The image of a crafter or artisan is often serene, even pastoral. It's easy to imagine a potter spinning his wheel in his barn-turned-studio and then selling his wares at the little farmer's market down the road. Or a knitter, knitting quietly with a dog at her feet and a cup of tea as she gets ready for this year's Christmas craft fair.
But, in today's global market, such crafters, artisans, artists and designers need not rely on farmer's markets and craft fairs alone. The Internet provides such crafters with access to a global market, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, traditional methods of selling just can't compare in terms of sales and exposure.
An online presence can be a great benefit for any type of crafter, be it a jewellery maker, a knitter, a glassblower, a potter or a painter. It gives crafters credibility as a legitimate business because now their customers can easily access their information, including contact details (in fact, customers may consider you less credible if you don't have a website).
Crafters can advertise their domain name on their flyers, business cards and signs, and potential customers will automatically go to their website to find out more about them and their products. Crafters can have a complete, updateable inventory of their products with photos on their website, making it easy for a buyer to simply click and order.
A presence on the Internet is essentially like having a store opens every day, all year long ? no waiting between those craft fairs or local tourist season. And their customer base grows automatically from a limited local market to a worldwide one.
Considering all these benefits and the knowledge that if you're not online, your competitor will be ? having an online presence isn't so much a question of "Should I?", but "How do I?". But the thought of managing a website, especially one that offers online ordering, can seem daunting for many small entrepreneurs.
Crafters can hire a website designer to create an online presence with ecommerce capabilities for them. There are often high costs associated with the design and management of websites, of course. There are also concerns about things like security and payment, which must be handled appropriately in this day and age of identify theft. Another option is to join an online crafters' mall. A good crafters' mall will make things easy for crafters, as it will have created the basic infrastructure already and they won't have to worry about the logistics of maintaining the website; they will only have to update their personal information and fill the orders that start coming in.
Catherine Stabler is owner of the virtual craft mall Gold Leaf Crafters (http://www.goldleafcrafters.com), which brings together crafters, artists, artisans and designers with interested buyers worldwide via the Internet.