than just a 'make and mend' item.
Can you make a living from a business like this?
Like any business, its success depends on quite a few things and I'll go through these the elements further down the page. But I can tell you it can be done, both from personal experience an because I have many customers who have their own successful businesses making bags and purses.
Designing and making your bags and purses is an important part of your business plan - but just as important, is selling them. I know that sounds obvious but the joy of of spending your time being creative is often the driving force behind starting a business of this kind but the business side needs very careful planning before you start.
What will you make? Who will you sell to? How will you connect the two?
You need to answer these three questions before you thread your sewing machine. Why? Because you need to create products that a customer is searching for, not just what you enjoy making. I know - again this is pretty obvious.
The obvious selection of bags are shopping bags, handbags, cross body bags. Purses might be coin purses, spectacle cases, clutch bags. You will however, have a lot of competition with such generic products.
So how are you going to beat the competition - or in business speak, differentiate your products from the rest? You have a a few options.
Below are a few examples based on the construction and choice of materials:-
- High end products using hand woven, hand dyed or organically produced materials;
- Materials made from one type of animal eg, alpacca, breed of sheep, bamboo or location eg Outer Hebrides;
- Involve another process eg felting, beading, aplique; and
- The pattern of the fabrics eg cat, dog and horse patterns or musicical instruments.
Below are a few examples based on customers preferences:-
- Knitting bags, designed to hold 35mm needles, notions etc - consider the bag frame that holds the bag open for easy access;
- Sock Project bags, designed to keep yarn, notions, yarn keeper to work from in a train, car etc (not while driving of course!)
- Lacemakers bag, large bag designed to transport the pillow used in lacemaking;
- Bride and bridesmaids clutch bags; and
- Weekend bags.
These ideas are just to get you thinking.
Once you have your niche product you can think about where to find your customer. Of course there is Etsy, Folksy, Not on the High Street and countless others. But if you've taken the trouble to develop a niche product you have an advantage and you need to use it.
Your high end bag made from organic tweed from the Outer Hebrides might sell well to wealthier customers - so advertise in the Life magazines eg 'Lancashire Life' or equivalent, take stands at country shows, advertise overseas where these products aren't readily available.
Bride and bridesmaids clutch bags in advertise in Bridal magazines, Bridal wear shops and shows
Fabrics using cat, dog and horse patterns at country shows, animal magazines and websites.
How to showcase and sell your products
I can suggest three ways to do this, you can use any or all of these. I have used all three with success.
These can range from local fairs to major 4 day events. The cost of a small stand can range from £25 to £1800, usually paid for in advance. Sometimes tables are provided free, sometimes at a charge and sometimes not at all and you will need to take your own. It's a good idea to take something to sit on too. Try to make the stand look attractive - the more attractive the more professional it looks. Add a pot of lavender to the table, wicker shelving etc. You will probably be taking cash payments so take an adequate float.
Online Stores eg Etsy, Not On The High Street etc
An alternative to having your own website is having a 'shop' on a site such as Etsy There are several advantages of using this method, one is the sheer speed with which you can have your products online and available for sale, which is great if you just want to test the water before embarking on your own website.Another advantage is that prospective customers come to Etsy because they are seeking handmade products.
You can design your shop and upload photos and descriptions in an evening with only a tiny up front cost of pence per product, Etsy taking a further 3.5% at the time of sale. When the product is purchased you are notified via email by Etsy and the listing is removed so it can't be purchased twice, a further mail is sent by PayPal when payment has been made so you know when to dispatch.
The disadvantages are that you will have many, many competitors on Etsy and prospective customers may give up looking before your products are presented in search results. Another real disadvantage is that Etsy control the format, policies etc which means your shop and policies look pretty much the same as everyone else's and infact their policies may not represent your policies at all.
Your Own Website
There are lots of advantages to having your own website with few disadvantages and I have always believed this to be the best option supported by the other two - but I do like to be in control. I have had several websites providers and I know how hard it is to choose even when you have some experience and knowledge of them.
The advantages of having your own website include the flexibilty to design and create the image you want to present. Your site stands on it's own, not one of many others on the same site like Etsy etc. You can inform the customer exactly what you want to, products, sales. Your marketing eg flyers, business cards, links from other sites a andll link directly to your site provide benefit to just you not your other competitors on Etsy etc.
It takes a little longer to set up your website, it's the other side of being able to have your own design and image is of course, you have to spend time creating it.
Looking for my most recent website provider I wanted first and foremost a good and accessable helpline. You can't hope to be an expert at site building so this is so important. Many website providers only offer email/message or at best livechat, it's simply just not the same as speaking to someone. My previous website providers had an awful service, you could ring them up but they weren't helpful and actually told me I should just get on with my work when I queried an increase in costs.
My website provider recommendation - Sellr
I am going to tell you about my current provider and what I like about the service and website functionality which persuaded me to move to them and why I won't be going anywhere else. You can judge whether this is what you are looking for.
I have had several web site providers over the last 10 years and in my opinion getting the right level of support and advice to get your site up and running is essential. Not every one is an expert website builder and if you are busy devoting most of your time marketing, selling, dealing with customers, sourcing and in some cases creating products - why should you waste time trying to be an expert website builder when you have experts ready to help. I can say hand on heart, that Sellr have the best support support of any website provider I have been in contact with. Telephone support is provided at most times by James who is both knowledgeable and eager to help. Out of hours email support is available.
I must emphasise that before you start designing/building your website you spend time thinking about your categories and sub categories of products, information pages, available space for description etc, look at sites you like and find easy to navigate, identify what you want for your finished look. Make a note of the sites you like so that you can explain to Sellr what it it is you like and why.
How the website looks to the customer is important, but it's no good if the 'back end' doesn't work for you, so often web site providers fail to to show you how the order management part will work, you won't even see what the customer invoice will look like before you sign up. The Sellr order management is outstanding. Once you have orders coming in, Sellr enables you manage them easily and efficiently with invoice confirmation and dispatch emails already designed and available for you to use. You can mark your orders printed, dispatched, refunded etc so easily and even add notes to the records and amend invoices to include/exclude extra products, change address details which is so useful and rarely available. You can create telephone orders or invoices with buttons to enable easy payment by PayPal or Card.
There is so much functionality available it's difficult to list it all here, but briefly, stock control, shipping pricing by price or weight, customer lists, stock level reports, cross selling, financial reports plus management information of site visitors, sales volume and value and even live site visitor information.
There are a number of subscriptions based on number of products and functionality, my advice would be to take a look and give them a call if you have a question they will do their upmost to help you in a friendly way and not at all pushy.
Before you take your photograghs look at lots of other photograghs of similar products - what looks good? Try to place your product in a a pleasing setting eg in a garden, on natural stone, polished wooden table with a steaming cup of coffee rather than lying flat on your bed or on the kitchen worktop with unwashed dishes.
Save your photograghs in a folder on your PC with names that tell you clearly what the photogragh is so that a week orso later you haven't got to open the photo to look at it before you know which one it is.
Save the original without editing, create a copy to edit. You will find that different websites etc require photograghts to meet certain requirements eg file size, dimensions etc so you may need one copy for Etsy and another for your website. You might need another when putting together an image for a banner or advert.
Whether you use Etsy, Folksy, your own website etc to sell your products you will need a PayPal account. If you have a personal one already I would advise you set up a seperate business one for you business, it's much easier to look at income and expenses that way. PayPal will take a fee for completing these transactions for you.
You can take card payments via PayPal but you might get a better deal (smaller fee) with someone like SagePay, you will need to review and compare.
Card machines, card readers to take to shows are also an option.
Consider using Google Analytics, this allows you to see how many visitors come to your website, what they look at, where they came from eg a blogger, advert etc and much more.