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The 6 P's For Professional Crafters

6 things to consider before becoming a professional crafter

Are you considering becoming a "professional crafter"? Do you have a burning desire to make money doing what you love: making crafts? Most craft artisans share this desire, but there is more to consider than just the actual creation of the craft items that you plan to sell.

Once you decide to take the plunge and go into "business", you'll need to budget your time very carefully. In addition to the time needed for making what youíre going to be selling, you'll also need time for pricing, packaging, promoting and selling.  Many crafters simply donít realize just how much work is involved with running a business.

Itís best to face facts before making a large scale commitment in terms of time and/or money. Talk to some other business owners who are successful, as well as some who have failed. Learn from their experiences; what they do right and what they did wrong. If you do this you wonít have to make all the same mistakes yourself. 

Finding an outlet

If you're still determined to start your own crafts business, then try selling to your family, friends, and co-workers first. This allows you to experiment with no overhead and fewer commitments than doing craft shows. It also helps establish a price range for your products and determines whether thereís even a market for them. Eventually, if your sales go well, youíll want to expand your customer base, increase your profits, and move on to bigger and better things.

Where should you sell?

You can choose from Craft malls, consignment shops, boutiques, craft shows, and more. The opportunities for selling your crafts are almost limitless today, especially with the proliferation of computers.

Virtually every day a new shopping mall pops-up on the web asking you to sell your crafts on their site. This can be an excellent way for you to test market your products. If you shop around, a "booth" in an on-line mall can cost as little as $10 per month. Thereís usually a small set-up fee and the mall may take a percentage of your sales. Be sure you understand and agree to any and all charges spelled out in the contract before you sign it. 

If the mall has a system in place to process credit card transactions, handle sales taxes, and provide a convenient method for shopping (like a virtual shopping cart system), then it might be worth a trial run. But you should be prepared to give it at least six months to find out how you're doing. It usually takes a little time for shoppers to get to know you. 

A winning combination

By teaming up with other craft vendors, you can go into business without the headaches that often come from going it alone.

Crafters like crafting, but they donít particularly enjoy the business end of entrepreneurship. In a mall, the store usually has the responsibility of paying the taxes, collecting the money, and dealing with the customers. This allows you to spend more time doing what you love to do most - make more crafts. Itís a lot like renting space in a real crafterís mall, only you ship the merchandise out to the customers after they order it so you don't have to stock much inventory. 

The mall also has the responsibility of advertising and promoting your craft items. The more traffic the mall gets, the more crafts are sold through their site, which leads to even more crafters wanting to join the mall. Word of mouth advertising works better on the internet than it does in the "real" world. Email tends to disseminate information faster than the "grapevine" and everyone benefits.

Be sure to do some shopping around for a mall that suits you and your products. If you hand-craft your items, there are many advantages to joining an online mall that sells handmade items exclusively. This prevents you from having to compete with cheap imports. Browse around the mall and order something. Find out how well the mall treats their customers.

Here are the The 6 P's of crafting:

1 - Purchasing - Even if you plan to sell your crafts through a mall or boutique where the mall owner collects the sales taxes, you still need to obtain a state resale license and order your supplies in bulk. The money you save by buying your raw materials wholesale will boost your profit margins by a large margin.

2 - Preparing - Plan to make anywhere from six to twelve similar craft items in each session. Working in assembly line fashion, do the repetitive tasks all at once. This will enhance your profits by decreasing the time it takes you to make an item and you can create more inventory in less time.

2 - Packaging - Consider buying some labels and price tags with your name professionally printed on them. You can also use your PC to make some hang tags that create an "image" for your line of products. This will encourage potential customers to contact you directly for special orders. They'll also get your advertisement every time they buy one of your products!

4 - Pricing - You should comparison-shop to aid you with keeping your prices at a competitive level. But while you need to be competitive, you don't have to undervalue your time and talent. Most reasonable people do appreciate quality, so if your goods are better than the competition, donít be afraid to ask for a better price for them. 

5 - Promoting - Advertising pays, but as with everything useful in life, you must pay for advertising. A small ad in a cat-lovers magazine promoting your collectible cats will do wonders to boost your sales. Co-op ads save you money since the cost is divided between all the people involved.

If you sell in a craft store that advertises by direct mail, ask if they will add your mailing list to theirs. And be sure to let your customers know where they can find your crafts. Put your website URL and email address on all written materials and in any print ads that you run.

6 - Professionalism - Always do what you say you will do. If you promise to deliver a special order in four days, do it. And never promise what you can't deliver. Taking an order for 250 stuffed teddy-bears for a department store when you aren't sure that you can do it is not only foolhardy, it's also very unprofessional. Donít be afraid to tell a customer, "no thanks" or "Iím very sorry, but I won't be able to do that." Most people will appreciate your integrity and they just might come back to you on another occasion and ask for something that you can deliver!
Penny Stewart has been a professional crafter for quite some time, selling her decorative tole painted pieces in boutiques, craft malls, consignment shops, beauty salons, and craft shows. Visit her website: Crafty Lady Boutique

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