These days, handmade is hot. The trend started years ago when there were a small number of people making products and selling them at local craft fairs. Today, the demand for handmade products is on the rise in cities and towns across the nation, on the Internet, and worldwide.
One of the consequences of the growing popularity of handmade, especially when coupled with today's struggling job market, is that there are millions of people selling handmade products. This is great for the handmade community, and for consumers who have more options than ever. But making handmade products is very different from making and selling handmade products. Here are some things you'll want to consider as you assess whether a handmade business is right for you.
With new handmade market places launching every week to accommodate handmade products, you'll have to work smarter (notice, I did not say harder, I said smarter) to get your brand noticed in a crowded market place. Priority number one for anyone who seeks to make a profit by selling what they make is to systematize how you make your products so you have time to market and sell them.
Example: Consider Handmade Hannah
Let’s say Handmade Hannah makes 30 different types of handmade soap in 50 bar batches. Let's further say it takes 2 hours from start to finish to make each batch. Let's further say that product sales require Hannah to replenish each type of soap once a month.
That means Hannah is going to spend 60 hours a month making soap. Assuming a 40-hour work week, Hannah has 100 hours left after manufacturing to do everything else associated with her business. Here's a small list of what has to be done in that 100 hours:
order and replenish packaging
order and replenish ingredients
look for alternative suppliers for ingredients that have been discontinued or are no longer available
clean manufacturing equipment
wrap, pack and ship products
restock and/or resell returned products
update website and blog regularly
engage with customers on FaceBook and other social media
pitch products to bloggers and other media outlets
attend online and in-person networking meetings for continuing education and support
make sales calls (in person and by phone)
deal with product returns
deal with customer feedback (positive and negative)
plan and incorporate limited edition products for holiday or special occasions
read industry trade publications and other business media to stay abreast of industry developments
look for and/or manage either virtual help or employees
run monthly numbers and review profit and loss statements
pay state and federal taxes
tweak a business plan to take changes and unexpected opportunities into account
maintain a blog and/or newsletter
And that's just for starters. Suddenly a whopping 100 hours a month, which is about 25 hours a week, which is about 5 hours a day, doesn't seem like so much time anymore.
I'm not saying all this to scare you, or to remind you of what you're not doing.
I'm saying it because it's true, and also because I don't want you to start a handmade business thinking that you'll be able to happily pursue your passion of making something you love all day without creating a system that allows you to get everything done that has to be done.
In other words, I want you to succeed. I want you to pursue your passion without falling into the passion pit.
I want you to be realistic about what you're getting yourself into. I want you to make money and succeed not only doing something you love, but also saving for your retirement and putting your kids through college.
OK, so now that we've covered the harsh reality, let's turn to how do-able a handmade business really is. You can do this, and do it well, but you'll need to embrace these realities first.
- You'll need a business plan. Your handmade products are probably wonderful, but if you don't have a plan to make a profit as you make every single one of them, your business will not succeed. For more sound business planning advice, listen to my exclusive 60 Minute Business Planning call.
- You'll need a blog and/or a newsletter. Google loves blogs that are updated regularly with new articles, pictures and videos of you and your handmade products. A blog is free. Get one. I've been blogging for a decade. Here is some of my best blogging advice. A newsletter is a super way to maintain intimate communication with your customers and propsects. It's inexpensive, and can be easily integrated with social media so your publication has legs.
- You'll need help and support. If you want to do every little thing yourself, forever and ever Amen, your business will not outpace inflation. Forget growing — you won't even break even at the end of the day. If you have to start out all by yourself, that's fine. But make sure your business plan pinpoints a day in the future where you will pay someone to do something so you can begin transitioning from doing everything yourself. You cannot remain ahead of the game if you are doing everything yourself. For advice on hiring people, enjoy 7 tips for hiring your first employee.
- You'll need to diversify your marketing and sales efforts. Just because your products are awesome does not mean they will sell just because they are awesome. You'll have to use technology to get the word out about you and your story in order to appeal to consumers who have a dizzying array of options when it comes to buying handmade products. You'll need to let people get to know you. (Do you have a video camera and a YouTube account?)
You'll have to have a hook that transcends your products in order to attract people to your products. (Do you have an e-book or a podcast?) For advice on hosting your a podcast, enjoy 3 reasons to host your own radio show.
This sounds like a lot, I know. But I guarantee you that it doesn't have to be. And it won't be, if you start with Step 1, above.
Question: This is just an overview, but what do you think? What did I leave out that you think is important?