It’s an unspoken myth but when we start out we can’t help but feel that every single part of our product and every step of our business needs to be done solely by you. We have to design, produce, package, ship, market, and handle all the legal stuff all by our lonesome. If we let someone help us or have another artist make part of our product, we think our item is no longer ‘handmade’ or that we’re no longer a small business.
But here’s the truth: outsourcing is acceptable. Heck, it’s even encouraged.
I don’t mean you should be sending your dress fabric out to a Chinese factory to be sewn. Nor should you hire unpaid interns to do the brunt of your work.
Outsourcing can be much more beautiful than that. Outsourcing for you could mean:
- Having a printer print your artwork on paper, tote bags, t-shirts, etc.
- Having someone sew purses alongside you. (There’s no reason you can’t have your help come in to your studio.)
- Having a group of your favorite fans sew embroidery patterns for you before a trade show or photo shoot.
- Having another artist construct the basic element of your product, such as ear wires or a necklace chain.
- Having someone take charge of packaging and shipping your products.
Outsourcing doesn’t mean going for cheap. It means making decisions to save you time and energy so that you can focus on what your customers most value about your work. Is it your ear wires they’re raving about or the beautiful design of the earrings? Is it your sewing skills they admire or your eye for putting fabrics together? Is it your product people swoon over or your brown paper packaging?
The full-time makers you see online got where they are today because they know they don’t have the time or energy to do everything themselves and thus they found someone else to do the parts of their business least exciting for them. Outsourcing not only allows you to grow your business but it allows you to collaborate and add products you couldn’t make on your own.
For example, I’ve teamed up with a jeweller to create a set of lockets featuring my work and a maker with a laser-engraving machine to make a set of lasercut pins. If I’d stuck with the myth that I have to make every single thing entirely by myself, I would never have been able to make such well-crafted products. (Believe me, it would have taken me a decade to learn the welding skills the jeweller has.)