5 Knows of Having a Handmade Business

I was so excited to get the chance to take over Ashley, from Little Miss Momma‘s, blog to chat little about handmade a couple weeks ago.

So here are my 5 “Knows” for having a handmade business

1. Know your Market.

I think before you can open your own handmade business you need to really know and research your market. When I say research the market I don’t mean, check out other peoples stores, see what you like and then try to duplicate it in your shop. I’m saying know how many other people in the market are also making monkey sock dolls, for example, and figure out if you have an edge you can bring to that market that no one else has already done.

Use the market for pricing research as well. If someone is selling their clutch for $24 it’s because when you add up the materials, labor, packaging, shipping and marketing costs, that’s what the selling cost comes out to. That $24 is not just a made up price, put there for you to beat by selling your products cheaper. But more on that later.

When opening a shop it’s important to know that it takes a lot of time and dedication, not only to your craft, but also to marketing your products so you want to make sure it has a unique flare in the market.

When I started Rags to Stitches back in 2009 I was making mostly mommy and baby products. In fact one of my most popular items was my Infant Car Seat Canopy. When I listed that baby on Etsy, I was the only one making and selling them. Of course weeks later I was not the only one anymore so I had to figure out how to once again set my products apart from others so I created the Peek a Boo canopy where you could snap or unsnap the front to peek at your little one snuggled in their car seat. As more and more baby product companies popped up on the market I decided it was time to rebrand my products and move forward with the market. Again I did my research to make sure that fabrics and designs I was wanting to work with were unique in the market. I truly believe that’s why the Neon Bow Clutch sells as well as it does.

So ask yourself:

2. Know your Price Point.

Once you’ve researched the market and determined your product to have a unique flare and you’re getting ready to load all those adorable items in your shop you need to think about your price point. When determining your price point you should alway double the cost of your materials, then add in labor costs. Labor costs should include time to make the product, take pictures of it, market it, package it and ship that baby off to its new home.

How do you determine your labor costs? Simple. If you were to go to work outside of your home and you wouldn’t take a job for less than $13 and hour because that’s what you’d need to make to pay the bills, then you need to pay yourself $13/hr to work at home too. Value your time.  Remember whatever time you are spending making, packing, shipping and marketing your products, it’s time you could be spending with your family, friends or relaxing. Yes you are doing it to build your brand, but you need to value that brand in order to build it.

I’ve said it before on my blog and I’ll say it again here, you are not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by making a similar product to someone else and charging less for it.

So ask yourself:

3. Know How to Photograph your Items

You may not believe me when I say this, but it’s not enough just to have a unique product, you need to know how to showcase that product in a way that tells people they absolutely have to have it. Photography is so important to your brand and anyone who has gone before you in the handmade world will tell you the very same thing. Find a photographer, if you’re not one yourself, who can help you take pictures of your items in a way that tells your customer exactly how it will look on them or exactly how to use it.

For example, if you sell jewelry. I’m not going to buy that necklace, no matter how adorable it is, if I can’t see in a picture how it will look when it’s on me. I need to see a clean picture with great white balance that shows me exactly where than pendant will sit once it’s around my neck. Why? Because I know exactly what kinds of clothes I own and if that necklace doesn’t hit a certain spot on my neck it will get covered by my shirts and no one will ever see it. It might sound completely OCD, but I promise I’m not the only customer who shops with those kinds of things in mind.

When I launched my line of iCozy’s and Neon Clutches I came up with slogans like, “designed with your lifestyle in mind,” and “treat yourself to…” so I had to make sure that my photography and the images I put in my shop reflected those slogans. They needed to tell my customers, these Neon Bow Clutches were designed for you and for me, and you know what if I look good holding it, you’re going to look good holding it too. The result…lots of sales!

Take the time to research and find a photographer who understands your style and who you feel you can work with to create great pictures of your products for your shop and use them every time!!

So ask yourself:

4. Know Your E-Commerce

So now you’ve researched the market and you’ve discovered your unique style.

You’ve figured out how to best price your items in your shop.

You’ve found a great photographer whose taken amazing pictures of your awesome products.

Now you need to figure out what online storefront works best for you. Keep in mind that what I’m about to say is personal opinion. Each person uses the online storefront they use for a reason and if it’s successful for them, great. You will figure out what works best for you.

Etsy: There are so many handmade shops that start out on Etsy. They have great search engines, options to pay extra to promote yourself within the site and the ability to be featured in treasuries. What’s not so great about Etsy is that when you list your item in your Etsy shop and someone does a search for it, what comes up? Your item and everyone else who makes the same or similar item as you. Not so great if you ask me. Plus, it costs $.20 cents to list your item and then you pay Etsy a percentage of your sale along with paying PayPal a percentage of your fee. Your customers also have to be a member of Etsy in order to purchase from you. If you’re opening a brand new shop and have no idea how things are going to sell, you may not want to have to build all those extra fees into your pricing and you may not want your customer to have to go through the trouble of joining Etsy to sell.

Big Cartel: I have the least amount of experience with Big Cartel. When you open a Big Cartel shop if you have more than 10 items you are given different prices, depending on how many items you choose to list, to pay monthly to keep your shop open. I believe their lowest option is $10/month. So while you’re moving away from listing fees, if you don’t sell a great deal of those items each month, you’re putting out $10 and maybe not making it back. You also have to drive a lot of your own traffic to your shop as, from what I’ve heard, their search feature is not as easy to navigate as Etsy.

Storenvy: I have a storefront on Storenvy and I believe they are a great option for new shop owners. Do you need to do a lot of work to drive traffic to your shop because they are a smaller online market place than Etsy, yes, but it’s completely FREE to set up a storefront. No shop fees, listing fees or promotional fees. The only fees I pay are to PayPal and since most e-commerce sites use PayPal it’s hard to avoid those fees. Storenvy’s store fronts are completely customizable so you can set them up to look however you want. Their forum is also a great place for learning html tricks for spicing up your store all on your own. If you want to learn more about why I chose storenvy, you can read all about it in this post I wrote.

So ask yourself:

5. Know how to Rock it!

So you’ve got your product and pricing, everything is photographed, loaded into your shop and your shop has launched… what do you do now?

I’ll tell you what not to do. Don’t sit back and wait for the sales to roll in. Your work is far from done. Now you’ve got to start marketing yourself and your product. Why? Because you’re building your brand and your brand is not just your product… it’s YOU!! You and your product make up your brand.

So if you won’t rock your products everywhere you go, why will anyone else. I’ve learned this from some very important people in my life and I’ll tell you it’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

Now I take my Neon Bow Clutch with me everywhere I go. Every time I pay for something, I whip it out and I’ll tell you what not only have I met some great people who have approached me about it, but that little zippered pocket I sewed the back, it carries my business cards, so all I have to do is whip one out. I honestly believe that carrying my products helps me to sell them. It shows that you have a confidence in your brand and people will buy into that confidence… and essential YOU.

I also encourage people who buy my clutches to take cute pictures of them using their Neon Bow Clutch and send them to me so I can feature them on the blog or in the shop. It never hurts to use others to help you market your products.

So ask yourself:

Whew! I know that was a lot y’all, but I hope you found it helpful and informative. If you have any other questions feel free to email me:

ragstostitchesblog [at] gmail [dot] com