Before You Sell Your Handmade Items

So you created your product line, registered your business, purchased business cards and now you think it is time to  sell your handmade items:

Wait!  Are you certain you are ready to introduce your product to the public?

When Michael and I first started our gourmet cookie business we were confident we made the best cookies in town!  After all, our cookies were large, moist and chewy- better than our friends and family cookies.  We also had received numerous compliments on our baked goods.  Certainly people would line up to purchase our delightful treats and that not a crumb would be left at the end of a craft show.  Prior to our first show we gave a platter of our cookies to Michael’s brother, Larry.  After we eagerly awaited a glowing report of how much he enjoyed the cookies Larry stated, “I did not like any.”  Stunned, we asked for an explanation and Larry replied  our cookies were “too sweet and moist.”  We then tasted our offering and thought cookies were supposed to be sweet but perhaps we could decrease the sugar and maybe bake the cookies a little longer. Next, we threw out our peanut butter cookie recipe and developed a much richer and peanut buttery cookie recipe that was loaded with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Again our confidence was rising so we sent a box of cookies to Michael’s brother Keith.  His wife, Angel, brought the cookie selection to her office break room.  She asked each coworker who sampled a cookie to write a few comments. Although most remarks were highly favorable a few ladies wrote “not enough flavor.” Michael and I returned to the kitchen to tweak our recipes. Even though our cookies were significantly improved from our first batches I decided to write a questionnaire with a list of seven  questions regarding our cookies and to offer it to our customers at our first craft show.  Each person who purchased a cookie and completed a questionnaire could enter a drawing for a hand-beaded autumn-colored bracelet with Swarovski crystals.  Michael and I were pleased to receive 23 completed surveys!  The majority of the customers stated our cookies were “excellent.”  By the time we sold our cookies at our third craft show ( and had made additional minor changes such as eliminating a sticky raspberry frosting) we were informed by many customers that our cookies are better than one of the most famous brand name high quality specialty cookies!

So, if you are like us, just because you think your handmade item is ready to sell does not necessarily mean you have mastered your product.

What to do before you sell your handmade items:

Select several trustworthy friends who you believe will be straightforward with feedback and have them try out your handmade items.

If you  are selling soaps or lotions, for one week, have your friends record any observations about your products. Have each person rate how the body products felt on their skin, how long the fragrance lasted, how pleasing was the scent, how smooth or fresh their skin felt after using the product, etc.

If you are selling inexpensive jewelry, give a few pieces away to your friends. Ask them  to wear your designs for one week and rate the jewelry. Ask questions such as how the jewelry felt against their skin, how easy was it to close the ends of the jewelry, how sturdy was the design, what they thought of the craftsmanship of the piece, the wear-ability, etc.

So for whatever product you are selling, create a list of several questions that are rated on a scale from one to ten and review these with your friends who tried your handmade pieces. Be prepared and also thankful for honest comments even if they are negative. If some of the questions have less than a “ten” response, ask the friend what would make the item score a “ten” in his or her eyes? If some of your products could use a little tweaking, aren’t you glad you heard constructive criticism from a friend as opposed to negative remarks from a stranger at a craft show or an unhappy customer who had a problem with one of your products he or she purchased?

Once you have made all of the adjustments, changes, upgrades, etc. now it is time to sell! Though keep in mind a good crafter will always look for ways to improve one’s skill level.

As the saying goes,” You only get one chance to make a first impression!”  Make it a good one!

Sharon Barnett is an author, jewelry designer ( and baker. You can connect with her at

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