It’s been a year since I opened Zebra Creations and I can’t believe how much things have changed and how far I’ve come. I only set this up as a way to pay for the hobby I enjoyed – I actually have another buiness that was supposed to be my major focus – but over the course of the year it has started to take more and more of my attention. And the more I put in the more I get back.
I started off selling rice filled pillows. Having a health problem myself and being a keen sewist (I refuse to be called a sewer for obvious reasons) I was able to work out how things that were supposed to help could be better. Maybe I could even sell a few. The name was suggested by a friend who has the same thing as me and thought it would appeal to people with what we have to help me sell stuff! but over the course of the year what I do has developed and changed so much, it is almost unrecognisable. I am lucky that the name is generic enough to still apply to my brand. So this got me thinking: what advice would I give to someone starting out a crafting business today given what I have learned over the year I have been up and running.
Advice for a newbie crafter setting up shop.
1: Get good at what you do first.
I mean, really good. I thought I was ok and needed money so started to sell stuff before I was ready. I remember applying for a craft fair and being gutted when I was rejected but I was making stuff that wasn’t actually good enough yet! Yes, there are plenty of pages on Facebook selling all kinds of stuff from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it is true, there is a customer out there who will probably buy your stuff if it is cheap, but if you want to be taken seriously as a crafter you have to actually have a proper skill. Get really good and then you will be a producing something to be proud of.
2: Decide on your brand.
You need to have a discernible style that people will begin to recognise which needs to follow through to your packaging, your online presence and everything else you do. The best way to do this is have it be something that represents you. I started out really generic but now hopefully you can see something of my personality in my makes as well as my Facebook page, my Etsy shop and my Handmade at Amazon profile. This is why choosing a name is so important. I was lucky that the Zebra Creations name carried me through – choose something that reflects your personality and style, but doesn’t paint you into a corner if your makes develop over time.
3: Know your target audience.
I mentioned being rejected for a craft fair. Well, the other part of that was that I was selling stuff that would not have suited the people who attended that fair. They knew it and I couldn’t see it. Knowing who you are and what you are about means that you can decide where and how you should sell your makes with a lot more accuracy. I choose craft fairs much more effectively, knowing that church hall browsers aren’t going to pay out for what I make. That said, if you make smaller, less costly makes, then that might be your niche! I know a jewellery maker who has a stall at a majorette competition and it makes her a fortune – get creative and find your tribe!!
4: Get good at photo editing.
I had no idea how rubbish my images were at first. I am by no means an expert now, but a lightbox and a handy free program called Gimp have changed my life. They will do yours too, although apparently sticking your stuff in the bath gives a great white background with excellent light reflections. Suppose that depends how clean your bath is…
5: Price properly.
I read an article about this early on and I am so very glad because otherwise I would be in a pickle. You cannot sell things cheaply just because you are worries people won’t pay it. If something really is going to be too expensive to sell then you probably can’t sell it – you are running a business not a charity to help people access handmade goods! Some items will let you have bigger profit margins than others but on the whole if you can’t sell it for at least double if not triple the cost price – and have that cost price include an hourly wage – then you are not just selling yourself short you are making it harder for other crafters who need to make a living. It is harder to raise your prices once you have started so do yourself a favour and price properly to begin with.
Hope these tips have helped you – any comments or tips you would add?
Vix the Zebra x