Are you a creative person looking to make some side money selling things that you make? You want to turn your HOBBY into a JOBby? Are you wondering how to find your niche and actually start making sales? I’m here to help you start your creative business.
While there is a ton of information out there, I hope these tips help get you started and give you some ideas for things to research further while building your creative business. If you think of any other tips you have learned, please leave me a comment! I love chatting about business and sharing tips within this community, please reach out and share your input!
1: Determine what you want to make
The possibilities for what to make are literally endless, and can go wherever your imagination will take you. At one point I thought I would sell hand-embroidered hoops with custom designs; I had a ton of fun with them but it eventually fizzled out. Take some time to play around with your craft and really refine your skills and specialty. Over the past few years I have refined my skillset in modern quilting and found that I really genuinely love making baby quilts. Genuine love for what you are making is, in my opinion, absolutely necessary.
2: Define your target market
You define your target market after you determine what you want to be making and selling, predominately because you want to make sure your products and listings communicate effectively to potential buyers, but also because you may need to tweak your products to better appeal to your target market. One major rule of thumb for business is that your potential buyer not only has the desire to product, but also the means necessary. If you are selling an item that is incredibly valuable and labor-intensive, your cost will need to reflect that, and therefore, your target market needs to be able to afford it. Start to build out your buyer’s persona and continue to build on that as time goes on and you learn more about your customers.
3: Establish a Pricing Structure
For many reasons, pricing homemade goods can often be one of the hardest parts of trying to sell them. My general rule of thumb is to determine the full retail value of all materials used, and then also an estimate of how many hours are needed to make it. You need to determine your personal hourly rate to find your base price. You can also add to this base price to cover overhead, electricity, wear & tear on your machines and equipment, and the fees that sales platforms charge. For more information on pricing homemade or handmade items, click here.
4: Research similar products
“Similar Products” could also be referred to as your competition, but I prefer not to think about it like that. We ALL bring our unique personality to our work and we ALL have the potential to offer something entirely unique. I have a community-building spirit and want to instill it within you as you launch your creative business. I love the “Community Over Competition” phenomena and want to perpetuate it. That being said, you still need to research. You need to know what else is out there, what platforms people are using, how things are being priced, and so on. Feel free to also make friends with people selling similar items, remember they are NOT your target market, but can be great to bounce ideas off of and support one another!
5: Pick your Sales platform
I’ve been selling homemade quilts and embroidered quilt labels on Etsy since 2013 and find it fairly easy to use, as it is a recognized platform for lots of great homemade-loving customers. If you want to branch out, I also suggest checking out Amazon’s new handmade platform, or if you are website-savvy you could even integrate your shop into your own website by using a platform like Shopify. Additionally, depending on your homemade goods, you may want to search locally for in-person selling opportunities. Is there a craft fair in your area you can sell at? What about a creative co-op?
6: Create awesome product listings
If you are planning on selling your homemade goods in person at craft fairs, farmers markets, etc. that is great! If you want to reach a much larger potential market: you’re going to have to teach yourself the basics of e-commerce. Not only are you expected to make awesome, high-quality, desirable goods, but you also have to be able to take great photos of them AND use key words in your listing that your target market will be searching for. You’ll want to take photos of your item from every predominant angle and also use lots of descriptive words to be sure your potential buyer knows exactly what they are getting. Here is an example of one of my listings for a completely custom baby quilt.
When it comes to your listings, be sure your photos are clear and that they accurately show the colors and attributes of your item. It is best to avoid artsy filters in your listings to keep things professional and for potential shoppers to easily see what is being offered.
7: Promote your product listings on social media
If you are using a platform such as Etsy or Amazon, it is possible to just get traffic and views on your listings purely by people searching for your products, but in order to really start to make sales and connect with your buyers, you also need to promote your brand on social media sites. I suggest first tapping into your pre-existing friend base. If you already have a personal Instagram or Facebook, start there! Do not be afraid of putting yourself out there and telling the people close to you about what you are making! I also suggest setting up an Instagram and Facebook page for your business where you can promote your listings directly to your target market. While you want to keep things professional, do not be afraid to let people get to know YOU as well! People connect with people! Be consistent with your posts and attract engagement with your prospective buyers.
To learn more about online marketing, read this article about SEO for Creative Businesses.
8: Provide great customer service
Be ready for many of your potential buyers to ask you questions about your homemade goods before they buy. You’ll want a plan in place to quickly and efficiently answer any questions and use the opportunity to connect with that person – someone considering buying your items is likely within your target market and you can learn from them! The other side of customer service is what happens well after you have received their money. Are they happy with the item you provided? Did they get what they expected? I like to make sure all my buyers are fully satisfied when their item arrives.
9: THANK your customers
Without your customers, you wouldn’t have this outlet to make beautiful homemade goods while also providing for yourself and your family. Be sure to show your buyers gratitude for the opportunity and invite them to continue purchasing from you! Some sellers include a hand-written note in every order, and some others choose to show their thanks in other ways. I think saying “thank you” is so important, it should be something you consider when shaping your brand. Be consistent and authentic with showing your thanks.
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