15 Tips for Turning Your Craft Hobby Into a Successful Business Katie Lundin | June 2nd, 2017

Are you a crafter? Does plucking an idea from your brain and crafting it into a reality with your very own hands make your heart sing? If so, you may have said to yourself at some point, “I wish I could do this for a living.”

The amazing news is that you can. The market for hand-made crafts is growing. Etsy, the internet’s largest crafting marketplace has reported steady revenue increases since 2015. Even Amazon has joined the party with it’s Handmade store.

In fact, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are looking to turn their craft hobbies into real businesses.

“But, I’m a crafter. Not a businesswoman,” I hear some of you say.

You are not alone. You can continue crafting as a hobby. But, for those of you who are ready to take the next step… who are ready to make a living doing what you love and are most passionate about… Let’s talk.

Here are the 15 things you should do to turn your craft hobby into a successful business or career:

1. Choose a business structure.

2. Acquire business licenses or permits.

3. File and pay taxes.

4. Build profit into your pricing.

5. Establish a personal brand with which customers can connect. 

6. Create unique, original crafts with your niche market in mind.

7. Create a great customer experience by providing safe, easy transactions and making it easy to reach you.

8. Incorporate thoughtfully designed visual assets that embody your personal brand.

9. Show off your crafts to their best advantage with flawless product photos.

10. Create an efficient workspace.

11. Develop products that can be reproduced easily.

12. Purchase supplies wholesale.

13. Create a professional website to be a customer ambassador when you’re not around.

14. Communicate often via convenient email marketing.

15. Build relationships with your customers via social media.

 

Run Your Crafting Hobby as a Business

The first step to converting your crafting hobby into a crafting business is pretty obvious- start treating it like a business. But, in practical terms, what does that really mean?

There are a few essential steps you must take. You’ll obviously need a name for your new business, and we’ll address that below.

Let’s start by looking at the nuts and bolts of your new business: whether you should have a sole proprietorship, incorporate, register a partnership or an LLC (limited liability company).

What the heck is the difference?

A sole proprietorship is the “most basic type of business to establish” according to the SBA (Small Business Administration). You are the sole owner of the business; and, as such, are solely responsible for the assets and liabilities accrued by the business. This may be just the ticket for your brand new, baby crafting business as it is also the easiest to set up.

If you’re interested in a little more protection, an LLC (or Limited Liability Company) may be a better fit. The LLC business structure provides the limited liability features you would find in a corporation. The Small Business Administration has all of the details about these common small business structures and others.

To learn more about corporations, partnerships and other legal mistakes people commonly make when setting up a small business, take a look at our post and video: 10 Legal Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Small Business And How To Avoid Them.

Regardless which structure you choose, you need to be aware that your new crafting business, like any business, will need to pay taxes. The crafting blog Start a Craft Business cautions,

It’s vital that you follow the tax laws of your state and country if you want to run a successful craft business that will grow and thrive for years to come. There’s no excuse for not filing your taxes, no matter how much of a pain you may find it to be. It’s always better to have your paperwork in order.

Not to mention that the IRS gets cranky if they don’t get their split of your profits. So, be sure to check out the SBA’s guide to filing and paying taxes.

Once you’ve decided on a legal structure for your new business, you need to consider whether you need a business license so that you can legally conduct business. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration,

Virtually every business needs some form of license or permit to operate legally.

The SBA website has all the info you need to learn which license or permit is required for your new business in your state.

Before we move on from the heavy-duty business side of this conversation, I want to talk about pricing. Crafters have a habit of undercutting their own profit by setting their prices too low. The Etsy Seller Handbook includes an article entitled, “Are You Paying Yourself Enough?” which points out that paying ourselves fairly (yes, I am guilty of this, too!) makes us feel uneasy.

But, if your business is to succeed, you’re going to have to grow past that uneasiness and build profit into your prices. Emma Featherstone of The Guardian writes,
Make sure that you have worked out all your costs,” she said. “Pay yourself a decent hourly rate, include all materials and then add a bit on the bottom. If they negotiate on price then at least you will know how far you can go.

How can you set a fair price? The Etsy Seller’s Handbook provides one way to do this:

Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

However you choose to calculate your prices, make sure that those prices are setting your new business (and you) on a sustainable path. Nobody starts a business saying “I want to be poor!” So, remember to factor in your profit.

Run your crafting hobby as a business by…

  • Choosing a business structure.
  • Acquiring any necessary business licenses or permits.
  • Filing and paying taxes.
  • Building profit into your pricing.

 

Give Your Customers What They Want

Now that we’ve got the hardcore business details taken care of, let’s talk about something a little more fun- how to give your fantastic customers what they want. Craft customers are not looking for a mass-produced item that they can pick up unceremoniously in a big box store for a discounted price. Instead, they are seeking unique, original pieces from real-live craftspeople that they can connect with. And that’s awesome.

Jess Van Den of “Create and Thrive” (a blog dedicated to helping hand-made crafting businesses succeed) points out,

They are buying from you because they prefer to buy unique things, direct from the person who made them. Don’t make it difficult for them to get to know you…

To that end, here’s what you can do to give your future customers what they want. Start by developing your own personal brand identity. As a professional craftsperson, this includes presenting yourself as the face of your business, as well as choosing the name of the business itself.

If you google “how to name your craft business” you’ll find oodles of results providing lists of potential craft business names. The trouble is that every other would-be entrepreneur craftsperson on Google is looking at those very same name suggestions.

Now, you know that craft consumers are seeking unique goods from unique individuals, so those generic name suggestions just are not going to cut it.

When naming your business, keep in mind what makes you – and your crafts – unique. What is their essence, their personality? Then make sure that your name captures that essence.

Ross Kimbarovsky, serial entrepreneur and founder of crowdSPRING, recommends starting your business name search by considering what you want the name to convey and then brainstorming with those guidelines in mind.  And, whatever name you choose, make sure it helps your consumer to know – and remember- who you are.

To support the hard work you’ve done in creating a great, unique business name, you’ll want to make sure that you flesh out your brand identity by sharing a little bit about yourself with your potential customers on your website. That’s right- you’ll need a website… and a logo. But, we’ll talk more about that later.

For now, know that your future website will need an “About” page that shares your story as a craftsperson, information about your qualifications, the story behind your products, and any other unique quirks that are important about you. This section is all about building trust. Sharing personal information helps your consumers get to know you as a person, which gives more meaning to the items they’ll (hopefully) purchase from you.

Successful crafters know that a strong personal brand is nothing without awesome hand-made products to back it up. As a crafting entrepreneur, you’ll want to make sure that your products are not only well-made, but something that consumers actually want to buy. Van Den advises,

When you start making for profit rather than for pleasure, your perspective needs to shift.
You need to stop thinking exclusively about you, and what you enjoy – and you need to start thinking about your customers.

So, think about who your target customer is- and the more specific you can be about this, the better. Let your customer and their needs inform your products. Don’t lose your singular vision in the process, but cater your creations to fit what your customer wants.

You will, of course, get better at this as you meet more of your real-life customers. So, be prepared to shift and adapt. Just remember that when crafting for profit, it’s as much about your consumer as it is about you. So, give them what they want.

Finally, now that you’ve established a relationship with your customers through your personal brand and an awesome product, make it easy for your customers to seal the deal and buy. Consumers want safe, easy transactions supported by phenomenal customer service should the need arise.

So, give it to them. Whether you choose to sell at trade shows and fairs or in an online venue, make sure that you create the kind of customer experience that you would enjoy. Offer multiple secured payment methods, be upfront about your store policies to avoid unpleasant surprises, respond to customer service requests promptly, and by all means, make it easy to contact you.

Display your email address prominently on your website- putting it in a header or footer so that it is easily found from every page ensures that your customer can find it with a minimal of effort.

You’ll also want to create a “Contact” page that includes, at a minimum, a short email form (so that your customers can reach you directly from that page) and links to your social media accounts. You can learn more about crafting an awesome “Contact Us” page here.

Business cards are another essential piece of your customer service puzzle. If you’re selling at trade shows or fairs your business card is a vital contact tool. But, it’s also a memento of your customer’s purchase experience, whether they bought with you in person or online.

Think of your card as an extension of your brand identity in a handy, easy-to-carry form. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see how important a tool it really can be. So, make sure your business card is designed to reflect your unique personal brand and clearly provide all of your contact info.

Give your customers what they want by…

  • Establishing a personal brand that customers can connect with by choosing a business name that conveys the essence of you and your crafts; and, sharing your story and unique product info.
  • Creating unique, original crafts with your niche market in mind.
  • Creating a great customer experience by providing safe, easy transactions and making it easy to reach you.

 

Remember What Business You’re In

Let’s be honest, crafts may not be solely defined by their appearance; but, how a crafted piece looks like goes a long way in determining its appeal.

One-of-a-kind, hand-crafted goods offer quality and aesthetic value to the world. The people who buy them are not usually looking for the most practical or functional items. Craft consumers are often driven by an appreciation of the artistic value and a desire to connect with the people who have created their unique new item.

So, if you’re going to capture an audience driven by aesthetic appreciation, you have to appeal to their good taste on all levels. This means that good design is a requirement at all levels of your business. Don’t let a poorly designed website, logo or business card undermine your credibility as a purveyor of beautifully hand-crafted items.

Your crafting business needs a visual identity to go along with your clever business name and to support your personal brand.
A logo should be the very first item on your graphic design to-do list.  Experts claim that a good logo must be simple, timeless and memorable. It also must be an extension of your brand.

Your logo has to derive meaning from your brand, not the other way around. The world’s best brands are not well-known because of their logo, they are known because of the people and vision that the logo represents.

Keep this in mind when designing (or communicating with a designer about) your logo.

Once you have a logo you love, you can start to think about website design.

But think twice if you’re considering using a generic template. Ross Kimbarovsky, founder of crowdSPRING warns of the dangers of generic template designs:

If you use an off-the-shelf template and your website looks like thousands of other sites on the Internet, you’ll miss an opportunity to create a unique impression.

There’s that crucial word again- unique.

Uniqueness is what hand-made crafts are all about. A single item crafted by a single pair of hands- no other like it in the world.

Your website design should reflect that uniqueness. And yes- you need a website. Otherwise, people won’t be able to easily find you.

Now, here’s why… a 2013 study< revealed that 56% of consumers don’t trust a business that doesn’t have a website. That’s more than half! Simply by virtue of having a website you’ve inspired 56% of your potential audience to have greater trust in you.

And, just as important, a website is an ambassador for your business. It’s there, 24/7, to introduce you and your products, answer questions and maybe even sell. All the while you can get on with the business of crafting, eating, sleeping and living.

Your website can be as simple as a landing page with pictures of your products, an “About Me” page and a “Contact” page. A better website will also include a page devoted to your store policies and customer service info. And the best website will also incorporate a blog and an e-commerce component with a gallery of your product listings so that you can make sales when you’re not even around.

If the idea of setting up your own online store is intimidating, check out Etsy- an online marketplace for hand-made crafts. Then direct customers to your Etsy shop from your website.

It’s not enough to have a website, however. You also want to be sure that your site’s design is unique and that it showcases your products and you.

Just like your logo, your web design should start with your personal brand. A well-designed website will expand upon and support the values and personality traits that you’ve identified as being core to your business. If web design is not among your many DIY skills, know that there’s help available.

Incorporate product photos right at the top of your website’s homepage to catch attention and showcase your crafts right from the very start. And be sure to invest a little money in good, professional product photos:

If you’re selling products and your customers will buy the products online, you need to make sure that the product photos – or graphical images and descriptions – are clean, crisp and appropriate. You can have a great site design, but if your product photos look terrible, your prospective customers will think twice about buying your products.

Jess Van Den of Create and Thrive concurs, claiming that your product photos will make or break your business:

The photo is the first thing that captures the eye, and usually the largest part of the decision-making process when all is said and done.

So what makes for great product photos? Van Den recommends white/neutral (not flash) lighting; simple, iconic backgrounds; interesting angles; and, most importantly, images must be perfectly crisp, clear and in-focus.

Remember that looks really do matter…

  • Incorporate thoughtfully designed visuals logo, business cards, website) that embody your personal brand.
  • Show off your crafts to their best advantage with flawless product photos.

 

Work Smarter, Not Harder

You may have heard the old adage, “Work smarter, not harder.” For a crafting business- where you will most likely run the business and create every single product sold all by yourself- this advice is even more vital.

Here are a few suggestions for how you can streamline your process and get the most of your valuable time and effort.

Set yourself up for success with an efficient workspace. Time spent scrambling to find lost tools or materials is time (and money) lost. Make the effort to figure out your physical workflow and create a space that supports it.

As a sewist, I know my personal tendency to carry around (and subsequently lose) my scissors and pin cushion. My solution? Place scissors and pin cushions at both my sewing table and on my ironing board. No more carrying, and so much time saved! Find your own personal productivity hacks to make your workspace work harder for you.

Another way to work smarter is to develop some products that can be reproduced easily. This can mean many things- maybe it’s simply a customizable item that you can create quickly in bulk ahead of time, leaving the customized elements to be added as orders come in.

You can also create craft patterns or projects that can be purchased digitally and printed by the consumer- allowing you to design and leave the construction up to your customers.

Jess Van Den recommends making reproducible products the core of your product line-up:

… I’m not saying not to make OOAK [one-of-a-kind] items – far from it! What I AM saying, is that if you want to have a successful online handmade business, you really need to produce a range of reproducible designs that you can list once, and then sell over and over again without having to do any additional work.

Finally, don’t forget that making the leap from crafting hobbyist to crafting entrepreneur means you have better options for purchasing supplies than overpriced retailers like Joann Fabrics and Michaels. Once you’ve legally established your business, you’ll be able to buy wholesale- and you should.

Buying wholesale means that you can buy supplies in bulk and at lower prices. This is a smart move on a couple of fronts. Firstly, purchasing wholesale means that larger quantities of supplies will be shipped to you, saving you time you’d otherwise spend making frequent trips to the store. And, secondly, it saves you money, leading to more competitive pricing.

Work smarter, not harder by…

  • Creating an efficient workspace.
  • Developing products that can be reproduced easily.
  • Purchasing supplies wholesale.

 

Make the Internet Work for You

The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. It’s how we stay in touch with friends and family, learn about what’s going on in the world, even find recipes for dinner and videos of puppies wearing bow ties. (And yes, I have a link. Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to share). It has also become a rich resource for entrepreneurs.

Utilizing the tools the internet offers can help you work more efficiently, keep initial startup costs down, and create a web presence that works for you every hour of every day.

We already discussed why you need a unique brand and an online presence.

But, the internet isn’t just for selling. It’s also for communicating. Online resources like Constant Contact and  MailChimp allow you to create email mailing lists and send email marketing campaigns to help build your audience and drive business to your site.

And don’t forget social media! Since you know your crafting consumers are looking for a personal touch in their purchases, make it easy for them to get to know you. Business Insider has named social media the “leading edge” in marketing- and establishing a Twitter or Facebook account is 100% free!

Social media gives you the ability to easily keep customers up-to-date on new products, store policies or sales. It also enables you to build a social rapport with current customers, while building low-pressure relationships with future buyers.

Nineveh Dinha Madsen of Forbes recommends creating a content calendar to make managing your social media more efficient and up-to-date.  She says,

Nothing is worse than coming across a company’s social media page only to find it hasn’t posted in two months or even years. Is it out of business? Make sure you’re active and, most importantly, be consistent.

So consider creating a content calendar to keep you on track. Social media marketing is too valuable (and too easy) not to take full advantage.

Make the internet work for you by…

  • Creating a professional website to be a customer ambassador when you’re not around.
  • Communicating conveniently via email marketing.
  • Building relationships with your customers via social media.

So there you have it. 15 tips for propelling your passion for crafting into a career. Let’s recap:

1. Choose a business structure.

2. Acquire business licenses or permits.

3. File and pay taxes.

4. Build profit into your pricing.

5. Establish a personal brand with which customers can connect. 

6. Create unique, original crafts with your niche market in mind.

7. Create a great customer experience by providing safe, easy transactions and making it easy to reach you.

8. Incorporate thoughtfully designed visual assets that embody your personal brand.

9. Show off your crafts to their best advantage with flawless product photos.

10. Create an efficient workspace.

11. Develop products that can be reproduced easily.

12. Purchase supplies wholesale.

13. Create a professional website to be a customer ambassador when you’re not around.

14. Communicate often via convenient email marketing.

15. Build relationships with your customers via social media.

If you follow this advice, you’ll be well on your way to turn your crafting hobby into a thriving business. Good luck!

 

For more tips and tricks on running your business, check out our latest ebook written by CEO and founder Ross Kimbarovsky entitled Stand Out: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting, Growing, and Managing a Successful Business.

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