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Have you chosen the best business model for your handmade biz?

{image from the awesome Cardboard Safari – they have a unicorn!}

Thank you everyone for your comments to the last post I wrote! Your comments – and especially this comment by Jess – really got me thinking on the ways we sell our creations:

“Something that I do across a few venues is upload a core product range. So, on Etsy, Madeit and my own site, I make sure to have my entire range available, but on other venues, I just spend the time to upload my core range – that I’m pretty confident won’t change – and use that as a way to showcase my wares in as many places as I can. It’s a little way of having the best of both worlds – of course, you have to find the time to even upload that smaller range, which can be challenging!”

There are so many different “business models” – so how do you know which one is for you?

I cannot say that I’ve gotten it right myself yet – but I can say that this year, after applying certain changes to the way I sell my creations, I am much more comfortable with my model.

Let’s take a look at a few of the different models that are possible for your crafty biz.

Markets based business

Selling mainly at the markets (with the stock left over offered on Facebook or at an online shop).

I like this model and if you are set up for it with a car that fits all you containers and stall decorations and you don’t mind working weekends then it’s a great model for you. At a good market, you sell well and walk away with money on hand.

You can budget you stall costs for a year with no listing fees and fixed amount of sales. However, preparing for a market can be stressful (even when you’ve done it a few times). Cancellations due to weather will leave you with stock and, unless you do markets every week, less money coming in that month. I would say nowadays, an online shop is a must for a stall holder so customers can shop after the market too.

Selling made to order items online

You have your range of products, like cushions or jewellery,  for example, and you list the samples and then print/sew/make them to order.

This model minimizes the storage space but requires you to work to a deadline so you get the order posted fast enough to insure higher turnover and to keep your customers happy.

Facebook based business

You don’t have time to set up and update a shop, maybe you work full-time…so you create in the evenings and weekends and release items in batches once a month or so.  

I know businesses that prefer to work on – let’s say – 20 items for a month and then release them in bulk on so called “Market Nights”. Works great  once you have large-ish Facebook audience.

Selling only ready to post items online with occasional custom orders

If you don’t like stress of a deadline and a huge list of orders then welcome to my world!

I did have to take more space for storage but I like that I have plenty of stock and I just post it when I sell an item. As I make toys, I sometimes have to make them to order when they need to be personalised or made into bride & groom like the order I am working on now.

Having a stocked up shop, gives me an opportunity to relax a little more and advertise my business without the fear of being swamped and when I end up with a few orders, the shop is stocked so there is no “I need to make a few items for the shop even if it kills me” thought in my head. In order to achieve this, I have to accept orders only a few times a year and regulate it strictly.

Selling wholesale to the shops and building up as many stockiest as you can handle

It’s a good model for artists who can make a bunch of items at once like fabric printing or kits making.

You make items for a week or so, package them and send them off to the shops. This model is great if you like to know approximately the prospective earnings and you can just drive/post your stock to the shops and maybe have an online presence just for showing your range  to the prospective shops.

I personally love this model but it won’t work for my creations (I tried).

Complex business model

Mix and match applies not only to clothes!

You can create you own business model by combing all or a few of those listed above. I know a very successful  business that does all of the above: markets, Facebook sales, website with stock and offers made-to-order. However, I think, it’s a job for more then one person or a very organised and dedicated crafter!

Each of those models are very personal to the business owner as there is a long road before you find the right one for you and what you make.

Based on my experience, it took me good few years to identify what works the best for the time I have available and my creative process. Time is the obvious factor to consider but, I was surprised to come to the conclusion that the way I create is determining my business model.

I am impulsive, not very patient and hate being under pressure as a designer! If I have a new idea, I have to do it straight away!

I used to do made-to-order all the time for 2 years and it really put me under pressure.

I wished I could have more control over my creativity, but trying to make new things in between the orders, which I stayed up late to do in time, wasn’t fun.

I started wondering – “why I am doing this and what for?”

I identified that what I love is designing and creating, losing myself in that feeling when you have a new idea and you go with it.

It’s a lovely feeling, isn’t it?

Well, before I cut down wholesale orders, customer orders (to a manageable amount), and markets, I didn’t feel comfortable with my chosen business model. However, that’s just me 🙂

That’s how I came to my business model – sell only what I have in stock – so it’s make-list-sell-post model.

My friend asked me a good question when I shared  my decision with her – “Won’t it result in less money”?

That’s a very good question as it did cut my earnings at the start – but I believe in thinking long-term now.

A very important argument that I made – when trying to justify the decision to cut down on wholesale and customer orders – was that I couldn’t even promote my business before.

At the moment, the way I’m working is a great model for me.

With time it might not be and, hopefully, I’ll move on the the mixed business model. Who knows! Owning your own business means you can adjust the model to suit your needs and it’s awesome!

So, why has the comment that Jess made triggered this rambling?

Because I love the way she has her “core product” listed in the shops and think if you do the made-to order then it’s such an awesome way of doing it!

I am going to think how I can apply this to my business model.

In conclusion: identifying your business model is vital for you Indie business.

The model that makes you feel comfortable, as stressed out maker is an ingredient that will spoil the recipe. If you feel stressed, unsatisfied and unhappy, re-evaluate and reconsider the way your business is run.

You might have a great product – but maybe the way you sell it is bringing you down?

I would love to hear all about  your business model! Which one of those mentioned is yours or do you do it differently?


Do you want to get started with an online shop – and get it right, first time?

Join us for Set Up Shop and take your business to the next level! Registration closes Saturday, class starts April 1.

Katia Donohoe

Katia Donohoe has written 10 posts in this blog.

Katia Donohoe is designer and maker behind Plushka’s Craft brand. Being of Russian heritage she treasures handmade crafts and love spending time creating things by hand. She cannot live without hand-stitching, hot chocolate and Mr. Plushkin, bright tights and suede shoes. She blogs at Plushka’s Craft where she writes about Plushka’s handmade creations, inspirations as well as her main craft passions – cross-stitch and crochet.



I have the same model as you – I possibly accept more custom orders, but I don’t list custom order listings in my shop so the pressure is lower for me as people first ask me if I’ll accept their custom order rather than putting a custom order in their cart and me having to live up to it. If I miss out on a custom order because I didn’t list it in my shop I’m okay as I have plenty of other things to get on with.
Thanks for writing this and reminding me to review my situation and check in with myself if my life is working.

The Mandala Lady

Thanks for this blog post and discussion of models. I think most of us go about blindly doing what we thing we need to do without thinking about our ultimate goals. This post is timely for me because I’ve been putting my business under the microscope with the idea of being more clear about what I want to achieve and how best to do it.

I started with the market model. After a year or so, I found myself saying as I finished loading up my car–hot and tired– “there’s gotta be a better way”. I still do an occasion market if it’s local and easy to manage…I do enjoy hanging out with my customers.

I transitioned into online sales with my web site. Then moved into the Etsy model…although I feel I have much to learn to best make use of their site. At the same time I’m using the print-on-demand sites for prints, t-shirts, and other merchandise. So far it’s just been piece-meal, here and there. Eventually, I want to move into the wholesale (coloring books) and licensing (art) models.

Right now I’m doing research on what I need to do and totally reorganizing my web and blog sites to best accommodate my current retail and POD models while transitioning into the wholesaling & licensing models.

Angie Timm Gordon

This post comes at the PERFECT time for me. Here I am, sitting in my studio “working” (aka sitting here,reading my email, trying to get the ambition to dive into my overloaded order pile!) I’ve been doing made to order, and it works well for me…for the most part. But little things, like my kids being on spring break throw a huge wrench in my work schedule and throw me behind, which instantly zaps my energy! While I work today, I’m going to give serious thought as to how I can modify my business model. I, like you NEED time for new designs! Lately I feel stuck in the production biz…and it doesn’t fulfill me creatively 🙁 There has to be some easy tweaks I can make to jump start my motivation again. Thanks for the ideas!!!


Angie – I know how you feel. I find that setting aside time (actually scheduling it in) for ‘play’ and creation makes a big difference! I also release 2 full collections each year, and knowing I have to come up with a coherent collection twice a year is actually really motivating to me creatively – because, you know, I HAVE to spend the time playing with new designs to make it happen ;D


Thank you so much for this post! I have found it so very helpful! 🙂


You’re so welcome!

Tonya Miles ~ Habeo

Jess – I never thought of my decision to ‘step away’ from doing markets a business model! but yes, I was trying to hold down a full time job, design & make garments as the mood took me (to list on Etsy) AND make stock for markets. Not only did it kill my creativity but it made a VERY tired & grumpy me! So I am now concentrating on making, listing on Esty whilst (trying to) inform followers of the process on my blog & facebook. Its only been a month or so, but I think its working


I found markets too time consuming and difficult to juggle with little children and not many helpers. It took time away from being together as a family on weekends and I really didnt enjoy the effort for the amount of money I was making. Now I concentrate on two handmade markets a year in my local area. Then I found a couple of shops which liked my jewellery and gave me a chance. These have turned into regular wholesale orders which I can keep up with. I would like a few more stockists and Ive made that part of my business plan for this year to get to five stockists. I also sell on etsy but have trouble finding the time (again) to load stock. I have facebook where I can keep in touch with my followers and love instagram for showing off and the products I am making and where I get my inspiration. I am slowly developing a website and blog which will tie everything together. My main difficulty is finding the time to do these things with 2 kids under 3 at home.


I have HUGE admiration for anyone with little kids at home who even attempts to create a successful handmade business! I get cranky when my cats try to get my attention, I can’t even imagine having to juggle child-rearing with my biz. Sounds like you’re doing a pretty awesome job!

What say you?