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Guidelines to Starting your Own Crafting Business

So you make cute crafts, and probably someone offered you money for them. Maybe you need the money, and if you're like me, you need it to buy more crafting supplies. Whatever the reason, starting your own crafty business is a decisions that you should take seriously... it's not as easy as opening an Etsy account and setting some random prices for your work. There is a lot of things to consider to keep the business going, your money safe, your name clean, and your costumers happy.

By no means this is an absolute guide, merely a few guidelines of things I've found important or questions I get asked often by people interested in opening their own business. Most of this tips are intended for online selling, but they should apply for other ways of selling too. I will probably do more detailed guides in the future, as I learn more myself.

To begin with, don't forget to research as much as you can! If you're reading this you're probably already working on it, so good :) a few guides I like are Artist Alley Tips by kimchikawaii (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Packing and Shipping by monsterkookies, tangerinelemons wrote an article explaining how to sell your work to retailers, and Storenvy does a good job at keeping an useful and entertaining blog with tips for sellers. Look around!

Netted Rope Collage by beadg1rlWren by JessieDockins
It's not just about doing great art, half of the work is knowing how to sell it!

Plan ahead.

I'm going to be blunt: you're not going to start selling tomorrow. Maybe not even in a few months. Putting everything together is going to take you weeks, if not months, of planning and work. Even after you announce your big opening, it will probably take months before you start getting more or less frequent sales. Plan ahead and be patient!

PLEASE don't forget to check out your local laws!

I've noticed that this is a step that most people forget. You would think that the government couldn't care less if you start making a few things and sell them, but the fact is that some governments do. Granted, your sales may be too few for them to notice, but if you start getting big and start selling lots they will notice. Even more, if your little business gets huge and you need to start thinking about copyrighting your name or expanding into bigger realms, you don't want them to start digging into your name and notice that you've been selling illegally in the past. I don't even want to imagine that bill!

Judge Dredd lawgiver by Matsucorp
The law is the law, and you don't want it to find you.

The law changes from country to country, and even from state to state. Do your research, ask them directly or try to find something in your government's web page. If you can, ask a fellow local crafter for guidance, but don't follow their advice word by word, they may be misunderstanding the laws. Don't panic! Some countries only require you to register and start paying taxes if your sales go over a certain amount of money, some may only ask you to get a permit, and I hope yours doesn't go crazy with what it requires you to do.

Branding, branding, branding.

You want costumers to remember you and recognize you, you want your work to pop out and stand from the rest. You achieve this by branding. You want to begin branding your work early on, you can start by picking a good name for your store. Make sure the name represents you and your work, make it easy to remember and catchy. Who didn't look twice to see what Grandma Thunderpants was about? (I'm sure you just clicked it too). Meanwhile, no one will ever be able to remember "Januemash Kekatis" (I just made it up) and much less type it, any potential costumers will never be able to find you twice. Try to make your name easy to Google and keep it consistent between all social networks.

Halloweens Pumpkin Bunny Amigurumi by HinaPalitahDragon, drow, druchii, dark elf leather helmet by Fantasy-Craft
Learn from watching other crafters branding their work. Learn, but don't copy!

Logos are a great branding tool, try to pick a logo that stands out and is easily recognizable. Ideally, it will be simple enough for your costumer to describe it with a few ideas and even doodle it. If it is something too frilly and complicated they will have troubles remembering it, and you want to be remembered. Simple typography makes a great logo too, just make sure the font is readable!

Try as hard as you can to make your work consistent and with a defined style. This is easier than you think, and it will start coming out on its own with time and practice. Try to take your photos with a more or less defined style, be consistent and people will start recognizing your work even before they can read your name! They will start noticing you more and more, and when they do congratulations! You've succeeded at getting in their heads branding your work.

Make your work your own.

I shouldn't have to say this, but here it goes: don't copy anyone. It's easy to see someone doing something, and say "hey I can do that!". Cute zombie amigurumi bunnies? Copied. Industrial anatomically correct hearts with gears and LEDs? Copied. Chibi version of Disney characters in cute cabochons? Copied. Fused glass eyes wrapped in wire? Copied. After you spend long enough looking for crafts you start noticing when things are copied, more often than not the original artist will notice and probably make a post about it, and then your reputation will be ruined, scaring potential costumers away.

Art Thieves Suck by kimchikawaii

I have also noticed that copycats usually have a lot less sales than the original artist, even with unique items. Additionally, copycats receive no respect from their fellow crafters.

Copyright rules are shady when it comes to crafts, and it's relatively easy to copy someone else's work. Learn the difference between getting inspired and copying, and whatever you do always make sure to make every single piece your own. It's valid and positive to receive inspiration from someone else's work, but it's good manners to give credit.

You are a person!

You are a person. A real breathing person, not a soulless big corporation or Chinese reseller. Use it! Talk to your costumers and watchers, remember their names and ideas, send them a cute thank you note with every purchase. Not only you will meet new dear friends, people are more likely to buy things from someone they trust and like.

Pixie Hollow house by flintlockprivateer
Cute randomness.

Be your number one fan.

Know your work, love your work, make everything you can to make your work stand out. Talk with confidence about your work, make sure to write a good description of what you did, and talk about what is it good for and why you like it. Don't ever lie, but be confident about what you did. Who is ever going to buy anything from you if you don't like it.

Mass Effect Renegade by GAGBAGCHENAngry bug by Rrkra
It's impossible not to like these!

Additionally, make sure to use, wear, eat, whatever you do. Not only it will help you know your product from all aspects and make you a walking billboard of your work, it'll save you problems. Try everything for at least a couple of months or times before you try to sell it, you don't want your costumer to pop up again telling you that her necklace melted or became loose. Recruit your friends and family as guinea pigs, I give them some samples for free in exchange of feedback every time I try a new technique or material. We all win!

Know your price.

Do you love your work already? Great. You wouldn't sell anything you love for anything less than it is worth, right? Of course you wouldn't! So learn to price your work, you can find a fantastic guide to pricing your crafts here. Some people will try to haggle down your work, but I never allow it... to me, it means that they don't respect what I do, and I won't work for anything less than my time is worth.

Pencil carving 9 : Dice.. by preethi524
This should be worth a few hundred dollars in my opinion.

You should never give anything for free either! If someone contacts you asking you to send things for reviews, promotion, or as a sample for a bigger purchase afterwards, BEWARE! These are common techniques used by scammers to get your precious work for free. I already wrote an article about it. Don't allow it! You should never never never ever work for free, unless it is for charity or a gift for a friend. Speaking of friends, don't let friends guilt-convince you to give them things for free or ridiculously cheap, those are not true friends.

Take great photos.

If you're selling online people can't go to your store or table, pick something up, look at it and decide if they want to buy it. Best case scenario they will see a thumb of your work posted somewhere, and you will have about 2 seconds to get their attention. Say they decide to click that thumb and take a closer look at your work, if it is blurry or dark they are not going to risk buying something they can't even see! Make sure to take good photos with good lightning. It's a good idea to take different angles, closeups and size references, try to reproduce the experience the buyer would have if they were looking at your work in person, and make the best aspects of your work stand out. It will also avoid you disappointed costumers not happy with their purchase.

Stained Glass Butterfly Swirls Pedant by HoneyCatJewelryFiery kitty I by hontor
If you have problems taking photos make sure to check this and this tutorial for great tips.

Don't give up.

Success is not immediate, unless you're one lucky bastard. Be patient, be consistent, stay active in social networks and keep improving your own work. Did you know that Rovio made 51 extremely unsuccessful games before they made Angry Birds? They didn't give up and now they're more famous and rich than I can imagine. You shouldn't give up either!

The problem with this is that I still have a lot to say, and I don't think anyone could ever write a complete list to starting your own business. I have mentioned some of the things that I consider more important, but if you have any questions or further tips please don't hesitate to leave a comment! If there's enough interest I will start writing in-depth guides for other aspects of selling crafts :)

Project Educate Artisan Crafts Week Continues! Sorry this is so late, I got great news but I will first catch up with the journals I owe you guys!
Add a Comment:
theduck-mcquak Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks, this was quite helpful!
Talty Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2015   Artisan Crafter
I'm glad that it was! :love:
MayEbony Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for this great article Talty - just as I'm starting up my online store, so it's perfect timing for me!!! It was so interesting and helpful.
snazzie-designz Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2013   General Artist
Thanks for a great article. Very helpful tips here.
Taschasan Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
There's NEVER enough power onto the point ~GypsymoonChain made! (Do I make sense? English isn't my first language...)
I ALWAYS nearly fly into a rage whenever I see someone sell Pokémon/Super Mario/Kirby/etc. -Charms/Necklaces/Bookmarks/Buttons/etc.!
And most of the time they don't even give that lame "I do not own blablabla yadda yadda" excuse statement AT ALL.
They do it at Cons! "Legally"! We're not in Japan, you dipshits!

But the article is awesome.
GypsymoonChain Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
Another thing. DO NOT DO COPYRIGHTED IMAGES/CHARACTERS! The common statement "I do not own this character/image" will NOT protect you from the company coming after you for copyright theft. Make you own images and you've nothing to worry about. Companies are getting more active in going after people...
Troppa-D Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I agree so much with this.
mynameisbear Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I sincerely believe that the rampant growth of the internet combined with how easy it is to right click and save just about any image has destroyed any chance of youth-at-large in 2005 and beyond really grasping the concepts of copyright and trademark. The ability to save an image to ones hard drive != the right to use it for anything, let alone commercial usage, but that's a chain of ideas I've not been able to convince anyone else of lately....
GypsymoonChain Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
Thank you. More people need to be reading and following this.
SailorMiniMuffin Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
This is so wonderfully written! A lot of excellent advice and tips. Awesome work and THANK YOU so much for taking the time to put this together! :)
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Haha! Thanks for the mention. <33 And I agree with a lot of your points here! Especially the naming part (and not just because I'm biased to get a mention). Too many people come up with generic names for their Etsy shops "____'s Kawaii Charms" or something of that nature, and it becomes so hard to remember. Unless the name you choose is something easy to remember, like "Talty" is. Now there is a city named Talty so Google search is a little mixed, but your DA is the third link in the results, so as long as someone remembered your name they'd be able to find your Etsy shop again. So it's a good name!

Simple is really best when it comes to your shop name too, so it's gotta be short, simple, and catchy. The best thing to do is write down several options and ask for feedback on which one is most memorable. :la:
RunLikeHell04 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
Awesome Tutorial! Great Job!
CreativeNight Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Student General Artist
these tips are handy. Iv been reading books about this but they make it sound scary to me. as silly as that sounds. but thanks a lot for sharing this information. hopefully one day I can open my own business.
Pepper-Head Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
Thanks so much for this! I have a friend who is wanting to sell some of his things, and I will definitely pass this along <3

I always love reading your articles and features >w<
Ubermidget Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013   General Artist
Thank you very much for this tutorial Talty! There are lots of points here in your article that are useful and helpful!
preethi524 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very very very useful article! :love:
cakecrumbs Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
This article is a great read with lots of fantastic points. :clap:

I do have to bring up one point for discussion, though, and that's about the copying. The example of wire-wrapped fused glass eyes caught my attention in particular: I've seen a number of people doing it. I've seen people who create the glass eyes themselves selling them alongside wire wrapped versions, and I've seen a number of people who buy the eyes alone from that seller in turn selling wire wrapped versions of their own (whoa, did that make sense?). I've even done it (though I've never uploaded any of the jewellery I've made much less attempted to sell it). True originality is incredibly difficult. I think it's important to not outright copy someone's exact design and colour theme, but I also think there's plenty of room for doing the same thing as long as you make it your own.

I've been amazed the number of times I've made some craft and thought I was being so original, and then found later (sometimes years later) that someone else had done a similar thing. A great example is the asparagus cake I made: someone here on dA told me I should have credited the tutorial they felt I'd obviously used, but I hadn't seen it before. In fact, the tutorial was post a year after I'd made the cake. :lmao:
Ginger-PolitiCat Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thanks Talty!!! This is most helpful! I'm in the process right now of working out these details. And I've built in time to (hopefully) get it right. Perfect timing and a great help!
FreakieGeekie Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for this. I want to start making crafts for sale but I had no idea where to start.
Magical525 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Awesome article! :D
Pythiadelphie Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013   General Artist
Thank you for this great article. I really enjoyed reading it, especially since I was toying with the idea of selling my craft stuff online.
CelticStrm-Stock Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You know, now that I think about it, I'd be more than happy to share some of the recipes I had for my old bath company. :D I made some awesome bath salts and soaps back in the day. I'll probably get around to a tutorial or two for it eventually too.
Ninina-nini Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013
Great article with great references. Thank you for this.
And I wouldn't mind reading more! :)
monsterkookies Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
This was a great basic run-through! As someone who has been selling their artwork for about 4 years or so, I kind of wish this was around when I started selling stuff. I was so confused then!
Xcetera Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013  Professional Photographer
This is great advice, and not just for Artisan Crafts. This would be worth a browse to anyone in the art community with a marketable skill that can possibly make a business out of.
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