Best sellers, pricing, online markets

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RunnerVince

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Joined
Dec 18, 2019
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38
Location
Ogden, UT
I've started up an online shop to try to fund my addictionhobby, and I'm wondering for those of you who sell pens (either in person or online): What are your best sellers in terms of kits and materials?

I've not yet sold anything, so I have no data to go on.

I'd also be appreciative of any tips on pricing. I currently have my non-slimline pens priced at $65 and my slimlines priced at $55 (but with free shipping). Am I too high/low? In my opinion and based on pens I've seen at shows and craft fairs, I think my pens are pretty good quality.

Finally, can anyone give suggestions as for the best online marketplace? I've tried Etsy in the past, but didn't have a great experience with them. Of course at that time I did zero marketing on my own. I'm now on Bonanza. They let you choose the commission rate (starts at 3.5% and then goes higher based on how much advertising they do), and they don't charge any commission for direct sales (like if someone clicks in from your Instagram page). I've gotten a fair few views, but all of them have been driven directly from my own marketing. Not a single view from Bonanza's marketing. I like that they don't charge to list, don't charge for direct sales, and let you choose how much advertising they do, but I don't like that they're not pulling their weight with supposedly 3.5 million customers they can market to. I'd appreciate any suggestions.
 
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DavidD

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Oct 4, 2017
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Boulder, Colorado
Hey there!

(1) We might move this thread to the marketing/shows folder?

(2) Could you provide a few more details about what you're making? "slimline vs. not" still leaves a pretty wide range, especially for the "not" category! In general, however, I'd imagine that single-wood slimlines may have a hard time selling at $55; that seems pretty steep, relative to the general market.

(3) Re: where to sell. My opinion is that it isn't worth worrying about percentage points on commissions of sales until you are making sales. That is to say, finding an online marketplace that gets you views and sales should - I think - take precedent over how much they charge to drive traffic your way. Seems like every other person here has dabbled on Etsy, so I'm sure you'll get varied opinions. Mine is that it is worth the slightly higher prices, and you get what you pay for.

(4) Always happy to chat more directly if you have any specific questions. I've been using several online marketplaces since early 2017 - some with some success and others without much success.

Good luck,
David
 

Fred Bruche

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Feb 11, 2018
Messages
507
Location
Philadelphia 19146
Most of your "competition" on Etsy offers slimline pens in the $15 +/- a few bucks range, and these include pen made using fancy segmented blanks (for example). So everything else being equal and if you put yourself in your potential customer's shoes, why go for a $55 slimline when on the same site you can get a similar-looking pen but 4 times cheaper?
I think it's been said around here by several, ballpark pricing for a finished pen is kit cost x 2.5-3, somewhat depending on the blank.
 

RunnerVince

Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2019
Messages
38
Location
Ogden, UT
(1) I'm happy to move to the marketing/shows folder if that's better.
(2) I guess in my head there's slimline and then everything else. I'm just looking for suggestions on what kits people find sell well. No point turning pens to sell if I'm turning for kits people don't buy, right?
(3) You make a great point. I haven't yet generated any sales from Bonanza--either generated by them or from my own efforts--so I'm wondering if you can provide suggestions for a marketplace that actually can drive views/sales. I don't mind paying a higher commission if they're actually pulling their weight. One of the draws to Bonanza was that they wouldn't charge a commission from direct sales, like people who typed in the URL for my store directly or who clicked through from my instagram page. That would basically mean a slight "bonus" when I drove the sale directly. But since they're not driving anything yet, I'm wondering if a different marketplace would be a better choice.
(4) Which marketplaces have you had the best experience with, all things considered? How much they charge me isn't such a big issue if they're driving a lot of sales my way, and, as you mentioned, you need to be getting sales before you worry about the marketplace's cut too much.

Hey there!

(1) We might move this thread to the marketing/shows folder?

(2) Could you provide a few more details about what you're making? "slimline vs. not" still leaves a pretty wide range, especially for the "not" category! In general, however, I'd imagine that single-wood slimlines may have a hard time selling at $55; that seems pretty steep, relative to the general market.

(3) Re: where to sell. My opinion is that it isn't worth worrying about percentage points on commissions of sales until you are making sales. That is to say, finding an online marketplace that gets you views and sales should - I think - take precedent over how much they charge to drive traffic your way. Seems like every other person here has dabbled on Etsy, so I'm sure you'll get varied opinions. Mine is that it is worth the slightly higher prices, and you get what you pay for.

(4) Always happy to chat more directly if you have any specific questions. I've been using several online marketplaces since early 2017 - some with some success and others without much success.

Good luck,
David
 

DavidD

Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2017
Messages
242
Location
Boulder, Colorado
(1) I'm happy to move to the marketing/shows folder if that's better.
(2) I guess in my head there's slimline and then everything else. I'm just looking for suggestions on what kits people find sell well. No point turning pens to sell if I'm turning for kits people don't buy, right?
(3) You make a great point. I haven't yet generated any sales from Bonanza--either generated by them or from my own efforts--so I'm wondering if you can provide suggestions for a marketplace that actually can drive views/sales. I don't mind paying a higher commission if they're actually pulling their weight. One of the draws to Bonanza was that they wouldn't charge a commission from direct sales, like people who typed in the URL for my store directly or who clicked through from my instagram page. That would basically mean a slight "bonus" when I drove the sale directly. But since they're not driving anything yet, I'm wondering if a different marketplace would be a better choice.
(4) Which marketplaces have you had the best experience with, all things considered? How much they charge me isn't such a big issue if they're driving a lot of sales my way, and, as you mentioned, you need to be getting sales before you worry about the marketplace's cut too much.

(1) Awesome!

(2) I think the material you turn - not the kit - is generally the differentiator. In my opinion, slimlines are among the worst pens to try to sell, because (i) everyone else starts with them simply because they are the cheapest kits - hence the competition mentioned by Fred; and (ii) they require a long time to make. I think other ballpoints / RBs are a better use of your time. Probably stay away from fountain pens as a newer seller, unless you plan to specialize.

(3 + 4) In terms of online marketplaces, I've tried:
  • Artfire from 2017-2017
  • Bonanza from 2017-2017
  • Zazzle from 2017-2018
  • eBay from 2016-2017
  • Etsy from 2016-present
  • Amazon Handmade from 2017-present.
From my own experience, Etsy was the best. However, I don't know if starting an Etsy shop now is significantly different than when I did back in 2016-2017. (Can anyone else chime in on recent Etsy store experiments?) Zazzle was quite promising as well. Amazon Handmade probably isn't the place to start, but is a decent place to expand to. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the others.

P.S., I don't use any social media, so all traffic gets driven by the platform itself - either in the form of organic SEO or paid advertising.

Good luck!
David
 

RunnerVince

Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2019
Messages
38
Location
Ogden, UT
(1) Awesome!

(2) I think the material you turn - not the kit - is generally the differentiator. In my opinion, slimlines are among the worst pens to try to sell, because (i) everyone else starts with them simply because they are the cheapest kits - hence the competition mentioned by Fred; and (ii) they require a long time to make. I think other ballpoints / RBs are a better use of your time. Probably stay away from fountain pens as a newer seller, unless you plan to specialize.

(3 + 4) In terms of online marketplaces, I've tried:
  • Artfire from 2017-2017
  • Bonanza from 2017-2017
  • Zazzle from 2017-2018
  • eBay from 2016-2017
  • Etsy from 2016-present
  • Amazon Handmade from 2017-present.
From my own experience, Etsy was the best. However, I don't know if starting an Etsy shop now is significantly different than when I did back in 2016-2017. (Can anyone else chime in on recent Etsy store experiments?) Zazzle was quite promising as well. Amazon Handmade probably isn't the place to start, but is a decent place to expand to. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the others.

P.S., I don't use any social media, so all traffic gets driven by the platform itself - either in the form of organic SEO or paid advertising.

Good luck!
David
Thanks David. I'll give the marketplaces some thought. Do you think exotics are the best place to focus? And is there much demand outside of commissioned work for acrylics?
 
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