Running a successful craft business is one of the proudest achievements of my working career. Why? Because it was my passion and it taught me so much! Not just about business, but about life too.
Today on the blog and podcast, I want to explore running a successful craft business further by giving you the 5 biggest lessons I learnt from my 11 years in business.
Now listen up, because I know you are going to need to hear this!
The 5 biggest confessions of a successful craft business
Watch the video here;
Or listen to the podcast here;
1) You need business skills
If you followed my recent post, ‘How to build a successful craft business’ you will have established the 5 reasons why your business isn’t doing well and how to fix them. We talked at length about the elements of business that you need to learn about; branding, product conception and development, finance and data, marketing and planning.
I’m going to come clean now.
In the beginning I had no idea how to do any of these things.
I remember back in mid-2006 going to my local WH Smith store and looking through the business book section… ‘Was there anything on running a craft business?’… nope. ‘What about an online-business?’… nope. In fact, I think I only found a few books on accounting and copyright.
Online I found something on a business plan, but why would I need that? I wasn’t going to the bank for a loan… no spare room craft business needs that much detail in the start, right?
I’ll be honest, like most, this left me flummoxed, because I couldn’t find anything online about running a business either and so I started out on my own.
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Now I’m going to be very clear here, looking back and reminiscing about the days when I ran my craft business isn’t always as easy for me as you‘d think. I made some pretty shocking mistakes and learned some hard lessons, most of which I talk about here on the blog and most of which still make me wince when I remember them today.
I’d say many of those mistakes were quite avoidable, had I had the necessary business acumen to make better decisions.
Of course, I’m not saying that had I had a lot more knowledge about running a business that everything would have gone swimmingly. There will always be decisions we, as business owners make based on faith, or best estimation and sometimes these things don’t go as planned.
I can see now how the business skills I have taken the time to learn since then, would have helped me avoid the sillier mistakes.
My first piece of advice for you is to take some time and learn the business skills you need in order to handle your business the right way and push it into a market position where you can be successful.
If you want a head start on that, then consider joining the Craft Biz Incubator, where I will help coach you through each hurdle you face.
2) You need patience
Creating a successful craft business takes time.
Let that sit for a moment.
I’m going to be honest here with you too… patience is not my strong suit.
I must constantly remind myself of various sayings, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, ‘A watched pot never boils', blah, blah, blah… you see – I can’t even get past the end of my own sentences sometimes!
The reality of running a business is this, results take time.
There’s no getting around it, avoiding it, pushing through it… results take time.
So, if you are working on your social media approach and hoping for more follows each day or click-throughs to your latest products, you are going to notice that things don’t change overnight.
There is no magic tap that you can turn on to get sales flowing into your business either.
Although if you want help with growing your sales then I have created a free download for you – The Grow Your Sales Blueprint!
It’s a helpful checklist of the foundations you will need to target new customers and convert them to regular sales.
Press the button below and grab your FREE guide!
As I look back at those eleven years in business, I can see it as plain as day.
I also know this mindset is something I must constantly work on and you will too.
My advice here is that you start goal planning and working with time frames of a year. Give yourself five years to ‘make it bigger’ and break that down into yearly goals. In year one that could be setting up a website and getting to 250 sales. In year two it could be that you want to work on your marketing to grow your brand awareness and sales. And so on.
I have learned that making a plan helps me practise more patience, through feeling more in control of the growth of my business rather than leaving things to themselves.
3) You need resilience
There are going to be times when you see someone else doing better than you and owning a successful craft business, and you will suffer the green-eyed monster of jealousy. It isn’t because you are inherently a bad person and you wish others ill-success. Just like learning patience, it’s about a mindset shift you need to get better control of.
There will also be times that things don’t work, or mistakes happen, and you must pick yourself up off of the floor. Here again it’s the hot flush of embarrassment and the wanting to step back inside yourself that you need to change.
People will also say ‘no’ to you – customers, stockists and the press. It’s going to be hard to take, but as much as it feels like personal rejection, it really isn’t. It’s just business.
Just like you I look back and see myself curled in a ball on the sofa, under a duvet of self-loathing, wondering why I can’t just do things better. Wondering why someone else seems to have it easy.
The truth is that what you see of others is only the surface they choose to share. You don’t always see it, but I have come to learn that they have the same ‘sofa moments’ you do, they have the same fears you do and the same desire to be bigger and better than they are.
My advice on resilience is one that I have worked through the tears to stand here today and impart – Things will happen and despite your best efforts, sometimes you won’t get the result you wanted. You have to learn to take a moment and then get back on your horse.
Learn to dive into what went wrong firstly, or why someone said ‘no’, or why you are feeling unsuccessful – what is it that is really niggling you? Then break it down and deal with it bit by bit by creating a plan of attack, to put things right. That could be learning a new skill, trying a new tact, or simply unfollowing competition on social media.
4) You need practise
This point goes hand in hand with resilience.
Sometimes you will have to do something more than once in order to get it right.
One of my biggest struggles (and still is today) is putting myself out there to get press.
I remember the very first time I got some press; it was when some of my washed sheep fleece was used as a background in a spread for a magazine, promoting the next issue… there was no mention of me or my business on the page, instead a very small mention of thanks at the back. Although they had paid for the fleece, I felt slightly cheated (I’m not sure what I was hoping for). The truth was that I said ‘yes’ to something that wasn’t really what getting press was all about, there was no promotion opportunity. I hadn’t seen it for what it was.
This made me stop and think, ‘so, what press do I want? What do I want my press to look like and where do I want to be featured?’ I drafted some notes in my notebook and thought about how to solve my heart’s desire.
The first few times I pitched myself to a magazine I was really quite awful at it. I didn’t know what to write, how to sell my idea, or even what would be a great fit for those who I pitched to. Needless to say, I got rejected.
Rejection can be a painful lesson, particularly if you take business networking too personally. It took me a long time to try again. But I did try again and with better practise those ‘no’ emails turned into ‘yes’.
My advice on the art of practise is to tell yourself what is the worst that can happen if I don’t try again? Will I ever get closer to my dream if I don’t try? Then back that up with lots of action on trying to perfect your attempts on every try.
5) You need focused direction
Finally, and probably the biggest lesson of them all is ‘focused direction’.
Knowing what you want to achieve and planning how you are going to get there is everything if you want a successful craft business.
At the start of my business I didn’t do this… not even one bit and if you have read my book, ‘How to Start a Craft Business’ you will know that that decision left me in bad shape and it took a burnout and ill health for me to realise it.
Since then I have always practised bigger picture planning, or ‘thinking like a boss’ as I call it. This focus has given me the drive and action plan I have needed to go out there and go after what I want for my business. You will see me still taking that tact today, whether it’s learning a new business skill, or sending those press pitch emails.
Running a successful craft business isn’t based on luck, it’s based on a myriad of knowledge and most importantly the right mindset. In order to navigate your maze of success you will need to be focused, resilient, motivated and above all patient, because there will be a lot you will need to learn how to do well.
Just don’t be too hard on yourself while you are learning!