Is now really the right time to start a craft business?
If you have already watched my free lecture ‘How to start a craft business post covid-19’ then you will have a clear understanding of what it takes to get started and the concepts of business models available to you. You will also be clear on what I think starting a business might look like now, post pandemic.
If you have not watched that talk let me break that down for you quickly, because this is important. Starting a craft business in this climate is going to require passion, knowledge, and commitment in your desired niche market. It is also going to rely more than ever, now that we have experienced a social and economic lockdown, on 3 things going forward;
- Better online presence
- Multiple streams of income
- Digital products or services
Let me tell you how successful craft businesses are already doing that.
STEP 1 – Future proofing your income
One of the biggest things craft business owners and mainstream retailers will have learned from a pandemic shut down is that their income is a precarious thing. Like most seasonal industries, craft business owners in particular, will suffer natural ebbs and flows in sales across the year, but in a pandemic most businesses are forced to shut their doors, meaning the flow of sales stops dead. If sales stop dead, then there is no income and no wage and businesses suffer greatly, often closing for good.
You may have already spotted that some of the more successful craft business owners in your niche will have remained open in some form during the pandemic, even if they stopped shipping physical products. How are they doing this? They have already implemented a range of products, or services that can exist digitally, meaning they can still serve customers without having to ship, or make anything.
You have seen this in other areas as well, for example online workout memberships rose by 50% during the first month of lockdown, according to the Wall Street Journal. Online learning in creative areas rose too, with reports from newspapers like The Independent listing outlets where we could easily find creative course offerings.
Running my own craft business, I understood that this future proofing was essential if I were to withstand the impact of different economic and social circumstances on my craft business. It is what helped me avoid closure during a bout of ill health and economic downturn, or recession. It also helped me create sales during times of the year (summer mostly) when my handmade wool products were not a desirable purchase for customers.
My advice to you is to think about moving all your income eggs from one big basket to several little ones. In other words, do not just rely on income from products you physically make and ship, have another revenue stream you can create from your skills. That will provide you with income from various venues that will flow throughout the year.
STEP 2 – Adapting to build stronger relationships
To be hugely successful long-term, businesses need to build strong relationships with their customers, so that they can embrace any change needed, together.
Gosh, what does that mean?!
Simply put it means this – Your customers loyalty in coin matters greatly and to keep those all-important sales coming in you need to understand that you and your business will need to adapt over time to evolve with your customers wants and needs. This is where you serve them best, with selling them what they need for what they want to achieve.
Owning a craft business is not about making what you want to make and then trying to sell it. No. It is about creating something your customers need, using your particular skill and creativity in production… and then selling it to them.
This is where most craft business owners will fall flat on their face.
My advice is to start building relationships with your potential customers and paying customers early on. Work out what their needs and desires are before designing and launching too many products. Once you feel you better understand these buyers and you see resulting sales, then you can scale up. Use your marketing efforts (social and email) to reach out and engage with your audience on a weekly basis, because this will help you to spot points of evolution so that you can adapt quickly and successfully. That might be going from sewing quilts to sewing face masks during a pandemic, or creating stash busting digital workshops during times of recession.
STEP 3 - Creating a marketing plan to continuously reach new customers
Marketing is incredibly important to all businesses. Gone are the days where back in mid-2006 when I started online, all you had to do was take a basic picture, or scan in your product and list it on eBay in order to sell it. No, my friends, today you must be much more tactical than that. You will need to learn how to master; web copy, social media, email marketing and campaign design (but I can help you with that on my website, so do not be afraid).
Your weekly outreach needs to cater for existing clients as well as telling potential clients about what your business is and who you are as the owner, plus it also needs to highlight your products in a way that isn’t overly salesy.
This also means putting yourself in front of the camera. I know, cringe, am I right?! But honestly, people are not looking at you, they are listening to you and what you have to teach them about their favourite craft. They are also looking at how your product helps them improve their craft. This is where customers learn to trust you and this my shy friend is where you make the real sales, by developing trust and loyalty.
This will all take time; of that I am in no doubt. Getting started though is going to be vital.
We have all been on an incredible journey since lockdown began and there is still a long way to go socially and economically before the dust settles – but there is no reason to put off planning your future. So, my best advice is to sit down pen and note pad in hand and make a start on planning the future of your own successful craft business.
If you would like to get started in earnest now, then I recommend getting a copy of my book, ‘How to start a Craft Business’, which will walk you through your initial set up steps from product, to website, to marketing and everything in between.