How to Build a Successful Craft Business

I often get asked this question by coaching clients and podcast viewers at the beginning of their journey with me. It’s often asked by someone feeling deflated and frustrated that their craft business isn’t doing as well as they thought or hoped.

As I look into their eyes or read their email, I can sense the desperation in finding an answer that is both simple and transformative, like a magic tap that they can turn on to start the flow of sales.

The truth is, that that’s a difficult question to answer, not only because businesses vary, but because business owner skills vary widely too. It’s also about their willingness to do what needs to be done to change their fortunes.

Heck, I’ve been there, and I know exactly how they are feeling in that moment… I know that I must be careful in what I say, as it could crush the last dying breath of hope they have for their creative pursuits.

Today on the podcast I want to see if I can help those of you who haven’t yet reached out and show you some of the issues your struggling business has and how to fix them in order to be successful.

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The 5 reasons why your craft business isn't successful

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Over the last few years whilst I have been coaching craft business owners and running the Craft Biz Incubator mentoring programme, I have noticed several basic reasons why their craft businesses aren’t successful. I have complied a list along with some questions you need to ask yourself to help get you thinking.

 

Lack of clear branding and consistency of message

If your business has no clear identity, or a clear message in it’s offer of products, or marketing then often this confuses potential customers. You must remember customers give your website, or Etsy shop just a few seconds to help them establish if this is a product or a company, they want to find out more about. If they feel in anyway confused about you, then they will just click away.

Many of the people I start working with are selling a bit of this, or a bit of that in hopes that something will sell.

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a turn off.

Customers want to ‘pigeon-hole’ your products and services.

It reminds me of the time I took my CV and portfolio to an agency in London – I had extensive experience, but in different fields of Fashion. The agent loved what she saw but was clearly confused about where to put me on her books and so I got sent a deluge of job interview offers from a wide range of companies… nothing quite fit the bill. The reason I later decided was that I wasn’t clear about what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to work with; I just wanted a job.

This is your basic problem… you aren’t sure what you want to do; you just want a sale. Potential customers don’t know what to do with that!

They don’t know how you serve them and so they turn away.

Ask yourself these questions;

  • Do you know who you are selling to?

  • Do you know what your business ethos and message is?

  • Do you know what direction you are going in with your business?

 

A lack of ‘right product for the right customer’ and profitable pricing

Proceeding directly on from the idea that customers might not understand how you serve them best, is having the right profitable products for the right customer. This balancing act is hard to manage the first time you try it… I know.

If you have been around for a while, you’ll know my story… I started out in mid-2006 selling bankrupt haberdashery products on eBay, before moving into the wool craft industry by accident (as a result of a lot of customer requests for felting kits from my bankrupt stock search).

This launched Sara’s Texture Crafts into an entirely new world I knew very little about and so I picked commercial stock lines based on little research and little understanding of how to pay myself. With fierce competition driving down prices daily, my growing business paid me less and less, even though I worked more and more.

That’s why I had to make a switch to handmade products that focused on a very specific customer base, helping them with a specific need for certain wool products. I spent hours learning the crafts my customers practised in order to offer them the perfect solutions for specific projects. This was where I could command a higher retail price and sell enough through a branded point of difference to create the weekly wage I wanted.

Let’s bring this back to you… ask yourself;

  • Is your product line solving a problem your customers have?

  • Have you done the market research to establish viability?

  • Are you making enough money to pay yourself a wage?

  • Do you know how much you need to sell each week to make your wage?

  • Are you establishing yourself as an expert?

 

A website or Etsy shop that is primed to convert traffic into sales

Once you have all of this in mind it’s important to consider your online presence, in terms of where you sell. This space is where you are hoping to capture and convert visitors into buyers.

Your web space, whether it is your own website or a shop on a selling platform like Etsy must act as your sales rep and do the selling for you.

Ask yourself;

  • Do you understand how to write web copy that sells?

  • What about your policies? Are they establishing trust?

  • Are your photos good enough? People buy with their eyes first!

  • Are you selling to people’s emotions?

 

Ineffective marketing

If you have spent time on your online shop, then the very next thing you need to do is get people to notice it and visit it.

Craft business owners often forget this. They think that they will be successful on Etsy, purely because Etsy has more traffic than other Etsy alternatives.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Etsy will only ever push traffic to its main site, that’s the space where 35.8 billion Etsy shoppers are viewing 1.98 million shops! So, yes you might get people visiting your shop, but these aren’t targeted customers who want to buy the one thing you specialise in.

Instead you MUST target the right customers through your own marketing in order to get the most valuable site traffic and visitors to your shop… the ones who might want to buy the thing you make!

Ask yourself;

  • Do you post to social media infrequently, or ‘on the fly’?

  • Do you understand who you are pitching to and when the right time to pitch is?

  • Do you have an engaged audience (comments and click throughs, not just likes)?

  • Are you trying other things beyond social media?

  • What about newsletters, or getting press features?

  • Or are you relying on traffic that comes through from Google of Etsy?

 

No real plan for future scale

Finally the mistake I see craft business owners make is that they have no idea how to scale their production and business to meet growing demand… and you need to meet growing demand in order to; pay yourself, grow your business and maintain your business.

Ask yourself;

  • Do you have a plan for next year, or 5 or 10 years from now?

  • What does that business look like?

  • Do you understand how to scale production in order to meet a large demand if you increase brand awareness?

  • Do you feel you have the skills to move in a bigger direction? When we talk about scale it isn’t always about building a volume business, it’s about growing to the size that maintains us financially and keeps us happy, which is the one thing our craft business must do.

 

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OMG are you freaking out now?

Ok, look I’ve probably freaked you out at this point, BUT bear with me, because here’s the thing… you are online with thousands of other craft business owners in the same position. You don’t yet know how to run a business successfully.

The difference is, that YOU have chosen today to make a change! And you have done that by sticking to the end of this blog post to work out what your next steps should be.

So, let’s talk about where to go from here…

The 5 things successful craft businesses do

1) You need to make a commitment & a plan

  1. Sit down and imagine your dream business, what does it look like?

  2. How different is that from today?

  3. What do you need to do in order to get there?

  4. Create a time dedicated to working your way towards that point, by learning exactly how to achieve each step

In the Craft Biz Incubator my group coaching programme, we work through this together, so that you can spot exactly what you need to do to grow in the right direction. There are tools and resources to help you with each step.

This keeps you in alignment with your dream as you grow, meaning you get the job you always wanted from your creative passion, NOT something that you don’t feel confident talking about in public!

 

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What is the Craft Biz Incubator?

When you become a member, you are immediately immersed in an on-line community space built for craft business owners and makers with the aim of growth, development and support.

1 - Learn while you earn

Get access to; Online eBooks, courses and training designed to help you develop your business skills.

Get access to; Planners and worksheets to help you get organised.

Get access to e-copies of the quarterly My Craft Biz issues

 

2 - Access to Sara

With; Monthly LIVE classes/Q&As, weekly office hour chats and dedicated email support.

 

3 - Private Community

Get access to; weekly chat threads, group challenges and resource swaps.

 

PLUS - Exclusive access to 'Fearless Year of Growth', a 12-month course designed to boost your business (worth £1,800).

Including coaching that’s worth £3,000 for a monthly sum of just £25!

Amazing progression and accountability, and thanks to the Craft Biz Incubator I know where I am headed, I have checkpoints to stay on track and it helps me actually do what needs to be done!
— Cat, One Creative Cat

2) You need to get clear on what your business brand is and how to convey that

Establish what your business brand identity is; who do you serve, how do you serve them and what makes you different?

In the Craft Biz Incubator, we have a whole module of training dedicated to this, so that you can really dive into what your brand is and how to visualise it, talk about it and how to get people excited about it.

Once you have a brand worked out, it is much quicker for your target customers to find you, understand you and get excited enough to buy… because you are always on point and you always release new products that they simply MUST have.

I am so pleased I joined the Craft Biz Incubator – its format is non-stressful and, because you can go at your own speed, it’s perfect for me. It has given me a new focus in my business, as well as a new lease of life cos I’ve felt ‘enabled’ to follow my dreams. I feel empowered, supported and like a legitimate designer/maker for the first time ever!
— Sarah, Sarah Cross Studios

3)You need to understand that your products need to solve a problem for a specific customer

Take a step back and look at your product in alignment with your understanding of your brand concept… does this serve your target customer? If not, how can you adapt it?

In the Craft Biz Incubator, we work through exactly how to identify who your target customer is and what their needs are. This allows you to make the best product for them.

 

4) You need to get on top of your costings & business data

Really look at every penny that you spend on your product, from; materials and electricity, to fees and transactional charges. Make sure you are covering every base and that on top of that you are adding profit, with a proportion for wages.

Then also make sure you start collecting data on your online business, from website, or Etsy shop performance to social media engagement. This will help tell you exactly how well your website and marketing are performing to help you sell and you can adjust accordingly.

In the Craft Biz Incubator, we work through both things separately to make sure you are making the right decisions behind each new product launch and each sales push. It can be incredibly enlightening too when you know exactly what changes to make!

I will say, I am so very happy I signed up for this. You’re a wonderful source of help and support and knowledge.
— Elly, Curio Yarns

5) You need to learn how to get going on all areas of marketing, from; social media, to newsletters, to getting press features

Marketing is a huge part of your business and when you understand that, it is so much more powerful than relying on the little bit of traffic that Etsy sends your way, you will wonder why you never gave it much thought before!

Marketing brings targeted traffic to your website or Etsy shop with a higher rate of conversion… in other words you get more chance in selling what you make if you are sending the right customer your way!

In the Craft Biz Incubator we work through this together – we cover social media, newsletters, external marketing in detail and I give you lots of templates and scripts to help get you started, so you never find yourself stuck for things to say!

I also give you strategies so that you can plan all of this without feeling overwhelmed and without taking ages to work on it all!

 

Finally ask yourself - Where will you be this time next year?

I want you to ask yourself this… where will you be next year if you don’t take a chance?

Will you be stuck making little to no sales, or struggling to make ends meet like you are today?

Will you be throwing away cash on website, or Etsy fees with little traffic to even try to make a sale from?

Or will you roll up your sleeves and do what you need to do to make it work?!

You need to try the Craft Biz Incubator today!

 

 

Tell me; Having read this how much more comfortable do you feel in changing your craft business fortunes?

I’d love to hear from you – comment below 👇 or email me!


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