Running a business from home isn't without its downsides, but it can be a great way of earning money while your children are small or in school, working around health issues or simply having a creative outlet. Whatever your reasons for starting a home business selling your arts and crafts, there are a few steps you can take to ensure a little more success and ease along the way. Here's a few tips that I've learnt along the way, that can save you time and money in the future, with just a little prior preparation and research.
Take Your Time
From experience, rushing into setting up a small business only makes for more work later on, changing names, web addresses and potentially losing customers. By doing some planning first you can grow your business on simple foundations that will stand the test of time. Think about your business name, if it allows growth into different areas, for example would you want to call it 'Timmy's Tealights' if you're likely to expand your range in the future? There is always opportunity to make changes later, but if you can work on a name, simple branding ideas and a rough plan for the future before you start, it will give you a lot more confidence from the get go and save time.
Register with HMRC
Even the smallest businesses need to register with HMRC. As soon as you make a sale, even if you are at a loss income wise we still have to register. Many craft businesses class themselves as just having a hobby, but if cash is changing hands (even if it just covers materials) then unfortunately it still needs to be official. This is another reason it's a good idea to make plans first as it will give you the opportunity to see if there is potential in what you have for sale and if it will be worth your while. It's very easy to register and you don't have to pay tax until you're earning several thousand, so for most of us it's just a case of doing the right thing.
Doing your research
Knowing what your customers want is important, but you also have to produce work that you love and enjoy creating. By searching on places like Etsy, you can see what sells well and also what your competitors are doing. You can also look up popular search terms which can help you list your items to make them more search friendly and more likely to be sold. It's also worth looking into factors like CE testing if you're selling toys, fire testing for things like children's items and household goods. It's much easier knowing the legal side of selling and labelling from the off, so unless it's a very straightforward object, make sure you are following guidelines for producing, labelling and selling to avoid trouble later on down the line.
Getting the price right
Many of us creators struggle with pricing and it's something that can make or break your small business. Too much and people won't pay, too little and people could question the quality, so how do we know what to charge? Postage fees are another issue and it's well worth knowing your costs before listing your items to make sure you're not under charging. You could start by working out how much it costs for you to produce each item, knowing your costs for materials/listing/marketing gives you a starting figure to build on. From there, think about how much you need to add on to make some profit from each sale and even looking at how much similar items sell for. With postage, never send a parcel without knowing you've charged enough for the size and weight. If your products are all the same you can easily price your items based on the product in it's packaging, but if each product varies, you may have to work out postage costs individually. It's a hard learning curve if you don't know your prices from the off!
Taking great Photos
You don't have to be a pro photographer to get good photos of your items, you simply need to capture them in their best light and make sure colours look true to life and that scale is obvious. If you sell art work, you could make some mock up framed images using photoshop or other editing programmes. Seeing a picture in situ can give a better idea of what it will look like framed. With other items, make sure they are photographed on a background that makes the product 'pop'. Never take photos with a messy background or busy fabric that distracts from what you're selling. Make sure lighting is showing off your items best features, and that every angle is covered so potential customers know exactly what they're getting so there's less chance of having goods returned after they've sold. Phone pictures are fine too, just make the most of the sunshine and natural light available and perhaps prepare some backgrounds using clean clear materials or wallpaper samples for something a little more special.
Find your buyers, make use of social media
Nowadays, finding buyers is a true labour of love. Unless you have a totally one of a kind blow away item, it's likely that you'll be competing with many other artists and crafters with similar products. Don't let that put you off though, there's plenty of room for us all and our work all appeals to different people for different reasons. Creating or joining a community that may have potential customers in can be a great free way of making sales, by utilising Facebook groups, getting on board with relevant hash tags and posting regularly on social media to gather a following. Social media can be a hard one to get right, but if you're consistent and keep at it, it can be a useful tool.
Knowing where to sell
In the UK we are lucky to have plenty of outlets for artists and crafters to sell their creations. Online, there's the most popular sites such as Etsy and eBay, as well as selling via social media across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It's well worth looking locally too for shops that sell hand made items, local craft fayres and any 'buy local' groups where you can advertise your goods. Finding your local community of crafters can be a real confidence booster and also mean that you have a better insight into where the best places to sell are and what the footfall and sales potential is likely to be. You could even make a few friends along the way!
If you're someone that makes sales from home, I hope this helps get you started on the right track. Always remember your worth, never undervalue your self and always have confidence in your abilities!