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Big Epp

Selling Baits Online (and in general I suppose)

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Hey all, 

I'm hoping to start selling some of my lures.  I just opened a shop on Etsy, but thought I'd reach out for some tips from some of you who have more experience with this... What sort of things have you found to be helpful when selling baits?

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Selling baits...

Few ways to go with depending on your goals.   Identify your goals and do what best suits those goals.  High end quality baits aimed at getting $$$$$, knocking out baits quick and selling numbers for cheap, are you trying to just break even, make money, etc..

Finally I will say do a search about Federal Excise Tax and fishing lures....at least be aware of Form 720 Part II No. 41.

Edited by Travis
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On 1/7/2021 at 7:18 PM, Travis said:

Selling baits...

Few ways to go with depending on your goals.   Identify your goals and do what best suits those goals.  High end quality baits aimed at getting $$$$$, knocking out baits quick and selling numbers for cheap, are you trying to just break even, make money, etc..

Finally I will say do a search about Federal Excise Tax and fishing lures....at least be aware of Form 720 Part II No. 41.

Or just be like 90% of people out there and don't file for excise while you rip off all your fellow fisherman... IRS doesn't care. Just a few minutes on facebook shows that.

 

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9 hours ago, Salty's said:

Or just be like 90% of people out there and don't file for excise while you rip off all your fellow fisherman... IRS doesn't care. Just a few minutes on facebook shows that.

 

Ain't that the truth.  There's a guy on there selling handmade wooden baits for $19.99.  They aren't exactly the best looking lures out there (I wouldn't buy one, even for that cheap), but $19.99?  I know what kind of materials costs are involved, and he should be paying 1.199 in FET on each one, so his profit can't be more than $10 per bait.  That $1.199 would put a big dent in that if he was actually paying it.  I don't know for sure, but I gotta think guys selling at that price are simply ignoring it.  I don't know.

I already registered.  Filed the LLC and registered to collect sales tax and registered the FEIN for FET.  Accountant charged me only $50 to set it all up.  FET is paid quarterly, sales tax annually.  Not that big of a deal, IMO.  Just raise my prices a bit from where I thought I wanted them to be.

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I'm going the same route as @exx1976.  I haven't sent in my paperwork yet, but I'll keep the whole thing above board.  It stinks to pay the piper, but like you said I'll just build it into my prices.  The challenge for me is making a quality bait efficiently enough to make the price worth my time/effort and acceptable to a customer.  If I'm just making some for myself and my friends it doesn't matter if it takes me 7 hours to get it right, but for a seller 7 hours x $10/hr is $70, which looks steep for a 2 1/2" crankbait...

The next thing I need to do to help figure out the actual cost is time myself making different lures and see what the actual investment in time is.

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2 minutes ago, Vodkaman said:

My charge rate is significantly higher, which is why I never entered the lure market.

Dave

Exactly, which is part of the challenge.  Figuring out a charge rate that makes it worth my time and also still sellable.  Maybe if could get Kevin Van Dam to use one of my baits...

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People do not buy hand made baits because they are cheap, they buy because the lure is unique and of the highest quality. Your bait has to gain a reputation for catching MORE fish than the chunk of plastic on the shelf at Walmart.

Yes, you need a pro angler on board who believes in your lure. A Kevin Van Dam is not going to get the job done, people will not attribute his success to the lure but to the man himself.

I would take my lure to a struggling pro, get him to try the lure, prove that it is a fish magnet, then you can both retire on the lure's success.

Only my opinion; charging $10ph is not doing you or your lure's reputation any good at all, you might as well just give them away.

No, I am not rich. I cannot afford to live in my birth country of UK and certainly could not afford to live in USA. A few years ago, I lowered my charge rate to $25ph to do some mold design work. I regretted that decision, it stuck in my throat and formed an indigestible knot in my belly. I vowed never to do that again. My last paid design job was $100ph although I could be tempted out of bed for $70ph for a short engagement.

Like I said, not rich. My philosophy was always work to live, not live to work. Here is a quote from George Best:

"I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars, the rest I just squandered."

Dave

Edited by Vodkaman
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3 hours ago, Vodkaman said:

People do not buy hand made baits because they are cheap, they buy because the lure is unique and of the highest quality. Your bait has to gain a reputation for catching MORE fish than the chunk of plastic on the shelf at Walmart.

Yes, you need a pro angler on board who believes in your lure. A Kevin Van Dam is not going to get the job done, people will not attribute his success to the lure but to the man himself.

I would take my lure to a struggling pro, get him to try the lure, prove that it is a fish magnet, then you can both retire on the lure's success.

Only my opinion; charging $10ph is not doing you or your lure's reputation any good at all, you might as well just give them away.

No, I am not rich. I cannot afford to live in my birth country of UK and certainly could not afford to live in USA. A few years ago, I lowered my charge rate to $25ph to do some mold design work. I regretted that decision, it stuck in my throat and formed an indigestible knot in my belly. I vowed never to do that again. My last paid design job was $100ph although I could be tempted out of bed for $70ph for a short engagement.

Like I said, not rich. My philosophy was always work to live, not live to work. Here is a quote from George Best:

"I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars, the rest I just squandered."

Dave

Excellent points, these.

Presently, it's taking me roughly 3 hours of actual hands-on work, per lure.  The bulk of that (probably 50%) is spent painting.  As I get better at it, and paint more than 1 or 2 baits at a time in the same pattern, this time will go down.  Much of that painting time is spent cleaning the airbrush between colors.

My target price point to enter the market with my first lure is $60.  After taxes and materials costs, that leaves me about $45ish profit.  From there comes income tax, plus time spent keeping the books, responding to customers, processing orders, traveling to the post office, etc.  Not much headroom.

My plan to increase profit is twofold:  First, as my painting skills improve, so, too will the appearance of my lures, which means I can increase prices.  Second, lowering cost - in terms of both materials, and amount of time spent per bait.  If I become serious about this, I'll find a better wood supplier, and I'll order materials in a more bulk manner, which will drive those costs down, and see above about reducing time spent per bait.

Additionally, I already have plans for other lures in the works, including a larger trolling bait, with an aluminum lip, that will be through-wire.  That will likely have to go for somewhere in the $125 range - which is very competitive with other lures out there in that segment.  Most of them are in the $100-110 range, and are still using screw eyes.  I plan for this lure to be a premium quality lure, so it will command a premium price.  Buy it from me, don't buy it from me, I don't really care.  As Dave once said:  "Customers either want to fish your lure, and are willing to pay the price, or they aren't."  It really is that simple.  I guess we'll find out soon enough.  :)

Either way - I'm not looking at this as a day job, not even remotely a replacement to my day job.  I plan to only make lures from October or November until March or April, as a way to pass the horrible winters up here.  From March or April until October or November, I'll be out using the lures, not making them.  When I sell out for a season, sorry about your luck, wait until I start up again in winter.  It's nothing more than a hobby or a way to pass the time.  If I happen to make a few bucks at it, so much the better.  I'll be happy if I can use it to pay off the truck and the boat a few years early.  Not expecting much, so it'll be difficult to be disappointed.

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6 hours ago, Big Epp said:

I'm going the same route as @exx1976.  I haven't sent in my paperwork yet, but I'll keep the whole thing above board.  It stinks to pay the piper, but like you said I'll just build it into my prices.  The challenge for me is making a quality bait efficiently enough to make the price worth my time/effort and acceptable to a customer.  If I'm just making some for myself and my friends it doesn't matter if it takes me 7 hours to get it right, but for a seller 7 hours x $10/hr is $70, which looks steep for a 2 1/2" crankbait...

The next thing I need to do to help figure out the actual cost is time myself making different lures and see what the actual investment in time is.

You are correct and many would find making baits is a losing endeavor if they put any dollar value on their time.  

Building cranks one off is about the least efficient way to make cranks.  Multiples pay off as less time is wasted setting up tools, measurements, etc..  Some aspects are rather quick so may just knock out a bunch of blanks for future use.  May take 30 minutes and drill all the hook hanger and belly weights, etc.. (jig holds the blank in position on drill press).  I will just keep blanks in plastic shoe boxes or shallow tool box trays in different stages.

   DSC_0030.thumb.JPG.5c5cf51e30be2f9b187f0f7b1add5e7e.JPG

If time really becomes important and you don't mind switching media.  Taking a master and molding it a few times will allow you to really kick out finished baits in a hurry.  

IM000376.jpg.092bdd614750d1023d66cac41118c9a5.jpg

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@Travis, I really like the idea of doing multiples and moving the lot from step to step.  It's been mentioned in other discussions as well.  It just makes sense to go from one station to another.  I'm trying to set up stations to handle maybe 12 baits at a time.  I don't think I'll ever shift to mass production, but I like the idea of doing lots.

I think my favorite step in the process is clear coating.  It really makes the baits pop once they get a good glossy clear coat.  It's nice to see the time and effort come together in the finished product.

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Good plan. I liked 10 at a time. The advantage is that you become more skilled at each operation, with an appropriate improvement in time.

This will sound 'nerdy' but you need to do a time and motion study on yourself. You will be amazed with the time that can be picked up with secondary movements like tool placement; by placing the wire cutters in the same place on the bench every time, then no time is lost searching for the tool. By placing the tool on the bench at a certain angle, the tool can be picked up and ready for use without the need for a juggling act.

If you record the real time for each operation, then you can calculate what your production capability is. Do not be tempted to make it a competition, always going for personal best times, this is not what it is about. Then, you may decide that a good alternative would be a day of lead work rather than 12 at a time, and so on.

Lots to think about on this subject of time and motion.

Dave

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3 hours ago, Big Epp said:

@Travis, I really like the idea of doing multiples and moving the lot from step to step.  It's been mentioned in other discussions as well.  It just makes sense to go from one station to another.  I'm trying to set up stations to handle maybe 12 baits at a time.  I don't think I'll ever shift to mass production, but I like the idea of doing lots.

I think my favorite step in the process is clear coating.  It really makes the baits pop once they get a good glossy clear coat.  It's nice to see the time and effort come together in the finished product.

That's what I'm doing - moving an entire batch from step to step.  I'm working with a lot of ~40 blanks right now.  I have them all to the step that they are sealed and primed and ready for paint.  Paint is where I plan to deviate.  Initially, I plan to do runs of only 2 or 3 of a particular pattern.  If the lures become somewhat popular and I'm selling them, I'll do runs of 10-12 of each color.  My turner currently holds 20 lures, so that's about my practical limit for a batch at this time.

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On 1/21/2021 at 8:18 PM, Vodkaman said:

Good plan. I liked 10 at a time. The advantage is that you become more skilled at each operation, with an appropriate improvement in time.

This will sound 'nerdy' but you need to do a time and motion study on yourself. You will be amazed with the time that can be picked up with secondary movements like tool placement; by placing the wire cutters in the same place on the bench every time, then no time is lost searching for the tool. By placing the tool on the bench at a certain angle, the tool can be picked up and ready for use without the need for a juggling act.

If you record the real time for each operation, then you can calculate what your production capability is. Do not be tempted to make it a competition, always going for personal best times, this is not what it is about. Then, you may decide that a good alternative would be a day of lead work rather than 12 at a time, and so on.

Lots to think about on this subject of time and motion.

Dave

Dave says "nerdy". I say "sexy". @Vodkaman you are amongst nerd friends here:) The nerdier the better:)

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@Travis man those cranks look great. I noticed your lips have a notch cut into them. Can you explain why you do this? I am genuinely curious as I've made mostly jerks and lipless cranks thus far. I'm right at the point of being ready to make divers so any insight into lip design will be a plus:)

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7 minutes ago, fishordie79 said:

@Travis man those cranks look great. I noticed your lips have a notch cut into them. Can you explain why you do this? I am genuinely curious as I've made mostly jerks and lipless cranks thus far. I'm right at the point of being ready to make divers so any insight into lip design will be a plus:)

The line tie ends up passing through that area.  Some of the blanks have the line tie inserted (not glued in yet) and you can see it passing through the empty slot.  

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Carving out of wood I could never do it because I am not efficient enough 

Molding and pouring is another story. Like others have said building in batches makes a difference. What I will do is pour blanks at random needed or not. Even when painting baits I paint extra in popular patterns.

this makes it easier to provide a batch or sell a few baits because odds are I have a some complete or partially complete lures ready to go

one thing I have also had to except is some designs are not cost effective to sell or involve too much effort to be worth while. You have to be realistic about your time and material costs 

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33 minutes ago, Hillbilly voodoo said:

Carving out of wood I could never do it because I am not efficient enough 

Molding and pouring is another story. Like others have said building in batches makes a difference. What I will do is pour blanks at random needed or not. Even when painting baits I paint extra in popular patterns.

this makes it easier to provide a batch or sell a few baits because odds are I have a some complete or partially complete lures ready to go

one thing I have also had to except is some designs are not cost effective to sell or involve too much effort to be worth while. You have to be realistic about your time and material costs 

This is currently my biggest struggle - "some designs".  For me, this means paint.  To reiterate, the hope is that the more I paint, the more practice I get, the more efficient I will become.  However, some paint schemes are taking me much, much longer than other paint schemes - twice as long, in some cases.  I'm not sure how the market would react to two "identical" examples of the same model of lure selling for two different prices based solely on paint alone.  I guess I'll find out?

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2 minutes ago, exx1976 said:

This is currently my biggest struggle - "some designs".  For me, this means paint.  To reiterate, the hope is that the more I paint, the more practice I get, the more efficient I will become.  However, some paint schemes are taking me much, much longer than other paint schemes - twice as long, in some cases.  I'm not sure how the market would react to two "identical" examples of the same model of lure selling for two different prices based solely on paint alone.  I guess I'll find out?


For myself too complicated often is a result of construction not paint. Personally I don’t get into the designer paint jobs. But I am a firm believer in action and profile over paint job when it comes to fishing 

My opinion when it comes to paint I calculate my time for both simple and complicated designs to create a base price. If the design is so complicated that it takes too much time you need to question if it is worth the effort 

You also need think about who is your target fisherman. There is a smaller customer base that will pay more for a designer paint job vs a lure that is moderately priced with a nice paint job

one possible option is release a standard line and a “premium” line at a different cost. I would sell the premium line as special order and paint them as needed. It would give you the ability to test the market without getting caught with lures you can’t sell that cost you extra time 

Something to consider 

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1 hour ago, Hillbilly voodoo said:


For myself too complicated often is a result of construction not paint. Personally I don’t get into the designer paint jobs. But I am a firm believer in action and profile over paint job when it comes to fishing 

My opinion when it comes to paint I calculate my time for both simple and complicated designs to create a base price. If the design is so complicated that it takes too much time you need to question if it is worth the effort 

You also need think about who is your target fisherman. There is a smaller customer base that will pay more for a designer paint job vs a lure that is moderately priced with a nice paint job

one possible option is release a standard line and a “premium” line at a different cost. I would sell the premium line as special order and paint them as needed. It would give you the ability to test the market without getting caught with lures you can’t sell that cost you extra time 

Something to consider 

An interesting thought, but as I mentioned - the lures are otherwise identical, save for paint.  Looking at it from the consumer side, I'm not sure I see how that would be differentiated.  Do you happen to have an example of such a lure?  Suick comes to mind maybe, but I'm not sure?  In any event, the complication of releasing multiple lines of lures is that I'm a small, basement builder, who only plans to build 6-7 months out of the year, with a MAX production volume of MAYBE 1000 units.  Adding too many different lines means fewer of each line will be produced, and more SKUs to be stocked, since I'll be selling direct to the public and will NOT be taking backorders.  What I have is what I have, and when it's gone, it's gone.  Wait until next winter when I resume production again.

Now that I'm making lures for sale, the idea is to catch fishermen as WELL as fish - hence the paint jobs.  While lure prices may be an issue for smaller items - bass, walleye, jigs, spinnerbaits, etc - I'm making wooden musky lures, and there are no shortage of anglers willing to plunk down what will end up being my asking price.  They already do it every day - in droves.  There are lures out there that are of arguably poorer construction and with crappier paint, that still move QUITE well at a substantially higher selling price than I will enter the market at.

As for construction difficulties, I've worked the best I can to create and use repeatable processes via the creation of jigs and other tools to minimize construction problems.  I would simply apply that same logic to any future designs.

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11 minutes ago, exx1976 said:

An interesting thought, but as I mentioned - the lures are otherwise identical, save for paint.  Looking at it from the consumer side, I'm not sure I see how that would be differentiated.  Do you happen to have an example of such a lure?  Suick comes to mind maybe, but I'm not sure?  In any event, the complication of releasing multiple lines of lures is that I'm a small, basement builder, who only plans to build 6-7 months out of the year, with a MAX production volume of MAYBE 1000 units.  Adding too many different lines means fewer of each line will be produced, and more SKUs to be stocked, since I'll be selling direct to the public and will NOT be taking backorders.  What I have is what I have, and when it's gone, it's gone.  Wait until next winter when I resume production again.

Now that I'm making lures for sale, the idea is to catch fishermen as WELL as fish - hence the paint jobs.  While lure prices may be an issue for smaller items - bass, walleye, jigs, spinnerbaits, etc - I'm making wooden musky lures, and there are no shortage of anglers willing to plunk down what will end up being my asking price.  They already do it every day - in droves.  There are lures out there that are of arguably poorer construction and with crappier paint, that still move QUITE well at a substantially higher selling price than I will enter the market at.

As for construction difficulties, I've worked the best I can to create and use repeatable processes via the creation of jigs and other tools to minimize construction problems.  I would simply apply that same logic to any future designs.

Anyone building numbers has tricks to make it more productive. But there are designs that builders have made that are outside of the norm that involve too much time 

Very aware of the larger lure market and there is a reason I focus on the larger species. I also sell direct to the public but have sold to retail in the past.I do not sell cheap either. I am not a bass guy. If I lived in the east I would only be making small tweaks to my designs for the musky crowd. 

from what you are describing you are looking at the higher end market limited production at a higher dollar. Following this path you should be focusing on paint jobs that target this group. You need to provide a lure that stands out from the rest paint included if this is your goal

The basic principle is pick your target customers and build with their wants and needs in mind. This has nothing to do with lure building but smart business 

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1 hour ago, Hillbilly voodoo said:

Anyone building numbers has tricks to make it more productive. But there are designs that builders have made that are outside of the norm that involve too much time 

Very aware of the larger lure market and there is a reason I focus on the larger species. I also sell direct to the public but have sold to retail in the past.I do not sell cheap either. I am not a bass guy. If I lived in the east I would only be making small tweaks to my designs for the musky crowd. 

from what you are describing you are looking at the higher end market limited production at a higher dollar. Following this path you should be focusing on paint jobs that target this group. You need to provide a lure that stands out from the rest paint included if this is your goal

The basic principle is pick your target customers and build with their wants and needs in mind. This has nothing to do with lure building but smart business 

Agreed.  And you're mostly right about my target.  My target is "musky fishermen who want a QUALITY lure at a (relatively) reasonable price" (or an extremely competitive one, anyway).  There are plenty of guys out there with INCREDIBLE looking lures (with screw eyes!) that do limited (<500 units/yr) runs and command $200+ per lure - and get it.  I'm fully capable of admitting that my paint skills are not of that caliber (yet, anyway).

I've spent $50 for off-the-shelf lures that ended up being total pieces of crap.  I've spent $30 for plastic lures that had paint flake off after 10 casts.  I've spent $40 for plastic lures that had so much hook rash after one afternoon of trolling that they were filling with water.  The failings of these baits, and the poor quality, in general, of what's available off-the-shelf, is the whole reason I started doing this.  Then I realized that with the quantity I had to buy parts in, I may as well make some with the leftover parts and sell them to recover some of my costs, and perhaps even that of my equipment (I have another LLC I could have ran that income through).  Then I learned about the additional taxes involved, so I quickly decided against that idea.  I thought on it for a while, and realized that certainly I could not be the only one dissatisfied with these "off-the-shelf pieces of crap", and started looking further into it.  Found out there are thousands of guys who do smaller runs of baits and sell directly to the public.  I evaluated their products, compared them to my offering, had several people evaluate my paint work, and have made it as far as test lures in the hands of anglers in 6 states.  I formed an LLC specifically for this venture, I'm registered to collect sales tax in my state (and have a plan for how to handle the other states), and I'm registered to remit FET.

The lure I plan to enter the market with is an 8" minnow profile with three trebles.  With .092" SS screw eyes and Wolverine 3x SS split rings, I had planned to enter the market at $60.  However, I've since discovered an incredibly easy and repeatable way to do thru-wire, so I'm presently re-evaluating that price point.  There are screw eye lures that regularly sell in excess of $100, and still many "customers" all scream "thru-wire is king".  Of course, none of them are actually tackle builders, so they do not realize exactly how sturdy screw eyes are.  In any event, the market is yelling thru-wire, so I'll do thru-wire - and charge more for it.  I haven't decided how much more yet, but the current thought is somewhere in the $70-75 range.  If I can enter the market with an innovative lip made of material nobody else is using (that I can find), an action that is JUST different enough to set me apart (due to the aforementioned innovative lip), and a wooden thru-wire that is priced lower than competitor's more expensive screw eye lures, I think I'll have a solid leg up.

The only "complication" to this plan are the recent droves of basement builders who have sprung up, and just build and sell - likely no LLC, likely no FET, and likely aren't declaring the income, etc.  Of course, the previous statements are all speculation, and I will not name any of said builders, but - at the prices they are selling, either my speculation is correct, or...  They are either independently wealthy and bored, or they are completely OK with making a $2 profit (if they ARE actually paying all the taxes).

 

Can you think of anything I missed, or have any advice to assist me with this new venture?  I'm all ears, I promise!  :)

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