Penny Stewart, owner of Crafty Lady Boutique online, was a professional crafter for over ten years selling her trompe l'oeil and 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 in San Gabriel, California for over a year, Stewart purchased the store and became "The New Crafty Lady." She opened an online store a few months later, and eventually after two years owning and operating a "real" store, she closed the shop and now devotes her time exclusively to the Internet Mall, designing web sites and selling products over the internet.
Some people know her better by her other nicknames - "The Cat Lady," because she painted and sold cat rocks and taught classes in rock painting, or "The Pink Gypsy" because she took up belly dancing and sells belly dance items on http://www.pinkgypsy.com.
Becoming a professional crafter means turning a hobby into a business, but what does that really mean to the average woman who decides to sell her hand-made dolls at a gift store or boutique? There are so many things to consider, like where to sell, how much to charge, how to make a profit, advertising, etc.
The following article outlines the steps in moving from hobbyist to professional crafter, and the advantages of joining forces with other crafters for support and profit. A side bar entitled,"The Six P's of Professional Crafting" is also included, offering suggestions on purchasing materials wholesale, preparing items assembly line style, packaging with an image in mind, pricing competitively, promoting your product, and maintaining a professional attitude.
THE SIX P'S OF
Even if you plan to sell your items 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. It will encourage customers to contact you for special orders and they will be taking home your advertisement each time they buy one of your products.
Comparison shopping helps you keep your prices within a fair market value for the area you are selling in. You need to be competitive, but do not undervalue your time and talent. People do appreciate quality, so if your goods are exceptional, don’t 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 in a collectible magazine promoting your hand-made dolls or touting your collectible cats in a cat-lovers magazine will do wonders to increase your sales. Mention where the customer can go to see your crafts online or in person. Co-op ads are great because the cost is divided by the number of people involved, and everyone gets exposure. 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 find your crafts on display virtually or in real time.
Always do what you say you will do. If you promise to deliver a special order this week, do it. And don't promise what you cannot deliver. Taking an order for 100 stuffed animals for a department store that you have doubts you can complete is not only foolhardy, it is unprofessional. Don't be afraid to say, "no thank you" or "I'm sorry. I can't do that." People will appreciate your honesty and they will be back another time with a different request, maybe one you can fulfill.
Why do women love to craft? What possesses them to stockpile paints, fabric, brushes, wood, feathers, flowers, etc., for future projects? Is it some form of temporary insanity that leads a person to spend hours needle pointing, tole painting, knitting, embroidering, gluing and such? Crafting Forever, Housework Never, is the humorous slogan cross stitched or tole painted and hung over the kitchen sink.
According to Penny Stewart, owner of Crafty Lady Boutique, an online crafter's mall, crafting can be a serious business, when a person decides to go "Professional." From that moment on a lot more dedication, planning, time, energy, and money are needed than most people realize.
Making a commitment
Once the decision to go into business has been made, time needs to be allotted not only for making what is going to be sold, but also for pricing, packaging, promoting and selling. "Sometimes a crafter doesn't realize how much actual work is involved," says Stewart." It's best to face all the facts before making a big commitment and end up wasting a great deal of time and money. Talk to others who are successful, and also to those who have failed. Learn from their experiences, so you won't have to make all the mistakes yourself. "
If you are still determined to give it a go, then try selling to friends, family and co-workers. There are many practical advantages, such as no overhead (rent) and less commitment than doing craft shows. Plus, according to Stewart, it helps a crafter to establish a price range and determines whether or not there is a market for the product. But, eventually, if sales are going well, the desire surfaces to expand the customer base, increase profits, and move on to bigger and better things.
Now more decisions have to be made. Where is the best place to sell? Craft malls, consignment stores, seasonal boutiques, craft shows -- the list goes on. "There are lots of opportunities to sell crafts these days. Especially with computers," says Stewart. "Every day a new on-line crafters' marketplace surfaces out there beckoning for people to sell their wares on the web. It's a great place for crafters to test the waters with their products. If you shop around you can rent a booth for as little as $10 a month. There's usually a set-up fee for scanning the images and a percentage goes to the store when an item is sold." So, what will it be? (Today, etsy.com is a great place to sell your arts and crafts!)
By joining forces with other crafters, you could become an entrepreneur without all of the headaches of going it alone. Crafters like to craft, but as a rule they don't particularly like the business end of it," says Stewart. "Joining a crafter's mall on the internet gives you an advantage because when everyone joins together, they get greater advertising exposure for their dollars, and 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. It's much like renting space in any crafter's mall, only you ship the merchandise to the customer after they have ordered it, so your inventory doesn't have to be as large. And you don't have to lug it into the store."
The store has the responsibility of advertising, promoting, and merchandising your crafts for you. It's a winning combination. The more people who visit the mall to shop, the more crafts are sold, and the more crafters want to join the mall. Word of mouth on the internet works even better than it does in the "real" world. Email gets your information out there faster than the grapevine or party line telephones used to, and everyone benefits."