Almost anyone can “craft”. However, if you want to be considered seriously (either in the online universe or in the physical world), you really should start looking at yourself as a professional. A professional can be defined by “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize” him/her. So, the big question comes up: “How, in this big marbled earth, do I take something so common and simple as diy crafts, and turn it into a profession?” Simple wimple, just go back to the definition: conduct, aims, and qualities that characterize.
The way that you conduct your business affairs say a lot about you as a professional (or not in some cases). Competency is having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; or being properly qualified. A professional knows what he is doing and doesn’t second guess himself for any reason. Having honesty and integrity is a freedom from deceit or fraud, an adherence to moral and ethical principles. Customers can trust that you mean what you say and aren’t trying to con them. You have been proven as someone who honors commitments and doesn’t consider obligations lightly. A professional crafter is polite. No one wants to even be around someone who is rude, much less to purchase products from them. Yes ma’ams and no sirs, thank you’s, please’s and I’m sorry’s will take your image as a professional quite far. Know that the customer *IS ALWAYS RIGHT* and take the blame for any miscommunications or misunderstandings.
Taking your little crafting business seriously means that you have goals and aims set for the future along with reachable deadlines for those. Your crafting is not just an “in-the-moment” consideration, but something that you are planning on continuing in the future. A professional has an ongoing career, not just a summer job. Take the extra time and expense to build up your expertise, become an expert in your craft, know all the techniques and possible material choices. Just like a doctor, stay up-to-date on changing trends, new methods, or possibly easier ways to do your craft. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have the tools that you need to do your craft. Someone who is unprepared is quickly dismissed as an amateur who just doesn’t know what he’s doing.
When you go into that little head of yours and you think about any professional people that you know, what do you think of? Do you see business suits, stuffy phone conversations, or otherwise “not fun” people? Well, while that may be one aspect of a slight part of what professionalism is, it doesn’t have to define you. The qualities of a professional are simple: knowledge, reliability and accountability, image, and self regulation (Time management and organization).
Knowledge: Do you know what you are doing? Selling your craft is not just about making that craft and throwing it up on a website. You have to know the nitty gritty about selling and marketing. Anyone can throw pictures and short descriptions up on the internet, but a professional crafter is going to know how to really sell the product.
Reliability and accountability: Can someone else rely on you for something? When you say that something is going to get done at a certain time, get it done by that time (I know some people will add time to their deadline to ensure that they will get it done by then, even if something else should pop up to hinder that)(Check out my other blog post: Reasonable Answers to the “How Long Will it Take?” Question). Being accountable means that you can reasonably explain or justify what is going on. If, for whatever reason, you just can’t meet your deadlines, you’d better have a pretty good reason (snow storm, broken leg) otherwise your customers will lose trust in you and that’s not a good thing for future business dealings.
Image: No, I’m not talking about the stiff suits that work in “offices” all day long. However, if you go out in public wearing your “crafting clothes” (the attire that you wear while you are doing the work) you are putting forth the air of not really caring how you look. This can be linked back to you not caring about your work. I love wearing yoga pants and tank tops just like the next stay at home mom, but if I am meeting with a potential client or business contact, you can bet I’ll be doing a bit of grooming before hand. You don’t have to dress in business formal to be considered a professional, but decent attire can go a long way towards your image.
Self regulation (time management): Selling your craft is going to take a toll on your time, and you are going to have to regulate your time yourself. There isn’t a time-card to punch in, and no one else is going to be making up a schedule and requiring you to stick with it. You are the one who decides how much time goes into research, creating, marketing, selling, etc. You have to develop the self-discipline to keep yourself on track (don’t click on the email tab, and definitely stay away from the facebook or pinterest tabs!). Focus on what you have decided needs to get done. Treat your work as a professional career (not a time-passing hobby).
Self regulation (organization): Do you know what you have in inventory? Better yet, can you find your inventory? What about all your crafting supplies, shipping and labels? Not to mention all of the paper work. Who ordered what, when does it need to be completed, and where is it going? If organization is a difficulty for you, I suggest you click on over to another post that I wrote a few days ago about Organization – it’s important for any business, but especially a crafting one!
So, what can you do to become a professional crafter? Well, let’s break it down into five do-able steps:
- Have the knowledge. Know *everything* about your craft.
- Set an aim. What is your long term (and short term) goal for your business?
- Stick to your commitments and obligations. Be trustworthy.
- Manage your time. Set deadlines, have goals, be organized.
- Look the part. Be presentable, not a slob.
It doesn’t take much to set yourself apart from the hobby crafter, but you do have to take your job seriously and consider it an actual job. Take your crafting business to the next level, become a professional about it!