So you want to become a pro maker? First you need a business idea – we asked the experts how they turned craft into cash
Making is about pleasure, but sooner or later most crafters wonder: ‘Could I make money from this?’ In the current economic downturn, few can expect to earn a huge income, but some makers are flourishing financially. So how do they do it?
One way is to partner with brands or organisations. This could involve anything from being an artist-in-residence to teaching sewing in schools to something more corporate (where the big money is). You can approach brands directly with an offer of collaboration – Sonia Bownes, founder of London Craft Club, which runs craft workshops, has worked with brands such as Hobbycraft and Dylon. This, she says, has been ‘super helpful’ for contacts and visibility. Just make sure you’re paid for such partnerships according to your day rate, and refunded any costs.
Blogger Amy Tan, licensed an online scrapbooking class to Big Picture Classes, and has taught online on other platforms. She says: “Sometimes all it takes is an initial conversation to get things going. I made a suggestion, and they seemed interested.”
Expand your market
For Juliet Carr of Paperpoms, making her paper pom poms for shop displays, corporate events and fashion photo shoots – not just individual buyers – built a profitable client base. After sending out poms for wedding magazine fashion shoots every week, she says “the coverage created a buzz…then the deluge of orders started.”
As Juliet found, selling to the wedding industry is another revenue-raiser. Sonia adds: “Hen party workshops can be a fabulous way to make profit – you get on average eight to 15 people in one hit.”
Events are essential for getting yourself out there. Making paper decorations for The Handmade Fair’s marquees, and having a stand there, led to opportunities for Juliet – from a publishing deal to becoming an expert at the Fair, to being a guest presenter on the Craft Channel.
As for selling, Juliet advises: “Be part of, or set up, a pop-up shop with a local or large gift store for holiday seasons. You can earn good commission as a seller or owner.”
“Potential income streams can come in the form of bestsellers,” stresses Kirsty Hartley (pictured above), whose label Wild Things started with £200 and now makes a steady profit. Jo Casly of Etsy adds that successful sellers on the site “keep things simple.” and Kirsty agrees. “On Etsy, start with a range of six to eight items.”
Share, share, share
You also need to become a mistress of social media for marketing. Elsie Larson of the blog A Beautiful Mess, says Instagram is the number one tool: “Creating a quality Instagram account is key to the future of monetising a brand.”
Juliet has other social media tips: “Run competitions – this will create excitement and followers. And set up a YouTube channel and post interesting vlogs and craft tips. Once you have lots of subscribers you can become a YouTube partner and earn money from the ads shown.”
Crucially, anyone wanting to make money from craft has to be a decent photographer. Jo says: “Learn to take good, clear photos of your work and develop a ‘style’ which makes your shop look attractive to buyers.” Think about the format of your business, too, Sonia says. London Craft Club is now becoming a social enterprise, training other crafters to teach – this will mean it gets funding as an education provider.
Finally, be realistic. To sell in this market, you need to be as business-minded as any other kind of enterprise. Don’t expect overnight success, and be prepared to become, as Sonia puts it, “obsessed with marketing, which will take up 60% of your time. Don’t be fooled by people who make it look like they just poddle about in the studio and stuff flies off the shelves. It doesn’t work like that.”
Mollie Makes issue 62 (out now!) featuring Part 2 of our Start Up Starter Kit series. Got your idea? Now you need to finance it – flick to page 57 to see how.
Mollie Makes 62 is on sale 7 January 2016. Available from all good newsagents, supermarkets and our official online store. Sold out? Download it from Zinio, Google Play or Apple Newsstand. Don’t forget your project templates for this issue.
For more small business advice check out our Blogging and Social Media specials, available from the App Store and Zinio, and our book Making It! published by Pavilion. Words: Olivia Gordon Photograph: Will Shaddock