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!
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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