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What would YOU tell people just starting out in Handmade Business?






Okay Thrivers, today I want to pick your brain.

I’ve been thinking of putting together a little ‘Getting Started in Handmade Business‘ guide here on the blog to help peeps who are literally just starting out.

I want to give them a quick-start guide to diving into online handmade business.

Now, I know what I want to tell them. But I don’t know it all! (I know, shocking right?)

And so, I’m reaching out to you today and into your brain… because you have some awesome knowledge in there that I would LOVE for you to share with us.

Bring out your inner agony-aunt, sit down with our newbie over an imaginary coffee, and share what you have learnt since you started out.

What mistakes did you make? What lessons did you learn? What MUST they do RIGHT NOW so they don’t miss out down the track?

Think tiny detail. Think long-term. Think what worked for you… and what didn’t work.

If nothing else, think of ONE thing you would tell someone starting out. The most important thing.

Share it with us (and them!) in the comments below.

I can’t wait to see what wisdom you have to share with us!

Image source: Jess Van Den



Van Den has written 319 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 You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.


Jewel Divas Style

God, so many,

1 – really nut out whether you’re doing it as a hobby or business.
2 – decide if you have the time or energy to put into a business and the hours it will take and the energy it will suck out of you.
3 – do you have the ability to find out every detail you need to know, track down legalities, find out info.
4 – do you have the ability to sell at markets, or don’t have any near you at all, otherwise what about selling on consignment at stores.
5 – is social media something you are already into or want to go into because you will need to, and then spend time updating and using it.
6 – do you want to set up a website straight away or start selling on shops like Madeit or Etsy
7 – do you have the money for set up costs or will you hassle with bank loans
8 – do you need to do short courses to learn about the aspects of running a business, or perfecting your craft
9 – do you have any support system around you or are you doing it all yourself, in which case, be prepared for hard work
10 – maybe start of as a hobby for a year or two until you fully understand how it’s going to work and then decide whether you want to turn it, or it’s become successful enough, to turn into a business.
11 – if you start a business you will need to register the name and get an ABN and make sure you put in a tax return even if you make NO money (something I was not told and did not know)
12 – you will need to also worry about advertising, such as business cards, flyers in your local shops, packaging, storing, running to the post office, shipping, paypal/business accounts, etc.

so many more than just 12.


Wow, amazing list! I definitely agree with 10 as a good way to ‘dip the toe in the water’ so to speak.


For me the most important lesson that I learnt when it was too late was how important good book keeping is. When you make a sale note it down in your ledger/ excel doc… and make sure you have a day set aside once a week, or once a month to jot down all your expenses for that period. It seems like hard work in the first couple of months but soon it will be second nature, and come tax time it will make life SO much easier. You may need to write down all the steps you need to take (and frequency you are going to do them, daily, weekly, monthly etc) and refer back to it until you get used to it… but you won’t regret it!


Firstly it’s bloody hard work!! This would be my top 3:
1.Most important thing for me would be highlighting the importance of networking. Both online and face to face networking with other likeminded people has been invaluable for me.
2. Good photo’s are everything. Take the time to ensure your products are photographed in the best way possible. This doesn’t have to mean spending money on professional photos. There are lots of great photo taking tips out there so read up on them and also make sure you edit photos after taking them.
3. Embrace social media, if used correctly it will be a great friend.


Yes, yes, and yes!

Fluid Ink

Top 3
1. in the beginning, there is so much work, so many new learning experiences, so many first offs and many working out how its done, but once you do these all once, the second and third are easier and take less time.
2. Try not to judge your business by looking at others and competing with others that are in the middle (time wise) of theirs. Things take twice as long at the start and it feels like you are a mouse on a treadmill, but gradually things take less time once you have worked out systems. Feeling competitive or trying to compete with others in the same industry is heartbreaking and mentally exhausting.
3. Do your own thing and stick to it. If you get a random request for ‘do you do this’ if its out of your range and its going to take more time effort resources than you have, say no. In saying that, sometimes, accepting a customer directed request, can force you to experiment with something you hadn’t though of and can be refreshing (although often un profitable!)


I love that third point – some of my favourite designs have come from customer requests!

Yarned Together (@YarnedTogether)

Pay yourself!!! Just because someone else is selling a similar product for cheap, doesn’t mean you have to! When I compared my sales to others that were selling cheaper, I found that I had MORE sales for HIGHER prices! Don’t short yourself. 🙂


*throws hands in the air* Sing it, sista!!!

Leanne Hewens

Your gut feeling is NOT always right. Don’t second guess yourself or question whether or not your items will sell. Don’t procrastinate! Just list your items on whichever platform you have chosen and let the buyers out there be the judge. And don’t go by what your family and friends say, just get it out into the marketplace and gauge the response. And if the marketplace does not respond well then what have you lost? A few listing fees and a bit of time and material. What have you gained? The knowledge to alter your product so it better suits your buyers


This is brilliant. And SO true. The marketplace is the only true test of whether or not something will sell.

Penny- Elizabeth Neil

If they want to do it properly- for it to become their main income and a success and all that stuff…

Have what I call a ‘complete concept’ – a confirmed aesthetic, unique selling point, ideal customer profile and keyword collection.

What everyone else would call ‘a brand’, but since I work a lot on this stuff with artists I find I have to de-vilify by avoiding words like ‘brand’ and ‘target market’ and call it things like ‘concept’, lest I frighten them into thinking they’re ‘selling out’. And that would be my next important point, for them to treat it like a real business with intent to profit, and to get use to that idea. And get used to the idea of doing it 24/7 for the first…. 10 years. 🙂

Having a set visual concept (brand) is incredibly important – it helps you figure out what to call yourself, how to design your calling cards and social media graphics, who your customer is, where to find them, how to sell to them, what kind of photos to have and how to make sure the stuff they’ll make is something that will actually sell. When you figure out those three facets, half the work is done for you.

Then I’d make sure they were confident enough in their work to price it right – which is more of a fear hurdle than anything else, but something I see in so so so many shops. It’s not exactly a key to failure, but that’s really only because it’s largely unacknowledged.


“What everyone else would call ‘a brand’, but since I work a lot on this stuff with artists I find I have to de-vilify by avoiding words like ‘brand’ and ‘target market’ and call it things like ‘concept’, lest I frighten them into thinking they’re ‘selling out’. And that would be my next important point, for them to treat it like a real business with intent to profit, and to get use to that idea. And get used to the idea of doing it 24/7 for the first…. 10 years. :)”

<-- nice one!


You really need to love what you do. Not only because you will be doing it, taking about it, living it and breathing it for the rest of your days…but because your love for what you do needs to show in your product and also in how you present it to the world, to make it special. That and also make sure you come at it as a savvy business person as well as an artisan. Something I’m yet to master 🙂


YES! –> “but because your love for what you do needs to show in your product and also in how you present it to the world, to make it special.”

Robin Ritz

So many wonderful points already shared (thank you!)…I’ll add:
– Create systems that you can replicate & stick to them. Alter if needed but if you have to do it more than once: determine a way to make it consistent & efficient each time.
– Enjoy the Process. “When we take care of the Process, the Product takes care of itself.”
– Learn from ‘trials & errors’ and be persistence, tenacious & determined. Keep trying.
– Be kind to yourself & give yourself credit for all your bravery, courage, effort and hutzpa.
– Listen & Observe. Ask customers for feedback, find out what’s working & do more of that.
– Trust your Intuition. Stay True to Yourself & remember the reason you began creating to begin with.


Systems. Systems are SO important!


Trust yourself to be capable of learning the skills you need as you go along. Don’t be afraid of the many hats you will end up wearing as you grow your handmade business! You will eventually need varied skills like photography, accounting, copy writing, social media marketing, web design, and networking – in addition to your craft. But you can learn these over time! Start where you are, do your best, and don’t be afraid of stepping up to learn each new skill as you go. Your handmade business will grow organically, and you can grow along with it.

Also, make peace with the seasonality of your business. Your year will likely be dominated by the busy season and the slower season, so take advantage of each while not getting too attached. It’s easy to get swept up when you’re swimming in piles of money, only to plunge into despair a few months later when your sales seem to dry up. I sell felted wool items, so my busy season is the second half of the year for sure. Not many people are buying felted wool in the spring and summer, but you can be sure that I spend that time building up my inventory full-time anyway. I thank myself for it every day when November and December hit!


Seasonality is so important – especially for people like yourself who make seasonal items. Of course… if you can, selling/marketing to the alternative hemisphere is a good step if you can.


I think for me, when I had my own business, eventually I missed being able to make things that I really wanted to make for myself. That became a real frustration. After nearly 5 years I retired!


That is a real possibility when you turn your passion into a job, for sure. I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out for you!

Sue Bertozzo

What your long term plans are, what do you want out of this?
When you are going to make, market, book keep, supply shop- organise your time.
Get the legalities done first
Be organised and plan did I say that already?.
And know it is bloody hard and exhausting, but SO worth it.


Plan – yes!!


1. Show up, each and every day. Do something for your business every single day.
2. Bookkeeping from day one. Real cost of each item, inventory, sales tax, sales, shipping, everything. If you don’t have the time to do it right now, today, you won’t ever find the time. The task grows exponentially if you do not do it as you go along.
3. Research events before you do them. Not all handmade? Might not be a good fit. Talk to others who are vending about the event. Most are happy to share their opinions.
4. Network! Find other handmade businesspeople and get together to commiserate and celebrate.
5. On that note, celebrate! Every sale. Every new lead. Every new product.
6. Organization! Put things in their place. Organize your workflow. Organize your packaging flow. Organize for events. Organize inventory. Don’t waste time looking for things.
7. Ask questions. Try new things. Learn how to do things like social media.
8. Look for inspiration. Add new products or twists/improvements of your regular items now and then. Give customers a reason to come back.
9. Create a brand and carry it through all you do.
10. Say “I” when you talk about your business. Be your brand.
11. Do not give away your products. Do not discount their value. Charge what they are worth. Place value on “handmade” and all it offers.
12. Enjoy what you do. LOVE what you do. If you don’t, it’s a job. If you do, it’s a blessing.


What a great post and am loving the advice here. Very on point and timely for me. Thank you.

Wendi Unrein (Kari Amundson)

All really good points and I am glad to update my points!! I think for me what is very important is to temper the initial passion for your biz. When I started I thought everyone would love it so I overbought and money I could have used for other things got tied up in inventory for years. Also if you go in humbly like a sponge you won’t have as much risk of burning out as the dive from a hill is easier than a mountaintop and it is easier to reclimb the hill then the mountaintop.

Be careful who you get ideas from and pay attention to what you are needing/asking. When I started I got inundated with the “You should..” people with good ideas but not the ones I needed. That is very important. There are so many out there now who have amazing info on how to do this but if you are not tuned in to your biz goals it could sabotage u moving forward. This was one of the biggest downfalls for me. If it wasn’t for the fact that I love what I’m doing I would have crashed years ago.


Oh Wendy! I have only just started my business, But i have had so many people say “you should do that….” “you should do this …….” And i had my first sale on etsy last week and i told a friend and her response was “Oh, they only bought one” HELLO i had a sale on ETSY that is massive. So i have really taken to getting support from other makers on instagram, people who understand and are in the business. Not just using to market but also to network.

Allison Dey Malacaria

So many very pertinent pieces of advice here! Just keep going but go like water in a stream. If you can’t move the rocks in your way, you have to be flexible to go around them. Also, unless you are one of the very fortunate few to suddenly be “discovered” after making and listing a few items for sale, you have to really work hard to figure out who your customers are and then find them. Who you are, how you dance with the music of business is more telling of your future success than anything else.


Mine started as a hobby that I am now taking to bigger and better things (my journey is only just starting) so loving the comments 🙂

Without repeating things, one thing I found I missed out on was as soon as I had a business name was not getting it set up in all the different social media options.
Even if you aren’t using them to begin with, get registered and be consistent with your name. It will help with branding and customers being able to identify.
Don’t do what I did and be ‘frightened’ of all the options out there. People use social media differently so you need to cover all the bases even if you don’t like them yourself!


Don’t stock up wanting to “save money” on items that you visualize you are going to need when your product “takes off”. Get the information you need to order, what you need in bulk, so that way when the time comes you can have it when you need it. Otherwise you will end up with a whole bunch of “stuff” that you may or may not use within your lifetime, because you are so over the product you were creating when you stocked up on that item. You tie up your money thinking you “save” and then you don’t have the working capital when you need it.

Cortney Nichols

Always have your “end game” in mind. Is what I’m doing today in line with how I envision my business down the road? Is the way I’m running my business scalable and sustainable long term and at a higher level? Can I make enough money doing my handmade business full time? So important to think down the road even when just starting out.


Believe in yourself and your craft. After I quit my day job to follow my dream, people say to me, “What are you doing now that you don’t work?” Well actually, I do work. More than I ever did. Now I can proudly answer that question. “I’m a jewelry designer”. Don’t let people trivialize your work! Believe in who you are, your talent and your creations. Because no one else will believe it until you do.

Next….be organized! This is my weak point but I’m working on it! A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find something…, supplies, receipts, scissors….whatever! Organize your studio or work space so everything is exactly where you expect it toyou’re It will make life easier! I am in the process of converting a spare bedroom into my studio. Everything in one room will make things so much more efficient instead of working off my dining room table and having to get up every 5 minutes to go get something. Or having to clear off the table every night….especially when I have several jewelry designs started all at once. Once your business picks up and you’re rolling along, you want to be in your “zone” without needless interruptions!


All the comments are valuable. For me, I have to work on embracing “Believe in yourself”. I keep wavering…
And, it is a lot of work…sheesh. Am I ready for it all…
Thanks to one and all. Hearing from those in the trenches or who started from scratch helps.


I agree with Tracey… Your product is most like a lot better than what you give yourself credit for – believe it baby! Also making clear times to do your craft (especially if you’re doing it around work) will help ensure that it doesn’t take over your life. Make sure that you include pack up time into that too!
And finally, don’t be afraid to experiment – this is your passion so make sure that you’re happy with it. We kept with the same packaging for a lot longer than we needed to and now it takes less time to construct, looks better and we complimented on it all the time!

Babys Got Cake Gifts

create systems to streamline your production, packaging, photographing, and listing and admin work.
This will save you time and sanity.
DOCUMENT your systems. if you need someone to fill in for certain aspects of your business or if you hire help down the track this will be a godsend.
Also documentation of your systems is invaluable if you decide to sell your business or franchise it at any point in the future.

Oh and dream big peeps.


Wow, I needed to read all of these today. Staying the course can be so hard. Thanks everyone!

What say you?