Sunday, April 29, 2012

Handmade...what's it really like?

 So what's it really like running a small business/handmade business? Like, what's it REALLY like? I cannot speak for all other handmade artists and small business owners but I can share with you what it's like for ME. My handmade business is like my second child. It started as a baby baby business inspired by fellow bloggers, finding etsy for the first time and watching other handmade business owners grow. When I first discovered the handmade world I was highly intrigued because I have a strong background in art, Penelope was just born and I was in love with the idea of working a creative job from home (if that was possible). I dabbled in a few other things until I really found my niche. When I first started I just made up some handmade goods of my liking and started up an etsy shop as many do. After a month or two I started to seek advice from fellow friends and did a little googling for local crafty type shows and groups in Tulsa. From friendly advice and the encouragement of my local craft groups I was able to learn how to grow my business. It hasn't been all perfect and sunshine for the past two years but I can say that 95% has been absolutely wonderful. I really do LOVE what I do and I'm absolutely passionate about it. For the last two years I have found more satisfaction and joy from my business than I could have ever imagined I would. I just want to stop and say THANK YOU (a real big thank you) to all of those who have purchased an accessory from my shop and/or sported it proudly on your blog/instagram etc. I'm soo sooo thankful for you and it makes me so happy to see you all looking so pretty in something I designed and made. So thank you! I am nearing my second anniversary of running a full time handmade business as well as nearing my 3,000th sale on etsy. OH MY GOODNESS! I can't even type that sentence without my heart beating fast and feeling all butterfly like. We will have a party when that happens, for sure. So now to the good part...what's a handmade business really like?




Well its' messy. I can't even believe I'm sharing these photos because I'm absolutely embarrassed about how messy of a maker I can be. I make and I make and I make, then I clean and repeat. I love to get in a good groove and make, package, throw fabric in a basket, cut and cut and sew. The mess is actual beautiful to me. If that studio wasn't messy then I wasn't really doing anything in there was I? I have helpers from time to time but it's mainly me in there messing it up and making beautiful accessories. I love it. It's not all glamorous and it's not easy at all. Being self motivated is actually much more difficult than going to a job where you are always told what to do. Trust me, I've worked both sides now. It takes making goals, spending hours emailing customers back, hours browsing supply shops or online stores for fabric and packing supplies, doing things that don't seem immediately profitable but all all so necessary like editing photos, writing descriptions, doing research ..etc.  One of the most asked questions that I have ever had from readers is 'how do you run a successful etsy shop/handmade business.'  I wish there was a magic formula that I could tell you. There just isn't. I know there are several websites out there to sell your handmade wares on but I chose etsy because I love the community and support. Etsy shares wonderful tips about how to make your shop better all the time. I think the most important thing, well three important things, is to create a *unique* product (only known to you or your style), always have the mindset that you don't know everything/take time to educate yourself constantly and make a quality product. The other things that will make your business successful come after that. It's little things like always working on better photos for your online store, constantly perfecting your craft show booth, seeking out advice from fellow artists, knowing the right audience for your product, etc. Those things start to come in time but are great to start working on right away.  I also think kindness throughout your business goes a LONG way. I cannot tell you how many times I refuse to shop somewhere because the sales person was rude, pretentious and/or condescending. I think it's so important to be kind and patient all the time.  I wish I had more clear cut answer for you but I feel like there's not much else I can say besides be true to yourself, think ahead and don't give up.




So my handmade business (because I can't speak for others) is full of creativity first, running to stores to buy supplies, spending hours online ordering supplies, answering emails, taxes, spreadsheets, wholesale orders, packaging, packaging up orders, running to the post office, cutting my fingers with my scissors, sewing, measuring, constantly working on taking better photos, picking out color palettes, sketching out new designs, furthering my eduction by reading small business blogs/articles/participating in local business and craft groups, scheduling and prioritizing, restocking stores, making a mess then cleaning it up, organizing and everything in between. I honestly love it all so much and I'm so happy and proud to make you something.  I will never pretend to know everything about small business, I'm just not that kind of person, but I'm happy to share with you what I've learned.  I get a little nervous about talking about business stuff because I feel I mainly rely on my instincts and I just do what I enjoy. I feel strange talking about anything besides sharing new products with you. I can't explain why.  I think it's because I never want to feel like I know better than others because I don't...I just do what comes naturally. I do what makes me happy.  I hope that anyone who has ever thought about putting their creative juices into something productive can learn or just be inspired by what I've shared today. I could sit here all day and share all the women (and men too) who run handmaids business' and blogs that absolutely have inspired me to do what I do today.  So I know that sometimes it's good to share what you know or what it's really like because that might be the spark to ignite another ones creative abilities.

I'm positive that I haven't answered all of your questions but if there's something that you would like to know more specifically feel free to answer or leave a question in the comments section. I'd be more than happy to help if I can.

I'm just thankful for your support and thankful for etsy and the blogging community for encouraging me to do what I LOVE.


Here's to handmade (raises glass)!! (and then do a fist pump)

Love,
   Erin

54 comments:

  1. Your description is so accurate! Thanks for sharing this, and congrats on your 3,000!

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  2. Erin! This was my favorite post so far :). Ever ince I found your shop/blog I have been so impressed with your business. I too am a handmade business owner and I also love it . It makes me happy every single day, but I also struggle with things. And I don't know ALL about business. I d what you do - trust my instincts, learn/research as much as possible, and go with it.

    I always wonder if I am doing "it" wrong, so it was nice to read your post and see that a shop owner who I so admire is kind of doing the same things as me (but with your own personal style).

    Congrats on your 3,000th sale - that is so awesome!

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  3. I'm glad it's not just my studio that looks like that... phew!

    Thanks for the peek into your creative world. And congratulations on nearing your 3,000th sale. I reeeally want to buy something from your store for summer, so maybe it'll be me ;)

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  4. Erin, thank you for this post.
    It's very inspiring and helpful.
    I've been considering starting a handmade business for quite some time and this answered a lot of my questions. With my baby about to be born in two months I've been putting more thought into working from my home (:

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  5. Erin, thank you for this post.
    It's very inspiring and helpful.
    I've been considering starting a handmade business for quite some time and this answered a lot of my questions. With my baby about to be born in two months I've been putting more thought into working from my home (:

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  6. Lovely post. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and photos. I am trying to grow my small business and my dream would be to do this full time. Thanks for being so honest! Your message is very inspiring.

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  7. Thanks for this post, Erin! I loved it! Your shop was seriously one of the biggest inspirations for me starting my business! Yes, it's true! I was instantly in awe of the whole "vibe" you had created and how unique your style was. It was obvious that you truly loved what you did. After a year of really hard work and lots of mistakes, I can finally say that I love where I'm at and have created a "vibe" unique to myself that I've always strived for. So thank YOU for being you. You inspire others just by loving what you do!

    And you’re totally right about there not being a “magic” method for everyone to follow. In the beginning, I was SO desperate to just have someone, anyone, tell me what do. To give me the magic steps to succeed. Well, it never happened. And I had to figure everything out myself. But I wouldn’t trade that for the world! You learn so much more through your mistakes and by doing things yourself. None of it is time wasted because you gain the priceless tools of experience and determination. =)

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  8. Gina and Dondalee-

    I'm so thrilled to read your comment. I'm so happy to inspire you in your business. That's all I can ever hope for when I share bits about my work. There were so many handmade artists before me that inspired me in the same way.

    Cheers for handmade!

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  9. i am so thankful that your studio is as messy as mine...

    but i'm working man, i don't have time to clean!! <3

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  10. Oh I love this Erin! And I love that you shared messy photos - it's like we got a peek "behind the scenes!" Your shop is lovely and I really enjoy reading about how you keep it going - the good the bad and the in-between!

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  11. i love your stuff. my design area is more of a pile too. sometimes, mostly, always a pile on my bed.

    http://challengedromantic.blogspot.com/

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  12. Hey Erin..!! This post is really one of your finest posts...that designs are really really good and I like the way you elaborated the things above...Great!!

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  13. I just discovered your blog when I was doing a Google search. You describe being an indie handmade business owner perfectly! I lost count of how many times as I read this post that I thought, "Yes. That." You don't realize all that goes into owning a shop until you're in the thick of it! It's hard work and it's fun and it's crazy and it's so rewarding. (And it's hard work. Did I mention that?)

    Now I'm going to go explore your blog some more and take a peek at your beautiful products... :)

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  17. Wow Erin...I like your work so much indeed and the way you presented the things is simply adorable in many aspects...your collection is very very nice.. :)

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