If you knit, sew, crochet, tat, or spin, or if you make jewelry, soap, dolls, candles, quilts or scrapbooks, you already have the raw materials for starting your own business. You have the product or products, and you likely have a passion for your products. Those are often two of the hardest things to find or choose, so you have a head start. Here are some tips for taking the next step and turning your crafts into business.
First, determine if you need a Business License and how to get one. It will probably only take a quick website visit or a phone call to find out. You usually do not need one while you are doing research, so feel free to wait until you are ready to make that first sale. Also, check with your state to find out how you should handle sales tax on your items. Most sole proprietors can just use their social security number, but you might need a Tax ID number from the IRS. You can get one from the IRS website and it is pretty easy to do.
Next, determine exactly what you wish to sell. What is your favorite thing to make? What do you get compliments on? What do you see selling in stores for way more than you would charge for it? What do you see in stores that you do a much better job of making? While a knitter can make many things, perhaps you would want to make matching hats & scarves because they are quick and fun and popular. A jewelry maker can focus on making wedding jewelry or art jewelry or everyday jewelry. A quilter can make baby quilts or patriotic quilts or custom quilts. Whatever you choose to sell will help you determine how to market it.
Once you have decided on a starting product or a focus product, you will determine your target market. While there may be many possible buyers for your product, pick one that seems to have the most potential. For our knitter, hats and scarves have many markets, from small children to senior citizens, urban fashion icons to their country cousins; housewives to hunters. Some geographic consideration will help here—do you live in a college town, a hunting village, a ski resort? That can give you ideas for target marketing as well as possible colors or themes for your products. The same process works no matter what you make. Decide what you want to sell, determine who is most likely to buy it and then work on getting the info to them.
Here’s a low-tech way to advertise your crafts in your area. No website needed.
Take (or have a friend take) digital pictures of your product. If you can put a model in the picture, do so. Write a short description (the name of the product, its dimensions, materials used, sizes, color options, etc.). Put both on a flyer along with your name or company name, phone number, and email address. Put a headline on the flyer suggesting your product for Christmas gifts. Use phrasing like “One of a kind” “hand-made” and “unique”. If you can tie your product in with local school colors or sports team colors or something, do so. (Leave logos and mascots off unless you have permission to use and sell them.) You can also use camo colors for hunters, white for brides/weddings, pastels or primary colors for babies and children, and fashion colors for everyone else.
Distribute your flyers at the local college, grocery store bulletin boards, community centers, churches, laundries, schools and so on. Give more to your friends and ask them to take them to their work and pass them out to coworkers. Give a free scarf (or whatever you are selling) to your most talkative friends along with plenty of flyers and/or business cards.
Do this again in November for holiday sales (add some Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa colors/products), and again in spring. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to create your own catalog!
For more in-depth information on crafting as a business, you can buy The Crafts Business Answer Book & Resource Guide at Amazon.com.
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