craft business

How being generous can help you sell more crafts over the holidays

Are you wondering how you are going to find time to market your craft over the holidays? A lot of people let their marketing fall by the way-side between Thanksgiving and New Years but this can lead to slow sales in January and February.

One of the best methods to sell more craft is to make sure it’s seen at holiday parties.

If you have friends or family who host holiday parties in their home or office, ask them if they would like to borrow some of your art for the party. Whether it’s wall art, table-top or  wearable, your work will be seen by lots of new potential customers. Just be sure your friend has cards with your contact info handy to give to anyone who admires your work.

If your make jewelry or wearable art, you should wear it every single time you leave the house, even to run to the grocery store. And always have cards with your contact info in your pocket. But especially over the holidays, you can get other people to be your billboards as well. My employees and friends always knew they could borrow a piece of handmade jewelry, a scarf or other wearable art to attend special luncheons or parties. The only requirement was that they keep my cards in their handbag and anytime someone complimented the piece, they told them who made it and where they could purchase one or something similar. It’s not imposing. They’ll love wearing and talking about your work. It’s often a good ice-breaker at cocktail parties.

If any of your friends work in a place where they see lots of people every day, they can be a great source of marketing for you just by wearing what you make and telling anyone who admires it how they can contact you.

Don’t over-look how many women are shopping for the perfect outfit to wear to the holiday parties. They will need accessories as well so it’s a great idea to approach some upscale boutiques and ask them to display your work with their dresses. If they don’t already sell jewelry or whatever accessories your make, they can up their average ticket by showing the customer a piece of yours to match the outfit. They have nothing to lose if you do it on consignment. And you have everything to gain.

For more easy, fun ways to sell more crafts, check out the audio course: “12 Easy Ways to turn your Creative Hobby into an Extra $1200 a Month”

Are you treating your craft business like a hobby? Where do you buy supplies?

Are you still buying your supplies at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or JoAnn Fabrics?  If you’re just starting out, of course you need to figure out what sells best before you invest in large bolts of fabric, quantities of yarn, gemstones or glass.

If you’re going to make a sustainable living selling crafts, you have to make some items that aren’t one-offs. You need to have a bread and butter line that you can produce with fast turnaround even if your pieces are made-to-order.

Let’s say you make baby onesies, for example. You find five yards of adorable fabric on closeout at JoAnn’s and it’s a hit. You sell a ton of that item and people are favoriting it and coming back to your site to purchase but YOU CAN’T GET ANYMORE of that fabric. Yikes!

We live in an instant gratification world. Customers want everything now. If a customer is searching on Etsy for amethyst earrings and you run out of the beads to make your best-selling amethyst earrings, they are going to go to the shop with a similar product that can ship in a couple of days. And you’ve lost them. Probably for good.

So how do you make sure you can always deliver your best selling products AND put a good profit margin on your handmade crafts? If you’re a professional and you’re going to make a living selling crafts, you find a reliable supplier and purchase your materials in bulk. Now you’re probably thinking, “OK, so I’ll Google ‘fabrics wholesale’.” but that’s definitely not the way to find the best suppliers.

Here’s a tip: trade shows. Google “trade shows” + your industry. Of course, if there’s a trade show near you, by all means go to a trade show. You’ll learn a lot and be inspired but you don’t have to do that anymore to find suppliers. Simply go to your industry’s trade shows websites and study the exhibitor list. Then call the rep or distributor for the products you need and that’s how you’ll get the best price. Also, the rep should let you know if they’ll be closing out a particular item. If you can purchase a large enough quantity to keep you stocked through the season, great. Otherwise, select materials that they will be able to continue supplying.

You can also fnd a huge list of trade shows for the maker industry in the Beyond Etsy E-course. 

The most successful Etsy sellers I know have a line of at least a dozen products that they can replicate again and again and ship quickly.

If you plan to make a full-time living selling crafts professionally, it’s time to buy your materials like a professional.

Are you doing this one thing that could sabotage your new craft business?

You know the increase in creative energy when you’re in the company of enthusiastic, like-minded artists or crafters? We keep hearing that the most successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with other successful entrepreneurs, right?

Well, that’s all true but there are times when you can actually sabotage your creative business if you’re hanging out with the wrong tribe. What do I mean by the “wrong” tribe? Aren’t all aspiring or growing entrepreneurs the right peeps to connect with? Not all. Here’s why:

Let’s say you’re starting a business making organic herbed olive oils. You tested them at a local farmers’ market and had a great response so you’ve decided to give an Etsy shop a try. You buy a few how-to-sell-on-Etsy books or videos and put up your shop and wait. Nothing’s happening. No one is buying.

You’re not even getting many page views. You’re feeling a little discouraged but you realize it takes awhile to grow a business so you try to connect with other makers to see what they are doing. The obvious place to go would be to get on the Etsy forums and connect with other sellers. Maybe you can get some positive suggestions so you post in a chat room and ask for help. You might be lucky and get some helpful tips but you’re more likely to find people saying things like “oh, you can’t make it selling that on Etsy. There are 700 other people selling infused olive oil on Etsy.” They aren’t asking you what you’re doing to stand out from the competition or giving you advice on how to get traffic to your page. Most likely, you’ll find other newish sellers who are on there complaining that they aren’t doing well either and you all start commiserating and discourage one another.

Recently, I asked a friend who is an uber successful Etsy seller if she ever goes on the forums to help newer makers or goes to meet-ups with local Etsy teams. Her answer: “Are you kidding? Successful Etsy sellers don’t have time to be hanging out on the forums. We’re busy filling orders. When I take a break from making, packaging and shipping, I’m updating listings and posting new photos on Pinterest to drive traffic to my site.”

So how, as a fledgling creative entrepreneur can you find people who not only answer your questions but understand what you’re going through and encourage and support you?

Here’s what I would do. I’d look for a few successful sellers whose products are complementary but not in competition with yours. Let’s say you make custom diaper bags. You might look for someone who is successfully selling baby shower invitations or hand knit baby sweaters. Contact them and be honest. Tell them you admire their work and were wondering if they would be willing to chat with you. You might even contact a few successful makers in your local area and invite the to meet for coffee. If they are so busy that they don’t have time to help you, hopefully they’ll at least give you the names of resources they used or a coach who helped them get started.

If you’ve already found people who boost you up, please share in the comments-we’d all love to hear your successes and cheer you on.

Should You Consign to Galleries?

The question of consignment keeps coming up and while I’ll address it in more detail in the tele-seminar series this summer,  let’s touch base on some basics since it’s the time of year to get started.

Assuming you’ve selected the galleries where your crafts will be most compatible, you’ve narrowed down the choices and set up appointments, it’s time to prepare for your meeting.

Show up well prepared with your pieces attractively tagged, with the information we’ve discussed. Price the pieces at retail. Number each piece so that it coincides with a number on your inventory list. (which you will duplicate and leave a copy with the gallery.) Ideally, a thumbnail photograph of each piece next to the number will help you and the gallery owner identify them easily. This doesn’t need to be a high resolution photo, it’s for reference only, not a marketing piece. If your objects are fairly flat, for example jewelry, a simple way to do it is to just place it on your photocopier, scan it and reduce to thumbnail size..

Also, if you have a display that shows your work off well, present the gallery owner with that option. You always want to have display recommendations.

If you are consigning work to gallery far from home, consider asking someone in the area to periodically “shop”  the gallery for you.  (they are actually your spies.) I can’t count the times I’ve walked into galleries to see a particular artist’s work and it’s nowhere on display. The artist has no idea why he isn’t receiving commission checks and it turns out

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Do you still believe in the myth of the starving artist?

Well, it’s time we shatter that age-old rumor wide open

In 2013, I  gathered a virtual circle of 14 creative entrepreneurs who are making a living doing things you’ve probably always heard referred to as “hobbies” but these people are putting food on the table and money in the bank doing things like:

  • doodling,
  • baking cupcakes
  • candle making
  • jewelry design
  • creating art
  • teaching creativity workshops
  • making organic chocolate
  • and traveling to foreign lands shopping and reselling folk art.

Recently I invited 15 brilliant, high earning creative entrepreneurs to be my guests on the 2014 Inspired Livelihood Inspired Entrepreneur panel to openly share the secrets of how they got started,  what they know now that would have saved them time and money if  they’d known in the beginning,  how they’ve turned their interests into significant income and what advise they’d give new artsy entrepreneurs just starting out.  They hold back no secrets about what it took to grow a successful business, the challenges they’ve faced and obstacles they’ve overcome. You’ll hear top Etsy sellers speak out about what they do to stand out, get noticed and make sales in a crowded market. You’ll learn where to look to get public art commissions and grant money to purchase materials and create your art.   For this series I deliberately chose entrepreneurs who are making a living, many of them a six figure income  doing things like: 

  • facilitating virtual creativity workshops
  • designing coloring books,
  • designing and knitting hats
  • selling patterns
  • designing and printing self-adhering wall decals for home decor
  • painting silk apparel
  • writing and speaking about financial planning in a language artists understand

I’m hoping their experiences will encourage you to continue moving in the direction of your dreams. As always, these audios are chock-full of valuable info and inspiring stories about people just like you who took an idea and created a livelihood doing what they love. You can access the whole series FREE  HERE RIGHT NOW or  Continue reading

Are you supporting the stores that are going to put you or your friends out of business?

Last week, I attended a first birthday party.  I went to a local store that often carries all lot of fair trade items in search of a handmade gift . I found some puzzles perfect for a one year old boy but when I checked the labels, they were made in China. I went home to search online for handmade wooden puzzles. The ones I found were significantly more expensive. I know I could have found something larger and just as cute at Toys R Us or Target for a fraction of the price and the baby sure wouldn’t know the difference.  BUT I WOULD. I wanted to support indie craftspeople so I ordered the puzzles from a couple who make them in their shop in Oregon.

I know that the socks you hand-knit and the jewelry or lotions or candles you lovingly make take more time and are better quality than a seemingly similar item made on a machine in China so of course you have to charge more for your hand crafted products than the big box stores do.

I also know you’re a sensitive, empathetic person so let’s turn the tables and as you’re holiday shopping this month, think about this:

If you want consumers to support you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made because if you are are buying from Walmart or other discount shops, you’re supporting companies that will eventually put YOU and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, you want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize about buying imports because they are cheaper.

Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs.   If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.

Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade because you have the choice.

6 Ways you can make your small business stand out from the crowd

It’s been a week since all the hype and hoopla over Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  So how are you keeping your small business in the forefront of your ideal customer’s shopping psyche?

Discounting your products or services is not going to gain you loyal customers. Markdowns will simply put you in a space to compete with Big Box and you can’t do that. Why would you even want to? The elements that make your small business special have nothing to do with price and everything to do with creating an experience.

Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar business, you can create a unique shopping experience for your customers so that they keep returning and referring friends to your site. Let’s say, for example, you sell handmade candles, soap or jewelry online. You can stand out from big business in a number of ways.

  1. Offer the best darn customer service on the planet.
  2. Address the customer by name in all communications.
  3. Include a card with your bio, your story.
  4. Use packaging unique to your store.
  5. Include a poem, quote or inspirational message with each piece.
  6. Show your clients appreciation for their patronage with a brief handwritten thank you note.

What are you doing to make your own small business stand out from the crowd? What special experiences are you creating to keep your customers coming back? As always, you’re invited to share in the comments below.

Is there something you know you should be doing for your craft business but you just feel overwhelmed with it?

Are there tasks you know you should be doing for your craft business that  you don’t know how to do?   Things you have no interest in becoming proficient at?

Do you ever wish you had a fairy godmother who could handle a part of the craft business you dread doing?  It could be a step in the process of making your craft or an administrative task. Not all parts of being an artist are creative. For example, you love to design and make one-of-a-kind jewelry but if you have to replicate the design, you find it boring. Or, you might find you enjoy making an original mold but casting or finishing might feel too tedious. Maybe throwing clay on the wheel and making your own glazes excites you but you’d love to have someone else handle the whole firing process.

If you’re like many creative people, you  find the technical or book keeping end of the business overwhelming.

It may be your goal to eventually hire an assistant but as you’re building your business, how can you get someone else to do the work you don’t want to do?  Believe it or not, there are probably people you know who enjoy doing the tasks you find downright boring. And it’s likely that some of those same people have difficulty with skills that are second nature to you.

There are a number of ways you can get the “icky” aspects of your craft business done without having to hire an employee. By teaming up with someone whose skills are complimentary, you can save time and energy for the parts of your handmade business you enjoy.

If you want someone who’s really invested in your success, you can partner with a more left-brained, linear type and share the profits. One of my favorite ways to get things accomplished without exchanging cash is to barter: trade skills or products. Get the word out that you love to know pearls and hand forge silver but you’re looking for someone to solder or stain or do your books. You might find a virtual assistant who’s happy to update your website in exchange for some pieces of your pottery or jewelry.

The first step to getting help is to know there really is someone out there who loves doing that thing you despise and can not do something you excel at.  Believe she exists. Then,  get out there and find her.

Are you looking for more ways to get exposure and sales for your handmade jewelry and craft?

How can your work translate into something that you and/or  your friends can showcase in the workplace? Even if you don’t work outside the home, here are some tips for getting more people to see and buy your craft.
If you or your friends work in a hospital, bank or institution that requires employees to wear a badge, you have a great opportunity to get your handmade jewelry or other craft noticed. Particularly if you make beaded jewelry, you can add a badge holder attachment to any of your necklaces. Invite your friends or co-workers to wear them and make sure they have your card or contact info. Then when patients, clients or other employees compliment the badge holder, you or your friends can let them know you make these and can make them as necklaces or eyeglass holders as well.
If you are a metalsmith, you can also make a version of badge or eyeglass holder as a pin with a loop to hold the badge or glasses.
Whatever your medium, be creative about making pieces that people can see in the workplace and spread the word about your work. If, for example, you work in ceramic,  polymer clay or even fused glass,  consider making a business card holder that you and your friends can put on their desk where others will see and comment on them. You can also make picture frames that you keep on your desk and when people will comment on them, let them know about all the other work you do.
Even if you create high end pieces, putting more moderate work out where people can see it will interest them in your art and give you an opportunity to introduce them to the rest of your line.
Think about what other objects can can you add to your line that will showcase your art in the work arena.
The whole idea is, get it out there because you aren’t going to sell it if it’s sitting in your studio unseen.

Do you know WHY your haven’t started your craft business?

If you’re an idea generator like I am, you know that feeling of “I will never live long enough to bring all these ideas to fruition”. For those of us who have a constant flow of fresh ideas, we choose which to give our attention to first and don’t fret over those that may not be hatched for awhile. (and I’ll tell you a little secret. Sometimes I give my best ideas away to clients, because I don’t know when I’ll find time and I want to see them come to life. Each time, the muse gifts me with several more.)

When I speak with people who have lots of ideas, I suggest they jot down some notes and keep them in a file. Once they’re recorded, the anxiety over possibly forgetting them subsides. The mind is then free to focus on one idea at a time and the file is always there when you are ready for it.

What about the ideas that you thought were brilliant when you stashed them away but when you have time, you never revisit them? Why are you neglecting them? Is it fear of failure?

If you’re risk adverse, let me ask you this. Which is scarier to you? Trying and failing or the regret of never having tried? I’m sure you can guess which frightens me. Regret, for sure. I take risks because I am more afraid of regret than failure. (and for the record, I have no regrets.)

It wasn’t until recently that I realized there are people who fear success. Some worry about having to live up to others’ expectations of them if they succeed. For some, it’s uncomfortable to be in the spotlight. Well, contrary to popular thought, I know that a private person can be successful without having to show up on Oprah.

Another excuse I hear for leaving a good idea by the wayside is the fear that someone will steal your idea.  Of course it’s possible that someone will copy your great idea, manufacture it cheaply in China and it will outsell your original. But you know what? You can’t do anything with your great idea if you never take it out of the closet.

Fear is definitely an obstacle to bringing ideas to life but the most common reason people give for not moving forward on their dreams is overwhelm. When I speak with artist and aspiring entrepreneurs about what’s been holding them back, they most frequently site overwhelm with not knowing what to do first. They just have no idea where to begin so they freeze and do nothing. One of the best ways to overcome that overwhelm is to get a clear vision of the whole project and then break it down into actionable small steps.

For some guidance on how to lay out the big picture of your dream so that you can figure out where to start, scroll down to the January 13, 2012 post titled  “Are you limiting your dream to the size of your desktop?”.

What’s happening with YOUR neglected ideas? If you’re ready to put it on the table and give it the attention your great idea deserves, check out what Barbara Winter , best selling author of “Making a Living without a Job” and I are doing to help a small group of aspiring entrepreneurs break through the barriers and start their dream businesses NOW. HERE’S the SCOOP