Group questions: Starting a web site for your craft business

Here is a message that we get from time to time. Feel free to add your own advice in the comments — there are a lot of Michigan DIYers looking to do the same thing. Got a question to pose to the group? E-mail

Dear Handmade Detroit,
My friend and are I looking to start a craft business online. We are not exactly what you would call “technically savvy.” What is the best way to start, or even approach building a website? It is overwhelming and we’re kind of dumb.

I realize you may be quite busy, but any help would be appreciated, even if you could steer us in the direction of someone to talk to.

Thank you for your time.
Betsy and Caitlin.

My answer (based on our experience) is under the jump.

Hey gals,

Have you tried Etsy yet? It’s basically ebay for crafters … which means its super easy to set up, but you must work at it to be seen. It is a good way to get your feet wet first before learning Dreamweaver or paying someone to know it.

I learned web design from a book called (hehe) “Learning Web Design” published by O’Reilly and a stolen copy of Dreamweaver. I think it’s the best book out there, but you have to be willing to put in the time (and possibly pony up the money for software). Other options are taking a class … I’d recommend one at a real college (OCC, CCS, Oak. U. etc.) versus a community class. All of these schools have community classes where you don’t need to be enrolled, you just need the fees. The benefit here is that you can be your own admin.

If you’re looking for a web person, I would recommend our guy Dan at Redcard Design. But I will say that hiring web people costs a lot … and if you get one who works well, are totally worth it. (This is on top of any domain name/hosting you will buy. I would estimate a simple-mediumy complex crafty site to run you $1,500-$2,000 when all is said and done.) I find most people I talk to do not know that web sites cost this much … but in using and building one, you quickly see why. It’s a lot of hours doing mind-numbing code work. It’s worth spending the money if you are serious and if you don’t have the time to build the whole thing (as was our case).

Even saying all that .. the very first thing you can do (and is a good even if you have a web person) is learn some basic HTML … structures of pages, simple tags like link tags and formet tags. There are lots of good tutorials on the web. Here is a good one.

One more thing … I’d be remiss not to tell you about The Switchboards. It’s a forum community for women crafty business people and absolutely invaluable for anyone starting up or running an indie business. There is even a section on web issues and I bet you could search for a lot of your future questions.

Thanks for writing,
Handmade Detroit