Running a craft business isn’t for everyone, especially not for those who like things such as a predictable source of income, weekends off or company-provided health insurance. But for those who long for the excitement of the tired-but-happy life, successful crafters are usually eager to share their experiences and advice.
“Starting a business ain’t easy,” says Brendan Incorvaia of wood craft company Wood Thumb, “but it’s no more difficult to go into business for yourself crafting than it is to do so for anything else. The main obstacle to overcome is simply deciding to go for it.”
Over the years, CraftFoxes has interviewed many creators who've built their own business. They have a lot of advice to share. If you're just getting started, selling on Etsy is a great side hustle
so you can raise capital for your business. Here are some excerpts of our conversations along with links to longer discussions.
Questions to Ask
Starting any new venture requires you to ask yourself several important questions. When it comes to making a livelihood or even starting a side business, you need to answer some important questions. In the book "Grow Your Handmade Business: How to Envision, Develop, and Sustain a Successful Creative Business," author Kari Chapin suggests severa important questions to ask when trying to decide what your perfect business life would look like:
1. How many hours weekly do you want to work on your business?
2. How many hours weekly can you actually work on your business?
3. Where will you do this work?
4. How much money will this business need to get off the ground/grow?
5. How much money do you have to actually contribute to this business?
The Mindset for Running a Shop
Once you've decided what kind of business you're going to create, you need to appreciate how starting a craft business can feel. Sometimes you'll be thrilled at making a sale. Other times, you may wonder why nothing is moving. Allison Strine, co-author of "Starting an Etsy Business for Dummies" and owner of her own super-selling Etsy shop, answered a couple of questions for us about the mental challenge of being a craft business ownerWhat personality type or background is best suited to Etsy selling?
"You’ve got to have a tough skin. Setting up shop is like inviting a whole bunch of strangers over for coffee. They’re going to look at the snacks you’re offering, maybe searching for the one with nuts. Some will be thrilled that you’ve got pistachios while others are going hate the coffee and walk right out the door. That’s when you have to remember that you do make great coffee—you just can’t take it personally if they might be tea drinkers!
"Also, it also doesn’t hurt to be active in social media. You can do some great networking with a Facebook page or a Twitter account as well as hanging around cool websites like CraftFoxes!"
Being Your Own Boss
There are upsides and down downsides to being your own boss. Jill McKeever, proprietress of the store For Strange Women, is thrilled about the freedom and challenges of running her natural forest and Victorian-inspired perfume business full-time but, she says, “The work never ends, and it is easy to get caught up working 60-plus hours per week. There are a lot of other tasks besides just doing the craft, and the whole 'crafting' part becomes only a fraction of what you do.”
Brendan Incorvaia of Wood Thumb agrees. “I started out as a [wooden] tie maker, now I’m also a President, CEO,CFO, head of human resources, landlord and janitor. I spend so much time running the business that at times I start to feel removed from crafting itself.”
Margot Potter, author of "The Fine Art Of Shameless Self Promotion," underscores the importance of marketing and branding in your craft business. Here are a couple of questions she answered for CraftFoxes.
What are some common mistakes creatives make when branding themselves or their craft business?
"I think the biggest mistake is being apologetic about promotion. Also, having fuzzy or unclear branding. If you don't know who you are, what you do and why you're doing it, how is anyone else going to know?
In the book I talk about your packaging, like a product on a shelf. If you don't present yourself in a way that's intriguing, who is going to care? It's like being the world's tastiest chocolate bar in a plain brown wrapper. Are people going to pick it up because it might be tasty, or are they going to pick up something that boldly reflects what's on the inside?"
At the most basic level, what should every creative or craft business be doing to market themselves?
"You absolutely have to have a website/blog, social networking presence, logo and a strong message. You have to put yourself out there in a way that clearly articulates the core of who you are, what you do and why it matters. Everything you do should be a professional reflection of your brand, and even the smallest things like a poorly designed business card or inappropriate Facebook photos say something about you. Put your best foot forward, always. I help you do that with the exercises in the book."
How Much to Charge for Your Crafts
Kari Chapin explains how much to charge for your wares in "The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and On-Line."
"How the public determines value, what your competition charges, and your costs are a few deciding factors. There’s a whole lot more to it, of course, but we’ll start there for now.
You can get a good idea of your perceived value by checking out your competition and comparing your work with the work of others. Say you’re a maker of dog beds. Look at sizes, and see how they compare to yours in price. Or you can look for dog bed manufacturers who use the same types of materials as you or have the same look and feel as yours. Also look for products that have something in common with yours but aren’t too similar. By that I mean all dog beds, big and small and in between.
"Take note of what they are selling for, how many have been sold (if you can figure that out), and how their maker describes them. Plus read their feedback, and see what customers like or dislike about the products.
Use this information to make sure your product is priced appropriately. Perhaps you’ll find you are underpricing your goods, or maybe your sales are slow because a similar product out there sells for a lot less than yours. Studying up on the competition can help you decide the best price for what you make."
Develop a Business Plan
Once you have done your research and decided what type of business you want to start, it's time to develop a business plan. This is a document that outlines your business goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them. Your business plan should include an executive summary, which is a brief overview of your business. It should also include a marketing plan, which details how you plan to promote and sell your products or services. Finally, your business plan should include financial projections for your first year of operation. A business plan needs to be comprehensive and cover all aspects of your business. However, it should also be flexible, as your business will likely change and evolve as you get started.
Mission, Vision, and Goals: This is the part of your business plan that outlines your goals and objectives. It should include your mission statement, which is a brief overview of what your business is and what it hopes to achieve.
Your vision statement is a more long-term view of your business, outlining what you hope to achieve in the future. Finally, your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In other words, they should be SMART goals
Marketing Plan: Your marketing plan should detail how you plan to promote and sell your products or services. It should include information on your target market, your marketing strategies, and your advertising budget.
Operational Plan: This is the part of your business plan that outlines how your business will run on a day-to-day basis. It should include information on your business location, your hours of operation, and the people who will be running your business.
Financial Plan: Your financial plan should include detailed financial projections for your first year of operation. This includes your income statement, your balance sheet, and your cash flow statement.
While a business plan is not required to start a craft business, it is a good idea to develop one.
A business plan will help you to focus on your goals, stay organized, and attract investors or lenders if you need capital for your business.