photo via re-nestWe're thrilled to have guest blogger, Amy Kalinchuk, from Craft e-Revolution write on how to start your own craft business! We know many of you are artists, handmakers, or collect vintage/antiques. You probably want to push it to the next level, but have no idea how to start. Amy's no-nonsense tips below are awesome and inspiring...feels like business bootcamp for creatives and crafters! Make this YOUR year to do it!
Starting a craft business: 5 Tips for Success
It’s a new year, and you have resolved to start your craft business. That is fantastic! Starting a business is one of the best things you can do to change your life. The lessons I have learned from being in business for myself are immeasurable.
Some of those lessons were hard-learned. Not everyone is cut out for business, but I am not here to talk you out of it. I am a firm believer in experiential learning. If you aren’t meant to be an entrepreneur, the only way to learn that is to try it, wholeheartedly. I have owned my craft business for over six years and my publishing business for over five, and have learned more than I could have imagined about business and crafting during that time. If you are considering turning your favorite craft into a business, you might find the following list of tips and advice helpful.
1. Don’t wait for “the right time.” The right time is now. Do not wait for the money to come in--find a way to make it work. I don’t recommend going into debt to start a craft business. Start selling your stuff to friends and family, and use that money to purchase equipment or supplies. You will need to re-invest this money for quite a while, until you see a profit. If you want to use credit cards, do so knowing what you can pay off quickly, and stick with a budget. Pay them off as fast as you can, using the profits from sales. Whatever you do, just jump in. If you are the kind of person who waits for the “right time” to do things, then push yourself out of that comfort zone.
2. Use free or low-cost online outlets to your advantage. Had I known about Etsy when I was first starting out, I would have started selling there immediately. It is a low-cost way of starting your online presence--and you must have one. Even if you think you will sell mostly at craft fairs and through networking, you must still have some sort of website. A shop on Etsy is free to own, and very low-cost to start selling there as their fees are based on sales: if you have no sales, the only fee you pay is the listing fee of 20 cents (which is good for 4 months).
Artfire is another low-cost option online. They have a flat-rate, monthly fee for their “Pro” members, which is very reasonable (currently $9.95/month). If you are unsure that you will be able to cover that cost, Artfire does have a free “Basic” option as well, which has limited options. It’s still a great free service, if you have only a few items to list.
some of Amy's soaps!3. Don’t let the details overwhelm you. There are eight million and three of them, so it’s easy to let this happen. You must register your business with the city, county, state, and your grandmother. You must pay a fee for all this. You must open a bank account, find the best suppliers, go thrift shopping, and clean out your garage.
Listen to me. Write it all down on one list. All of it! Then, choose one thing (one thing!), and do it from start to finish. Then cross it off your list, and the next day/week/weekend/time, choose the next thing on the list. It will all get done, but you must not let the details prevent you from starting.
For an easy online way to keep track of all this, sign up for Teux Deux. It’s free and fabulous.
4. Start your blog now. There is absolutely no reason for you to wait on this. If you are going to have an Artfire or Etsy shop to start with, because you want to save money, then start a free blog through Blogger. Or, you can have a Wordpress blog. If you are scared of this process, start with Blogger and roll with it. It’s very easy, and it’s absolutely necessary. This is part of your branding, and it’s the first way you can start to create a following. Once people are following your blog, they will want to read more and more from you, and are easier to turn into customers.
The same advice is true of Facebook and Twitter. Just do it. All of this is free. Put these to-do items on your Details list from #3 above. Don’t know what to say? Tell people you are starting a craft business, and then respond to their comments. Ask your readers direct questions. Do they prefer floral or woody scents? Which colors are in their living rooms? The key is to respond as often as possible, and start an online conversation.
5. Focus your efforts. Focus on one area of crafting, not a bunch. Make things that “go together.” For example, I make and sell soap. A natural progression for my product line was to make lip balm, since it uses the same oils that I use to make soap, and it’s also a skin product. After that, I started making sugar scrub, bath salts, and bath fizzies--all things that are good for the skin.
My customers would have been confused if I had made soap, then moved to makeup bags, and also offered carved wooden cutting boards and huge, welded garden sculpture. While I do make a beautiful and practical makeup bag, and my garden sculptures would surely be the talk of the garden tour, none of it makes sense together. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be able to grow my business that way--my customers would not come back, because they wouldn’t know what I was making next. What is your chosen craft? What naturally goes with that? Plan to grow in this way--by adding to your product line. Start with your favorite craft, and then branch out sensibly.
It is an exciting time for you right now. Make a promise to yourself that this year will be a year of action. Which of the five items above will you focus on today?
Amy Kalinchuk publishes photographed craft tutorials in ebook format at Craft e-Revolution, which launched in 2010. She is rewriting her three books, and is currently publishing two other authors. She is working on a craft business book, right now, and has a wicked pain between her shoulders from the hunching over.