How I Turned My Craft Hobby into a Full-Time Business with 3,000 Sales
For as long as I can remember I have been a crafty, creative person. My parents often tease me that I was born with a set of watercolors in my hand. For years, art has always been my therapeutic hobby, getting me through my toughest days and putting me in my “happy place,” but when I hit my late-twenties, my craft hobby became a full-time craft business with more than 3,000 sales. Here’s how it all happened.
My First Sale
Prior to 2008, the idea of selling my handmade items was never even something I considered. I was more than happy coming up with new ideas and designs and giving out my handmade creations to friends and family as gifts. Then, during the holiday season of that same year, I started getting requests from co-workers for items they had either received from me personally as gifts, or knew that I made. I remember bringing in a large sampling of my handmade gifts, greeting cards, scrapbooks, and jewelry and selling them all within two hours. It was then that I realized I may have something here. This first sell-out gave me the confidence to not only make more items, but to put myself out there and make this a profitable opportunity.
Reaching Out to a Large Audience
After my holiday sales, I made the decision to make a real go at selling my items in a much larger scale. I knew that in order to do this, I couldn’t just continue to sell to friends, family and co-workers, but I had to reach a much larger audience. I decided that the best way to do this without spending a ton of money up-front was to create a prototype sampling of my bestselling cards, jewelry, scrapbooks and gifts and create an inventory catalog that could be ordered from.
I spent the next few months creating 40-50 unique pieces, took high-quality photos, and developed a catalog, complete with an order form. I distributed these catalogs to all of my family, friends, and co-workers and left them on bulletin boards at local grocery stores. Within just a few weeks, my inbox was filling up with requests from all over. I was asked to host in-home parties, sponsor charity events, and design baby, birthday, bridal and wedding party gifts and favors. There were so many orders, I had to recruit help, and even turn people away. I could not believe the results!
Setting Up a Free Weebly Site
Selling on My Studio Website
Even though the process of publishing and distributing catalogs was definitely working, it was slowly but surely becoming a huge pain. Not only was I spending a fortune in printing, but I also had to start the process all over whenever I added a new inventory piece, and had to rely on snail-mail to let my customers know these new pieces had been added to the catalog. I realized that if I could publish this catalog virtually on a website and rely on e-mail rather than snail-mail, I could potentially save a lot of time, money, and energy.
I personally had no prior experience with web-development, but have always been pretty tech-savvy and thought it was at least worth a try. I found Weebly, a free website host that includes an e-commerce option and started uploading photos of my creations, both past and present. I set up a Contact Me page that includes a form for requesting specific items and included my e-mail address. To this day I have not had the time to keep this website as current as I would like but will never complain with the more-than-tripled sales I’ve received transitioning to this venue.
Selling on Etsy
Though I opened my Etsy shop in 2011, I didn’t become serious about selling on Etsy until 2013. Items that I list on Etsy are usually originals of prototypes I’ve made or the few unique items I’m able to come up with in my spare time, but I’ve found that most customers who find me on Etsy end up e-mailing me directly or visiting my website instead. I would still recommend opening an Etsy shop if you wish to sell your handmade crafts online, but to also have a main website to funnel customers to.
Currently, my Etsy shop accounts for approximately 10% of my current sales, and 10% of my overall craft business income.
Traditional Marketing & Selling
Though online sales are my most efficient method for making sales, I still rely on traditional word-of-mouth and snail-mail marketing and selling for those who do not rely on computers and modern technology. These methods consist of postcard marketing to advertise special events and sales to my most loyal customers, bulletin board posting of smaller-scale brochures and the distribution of my business cards.
Currently, these traditional methods account for approximately 5% of my current sales and 10% of my overall craft business income.
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In late 2010, I was asked to write articles on specific arts and crafts. My very first article was published in late 2010. Since then, I have been paid as a ghost-writer for three large craft magazines, as a guest blogger on more than a dozen craft sites, and through HubPages, where, on average, I receive anywhere from $200-350 per month for my published articles and affiliate marketing.
Currently, publishing articles account for approximately 10% of my overall craft business income.
I began blogging in 2009 as a way of photo-journaling my creative process. Since then, I have met hundreds of people from all over the world in result of having my blog and have found that this has been one of the most rewarding parts of having a craft business that's "out there." Each and every day, I receive at least a dozen e-mails from friends, followers and customers who are offer encouragement and order many of my products they see featured. A blog is a fabulous way to do exactly just that.
A blog also gives you the opportunity to participate in affiliate marketing. Depending on the amount of traffic, you can receive a pretty significant paycheck just for publishing your posts and linking back to products. Though making money on my blog was not my reason for starting one, nor has it been my main reason for continuing, I will surely not turn away the easy money considering the amount of time I do spend publishing posts.
Currently, my blog accounts for approximately 10% of my overall craft business income.
Back in 2008 when this all started I never would have imagined there would have been a time that I could make a living out of something I love so much. I feel extremely lucky and blessed for this opportunity and plan to make the most of it.
I hope that this article inspires others who would love to make their passion for art a full-time career, and are feeling discouraged in the beginning stages of this dream.