I’m not a person who makes New Year’s Resolutions, however 2014 I did decide to make some business goals for myself. My list was short with only four goals and after evaluating them again in April of 2014 I shortened it even more and put a few things on the back burner. My biggest goal was to participate in more in person events, which would mean craft fairs, demonstrations, festivals, etc. I accomplished this and by the end of the summer I was exhausted.
When 2015 came around I wasn’t sure what the next step should be. I felt confident in how things were going in Woobieland, but things can always get better. Not knowing where to go next I looked to the library for some books about handmade businesses (I’d forgotten how much I love the library).
The first book I picked up Handmade to Sell: Hello Craft’s Guide to Owning, Running, and Growing Your Crafty Biz by Kelly Rand with Christine Ernest, Sara Dick, and Kimberly Dorn. I spent several hours in coffee shops, on patios, and even a bit in the bar pouring over the chapters of this book. It was immediately attractive to me because the layout is easy to read and the illustrations are adorable. I started my business in 2009 and working intently on it since 2011, so I was already familiar with a lot of the concepts in the book. However, many of the tidbits of information look at things in ways I have not thought of them before. Most of the way I run my business has come intuitively, by looking at others, and by googling profusely. This book is a good reminder that I am, for the most part, doing things right.
Handmade to Sell begins with giving an overview of the contemporary craft movement, highlighting craft shows, magazines, blogs, and websites that have altered the way crafters and the public see handmade businesses. Today’s crafters aren’t just making crocheted doilies and toilet paper covers (although some are), they are finding creative and inventive methods and materials to express themselves and the culture that they live in. If you have been crafting for awhile you may already be aware of some of this information, but reading in print the movement that has meant so much to me makes me say “RIGHT ON” *with a fist pump*.
The book then moves into business of crafting. It is a great place to start if you are thinking of taking a hobby and making it into something more. Especially if you have no experience with selling your crafts, there are a good deal of things to think about before you begin. Not knocking the jump in with both feet and see what happens technique of yours truly, but that might not be your personality type.
There are great examples of learning to tell your story to your potential customers. Why do you make things items that you make in the particular way that you make them? Who taught you how to sew, or crochet, or weld? It also shows you why thinking about and expressing these kinds of things is important for your business and building your brand.
You will learn about what a brand is, and how you should think of it in terms of your story and your process. About coming up with a name, a logo, and the whole visual aspect of your business. Related to your brand, the book also discusses marketing, how to go about getting your brand and your products out in the world for your potential customers to see. There are many different ways to engage with the world and the chapter on marketing covers many of them.
The financial and legal aspects are owning a business aren’t always the fun parts. You do them because they are necessary (and they are necessary right from the beginning.) Read this chapter more than once to make sure you are setting off on the right foot when you start your business. It will answer a lot of questions from what type a business you are starting to whether or not you should hire help for some of the trickier parts. It also gives good resources for finding inexpensive or free assistance in starting your crafty business.
There is a great deal of space devoted to choosing where your business will be located. Selling online, where online, attending craft fairs, and the pros and cons to a brick in mortar shop are all addressed in several chapters. Much of this is deciding what will work for you, and the information and stories in this chapter will help you decide that.
The last two topics addressed are growing your business, which if you are just thinking about starting, isn’t a necessarily important aspect of this book, and the creative community. Community is probably one of the best parts about owning a crafty business. I love seeing what others are making, giving and receiving advice, and just celebrating what it is to be a craft business owner. It’s a great club and everyone is invited!
If you are thinking about or just starting your business I recommend heading to your local bookstore or library to pick up Handmade to Sell. If you are like me and learned a lot of things the hard way, it’s still a good remind and look into how others start and run their businesses.
Have you read Handmade to Sell? What did you learn? Is there another book you’d recommend when starting a crafty business? Let me know in the comments below.