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Editorial blog

Watch out! Overcoming common pitfalls of growing a craft business

15 Dec 2018

Sara Davies, MBE, founder at Crafter’s Companion, passes on her top tips.

Many craft businesses are born out of a passion for crafting, with the business owner wanting to turn their hobby into a business. This can be a great thing when it comes to maintaining enthusiasm for your day-today work, but lack of business experience can lead to costly mistakes if you’re not careful.

As a business owner myself, I’ve been guilty of making the wrong calls now and again, particularly when Crafter’s Companion was a fledgling business over a decade ago. Thankfully, I managed to navigate the bumps in the road and my business lives to tell the tale! So, this month, I thought it would be useful to highlight some of the most common pitfalls of growing a craft business and how you can avoid them.

How much are you worth?

Running a business is incredibly rewarding but requires a lot of hard work. With all the passion and will in the world, if what you’re offering/selling isn’t financially viable then it’s not going to be successful. Your time has a monetary value, so firstly, you need to work out what hourly rate you are willing to work for and see if your business can accommodate it.

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Research

Next, don’t forget your research! it’s so important to identify your target audience to avoid failure. Who are you aiming your products at? What do they want from you and how much are they willing to spend? For example, if you’re focusing sales around a high value artisan product and trying to pitch it to low income audience you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Learn to take constructive criticism and advice as a positive thing rather than taking it personally – certainly don’t get stubborn and defensive and disregard your research in favour of your own emotional attachment to your product/offering.

Similarly, don’t fill your business with everything you like – it shouldn’t be an extension of your own personal craft stash. You may prefer soft colours and muted tones, but if, for example, you’re selling crocheted and knitted products you must cater for all tastes and styles so offer up a rainbow-full of coloured yarns!

Planning

Don’t forget to plan your stock carefully. Ensure that you have an appealing offering all year round by buying/producing staple items that your customers will always need and appreciate. Then, add a selection of seasonal stock to boost sales around key calendar dates, for example Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween and Christmas. However, don’t go overboard on these items as you don’t want to be left with an abundance of Santa-inspired products that you have to discount heavily come January. Likewise, choose stock and designs that have more than one application – eg: stars and hearts. Don’t ‘go mad’ over a trend that you know is going to be a fad.

Pricing

Once you have your stock sorted, you need to price your products. Believe in what you’re selling and the value that you attach to it. Don’t be modest and undersell as this can send out mixed messages – customers may question the quality and its worth if priced too low. If you have a high value product you need to ensure that your customers know why – what’s the product’s ‘story’? ie: is it handmade? Is it made from unique materials? Is it ethically produced?

Image

Image is everything, so don’t miss out on potential sales by displaying your products poorly. Ensure items are presented as professionally, and as visually appealing, as possible. If online, make sure your images are the best they can be. If your budget won’t stretch to paying for professional photography, aim for natural light and plain backgrounds.

Don’t skimp on your brand - packaging and labelling must be as pleasing as possible. You want your customers to recognise your brand instantly and want to own something of yours. Make buying your items a pleasurable experience - think of buying perfume and how beautifully it’s wrapped. Even if you buy it for yourself you still feel as though you’re unwrapping a gift.

Customer service

Never underestimate the power of excellent customer service to the success of your business. If you have your own premises, always smile and engage in conversation. If your business is online then ensure you reply to queries promptly, with warmth and have a feedback feature on your website. If you are producing your own products, then it is also nice to share any customer feedback/imagery of products placed in homes via your social media channels. By thanking them publicly it shows a great level of appreciation for their business and has the added bonus of encouraging others to explore your products!

Equally, add personal touches where you can. A handwritten message on a delivery note, or an extra free gift/discount code in a delivery box, all help to make the consumer feel valued and encourage repeat custom.

You are not an island

Finally, don’t think you can do it all on your own. Ask for help and advice when needed, and remember, failure to plan is a plan to fail so keep in mind these pointers and I’m sure you’ll enjoy much business success – good luck!

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