If you’re looking for more exposure for your work, how creative are you about where you sell you crafts? If you make items for dogs or their people, do you sell strictly to pet boutiques? Have you thought of approaching handcrafted galleries? Shoppers who value handmade will pay more if they see your work in a craft gallery rather than a pet boutique beside inexpensive imports. If you make baby gifts, don’t just sell them to children’s shops. Try to get them into shops with other hand made products. Why put your handcrafted pieces in a location where they are compared with manufactured goods? Get your work in front of buyers who are discriminating enough to appreciate handmade. What other locations can you think of where your work will get the attention and price it deserves?
Are you counting strictly on Etsy, Artfire or other online platforms to sell your crafts for the holiday season? If so, you are missing a huge chunk of the market and a ton of revenue. Here’s why:
There are a lot of web-savvy buyers who just don’t like to shop online. Even those of us who do purchase manufactured products, books or music online, want to see and touch art in real-life. For many shoppers, meeting the craftsperson face-to-face is part of the attraction of buying hand made pieces.
It’s mid October and definitely time to be getting your work out there for early holiday shoppers. So, how can you get your work in front of the people who value made-by-hand? If you shy away from the large seasonal craft fairs like Harvest Festival, I don’t blame you. The booth fees are hefty and the whole experience is exhausting. Many artists who previously exhibited at the big festivals report more sales and a better bottom line when they exhibit at smaller venues such as school, church or community craft fairs. If there aren’t any small festivals in your area, you can approach schools, churches or clubs and offer to set up an exhibit of your work and give a percentage to the organization. (Think of it in place of a booth fee.)
House parties are another good way to sell your work. Ask friends, relatives or co-workers to host a party where you can display your work for their friends. Maybe partner with a caterer who is willing to make appetizers just for exposure to new clients.
Retirement homes are often happy to let you set up a display at no charge. It gives their residents an activity and chance to do their shopping independently. Look for upscale independent living communities, not nursing homes. Many of these residents have good disposable income, are educated in the arts and thrilled to have unique gift options without having to depend on anyone to take them shopping.
Corporations and hospitals are open to people setting up a lunch time or after work sale for their employees. It cuts down on personal days or “sick days” which are commonly used as shopping days around the holidays.
Ask gallery owners or boutique retailers to host a trunk show of your work for a percentage of the sales. Particularly if you make jewelry or smaller gift items, it benefits them as well. Galleries sell fewer large pieces of artwork before the holidays so this is a way for them to offer something to their clients that they may not show the rest of the year. If it ‘s a success and your pieces sell well for them, they may agree to carry your work year round.
For more ideas on how to sell your craft, download a free copy of “13 Easy Low-Cost or NO Cost Tips to Turn Your Crafts into CASH NOW” on the right side of this page.
Do you know you want to leave your mark but haven’t started because you can’t see how you as one person can do something big enough to make an impact? Well, you don’t have to be ready to solve world hunger or end violence in the middle east to start something meaningful. Making a difference in one little corner of the universe can lead to a bigger movement or at least a greater awareness.
When I was in my early twenties, I had a BIG creative dream. It was the peace, love and groovy post-Viet Nam days when we were all idealistic and knew we wanted to create a better world. (note-some of us still believe we can.)
A long detour took me out of the way of that dream but in the course of making a living, I realized I was able to make a difference. No, I wasn’t changing the way children are exposed to and inspired by the arts but my businesses did change lives and YOURS can too.
Typically a social enterprise is based on using business principals to achieve social goals and when someone comes to me for advise on how to create a meaningful livelihood, we look at the cause or change they want to make and then create a business to drive that change. Sometimes, though, an established business can be the vehicle to make a difference.
I didn’t start a furniture business to create jobs or improve lives and at one point I felt like all I was doing was making money. I was visiting my dad and mentioned that I was feeling greedy and unfulfilled that I’d drifted so far from my earlier vision of making an impact. He pointed out all the ways that my partner and I were improving lives. I realized he was right. We weren’t just selling home furnishings. We had created something that fed over one hundred employees and their families and unlike charity, we had trained them to be self-sufficient. (We didn’t want sales people who had been poorly trained in other retail positions so we hired people who had never held sales or management experience and taught them our way. Many of these employees previously held minimum wage jobs and were now earning high five and some six figures.) We’d also found small cottage industry upholsterers working out of their garages or barns and helped them build up their businesses and create jobs in their communities.
When I was a massage therapist, I had mostly private clientele but after doing some volunteer bodywork at hospice, I realized how important it was to give patients and their families the gift of touch. I couldn’t afford to strictly volunteer but wrote an article about the benefits of massage for a local senior publication and people started hiring me to go into nursing homes and massage their aging parents.
While the above are examples of how an established business can develop a social mission, you can start a business with the intention of making a profit and make conscious efforts from the beginning to drive or support a cause. The initial purpose of my gallery was to make a living and re-immerse myself in world of art but as I researched the work I would carry, another mission emerged. I became aware of how much of the merchandise available in most stores is imported knock-offs of artists’ designs. In some cases, the artist has a licensing agreement and gets a royalty but more commonly, the artist doesn’t know about it until it shows up on a shelf with a “made in china” label. Sadly, few of those artists can afford to fight a legal battle with the large companies manufacturing the knock-offs, so they do nothing about the theft of their designs. When I started noticing that even in little artist havens, the majority of shops sell these imported knock-offs, I made it a mission for my gallery to support American artists and educate the public so that they become more aware of their buying habits.
If you have an existing business, you can add a social component to it but even if you have a job, you can start something on the side that makes a difference and has more meaning. Before you think, “but I don’t have any free time”, let me introduce you to the busiest person I know who has still managed to create something that matters.
If anyone has limited free time it’s my friend Sandy Dempsey of The Dreaming Cafe. With her own business, a demanding job, and the responsibility for a seriously ill mother, she not only manages to do all the housework, shopping, cooking, cleaning, yard work, laundry and snow removal, she also makes time to write, paint and art journal. I’ve always told her she has the best time management of anyone I know and now she is going to share her secrets in a tele-class called “Finding the time to do what you love.” She knew she wanted to do something that makes a difference so she is giving 100% of the proceeds from the tele-class to the Pajama Program, a non-profit that provides new, warm pajamas and new books to children in need in the United States and around the world. To hear how Sandy finds time for what she loves, click HERE.
Aspiring entrepreneurs are under the impression they need large lines of credit, and when they hit obstacles, they frequently keep pouring more money towards the same mistakes rather than having to find creative solutions. It’s my firm belief that this keeps them from ever developing their problem solving muscles.
As a successful serial entrepreneur, I know first hand that starting on a shoestring and having no back-up capital is the best way to grow a profitable business.
The first business I started at 23 happened almost on a dare. I had no idea what I was doing until I did it I had planned to start a creative arts program for pre-schoolers and was working to save start-up money. My father had a furniture and appliance business and needed help with advertising. When I realized how much commission an ad agency takes, I walked into my dad’s office and said, “If we start an in-house agency, we can save (a figure equal to 15%) a year”. Coincidently, the figure was more than double my salary. He looked at me and without blinking said, “so do it.” I knew that translated to “YOU figure out how to do it on your own.” He didn’t offer to loan me money and I didn’t ask . I’m convinced that’s why I’ve been successful. He gave me the gift of faith in my ability to be a creative problem solver.
So often new entrepreneurs get caught up in lawyers, accountants and business plans. Yes, you will need them eventually but rather than spend on high paid professionals right off the bat, start out simply as a sole proprietor and once you see you are making money, you can hire someone to count and tax-shelter it. You won’t need a formal business plan if you aren’t going to apply for a loan.
When my husband and I decided to open our own furniture business, we didn’t have the money to set up a brick and mortar store so we sold our house, took the tiny bit of equity ($12,000) to buy a container of furniture, rented a hotel banquet room and started a business that we eventually grew to 17 retail stores grossing 25 million-without ever borrowing a dime. At first, we were literally living out of hotel rooms and a van with a toddler. It was a huge risk so we had no choice but to succeed. Having made the decision not to borrow money, we had to be creative because there was nothing to fall back on. We made some mistakes in the beginning and if we’d had a lot of capital, we may have blown it before we learned some valuable lessons. Instead, we became resourceful and innovative problem solvers.
In 2000, I fell in love with a small seaside tourist town. I knew it was time to get back to art and this seemed like a perfect location for an art gallery. Having no idea how I was going to do it, I signed a lease on a retail space in October with a commitment to open Thanksgiving weekend. Then my son and I headed to the lumber yard for plywood to build display pedestals. My only experience with the art business was selling my work at craft fairs when I was very young, so I spend the next few weeks going to Open Studios, chatting with artists and trying to figure out what sells. Because I don’t believe in putting a lot of money into start-ups, I talked about 50 artists and craftsmen into working on a consignment basis. I ran the gallery alone 7 days a week for the first several months until the business could afford the first employee. Some of the merchandise I started with turned out to be wrong for the clientele but because it was on consignment, I didn’t lose money. I simply returned it to the artists, grateful I hadn’t invested start-up capital and considered the lesson a blessing. Once there was good cash flow, I began attending trade shows and purchasing contemporary crafts wholesale but I never bought more merchandise than I knew I could pay for within 30 days.
Within the first couple of years, the business had outgrown the first location, I had a great team of loyal employees, an enviable income and a strong following with locals and tourists.
When it was time to move on, I sold the business for a very nice six figure profit.
If you’re ready to start a business and the only thing stopping you is start-up funds, hold that big vision but look for creative ways to start small and grow.
You know that feeling you get when you work with a client who truly appreciates the value you add to their life or business? How you feel all energized? But sometimes you have a client who drains you and you feel worse after working with them. If you are in a service or consulting business, your income depends on attracting and retaining clients but not all clients are right for you. Here are some hints it’s time to fire a client:
-She wants 90% of the work for 50% of the money.
We’ve all worked with someone like this. You work up a proposal that involves several segments for a package price. You spend time presenting it to the client and explain how each piece will benefit her business. She’s excited about it and says, “Yes, let’s go for it.” She calls you later and says, “I’ve been thinking about this and I want you to do the part first and then we’ll do the other part later.” She expects you to charge her half as much because she’s only asking for half of the project. What she doesn’t realize is that she is asking you to do the most time consuming work for half the money. It’s time to fire that client.
-She thinks you are available to her round the clock.
If you do any kind of coaching or consulting, you’ve probably dealt with this high maintenance client. You set up a series of phone or in-person appointments and at the end of each meeting, you give the client homework. Between meetings, she emails this work to you so that you can be prepared and don’t have to “waste time” on your next scheduled call. What she’s saying is, “I want you to work on this during time that I am not paying for.” Time to fire her.
-He thinks taking you to lunch to talk about his business doesn’t count as billed time.
After I sold my last business, I consulted with other retailers to help them increase revenue and profits. I charged a modest fee and my clients saw results. An existing client called and asked if we could meet for lunch and discuss my helping him market his business for sale. We didn’t have a decent business broker in town so I did all the marketing on the sale of my business myself. Several other shopkeepers had called to ask how I brought in three offers when their businesses sat on the market without a bite, so I added this to my consulting practice. I met the above mentioned client for lunch and outlined the exact steps I would take to get his business sold. They included setting up a separate web site for the sale of his business, writing copy, preparing a prospectus, setting up social media sites and writing posts for him. After quoting him a fee, he said, “Oh, I didn’t realize that was part of your business. I can do that myself now that I know what needs to be done.” He paid the check, gave me a hug and said, “Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me about this.” When a client assumes your intellectual property can be bought for the price of a tuna fish sandwich, it’s time to fire him.
If you’ve clearly defined your services and fees and a client is trying to get something for nothing, let them go. If you don’t feel great working with someone, be honest with them. Tell them the relationship isn’t working. Don’t let them rent space in your brain for free. You’ll be surprised how letting go of one bad one will open space for three ideal clients.