8 things I've leant about setting up a craft business
So here’s some advice, if you really, truly want to turn a hobby into a business… it’s not business advice as such (see below number 3!) but I hope it’s useful.
- Stay Fresh. This is probably the hardest thing of all as it comes from you and only you. This is how I find new ideas, inspiration and direction. Almost always these things happen when I’m away from the jewellery bench - on holiday, in my pilates class, doing workshops (I LOVE workshops - more on them in future blogs!), cooking, walking…. Being a creative person and running my own business, it can be 24/7, but the freshness, the new ideas, they are so important, and they come when they come, so make space for them.
- Create a portfolio job. This works for me… while my main ‘job’ is making jewellery to order, I also teach and run workshops, and have a share in an artist collective shop Fig on our nearby high street in Bristol. I also have a ‘hobby’ which is embroidery, and I go on sewing and dyeing workshops and sell some of the work on etsy.
Commissioned embroidery Lichen, Moss and Funghi I
@jemimalumley on Instagram
- Ask questions. I worked as a graphic designer for almost twenty years, both as a full time employee and as a freelancer, and though I learnt masses from my previous career it taught me very little about running my own designer/maker business! So I’ve taken short courses about setting up your own business, I’ve asked everyone I know about their experiences running a small business and I’ve taken on board what I can. Currently I’m using The Creative Business Network to help understand and better use Social Media.
- Find and honest critic (and grow thick skin!). I’m blessed with family and friends who love me and my work, but I also have one very honest critic. Boy, is she honest. And occasionally wrong, but rarely. I find her reactions to new things invaluable, she can be harsh but never cruel, and I find her criticism constructive.
- Get an accountant. It’ll make you sleep better at night (I’m a terrible worrier) and a good one will give you advice and even save you money longterm.
@jemimalumleyjewellery on Instagram
- Sell direct. Whether this is at craft fairs, etsy, your own shop (online and/or B&M) it is invaluable. Not only do you get all the money from the sale, you will learn so much from your customers. Who they are, what they do, what they like to wear, who much money they want/have to spend…
- And while I’m here - Be nice to each and every customer! Be patient and listen, even when they are saying the strangest things. Of course there’s a limit to how polite one can be in the face of rudeness, but ultimately you need your customers a lot more than they need you. Though when I was asked to copy a Tiffany bangle (including engraving) I took pleasure in getting on my high horse and asking the man to leave the shop!
- Do something outside your comfort zone. Really. It takes you away from yourself and reminds you of why you enjoy doing what you do! For me it’s volunteering (and more about the actual charity in future post) - I meet unusual, fascinating, fabulous women whose lives are unbelievably different for my own in every conceivable way, and they have taught me to count my blessings every day, and remind me that I live a charmed life, which I try to remember regularly.
So there you are - a few tips on doing what you love and making a living from it. If you were hoping for pure business advice, I’m sorry you are in the wrong place! Head over to CBN for ‘proper’ help, and take mine with a pinch of salt.
about the author
After almost 20 years as a designer in children's publishing a short silversmithing course in 2006 prompted a change of direction.
The following year I enrolled on a part-time jewellery course, and found a local studio where I could make and sell my work.
In 2009, together with five other crafts people we found a shop space to rent on our busy local high street, the gloucester road, called Fig. We are open tuesday - saturday, 9.30am - 5pm (except August).