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.

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.

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