By Lisa Nourse
My husband and I purchased our current property when we were young and poor — very poor.
Shortly after purchasing the property we got our first property tax statement. It was just under $600. Back then that was a lot of money, especially for us. I decided right then that the property would have to produce something that at least paid the taxes on it.
The property tax statement came in late October — almost time for people to start thinking about Christmas. We had a lot of evergreen trees and other plants along with a red flame grape vine that grew wild. I’m fairly crafty and creative so I decided to try making Christmas wreathes and selling them to pay the taxes.
Selling wreaths made from natural products was an easy decision.
Tip #1: Determine what you want to sell. For me, the wreaths made sense since I could use what I had on hand, purchase other items needed for very little money, or find the remainder for free. Other factors may determine what you decide to sell or what service you choose to provide.
I gathered the materials, made the wreaths, and rented a space at a local Christmas Bazaar. I quickly sold out and started taking orders for more. The following week I made the ordered wreaths and delivered them.
I made enough money to pay the taxes and decided that since it worked out so well I would make wreaths every year.
As it turned out, I did not even have to rent a space at the bazaar the following year. People that purchased my wreaths previously contacted me and pre-ordered a wreath. Some of them also ordered wreaths as gifts for their family or friends.
Tip #2: Provide an excellent product or service for your customers. This keeps them coming back and they will tell their friends and family about you.
Tip #3: Make it easy for your customers to contact you by giving them a card or attaching one to the product. With each wreath I sold, I included a card attached to the back with my phone number and email address.
Tip #4: Let people know you have a product for sale. Each year a few weeks before I started making wreaths I hung flyers on all of the local bulletin boards in town. The flyers included photos of wreaths I had made along with my contact information.
It’s not enough to rent a booth at a farmer’s market and just sit there hoping the people will come. You will undoubtedly get some customers, but if people know you will be there, you will likely increase your sales.
If you only offer sales at certain times of the year, advertise in your local paper, on social media, and hang flyers letting people know where and when you will be selling your product.
I do not have experience selling online, but it makes sense that you will want to be able to get in touch with your customers to let them know about your products, any specials or promotions that you are running, or if you will be at a certain event. This can be through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, other social media, or through an email-subscriber list. There are companies available that will help you create and maintain an email list such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
There are lots of online sales platforms to choose from: Etsy, ArtFire, and Storenvy are a few. Even Amazon has a “handmade” platform now.
Tip #5: Tell people about your product.
Along with the contact information on the card I attached to the wreaths, I also wrote a short paragraph about the materials being sourced from my own property and harvested in a sustainable manner so people would know I wasn’t out stripping the forest to make the wreaths.
It’s not hard to print some informational cards and attach them to whatever you’re selling. If you are selling produce at a farmers’ market, make a sign that lets your customers know about your growing methods and a little bit about your homestead. You can also create tri-fold flyers to hand out with each sale.
If you are selling prepared food products, be sure to let people know you have a certified kitchen and a food handlers license. This assures them that the food they are purchasing was created in a clean and proper environment with the expertise needed to produce a quality product.
To accommodate some customers, I branched out and made products they requested like this mantel garland.
Tip #6: Go the extra mile for customers. I had several older ladies that called me wanting a wreath, but no longer could drive or had other reasons they couldn’t get out. I was happy to deliver the wreaths to them. It was not much trouble for me to set up one or two days for deliveries and it made all the difference in the world to those that needed this extra service. Many of them were so grateful that they wanted to give me money for fuel.
Tip #7: If at all possible accommodate your customers wishes. There were a few people who contacted me and loved the wreaths, but preferred something they could hang along their mantle or stair rail, and a few who wanted a centerpiece for their table. So I branched out into making garlands and centerpieces as well as wreaths. There were even a few people who only wanted cedar boughs and other greenery to be able to make their own decorations. Branching out into other products was fun for me and I made sales I might not have made otherwise.
Tip #8: Know your target market and try to make your products affordable for the people that want to purchase them. Other than the cost of wire, ribbon, and a little bit of printing, most of the material used in making the wreaths was free to me. Because of this I was able to price my wreaths a little lower and beat out the competition.
There are a lot of older folks living on nothing but Social Security and these people often have to make a decision to forgo a food item if they want to purchase something extra. A lot of my customers were older ladies who wanted something Christmassy in their home, but were no longer interested or able to put up a tree with all the trimmings.
Because most of the materials grow wild on my property, both the labor and cost of producing wreaths is fairly low for me.
Tip #9: If you’re selling your items at a bazaar or farmer’s market, always have bags available. If a customer already has a couple of items in their hands, they may pass up a product if they have to juggle the rest of the way through the market and out to their car. I didn’t have to worry about packaging, but that is something that is important when considering what you will be selling, especially if you are selling products online and have to ship them. There are companies out there such as ULine that sell all kinds of boxes, packaging, and bags.
Tip #10: Create a display that is pleasing to look at and showcases your product at its best. (This includes good photos if you are selling online.) Your display should vary for different shows or events. For instance you may use baskets and crates to display your product at a farmers’ market and use something a little more refined for an arts and crafts show.
The year that I sold wreaths at the Christmas Bazaar I spent a lot of time designing and building my display to make it appealing to customers. After that first year, I was grateful I didn’t have to go that route anymore because it really was a lot of work.
The most important tip: Say thank you! Showing gratitude to your customers for helping you to provide for your family is an essential part of a good sale.