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Selling Crafts - Are You Ready to Start Your Own Home Craft Business? by Lisa McGrimmon

The idea of selling crafts through your own home craft business can be quite compelling for anyone with an independent spirit and a creative mind. The creative outlet provided by a home craft business combined with the autonomy of self employment can be rewarding.

If you dream of selling crafts and building a business based on your creative talents, you are not alone. The Craft Organization Development Association (CODA) reports that there are 127,000 professional craft artists in the United States, and the average gross annual revenues for craft businesses reaches $78,000 in the United States (CODA).

If you are thinking about joining the ranks of these professional craft artists, answering these questions for yourself will to help determine if you are ready to start selling crafts.

Do You Have a Unique Product or Concept?

If you haven't developed your own distinctive style, you are not ready to launch your home craft business. This opinion is one of the best bits of advice that I received early in the development of my own business. It can be hard to hear that advice if you are not there yet, but establishing your own creative voice is crucial to building a successful business selling crafts.

Whether you are selling hand knit sweaters, creating craft kits for sale or designing and selling your own patterns, it is important to establish your own creative identity separate from those professional crafters that you admire. Take an honest look at your work. Is it truly your own, or is it derivative of your favorite artist? You must build your business around your own unique style.

If you haven't established your own creative voice, keep experimenting. Take an art class, learn new techniques or try working with materials that are not typically used in your main medium. Your creative identity plays into so many business decisions, it's definitely worth the effort to establish your own style.

Does Your Concept Have Good Potential for Profit?

Will you be able to sell your crafts at a price that will allow for a fair profit? Some crafts have a greater perceived value than others even though the time and cost of materials to produce them may be similar.

I recently met an artist who was selling an intricate beaded bracelet for $40.00. When she told me that it took her eight hours to make the bracelet, I realized that she could not possibly be making a fair profit on her beadwork. $40.00 works out to only $5.00 per hour for an eight hour project, and that doesn't even take into account the cost of materials, selling fees or the time she spent promoting her work.

Although you may love the time you spend creating your products, your time is not free if you are in business. Ensure that you have a craft business concept that will allow you to price your work in a way that covers your time and expenses and allows for a fair profit, or you will seriously limit the growth of your business.

Do You Have Realistic Expectations?

If you read the biographies of professional craft artists, you'll find some of them can be pretty misleading. Everyone loves the romanticism of a rags to riches story, so the typical artist biography will start off something like this, "I started with a thousand dollars and a dream. Before I knew it I was selling my work internationally, and I quit my job to concentrate fully on my art."

That statement may be good marketing, but it leaves out all of the struggles that are a reality of launching any business. If you hang your expectations for your home craft business on that kind of hype, you'll be quickly disappointed. Realistically, it takes three to five years for a professional craft artist to establish distribution channels and build a business that is truly profitable.

If you are clear about the financial realities of starting a business and understand that it will take time, money, skill and commitment to earn an income from selling crafts, you can benefit from your hard work. Unlike paid employees who are limited to earning the market rate for a particular profession, business owners are limited only by their own brains and motivation. The more effort and smart planning you put into your business, the more you will benefit directly from your own work.

Are You Ready to Be All Things to All People?

Launching a business selling crafts means you will have to take responsibility for every aspect of your business venture. Keep in mind that selling crafts is, at best, 50 percent craft and 50 percent business. That means that in addition to designing and producing beautiful pieces, you will also need to forecast your needs for supplies and finished products, calculate production times, answer customer concerns, maintain accurate financial records, and the list goes on.

Seeking the support of a business mentor can help you to build the skills and knowledge needed to address these responsibilities. An experienced mentor who is able to share insights and provide guidance will be an invaluable resource if you are learning the ropes of launching a home craft business. A mentor will help you to focus your time and efforts, avoid common pitfalls, source out resources and identify and develop the skills needed to run your business.

If you're ready to take on the challenge of learning new skills and combining your business and creative talents, the rewards of building a craft business can be wonderful. You get to build something from the ground up that is your own and a reflection of your values. With total responsibility comes autonomy and the satisfaction of knowing that any business success is always your own success.

Can You Establish an Online Presence?

While you may not need to build a website immediately if you launch a craft business, many professional craft artists do eventually establish an online presence. Some artists focus on selling crafts directly online, while others don't sell their crafts on their site, but they do use their site as a virtual gallery to display and promote their work.

Building a website, if you've never done it before, can present a few challenges. Paying someone to build a site for you can be expensive if you're not careful, but building a professional looking site yourself can require you to develop a whole new set of skills. Also, considering there are over 155 million websites online (Netcraft Web Services Survey, January 2008), you'll need to develop some affordable strategies for marketing your website if that is part of your business plan.

Although building and marketing a website can sound like a daunting task at first, that goal is actually not out of reach for many people. With a little bit of research, you can find inexpensive resources that allow you to build and market a professional looking site that customers will find among the crowd of other websites.

Do You Really Believe in Your Craft Business Concept?

When you launch your own business, you will work harder for yourself than you would ever work for any employer. After you have researched the realities and considered the potential for your craft business idea, if you still steadfastly believe in the potential of your concept, it is that attitude that will allow you to commit to working hard enough to build a successful business selling crafts.

Smart planning, support, research, business and creative skills and adequate resources are all nourished by your own belief in your business. If you have a good understanding of what it will take to be successful selling crafts, and you are still willing to work until the wee hours of the morning to meet a deadline, take on tasks that are outside of your comfort zone, and work through the challenges as well as the brilliant successes, then you are ready to start your own craft business.


Author, designer and career counselor Lisa McGrimmon publishes Inspiri Art and Craft, an in-depth guide to building a successful home craft business. To learn more about starting your own craft business and get your free craft business newsletter, drop by Inspiri Craft Business Magazine


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