|The "6 Ps" of Professional Crafting |
by Penny Stewart
Why do people love crafting? What possesses them to stockpile paints, fabric, brushes, wood, feathers, and flowers, for future projects? Is it some form of temporary insanity to spend hours needle pointing, tole painting, knitting, embroidering, and gluing?
The humorous slogan "Crafting Forever, Housework Never" hangs over many crafters kitchen sink (full of dirty dishes.) But crafting can be a serious business, if you decide to turn "professional." From then on, more dedication, planning, time, energy, and money are needed than most people realize.
Making a commitment
Once you make the decision to go into "business," you need time not only for making what youre going to sell, but also for pricing, packaging, promoting and selling. Often crafters dont realize how much work is involved. Its best to face facts before making a major commitment in time and/or money. Talk to others who are successful, and also those who have failed. Learn from their experience, so you wont have to make all the mistakes yourself.
Finding an outlet
If you are still determined, then try selling to friends, family and coworkers first. Theres no overhead and less commitment than doing craft shows. Plus, it helps establish a price range and determines whether theres a market for your product. But, eventually, if sales go well, youll want to expand your customer base, increase profits, and move on to bigger and better things.
So where should you sell? Craft malls, consignment stores, seasonal boutiques, craft showsthe list goes on. Craft selling opportunities abound today, especially with computers. Every day a new on-line shopping mall surfaces beckoning you to sell your wares on the web. This can be a great way for you to test market products. If you shop around, it can cost as little as $10 a month. Theres usually a set-up fee and a percentage of sales may go to the store. Be sure you understand all charges before you sign any contracts.
If the mall processes credit cards, handles sales taxes, and has a convenient method for shopping (like a virtual shopping cart system), then it might be worth trying. But be prepared to give it at least six months (at $10 a month thats only $60.00). It takes time for shoppers to get to know you.
A winning combination
By joining forces with other crafters, you could become an entrepreneur without the headaches of going it alone. Crafters like crafting, but as a rule they dont particularly like the business end. In a mall, the store has the responsibility of paying the sales tax, collecting the money and dealing with the customers. You get to spend more time at home doing what you love to do most - make more crafts. Its much like renting space in any crafters mall, only you ship the merchandise to the customer after they order it, so your inventory doesnt have to be as large.
The mall has the responsibility of advertising, promoting, and merchandising your crafts. The more traffic the mall gets, the more crafts are sold, and then more crafters want to join the mall. Word of mouth on the internet works better than it does in the "real" world. Email disseminates information faster than the grapevine or party line telephones used to, and everyone benefits.
Be sure to shop around for a mall that fits you and your product. If you make hand-crafted items, there are advantages to joining a mall selling handmade items exclusively, so you arent competing with low-cost imports. Cruise around the mall and try ordering something. Find out how they treat their customers.
6 Ps OF PROFESSIONAL CRAFTING
Even if you plan to sell through a craft mall or blended boutique where the store owner collects the sales taxes, you should obtain a Resale Certificate and order your supplies in bulk. The money you save by purchasing materials wholesale will increase your profit margins considerably.
Plan to make at least six to twelve items at a time and work in assembly line fashion doing repetitive tasks all at once. This will increase your overall profit by decreasing the time it takes you to make an item and you can therefore make more inventory in less time.
Consider purchasing professional looking price tags or labels with your name imprinted on them, or use your computer to make some sort of hang tag that creates an "image" for your line of products. This encourages customers to contact you for special orders and they get your advertisement each time they buy one of your products.
Comparison shopping helps you keep your prices within a fair market value. You need to be competitive, but dont undervalue your time and talent. People do appreciate quality, so if your goods are exceptional, dont be afraid to ask a better price for them than mass produced imports.
Advertising pays, and you pay for advertising. But in some cases, a small ad touting your collectible cats in a cat-lovers magazine will do wonders to increase your sales. Co-op ads save money because the cost is divided between the people involved. If you sell in a craft store that does direct mail advertising, be sure to give them a copy of your mailing list to add to theirs. Let your customers know where to see your crafts. Be sure to use your internet address on all written material and in all print advertising.
Always do what you say you will. If you promise to deliver a special order this week, do it. And dont promise what you cannot deliver. Taking an order for 100 stuffed animals for a department store when you have doubts you can do it is not only foolhardy, it is unprofessional. Dont be afraid to say, "no thank you" or "Im sorry, I cant do that." People will appreciate your honesty and might come back another time with a different request - maybe one you can fulfill.
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Penny Stewart has been a professional crafter for several years selling her decorative tole painted pieces in boutiques, craft malls, consignment shops, beauty salons, and craft shows. After displaying her painted furniture and crafts in Crafty Lady Boutique for over a year, Stewart purchased the store and became "The Crafty Lady." Her Crafty Lady Boutique Shopping Mall on the internet opened almost simultaneously. Two years later, she closed the "real:" store (due to increasing overhead and sales costs) and now devotes her time exclusively to selling on the internet. Some people know her better by one of her other nicknames - The Cat Lady," because she paints and sells cat rocks and teaches classes in rock painting, "The Pink Gypsy" because she belly dances in her spare time, and Captain of "Web Space Nine," her computer consulting and web design business with a Star Trek theme.