Note from Matt & Betsy: All the information here on DIY Natural is free, and we encourage readers to make and sell these simple products if they wish! We get many questions about how to get started with starting a small business and selling these items. While we have never sold them, DIY Natural contributor Debra Maslowski has lots of experience taking her products to market. And she’s letting us in on some of her best tips today!
Want to Sell Homemade Products?
Many of you have started making soap, lotion, or other products because you wanted natural alternatives to store-bought. Maybe you gave some away as gifts, then you had people asking to buy some of the things you’ve been making. Or maybe you decided you want to sell your goodies at the local farmer’s market. Whatever the reason for taking your craft to the next level, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way as I sell my own products.
Tips to Sell Homemade Products
Things to Consider Before Selling Natural Products
Check out local markets before you decide to sell. You don’t need to be exclusive, but you also don’t want to be one of ten soap makers at a tailgate market.
Do your research to determine if markets are worth your time and money. Check your local markets for booth costs and sizes available. Most smaller markets charge between $50 – $100 per show to set up a booth. I sell at one that charges $90/week and runs 24 weeks, which amounts to a very small cost per day. On the other hand, I’ve been invited to a larger local festival that charges vendors $300 for a weekend, and the booth size is 10×10. I found out it has been rained out five of the last six years. I determined it may not be worth my time even though several thousand people attend each year.
Labeling & Preparing Products to Sell
Make attractive labels for your homemade products. As long as you don’t make cosmetic claims, you only need the minimum of information. At the very least, include:
- the name of your product,
- weight in ounces or grams (or both),
- contact information (such as your website address),
- ingredients in descending order of weight,
- and a disclaimer, such as, “This product is not intended to cure disease…” etc.
Be careful in using the word “organic” on labels or signs. This term has been protected by the Certified Organic industry and can ONLY be used in conjunction with certified organic materials. Feel free to use terms like “chemical-free,” “all-natural,” or “toxin-free.”
Educate yourself on any local laws related to selling homemade products. While the federal EPA allows such things as citronella to be called bug repellent, my individual state law prohibits it. So I can’t call my bug-repelling product “bug repellent,” “Bug Off,” or anything of the sort. Now I just call it “The Spray” and let people decide for themselves.
Be sure to have enough product to sell, but not so much that you have to take a lot home. It may take some time to gauge how much to bring. Ask other vendors to get an idea.
Good Practices While Selling
Always be friendly to your customers – it goes a long way in helping win sales. You should also befriend other vendors wherever you are selling. I went to a market that had four other soap vendors, with one right next to me. We all had something different and there were always huge lines at our individual booths. We hugged and laughed and are now good friends.
Put some thought into a theme and decorate your booth to draw the attention of buyers. In the past my theme has been “green,” all natural, and Earth based. Do what works best for you and create a cohesive theme with all of your labels, table covers, displays, and even booth decorations.
Always put your best products in the front so they catch the eye. Place a bar in your customers’ hands when they approach. Ask what they think of your new bar. If they can touch it and smell it, they’re more likely to buy.
Consider handing out samples. I give out small samples of my soap with a business card attached, and the name of the soap printed on the back.
Give ample choices; if you have only three bars to choose from, you’ll get far less sales than if you have 12 types.
Be prepared to answer questions about your product. What’s in your soap? Is it all natural? Do you use coconut oil? These are just a few of the questions I get on a weekly basis. And be sure to tell customers they can find the information on the label, brochure, and website, then make sure the information is there!
Getting More Exposure
Consider building a website that not only gives detailed product information, but also includes a shopping cart so products can easily be purchased. Two free websites are Webs.com and Wix.com. You can set up a limited cart and sell right from there.
Create a brochure that matches the website and your overall theme. Have them available for your customers and add one to each bag with every sale.
Collect customer email addresses at the very least, then send them new information at least quarterly. I let customers know when my seasonal soaps are available. I’m currently preparing a newsletter that announces my new fall line.
How to Make a Profit
It’s important to have a strategy if you’re hoping to make a profit. Check the market to see what others around you are charging for a similar product, then price yours reasonably. Be sure to include all materials, including your labor, when determining pricing. Your product ought to be really spectacular if your prices are high. I’m always careful to price my products very reasonably, in line with the competition, and high enough that I can make a profit.
Take all payment methods. Most people carry cash, but many prefer using credit cards. There are many affordable options for vendors who accept credit, like Pay Anywhere, Square, and Paypal Here. Check the rates and be sure your phone or tablet will support the payment method.
Set goals, but set them moderately. I set a goal of $1000 for a show once and barely made $500. I eventually realized $500 for one day really was good!
Offer a product that’s unique to you. I have several soaps that no one else in the area has, just because I know they’re different. I’m continually making unique products so I have something that sets me apart.
How to Earn Repeat Business
Add a sample to the customers’ bag to increase sales after the sale. I’ve found they will return about half the time to purchase the product they got to sample.
Customers will make suggestions, so learn to take suggestions well! If you don’t have patchouli soap and someone suggests it, make some. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it; your customer does.
Fulfill special orders that may arise. This is a great way to earn customer loyalty. I have a customer at the tailgate market who orders 25-1 ounce bars of patchouli/citrus, and another who wants ¾ ounce bars of lilac. I fill these special orders and they continue to buy from me.
Whatever you do, have fun! I make what I love and my customers have come to embrace it. Each week they ask, “What do you have this week?” It’s always something different. You can also have a stock set of products and make special things once in a while.
Have you started selling your natural products? Do you have any tips for others? If so, please share in the comments section!