How to Build a Successful Craft Business: 5 Lessons from an Etsy Pro

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Learn how to build a successful craft business with these 5 lessons from an Etsy pro. Whether you are sewing items to sell, personalizing creations, or even baking amazing cookies these tips will help you get started and grow your creative business. 

It’s been a little over two years since my last Etsy Life post. My how time flies. Since then my business has grown, I’ve had a baby, and I’ve learned even more about running a small craft business. I thought it was time to revisit and share some of the things that I’ve learned since then.

1 Set Good Goals

Whether you are just thinking through the possibility of having a craft business or trying to take your current business to the next level, setting goals is a must. For a long time I just flailed and tried to keep up.

When I started to set goals I was able to really evaluate my progress and it became more real. Once you have a goal you can formulate a plan to reach that goal. Make sure the goal is reasonable, measurable, and has a date that you want to complete it by. Here are some things to keep in mind when setting good goals.

  • Write your goals down. There’s just something about putting them on paper that connects with the brain.
  • Set different sized goals both in importance and time it should take to accomplish them.
  • Set measurable goals. Whether it be monetary increase, items sold, or new follows, you want a goal that you can tell when it’s accomplished.
  • Set a timeline to reach your goal. I’m a crazy Shark Tank junkie and Robert once said “a goal without a timeline is simply a dream”. So many times we have great ideas but without putting it on the calendar life tends to get in the way. Also I know for me deadlines give an extra little push that I need.

 

2 Get Organized

It’s amazing how many lists I make to keep my business trucking. I’ve got lists for orders to fill, potential new products, marketing ideas, and more. Organization is so important to running a well ordered business.

I like to keep a three ring binder that I can more permanent notes to so that everything is in the same place. But for me the process of putting pen to paper really helps organize what needs to be done.

  • Organize your goals. Relating to the last point make sure your goals are written down and kept somewhere you can reference and somewhere that will motivate you to keep striving after the goal.
  • Organize your ideas. If you’re like me you are sure to come up with new ideas whether it’s new products to try or new ways to get your name out there. If you try and do every idea that pops into your head  you’ll never have time to finish them. Keep track of your ideas so that when you have time to push more that brilliant idea won’t go to waste. Which leads me to the next point.
  • Organize your time. I’m a big to do list maker. I always have a notepad out where I can write my lists of what needs to get done. Something about the process of physically writing out really helps me to focus on what needs to be done. Also. with online business it’s really easy to allow all of your time to be sucked into computer tasks. One thing that was great for me was to set times to check email. Now I try to only check and reply to email and messages twice a day. That way you don’t have your tasks constantly broken up by replying to people all day long plus you’re less likely to be pulled into facebook. With your time more focused you’ll be able to get more done. I love using fun colors for my lists, I find it makes it less burdensome.
  • Organize your products. However you do it you’ll want to make sure your products or supplies are where you expect them when you need them. It might be silly but two of the most important supplies for my shop after fabric and sewing machines are plastic bags and Sharpie markers. I use them All.The.Time. I have different colors just for fun  and it makes my life way easier. Some day I want to coordinate different colors to different sizes.

Since I know I’m not the only Sharpie junkie, and since they really are a great supply for so many businesses I want to make sure you know about the great deal I got. 

3 Determine Your Why

It’s really easy to throw everything into starting a business. It can be really rewarding and addicting to watch to your stats starting to climb. But to protect yourself from burn out make sure to set your priorities.

In the beginning after things took off I was working All.The.Time. I shared some of this before in my Etsy Journey post but in short it was too much and I was very overwhelmed.

More than that I was working just to work. We didn’t “need” the money, I wasn’t pushing for something specific I just got caught up in the adventure of a growing businesses. I like to ask myself and others when they ask me for business advice what the purpose of the business is. Once you know WHY you are trying to build this business the answers to how, how much, and how far will come a lot easier.

  • Is it for the money? Having a small craft business can been a good way to supplement or even replace your income. If you’re trying to do this for the money how much do you need? After you reach that, how much would you like?
  • Is it to be able to work from home? Whether you want to spend more time with your kids or just not be on some one else’s schedule having your own business is certainly flexible but then again you’re always at work. Sometimes I’d find myself going non-stop. Now I make a point not to check my Etsy account during the weekends.
  • Is it for a creative outlet? Do you also like the business end of things because you might be surprised at how many emails and calculations come with running a business. That’s not a problem though you just might want to bring on help or learn more about those things if you need.

Whatever your why may be it probably isn’t because it’s the end all be all of your life. But it’s easy to let it become that way. Owning and growing a business is hard work and people online expect you to be available 24/7.

For me my family and my sanity is my number one. So while I try to run my business professionally at the end of the day I want it to be something that fits into our lives not that we have to work around. A crazy stressful customer isn’t worth the money!

4 Be Realistic

If you have read my initial series you know that I was a big proponent of made to order sales. I would take a sale, have a turnaround time, and then make the item and fulfill the order. Now that Teddy is here, that has been really hard. In fact pretty much every thing is hard with him and he’s a pretty middle of the road baby. I’ve had to be flexible and readjust my expectations at the different stages of my life and business. Also remember to keep in mind that your business is your own it won’t look like someone else’s and that’s okay.

  • Different phases of life (both family and business) will make your business look differently and that’s okay. For example I’m finally coming to grips that my “maternity leave” lasted months longer than I intended and I’ll just be back in time for my most important time, costume season. But that’s okay since the little guy will only be like this for a short time.
  • Sometimes hard work pays off later. Just remember that most things aren’t automatic.
  • Sometimes when the hard work isn’t paying off it might be time to evaluate why? Is it the type of thing that takes time, are you reaching out to the wrong audience, etc.

5 Keep Learning

And finally my last thing is to keep learning. One of the big things I’ve started doing is listen to Entrepreneurial books and I LOOOVE it. While I’m sewing or driving I’ll have a business book going and at home I’ll pause it to write down good points because I’m a note taker type.

This has been really eye opening and when I’m burnt or have a problem or just don’t feel motivated I’ve felt that that has been a great spark to renew me. I hope to share some of my favorite business books soon ­čÖé Also don’t underestimate how much you can learn from people.

  • Read relevant books. I find the entrepreneur focused ones to be super encouraging and helpful since they hit on many aspects of what you’ll face.
  • Talk to anyone who has experience or even related experience. You never know what gem they’ll share or who else they might connect you with.
  • Find some businesses you admire and pay attention to what they do well. Don’t copy them or their product because it won’t work right but do think about the little things that might transfer to your own situation and see how you can implement it or make your own version.

I hope this has been helpful. I don’t want to let another 2 years pass before I check back in on this type of stuff so, if you have any questions or ideas for a post that you’d like me to write with respect to my business life please let me know! I love helping when I can.

Want to know more about running your own craft business? Check out my Etsy Journey post where I share the details with a year by year break down of how I got my business off the ground.

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