I often get emails that (roughly) say, “I want to start a craft business. Do you have any tips?”
This is a very big question.
The fact is: there’s no one solution that works for everyone, and determining the best course for your craft business will take both soul-searching and industry research.
So, while there’s no golden ticket, I do have a bit of useful advice…
The most important thing: consider your goals
Anyone who tells you that this way is the way you need to run a business to be successful is just plain wrong. There. I said it.
There are guidelines that are universal: setting goals, providing good customer service, looking for growth opportunities, etc. are all common denominators to successful businesses. But these central guidelines leave lots of room for individual variation.
Do you remember when Mary Beth Temple visited my podcast? We’re both successful crochet designers, but that podcast revealed that we run our companies completely differently. Mary Beth is heavily involved in magazine publishing and LYS distribution, while I focus more on self-publishing on my website. Who’s right? Both of us.
Our businesses are shaped by our experience and strengths, as well as our goals and constraints in our personal lives. We’re both happy. Yay!
When you’re planning to start a craft business, the first thing you need to do is give some careful thought to where your priorities are. Unless you’re superwoman, you will not be able to begin a company, produce a significant amount of product, have features in major magazines and be active on 5 different social networks the first month. You will have to make choices. And you will have to plan where it is most important to put effort into your new business.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is your niche? Sure, maybe one day you will design knitting and crochet patterns, as well as make complementing stitch markers. But when you’re starting, you probably won’t have time to do all of these well (and devote energy to growing a business). Pick a niche. When sketching your business plan/picking a name/developing a website, consider the time it will take to become a rock-star in this niche, then plan to expand.
- How much time can you devote to your business? If you need to pay a mortgage, you’ll probably be working a ‘normal’ job while you start your business. How much time can you afford to dedicate to the endeavor? Be sure to be honest with yourself: burnout leads nowhere good.
- What keeps you going? Keep in mind that whatever your craft business is… you’ll be doing a lot of it. If you want to make headbands, ask yourself, “do I want to make hundreds of them? Will that make me happy?”
- Where’s your main audience? Do you aspire to sell at craft fairs? Do you want to have a website? This decision will have major implications on where you place your early effort. Having a website means dedicating serious hours (or money) to developing the website. Decide if that’s right for your path.
- What other skills to you want to use? I actually love the social media part of my job. What extra skills do you have that you can bring to your business? If you’re missing certain skills (like graphic design/marketing/photography), prepare to either learn them or hire someone to do them for you.
Giving serious thought to these questions will allow you to begin to shape the path for your crafty business.
Then, get real advice
I’ve just given you some questions to think about… I haven’t even mentioned the work involved in actually starting your business!
Talk to others who have craft businesses. Start reading blogs and websites about small businesses. Get a good book.
I just finished reading The Crafty Superstar’s Ultimate Craft Business Guide, the new and expanded version written by Grace Dobush.
This book is aimed at crafters looking to run a part-time business, which makes it an ideal book for those just starting their businesses. Because chances are, your business is going to be a part-time affair until it gets rolling.
Grace covers all of the crucial topics you need for starting and building your craft business, including:
- determining pricing for your work
- keeping business records
- the legal end of your business
- website basics
- selling at craft shows
- media & publicity
- turning your business full time
In addition to covering these topics, Grace includes helpful worksheets that’ll get you on the right track.
The book is a fun read, interspersed with interviews and stories from super-famous crafting folks. It’s a very down-to-earth book, filled with practical advice that will (importantly!) assure you that starting a small business is feasible.
And once you’ve made your crucial decisions and gotten a handle on the basics of beginning a business, you’ll be better placed to decide if you need more in-depth information, like a hard-core book on website design or hiring employees.
What’s your best piece of advice?
Do you have a craft business? What’s your best piece of advice for newbies?