21 Miscellaneous Survival Tips for Your Crafts Business
Organize yourself: Write your creative ideas down on paper when they first occur to you. If you delay, you will probably forget. Make frequent notes. Create files for ideas, receipts, customer addresses, and supplier information.
Stay informed about crafts business news: Publications for crafts businesses can help you gain insights into your crafts business. Here are some of the online craft magazines:
Arts Crafts Show Business - Magazine and website for the craft artisan who sells. Includes show listings, articles, links and more:
The Crafts Report - Online version of print magazine discussing all aspects of crafts business.
SAC News Monthly - Articles on craft business and promotions and reviews of craft shows:
Sunshine Artist - Online version of print magazine discussing art and crafts business. Also links to craft show locators.
Take classes: The more you know, the more you can do. Increase your technical skills and gain competitive advantages in the marketplace. Craft shops and schools usually offer courses in craft and art techniques. This is a good way to pick up tips for faster production methods.
Work at crafts: Make products at crafts. Since you are already paying utilities, rent, or house payments, you won’t increase your expenses and you can still spend time with your family.
Use what you got: Before spending money for equipment and supplies, honestly assess whether you need them. Be creative with materials that have gone unused for awhile. Once, I took some ghastly colored yarns, indisputably useless, and over-dyed them with great results.
Cut costs by sharing expenses: I share studio space with three other crafts persons, saving on rent and utilities. As a group, we also help generate enthusiasm for each other’s work and business. We sometimes make large materials orders together to receive bigger discounts. Sometimes we share booth space at craft shows. More ways to cut costs of doing a business in The Basic Guide to Pricing Your Craftwork.
Prepare for ‘hot sales’ times: Be ready for the good selling seasons, like the months before Christmas, with plenty of inventory. Once the season is past, it’s several months before sales pick up. Use a production quota to insure you have the goods. Order your materials far enough ahead of the production time so that you aren’t ruined by out-of-stock problems with suppliers. Budget so that you’ll have the money to buy what is needed.
Get phone service in your own name: The phone company will charge you a higher rate for a business phone than for service in your name.
Save on travel expenses: Lower your travel costs by doing shows in cities where you have friends and relatives. If you do many shows, chances are you will make good friends with other craftspeople. When your show schedules coincide, why not share motel costs?
Do your own building and maintenance: Cut down auto expenses. Learn how to do easy repairs on your car like changing your oil and tune-ups. Build, or find a friend to help you construct your display booths, inventory shelves or tables for your studio.
Make mistakes pay: If your project doesn’t turn out for some reason, write it down and think of other ways to use what you’ve made. Can a piece be taken apart and rebuilt?
Get payments for orders in advance: Whenever a customer wants something special made, ask for payment in advance. When a new store account places an order, require them to prepay or accept the shipment C.O.D.
Contract the drudgery: If detail and finishing work drive you crazy, hire someone to do it for you. You can pay them by the hour or by the piece; this gives you more time to design and sell.
Think BIG: Save time and increase profits by "ganging up" your production. For example, work from several piles of assembled raw materials. This cuts down production time per piece, increasing profits.
Avoid undercutting your wholesale store accounts: If you do a craft show in the same town where you have a store account, be sure to charge the same retail price that they are asking for similar products.
Use contracts in all business arrangements: When working with galleries, designers, or large exhibitions, draw up agreements clearly defining liability, how pieces will be shipped, who pays for the shipping, and who’s liable if something goes wrong. Require purchase orders from stores. Clarifying these things in advance can save you hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars in the event of confusion or unexpected misfortune. Source of business and legal forms for crafts.
Keep your eyes open for new opportunities: If you come across a store that sells handcrafted items, but not your craft, approach them about carrying your work. Adding a new product line will increase sales for both of you.
Use suppliers that offer credit terms of 30 days to pay for purchases: Many suppliers will extend you a month if you can come up with a couple of references. Approach the major suppliers as a retail supplier if you want to receive wholesale discounts. If you set up a retail business to other crafts persons, you can buy supplies for about 50% of the average retail price. If you teach classes, resell these supplies to students at the full price.
Hire the physically disadvantaged: The government has a grant program for businesses that offer training that leads to employment for individuals with handicaps. Contact: Office of Program Operations, Rehabilitation Services Administration, Dept. of Education, Washington, DC 20202.
Save money on your long distance phone bill. Through a network cooperative plan, I’ve cut my long distance phone costs by 50% and more. Interstate rates through this program anytime of the day are only 4.9 cents per minute billed in six second increments. I get the same 4.9 cent rate for a toll free number I provide my customers to order through. Since ATT, MCI and Sprint bill you in 1-minute increments, you are paying for time you aren't using. This program is a must for cutting phone costs. See
Networking with a group who shares your interests opens doors to new opportunities. Many resources exist to help increase contacts, expand marketing efforts, provide information about funding, insurance, and legal advice. Here are some online networking groups for craft professionals:
Arts & Crafts Online Marketing - This an email mail list for discussing topics on online crafts marketing. Subscribe at:
The Professional Crafters Mailing List - An excellent email mail list for discussing all aspects of crafts marketing. Subscribe at:
About the Author
James Dillehay, author of seven books, is a nationally recognized expert on marketing arts and crafts. Artist, entrepreneur, and educator, his articles have helped over 15,000,000 readers of Family Circle, The Crafts Report, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunshine Artist, Ceramics Monthly, and more. James has appeared as a featured guest on HGTV's popular The Carol Duvall Show and he is a member of the advisory board to The National Craft Association. He is editor of
www.Craftmarketer.com. This article is copyrighted and excerpted from James Dillehay's The Basic Guide to Selling Arts & Crafts.