What all top Etsy sellers have in common.

Do you dream of starting a business and then spending your days hanging out in a hammock sipping tropical drinks while the money comes in?
Do you still believe in the get-rich quick-with-passive-income theory?

If so, you probably ought to stick with that day job. Yes, I really said that. I, Terri Belford, self-employment advocate, told you to chuck your entrepreneurial dreams and stay in that cubicle IF you don’t want to work like crazy, sometimes double duty in order to build a profitable business.
As I interviewed top Etsy seller who truly make a living selling their creative work, one thing they all had in common is that they treated it like a business. Even those who worked a day job while they built up their business put full-time effort into their own business. They worked mornings before work, evenings when they got home and on weekends. They wanted so desperately to succeed that they approached it like they meant business and it became a viable business.
Particular in the early stage, you’ve got to put in the hours. There is no other way to succeed. The people who have replaced and even surpassed their job-income work full-time at their business. Yes, they have the option of working where they want and when they want. If they have a portable craft, they may go to the coffee shop or the beach to create or to spend time online marketing. If they want to take time off during the day for a walk or to join their kids on a field trip, they put in time in the evenings.
They also all devote time regularly to marketing. Some have a partner and one is the creator, the other the marketer but they market their business like a business which is why it becomes a business.

I’m not saying you won’t ever make money in your sleep. You absolutely can and will if you put in the time and energy in the beginning. Once you’ve created products there are many ways to leverage, to make something once and sell it over and over.
Once you’ve done the hard work and your business is thriving, you can absolutely take time off and go hang out in that hammock.
First, though, you’ve got to work like you mean business to create a profitable business.

What Eco Conscious Gifts or Crafts are you giving for Mother’s Day?

I’d love to believe that this year I won’t wait until the eleventh hour to make or purchase a mother’s day gift. It’s not that I don’t think about it ahead of time.  It’s just that tomorrow is always here before I expect it. (that alone is a topic for a future post.) So, for those of you who haven’t yet crafted or purchased a gift for mom, or even if you have but haven’t wrapped or carded, let’s look at some ideas for giving mom a sustainable gift.

If you are efficient and have mom’s gift wrapped and shipped, these ideas work for  Read the rest of this entry »

Do you use Green and Recycled Materials in your Craft?

Being eco-conscious and crafty can be a challenge. Most of us have a love affair with paper, paint, glue and other single use products, some even highly toxic. I’m not preaching here. I adore paper. I’m actually guilty of purchasing vast quantities of art supplies that I have no specific plans for at all.  (For me, the medium dictates what it will become. ) I studied photography using  the wasteful, toxic products of film, chemicals and emulsion covered paper  but I’m coming around digital.  If I weren’t so sensitive to oils and turpentine, that would still be my choice of medium.  I’m struggling with this. I want to leave our world rich in resources for future generations.  I also have an obsession with real greeting cards and there are certain circumstances when an e-card seems inappropriate. I don’t mind reading the daily news online, and I might even eventually buy a Read the rest of this entry »

Why you should take note of the Green trend in Craft Fairs

We are getting nto the spring craft fair season and daily I learn about festivals that have an eco-conscious, earth friendly section. The 38th  annual Union Street Festival in San Francisco will have a whole section dedicated to crafts created with recycled and sustainable materials and eco-friendly exhibits.

The Eugene, Oregon Saturday market features recycled wares, but that’s no surprise in the “Greenest City”.

There’s the Crafty Feast Indi Fair in Columbia, SC featuring alternative and experimental  crafts made from re-purposed materials including handbags made form recycled inner tubes, scrap monsters made from recycled Read the rest of this entry »

How you can green your giving

On a recent family visit, my sister and I discovered a photo of the two of us at 2 and 5 under the Christmas tree surrounded by newly unwrapped toys. Each of us held a special treasure in the photo. I held a cardboard paper towel roll up to my eye like a telescope and she posed adorned in recycled ribbons and bows from the gifts. This was the fifties, long before recycling was cool. I’d like to claim that we were just natural trendsetters, but I confess that in the early eighties when my son was little, our home was filled with molded plastic houses, cars and slides. We gave little thought to how these eventually ended up in the landfills.

Somewhere between that magical Christmas morning of recycling and my desire to give my son plenty of opportunity for creative play, I’d forgotten all the rainy days my friends and I spent cutting windows and doors into cardboard refrigerator boxes and stacking television cartons to make apartments houses. Or the way we collected old thread spools, hammering nails around the top to make our own little knitting devices. I’d forgotten that imagination is most active when the raw materials are available without instructions for the finished product.

It’s exciting to see the hot trend in eco-friendly toys. I’ve found a few that are both environmentally and socially responsible. Sprig Toys in Colorado makes eco-friendly “Story Builders” that inspire creative play and strong values. Mary Meyer’ “Fuzz that Was” stuffed toy pets are made out of old recycled water bottles. The Green Toy Company, based in California makes toy cookware, gardening tools, sand toys and trucks (including a Recycling Truck) out of recycled milk bottles.

It’s way too early  to be thinking about the holidays unless you wholesale your craft  but you’ve probably got birthdays and Mother’s day gifts to make and if  you are going to give responsibly, you need time to plan ahead. The marketplace is abundant with products that have had another life in a different form. If, however, you are crafty, now’s the time to start looking around for what products you tend to throw away and how you can upcycle those into fabulous gifts.

Do you have ideas for eco-friendly gift projects you’ve made or plan to make that you’d like to share with us? If you have found an artist or product line that uses recycled materials please post your recommendation here-we’d love to spread the word and promote your projects or treasured finds.

Are you Doing One thing a Day To Market your Craft?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you hear you should be doing to market your craft, you aren’t alone. Most of us need a map before we start out on a journey we’ve never taken before.

So, take a deep breath and know that if you just start somewhere, take one simple step today, you’re on your way. Wait, don’t decide to start fresh Monday. I know that trick. I’ve done it.  I’ve never thought of my workweek as Monday through Friday because being self employed, I don’t follow anyone’s scheduled. I work when it’s best for me and my family. But, even if you take the weekend off, you’ll be able to relax knowing you’ve  taken that first step.

Today’s assignment: choose your very best piece. Something that hasn’t been out in the marketplace yet. Now, photograph it. OK. I know you might consider that two steps. If you’re really feeling ambitious, upload it to your photo program and save it. So, three easy steps. (if you really must be a stickler about the one step a day, choose the piece today, photograph it tomorrow and upload on Sunday. Those are very tiny steps.)

So, Monday morning you are ready to take a BIG baby step on your craft marketing plan.

I’m not calling this a BIG step because it’s difficult. It isn’t. It’s simple and just so obvious but is a big step because it will make a huge difference in getting your sales rolling again.

Send this digital image of your best piece to your list of past buyers or those who have visited your booth at shows, come to your home open studio or just expressed interest in your work. (You DO keep a list, don’t you?) If you don’t have a data base of past customers, send the image to all your friends and family. You aren’t selling anything. You are simply reminding them that you are a talented crafts person. If you have already made prints or reproductions of your work, mention it. If you are in an exhibition, mention it. If you haven’t ever taken your work out of your home studio-mention it. Be open and honest about your newness and people will want to support you. Ask them to share it with their friends. A great way to get people to notice your work and pass it on is to include a quote or some kind of meaningful sentiment or story. Nothing too long, just something to make them smile or stop and think. Something that makes them nod in agreement and want to pass on to friends.

So, by Monday you will have taken your four first steps. Simple steps that will get you rolling on the the next steps.

In any business, it is always easier to bring back existing customers than to attract new ones. Obviously, you want to do both but if you have an existing buyer/collector list, cherish them. They are your most valuable assets. Send them “love notes” of customer appreciation regularly. Your art is a piece of you. You aren’t selling hardware. This is a relationship and if your buyers feel you see them as friends, they’ll be loyal to you. They will show your art to their friends and your list of collectors will grow.

See how much you’ve accomplished even though you didn’t know where to start?

Assuming you’ve followed the baby steps so far, today you are going to make a vital move. If you don’t have a data base of your mailing list, or even have a mailing list, today you will start one. This is everyone you know. Everyone. Remember, you aren’t selling to your friends and family. You are sharing your art with them. (If your work is wearable or home decorative, see other blog entries for tips on getting your work seen and download the free tips in the upper right to give you more great ideas.) If you are like the rest of us, you probably have scraps of paper and business cards all over with names of people you’ve met. Most of us toss them because we have forgotten why we picked them up. But, each of those people might know someone who could become your best customer or the connection to many great collectors. Maybe someone’ sister has a gallery or uncle is a decorator to the very wealthy. You won’t be imposing by sending them a beautiful image with a brief greeting or sentiment online. Think of it as a gift. Because it is.

Even if your list has only twenty names right now, use a contact management program such as Constant Contact. You can start out with their free trial, it’s simple, user friendly and you will have your list automated to start.

This should be day six. Now you have a list, you have an image and you are going to order some postcards. Use a site like modernpostcards.com to order one thousand postcards of your favorite piece that you photographed on day one. You can have the same quote or sentiment that you used for your email printed on the postcards. These are very inexpensive marketing tools which you will use both as mailers and handouts.  Include a special offer or invitation to a home exhibit or trunk show. (more on this in other blog posts and tips at right.)  Also have your domain address (url) printed on them. YOU DON’T HAVE A DOMAIN NAME OR WEBSITE? NO PROBLEM. YOU WILL BY TOMORROW.  At least you’ll have a domain name and landing page.

Day seven, if you haven’t purchased your domain name, do that now. Go to a site like bluehost.com and buy your own name. Even if you have a business name and already have a web site, for ten dollars a year, buy your own name. If you already have a site under a different name, you needn’t change that, just re-direct the url with your own name to the site. This takes three minutes and is important because people are more likely to remember and search for you under your own name than a business name.

In the first week, with one small step a day, you have a great start on your art marketing program. 

See how much you’ve accomplished in one week with just baby steps? And to think you didn’t know where to begin.

Beyond Etsy

You’ve probably read books on how to start a business and even some on creating a business selling your art or handmade crafts. There are even some courses out there on starting a crafts business but most are from the perspective of someone who has sold their craft online OR at craft shows OR sold wholesale. None give you first hand advice and stories from artists and crafts people who have experienced ALL areas of the hand made world.

I keep hearing from readers that they want to make a living selling their handmade art and they’ve read books and even sought advise from SBA advisors but that they are more confused than ever because they don’t understand the MBA speak. Creative entrepreneurs think differently and need advise from someone who speaks and understands their language.

I’ve been listening to your questions and challenges, making notes from my decades of experience as an artist and gallery owner and interviewing artists and crafts people, makers and bakers.

Finally, it’s all in one place, a course that speaks a language that creatives like you understand.

I’m not going to waste your time or mine on the stuff you can find in a “how-to” business book. This is first hand advise on the stuff YOU need about how to make a living from your craft because the myth of the starving artist is a bunch of baloney.

I’ve taken a lifetime of wisdom and experience in the business of handmade art and put it all together in a comprehensive course. You’ll get worksheets and references and hear advice and real life examples of fine artists and crafts people who make a living creating and selling their paintings, calligraphy, textiles, candles, bath and body products, jewelry, graphics, photography  and just about every craft you can imagine. Some are even bringing in a six figure income from their art and they’ve offered up their wisdom, experiences and secrets to success on topics about all areas of the handmade art world, online and off. We share what we all learned from our mistakes and what we’d do differently if we knew in the beginning what we know now about starting and profiting from a creative business so that you can do it right the first time.

We’ll cover every aspect of making money selling your creations ONLINE AND OFF, at retail and wholesale to shops, at craft fairs, home parties, in galleries, even how to open your own craft gallery or co-op. We’ll talk about pricing, photographing and writing descriptions for your handmade.

I know we all have different learning styles so you’ll get a mix of PDFs, worksheets and Audio files which you can download and listen to at your own pace.

You can add an hour of personal one-to-one consulting with me for a total of $197. My usual single session consult fee is $189.

 Get the Full Course for $97.

OR The E-Course PLUS Consulting for $197

Choose One

Do you make jewelry? Here’s how you can make some easy last-minute cash.

Many men won’t even begin their holiday shopping until this weekend and some will be doing it on their lunch hour  or on the way home Tuesday, Christmas eve.  If you make handmade jewelry, their procrastination can mean some easy cash for you. It’s not too late to set up a last minute trunk shows at a men’s hair salon,  health club or even a pub where men hang out. If you have the chutzpa (or ambition) to walk into any male-trafficked locale between now and Tuesday with a trunk of your gorgeous wares, you have a captive audience. The  guys in those places will see you as their savior because they don’t have to hit the mall frantic and guessing what their girlfriends, wives, mothers or sisters might like. You may offer to give the proprietor a percentage, a donation to his favorite charity or better yet a free piece for the woman in his life, but you may find he’s happy to just let you hang out because the excitement may generate more traffic and business for his venue as well. Do you have any idea how many men would love to have your help in choosing a piece of hand crafted jewelry for their wives, mothers or girlfriends rather than have to scour shops trying to figure out what girls want?  After a successful sale, you’ll have an open invitation to return for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Don’t overlook your own workplace, large office buildings, hospitals or any place else where last minute buyers will be thrilled to have you come to their rescue.

There are a lot more ideas and tips like this on  “12 Easy WAys to Make an Extra $1200. with your Craft.” 

Steps you should take NOW to ensure your craft business will continue to thrive in the New Year

I know you’re busy producing and and shipping your crafts for the holidays but if you don’t want your sales to dip drastically the first quarter of 2014, you need to do a little advanced planning.

Remember that the wholesale trade shows begin right after new years. Galleries and shops barely catch their breath from the holidays before they’re off to market and it will be much more difficult to get them to take your work at that time. They will have spent their first quarter budgets and won’t have the physical space to exhibit your products. Making the connection NOW, you’ll have a much better chance of having retailers take your work either on consignment or purchase outright.

Do double duty while you’re holiday shopping the shops and galleries for gifts, (you ARE buying local and handmade, right?) and make a list of those shops that carry crafts that compliment your work. Look for merchandise your ideal customer would find appealing, similar price points and style. You definitely don’t want the merchandise to be significantly lower priced than yours nor should you place your work with a shop that sells mostly contemporary if your pieces are vintage.

Notice how helpful and polite the staff is toward the patrons and if the pieces are displayed creatively. Does the merchandise appear new or like it’s been sitting awhile?  You don’t want to tie your work up in a shop where the jewelry is tarnished because it’s been on display a long time but not sold.

Make a list of some galleries or shops that feel like a good fit and then prioritize in order of your first choices.

Remember, this is a scouting expedition so don’t talk to the shop owner or staff about your work on the initial visit. Wear your best pieces and have your contact info with you incase the owner comments on it so that you may set up an appointment for a time when she is not busy with customers.

Never walk in without an appointment with a case of your wares.  The best etiquette is to mail photos and a line sheet to each of the shops. Follow up with a phone call a few days later and request an appointment with the buyer during her slowest time, before or after hours.  Usually,  midweek morning is the best time to call.  After introducing yourself, let the buyer know you understand that customers are the first priority and you will make yourself available at a time when she is not busy.


Arrive for your appointment prepared with a well-thought out collection of pieces that represent your craft rather than just showing up with a random selection. Your work will sell better if the pieces display well as a grouping and compliment one another. Bring duplicate copies of a printed inventory of your work. If you are planning to consign, list retail prices and number each piece so that you and the the shop owner both have a reference for what items they have and make it easier for them to pay you when pieces sell.

Remember to respect that the purpose of the gallery is to sell craft. How would you’d feel if your work was already on display in the shop and personnel was busy working with another artist and ignoring the customers?  You’d want them to be selling your work, right?  Let the buyer know that you are fine to wait while she caters to customers as they come in.

Taking the time to do this extra work now will ensure your craft business will continue to thrive in the new year.

For more great ideas like this, check out Tele-class:  “12 Easy  Ways to turn your Creative Hobby into an Extra $1200 a Month”

Long on craft supplies, short on cash?

In addition to selling your finished crafts, a great way to turn some inventory into cash between now and Christmas is to sell some of your excess supplies and tools of your craft. Yes, there are bead stores and big box craft stores all across the country, and people can buy anything they want online, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell the components of your craft. Any of us who are crafters know that we can’t pass up a bead shop, yarn shop, fabric store, etc and especially since people can see what you make out of the materials, it is more attractive than the same supplies look loose in a craft store. We all have tools and supplies that we purchased on impulse and either haven’t gotten the inspiration to use them yet or lost interest in them. An attractive way to merchandise them is to bundle them with instructions for a simple piece that can be made out of the supplies.   Your market is not only crafters but family and friends of crafters who give them as gifts.

You can put them up on your own website or blog, on any of the online auction sites or even have a last minute “Make and Take” party where you  have kits already made up with supplies to be purchased and then do a quick lesson. Everyone leaves with a gift, they can purchase additional kits and you’ve turned some excess inventory into cash. (As a side note, you’ll often sell some of your finished work to attendees if you set up a display as well. )

Remember this idea and repeat it throughout the year whenever you have excess supplies or are in need of quick cash. This is also a good annual practice if you go to trade shows to purchase materials. Sell any supplies you didn’t use since the last buying trip and you’ll have more to spend on the new treasures you find. Also, since you have to buy the materials to make your own work, you may as well buy them in quantity and get a better price, right?

For more tips like this, put your name and email address in the box to the right and you’ll receieve a free copy of “13 Quick, Easy, Low-cost or NO-cost Ways to Turn your Craft into CAsh Now”