i am so excited to jump into this! i hope you will follow along and glean something from all of this information.
in contemplating where to start with all of your fabulous questions, i knew i had to start at the beginning. so, here goes:
those of you who already have a shop and have been working hard to be as successful as possible, this might be a hard thing to do. however, i can’t tell you how many people go full force into the wrong thing. so, before we go any further, it’s time for some tough questions.
what are you good at?
what do other people think you are good at?
what do you get compliments on?
what comes easily to you?
what can you do that is different from everyone else?
are you still with me? hang in there…
you may notice that those questions above are a little bit “other-oriented.” what do other people think you are good at. what do other people compliment you on. what do you do different from other people. the fact of the matter is – you might think you are an amazing belly dancer. but if no one else thinks you’re an amazing belly dancer? you might be a littttttle bit delusional. while in most circumstances it is perfectly ok to think you have strengths that the world may not recognize, (i’m all for a good healthy sense of self-esteem!) that all changes when you want the world to be your customer!! you must be cognizant of what your customer wants.
i tell you a story. (yes, say it with an accent.)
back in 2009 when i found myself in a tiny little house in utah with a husband in school, an 18 month old, a newborn, and no money — i racked my brain for the options that were open to me. i knew leaving the babies behind to go out and work wasn’t an option. not only was it totally against my own instincts, financially it just didn’t make sense — paying someone else to watch my kids so i could go out and make a couple dollars an hour after the cost of that daycare. all the while there was a little voice in the back of my mind hinting at starting a handmade business. but oh, how i ignored it! after trying to find anything i could do from home, finally i gave ear to that little voice.
for years and years, one friend of mine had told me that i needed to sell my creations. i loved to give her handmade gifts and every time without fail she would say, “you HAVE to figure out a way to go into business!” and i would blush and shyly tell her she was too nice and who-would-ever-pay-money-for-that nonsense and quiet her supportive praise. but when i was really in a bind and didn’t know how we were going to pay rent the next month, that voice came back to me. i remembered that she thought i was good at ____________.
so i ask you again, what do other people think you are good at? what would they pay you money for?
here’s the thing. the handmade world is getting more and more saturated by the minute. i don’t want you to think of this as discouraging or negative in any way, but i really really really want you to be happy and successful and over the moon excited about what you are doing! it is really hard to get to that point if your product a) doesn’t resonate with buyers b) doesn’t stand out in a crowd or c) isn’t original.
now, believe you me – i LIVE in an over-saturated market. i promise you, i KNOW that there are one million billion rosette makers in this community. when i started, that wasn’t the case. and i worked hard to create a unique technique, a reinvented product, and a constant brand. and that is why i can still be in business even though there are sooooo many others out there like me.
so, let’s say you make…. pillows. and your shop is called “shmillows” (i know, i’m a genius.)
what makes your shmillow pillows different from the many other pillows i might find on etsy or big cartel or anywhere else? is it the fabrics? the style? the shape? how will i know it is a shmillow pillow and not a willow pillow or any other brand?
your product must stand out.
i will say that again.
YOUR PRODUCT MUST STAND OUT.
it must be recognizable. it must be unique. if i can’t tell that you made it, why would i buy yours over any of the others i might find online?
so, now you may be asking- “how do i know when i’ve found THE product? the one that is the perfect fit for me? the one that will fly off the shelves?”
i’ll tell you!
it will sell.
and it will sell again. and again. and again.
i get asked if i started out selling rosies or how they became my signature. i actually started with a whoooole shop full of random things. but when i got a good response from the rosies, i made more. and when they kept selling, i kept improving the product, thinking of different ways to present it, and working until one day i made my first modern pearl necklace. it felt like magic. it was something i had never seen, it was something i was excited about, and it was something that instantly resonated with buyers. that was almost 2 years ago, and it is still by FAR my best selling product. and so i continue to tweak it, add variation in color and size, and give the people what they want ;)
lastly, does your shop present a cohesive brand?
for the longest time i had no idea how to introduce other products back into my shop that weren’t a rosette in some way shape or form. i had a hard time wrapping my mind around how to make it work. then i had a stroke of inspiration while watching project runway. (see…. reality tv is good for something!) i remember the judges praising one of the finalist’s saying that each of the looks in their collection looked like they belonged to the same girl. and suddenly it hit me– that is how i can add to my shop in a way that makes sense! would the girl who wears rosies also wear __________. seeing as i make what i love to wear, it became really easy to answer that question. if something i make fits in with my style/wardrobe/lifestyle, then it will go into the shop. easy as that!
now, if you’re still reading, you deserve a cookie. for reals. i realize that i may have asked you to answer a lot of difficult questions, but this is the ONLY place to start if you are serious about seeing results in your handmade business. you MUST be honest with yourself and do yourself a favor in finding the product that will stop you from pounding your head against the wall. you will not get different results if you keep doing the same thing, so it’s time to focus your energy, put your best foot forward, and streamline your business so you are poised for success.
ready, set, go!
remember, if you have other questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.