- The value of handmade items is universal. Make sure your potential customers know that the product is crafted by hand.
- Uniqueness. Customers don’t want to buy or give items that are available by the gross.
- There is a practical reason for the item. A potential customer needs a watch and you are selling watches.
- Just plain “gotta have”. Also referred to as the ‘to die for’ item. It strikes the fancy of the buyer who just can’t walk away without owning it.
- Quality workmanship. The potential customer knows that the item will work properly and last.
A key to getting top dollar and bigger profits is time. The less time you spend in actual production the better your labor rate should be. For example: If you pay yourself $10.00 per hour and you can produce 10 items verses 5 items your earning more for your effort. Many PC’s prefer to pay themselves per piece (referred to as piece mill) so if you can produce 10 items per day versus 5 items per day you again have a higher profit for your labor.
How do you get to the point where your product flows smoothly, efficiently without sacrificing quality of workmanship? First you have to allow for some time to really think about your production habits. When we first start at any craft or technique, we follow the instructions to the letter, but after we are comfortable with the techniques we learn or even create our own short cuts. Second, learn about the production process. You don’t make one item at a time starting from scratch on the item. If making a doll you would make all the dresses, all the body parts, and then assemble. If you sew you would sew all the pieces needed then go on to the next step. If you make painted jewelry you would basecoat many pieces, then add the detail strokes, then finish by gluing the findings to the jewelry.
At Nerius House, we call this approach working in batches. At any given time, part or pieces needed to complete any design item is in some stage of production. This method also helps stop the boredom of doing the “same old, same old” by allowing you to work on different tasks during a workday. Finally, you ask and listen to your peers. Finding a mentor really helps the novice PC learn quickly and avoid some pitfalls. We’ve rounded up some helpful production tips for a variety of mediums. Never sacrifice quality for quickness. These suggestions may or may not be for you, but give them a try.
Cutting: Several fabric pattern pieces can be can be cut out at the same time if fabric is layered. Cut several wood pieces out at the same time by nailing boards together, tracing the patterns and then cut the wood.
Staining: The easiest, fastest way is to dip item into a bowl/bucket of stain rather than brush on stain. Small wood pieces can be placed in a zip lock bag, shake stain, pour stain into bag, seal and shake bag, cut a small tip off one corner of bag and pour excess stain back into its original container. Also consider investing in an airbrush.
Painting: Small pieces are easier to paint if you use double-sided tape on a heavy piece of cardboard. Place small items onto the tape and paint. Invest in an airbrush if you do a lot of basecoating or use aerosol sprays–time saved is worth the extra cost of paint. Paint one color at a time. Invest in artist quality brushes for detail strokes.
Dolls: If possible rip hem edges instead of sewing a hemline…country/antiqued look are in. Consider using pre-sewn bodies that you dress and detail. If possible make all hair at the same time, then glue or sew on. Paint faces instead of sewing. Pre-made wings may be worth the time saved.
Gluing: There are several new low-temp specialty glues on the market. Now you can use low-temp glue for fabric, metal, wood, and outdoor items. If using bottled glues leave bottle on its side to save time. Use designer tacky or jewel glue instead of just tacky glue to save setting time. Keep a container of ice water near your low-temp or hot glue gun (it’s great for those occasional finger burns) and dip your fingers into the ice water because if you need a quick set-up your chilled fingers will quickly cool down the glue. Always take extra care when using a glue gun of any type.
Drying: Set-up a fan or two to place drying items near to cut your waiting time by a 1/3 or 1/2. Paint with several thin coats instead of one thick coat. Place items in the sun. Oven set on warm is great for terra cotta paper molds. Place stained or painted items on inexpensive cookie or cooling racks so both sides can dry evenly. Use aerosol sealers instead of brush on. If doing laundry at the same time you craft place drying items on top of dryer.
General: Give yourself plenty of space to work and move. Remember Mom’s advice, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Valuable time is wasted hunting down items you need. Spend an hour every other day just straightening up and you’ll be surprised at the time you really do save yourself. Work in a circle with the items or tool you use the most within arms reach. Invest in the best quality tool you can afford. The perfect brush will do half the work for you. Sharp, precise scissors make cutting easier. Take breaks to avoid fatigue.
Extra income can be earned by teaching others a craft you know well. You can also be hired to demonstrate crafting techniques by stores and manufacturers. This area of crafting has great potential for the Professional Crafter. There is less labor than production work and if you can build a following of students you can bring in a steady income to your business. Keep in mind that you will be working directly with the public and that demands you enjoy interacting with others.
Where Can You Teach A Class?
- Art Supply Stores
- Adult Education Programs
- Book Stores
- Children After School Care
- City Parks
- Civic Club Lunches or Meetings
- Craft Shows
- Craft Retail Stores
- Community Colleges
- Community Festivals
- City Recreational Centers
- Cultural Associations
- Day Care
- Elementary Schools
- Family Gatherings/Reunions
- High Schools
- Hardware/Do It Yourself Shops
- Home Show or Home Party
- Local Chapters of Associations
- Middle Schools
- Nursing Homes
- Senior Centers
- Scouting Groups
- Trade Schools
- Trade Shows
- Select a craft or technique and select a project allows a beginner to complete the project as well as a student who may know a little something about the craft. It is best to select a design that uses supplies readily available to all students.
- Have a class outline for yourself and a class handout for your students. The class handout should include (if needed): a brief bio of your experience in this craft, a glossary of terms, patterns, instructions, hints/tips, and materials needed. Be prepared. Know what you are going to teach. Practice several times and be prepared for questions. Never assume your students with get new techniques with one try.
- Bring your patience to class. You are almost guaranteed to have at least one of the following in your class: The Bewildered- doesn’t listen and can’t figure out why he/she is not understanding what is going on in class. The Know It All- doesn’t need you help, but can’t complete the project. The Untalented- believes they have no creativity or skill, but signed up for the class anyway to annoy the rest of the class, also referred to as The Whiner. Absent Minded Crafter- forgot all the supplies needed and wants to borrow from fellow class members. The Perfectionist- his/her project must look exactly like yours or they have a fit.
- Bring extra supplies but have a price set for them. Do not give away your supplies. In some cases it may be practical to sell a kit for the class. Figure out how much the supplies cost and add at least 20% for your time.
- Get to the classroom early to make sure there is enough room and setting for all the students. Give yourself and the class plenty of time to complete the project in the classroom. This is where practicing will come in handy. Extra time can be used to answer questions. Go an extra step for your students. Bring a plate of cookies or bowl of candy. Bring paper towels, water containers, glues, or scissors.
- Pricing your class might be difficult for you, but if you do not make money for your time you might as well just volunteer. Usually, classes are priced by the hour, so how much do you want to earn per hour? A separate price may be set for kits or supplies. Look around and see how much other teachers are charging and consider what your local economy can afford. Always have your next class in mind. Have a sign-up sheet at any class you teach.
Next time you are flipping through a craft magazine take the time to note the byline for a project design or even a feature article. That could be your name in the magazine! Many Professional Crafters bring in additional income into their businesses by submitting original articles or craft designs for publication in magazines. It’s not a hard process, but it is one that takes a little patience and determination when first starting to submit.
- First, please make sure your design is original. It should be your own creativity and never published in any form (magazine, books, project sheet, TV or web site).
- Select a magazine you enjoy. More than likely your work will fit into the magazine’s format. Write the editor of the magazine and request the “Writer’s Guidelines” and a copy of the magazine’s editorial calendar.
- Write up instructions for the design. Try to write in the format of the magazine. Type, double space, and edit the copy before submitting. Also photograph the work or include a detailed drawing.
- Send the design to the Projects Editor or Editor of the magazine. Expect to wait 4 weeks for a response. After 4 weeks feel free to follow up with a phone call to the Editor.
- If accepted, you will be sent a contract. Read carefully and don’t sign until you feel comfortable and understand the contract. Now is the time to ask the Editor any questions you may have. If you want more money for the design, bring it up with the editor. If you want to give only First Rights, bring it up.
- After signing the contract make sure to meet your deadlines and supply everything the Editor may request like supply information, how long the design takes to make, total cost, etc.
- If your design is rejected, do not take it personally. Magazines have different needs. Try another magazine.
Also helpful to know:
- Submitting a design to a book publisher is very similar to magazine publishing, but in most cases many designs are needed. A book is usually a concept of idea with up to 36 designs needed before an agreement can be made with a publisher. Book publishers also have Writer’s Guideline available upon request.
- To locate different publishers just consult your reference librarian. There are several directories where contact information is filed.
- Keep current on popular trends including colors, media, techniques, and motifs. Check out what’s at the craft retailers/shops. A design will not sell if the supplies are not readily available to the consumer.
- Also consider submitting articles on specific crafts and techniques. Editors are always looking for interesting ideas. Keep in mind the magazine’s readership and interest.
It can be very confusing and frustrating to price your own craft items. The main issue when selling a handmade item is that you must cover your material/supply costs and you should earn something for your time and labor. This means you must keep a record of your material costs and the time spent making the item. Fair pricing should mean that you as artist or craftsperson (as well as your customer) are satisfied with the final selling price.
Did you provide your best work? Did you use quality supplies to make your craft? Did you put your love of crafting into each piece of work you create? If you are answering, “YES,” then you deserve ‘fair’ payment for your work and creativity. Sometimes it helps to ask a friend or spouse to help you with pricing. An objective opinion from a friend or spouse can mean a lot and often you will under-price your crafts whereas an objective voice will not.
There are many formulas for pricing your crafts when you are selling occasionally (not full time). The first and easiest is to 2X, 3X, or 4X the cost of materials. If a necklace’s materials add up to $1, then you may choose to sell the necklace at $2, $3, or $4.
A second method is to check out what similar items are priced. Visit a gift shop, craft show, or look through catalogs. If you see similar jewelry selling for $4.50, then you may choose to price according to the marketplace.
Another method is ADD the cost of materials to your labor cost. The cost of materials for your necklace was $1. You wish to make $10 per hour while working. You can make 5 necklaces in an hour meaning the cost of labor was $2. Added together (material cost plus labor) these factors will give you a selling price of $3.
Often it can be a combination of formulas that will give you a realistic selling price and then pay attention to how your customers react to the price on the tag. Do customers grab 5 at a time? This could mean you hit the right price or may even be able to raise the asking price. Do your customers quickly put the necklace back acting like their fingers got burned just touching it? It might be time to re-evaluate your prices. Don’t make pricing an obstacle to your selling. Learn the pricing formulas and learn your customers’ spending budgets!
As craft professionals, we all face times when we just can’t get motivated to start or finish a project or design. Read on for a few pick-me-ups to kick-start you and get you inspired!
- Set your goals. List several short term (day, week, month) and a few long term (year to five year) goals. Break the goals down into steps. Check off the steps and celebrated every goal reached! Calibrate the celebration to the size of the goal!
- Add something new and different to your routine. Change materials, color themes, or motifs of your current work. Step back and view your work. What can be added? What can be changed?
- Take a class or teach a class. Learning new skills or developing learned ones adds new light to your craft. Teaching others brings in new perspective. Our students are often our best teachers. Listen to your teacher or your students.
- Take a walk; visit a park or garden, people watch at a mall. Exercise builds energy and energy gets you motivated. Nothing inspires like nature so surround yourself in the sights, colors, smells, motion, and taste of it. People-watching is a joy. Listen to the kids laughing. Find the seniors smiling. Observe the buyers browsing!
- Organize your supplies or rearrange your work area. Think of ways to find your supplies easier or more efficiently. Rearrange your work area to add more light, more color, more stimulation. If you are bored in your work area, you will be bored in your work! Personalize your space. Make it yours! The routine of organizing often helps you relax into creativity.
- Visit the local gift shops in your area or take a day trip to a nearby big city. Schedule a trip to a museum or special exhibit that might be in the area. Invite your friends over for a creativity party! Pick up a new magazine you’ve never read before.
- Buy a book on your favorite craft and read it! Learn more about what you do and the others who also enjoy your medium. Or you might try reading a new book on selling, marketing, design, writing skills, bookkeeping. Update your knowledge with the latest information. New date will refresh you and might inspire new ideas you can’t wait to get started on.
- Take time out to play. Experiment each week for an hour or two with your medium. If a painter…just spend sometime mixing colors. If a quilter…play with fabric shapes and colors. If a woodworker…try new cuts or sanding techniques. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to “complete” or “create” anything…just play.
- Visit a trade show or consumer show. Find out what craft, gift, toy, or stationary trade or consumer shows will be in your area. Visit at least one trade show every one to two years if a professional in crafting.
- Take a vacation! May be not a vacation where you travel by car, boat, or plane, but a vacation from your craft or your business. Take a day, two days, or even a week and don’t touch, do, or even think crafts. Absence often does make the heart grow fonder. Don’t risk burnout! And make sure you have a hobby if you are a craft professional. As a craft professional what you do for a living is what others do to relax! So treat yourself to a leisure activity outside of crafting or select a craft to enjoy for fun not for work/profit.
You don’t have to be a full time business to make some extra spending money from your crafts. Many crafters sell their items at church bazaars and community arts and crafts shows as a way of “reinvesting” in their hobbies! All you need to do is dedicate a weekend once or twice a year to participate in a bazaar and you can make enough to spend through out the year on your crafting passions.
Most smaller craft shows and bazaars do not “jury” participants, which means you don’t have to prepare slides or photos of your work and booth display to get into the show. You’ll simply have to fill out an application to participate and pay a show fee. Fees do vary depending on how much advertising is done, but you can expect to pay as little as $25 for a tabletop for a day to as much as $150 for a 10’ x 10’ space over a weekend. You do need to find out what the show promoters are offering for that fee. Do you need to bring your own tables, chairs and booth cover?
It’s important to know if the show is indoors or outdoors. Depending on the weather in your area you might chose not to participate in outdoor events. It’s also nice to have a crafting friend who might want to share a space with you for the event and you can give each other breaks through out the day. You might also like to ask the show promoters approximately how many shoppers turned out for their last craft event so you’ll have a better idea of how much inventory to prepare.
Don’t over tax yourself preparing for a small show or bazaar. You can always take orders at the event or hand out simple business or contact cards to the shoppers. It’s better to sell out at a show like this than to sit on unsold inventory. Pricing the items can be difficult. The main pricing point is that you must make back your supply or material costs plus 35% for overhead (your show fee, labor and other odds and ends). Remember that you aren’t “in business”, but rather supporting your crafting habit. It is difficult to sell items priced over $20 at a small show or bazaar. Your hot selling items will be those priced under $5, but don’t give away any item by under-pricing it!
Small craft shows and bazaars are a fun way to earn a little extra spending money and a way to motivate yourself to make more by selling off the crafts sitting in your closet! You can find shows and bazaars by word of mouth or contacting your local Chamber of Commerce.