Some people ask me how I got into selling pens while at craft shows and online. My personal journey started as a woodworker and then progressed onto turning pens and selling wooden pens. Within this post the best places for a woodturner to sell pens.
There are two routes to go when selling a hand turned pen either online or local at craft fairs, markets and shows. Before that, though you need to make sure you are pricing the pens and other work to sell. My handmade wooden pens and acrylic are both priced about the same. Wood may cost a lot less than an acrylic blank but has a lot more effort in finishing and polishing with Ca glue.
Selling Pens Online
Lots of options and places to sell online from eBay, Etsy to your own website. First off, though multiple quality photo shots needed to catch the details and eyes. A picture tells a thousand words as they say. If I look back on my first photos they really were awful. I still use the same two cameras, a cheap Samsung camera or my phone but with the addition of a light box.
The first photo a clear shot of the pen then more from different angles, some showing particular luxury pen details. At least one shot should include a prop or gift box, this will help show the pen with different lighting. On some handmade acrylic pens it’s difficult to catch the true colours so the prop will help along with helping customers picture the pen in use.
Social Media Accounts
A social media presence will also help things either on the ground or online. Even if you have no website or shop, you can point people to your favourite social platform. Popular with the handmade community either Facebook or Instagram. So as not to irritate friends and family best to start a separate Facebook business page, it’s free and will keep your personal stuff separate. From the business page, you can either have your own Facebook shop or point it to an Etsy or Folksy shop. Don’t just post your daily makes or people may get bored quickly, mix it up with other things and videos. Don’t open an account on every platform or some will get left behind and that will look bad.
Selling on eBay is fast and easy to set up. Selling a few at a time with free listings or step up to the next level and pay per listing. Lots of competition and getting seen sometimes difficult, people selling work at cost or below. Recently I have watched Sierra or similar ballpoint pens selling between £10 and 15 pounds with the commission to come off.
Sell Pens On Etsy
Etsy is a large community of mostly handmade items where you can have your own online shop. If you have a Facebook business page, you can then use that to point to the Etsy shop. Where ever your selling your hand crafted work, some will always undercut you on the price that’s business. Selling wood pens here in your own shop relatively low cost with lots of control from you and the ability to create sales or offers.
Other similar options and UK based, Folksy or Amazon handmade marketplace. With Folksy you will have to drive the customers there yourself and no chance of showing in a Google search.
This has to be the ultimate for selling online, your own website. With lots of places to choose from, popular at the moment WordPress or Shopify. Using Shopify the cost really can build up once you add plugins or services on. On the upside, I’m told lots of support and hand-holding for the beginning entrepreneur.
Our own website built on WordPress and woocommerce. No one to hold your hand here but lots of written stuff online and a large community for support. The cost here can be free when selling if you wish aside from the hosting.
Selling On The Ground
You should always carry a couple of pens with you in the day for off chance use. Never knowing who you will meet, you can’t sell a pen if it’s not with you. In the office and at your desk the perfect place for people to see them and try them out. The office was actually the place where I got my first fountain pen sales and the word soon spreads. Once the word spreads, you can point people to your Facebook page or people can search online for you.
Once you look for local events they spring up all over the place, church and school events, craft fairs around holiday dates. These events cost between £10 – 30 for a 6″ table normally provided. I can find more events on stallfinder.com or you can pay for your own listing so people find you for invites.
Take good quality photos of the wooden pens for sale at these events and post to your Facebook page. This can help with advertising traffic on the day and for letting other organises see for future events and selling. With an active social media page, people can see a bonafide business, this also helps with further invitations to events.
Larger Events Around The Country
Bigger events can cost between two hundred up to a couple of thousand depending on the venue and who’s running it. High-quality events by living crafts have a massive footfall especially Christmas time at Blenheim Palace. Unlike any other event where people can wander where they like, visitors follow a zig-zag path with one entrance to the next exit. Another big event at the N.E.C again for Christmas has thousands going through the doors.
Outside of the craft and stall events, several locations around me in Northamptonshire offer shelf space to sell pens and other handcrafted goods. Some offer an open shelf anywhere in the shop and can cost £10 a month. in several locations. One location offers space in glass cabinets with locked doors if you want to touch you need an assistants help.
In Wellingborough the next town, they have The Emporium with 45 crafters in one shop selling many handcrafted items, not just twist ballpoint pens. Shelf space also a great way to sell fountain pens in London with Things British.
I know of one woodturner who supplies Harrods with pen sets and luxury pens so nothing stopping you approaching a larger department store. Mind in Harrods your turned pens will compete for space with Montgrabba and Mont Blanc pens.
Other locations to try you could approach local garden centres or if you’re near the coast lots of smaller gift shops. If you think I have missed anything about selling in the open market, please leave comments below.
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