Selling advice

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
11 May 2024
Reaction score
Hope this type of discussion isn’t against the rules, I’ll avoid any advertisement / links.

I’ve set up a small cottage business selling some of my work. The idea is to offset the costs of my workshop, and maybe one day I could go part time from my job and draw some income from the shop.

(I know bus man’s holiday and all but my profession is incredibly stressful and it’s common to work part time and have some other form of income).

So far I’ve sold to friends, family, people at work, but I struggle getting traction online.

Etsy seems to be a ‘pay to play’ kind of system. Without paying for advertised listings on their site you get very little traffic, and their fees are around 15%!
Plus you’re competing against the hoard of Chinese made but laser engraved personalised listings selling at very low prices.

I’ve tried channelling visits to Etsy via instagram videos, a few thousand views but very few translate into clicks.

I’ve thought about having a mini craft fair at work, but I’d be surprised if people would be willing to part with more than £10 which would limit items to small pens / key rings etc.

Has anyone had any luck selling their items elsewhere, or generating more traffic to instagram / Etsy (without doing the ‘deliberately doing something stupid / wrong clickbait videos’ which personally I can’t stand)?

Pinterest can send some traffic but realistically only a handful in a week, and mostly other makers having a nose
what sort of items - some of below may not apply

Ebay, facebook market place, google market place , instagram

perhaps get a stall at a local craft fair event
can you sell via shops in the area , or in hotels , B&Bs - like paintings are sold
or houses/gardens that are open/visited and have a shop

instagram videos, a few thousand views but very few translate into clicks.
If you are not getting traction on things like instagram , perhaps the items are not needed ????? or too expensive or???
Have you looked at all your competitors
Plus you’re competing against the hoard of Chinese made but laser engraved personalised listings selling at very low prices.
how do you differentiate yourself from the Chinese made items
Do you have a Unique Selling Point ????

How do you compare in price to those and what difference in the quality

my dad back in the 70's/80's did a lot of turning as a hobby , and looked to selling, we found reasonably easy to sell to family/friends/work collegues , BUT was just too expensive for general public , the price barrier was the issue , just the cost of the "raw" wood was higher then people seemed to be prepared to pay
People have absolutely zero idea of how long it takes to hand-make a craft piece, and even if they did, most still wouldn't want to pay its worth. If you're self- employed, £25 per hour is the equivalent of minimum pay (around £10) and its very hard to get that. Original, beautifully made items do sell, but not in quantity. Contrary to the YT gurus, you only get traffic on etsy if you sell, and continue to sell in volume.
It's not immediately obvious but it's mire valuable to be a full time digital marketer and a part time wood butcher. So if I was to split a week into days. To have any chance of breaking through 1 day making 4 1/2 days marketing. That's why the reality of what's offered is often very disappointing. Craft items are simply designed to take longer to make as that's what crafters are striving for. Selling these things on etsy profitably is simply impossible. Tie a ribbon around it call it a quaint name make it wacky does little to alter the fact that much of it is tat.
It’s the route to market that’s hard. I can sell a simple walnut chopping board for £60, in fact I can sell 4 to one person, however doing it reliably more than once or twice is hard.

Lots of people sell tat, we had a go, yes, we can sell much better products and break even… the day job pays better
Craft items are flooded and underpriced. But it's possible to make money with a well marketed unique product. Well marketed is the key phrase. Any chopping board is very hard to separate out from the pack. I make a product that no one makes at all. Does it sell well? Not really! It could given enough marketing though. But I've sold enough to know its a good item.
Stained glass is just every where on etsy and it's shockingly good quality and very cheap. But find someone to fix a window tricky. Because ladies are super keen copperfoilers.
It seems to me there are 2 main markets on Etsy for woodwork. The first is cheap and nasty imported from India and Africa or made by hobby people who don`t really need to make money just cover materials etc.
Secondly the really nice stuff, which I think is more just speculative examples of the work they can do. I suspect most of the customers for the higher end stuff will contact the seller and commission work. They will say I like your work but I need something similar for my study and in Black walnut etc.

I always keep thinking of doing more speculative work and some actual marketing but most of my work is entirely random, word of mouth and repeat customers. I am pretty good at woodwork but have never been much good at marketing. Also I really dislike instagram and social media (this is the only social media I do) in general.

For craft items there is often a tactility where people like to handle the items and see them in person.

@jb94 with his experience of making and selling @Stigmorgan would be a good resource to give you guidance.

For me, as a full time woodworker, I gave up trying to sell speculative pieces years ago, no way could I ever recover the costs of making them even though I have well equipped workshop, lots of wood and able to make efficiently, the things I do make, generally go to charities to help with fund raising, oddly they then sell very well...

Not sure if its against the rules, but I think you can put your insta/web site details in your signature line, on here, the bots would help to find you! and so could we.
My son and I designed a whole range of saddle stands, racks and other tack related top quality solid Oak equipment. Setting up at horse events was time consuming and we couldn’t afford the prestigious events.
But had we persisted I am sure it would have been successful. We also exhibited pieces of furniture alongside the equipment which did get people looking and talking. I think what I’m trying to say is go where the money is, only produce top quality work and try to be original.
A pic of one of the few events we did.

I couldn’t have predicted it but the rocking Deckchairs in the pic turned out to be a reasonably good seller at £650 and believe me they had to be that much as they took a hell of a long time to make. If I remember correctly there were 70 odd parts in each one.
@HOJ thanks for the vote 😀😀😀😀
I've had good and bad experiences so far but it's early days and I'm only now being more serious about it, initially I tried using sites like Gumtree and Nextdoor but nobody wants to pay what something is worth and often even after agreeing to buy something they just don't show up.
I then put stuff in the staffroom at school and did pretty well so agreed to a stall at the Christmas fair and did very well although looking back I suspect a large part of the good luck was the novelty that I (their caretaker) had made the stuff the 2 following school fairs were a failure and cost me money.
Last Christmas I also attended the local scouts fair which also failed to make money but that's where I discovered the shop, my table rent costs me £20 per week, December was a good month considering the shop opened only 2 weeks before the big day, January I barely broke even, February made some profit then March and April have both cost me, I'm hopefull though that sales will pick up in the coming months as people start looking towards Christmas.
From my point of view I don't think you can rely on a single source to make woodturning/woodworking profitable, it's something that should be considered as a jigsaw puzzle, you need lots of pieces to make a picture, for me, I need to look at lots of ways to make a little money which will combine into larger amounts, so going forward I will keep the shop table going, I will be approaching local florists to see if any are interested in a stock of vases and twig pots for a % of the sales, more craft fairs and events, my next one is Blackbushe air day on June 15th, another in November at Denbies wine estate, my friend and I are also looking at a 3 day stall at London Comicon in October, some of these events can be very expensive for a pitch so it is a gamble, you need to research what is likely to sell, Comicon for instance isn't likely to sell vases and bowls but gothic style goblets might sell, dice trays and boxes may also sell well to the tabletop gamers, I am also looking at using Instagram as a sales platform and looking at the cost of a website.
The biggest mistake I made early on was not being able to take card payments, I missed a few sales because of this so have now downloaded the Zettle by PayPal app which allows me to use my phone as a card reader and take electronic payments.

This is all my opinion based on my experience, others may have a different view but hope it helps.
We've got a little bit in common @Cabinetman, I think we talked about this before, I was making similar things, aimed at the horse fraternity called "Tackmate" and did a few shows, sold a few but not enough to cover the costs, that was early days internet mind, I wonder now, in hindsight, if i'd put another 0 on the price they would have sold more.
We've got a little bit in common @Cabinetman, I think we talked about this before, I was making similar things, aimed at the horse fraternity called "Tackmate" and did a few shows, sold a few but not enough to cover the costs, that was early days internet mind, I wonder now, in hindsight, if i'd put another 0 on the price they would have sold more.
Haha, quite possible, but I also realised that a lot of the horse set are stretched with looking after horses. And just because they might have a bit in the bank it doesn’t mean they want to spend any of it.
The shows like Burghley are really silly/greedy. The people visiting want to see horsey stuff but it’s priced out exhibitors range, so the stalls all end up being fashion and other high mark up stuff. Shame really.
I knew someone had made some horsey gear. Shame it didn't work though. It's true that a single product isn't so economical to market so shops who already have a presence can be better albeit at a cost.
Own the channel not the product. What does that mean? Well it means control, the access to the market rather than making the product. You are limited by the number of hours you can work, so inevitably you either source product or employ people. Which is better, well, for a new business it’s most often better to buy in and sell at a low margin than to employ. Design and then have others make it whilst ensuring you control distribution is the trick.
There is little to no money to make at the craft end of the market unless you are selling food. Cakes, coffees, bacon rolls. There is a reason the owners of the venue keep the kitchen for themselves- cynical but true in the craft shows I used to attend. Most people are just there to kill time. We used to call visitors PPPs -pick up, put down, p off. Electronic craft shows are not much better, people expect to pay very little because, as they see it, you do it for fun, as a hobby, not a living. You get a fun activity, they get something for cheap.
Last edited:
One thing, never call your maker space a workshop, if it is a STUDIO, you are an artist. Very different type of market compared to craft.

Talk to the buyer in your local outlets (galleries and garden centres) they will be very open about what sells, where they source things, what their mark-up is, whether they buy and sell-on, or display and take a cut, if they carry insurance, and so on). My garden centre was clear, I only want carved mushrooms, everything else I import for far less than you can make it. Bit of a wake up call, that one, but, it did make me buy a chainsaw carving rig…
shame the op has not replied or acknowledged / answered some of the questions

We have purchased from Craft Fairs , if the item is different
Losley both their Summer and Christmas fairs - purchased a Knife set, and added to that on future events
Denbey's - purchased some Paintings & crafts in past as presents
Stanstead Park - Been going to that fair since about 2003ish , This year is its last year

A lot of the woodworking stuff is very much the same at a lot of these fairs , from different providers, so would be worth attending those and talk to some of the exhibitors, although I suspect they may not be very forthcoming