Melanie Commin’s Folksy shop Beledien Handmade is chock-full of fabric goodness. We go behind her shop front to find out how she has grown her business and discover that understanding the importance of good product photography, being prepared for seasonal peaks, trialling small batches of products, and always being friendly and efficient have helped her turn her sewing obsession into a full-time career.
When did you start your Folksy shop, and what did you consider before selling online?
I started selling on Folksy in 2011 and basically jumped in feet first. Everything about my store has improved since the early days but it was a great way to learn fast.
Do you work on Beledien full time?
Pretty much. I also do some freelance work writing tutorial’s for sewing magazines.
How do you sell your work?
I sell through online selling sites and direct commissions.
Do you have a method for calculating your prices?
The price takes into account materials and labour with extra for selling fees and profit. On some things I make a little less than I’d like, while on others I make a little more. It evens out over time.
How do you decide which products to include in your range?
My range is mostly small accessories, with the odd larger bag thrown in here and there. When I introduce a new design I will make one or two items to test the water. If those items get a good response I will make more variations. It’s a dynamic process that’s always evolving.
Your product shots are consistently great. Do you have any photography tips?
Thank you! To sell well online it seems it often isn’t enough to just be good at what you make. You really need to become proficient as a product photographer too. Lighting is really important. I use a studio lighting kit fitted with daylight bulbs that provide consistent bright light, even on dark winter afternoons.
How do you promote your work?
I mainly use Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. Pinterest is probably my favourite for the simple reason that it’s easy and gets results. I use it a lot when I’m searching for things too.
Is packaging important when you sell online?
Packaging is a great way to emphasise the individuality of handmade. I use tissue paper, colourful twine and a little kraft envelope to hold a handmade thank-you card and my business card.
Do you have any advice for keeping your customers happy?
Post quickly, respond to queries quickly. Always be friendly and approachable.
You already have a good range of Christmas products in your shop. How do you make the most of the Christmas sales period?
By starting early. I start production and listing around the middle of the year, so I am able to build up inventory. The middle of the year is also when magazines begin thinking about their Christmas issues, so listing early increases the chances of getting noticed at the right time to get a bit of extra press. It always feels too early to be making and listing Christmas items in the middle of summer, though!
Finally, if you could give one tip for being spotted on Folksy, what would that be?
Be an active part of the Folksy community: network with others through the forums, promote each other and submit Pinterest boards for the front page.