Turn your love of making handcrafts into a business that’s not only fun, but also profitable.
At some point in your progression from crafting for fun to crafting for fun and profit, you go from handcrafting individual items for yourself and friends to filling quantity orders for a broader marketplace. That’s the time to take a very business-like approach to your craft business.
Until recently crafts were usually sold locally or, at best, regionally. Now you literally have the whole world at your fingertips!
Some of you may choose a gradual progression from selling to friends, to selling at fairs and shows, to retail selling, and so on.
Others may decide to jump directly from selling within their circle of friends to the worldwide Internet market – the costs are low enough that this is surprisingly doable.
My first career was as a special education teacher. After 15 years of teaching I earned an MBA degree followed by CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) certification. After 15 years in finance I was a vice-president and portfolio manager of a major insurance company before I was downsized. Tired of the rat race, I opted for early retirement. Looking for something to do with all my free time, I started crafting and am now making a nice supplemental income from it.
As a crafter and a businesswoman, I feel I have some valuable insights into the craft business that I can share with you.
Getting Organized to Sell Your Crafts for Profit
At some point in your progression from crafting for fun to crafting for fun and profit, you go from handcrafting individual items for yourself and friends to filling quantity orders for a broader marketplace. That’s the time to take a very business-like approach to your craft business. This needn’t be daunting. You don’t need an MBA or management experience – just a bit of common sense. If you’re going to do this for profit, you need to under-stand The Four M’s:
- Meet your market;
- Minimize your costs;
- Maximize your selling price; and
- Market the heck out of your product.
Simple, right? But very few people get it. Look at the high failure rate for new businesses. It takes effort to be successful, but the task is hardly impossible.
Traditional craft retailing methods are what most crafters use to get started. They’re the easiest way, especially if you don’t know if anyone will buy what you make.
I believe that there is a market for any well-made craft, whether decorative or useful. In this era of mass production, when it seems that every store in every mall sells the same things, hand-made, unique or handy crafts are more appreciated than ever. The problem facing many crafters is how exactly to go about selling them, or more accurately, finding paying customers. The fact is that there is an awful lot of competition out there.
My own business got jump-started by my “circle of friends”. My friends noticed and liked my calling cards and began to ask me to design and make cards for them. Starting with just Broderbund’s Create-a-Card program, I was soon earning a nice supplemental income in just a few hours a week. It probably helped that I was retired and live in an area dominated by retirees. But I think that everyone has a “circle of friends” either socially or at work. Of course you don’t want to impose on their friendship by making a hard sell, but rather use or display your crafts in front of your friends to see if they draw any interest. If they do and if they’re priced right, you’re on your way to craft retailing for profit.
If your “circle of friends” market starts extending to friends of friends, you’re probably ready to tap the general marketplace of craft retailing.
Most crafters are aware of the periodic craft shows put on by local groups or even by the local Parks Departments. These usually cost little or nothing to join and should give you a fair idea of whether there is any broader interest in your craft. What better way to jump into craft retailing?
There are also organized craft shows that tour the country, most of which charge an entrance fee for participants. Check your local papers, especially the free shoppers, for information about upcoming shows
Another venue for craft retailing is at the local flea markets that spring up in every community just about every weekend. Again the entrance cost is usually minimal. The only other thing you need is a little marketing savvy.
With a little cost and some effort, you will be well on your way to knowing whether there is a market for your craft. Once you know that, you can move on and think about other ways of selling, such as in galleries, on consignment, on eBay or from your own website.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eileen Bergen Is the creator of The Artful Crafter. Eileen’s website is focused on providing information to people that would like to know more about starting a business centered around crafts.