I meet a lot of very talented people, and I get a lot of questions from people who want to take their craft or their art and turn it into a business. I want to be encouraging and supportive, but what screams inside my head is "This is not for everyone!" The old adage "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life", that's only partially true. It might be more true if you find a ready made job you love doing, but when you take your passion and make it into a business, you're no longer just doing what you love, you're also running a business.
The biggest frustration I see for people starting their own business is they make some things, make an etsy page or a Facebook page, tell their friends about it and then sit back and wait for the sales to come rolling in. It doesn't happen, and they get very discouraged. There are two main areas they may be neglecting: marketing and the market. We'll start with marketing. Telling your friends and asking them to spread the word is a great start, but you can't place the main burden of your success on them. They're your friends, not your employees. You need to spend at least as much time promoting yourself as you do actually creating things to sell. Building a professional website. Social media accounts. Oh man, social media accounts. There are so many ways to connect with your audience. Use them. Build your brand. And give people a reason to follow you. Your friends and family might like your Facebook page just because you're you, but why should anyone else? Pictures, contests, special deals, blog posts, and tutorials are just some many great ways to reach out to new customers and keep them coming back.
Once you give people a reason to look at your products, you need to give them a reason to buy them. Now we look at the market. There are 3 main components to look at. Is your product desirable? There needs to be an audience who wants or needs your product. Is your product valuable? The quality of your product needs to live up to what you are asking people to pay. Is your product unique? There's nothing new under the sun, but it's important to have your own take on things; express your own point of view. Having a personal twist or technique is part of why people want handmade items over mass manufacturing.
Part of the appeal trying to make a living selling your art is the draw of being self employed. Making your own hours, being your own boss. Working when you want, where you want. And it's true that it does allow a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to things like picking up a sick kid at school, or preferring to work from home at odd hours. But what it also means is that there no clocking out, no vacations, no sick time. It means you might work 100 hours one week and not get paid. Or worse yet, work 100 hours and only spend money. Running your own business is like having a child. You need to take care of it 24/7/365, especially when it's young.
The responsibility is on you, the financial risk is on you, and if things go wrong, there's really no one to blame but yourself. But. You are in control of your own direction. Every success is your success. They sometimes say "There's no quicker way to hate what you do than to turn it in to a business", but that doesn't have to be true either. Through hard work, perseverance, creativity, and more hard work, you can build something you can truely be proud of, and share your passion with the world.
Great article! :)
I would love to hear more on making your own hours-do you set times, do you schedule work, how do you motivate yourself? This is very helpful!