Okay, so you’ve decided you want to make your own enamel pins. You’ve finalized your first design & mock-up, you found the right factory to manufacture it and you’ve had your first batch produced. Now what?
The dream of one day earning enough of an income from your enamel pin sales to create more designs, or better yet to build a business from it, might seem out of reach for most of us, but believe me, it’s not. All you need is a thoughtful and informed strategy on how to sell your pins, and of course, a whole lot of elbow grease and passion.
So, how do you sell your enamel pins?
From the years of experience building a business from @pinlord, and learning about the craft through pin-makers from all around the world, here is a breakdown of the most important elements and tips to successfully sell enamel pins:
Pick the right e-commerce provider to build your online storefront:
You can sell enamel pins anywhere, but more often than not, the internet is where you can reach the largest amount of people at the lowest cost, and that usually translates into more pin sales. The hard part is knowing exactly where to start and what to do, but that’s why this article is here :)
To be able to sell pins online, you first need an online storefront where people can buy your designs, and preferably, have a fast and fun experience doing it. There are a lot of e-commerce providers out there (like Squarespace, Bigcartel, Etsy, Wix, and a whole bunch more), but from experience, I’d recommend you use Shopify. Why? In comparison to the other e-commerce providers, Shopify is generally easier to use, but more importantly, they have the most robust group of third-party apps that will make it really easy for you to ship quickly and cheaply as well as optimize your site for selling.
Also, please use this Shopify link if you want to sign up. I'll get a commision if you sign up, which will help me be able to continue writing articles like this one.
Get the price right:
When you put up your pins for sale on your site it’s also important that you price them right, since that can greatly influence how much people buy (or don’t buy) from your shop. Currently, most pins start at around $10 USD. A higher price will likely result in lower sales and a lower price might get you a few extra sales a month, but if you’re creating standard 1–2 inch hard or soft enamel pins, I’d recommend starting at the $10 standard price since that will give you comfortable profits to start building a business.
Have great pin photos:
An often-overlooked aspect of successfully selling pins online is having the awesome product shots. Like any retail store you enter, if the product looks less-than-perfect and there’s bad lighting, you’re a lot less likely to buy something. The same applies to enamel pins! Put in the effort to take GREAT product shots of your pins and you’ll see better sales. Not only will your pins look more appealing, but you’ll also differentiate yourself from the majority of pin makers that don’t put in the effort to take nice photos of their pins.
Avoid using boring white-background pics (they usually don’t grab people’s attention on social media) and instead focus on taking eye-catching photos in environments that show off your own personality. For great examples of that, check out Tough Times, Pintrill.
You’re already putting your heart and soul into making awesome pins. Allow them to shine by also putting your heart and soul into taking awesome photos!
Offer bundle packages:
Another insider tip that will help you get more pins sales is offering packaged deals of 2 or more pins at a lower price (like this one or this one). They make it easier for people to buy more pins at a lower price and you’re able to sell off your inventory faster. Everyone wins! Another great perk about deals like this one is that you’ll make more $$ per purchase since you will be able to send more than one pin per shipping package, which usually accounts for a dollar or so from each sale you ship out. Over time, cost savings like these really add up and help you build your business.
Market your pins:
Once you have a nice online store, you’ll be ready to start marketing your pins so you can reach people that might discover your work, love it, go to your site, and buy. Overall, the most effective way to do that is to use the social media platforms that most of your potential pin-buyers are already using, like Instagram and Facebook. They are free and they already have large and thriving pin communities interacting within them every day.
Start your Instagram account:
Most people first discover the #pingame on Instagram (that’s how I did), so if you want to be where most pin buyers and makers are, it’s important that you have an Instagram page. It’s an awesome community!
There are plenty of resources on how to build a following on Instagram, but if you’re just getting started, here are some essentials:
When it comes to pin-specific Instagram tips, having great photos is especially important here as well as a nicely laid out grid that will differentiate you from the hundreds of other pin Instagrams out there. Once you’re executing your top-notch visuals, you can grow faster by:
Getting featured by pin reposters (like me!): There are literally hundreds of thousands of pins on Instagram, so what pin reposters do is curate “the best ones” (according to each of their specific tastes) so people can follow one account and get a constant feed of pins instead of having to follow hundreds of individual makers. Most of them have large audiences of people that are specifically interested in pins, so if you’re just starting off and have a small following, getting reposted by one of them can be a much quicker way to get discovered by people who love pins, gain followers and make sales (doing it yourself will likely take much longer and a lot more work). Some of the pin reposters with the largest communities are @pinlord (gotta do a self-plug), @patchgame, @pincommunity, @enamelpins, @bbllowwnn, and many others.
Do pin-giveaways: Another great way to grow your pinstagram faster is by doing pin giveaways (because…who doesn’t like free pins?!). To get the most out of a giveaway, make sure that one of the requirements of entering the contest if following your page and tagging friend in the comments (here’s an example). This will ensure that more people will follow you = the more people follow you the more likely you are to get more sales.
The more valuable and appealing whatever you’re giving away is, the more likely it is that more people will enter the contest! Apart from doing your own, you can also join a loop giveaway with other small pin makers to grow and share each other’s audience.
Cross promote with other pin makers: If getting reposted or doing a giveaway isn’t your jam, you can also grow your audience by trading pins and cross promoting your work with other pin makers on Instagram. Most makers in the community are super friendly and open to helping each other out in a fair way. One tip I can recommend in order get the most out of a cross-promotion is finding another pin maker that has a similar vibe or makes pins about similar topics as you do. This way, your audiences are more likely to find each other’s account interesting and valuable enough to follow or buy from both.
Overall, to give yourself the highest likelihood of success I recommend you try all of these strategies consistently over time. Doing just one will definitely not be enough for you to get your Instagram off the ground.
Join pin-related Facebook groups:
Apart from Instagram, another social media platform with a large pin community is Facebook. Other pin-lovers chat, trade, sell and buy pins within groups on the platform and being an active part in one can help you start finding a group of people that appreciate and love your work enough to buy your pins. Currently, the largest pin-related groups on Facebook are Pin Nation and the Pin & Art Collector Marketplace. Join them, share your work and learn about the work of others!
List all of your pins on Etsy to get extra sales:
A nifty little trick to get extra pin sales without having to put in much more additional work (or $$) is listing all of your pins on Etsy (additional to listing them on your online store). Why? Etsy already has a built-in user base of people interested buying arts & crafts, like enamel pins. If you list them on the site, you’re likely going to get a handful of sales each month by doing nothing else except just having them available there.
I opened my own store under a different name and it usually gets around $100 of sales a week without me doing anything. They make commission from the sales that you make, and there are no costs of having story open, so worst case scenario, you spend 5 minutes uploading your pins and you get no sales…in my opinion, it’s worth a shot!
Sell at your local pin-con or thrift & craft events:
With the popularity of pins online, a great way to make sales that’s often overlooked is going to pin events IRL and selling your pins in person! Not only is it a great way to showcase your pins and sell them to people you can interact with in person (it’s refreshing these days), but it’s also a great way to get to know other pin makers (that’s the best part about it in my book). There are established pin-specific conventions in large cities by @patchesandpinsexpo & @pinandpatchcon, or just find your local craft fair and set up shop. Can’t find any events like this in your small town? Even better — you can organize your own! There’s no one-way to do it and it’s a great (and fun) way to get to know the pin community in your area.
Consistently put out enamel pin designs to find your best sellers:
In most cases, the following will likely happen to you:
You’ll produce your first pin or two, set up your website, start growing your following on Instagram and/or Facebook and begin making some sales. Great!
After a week of so of that, you’ll notice that you’ll be putting in the same amount of work but the number of sales has slowly start to decline. After another week, you’ll continuously post the same photos about the same pins over and over, and your audience will begin to stop paying attention. Your sales will slowly trickle to a halt.
Why? People get bored of seeing the same pins over and over, and without a reason to visit your website again, your sales will stop. This problem will be much more apparent if the first pin or pins you released didn’t get much sales in the first place. Then people will stop visiting your site much quicker.
What’s the way to solve this problem? Release pins as often as you can!
It’s really really hard to come up with a pin design that people LOVE, and releasing pin designs people LOVE is the only way to make a legitimate income from pins, because those are the pins that will continue to sell constantly over time. Unless you’re releasing pins consistently (or unless you’re just EXTREMELY talented at creating awesome pin designs), the likelihood of you releasing pins people LOVE is going to be very low. That’s why you need to consistently put out new pin designs — in order to find your best sellers!
Take my case for example. One out of every 4–5 pins I release is a best seller and sells out within a month. The other 3–4 usually make their money back and then take 2–6 months or longer to sell out. The money I make from that one best seller usually funds the next round of 3–4 pins I release and allows me to build a business. Over time, the number of great selling pins tends to add up and those become reliable income earners over time. Without regularly releasing pins, it would take a much longer time for me to create the pins people love and a much longer time to earn an income from my designs.
Not only will releasing pins regularly help you find your best sellers, but every new pin you release will give people another reason to go to your website and possibly buy older pins they hadn’t come across. Without constantly having new pins on your shop, the likelihood of people returning to your website is much lower and your sales overall will go down. Releasing new pins will also increase the sale of your old pins!
I know it might be easy to find the funds to do this at first, but believe me when I tell you, consistently releasing new pins is the key to being able to find your best sellers, sell more of your old pins and build your business. It took me a while to understand this, but once I made the effort to fund a constant release of pins, my business went up and I was able to do more of what I love: make pins!
Manage your expectations and put in the work:
Last but not least, it’s important that you know that building an enamel pin business is as difficult and challenging as building any other type of business. It took me 2 years to build mine, and during the first year, I put in the work equivalent to a part-time job and saw little to no money from it (but a whole lot of pin-joy). Given how many pin makers there are now, it might take you even longer so it’s important that you manage your expectations and put in the work. It might take you years to make an income from your pins, it might take you less time (if you’re awesome at it), or it might never happen.
My recommendation is that you enter the #pingame because you love making, buying and selling pins, not because you see it as a quick way to earn money. It’s not. If you love pins, wherever you end up, it’ll be worth it because the journey was fun, and hopefully, you make a few friends while you were at it. I have and it’s been one of the most fun journeys of my life :)