First of all, I want to clarify that I'm not going to write out a long, boring list of all of the different types of crafts you could create or the different materials you could work with.
I think most people know whether they are potters, or jewelry designers, or woodworkers before they get to the business building stage. Normally the craft skill comes first, then the business follows. You might decide to refine your skills, or work with a slightly different material, or use new techniques, but, for the most part, serious artisans know what skills they bring to the craft table.
Instead, I'm going to show you 19 different ways you can build a business around your particular creative skill. I think that's much more interesting. I hope you agree!
I'm going to start with some of the more standard ways to sell crafts, but stay with me, the list of craft business ideas gets more interesting as you get farther into it.
Selling hard goods refers to selling your actual handmade product, so, for example, if you make doll's clothing, you'd sell doll's dresses, shirts, pants, etc. Here are several ways you can build a business selling handmade hard goods:
1. Craft Shows
I'm sure we've all thought about selling at shows. It's a good way to meet customers, and, with the right product at the right shows, you can make a good income.
2. Home Parties
Home parties, in my opinion, are completely under-rated. I love doing home parties. They can be a lot of fun, the cost for doing a party, compared to selling at a show, is quite low, and most guests will buy something at a home party.
This business model can be difficult to sustain unless you get creative (i.e. once all of your friends have hosted a party, you may have difficulty booking more parties). However, it can be an excellent, low cost, low risk way to get your business started.
3. Online Sales
There are a lot of options for selling your crafts online. You could go with an established third party site like Etsy, or eBay (if you don't believe you can sell handmade items profitably on eBay, have a look at the book EBAY Auction Power ).
Alternatively, if you're willing to put the work into learning how to build traffic to your own site, and, therefore having more control of your business than you do with a third party site, you could sell your crafts on your own website.
There are several free options people use for building a website. I can't comment on the effectiveness of any of them because I haven't used them. I use a company called SBI for building my own site. Although it's not free (the cost is $300 per year), they provide a massive amount of helpful information about how to bring traffic to your site which isn't available anywhere else.
So, the free sites will allow you to build a website, but SBI will show you how to build a business online.
4. Craft Supplies
Rather than selling finished goods to customers, you might consider selling craft supplies. You could look at selling either supplies you purchase from a wholesaler, or you could create your own handmade items that are used in part of the crafting process.
For example, if you are a jewelry maker, instead of selling finished jewelry, you might consider selling your handmade beads for other designers to include in their own creations, or you could sell silicone molds you make using your own original designs for other crafters to use in their own projects.
5. Your Own Store
Have you always dreamed of having your own retail store? I know of a few craft artists who have had success selling items in their own retail store. Often they work with other local artisans, and sell their items on a consignment or wholesale basis in addition to selling their own crafts.
Speaking of consignment, consigning your work to independently owned stores can be a great way of building sales and promoting your business. You'll need to ensure you have priced your work in a way that is profitable for this business model to work.
Focusing on building business relationships with wholesale customers can bring your business to a whole new level. Again, you'll need good pricing for this strategy to be successful as well as an efficient production process to make the large volume of items wholesale customers typically require.
8. Private Label Items
How about creating private label items for other businesses? For example, if you make luxurious soaps and body lotion, you could partner with a local spa and create private label products for them (your products packaged with the spa's name and logo).
9. Social Media
Sometimes a great Facebook page is all that's necessary to launch a successful craft business.A friend of mine, who makes very cute handmade children's capes, recently launched her business on Facebook. She simply took a few great photos, created a Facebook business page, and invited her friends to follow her.
Shortly after she launched her page, we were talking about other ways to promote her business, and she said she's already so busy with orders through her Facebook page, that she can't look at other promotional options right now because she can barely keep up with the demand from her Facebook page.
I'm not talking about someone who is a social media maven with hundreds of followers. This is a person with about 200 Facebook friends, who is simply posting cute pictures of her products, and her kids wearing the capes, and she's extremely busy with orders.
If you're selling your own hard goods, you'll also need to give some thought into how you'll produce those items.
10. One of a Kind
If you sell one of a kind items, you'll need to factor in the design time to your price. However, if you create custom pieces made to your customers' specifications, or if you can clearly communicate to customers why each piece is special because it is one of a kind, you can charge a premium for your work.
11. Production Work
Production work (i.e. creating a specific range of products that you create over and over) has the benefit of scaling well (it's easier to grow a business in this way). You don't have to factor in the design time in your costs, you can better predict your need for raw materials and perhaps, depending on your medium, keep a smaller range of supplies on hand, you can sell more easily to retail partners, and you don't have to create unique photos and descriptions for every single item you make if you're selling online.
The big drawback for some (not all) people is that you have to create the same pieces over, and over. Some people love this way of working; for others it feels like drudgery.
If you think creatively, you might be surprised by the many ways you can take your knowledge and skill around creating a specific type of craft and turn it into a digital product.
12. Patterns or Projects
Instead of selling your actual items, consider selling instructions for making your items. Your own unique printable patterns or downloadable project instructions can be sold online. You won't be able to charge as much for a pattern as you would charge for a finished item, but egoods only need to be created once, then they can be sold over and over to many customers.
13. Membership Website
Do you have a lot of valuable information that is unique and not available anywhere for free online? Then maybe a membership site, where customers pay a fee to get valuable content from you each month, makes sense.
A business like this requires real commitment because you'll need to produce exceptional, original material on a regular basis to keep your customers happy, but this business model can be quite financially rewarding.
Can the work you create be translated into some type of printable that you can sell? Not all types of crafts will translate well into this business model, but if you create any type of digital art, or more traditional art that can be translated into a digital format, then you may be able to turn it into a printable item to sell.
You can take the concept of selling projects a step further and sell your knowledge about how to do a specific type of craft or work with a specific type of material.
15. Teaching in Person
Consider offering classes in your craft to build your business. You might partner with a local community center, or an art supply shop for the classroom space. Partnerships like this can also help you promote your classes.
16. Teaching Online
If you can create exceptional, premium content that is better than anything available for free, and build trust with your online readers, then you can charge customers for online courses in how to do your particular craft.
17. Writing Books
How about putting all of your ideas into a book format (Amazon makes this option extremely easy) and selling craft projects or instruction books?
18. Creating a Service-Based Business
It always surprises me that, when people think about building a craft-based business, they don't often think of creating some type of service business.If you're a photographer, then consider a business photographing clients. If you're a scrapbooker (paper or digital), consider a service business creating beautiful memory books for families who have lots of pictures and no time to organize and assemble them creatively.
19. Go Beyond the "Handmade" Niche
Rather than thinking of your business as falling in the "handmade" niche only, think about what other niches your business could serve.
If you make lovely handmade cat and dog beds, then you belong in the pet lovers' niche. If you make custom bridal jewelry, then you belong in the weddings niche.
The "handmade" niche will take you to some of the more obvious places (craft shows, Etsy, etc.), but if you can find a niche based on the type of people who are passionate about something your product serves, then you can find more opportunities to build your business (go where businesses in your niche go), and you can find customers who are passionate about what you do and who want your product, not only because it is handmade and beautiful, but also because it fits with a part of their self-identity.
Of course, not all 19 of these craft business ideas will work for all crafters. Whether each suggestion is a good fit will depend on the type of media you work with, as well as your resources, work preferences, skills and business and personal goals.
Don't run out and try all 19 of these business models! I'm sure I don't have to tell you that but, well, I thought I'd mention it just in case anyone was thinking of working their way from #1 to #19. Instead, if you're trying to determine the best direction for your company, take some time to think through each of the options, particularly ones you've never considered, and find one or two that make a lot of sense to you and will help you to create the type of business you really want.
Read on to see what readers have said about their own experiences as craft professionals...
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