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  • Crafts as a business

    Hi Everyone

    I was wondering, if any of you are doing this as a main business (I am sure lots of you are ) and it financial worth it?

    I want to do crafts as hobby, which is relly exciting and rewarding for me as it is something I have always wanted to do, but would also be nice to be able to sustain a living too if it ever came to it.

    I am pretty sure it is hard work, little return in the beginning etc but I am really interested to find out if it works out well for anyone.

    Also, do you sell on ebay? I see many people have their own websites which are fab, attending craft fairs is an idea too but I also thought about parties at toddler groups, mum/wine evenings etc....

    Be wonderful to hear back from some of you

    Thanks
    Lorraine

  • #2
    Hi Lorraine,

    Here's my story...

    I started about 4 years ago making my own creams and skincare because I have incredibly sensitive skin and there was nothing I could buy out there that I wasn't allergic to. Out of making things for myself and friends I decided to start a business...it didn't go too well because there are just so many people out there selling bath and beauty products and you really have to have a product that says "Wow" to people...my sister told me I needed an Ebay shop so I opened one - at this point sales were about £50 per month...not enough to feed my cats let alone live on. I worked full-time so it was pretty much just an enjoyable hobby.

    About 3 years ago I started doing some research on Ebay...looking at what people were selling in my line and what was selling well (Ebay's really well set up for doing this kind of research - you can look at individual listings to see how many people view something...you can search completed listings to see what's selling and you can search for a product and the items that appear on the first page and have the longest time to go are the best sellers, it's good for comparing your competitors prices too).

    At about this time I also did a 'Party' for a friend - I went with the intention of selling skincare but came away with 3 orders for Bath Bomb Making Kits... My Ebay research was telling me that there was almost no one selling this kind of thing. I had all the supplies so I started listing them...Sold about £200 worth in 10 days...so listed soap making kits...it was a turning point for my little business and I built a website and 'branded' everything to make the kits look inviting and expandedthe range.

    My turnover just 'ticked over' for the next 2 years then, in June of last year I decided to look back at the bath and body products and decided that I needed something a bit different...so I started developing the DeliPots range and sales have really taken off...I was still working but went part time in November and have now quit my job completely..

    I can turn my hand to pretty much anything so at the moment I am developing a range of products for a company in Cornwall, and building their website and doing all their marketing materials...

    I used to design and make wedding dresses and ball gowns...I absolutely loved sewing and designing...but by the time my business folded (another recession back in the late eighties)...I was absolutely sick of the site of my machine and I've barely sewn a stitch since...That's the downside of trying to make a living from doing something you love!

    I think the key to turning your hobby into a money making enterprise is to be versatile and flexible...it's no good making beautiful items that cost a fortune (because they take you 3 weeks to make); that everyone things are stunning if no one buys them - that's the very definition of a hobby IMHO...but if you can find a niche market or supply other crafters (at a competitive price) alongside selling your wares then you have a better chance of surviving...

    On the Ebay issue - it doesn't work for everyone...but maybe if your items aren't selling on Ebay then you need to look at what people ARE buying that are similar to yours. In my view Ebay is the easiest way to get your products 'out there' - people say the fees are expensive but for the same cost as 2 months fees on Ebay I put an ad in Vogue...I'm pretty certain I'll get more sales from Ebay - they do all your marketing for you and have millions of visitors...I spend an average £200 per month on Ebay Fees and sell an average of £1,000 worth of items per month on Ebay - to me the maths is easy...

    Didn't mean to write a novel but there we go...

    HTH and really wish you well..

    All the best

    Jude
    for bath bomb, soap & Skincare kits
    plus Soap Base, Bath Bomb Ingredients, Butters,
    Oils and packaging for Bath & Body Products

    Comment


    • #3
      I think most "crafters" would recognise some of what Jude has written.. but I suspect that very few make the crossover from hobby crafter to small business successfully.

      I don't say that to put anyone off, just that there is an ocean of difference between a small business and just selling the things you make. What I see time and again is the inability to apply sound business practice to the hobby crafter model.. Jude is a fine example of someone who can, and successfully does.

      The common pitfalls are failing to plan (and as someone here has as a tag line -failing to plan is planning to fail!), unrealistic expectations, lack of flexibility, inappropriate costings (usually leaving out the things that make the figures look bad.. like your own salary and payment for your time as manufacturer!).



      Sadly, manufacturing (for that is what your craft becomes!) is not the be all and end all of business, and you need a good understanding of marketing, managing (people, time, resources, emotions), financial matters, law (as it affects your chosen field - for example health and safety, liability, product testing and certification).. Yes it all becomes second nature after a time, but these are things you cannot put off and ignore until some future date, as a successful business is generally one that juggles them all from day one.

      Probably the hardest thing to face up to for many is a constructive criticism.. we are all "close" to our idea/baby and it can seem the world is full of "it will never work" types (Generally folk who are conditioned to be envious of your ability and desire to get up off your bottom and give it a try!!!).. but you do need genuine criticism of your plans.. let them do their worst, make copious notes, and make sure you can counter any objection someone else may raise.. it's not personal, it's business.. and when you find something you cannot rationally counter, you know there is a serious matter to address - by changing your business model perhaps.. When you have countered every objection, you can be confident you have a good basis to proceed!

      Success is not guaranteed to anyone, there will always be unforseen circumstances.. but someone like Jude has all the right attributes to ride out the minor storms.. from what she writes you can see she is flexible and adaptable, she constantly reviews what sells, how well it sells, and where future niches may be.. It may well be her business in 10 years time is far removed from what she started out with.. but then thats what you can say of every successful business you care to name.. they may still be true to their core product (many aren't) but they are in the business of business first, and in the business of their product second..

      You may well argue that you do not want to be the next Anita Rod**** or Sahar Hashemi (she founded the Coffee Republic Cafe chain), but the basic principles are the same for a £12,000 a year business as they are for M&S or Tesco.. and there is little point in hampering your budding business by not letting it grow!

      If you really want to give it a try, make it a strong commitment to see it though.. you will struggle to see a book about a business person who said "oh I will give that a go" and ended up with a great business, no hassle, no failures, no problems.. what you will find is thousands of books written by and about famous business people who struggled, cried (you bet!) dispaired, lost, won, and lost again.. but learned from the mistakes and took joy from the successes to end up successful, and basically, damned rich too! though rarely over night.

      Few will tell you it's the money they crave.. they might have needed an income stream that ennabled them to deal with their lives or to make their lives more manageable, but the joy comes from seeing your idea, your product, your invention out there in the big wide world, used and appreciated by others who are prepared to pay you for the privilege of having and using it.

      Doing something you love is the best business idea you can start off with.. you have a huge personal commitment to it from the start, which helps you overcome the worst if it happens.

      Having said all that, there is nothing at all wrong with ignoring all business principles, and selling your products at uneconomical prices. You wont ever get rich, but you should recoup a chunk of your overheads which will ennable you to spend yet more time with your hobby.. after all, there comes a point pretty rapidly when you have a house full of the product you make.. and all your friends do too..! so unless you can offload more, there's no reason to do more... the mistake is to call that "business" .

      You will find some alarming statistics out there about just how many small businesses fail in the first 3 years.. there's no beating about the bush on this one, it's "most". But don't let that put you off.. it doesn't take a genius to see why most of them do.. bad planning, failure to do their due dilligence and ignoring the glaring warning signs for the most part.. "optimism" is not planning.. it is a very useful tool to have when your planning is being stretched to the limits.. Yes you might do all the right things and still fail, but chances are if you do, you will see something that says "now do this" and you will have the opportunity to pick yourself up and do it bigger better faster smarter next time..

      Bah! Dang!! caught by the *****'s again!! R o d d i c k !! (glad Im not "richard the expert from scunny".. all my posts would just be ****************!)
      Last edited by sparkysdad; 07-04-2009, 01:11 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        I can't add to your rep Sparksdad - but I totally agree with everything you're saying

        There is a world of difference between being a 'hobby seller' - I use that term loosley for various reasons as personally I think there is no such thing but for example just doing a couple of local craft fairs / fetes & a 'small business' where a large chunk of your valuable time is spent on marketing, promotion, research, admin, tax returns etc, and not as much as you'd really like on the crative crafting side of things

        Claire
        Website; www.midshiresmakers.co.uk
        Facebook Pages: www.facebook.com/weedoncraftmarket
        www.facebook.com/craftshoppingexperience

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ladyluckjewellery View Post
          I can't add to your rep Sparksdad - but I totally agree with everything you're saying

          There is a world of difference between being a 'hobby seller' - I use that term loosley for various reasons as personally I think there is no such thing but for example just doing a couple of local craft fairs / fetes & a 'small business' where a large chunk of your valuable time is spent on marketing, promotion, research, admin, tax returns etc, and not as much as you'd really like on the crative crafting side of things

          Claire
          Cheers Claire!

          It would be nice in that ideal world we all love to live in if kind generous appreciative buyers just knocked on the door and said please may I buy £100's of items from you each month, and maybe there is an artisan out there for whom that happens; but everybody knows what Tesco and M&S sell.. there can't be a person in the land that doesn't.. if "selling" was so simple they wouldn't be spending £millions every year telling us what we already know...

          Comment


          • #6
            This is a great thread with some really good advice. For what it's worth, here's my contribution.
            I have made a living from my craft business for the past 20 years. I gave up teaching ( people thought I was crazy) to start it, and it was hard work. I kept within my means, despite business advisers telling me I should get premises and employ a workforce, and banks falling over themselves to offer me loans( remember this was 1989!).
            Initially I had the support of my OH who was also teaching - he looked after the kids when I was away at Craft Fairs all over the country, not to mention the financial cushion of his salary.
            Then 12 years ago, he left his job to become a partner in the business with me, so it HAD to work. We had two teenagers about to go off to uni with all the related costs, and a mortgage to pay.
            The main reason for our continuing success ( and I will never be complacent - it could go belly up at any time) was the fact that at the time he joined me, we started to do Trade Fairs and sell wholesale as well as continuing the retail side - Craft Fairs, Website, Mail Order Catalogue, and our own little shop.
            We've had years when the fairs were down and the trade was up, and years where the opposite happened, but at least we had spread our business around.
            We're in a good place at the moment - the trade side has been very good this year( so far )and there are plenty of orders. And we'll start the Craft Fair circuit in the summer.
            I wouldn't say we have all the answers, but we are prepared to diversify, to listen to what our customers want, to look for gaps in the market and fill them and to keep our eyes and ears open.
            You have to have a belief in what you're doing, but that's no good if no-one else does. So to make it a business that works, a mix of your talent, hard work, belief and a willingness to compromise is important.
            Whew... I've said enough.
            Now it's time to stop being the M.D. of Embroidered Originals and go and make the tea!!!
            Good luck if you are going to give it a go... and to anyone else on the forum who's thinking about doing it.
            Marion
            Embroidered Originals
            Here is my Blog
            Embroidered_Originals website
            Follow me on Twitter

            Comment


            • #7
              Have you tried....

              Have you had a look at etsy? it a site that sells and promotes handmade! You can set up a little shop and just add a few items to see how it goes, also the fees are less than ebay!
              *I Love Handmade*
              www.littlemillie.folksy.com
              www.urbancraftdesigners.etsy.com
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlemillie/

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree, this is an excellent thread. A lot of food for thought for an artist determined to widen my selling opportunities. I currently sell through art galleries but you feel somewhat out of the loop once your work is in the gallery and then there's the question of commission taken by the gallery.

                I am effectively launching my alternative sales this year and everything I can learn on here is such a huge bonus. Choosing the right venue for sales for a particular product is vital - for example, ebay is not great for art sales, I shall be giving it a miss unless I develop an appropriate product. Etsy is great for art conversely, provided you do your work and keep your shop fresh and updated on a regular basis (I have been lurking there for a while watching how it works and researching what sells and what doesn't and for how much).

                I have my first craft fair coming up and have been busy getting ready to launch my website and etsy shop around the same time.

                Diversification, research, planning and flexibility seem to be key to the success stories I have read on here and I shall keep these in mind at all times. Thanks for all the great advice - keep it coming!

                Fi
                Last edited by inkyprints; 15-05-2009, 02:16 PM.
                www.artistsandillustrators.co.uk/FionaHumphrey (portfolio page)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ladyluckjewellery View Post
                  I can't add to your rep Sparksdad - but I totally agree with everything you're saying

                  There is a world of difference between being a 'hobby seller' - I use that term loosley for various reasons as personally I think there is no such thing but for example just doing a couple of local craft fairs / fetes & a 'small business' where a large chunk of your valuable time is spent on marketing, promotion, research, admin, tax returns etc, and not as much as you'd really like on the crative crafting side of things

                  Claire
                  HI,

                  I AM a 'hobby seller' as you put it. I don't NEED to sell anything and craft as a HOBBY. Most of what I produce is given to people. I do have an online shop, however I do not make (in fact I lose) money made from it. I do craft stalls however I sell for even less at those than I do from my online shop.

                  I craft because I love it and I think that if I was doing it purely for business I would lose that love (as I have seen from a lot of crafters...you have just got to see the pained expression on some of there faces at craft shows).

                  One piece of advice...don't lose the love of crafting and do it for the right reasons...I would hate to see another sad face selling over-priced items because they are having to make their money back for stall fees, insurance, etc etc.

                  Hope I haven't offended anybody..I didn't mean to !
                  Preserving your items and memories in Handmade custom jewellery Keepsake Gifts

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    my thoughts are that once you have moved from making things you enjoy and having some success selling them to mass orders, you are a producer and no longer a crafter.

                    two entirely different things
                    www.rocksforfrocks.co.uk
                    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rocks-For-Frocks/230802980887

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gbell View Post
                      my thoughts are that once you have moved from making things you enjoy and having some success selling them to mass orders, you are a producer and no longer a crafter.

                      two entirely different things
                      Well said ! You may as well sell the business of making to some low cost country if thats all that you are after.
                      Preserving your items and memories in Handmade custom jewellery Keepsake Gifts

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by shpangle View Post
                        HI,

                        I AM a 'hobby seller' as you put it. I don't NEED to sell anything and craft as a HOBBY. Most of what I produce is given to people. I do have an online shop, however I do not make (in fact I lose) money made from it. I do craft stalls however I sell for even less at those than I do from my online shop.

                        I craft because I love it and I think that if I was doing it purely for business I would lose that love (as I have seen from a lot of crafters...you have just got to see the pained expression on some of there faces at craft shows).

                        One piece of advice...don't lose the love of crafting and do it for the right reasons...I would hate to see another sad face selling over-priced items because they are having to make their money back for stall fees, insurance, etc etc.

                        Hope I haven't offended anybody..I didn't mean to !
                        You certainly don't have to make £25,000 a year if you sell your items, but I am at a loss to understand why you would choose to make a loss on selling.. at least "break even" ! If you don't need the money you lose, you could always give it to a good cause - and then you can enjoy your crafting, and also know you are benefitting others at the same time..

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gbell View Post
                          my thoughts are that once you have moved from making things you enjoy and having some success selling them to mass orders, you are a producer and no longer a crafter.

                          two entirely different things
                          Thats a very valid point gbell, and one reason why I personally would stress the need to really consider what is involved in making a living from crafting, rather than breaking even.. (which was the OP's original question when starting the thread!)

                          Not only do you have the added burden of needing to produce a far higher quantity, you have the endless other chores of marketing, tax, accounts, shipping, ordering and the like which become essential to make the business a success.

                          Certain crafts perhaps lend themselves better to larger scales - Baking, or Soap making and cosmetics and toiletries for example, where every Bar of soap should be identical. Making 2 is the same as making 20 or perhaps 200 just more effort.. but as a jeweller for example, you can't "add more ingredients and make 2 at once" in the same way..

                          Crafting as a living is almost inevitably a compromise between making and doing what you love, and the "extra" stuff that makes it a business.. unless you become a celebrated artist and can command a decent fee for your work.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sparkysdad View Post

                            Crafting as a living is almost inevitably a compromise between making and doing what you love, and the "extra" stuff that makes it a business.. unless you become a celebrated artist and can command a decent fee for your work.
                            How true! Mind you the galleries' sales are definitely down in the current financial climate - I have made some good gallery sales but it's not a way to make a living - at least, yet (lots of artists work part-time to make their living because it's notoriously unreliable - not many command the higher and very high fees). I have to diversify to stay in art, and I'm staying in art so I must diversify. I've read a lot of your posts and so much of what you say makes sense, very useful reading for the likes of me.

                            Fi
                            www.artistsandillustrators.co.uk/FionaHumphrey (portfolio page)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by gbell View Post
                              my thoughts are that once you have moved from making things you enjoy and having some success selling them to mass orders, you are a producer and no longer a crafter.

                              two entirely different things
                              I tend to disagree, making something you enjoy making and having lots of customers coming back for more is a great motivator.

                              We still make by hand, so call ourselves crafters.

                              Jane
                              www.just-soaps.com
                              Twitter JUSTSOAPS
                              FB www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Soaps/258910018463
                              Natural Handmade Olive Oil Soaps and Skincare free from SLS, Parabens, and other Nasties

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