Friday, December 26, 2008

The Hardest Thing to do To Our Own Crafted Products

There are times when we simply have to be business minded, especially when we look to our own crafting as a means of income.

I love my knitting machine and boy, can I design clothing to fit any body. I love designing for the knitting and I adore some of those yarns. But, there was just one problem with it, it didn’t sell. I haven’t been able to spend time with my knitting machine, since 1987. I miss it, you bet but there are other concerns on the front burner.

There are so many crafty subjects, I’ve had to leave behind, things I love doing, simply because they didn’t pay.

That’s the hardest thing, when it comes to making any kind of living off your crafts. If you can’t stand back and look at the overall picture, you doomed to playing with your hobbies instead of succeeding as a crafter.

Checking out the booths at craft shows, isn’t going to help you either. You don’t know how well, those folks are doing.

Sit back and think. Make a list of every craft you can do, including the ones you’re not very good with. Among all that talent, what projects could you work with, perfect, that could provide that ‘great excuse to buy’? Coat rack, jewelry containment,bathroom organization,dresser top organization,kitchen organization, warmth, bedding, durability, reminders, that sort of thing. Call this utilitarian.

Thinking utilitarian, what (of your talents or designs) can you apply to make an item also art?

Once you’ve decided what sort of item, and the design, start practicing and perfecting. What ever you do, strive to be the best in that field. Experiment with color combinations. Work for those ‘oohs and aahs’ from the neighbors and friends.

Any item, you can offer in small, medium and large, do so. There is always the buyer who truly desires to buy but can’t afford the large one. Bring your product down to fit the market, instead of asking the market to fit your product. In these trying times, is no time for outright experiments just to see if it will sell.

Sometimes, we have to leave our own desires behind, in exchange for success.

Times are getting tough

Will it affect you?  

As crafter's, we already know that Christmas to mid summer is pretty much dead. So how will you survive these months?  

If you have the means to do it, I'd suggest checking out the national shows. If you happen to have a quality product, this is the place to make connections with wholesale buyers.

Some of us are ready for this step and some are not. For those who are not, this is the time to reflect.  

First, lets deal with the small, at home worker, with no expansion money or with no desire to expand. The next couple of months is a good time to reflect. How well did your product move last year? Did you make profit, or did you barely cover your costs?  

If your product was well received and you did make a profit, what can you do to offer more for the money, this year? What tweak, can you add to make your product more desirable? Is it possible to make your product more utilitarian? More polished, more finished looking? Is it possible to lower your costs? Is it possible to cut your man hours?  

If your product was not well received, now is the time to ask why. Is it possible that your product is not 'necessary' enough? People are tightening the belt and it's time to think in that pattern.  

If your product was not well received, it's time to think 'new product', but before you go off in that direction, examine what traits were appealing about your present product. Possibly the theme? Was it color?  

Let's say your theme was a cute little pig and everybody just went nuts over the design but didn't buy. Now let's say your product was strictly decorative. What can you do with that same theme and make something utilitarian. Something so useful, it helps with clutter in the kitchen or bathroom. How about other ideas, like a 2 tiered trivet for the dining table or a toilet paper holder or a special rack for spices? Something that gives a better excuse to spend the money, by providing a solution to a need.  

For those with the means to expand, the means to grow and push your business. 

This is the time to investigate the national shows. Which ones can report to you; the gross sales, the number of vendors during that gross sales. Check out crafting boards, with chatter about those shows. Are there any complaints? If possible, contact one of the vendors and ask if the show was a success.  

Once you've decided which show and signed up, get ready. Not only do you need a good showing of the variety of design or colors, that you offer (mass produced) but you also need to think carefully about your display. 

Remember things like 'blue brings out the sheen of silver or crystal' and 'white is best for multicolor'. The slightest things, make a difference.  

Get swatches of varying materials and see how they display your product, under vague lighting, like overhead florescent. What kind of light do you need, to set off your product. Work to make your product glow. 

Remember, you may wind up in the middle of a row, surrounded by all sorts of colors and shapes and 'crowds'. Crowds (purses, bags, strollers, noise) hurts your sales. Bring them inside the booth. 

Make your booth inviting, let your possible buyers come inside, out of the scramble. Present yourself and your product. Have brochures or large cards with your story, the story of your product, etc. Have handy price lists for the wholesale buyer. Offer individualized product, be willing to make small changes for large orders. Offer corporate gifts.(even in this economy, they still have those Hawaiian conventions)

Do not price your products for the retail market. Make your buyer ask. If an individual, buying retail, if they don't ask, they don't have the money anyway. If a wholesale buyer, they would prefer the retail market not see prices.  

Be sure to price your products, with wholesale in mind, to cover your materials/labor/overhead/plus a profit. Don't cut off your nose and remember you will be offering bulk discounts.  

If you have any of your product (which is being offered at the show), already in a shop somewhere, ask that shop owner for permission to take a couple photos of your product, sitting on their shelf. Use those photos to push the marketability of your product. Include those photos, in your brochure or a stand up display.  

Stand up displays, sitting behind your product on your show table, is a great way to display varieties of use or settings, for your product, without having to build displays that show off these varying settings.  

You have a lot of work, just getting ready for this show. It's your shot for the wholesale market and for expansion. Make the most of it. Be professional. Be proud of your product. Be ready with company headings on order forms, 3 copy so as to hand the customer his copy and still have 2, for yourself. Have plenty of business cards and copies of your large cards or brochures, with easy ways to make an order. Include all information, such as shipping costs and discounts. Qualify your buyers.  

For special orders, you want a deposit to cover your costs, in the event something happens and the order fails. You never know.  

Personally, I think it's better to wear quality clothing, than to 'dress the part', such as colonial dresses and bonnets. This is a wholesale market, you're after and they are business people. They are only interested in you, as a business minded person and not your personality. Of course, it's great to be friendly but not so friendly, you look like a patsy.  

In all that you do, it's not 'Me', it's 'My people'. It's nobody's business, if you work out of your garage. That garage is your 'studio', your 'warehouse', your 'workshop', your 'factory'.  

Don't be afraid to go for the quality buyer. They are there, I promise. While it's true, most of the franchised shops are buying from company warehouses that buy from China, there are also high end shop owners, who look forward to certain shows each year. I'd say to look for that good buyer, who is that one out of each 100, passing by your booth. Don't worry about those 99. :)  

If you're going to spend the entry fee, anyway, you might as well go for it 100% and arrange for your tables and lighting and display. All or nothing.

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About Me

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I'm a grandmother of 1, a ceramist, a ceramic mold maker, a truck driver and writer.

I'm also a webmaster of many and have several blogs.

I help others in designing product, make custom molds and I still do restorations.