Make Big Money Selling Tiny Things: How to Sell Handmade Dollhouse Miniatures
What’s tiny, handcrafted and expensive?
No, the answer isn’t jewelry. It’s dollhouse miniatures.
There is a vibrant community of dollhouse enthusiasts willing to pay top dollar for well-crafted miniatures. A one-inch scale stove can cost more than $250.
Are you a dollhouse fanatic looking to fund your addiction? An everyday artist with a penchant for fiddly, intricate work? A zero-waster with a million ideas about how to upcycle a toothpick? Selling miniatures could be the side hustle for you.
How to Sell Handmade Dollhouse Miniatures
Cierra Fillyaw got into dollhouse miniatures in 2020.
“My husband said I should try selling them, so I did,” she said.
Her business, The Occult Co., has racked up over 700 sales of spooky, witchy miniatures.
Read more to learn the tips and tricks that helped her get there.
1. Research the Dollhouse Miniatures Community
If you’re not already a dollhouse hobbyist, there are some things you should research before breaking out the balsa wood.
No. 1: Scale. “Miniature” is not a standard measurement. Dollhouses come in different shapes and sizes. Miniatures do too.
The most popular scale is 1:12, or one-inch scale. The majority of dollhouses are designed in this scale. There’s also a big market for 1:6, or Barbie scale. Finally, there are niche markets for 1:16, 1:18, 1:24, 1:48, and 1:144 scale.
It’s up to you which scale (or scales!) you choose to work in. There are more buyers in 1:12, but fewer makers in other scales.
Whatever you do, make the scale of your items completely clear in the description. You don’t want a dissatisfied customer complaining that the miniature furniture you sold them is too big to fit through the dollhouse door.
That said, not all miniature buyers are decorating dollhouses. Many of Fillyaw’s customers are decorating pet insect and arachnid enclosures. “My husband calls me a spider carpenter.”
2. Choose Your Niche
There are miniature versions of practically anything you can think of: Food, furniture, plants, appliances, and even garbage. Can you stand out from the crowd by making something truly unique?
“I’ve always been the odd one out as far as dealing with the occult,” Fillyaw said.
Now, the Occult Co. sells miniature grimoires, crystal balls and spellbooks. Her expertise in the dark side has earned her loyal customers. Whether they are decorating a spider enclosure or a Goth Barbie dreamhouse, they know they can count on her.
What kind of miniatures would you be excited to see? That’s probably what you should be making. If you’re an art lover, print tiny Monets. If you’re a crazy cat lady (or lad), tuft some micro hairballs.
If it delights you, there’s a good chance it will delight customers.
3. Make Quality Dollhouse Miniatures
The beauty of dollhouse miniatures is you can make them with just about anything.
“I just try to find stuff that I have lying around the house,” Fillyaw said.
Her crystal balls, for example, are made of spacer beads and marbles.
For more inspiration, check out the popular Facebook group Dollhouse miniatures made from everyday things. An old blouse becomes a curtain. Coffee stirrers become parquet flooring. Gold candy wrappers become fire.
Overwhelmed rather than inspired? Don’t worry. You can make miniatures out of conventional materials, too. Wood, foamboard, and resin are popular options.
A good place to start is polymer clay. It’s a relatively quick, easy and inexpensive way to make miniatures. There is a wealth of resources about miniature sculpting online. You can find tips and tricks like using chalk pastels to create realistic textures on baked goods.
More tech-savvy creators should consider 3D printing. Once you’ve designed (or downloaded) the .obj file, you can print as many items as you want.
4. Set Up Shop
Dollhouse miniatures are available for sale in many different venues. Which one should you choose?
Etsy is a good place to start for any small handicraft business. Customers searching for dollhouse miniatures can find you organically. It can be tough at the beginning, though. Buyers are often wary of Etsy shops with few reviews. Expect a few months of slow sales before things pick up. And once they do, you won’t see all of it — Etsy takes a cut.
Pro: Built-in marketing, simple to set up
Con: Slow start, fees
There are many Facebook groups devoted to buying and selling dollhouse miniatures. Why not post your work there? Well, two reasons. One, people are more likely to haggle with you on an informal social media platform. Two, you have to figure out how to accept payments, fulfill orders, and deal with scammers by yourself.
Still, it’s an easy way to get up and running.
Pro: Passionate dollhouse community, low barrier to entry
Con: Drama, DIY shipping and payment
The popular auction and e-commerce platform is chock-full of dollhouse miniatures. In many ways, it’s a similar environment to Etsy. The big advantage of eBay is that customers can bid on your items and, at times, this can lead to higher sale prices. The downside is that it’s harder for businesses to build a brand. eBay’s storefront options aren’t as visually appealing or unique.
Pro: Big market for miniatures, option to auction
Con: Fees, limited brand-building
The best way to build a brand is with an independent website. No middleman, no fees. And no support. Payments, shipping and customer service are all your responsibility. It’s a big commitment with big potential rewards.
Pro: No fees, credibility boost
Con: Everything is DIY, which means more work
Don’t forget the good old-fashioned in-person sale. Check to see if there are any art fairs, dollhouse hobby meet-ups, or maker markets near you. This can help you reach customers who aren’t plugged in, like the very young and very elderly. Just be prepared to break out the folding table and stand around all day.
Pro: Reach offline customers, showcase quality miniatures
Con: Costs time and money
5. Price With Care
You’re all set and ready to sell. But before you post your listing, double-check your prices. Miniatures are intricate pieces of art that take time and materials to make. Calculate those costs before you lose money.
Fillyaw learned this lesson the hard way when she listed a pack of eight miniature skulls for $12. Then a customer ordered four packs.
“I had to make 32 of them. And I make them from scratch scratch,” Fillyaw said. “It just became too time-consuming.”
That doesn’t mean you have to charge $500 per piece.
“I want my stuff to be affordable and accessible to everyone,” Fillyaw said.
No idea how to price your items? First, make sure you cover the cost of materials. Then, log how long it takes you to make the item. Say it takes you an hour to make a miniature charcuterie board. You estimate it took you about $5 worth of clay and paint to make the item. To pay yourself $20 an hour, you need to set your price at $25. It’s a good idea to add some padding for extra profit — you can always have a sale later.
Part of the joy of selling miniatures is getting them into the hands of people who love them. By pricing your work fairly, you can feel that joy and make a profit.
Contributor Ciara McLaren is a freelance writer with work in HuffPost, Insider, and The Penny Hoarder. You can find her on Substack (@camclaren).