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Some of you are not going to like this, but I’m going to say it anyway…

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Chances are, you became a crafter because you love making stuff. (I know I did.) By now, you’ve probably worked out what you like making the most. And if you’re here, reading this, I’m going to assume that you like making that stuff so much that you’re trying to make (at least part of) a living by selling the stuff you like to make.

Let me make it really clear – Making stuff you like is awesome. That’s why we craft: because we have a passion for it.

But here’s the bit you may not like:

Just because you love making it does not mean there are people who want to buy it.

The craft community is a warm and fuzzy place – that is part of what makes it so freaking awesome. We love to support each other, help each other, and share with each other.

We’re not so good at telling people the truth when we think it might hurt their feelings. I have been in the uncomfortable position of having to say no to featuring certain products because they (or, the photography of them) is just not up to scratch. It’s a place you find yourself in when you run something like my craft blog, or a magazine.

It sucks to say no. It’s really, really hard.

I hate doing it. But it’s part of the job I’ve made for myself. (And why is it so hard? Because I know there is a person there, on the other end of the e-mail, who is just like me. Who wants to make their dream happen – and I really, really dig helping people make their dreams happen.)

But back to my point.

When you start making for profit rather than for pleasure, your perspective needs to shift.

You need to stop thinking exclusively about you, and what you enjoy – and you need to start thinking about your customers.

Sweet Spot 2

If you’re doing all the right promotional ‘stuff’ but your work is not selling, I want to encourage you to really have a long, hard, cold look at your products from an outsider’s perspective.

I would advise you not to ask the opinions of friends or family, because – let’s be honest – they love you, and they will find it mucho hard to tell you the truth if they think there’s any sort of negative there.

Or, on the other hand, they may not understand what you do at all, nor that there is a possible market out there for your work in this burgeoning handmade movement. In short, they’re not objective – they have a vested interest in you one way or the other.

This whole crafting-as-a-business caper is hard – and it’s a never-ending process of growth and discovery.

I’d like to encourage you to have a peek at one of the very first things I sold in my Etsy shop.

Yep, pretty ordinary, hey? (And check out the totally heinous flash photos!!! Eww… talk about what NOT to do!)

I believe my product has come a heck of a long way since then. I’ve worked on my designs, my brand, my focus, my photos, my descriptions, my packaging… and I have no doubt that I will continue to work on all of those things in an effort to become more successful in my business.

Is my work/product perfect? No. Is my business model perfect? Hell no. But I believe I’m going in the right direction.

(And, just so you know, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as ‘perfect’. There’s ‘good enough’ and ‘awesome’ and ‘unique’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘squeee’ – but no ‘perfect’.)

Is there some aspect of your product that you need to change? Are you doing/making the same thing as a million other people? Is there a market you could be tapping into, but aren’t? Heck – maybe the problem isn’t your product, but your photos of it – when you’re selling online, that’s the magic key to the door.

Go to it, people: examine, grow, adapt, take risks, and make something awesome.

__________

{top image by Amanda Mocci}

Jess

Van Den has written 358 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at Epheriell.com. You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.

Comments

Katherine @ Through My Looking Glass
Reply

Love this, Jess! I know that you focus on craft businesses, but as a blogger, I found this can be applied to the blogging thing as well as probably any entrepreneurial endeavour.

Jess
Reply

I think you’re absolutely right, Katherine! Whenever you take that leap from doing something purely as a hobby – for enjoyment – to making it a financial enterprise, you have to change your mindset.

Magdalena, The Craft Revival
Reply

I love that you have written about this Jess. It’s such an important step in any business. Not just saying “I love it and so will others”, but instead asking “will others really, really like this” and “does it have a viable purpose”. Some people get so caught up in admiring their handiwork that they forget to evaluate it commercially.
Thumbs up to you for pointing this out to the commercially challenged. And I mean that in a non-offensive way.

Jess
Reply

“Some people get so caught up in admiring their handiwork that they forget to evaluate it commercially.” <--- this. And it is SO easy to do! We get caught up in the pure joy of creating and forget to take that step back and actually objectively evaluate our product before we rush out and try to sell it. Heck, to this day I still make this mistake sometimes, it's a constant learning curve!

Cat
Reply

I’ve been thinking about this very issue the last few days Jess. Good food for thought. X

Jess
Reply

Glad you think so Cat, thanks!

Natalie @ Ozzi Cat
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Ah Jess! You are awesome as always! The article is fantastic and SO true. The business requires a different mindset and (re)search and analysis, and lots of stuff! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience! xx Natalie

Jess
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You’re so welcome, Natalie! P.S. Thank you for the copy of the zine, it’s in my ‘to-read’ pile! 🙂

Tracey Rediker (@TraceyKnits)
Reply

i am sooo at this stage. My stuff is selling, but do I have what it takes to make it a business? Still working on that.

Jess
Reply

Being aware of it is 2/3 of the battle won, Tracey! I’ll tell you a little secret – every business is constantly working on this. It never ‘ends’. You’re always developing new products and product lines, and every time you have to re-asses whether you think your customers will buy – whether there is a market for it. Good luck!

Mignon
Reply

Hi Jess, another great post. This is a question I find myself asking all the time. Because I have only just started my online business, I am still trying out different things & trying to get a sense of what people might like or want & I know I have to work on my photos – I keep trying different locations, backgrounds, editing tools etc. They are slowly getting better. I have also started to collect pictures from magazines of product photos as inspiration for future photo shoot; things like lay out ideas. Looking forward to future posts 🙂

Jess
Reply

That all sounds like you’re on the right track! It takes time to come up with a signature photography look, but it’s worth the effort.

heatherdownesjewelry
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Jess, thank you so much for your honesty and transparency! I love that you are willing to share so much!

Jess
Reply

You’re so welcome, Heather!

Allison Dey
Reply

This is so true. It might be brutal to face at times, but so true. We should do what we love, but we should also offer what others love.

Sayra
Reply

Your “ABOUT” page is a prime example of how to rock that page. So many people fail at the about page. You don’t!

Jess
Reply

Thanks Sayra!

Wendi
Reply

thank you for your boldness!!! I need to hear it over and over.

Elaine B.
Reply

In agreement with you Jess. We often opt to encourage others, even when the craft of a fellow artist is less than what it should be. I must say, as hard as it is to say no, explaining why, giving constructive criticisms without the other party getting offended is harder. (Specially when they ask.) Have you encountered that?

Jess
Reply

Absolutely – I have had to do that many times, and it can be VERY hard! I try to use the ‘sandwich’ approach while being honest – (good, bad, good). I never tell someone something is great when it’s not, but when I do give constructive criticism, I try to tell/help them see how to make it better, rather than just saying ‘it’s bad’ and not giving a reason.

The 3 D’s of Success | Create & Thrive
Reply

[…] a start-up budget and go for it! Unless you hit the sweet spot straight away and find that niche in the market that is not yet taken, you will probably have to […]

Vanessa
Reply

Yes! This is true. I make stuffed organs over at Survival Organs, but my favorites are my little lymph nodes. I have only sold 1! My stuffed thyroids? Those are my biggest sellers. And I’m OK with that. My lymph nodes can remain my mascot but I put my focus into marketing my thyroids. I just go where the sales lead me.

Malina
Reply

I immediately thought of my knitted coffee cup sleeves I made. It seemed like a cute product, I cabled a little owl and put some buttons on it for eyes. It’s just not going to sell I think. Thank you for putting this honestly. I think sometimes creative types can be a little stubborn about their designs and don’t easily move on to the next thing when it doesn’t work out.

Penelope
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The difficult thing about helping people is sometimes you need to tell them what they don’t want to here; friends or colleagues or anyone. But if you do want to help them then I believe it’s our duty as guides and servants to do exactly that. I struggle with this when advising my own peers; unfortunately most of them are artists first and jewelry makers second, so any suggestion of creating something that is not only going to appeal to a large audience but something you can reproduce often…it’s like treason! If an artist is going to work in the retail field they must cast of this idea that it’s ‘selling out’ to make a marketable product. It’s something I wish Etsy would take more care with too; they push the hopeful dream that you can just sign up, add a few products and watch the money pour in; that is most certainly not the case, but people have to go through the confidence-killing badlands before they figure this out. I still think Etsy is a revolution and guiding star for handmade as a retial product, but they must communicate better that as you said- just because you love to make it, doesn’t mean people want to buy it.

Jessica
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This a great post! Thank you! I really want to get a critique of my product in my etsy store from someone other than friends or family. I’m just wondering the best way to do this? Thanks again.

Jess
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Jess – a good place would be to pop into the Etsy forums if you’re brave enough 🙂 There are often folks there happy to give you some feedback. I also offer critiques – you can find out more here – http://www.createandthrive.com/shop-scrutiny

Jaz
Reply

I’ve been thinking about my products and my market is *too* niche. My goal is to appeal to a bit of a wider audience and I think I’m starting to understand what that is.

Kate
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Such a great point and it’s really hard to judge your own work objectively. I don’t make things for profit or run a business selling things I make as a general rule but I am getting ready for my first ever craft fair. I’ve sold a few of the things I’ve been making for it already through Facebook after posting pics so I’m taking that as an encouragement. It’s so hard to know what other people will like and what things will resonate with them.

Cecilia
Reply

Hello!! Im a new follower!! Im from Argentina, but i live in Spain. Im a crafter since 15 years, first macramé, and now sewing and crochetting for kids! Since i sell on internet i always become better like you, and every year its better!!
i love my work and by fortune my shop online on bigcartel success!!
thanks for your blog, i feel very comfortable because i can identify with you!!
kisses!
Ceci

Amanda Goad
Reply

I want to know if making memory boxes is a profitable business. How do I go about finding information on this craft?

Tiffany
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If you are new and just starting out, trying to pick a craft to get into…. how do you know what type of crafts are doing really well? Etsy doesn’t have a best sellers listing that I can find. So how do I know what products are selling well?

What say you?