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Friday, September 28, 2012

Starting a Crafts Business Part Time, Post 1

As a number of you already now, I started Many Creative Gifts in 2005 as a part time way to showcase my crochet items, mainly on Etsy.  I'd make a baby hat or some type of crocheted accessory and post it on the site and wait to see what would happen.  Etsy was in its infancy, and I'd get a decent amount of views and interactions with potential and actual customers.  I also made good use of the "alchemy" feature by searching for customers who were looking to have customized crochet items made for them.  It was an eye opening experience in terms of learning about proper pricing and meeting someone's very specific needs and desires in a final product. 

Now, though, I'm not sure a person new to Etsy could achieve the same experience.  There are sooooo many vendors on Etsy now, I'm just not sure exactly how any one particular vendor can stand out, unless he or she has a very specialized niche that pushes them up the list in a Google search.

So, where to start?  I'm not discouraging an Etsy shop (or one of the other arts seller platforms); I'm just suggesting you have a very specialized angle if you go that route.  Otherwise, consider these possibilities:

1)   Go local – make it known to your family and friends that you've got something you make that you would like to show them.  No pressure, but if they like it, would they like to place an order for themselves or as a gift for someone?  See how that goes.  Although you might not get the same kind of honest, possibly harsh, feedback that you would from strangers, it's a gentler, less scary starting point.  And, frankly, if they are smiling and encouraging you but not willing to fork over some $$ for at least one item, then that's telling in its own way too.

2)   Stay local for a bit – you really might have better luck in local crafts shows and stores at first.  Despite the ease of buying things online, the shopping experience is still best had in person.  Especially if you are in the fiber arts, potential customers like to see the colors in real life, touch the product and get a real feel for it, especially if it's a wearable.  So, take advantage of that and find ways to display your wares.  And be sure to make a few things that you can either carry around with you to show off or wear yourself – that's often how you will get questions or reactions.  Keep business cards and other "swag" with you to hand out to help people remember you and know how to contact you in the future because, even if they are not ready to buy that very minute, you want to leave a good impression for the future.

3)   Start blogging and create a Facebook page – I know, there are a million blogs and pages out there, but again, you've got to start somewhere.  Just like the literary agent  encouraged me to do, start letting people know what it is you do and what it is you have to offer.  Put up some pictures of your products and explain a little about either your creative process or why you created what you did, etc.  The handmade movement has started to evolve from just offering the product itself into presenting a story, a whole package, the whole you.  I'm not saying come up with a sob story to tug at people's hearts because, frankly, it's still about the product in the end.  I'm saying be authentic and just share a bit.  Again, you don't have to spill the beans on all your personal details, just give people a small window into why you and your offerings might appeal to them.  You and your products are unique in some way, and you need to share that.

Ok, that's a lot of information for now.  More will come :-)

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