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Steps People Miss when Starting a Handmade Business

You have a product you’ve been making for a while now. Maybe it’s a hobby that you’ve enjoyed just for fun up to this point or maybe it’s something that friends and family have been asking you for—either to keep for themselves or to use as a gift. Either way, you’re ready to turn your skills and craft into a “for real” handmade business.

Before you hang a shingle out on a rented space or design your e-commerce website, there are some important steps you should take. Legal paperwork and business setup aside, you’ll want to make sure that this new venture is sustainable in the long-term. That means it’s profitable and it’s something that brings you joy.

I see too many businesses open, only to close shortly thereafter, because they didn’t take two important steps before starting. These steps are skipped because the first doesn’t seem all that important, and the second isn’t even on the radar. But both are pivotal to your success!

What will your business LOOK and BE like?

Starting a business sounds like a great idea, but you need to make sure that how you organize it from the get-go is something you can live with in the long-term. Ask yourself:

  • Where will I make and sell my product? If you plan to open a brick and mortar shop, understand everything that goes into that: rent, utilities, even staffing the shop. If “the staff” is going to be you, ask yourself if being at a retail shop for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week fits into your lifestyle.
  • Am I disciplined enough to work from home? If an Etsy shop or e-commerce website is on your mind, you might be able to create your product from home. But only the most disciplined business owners can be successful here. Look at the distractions around you: pets, laundry, neighbors, children, Netflix. Before you decide whether a home-based business is for you, be really honest with yourself about whether you can actually maintain one.
  • Do I really have time for a business? Having a hobby that brings in a few dollars here and there is very different from investing in a business where you want to turn a profit. Think about how much time you have to dedicate to a true business, outside of the other obligations you have. Yes, it’s possible to start slow but then you need to also be realistic about your speed of development and growth.
  • What product will you sell? Most creatives are multi-talented, baking, crafting and making a wide variety of products. But when you start out marketing and selling, it’s important to focus on just one thing—to become known for it. Having too many products will confuse potential customers when they visit your website, walk into your shop or stop by your booth at the local craft fair. It’s okay to make multiple items but have them all centered around one theme. In this way you become a specialist.

How will you stand out from your competition?

A profitable handmade business is one that stands out from the competition and is unique from others who sell something similar. By identifying what I call your Unique Special Power, you can insulate yourself from the competition, attract new customers and create loyal customers who come back to you again and again.

You’ve probably heard about the USP before, a unique selling proposition. This is an old-school business concept, forcing a message or sales tactic on potential customers. With my updated and modern Unique Special Power (USP), you’re inviting people into your handmade business and naturally attracting people to you.

How are you different?

To determine your USP, think about how you’re different from everyone else. It could be:

  • How your product is made
  • Where your product comes from
  • The special materials you use
  • How you produce your product
  • The story behind the product
  • Where you’re located (the actual building)
  • Unique features of your location
  • The experience your customers get when they visit your store or buy from you
  • A cause your business supports
  • What your product looks like
  • Your own personal style

Your USP could be so many different things, or a combination of things. All this is done early on so you can make future business decisions aligned with your USP. This is the way to truly stand out. As you progress, you’ll want to highlight them in your networking and marketing. It’s hard for people to know about your uniqueness if you don’t point it out to them.

What is unique about your product?

Here are some more examples. A lot of handmade businesses make accessories, pampering products, or cookies. How is yours different from the next?

  • Are your materials sourced from a unique location?
  • Do you give back to the geographic area where your product is made?
  • Is your product a particular shape or size?
  • Do your ingredients serve a particular need?
  • Does your location have special features that another location doesn’t?

Of course, once you’ve done an honest reality check to confirm your business vision fits into your life, and you’ve selected the core product you’ll become known for, there are plenty of other steps to take to start a business on the right foot. Coming up with a name, making sure you check off the legal necessities, creating the packaging, are all still in the future.

The next step is validating that your product has a market and that it will sell at a price where you will make money for yourself and also have money to run and grow your new handmade business.

To help you move forward, I’ve created a system that walks you through how to do this. Once you’ve followed this process, you’ll be even more excited and ready to Start your Business with Confidence!

Start with Confidence is designed specifically for gifters, bakers, crafters and makers who dream of a starting profitable business doing what they love. Find out more!

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For more free business support consider listening to my podcast Gift Biz Unwrapped where I interview gifters-bakers-crafters-makers who share how they started and built their businesses. Want to talk one-on-one? I’m only an email away. I’d love to hear about you, your business and what you’re working on right now that’s helping create success in your life. Reach me at sue@suemonhait.com.

About the author, Sue

With over 30 years of business development and marketing experience, I've been fortunate to work with hundreds of companies of all sizes. Their needs range from start-up guidelines to advanced business building strategies. As current founder and owner of The Ribbon Print Company, we continue to recognize the need for these services ... not just for our customers but for the gifting industry as a whole. That's where the inspiration began for the Gift Biz Unwrapped Podcast and Blog.

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