Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to go from Hobbyist to Professional in 9 easy steps

According to the Hobby Industry Association’s (HIA), there is at least one crafter in four out of five U.S. households, or about 70 million crafters total.  Their research says that about 14% of these 70 million crafters sell their wares, which is about 12 million people (Stats taken from A Brief History of the Crafts Industry). That is an awful lot of people who craft, and that’s just concerning the United States!  Most of these 12 million craft sellers started off as hobbyists…someone who just started crafting because they enjoyed doing it, they liked the outcome, the process calmed their spirits.  So, how did these crafters become professionals?

While they each have their own special and unique stories about how they sold their first product, the basic idea stays the same, and I want to share with you the 9 steps (in no particular order) that they each followed to go from a hobbyist to a professional.

 1. Have a craft.  Duh, right?  Well, you might think, but have you ever seen someone who has tried to sell on the idea of “I can make whatever you want”? The person who *can* make scrap book pages, but hasn’t put forth the time and effort to provide any proof of that concept.  It’s nice to offer your customers a chance to buy personalized products, to make sure that they get exactly what they want.  However, there is such a thing as offering too many options.  Letting people get an idea of the kinds of things that you can make, with examples and maybe one or two options is always the better road to travel.  As people start getting an idea of what is available as far as your personal skill-set, then they might, just maybe, possibly, start coming to you for special and unique requests.

2. Pick a niche.  While this might seem a bit of a drag to limit your crafting abilities, it really is a must for becoming a professional.  Knowing a little about a lot does not make you the expert that you need to be.  Pick one craft, maybe even one product, and eradicate every option, explore ever direction, know everything about that one thing.

3. Know your audience.  Often called the target audience, this is who you are selling to.  If you are making baby products, realize that you are selling to the parents of these babies, your audience is parents.  You have to know who you are selling to, so that you can know *how* to sell, and more importantly *what* to sell.  For instance, if your target audience is older people, you probably wont have a lot of luck selling on any online venue.  Likewise, if you are selling to high school students, I doubt you would find success with Backstreet Boys paraphernalia.  Know who you are selling to, figure out the best way to reach them, and then make sure that you are trying to sell the appropriate products.

4. Create a marketing plan.  Again, look back at who your target audience is.  Have a plan, with a set goal, on where you want your business to be in x amount of time.  Set forth a strategy to get there.  Look back every now and then to judge where you’ve come from, and re-adjust your goal as necessary.  Having a plan is definitely a must for the professional crafter.  It means that you aren’t just “look, I’m selling my hand-made crafts because I can, and if I’m still doing it in 3 months, then awesome!” Set long term, and short term goals, and re-evaluate on a regular basis.

5. Present yourself in a professional manner. Whether this is customer relations, or a public appearance, if you conduct yourself as a professional you will be treated and considered a professional.  Be polite, have manners, say yes sir, and no ma’am, no thank you, and please.  Dress the part, don’t be a slob, clean-cut, groomed, brush your teeth, and put on deodorant.  Not necessarily black-tie, but dress like you care about your appearance.  Stick with the deadlines.  Whether set by you or your customer, if *you* say a product is going to be done at a certain time, make sure that it is done!
6. Create Policies.  While not necessarily the most enjoyable part of selling crafts, it is still a must for a professional.  It is important for your customers to know how to deal with returns, or shipping issues, custom orders, or payment methods.  The hobbyist will be making up these policies on the fly, as the issues arise, oftentimes changing their ideas based on the situation.  Having a policy set in place *before* the situation is brought up by a customer and making sure that the customer knows what is going to be done about it can save a lot of hassle, and is definitely very professional and “think a headedness”  (yes, I just made that up).

7. Change your attitude.  Don’t just scratch your head and skip over this one.  You have to consider yourself and your little business a profession(al) before anyone else will. Look at it as an actual job.  Most likely, your little crafting DID start off as a hobby, something that you did in your spare time to de-stress or because you enjoyed it.  OR, maybe you are having trouble wrapping your head around the idea that you are CRAFTING as a job!  Well, you are doing just that, a *job*, and you need to look at it as such.

8. Be Competitive.  This one is all about pricing your products which is a very tricksy aspect to get right.  Don’t price your products so low that they come across as cheap quality, but don’t price them so high that you can’t effectively compete with other sellers (I can present a 93.48% guarantee that there will be other sellers of your niche).  I have been told that I price my products too low, but I *feel* like I price them too high, and I consider myself very fair.  I fit on the lower end of the average price for products of my niche and I am perfectly comfortable with that.

9. Manage your time efficiently.  You are the manager, the creator, the seller, the bookkeeper, the packager, the errand-runner, and the coffee-getter.  Maybe you didn’t want to have all of those rolls when you first signed up for this craft selling job, but the professional crafter DOES have all of those rolls.  Figure out how much of your available time can be spent on each aspect of your little business and don’t get distracted.  Remember, it is a *job*, treat it like so.

There are a ton of crafts that you can make and sell.  Do the research.  Find out what people will buy.  Sometimes you sell some items that you don’t necessarily like, but your customers do.  Take the time to figure everything out, know how you are going to sell, know who you are selling to, and know what you are going to sell to them.  Treat your crafting as an actual office-job, and be the professional that I know you can be!

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