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Running a Handmade Business

Updated on February 9, 2017

Make your first steps as a handmade business count.

So you're an artist, designer, or craftsperson and want to take your first steps into making money from your talent and skills? This lens is full of advice for anyone starting a handmade business.

This is only a starting point to learn, it's up to you to make it happen.

Business Basics

The boring but important stuff.

Get in touch with your local SBA, state government, or chamber of commerce to find out exactly what you need to do from a legal standpoint to get started as a business. You need to make sure you are clear on taxes and any permits and licenses you may need.

They also will have valuable information on running a successful business so take advantage of the resources out there.

Free and Open Source Business Software

Starting a business is pricey enough, so here's some completely free software that can help you manage your business.

Pricing Your Work

Pricing your work can be an agonizing process. You have to charge enough to cover materials and pay yourself for your time and effort but still make it a price people are willing to pay. It's better to price too high than too low. You can always drop your prices if you have to, but you don't want to suddenly have to jump your prices up significantly higher because you've found you aren't making enough profit.

What to Consider in Pricing

  • Cost of materials
  • Time
  • Fees from selling online (both fees from processing payments and any fees from the selling venue)
  • Entry fees for shows and festivals

Commission for galleries

What's My Time Worth?

This is a difficult question to answer. How much do you think you're time is worth? $10 an hour? $20? $30? Try to think as objectively as you can about this, it's easy when you enjoy doing something to think that time isn't worth as much as if you were working a regular job, but it is. Don't undersell yourself! If you wouldn't work a 9 to 5 job for the what you are planning to pay yourself then you are not paying yourself enough.

Don't forget taxes, when you are self-employed you are responsible not just for regular taxes but also for taxes that an employer usually pays directly. Your tax rate will vary depending on your state and income level, but make sure you factor it into your self pay.

There are a lot of creative people out there creating great work along with all the mass produced products out there. You have to make yourself stand out. This involves good marketing, promotion, branding, and of course good products.

I can't really help with the good products, that's up to you and your creativity. The rest of it though there are some good principles to keep in mind.

  • Act professional
  • Treat customers well
  • Be consistent
  • Promote often and in a variety of places
  • Be as creative in marketing and branding as you are in creating your products

Have fun! How many people get to do what they enjoy and make money from it? Don't lose sight of the fun. If you're customer see your passion for what you do they just might get caught up in it too.

Selling Online

The internet gives you a chance to reach potential customers that are unlikely to otherwise see your products. This is especially important if your making a product with a very niche audience.

There are many many places to sell online, you need to evaluate what exactly you need in a selling venue before you choose one (or more than one, selling on multiple sites is becoming more common).

Art Festivals, Craft Shows, and Other Outdoor Venues

Art festivals and craft shows are incredibly popular. Many also include entertainers and food vendors so it's an all around fun day for visitors. The casual nature of the shows also make buying fine art and crafts less intimidating.

On top of the opportunity to sell your work is also the opportunity to meet other artists and craftspeople. Share knowledge, support, and make friends.

Other Selling Venues

This is by no means a comprehensive list of places to sell your work. Consider these as a starting point and expand from there. Be creative and don't be afraid to aproach and talk to people about featuring your work. To quote the old truism "nothing ventured, nothing gained".

Art Galleries

Art galleries generally take a commission from the sale of your artwork, it generally ranges from 30-50%. This makes galleries best for large or high-priced work in order to really be worth what you'll have to price it in order to make a profit.

Galleries can be hit or miss. Some galleries are great and promote your artwork well, some will delay paying you and never promote your work beyond hanging it on the wall. Do your research and talk to other artists who've shown at the gallery to find out what their experience was.

I'm not saying galleries are bad, I have some of my work in a gallery but they aren't for everyone.

Art Co-ops

Co-ops are very similar to galleries in look, you have a bunch of artists and/or craftpeople displaying their work. The difference is with a co-op those being displayed also run the gallery, usually there is a monthly fee, small commission rate, plus a commitment to work at the co-op for a certain amount of time per month.

You keep more of the sales price of your work but there is the increased time commitment which can cut into your time for creating especially if you also have a full-time job other than your art or craft.

Local Shops

If you have a product that fits with a local shop go talk to the owner about selling your products there. Examples would be homemade bath products at hair salons, jewelry at clothing stores, or paintings at coffee shops.

You'll need to negotiate with the business whether they want to buy your work wholesale to sell or whether they take a percentage of the sale price.

Rent Booth Space

If your local mall rents booth space to small vendors consider renting one a couple weekends a month. Make sure you check on local and state regulations for this, you may need certain permits first.

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    • Retro Loco profile image

      Vicki 4 years ago from USA

      Loads of information and resources here. Thank you so much for sharing. I am looking for inventory software that will also calculate what I've paid and what I should charge per piece. I am looking into "Jewelry Designer Manager", but I really want something to run on my Mac without using cross-over software. Any ideas?

    • profile image

      ScentsWithBling 4 years ago

      Great Lens! I am checking out some of the venues in your lens

    • Judith Nazarewicz profile image

      Judith Nazarewicz 5 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      Loads of great info! Thanks so much I will have to go through all this!

    • articents lm profile image

      articents lm 5 years ago

      You offer a lot of great advice, nice job!

    • profile image

      paperwritingexperts 5 years ago

      Homemade business blog has some really good posts! thanks for sharing the site.

    • CleaningGreenBu profile image

      CleaningGreenBu 5 years ago

      Great Lens!!

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for the excellent advice provided here. SquidAngel blessings.

    • profile image

      bluelobsterclasp 6 years ago

      TONS of info here! Thanks :)

    • ashramko profile image

      ashramko 6 years ago

      Awesome!! So helpful! Like Like Like!

    • hippiechicjewelz profile image

      hippiechicjewelz 6 years ago


    • profile image

      DotComBusted 6 years ago

      Great work... Good reading

    • JoolsObsidian LM profile image

      JoolsObsidian LM 6 years ago

      Really helpful information - good work!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a great lens. Thank you for the information. It will come in handy.

    • SandyDell profile image

      Sandy Dell 6 years ago from Lenore, Idaho

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      adyculi 6 years ago

      Lot of information. Thanks for sharing it. Success!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • profile image

      Traceeshobbies 6 years ago

      very informative and helpful1

    • buttonhead lm profile image

      buttonhead lm 6 years ago

      Great advice. I especially love the part about pricing. In the age of Wal-mart, I think artists are tempted to undervalue their work. It's so important to factor your time in the equation. Thanks!

    • profile image

      bradhughes 6 years ago

      Good idea! It's great to express your skills and creativity on your business.

    • profile image

      agent009 6 years ago

      People say artists don't mesh well with business but if they learn a little bit of the basics, they can promote their own business without as many operating costs.

    • profile image

      HRDirect 6 years ago

      Extremely cool lens, filled with great ideas for the artist!

    • adamfrench profile image

      adamfrench 6 years ago

      Impressive lens, thumbs up

    • profile image

      BillSimmons 6 years ago

      Awesome lens, these look fantastic!

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      Priceless for artists and craftsmen! Angel Blessed*******:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very cool lens. Good luck with all your art!

    • profile image

      amberdixie17 6 years ago

      I know it may sound boring but it gives a good reputation to a business. Thanks for sharing this article. Very helpful post! Keep posting and more power! quickbooks enterprise download

    • betsuzlap profile image

      betsuzlap 6 years ago

      Great job on this lens! I love the tips too :)

    • profile image

      BuildMyBrand 6 years ago

      Nicely done!

    • Grandmaster3 profile image

      Grandmaster3 6 years ago

      This lens is designed fantastically

    • profile image

      AltogetherLeather 7 years ago

      Thanks so much. I'm trying to grow my Etsy business and you've got some good tips!

    • b2balerts lm profile image

      b2balerts lm 7 years ago

      Nice info. Do you give some idea on setting up small business for handmade gifts? If yes then share your thoughts about that. By the way great information.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 7 years ago from Scotland

      featured on the best of work at hoke on Squidoo ~Blessed~

    • profile image

      minapalencia 7 years ago

      great lens! :)

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 7 years ago

      I always love your lenses and this is no exception! Lots of great tips here that I have favourited, being as I want to kickstart my art again this year :) Blessed!

    • joanv334 profile image

      joanv334 7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips!

    • michelleart profile image

      Michelle Collins 7 years ago from Florida

      Great information here! *Blessed*

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 7 years ago from London

      Very useful and practical lens. Now included in The Art Business HQ -

    • profile image

      global-sky 7 years ago

      I love the price you put on the work. Great lens.

    • profile image

      DanielHarmes 7 years ago

      Great lens I have book marked it and will be coming backas it is something my partner is very interested in Thanks. For other Ideas for home businesses take alook at Work From Home UK

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Awesome,informative lens! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel on 1/1/11 Have a great day and a happy new year!

    • spider-girl profile image

      spider-girl 7 years ago

      Great and VERY useful article!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I love this lens. I was fixing to start a bracelet making business a while back....And of course to start i would have to make everything by hand. Now it doesn't look like its completely out of reach. Thanks for all the info!



    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 7 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      Another excellent lens! Angel blessed :)

    • profile image

      scar4 7 years ago

      wow, another great lens. I run a handmade business - custom Chinese chop carving. Thanks for the information.

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 7 years ago

      good Lens. Thanks For Sharing the Info

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice lens and thanks for the helpful ideas that you shared. Las Vegas Web Design

    • profile image

      jessicahoward 7 years ago

      it is an outstanding quality and worthwhile collection of different things.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 8 years ago

      Handmade Business is a great resource for anyone who is a better artist than business person. Squidoo Angel Blessed.

    • profile image

      creatingplanlifecycle 8 years ago

      Now I know how to run a handmade business. Thanks for sharing your lens.

    • profile image

      grantspro 8 years ago

      What a great lens! Lots of very helpful and practical information. You are the bomb.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      5* lens, lots of great info. Thank you!


    • brutus1 lm profile image

      brutus1 lm 8 years ago

      Great information. I have a good friend who is starting a similar type of business. I will be sure they see this lens.

    • profile image

      kie 8 years ago

      thanks....very interesting and full of information i need...i want to share mycraftproject and hope others will appreciate it

    • profile image

      Jack_Bergstrand 8 years ago

      Very nice lens! You have put together a great collection of information and resources. It'd be great if you'd drop by my lens on reinventing your business when you get the chance.

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 8 years ago

      Wonderful collection of resource material. 5*s

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Another very good work at home lens! Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thanks - this is just the kind of resource I needed right now!

    • wyrm11268 profile image

      wyrm11268 8 years ago

      Thanks for all the great information. - I will be back to read more.

    • profile image

      seedplanter 9 years ago

      Sheryl, I've followed you on Twitter for some time now and you have such a good business sense about you. This lens is a good example of it. Your work is beautiful and I never tire of seeing what you're up to!

    • BFunivcom profile image

      Allan R. Wallace 9 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      My art, like much of my writing, is only pleasing to myself, and sometimes my mother. There is still good information here for anyone looking to start a home business. Thanks

    • profile image

      NatalieNiemi 9 years ago

      Great info on pricing, and really helpful resources for small business owners! Thanks!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 9 years ago


      I just wanted to drop by and say thank you so much for all the information you've made available online.

      I found you via one of the etsy newsletters and found Squidoo and countless other resources via your blog.

      I look forward to reading more!


    • Happiegrrrl profile image

      Terrie Marcoe 9 years ago from Gardiner, New York and Joshua Tree, California

      Tons of useful tips here!

      Thanks for submitting this lens to Etsy Informationals. Welcome to the Group!

    • profile image

      GlasstasticTreasures 9 years ago

      Thank you for all the work you have put into this lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      great informative lens..

    • DoraArtDesign profile image

      DoraArtDesign 9 years ago

      Thanks for all the great advice! I gave you 5 stars and a favorite! Please check out my lens and give me your thoughts! Appreciate it!

    • profile image

      lccoach 9 years ago

      Outstanding lens. Thank you for sharing.

      A 5 star for you.


      Dr. Lorraine Cohen

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      really nice images and products, you're such an artist!

    • profile image

      strungoutandwired 9 years ago

      Lots of useful information! Great lens!

      Thanks! Check out my lens for new Etsians!

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 9 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens for hobbyists! Lots of great info and advice. 5 stars and a lensroll. Nice work and thanks, too!

    • RentMyGarden profile image

      RentMyGarden 9 years ago

      Great guide for creative entrepreneurs to get tips for Running a Handmade Business. *****5 Stars! I invite you to visit me and check out the Entrepreneur Marketing Secrets I have discovered from my online journey.

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 9 years ago from Minnesota

      Very good advice - good job! *****

    • ShannonC LM profile image

      Shannon Chiarenza 9 years ago from Vancouver bc

      Great lens, lot's of useful tips and information :)