Now for a quick look at sales platforms, there's so many I can't go into too much detail and I'm sure i'm not aware of them all but here I've covered the ones I use and the advantages and disadvantages of those.
The platforms I sell on are - My own website, Notonthehighstreet.com, Etsy, certain shows and to a select few Trade stockists.
Own Website - It's SO important to have your own website, not only do you not have to pay commission on each sale but it's vital that you have your own corner of the internet to display your products that YOU control. It is 100% you, your choice of wording, imagery, layout, links, blogs etc. You. Even if someone else designs it and a photographer takes your photos etc you still have ownership of what goes on in that space and it's a really vital way to represent your brand.
Notonthehighstreet.com - I cannot speak more highly of NOTHS. I adore being part of their community and feel really honoured to be able to sell with them. I always recommend people apply to sell with them if they think their products are right. The thing to remember with NOTHS is that they really know who their customer is and what she wants. It's highly curated so you need everything on there to be approved before you can sell it. I'm a huge fan of this because it really means that the customer is being shown products that will interest her rather than having to wade through loads of other stuff first. There is a joining fee (currently around £200+ Vat I believe) and commission of 25% + VAT (so 30%) on each item sold. It isn't for everyone but if you don't get on, please don't be disheartened, it doesn't mean your products aren't good, it just means that the NOTHS customer isn't your customer.
Etsy - I'm new to Etsy but i'm enjoying it so far. It has good stats that are helpful to find your keywords and apply them to your other platforms. It's easy to use, great for international orders as you can set your shipping costs per product and the commission fee is really low (3.5% + a small listing fee). Etsy isn't curated so there is SO much on there, this is both good and bad, it does bring a lot of people to the site but it also means you have to fight harder to be noticed. From courses and reviews I've done so far, I've learnt that the more listings you have the better, as it creates more ways for customers to find you. I've also learnt that your keywords are vital, especially the first phrase of your product title. Becka Griffin does an excellent review if anyone needs help and advice or like me when I started - doesn't know where to begin.
Shows - Can be really great, a wonderful way to meet your customers face to face and see who they are first hand as well as get your own face out there and allow people to touch and feel your products (especially for products like mine where they are so tactile everyone always wants to touch them) The important thing is to do the right shows, go visit them first and look around at the other stall holders, the visitors, the area. What time of year is it? Will that work for your products? How much does a stand cost? (+ your expenses if you need to stay in a hotel, what you'll eat etc - I always need to hire a van so thats around £100 a time too) Are people spending? Is it likely that you'll get back that cost and if not is it worth it anyway for the exposure? Don't forget that a lot of people like to see things for ideas then order online later and those sales still count towards it - I have a little text box on my website when someone places an order that asks "How did you find me?" and it's priceless for me to know if what i'm doing on Facebook is paying off or if I met them at a certain show or which magazine they saw me in etc. The long and the short of it is - figure out if it's where your customer is and whether or not it's right for your brand before you commit.
Trade - Again trade isn't for everyone, most shops look for a 100% mark up (so 50% off RRP's) and a lot of makers can't afford to knock so much off their prices or don't want to raise RRP's that much to be able to do so. Personally I've worked out a method that suits me and the mark up is different per product. You need to still have some margin but trade is more about the exposure and bulk orders that earning loads of money. Another thing i've done is spent 3 days building a PDF 'Trade Pack' with all the information, prices and imagery, that really represents what my business is about. Now when I get trade enquiries I can attach it to the email and they have everything they need. Final point on trade is to do your research too, make sure that your products will suit their shop and don't be afraid to politely decline if you don't think they will.