10 Tips to surviving a craft business start-up

Starting up your own business, regardless of what you are choosing to do, can be very difficult and challenging. There are certain time-consuming elements, and a slight loss of funds may result. My simple word of advice is to just keep swimming. Especially with the ever growing demand for hand-crafted goods, and the working mother is realizing “Hey, I can do something fun, make money, and not leave my kids all day!” Don’t worry, I do have a bunch of more complicated tips to help you get through that initial start-up.

English: Woman selling wood crafts in Tequisqu...
English: Woman selling wood crafts in Tequisquiapan, Queretaro, Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Over a year ago, I decided to start selling my own crafts. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my third child, my son had just turned two, my daughter had just turned one. I don’t have any help available for consumption (closest family is an 8 hour drive away, all of my friends are either old, busy with their own lives, or have a houseful of children themselves). So, you can rest assured that my tips work, and are still pretty recent in my memory! Selling crochet, for me, is a simple way that I can help out my husband without feeling like I have neglected my other duties as a mother at the same time. (Disclaimer: If you are able to work outside of the home, I say “more power to you!”, but seriously, the cost of childcare for three children…well…I would have to work 60+ hours a week to just break even) However, I not only survived my first year of business, but even managed to thrive! So, without further ado, my tips to pass on to you.

  1. Go slowly. This one can be really hard. You just decided to start selling your crafts and you are doing the research and getting TONS of ideas. The excitement and adrenalin is running high. I urge you, do try to practice self control. It is so easy to get going too fast and end up with more work than you can handle. Add new products one at a time over the course of several days, weeks, or even months. If you give in to that “new idea” zeal and post ten new products, and you have just three interested customers for each product, that’s 30 products that you now have to crank out! To ensure that you will be able to keep up with the demand, go slowly and increase as you see fit. Use your best, logical judgment.
  2. Discover your niche. Again, the excitement and ideas are pumping through your veins! Pinterest is absolutely terrible about giving you too many ideas. Narrow it down and pick one craft. It is great to be able to paint, and glue, and crochet, and sew, and jewelry make, but throwing all of those into your shop is not going to give you a broader customer basis. Pick one craft, and establish yourself as an expert in that craft. Go even further and narrow it down to one product. Especially when you are just starting off, choose one and run with it in as many directions as you can. If you sew, maybe make little girls dresses. It will profit you little to have a little knowledge about a lot. Instead, opt for a lot of knowledge about a few products.
  3. English: Selling crafts just outside the entra...
    English: Selling crafts just outside the entrance to the Church and ex monastery of San Francisco in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    What can you sell? Just because your friend has been uber successful selling hair bows doesn’t mean that you will be, too. Even if you are in the same marketplace, selling the exact same wares, using the exact same strategy, you definitely won’t be able to sell the exact same amount. For starters, your friend probably already has a following with faithful and returning customers. They don’t want to leave her even if you are her friend. And she’s already meeting their need for hair bows. Figure out where your talent is, and decide who you are selling to. This will determine what you are going to be able to make and sell.
  4. Have a plan. I got really lucky in that I was successful without having a long term plan. To ensure your success, create short term and long term goals and deadlines for yourself. Write them down and tell someone else about it to keep you accountable. Some people might aim for a specific monthly income, or a certain number of finished products. I like to be able to release a new product every month. Whatever your goals are for this business, brainstorm the steps of action you will have to take to get there.
  5. DO NOT research. Alright, doing a little bit of research is ok and most beneficial. Doing too much research will leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused about where to start. Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You don’t need to know everything before you even get started. This business is very understanding and will allow for some on-job-education.
  6. Pick your market place. Just choose one to start off with. And there are tons to choose from too. I like etsy.com, but a lot of people will find it too competitive and get boggled down. There is also Artfire, and eBay, and a ton of other online venues to choose from.  Those are just the online venues.  You can also sell wholesale or consignment or craft shows.  Just pick one to get started on.  If you discover that it isn’t working for you, maybe move on to another one.  Or, if you find that you totally ROCK at selling crafts, then expand to include more!
  7. Ready-to-ship vs. made-to-order. This one is purely gonna be your preferences based off of how much available time you have. If your time allows you to create dozens of product in one weekend, but then you can’t create anything else for another month, then ready-to-ship is probably your best option. However, working in a hand-craft market, there are going to be people who ask about custom orders. Have a plan for handling those before they come up.
  8. English: Store selling pottery and other craft...
    English: Store selling pottery and other crafts in Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Have policies already in line. Before you even open your shop, know how you are going to handle shipping, returns, lost packages (they will happen), a failure to pay…etc. And then, make sure that they are readily available to your customers. You do NOT want the headache of dealing with an unhappy customer. Especially when it could have been avoided had they known your policies concerning the matter.
  9. Just start. It may take a leap of courage, but the best way to figure out what you are doing is to learn as you go. There will be pitfalls and mountains to climb. There will be milestones to celebrate and return customers to praise. My business seems to be continually changing as I learn what’s going to work best for me and how to most efficiently manage my time.
  10. Don’t get discouraged.  There are people who wont support you, and wont really care about what you are doing.  It is going to take *time*.  Keep in mind that you don’t have a following, there is no one who can say “oh yeah, I got something from her, she does amazing work!”  I say give it 6 months before making a final decision, some people might say longer.  If you do discover that selling crafts just isn’t for you, there isn’t no shame in that either.  Some people are super crafty, and out of that some, just a few are super business-y (yeah, I made that word up).  Selling crafts isn’t for everyone.

The last thing to do in this post is to share this picture with you guys today! My sweet little ladybug decided it would be great fun to get into my yarn. She couldn’t just settle for pulling it all down. Oh, no! This little trouble maker had to roll in it and tangle it all up. Seriously, could *you* be angry at all of that joy?




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