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The current coronavirus crisis is causing many of us to re-evaluate our businesses. Suddenly we’re no longer able to trade in the way we are used to, having customers in our shops, selling at events, running workshops, etc. Even when the lockdown is lifted it is likely that there will be a shift to a contactless society for quite a while until the virus is eradicated.

This inevitably means the focus is switching towards online, allowing customers to purchase from the comfort of their own homes. For business owners this means we have to embrace online sales and marketing even if we have been reluctant before.

Where to start?

Firstly, you need a platform to reach your audience. For many this will be in the form of a mailing list, social media or website (ideally all three).

Website

If you don’t already have a website don’t panic, there are many template websites available. These are pre-designed websites where you just fill in the content, adding your own text, photos and products without having to figure out how to build a site from scratch. Most allow you to customize the colours and fonts to create a more unique website. Some of the most popular include Wordpress, Shopify, Wix, Square Space and Create.net.

Some of the sites allow you to have downloadable or password-protected content so you can offer downloads like e-books and patterns, or online courses and video tutorials as well as selling physical products. If you are a designer/teacher this allows you to earn money online.

Build a website


Social media

If you don’t already use social media take a look at which platforms your customers use, and where your competitors are marketing. You don’t have to be on all platforms. I would suggest choosing one or two where you will most easily be able to reach your audience. Instagram is popular among crafters and is ideal if you have lots of great visual content. It’s also popular among the younger audience with most users being under 30, and many in the under 50 age brackets.

Facebook has a slightly older demographic, with the majority of its users falling in the 25-65 age bracket. It is one of the most used platforms, so the chances are several of your potential customers will have an account. Read more about the demographics for the various social media platforms here to help you choose the right ones for you.

Know your customer demographic

Mailing list

If you already have a newsletter set up this is the ideal place to sell. You could create special bundles available only to subscribers, promote your new products and either encourage people to ring or reply to the email to order, or direct them to your online shop if you have one. If you set up a website or any new social media accounts, communicate this via your mailing list to direct people to them.

If your mailing list is a postal one, you can still use this to send out offers and details of new products. Search Press have great success with their mail order catalogue. But why not set up a website, social media or email list and send out a flyer with the details to your postal mailing list? It’s much cheaper to reach people online, without the cost of postage, so try and encourage customers to also follow you online.

Reach customers online


Key things to remember

  • You do not have to have an online shop to sell online. You can advertise products on your social media, or in your mailing list and take orders over the phone, or send out PayPal invoices to get payment. Online shops make the process easier as the payment side of things is automated so it’s less work for you. But not having an online shop doesn’t mean you can’t sell remotely.
  • When you set up a new website, social media account or mailing list, don’t forget you will need to communicate the details to your customer base – probably several times. Don’t just assume people will automatically find you.
  • You don’t have to pay a website designer and wait months for a new website. Template sites make it very easy for you to build your own site, and are often reasonably priced. Three or four years ago I had a website via Create.net which only cost me £60 a year and took a couple of days to get up and running.
  • Just because you don’t sell physical products doesn’t mean you can’t make money online. Many teachers are swapping over to online workshops, selling patterns or e-books, etc. I took part in a virtual quilting retreat a couple of weeks ago run entirely through a private Facebook group.


If online sales or marketing is totally new to you my book Making & Marketing a Successful Art & Craft Business guides you through the process of setting up and using social media, building a website and ensuring it ranks well in Google and more.

Making & Marketing a Successful Art & Craft Business is available from Search Press, RRP £12.99

Making & Marketing a Successful Art & Craft Business

Fiona Pullen is the founder of The Sewing Directory, an online directory of fabric shops and sewing schools in the UK. The Sewing Directory gets over 1 million visitors a year, and has over 120,000 social media followers.



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