From handmade hobby to money – do what you love and the money will follow?

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“Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

There’s no shortage of quotes out there to inspire you to take your craft, your handmade hobby, your creative passion – that thing you really love spending time doing – and turn it into a way to make a living – to start a handmade shop.

And I know it’s possible too because that’s what I help makers do, every day. That’s my job.

But is loving what you make enough to make it sell like hot cakes?

Can you really “Do what you love and the money will follow?“

Or is reality a little more complex than that, and if so… how?

Let’s explore!

You can watch the video or read the written version below.

Today I’d love to discuss with you whether it truly is possible to make a living doing what you love.

You probably learnt your craft because you were interested in the creative process behind it, and it became something you enjoy doing as a hobby. You became good at it because you loved doing it so much that you became pretty experienced and developed your handmade skills.

So when the idea comes to start selling those products because the craft room or the guest bedroom or the garage starts to be a little too packed with craft supplies and you wouldn’t mind making some room and some money from it all… it’s natural to just start a shop to sell those products that you love to make.

And in 80% of cases, it will work.

What you love to make is what someone else will love to buy.

…and boom! – you’re in business, making money doing what you love.

But sometimes… turns out those products you love to make aren’t exactly selling like hot cakes.

Then you start wondering…

“Why is no one showing interest in buying my products?”

“Why am I not making money doing what I love – everyone else seems to be able to?”

Truth is the internet has opened the door to a ton of opportunities that would never have existed before it, or in its early days.

You can sell anything, to anyone, from anywhere.

AND it gets better.

get your handmade trends workbook!

This free workbook includes a list of resources so you know where to look out for trends, and activities to help you make the most out of them!

You also don’t need to invest a ton of cash to get things going.

Sure, there are supplies costs for your products and maybe a few other fees here and there but the internet and the development of easy website builders, social media platforms, handmade marketplaces like Etsy, etc. really has allowed anyone with a connection to the internet to get a product or a collection of products to market rather quickly and for a 10th of what it would have cost to do the same thing before.

And as a creative, as a maker considering opening a handmade shop – this is a both curse and a blessing.

Let me show you why.

Launching an online store used to be more of an investment and so to limit the risk of it not paying off – businesses used to do a lot of market research and make sure that this was a viable idea – that it was something people would buy if they made it and brought it to market.

Which in turn meant that only big businesses could really afford to take that risk and small or even micro and family businesses just couldn’t consider it.

Now… you can start a shop in a few clicks.

You can open a shop on Etsy next weekend.

Or start your own website.

Or start selling on Facebook.

The point is that you don’t need to spend big bucks hiring a developer OR spend time doing market research – you can just get it out there and see what happens.

That’s the blessing.

The curse is that for the same reasons it’s also SUPER easy to skip the part where you make sure that what you love to make is something that people are looking for.

If no one is looking to buy what you make – if they don’t search for it – it’s going to be very difficult to promote your shop and to find customers.

and because of that…

… it’s going to be difficult to make a reliable living selling those products, even if you love making them.

Now – of course – you might be thinking:

“I make ceramic mugs” or “I make t-shirts” or “I make pillow cases” – and that feels like a pretty safe bet, like… surely I can find people who are looking for pillow cases?

And yes – yes you can.

There are definitely people somewhere on the internet , who want to buy the exact product that you are making.

But is there enough of those people to sustain consistent, reliable sales?

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What if you sell cushion covers and your favorite thing to create are designs and patterns using bright tie-dye colors but the current trend in home decor are more natural, earthy tones?

Sure you might find customers who don’t care so much for that “earthy tones” trend and prefer bright colors – but… are you going to find enough of them?

That is the question.

Similarly, you might sell a product that’s in high demand for a few years … but then the demand just drops because trends have moved on.

Of course, this causes a fundamental problem which is that the last thing we want is for you to ever feel like you’ve created a job for yourself, where you start to resent your craft, the one thing you’re passionate about – because you don’t like what you make.

The REAL question then (and it’s an important one) is: how far are you willing to go to meet the market?

The answer is going to be personal, it has to be.

You get to pick where you want to be on the “making money selling handmade products spectrum”:

On one end, some makers have a strong personal style and aesthetic and won’t budge from it. That’s who they are and staying true to that is what’s most important to them.

Others decide what to sell based 100% on research and create purely based on what keywords are being searched most, on what the trends in their niche are, on the colors of the season, the theme of the year, etc.

There’s nothing really right or wrong with any of these 2 approaches… you just need to get very clear on where you sit before you start selling your products and turning your hobby into a handmade business.

Because when you stop making as a hobby and start making for a living – you have to create not just based on what you love, but based on what customers love and are looking for.

My advice is to of course stay true to who you are as creative, as a maker, as an artist – because

  1. Money isn’t always the main criteria in one’s personal definition of “success”, and if you hate what you do, you’re not going to do it for long.

and

2. your aesthetics and style is also what will help make your shop, products and brand cohesive…

BUT and that’s kinda key, I would also STRONGLY suggest that if making a reliable income out of this is your main goal, you get in the habit of doing a bit of market research when you create new products and make some room for things you’re not always 100% in love with – but that you know will sell well.

Imagine you sell kids clothing – it could mean that 40% of the colours you’re offering are not necessarily your personal favorite – but they are trending this year. Maybe it means that if pandas or koalas are trending, you also offer a few items with those animals’ patterns on them.

Another example would be if for example you are an artist and your specialty and what brings you the most joy is to paint on fabric – and most specifically you love to paint flowers. So you’re thinking of selling hand-painted scarves with flowers on them – because that’s what you’ve always loved to make.

What if it turns out with a bit of research that not many people are looking for “floral scarves?” But that a lot more people are looking for floral t-shirts?

Can you compromise and offer that instead?

You get my point- it’s about incorporating trends and what you learn from doing a bit of market research into what you offer.

Colors, patterns, theme, type of products… It’s about finding that halfway point between what you know how to create and enjoy creating and what the market is asking for.

If you’d like to dive deeper into this, I have another article on handmade shop trends and how to research them which I’d recommend you read next.

Thank you so much for reading, until next time, au revoir!

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