Seeking the Elusive Top Selling Handmade Crafts
When I first began making items by hand back in 1984, I wanted to know what handmade products sell best. There was no google to search, so my education on trending crafts to sell came out of immersion experiences in the main handmade markets at the time – selling to shoppers at craft fairs and wholesaling to shops that specialized in handmade items. And eventually, keeping track of sales in my own gallery of mine and other artisan’s work.
At craft shows, I walked around looking for other makers in my media, which was wearable fiber. Typically at each event I would find three to six sellers who would be displaying vaguely similar pieces to my work. I often introduced myself to my competitors since I knew they would probably see my booth eventually. I got to know many of them and we shared stories about our experiences at different events. But we never discussed our top selling crafts or what might be trending.
Store owners turned out to be very open about popular crafts and handmade items in demand. In fact, they turned out to be incredible assets. Owners knew which trending crafts to sell from their customers’ purchase history. And they were upfront with their suggestions of what I should make.
At one point, my pieces were in stores all around the country from the Grand Canyon to Soho in New York City. You might think I would have found similar items in demand everywhere. But this wasn’t the case. Nor was it true that what sold well in a crafts show in Dallas was popular in Phoenix.
Lesson learned: If you are looking for best selling crafts in all markets, in all locations, at all times of the year, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s no such animal. It’s a trap to even ask that particular question. Even if you could find trending crafts to sell in 2017, what are you going to do in 2018 and 2019? Change gears – toss the inventory and supplies you invested in – buy into the next trend and repeat the same cycle?
There’s a better way. Discover the elements behind best selling crafts and then apply them to your handmade items. Make your crafts in demand everywhere, all year round. I show you how below.
Now certainly, you can get clues from popular handmade items in demand, depending on where and when you look. Just remember that top selling handmade crafts that sell at craft shows in one area of the country may flop elsewhere. Many crafts business owners have found some of their handmade items sell better in the Fall but not do well in the Spring or at other times of the year.
According to one craft industry survey (now out of date) from a few years back, artisans working in glass, metal and mixed media brought in the top sales. Wood, clay and textiles followed. But there’s never been a survey that took all crafts in all markets into account.
Etsy Shop Research – Trending Crafts to Sell
One place you can actually learn about top selling handmade crafts on Etsy is at Craftcount.com. This site lists the top Etsy stores by category. You can then go in and look at items these sellers have done well with. Of course, there’s more to these Etsy sellers’ success than sales numbers. They’ve typically done a great job marketing, promoting, and following up with customers.
If you want to know the top selling handmade crafts at craft shows, check out crafts business magazines like Handmade Business or Sunshine Artist. They sometimes review shows and report on the best selling crafts. Any report is only going to tell you what sold at a particular show, in a given city, at a certain time of year.
The challenge with chasing after the best selling crafts is that the handmade business market is constantly changing. By the time you’ve found popular crafts that sell, the trend may be on its way out and you don’t want to get stuck with inventory of something that’s no longer “in”. You also want to be careful not to copy someone else’s work (copyright infringement).
If you are serious about starting a craft business, the question you really should be asking is “How can I make and sell crafts that are trend-proof and in-demand consistently?”
Elements behind best selling crafts:
- Quality always sells. Make unique handmade craft items and make them well. And people will buy them.
- Themes always sell. Create your crafts business around a theme(s) like cats or frogs or angels. People love their themes and create related products.
- Scarcity always sells. Create a limited edition set of items and state in promotional material that you will not repeat that limited edition again.
- Added value always sells. Add creative extras, like a nicely framed story, a certificate of authenticity or a DVD telling how the craft came about.
- Personalized crafts always sell. When possible, charge an extra amount and add personal names to a craft item.
- Color always sells. In fact, even throughout all the other parts that go into best selling crafts, color is the secret sauce. I wove scarves to sell in my gallery near Santa Fe, NM. Over the months, I kept track of what colors sold and listened when customers made requests. A scarf is just a scarf. But the colors I used made them extraordinary and best sellers in the gallery. If you don’t have any training in color theory, get some. You can find live classes on color theory at craft schools or Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color or this one from Mary Tafoya
There is another factor that’s difficult to quantify, but critical to achieving success selling handmade items. Make things you love making and apply the tips above to boost your sales. It’s the love of what you do that propels growth, both financially and in fulfillment. Then, keep your success a secret! Most of the top handmade sellers do.
Easy Crafts That Sell Well
Here is a fun video on some easy crafts that sell well. Just remember all the above issues like where are the items going to sell, what time of year, what kind of fair or event and who is your audience.
How to launch your own woodworking business for under $1,000 and make $90,000 to $150,000 a year from easy crafts that sell well. As seen on TV, Yahoo, AOL, Entrepreneur, CNN, USA Today and more.