guest post | how to get started with your own crafty little biz

the following is a guest post from the lovely Joanne Dewberry. she has her own little biz and loves to help other mums who are trying to make a success of their little biz ideas.

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When I started Charlie Moo's in 2008 I never really set out to be a 'crafter' and to be honest I don't really craft myself as such now.  I can sew some fabric party bags and really that's where my craft talent ends.  My real talent, which has been the driving force of Charlie Moo's, has to lie in PR and marketing.  Along my journey, I have met some incredibly gifted artists and crafters; women from all manor of genres.  It has become pretty apparent to me that many mums in business (mumpreneurs) start life as crafters. 

There is such a wide variety of handmade items entering the marketplace and I am a fan of the unique and individual myself.  So what skills do you need to get started with a craft business?

What to charge?

Price in any business can be a hard thing to decide.  You don't want to pitch yourself to low and be working for nothing but at the same time you don't want to go too high and price yourself out of the market.  When I posed this question “How do you decide on price/ monetise your business?” to a variety of different crafters the response was varied. 

Ally Pinney recently set up her sock monkey business said “This is very hard to do!  I have taken a look at what others sell their sock monkeys for but with the time I spend making them, feel I am seriously undervaluing myself.”

Michelle Williams suggests:

“take into account all of the costs, not only the costs of the materials, but also make sure you factor in your time accordingly too! Remember, when people are buying hand-crafted goods, they are paying for your time.  Many hand-made goods take a considerable amount of time to make, not to mention skill and dedication! Many people sell their craft products at a price that is too low when you actually analyse the amount of time that has gone into making the goods. Always, also check out your competitors, to see what their pricing strategy is and position against them appropriately. Naturally your pricing strategy must be appropriate to your target market too, depending upon how you are aiming to position yourself/your products,i.e. exclusive/upmarket etc.”

However in comparison Catherine L Owen 'the raggy rat' tries to keep it more 'real'.

“I often think ‘what would I pay for this?’ given that I usually make what I like! My prices have changed over the years, I can now get more for my work because I have built up a reputation and of course my skills keep improving. I do believe though that crafters cannot charge for the time or effort that goes into their lovely things, and so we at best accept a reasonable donation, and I am happy with that.”

My advice is to set yourself a formula working from time, cost of materials and what others are charging and ultimately what you would like to get paid at the end.  I think this is the fairest way to develop a pricing scheme that suits yourself and your target market.

Where to sell?

Craft is a funny thing as online craft selling sites, such as Esty, Folksy and MISI (and madeit in Australia) offer you an affordable outlet to sell but having your own website allows you to develop more of an independent brand.  Viv Smith suggests that her own website drained too much of her time. 

“In the end I decided to use my blog as a website (blogger and wordpress are great for this) and use Etsy, Folksy and Kiddiebase for selling.  Etsy is very big and it can be hard to be noticed – you need to work hard at keywords in your listings, promoting your shop in a variety of ways and networking with other Etsy sellers.  Folksy is UK based, but it can still be hard to be noticed and, again, self-promotion is absolute key.  I was lucky enough to get in with Kiddiebase from the start and for such a new website was pleased with the interest and sales I had for Christmas.”

The real beauty of craft product is that there is a huge variety of places to sell, enabling you to tailor to your needs as a business mum.  Some mums won't have the time to venture to markets to sell, especially if they make is very time consuming.  Whereas some will relish in the joy of markets where customers can touch, smell, taste their wares. 

How to Grow Your Business?

My business blog details very much my love of the wonderful FREE PR and Marketing source we call … Social Networking.  It really can be a make or break situation for any small business.  So it was no surprise that the crafters I spoke to all also use social media to develop a client/fan base. 

Viv Smithuses Facebook, twitter and her own blog.

“I’ve run one competition on my blog and am about to launch another. I am also getting active in the teams on Etsy and am setting up the social media for the British Sellers on Etsy team (@BritishEtsyTeam) With two young children it’s been hard to do promotion other than online and leaving business cards in various local venues.”

Ally Pinney states that “All mine is done via Facebook and local villagers at the moment and have not needed to do any paid advertising at all.”

Social Networking is FREE so you are a fool not to utilise it in some way shape or form, here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Ensure you limit your usage everyday.  Make a clear distinction between 'working' on Facebook/Twitter and 'socialising'.
  • If you’re using a blog to promote your business/services or products plan your blog posts for the month and then write and schedule as many in as possible.  This will also free up time which you can use more effectively in other areas of your business to make MONEY.
  • Make sure you’re following local magazines, radio stations and newspapers they will all be on Twitter and Facebook looking for local scoops. 
  • Also find out if National Magazines are online many baby related ones use twitter to find items for stories they have coming up. 
  • Search hashtags on twitter – for instance #journorequest (I've had some success with this) and if you do contact a journalist this way make sure you save their email into your database.

Cristalee Brinkworth makes keepsake blankies using baby’s receiving blankets. Her business, Receiving Cuddles,is less than a year old and agrees that

“Facebook has been the most successful way of getting my name out there.  Also, attending the right trade shows got my name out there too.  The best way (takes time) is word of mouth.”

Mumprenuers and crafters go hand in hand. 

Craft businesses generally incur small start up costs and you will also find that lots of people buy the equipment and don't use it, so it’s worth a trip round some charity shops.  Crafting is also therapeutic and relaxing: sitting in front of the telly with a cuppa tea and your knitting! You can see why it would appeal to mums.  Also as the products are unique, one of a kind there's no need for hoards of stock and people are buying each item rather than making to order or having to check stock levels of items.

Crafting has a lot of pros but also entails a lot of hard work to promote as a business.  Hope these tips and suggestions by fellow mummy crafters help you to take that plunge.

Joanne Dewberry

Dorset Business Mum of the Year

  • Highly Commended PR Comp mumsclub.co.uk 2009
  • Future 100 Young Entrepreneurs 2009
  • TGF Best Rated Awards 2009
  • Langtry Manor Best Green Business Finalist 2010
  • Nominated MADS Blog Awards 2010
  • Short Listed Make your Mark in the Markets 2010
  • Short Listed mumsandworking Awards Best Parent 2010

www.charliemoos.co.uk, www.networkingmummies.com and www.joannedewberry.co.uk

do you have a question about starting a handmade or craft business? please add a comment, we would love to hear from you?