Craft Venture: the basics

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If you sell ““ or want to sell ““ your handmade creations “¦ congratulations! You are entering a new adventure as business manager, in addition to your role as artist, designer or crafter. Luckily for you, there are infinite resources available to you. Less luckily, some resources are more valuable than others. This new column focuses on the skills, knowledge and tools that will help you manage your business.

 

I’m Brenda, by night owner of  my own online handmade business (Phydeaux Designs at Etsy), by day manager of finance and administration at a top-ranked University. When I started my own online shop, I used business skills obtained via experience and education. Ive gone on to learn a great deal more about online business management, and continue to learn every day!

 

Every small business owner wants to be successful. Otherwise, why bother? However, the definition of “success” may differ, based on individual goals and desires. Perhaps you just want to make pocket money. Perhaps you want to become the next Martha Stewart. In either case, you will need to pick up a few basic business management skills.

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First, there is no universal “one size fits all” formula for online selling success, despite what other sellers will tell you. In Craft Venture, we wont be talking about a universal success formula. Instead, well talk about the skills and tools that youll need to learn and grow as a business person. Youll learn to manage your business more efficiently and effectively, allowing more time for you to create.

 

One universal business truth is this: owning your own small business is plain, old fashioned hard work involving long hours. If you understand this, you can decide how big or small you want your business to be. Do you have a support structure of family and friends that will help you? Will your partner help you with packaging and shipping, or resent the time not spent with him/her? Are you able to do this fulltime, or part time during nights and weekends?

 

Hard work and long hours doesnt mean spending the majority of your day “marketing” in the forums or chat rooms of your particular online market. You want the highest return possible on your investment of time (“return on investment” or “ROI”). If youre just starting out, research! Spend time looking closely at the successful online shops and blogs that you admire. Contact a couple of sellers for advice!

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In the beginning, youll put in phenomenal hours just learning the basics of setting up your shop and managing your business. Once youve acquired a solid basic skill set, youll spend more time improving your shop and learning additional business skills. This cycle will continue until your shop attracts steady traffic ““ even steady sales ““ and you no longer struggle just to figure out shipping!  The improvement and learning process never really ends, but with each cycle, you’ll learn more efficiently and effectively.

 

I don’t say this to scare you!  The work is hard, the hours are long, and you should love (nearly) every minute of it!  You will celebrate every sale and new skill learned, making the less fun times worthwhile.  After all, what can be more fun than showing and selling your work across the globe, all from the comfort of your living room or studio?

 

Tell us about your own experience ““ is owning a handmade business hard work? How do you manage your time? Are you working on the business and shop basics or are you expanding your skill set?

 

Image credit:  1.  Typewriter 2 by esoule, 2.  The Perfect Notebook by Katie Blair Designs, 3.  In it With All My Heart by uncorked

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Next week: online marketplaces and venues – which are for you?

9 comments | Click here to reply

This is a solid, well-written, excellent article. Great advice for any new business venture. Thank you so much for sharing, Brenda!

Dennice

Brenda. I am so excited about your posts here. This is a great start. I definitely think owning a handmade business is hard work, and one of the most important things for me as far as time-management is organization. It is very easy to let things spiral out of control otherwise. And I think that sticking to a schedule/ routine as much as possible is helpful too. Ex: 10am-noon work on emails and blogging/ noon-5pm work on filling orders/ 5-7pm list new products, etc. You just have to find what works best for you and more importantly set realistic goals for yourself.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Love the article, Brenda. I have found your input as I’ve started sewhappyJane to be invaluable. I so appreciate all you have helped me learn. I still have so much to learn. Not the least of which is figuring out how to find time to keep up my inventory with two small children and a husband who fits the resentful description more than the supportive one. I like Brittni’s advice about the routine. The problem is…if I’m being realistic, I can’t fit sewhappyjane into my spare time and make it successful. I’m going to have to decide if I want this to be a job, or a hit and miss hobby. It’s all about the seasons of life for me right now. The hard part is figuring out which season I’m in!

heather jane

Thank you all! These are great insights and feedback. Brittni, I totally agree with you about scheduling your time to best manage your time. Helps keep you on point as well as make sure you at least start the day with a plan. Heather, what a great point you’re making, that so many others experience! I think you’re asking yourself all the right questions, but they sure are hard questions to ask (and answer!).

Brenda

“In the beginning, you’ll put in phenomenal hours just learning the basics of setting up your shop and managing your business. Once you’ve acquired a solid basic skill set, you’ll spend more time improving your shop and learning additional business skills. This cycle will continue until your shop attracts steady traffic – even steady sales – and you no longer struggle just to figure out shipping! The improvement and learning process never really ends, but with each cycle, you’ll learn more efficiently and effectively.”

This is exactly where I am. I’ve been running around full of anxiety because it seems like I never stop working, trying to figure it all out, while taking care of my 2 kids under 4. You give me hope, because I was beginning to think it wouldn’t even get better. You give me hope that I will enter a new stage where I have the base set of skills I need and will be able to build from there.

rowena

Brenda –

What a great post! I am so excited to see you as a contributor here on papernstitch. Looking forward to your upcoming posts!

Amy

FormFire Glassworks

Wow, this is great advice for a starter! While reading, i catch myself nodding my head in agreement. Im 21 years old, i work a full timejob then go home and sew, post, and market. Then i go to bed. Long hours but I love every minute when it comes down to it!

Bird Trouble

So great to see you here, Brenda! Awesome inaugural post, you know I can relate to every word you said 🙂
I cant wait to see what’s next!

lillyella

thank you for letting me know about this site and how exciting to see you as a contributor! i will be keeping an eye out for your weekly posts.

yes, i’ve found that i’ve experienced what you’ve mentioned here and yes…the learning is ongoing. the time management is especially key. i think after about a year or so, i’ve finally gotten a “routine” down and i even created a database to keep me organized.

but also in this time, i’ve come to the realization that in my current place of having a full-time job which i can’t realistically walk away from, and younger children…and even with a supportive hubby, that i don’t want to choose to devote the time required to make it more than a way to make “pocket money.” while in the beginning i had every intention of doing so, i’m finding that my life was slowly becoming unbalanced and even a little more stressful.

that said, i have no regrets starting down this path and i still will continue what i am doing because i do enjoy creating and this allows me to keep doing so without having to keep everything i make. i’m also using this to teach my kids that this is an avenue available to them. they help me sometimes so they are learning about the process as well as learning that it does involve work. at least i can see the gears spinning 🙂

naomi
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