Tips, Tricks & Techniques

10 Tips to Start Your Handmade Business

November 9, 2019

I think many of us can say that we all have at least one time or another thought about taking our craft skills and creating it into a business. It crossed my mind many times, but it took years for me to realize that I had a craft that could be made into a business.

I’ve crocheted for years and it wasn’t until 2014 when I started to pick it up again as a serious hobby. My friends and family knew I could make almost anything they asked for–blankets, hats, and more! The downside to my hobby was that it cost a lot of money for yarn and it took a lot of time. I started to look up how much my items could sell for and my heart sank when I saw blogs showing how to calculate prices. I didn’t think that anyone would ever be willing to pay 2.5 times the yarn price or any of the other suggested methods. So, I did what probably most people do…I decided not to sell. However, time went on and in 2017, my husband and I looked into selling my crochet products. In 2018, my husband needed a hobby, so he started to make crochet hooks. In 2019, we established a crochet business that has grown into something we would never expect. How did we do it? Well, here are some things we learned:

  1. Find Your Niche! This is crucial. Find something you’re really good at that people will know you by. For instance, we’re known for our resin crochet hooks. If we sold personalized glitter tumblers, custom ornaments, and handmade jewelry along side our crochet hooks…then it creates a weird vibe and no one may be interested in your shop. Find a niche that is dedicated to a community of people.
  2. Do Some Research. Do some research! Spend time learning about what avenues you have to sell your products: e-commerce (we use WordPress with WooCommerce), social media marketing (i.e., Instagram, Pinterest, etc.), and more. You want to be an expert in your business.
  3. Create a Plan. Create a plan on how you’d like to deliver your product. How do you want to sell and deliver your products (i.e. Etsy, Shopify, Craft Shows, etc.)? How much are you willing to invest in your business? How much will it cost between the material, labor (time!), shipping, etc.? These are all really important questions to ask yourself because you’ll be at risk of losing money (or all your time) with a poorly managed business.
  4. Pay Your Business, not Yourself. It’s up to you on how much you want to spend on the initial start up for your business. My husband and I wanted a hobby that pays for itself. In 2017, we invested $100 towards starting up an Etsy shop and that took into consideration the cost of materials and shipping that would be back paid once an item was sold. When we started making crochet hooks we had to invest much more, and it was a big decision (equipment, materials, packaging, etc). It was a slow growth initially, but over time it was worth it. The big tip here is when you start getting a positive number in the bank account use it to make your product, process, packaging or customer service better. It may be hard to not go on a shopping spree for yourself, but that is the only way to have a successful business down the road. We’ve never been in debt to our business because we followed this rule.
  5. Legal Considerations. Depending on your craft, you may want to look into the legal considerations of your business. This could include copyright infringement, patents, return policies, taxes, and more. Get registered to be a small business in your state…no matter what or how much you sell. One of the biggest things we see in the “maker” community is copyright violations. We highly advise steering clear of anything that is copyrighted (i.e., characters from Disney, etc.) because you may end up with a court date, a fine and a cease to desist order (we’ve seen it happen). Just know what is copyrighted and what is not before you plunge in.
  6. Target Audience. Take into consideration who your target audience is. We learned this early on when we were trying to sell physical crochet products, crochet hooks, and crochet patterns. So many people loved our crochet products, but they didn’t want to purchase anything except crochet hooks and patterns. Why? Well, because our target audience was the crafter. Crafters/”makers” aren’t going to buy a crochet product when they could make it on their own. That’s when we moved away from selling physical crochet products (i.e., scarves, blankets, etc.) and only sell them at craft shows or as custom order requests.
  7. Social Media. Social media is a absolutely necessary. Find what you think is best for your business. For us, most of our business is driven by Instagram and Pinterest; however, we have accounts for Facebook, YouTube, and Ravelry. We wouldn’t be able to sell online if it wasn’t for these platforms. So make sure you create accounts for your business! Do keep in mind that it takes time for your business to grow and the number of followers doesn’t dictate how successful you are.
  8. Have Good Product Photos! Yes, good product photos are an absolute must. It makes a huge difference in how people view your business. White backgrounds are perfect for product photos. You don’t want to have photos that are in poor lighting and with a ton of clutter in the background. Keep it professional. Be careful with editing programs…you want the edits to turn the photo into what real-life looks like and not make it better/different than it actually is. We invested in a good Canon camera we found on Facebook Marketplace and Adobe Creative Cloud. Between the camera and Adobe Creative Cloud features, we were able to create photos and consistent marketing templates for all of our social media platforms. It’s 100% worth it.
  9. Branding. Again, we invested in Adobe Creative Cloud and in that package we have Spark Adobe. This is a life saver for our “branding”. We sell our products all online and are seen on various social media platforms. Customers remember us due to our signature teal accent to all of our photos and packaging for shipment. We budgeted for teal bubble mailers, cardstock “thank you” / policy cards, business cards and more. Our customers love their packages because they’re fun, colorful and presentable. It’s more about the experience than anything.
  10. Customer Service. This is something you MUST have in your business. For us, we are focused on excellent customer service. If you’re non-responsive or are not timely in responses then you’ll have a tough time keeping customers around. We’re not saying you should respond within seconds of someone contacting you, but at least acknowledge their response within a decent time frame (i.e., within 24 hours, within business hours, etc.)

Bonus Tip: Love what you do. When it starts to feel like work, remember why you started it in the first place!

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