As mentioned previously, whether or not any of my information and experience is helpful to you is entirely up to you and your situation. What worked for me might not work for you. I am not an expert on anything listed within my blog and don't claim to be. All I know is what my experience has been during the past two years with setting up my Linda Walsh Originals websites, blogs, plugboards, and toplists.
I started with one website and I now have 3 main websites, 6 DIY (Do-It Yourself) type shoppes, 18 blogs, 1 topsite, 1 "sewing club", 8 plugboards, and 1 monthly column called "Tips From the Blogging Queen".
I'm also an editor for Primitive Times Magazine website and Primitive Times Monthly FREE E-Zine, as well as the author of many FREE articles. I belong to many, many forums and my websites are listed in countless crafting malls, directories, and other places all over the Internet. I've participated in silent auctions, swaps, doll challenges, and generated newsletters. I've also been the featured crafter or spotlight business of the month numerous times.
I have participated in numerous online craft shows and have been an affiliate for several companies. I'm a member of several webrings and countless topsites. I've made over 1,496 handmade dolls, crafts & floral arrangements over the years and have designed over 150 doll patterns of my own.
You also should know that I'm a "hands-on" person and have done everything from designing my own websites to creating my banners and graphics myself. I am self-taught and very PROUD of it. In today's "do-it-yourself" environment I am proud to say "I did it myself."
As mentioned previously, my crafting experience on the Internet has taught me that the Internet is a fast changing environment that is always in motion. What's "new" today is "old" tomorrow. What worked for one might not work for another. And, if anyone tells you that you'll "make a killing" overnight they are conning you.
You need to know that before start selling on the web that it takes a very long time to get established on the Internet and a lot of work. Nothing happens overnight. So, as a small business crafter you need to be prepared to be a "starving artist" for a long time. In other words, if you need the income from online sales to survive the Internet might not be the place for you. You will definitely need supplementary income to support yourself while you are trying to establish your craft business on the web.
Now, there are some overnight crafting success stories, but they are definitely a minuscule percentage of the crafters on the web. And, I do mean minuscule. A lot of crafters don't have the means or stamina to keep at it. So, they just fold up their tents and move on. That's unfortunate, but that's life on the web.
I don't mean to discourage anyone from trying. I love crafting on the Internet and I wouldn't trade the last two years for anything. It's been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
So, let's begin:
Defining Your Product and Niche!
I wrote an article for Primitive Times Magazine's 11/2006 issue concerning this very topic. It was entitled "Defining Your Niche!" and would be a good place for you to start.
Getting Started! Where Do I Begin?
When I first started considering selling my dolls and patterns on the Internet I thought I wouldn't be able to do it. There was just so much to learn, so much to do that it was just overwhelming and a bit daunting.
So, I decided to take some time to learn a few things about the Internet first. To decide what I was going to sell and how I was going to sell it. I wanted to be prepared and certainly didn't want to look foolish. But, as readers of my blogs know, I just love research and history. It took me about a year to make enough products and do enough research on the Internet to the point where I was comfortable with the all the terms and definitions and had enough products to begin.
I wanted to know what FTP was, what a banner was, what E-commerce was, what hosting was, what a domain was and how I could get one. Plus, I wanted to know how customers paid on the Internet, what a webset was, what the various intricacies of a website were and whether or not I needed all of them. What about a "gateway page" or a topsite. Even a banner exchange. Did I need them? And, most importantly (at least that's what all the experts I read said) how to get listed in the search engines starting with the most important one - GOOGLE.
What about practical matters like business cards, business paper products, pictures of my products (which is crucial to selling on the Internet), email addresses. Did I need a mailing list, a newsletter, and what about advertising? The list went on and on. But, first, I needed something concrete to sell.
What Do I Do First? I Mean REALLY FIRST?
First and foremost I needed to create my products. You can't very well have a store without anything in it. Creating my products involved designing and sewing/crafting the dolls, taking digital pictures, writing pattern instructions, drawing pattern pieces, and drawing the diagrams. Once that was done I had to create not only the print patterns, but my e-patterns as well.
The next step was to educate myself on the selling on the Internet and building websites. Fortunately, my background in Computer Science was very helpful in that regard.
Looking back today on all the research that I did back then would I say it was well worth it. But, I would probably have to say that I didn't need to be as well prepared as I was, but that's me. You can kind of stick your baby toe in the water first and here's how:
I gave a great deal of thought to my business name. I knew that I wanted to have several different kinds of websites, but I didn't want to have to re-invent the wheel each and every time with getting noticed. My objective was to choose a name that was simple, easy to remember, and uniquely descriptive of my business activity not only at the time of my first website launch, but suitable for future growth as well.
In addition, designing doll patterns required my personal effort, therefore I thought, my business name should be linked to my personal identity. With that in mind, I selected Linda Walsh Originals which I believed satisfied my criteria.
I subsequently added Linda Walsh Originals Dolls where I sell handmade dolls and crafts and Linda Walsh Originals E-Patterns where I sell "instant download e-patterns."
I even wrote an article about "What To Name a Website?".
I do believe by choosing my initial business name as I did that it helped when I launched by Linda Walsh Originals Dolls business which sells "handmade dolls & crafts" and my Linda Walsh Originals E-Patterns business which sells "Instant Download E-Patterns." The logic was that a search for "Linda Walsh Originals" in the search engines would bring up all three of my businesses. And, it did - and it does. Even just a search for my name would bring all three up. And, it did - and it does.
What About Logo's and Bylines?
I created a graphic "logo" that was a combination of my initials LWO for use on my patterns, business card, and letterhead using my Microsoft Picture It software.
As to the byline, I wanted something catchy, but short. Something indicative of what I sell. So, I decided on Linda Walsh Originals - "Doll Patterns For Grown-up Girls!" Short, sweet, and to the point. I sell doll patterns for grown-up girls - not toys for children.
Subsequently, Linda Walsh Originals Dolls became "Handmade Dolls & Crafts For Grown-up Girls!" and Linda Walsh Originals E-Patterns became "Instant Download E-Patterns for Grown-up Girls!"
Little did I know how important a byline was for Internet selling and how many times I would use my byline on the various directories and websites where I wanted to list my websites or products.
As mentioned previously, it takes a long time to get established on the web. It is not "if you build it they will come." It requires work, work, and more work to get established. No slackers allowed, for sure!!! If you don't have the patience and stamina to stick it out then you might not want to try selling crafts on the Internet.
What's A URL?
URL is an acronym for "Uniform Resource Locator." This is the address of a resource (i.e. website or files) on the Internet. World Wide Web ( IE: www.) URL's begin with http://.
A domain name is the text name corresponding to a particular numeric IP address of a computer on the Internet. A domain name must be unique and most business on the Internet try to make their business name their domain name and subsequently their URL as Internet users access your website using your domain name.
Each domain name is assigned a unique numeric IP address that locates the website on the host computer or server. IP stands for (Internet Protocol which means number or address) and is a unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots (IE: 184.108.40.206). Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP address. If a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet.
A domain name is converted into a numeric IP address based upon tables that are standardized across the Internet. These tables are maintained on computers called "Domain Name Servers" or "Servers" for short. Whenever you ask the Internet browser on your computer to find a URL, the browser must consult the table on the domain name server that particular computer is networked to consult.
To get my Linda Walsh Originals website you key http://lindawalshoriginals.com/ into your browsers window. It is also http://www.lindawalshoriginals.com/ as well as www.lindawalshoriginals.com. All three are interchangeable indicators for my website on the World Wide Web. All three have the same numeric IP address.
Websites may have several different domain name extensions such as .com (pronounced "dot com") . This is one of the top level domain names on the Internets domain name system. It is short for commercial, and was intended to indicate a commercial domain name for commercial organizations. However, with the burgeoning Internet many other website domain name extensions are used , such as: .net, .org, .biz, .info, .name, etc. Dot com is the most widely used extension.
All Those Online Accounts And Passwords!
Well, I hope I've given you a pretty good indication of what I did to "Get Started."
Our next article will be Section 2 and will cover "Product Issues."
Posted by Linda Walsh Originals - "Doll Patterns for Grown-up Girls!"
Linda Walsh Originals E-Patterns - "Instant Download E-Patterns for Grown-up Girls!"