What Do You Like To Do?

Almost everyone has a hobby.  Have you ever considered selling your crafts or artwork?  There are many ways to make your hobby profitable.  

I make candles and other products aimed at making my home smell good.  I started out making them for myself because it was fun.  Then I started giving them to family and friends as gifts.  Then I decided to take it a step further by turning it into a business.  I started at a flea market.  It was a very slow start, and I learned a lot in year that I was there.  Then I did one festival, and it was amazing, and a lot more fun, so that is my current niche.  I'm working on setting up shop in my garage, and doing other small scale advertising things in order to build up more awareness of my product and find more customers.  

I highly recommend the festivals.  The major start up expense is buying a canopy tent.  After that, the hardest part is the setup and take down.  If you aren't ready to buy a tent yet, craft shows that are inside are a good option.  You'll just need a couple tables, and some nice signs and displays.  One of the most important things to remember is that how you display your products is almost as important as the items themselves. Show them in a way that adds value.  Handmade jewelry looks better in jewelry boxes than it does just laid on a table.  Even better if you can get a glass case.

If your hobby is more informational rather than producing an item to sell, consider starting a blog.  My blog is going to be more aimed at people who sell a product, but I will also eventually include some resources for information or service based hobbies.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Adding Value

Something I mentioned in my previous post was about adding value. For example, if you knit a blanket, then the value of the blanket is much, much higher than the value of the yarn that you bought. You added value to the yarn by turning it to something else.

This same concept applies to items that you simply resell. If you buy . . . let's say some blanket holders. Those wooden rack things that hold several blankets. You add value to them simply by having them available at the same time and place that people are buying blankets. They don't have to make a trip somewhere else to find one. Maybe they need one but didn't even know they needed it until you put it on display. I have a friend that was reselling some cute little Christmas Tree ornaments. She felt bad about marking them up to several dollars when she paid much less. However, she bought a little Christmas Tree to display them on. She bought a plastic bin to store the tree in. She added value by showing the customer exactly how nice the ornament will look when placed on a Christmas Tree. She incurred costs. She transported everything to the place she was selling them at. She took the time and effort to to create the display and thus added value in the eyes of the customer.

Another way of adding value is buy putting items together in a nice gift basket. Or by adding to the item you're reselling by painting designs on them, adding lace, ribbon, flowers, etc to dress it up. Even if you do nothing at all, you are putting the work into locating and ordering the item so that you're able to make it available to your customers.

Setting Prices

This is probably the hardest part when you start selling your crafts. The first thing to do is look around at other prices. With as much scent as I put into my candles, I consider mine to be of similar quality to Yankee Candles. However, I absolutely wouldn't expect anyone to pay the same price. I also looked at what other crafters were selling their candles for. I smell their candles, I look at their set up, I determine if they're a serious business crafter with "an image" or just a small scale crafter. Personally, I don't compare my candles to soy candles at all because I use standard paraffin wax. I also don't compare my candles to the crafters who make them look like little pies and stuff. It's not my market, so it isn't comparable. So, standard votives, tarts and pillars are what I look at. There aren't many out there. At least not at the venues I'm at. And when I do find them, I feel that my quality is much better. So, my prices are typically about half of what Yankee charges. Which tends to be more than other crafters.

Another thing to consider when you price your products is how much time and money you put into them. If you can't at least double your cost, then it probably isn't profitable enough to be worth your time. Remember, your expenses aren't just covering the cost of your materials. It's also covering your time, your booth rental, tables or other items you use to set up your booth, cost of items that break or otherwise become unsellable from circumstances that just happen, electric that you may use to power equipment to create your product, packaging, etc. You need to cover all of those costs and still have something left to count as profit.

Some items you may be reselling because they go along with your craft. For me, these include candle holders, incense holders, fragrance oil/tart burners, and things of that nature. Sometimes it's difficult to set prices on these things because you can find such good prices when buying in bulk on the internet. Something may only cost you fifty cents. You may feel weird marking it up to five dollars. Again, look at other prices on similar products. How much does Michael's or Walmart sell the product for? How does the quality compare? Are you adding value to it? (another post to follow about adding value.) Again, generally speaking, you want to be able to at least double what you paid for it. (Don't forget to add shipping costs.) But don't under price anything. If it's underpriced then you run the risk of people thinking it's not worth much. You want to create an image of your products being special. After all, you likely put a lot of hard work into them.

One very important rule of thumb . . . it is much better to over price something then let someone bargain you down a little. You can always lower your prices if your experiences determine that you need to. It's very difficult to raise a price if people are used to getting your item at a lower price.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Where to sell

This is the big conundrum. As crafters, we don't bring in enough income to warrant having an actual store most of the time. An actual store comes with steady rent payments, employees, extra utility and insurance costs, all sorts of things. And let me tell you . . . I used to work at a commerical real estate company . . . absolutely DO NOT sign any lease without asking about CAM charges. If they are going to make you pay CAM, then you need to do more research and possibly find a different location. I will detail what I know about standard commercial leases in a different post. I worked very closely with landlord/tenant issues with things that tenants owed that they weren't aware of because it's kind of glossed over when the lease was explained to them. Just be very leary of anything dealing with CAM, Insurance and Property Tax if you're thinking about signing a lease.

So. If a standard store isn't right for you, or you're just getting started, how do you find buyers? I very highly recommend festivals. Outdoor ones mostly. Indoor ones are usually too pricey. I don't recommend paying more than $100 for a 10 X 10 space. There are some exceptions. But generally speaking, I like something in a small town that brings in a good crowd, costs about 60 to 85 for the weekend, and doesn't charge me extra for insurance. It needs to be big enough to draw a crowd, but not so big that there's too much competition.

The downside is that you have to be there all weekend. You have to have a canopy tent. You have to transport all of your things. Weather can be problematic to say the least. (Try to keep your tent and merchandise under control in the middle of a hurricane in Ohio, LOL. Lamp posts were flying down the street, I didn't have a chance.) It can be very tiring with the set up and tear down.

The plus side is great though. People are in a good mood and ready to spend money. There's usually live entertainment to enjoy while you're sitting in your booth. Other vendors are friendly and can share useful advice, especially about other festivals.

If the weather is too much for you to . . . weather, then consider craft shows. Usually held indoors at schools or churches. They usually don't draw as big of a crowd, but it can be a great way to get started. Expect income to be low, but focus more on what you're learning. How people react to your display. What kind of people look at your things. What kind of people buy.

I do NOT recommend flea markets. I had a booth for a year, and did ok, but did so much better at festivals, along with the comparitive mood of people at both places, I really prefer festivals. I felt that people at flea markets were looking at everything like it was crap and acted like I should be paying them to take it away for me. Not good for the morale. Although it was a valuable learning experience too.

If sitting in a booth all day in whatever place doesn't sound right for you, consider having home parties. Create your own "Pampered Chef" party with whatever you sell. Put together a cute little speech. Make up a game to give away a free product. Serve snacks. (This is another place where couponing can come in handy!) And make a party of it.

Please leave comments if you have any other good ideas about how to get started selling.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What to sell

Whatever your hobby is, you probably have some really detailed projects that take you a long time to complete, along with some small items that you can put together quickly. When preparing for a craft show or festival, keep in mind that most people won't want to pay what your highly detailed items are worth. So be sure to have a large selection of cute low end items. If you knit, you might want to sell your blankets for $50 or something. They take a long time and a lot of work to complete. But you could probably make some cute belts pretty quickly to sell for $10. And maybe some magnets for $3. Having several pricing points allows for all types of customers to find something they like.