My Mother is artist and she started her clothing line business 25 years ago. I closely watch her work as well as I have a keen interest in entrepreneurship.
First of all, it is important to understand that there is a vast difference between making an art and selling an art. Both require an entirely different set of skills- one of an artist and the other of a businessperson.
If you are thinking about a start-up, you have to take out some (maybe most) time from your craft and devote that time to build the business. For that, you may have to contact other artists to sell their products on your common platform, build that platform, and look for buyers- entirely different set of skills.
But an artist can hardly leave her art, can she? Here is what my mother does. She designs clothes and has staff under her to make those bags. There is much space for creativity, this is what brings most of the revenue for her and also makes her happy.
How should you set the price
Don’t use a formula to determine the price. Set a price at which your product sells at the same rate as production. Demand = Supply. This may be a bit difficult to determine at the beginning. To start with, set the price what you would be willing to pay for that product, had you been the buyer (in your case, it can be the median price your friends have paid you). If it sells more than you can produce/handle, increase the price. If not, then decrease it. Do it in small steps, and keep doing it until you find the balance. If the price drops to a level below your support price, then it is a sad news that there is not much demand in the market for your product. This is the sad reality that artists have to face.
In the case of my mother, she used to sell her clothing piece at, let’s say x. After much effort, I succeeded in pursuing her to increase the price to 3x. As I had expected, it didn’t affect the sales. So if there is a demand for your product, don’t hesitate to hike the price.
Should you keep stock of your inventory?
Definitely, but after considering some factors. When my mother started, she started small, buying materials from local shops. After sales increased, she started buying from the wholesaler. Now, she buys directly from the manufacturer, and goods are transported over 1000 miles. The point is, you scale up gradually. Follow this simple rule: Considering your present sales, calculate the requirement for three months, and stock your inventory accordingly. If you don’t have enough capital, start with smaller quantities.
How can you set-up a handicraft business with little or no capital
You can’t just depend on your product. Select similar products or products that you know about which people are willing to buy. You would have to research about the best selling products, both online and offline. Ask your friends, other artists, and shop owners. After you have finalized the product(s), look out for people making them. Find them through blogs and social media, contact them, and offer them to sell their products. Use your experience and common sense to make sure that you are buying at the right price. But wait, don’t buy now.
Now you know what to sell and where you can get the products. The question is, where to sell. I will first mention the methods which are free. List the products on Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy (or other relevant websites depending on your location). Explain in detail, the materials used and why they should buy it. The best part is, you don’t necessarily need to buy the products beforehand. The second option is to sell your product through Facebook or through other social media. Learn the basics of social media managing and grow your audience. Third requires some money but is great in the long run. Buy a domain and set up a website on WordPress. It is easy and starts with only $3 per month. This would give you a brand. Maybe you can start with first two options, and look at the response, and move to WordPress.
So you have the product, supplier, and platform. Now you need the most important and most difficult part- buyers. While selling through a third party (Amazon/Ebay/Etsy) doesn’t require you to be looking for buyers, you need a great deal of work operating from your own website. Advertise on Facebook to target people of specific interests and region. Organize regular contests and some products for free. Share your service on various platforms to drive traffic to your website. (Learn more about online marketing and keep looking for ways to bring traffic to your website/social media page.
If you are starting something from scratch, it is certain that you will face set-backs. If not, then you are not trying hard enough. In those cases, pull yourself up, analyze the situation, make necessary changes, and continue doing what you are doing.
There is so much to learn in starting a business from scratch, that I can’t sum it up in one article.
I have seen my mother and learned that being an artist is really tough. There is always an internal tussle going on between passion and money. But I have also seen her balancing her passion and money really well, albeit with struggle. I hope you find that balance too.
P. S : You can see my complete work here