As promised in our last post we have more top tips for any budding artsy entrepreneur looking to grow a hobby into something more. Starting a business is a huge task, hopefully some of this advice gets you set up stronger right from the beginning.
Accounts; yes it’s boring but keep on top of your company accounts from the very beginning. Don’t let it become an insurmountable task that is too daunting to deal with and never gets done. It’s important and necessary, don’t jeopardise the success of your business by avoiding it. Dedicate at least one hour a week or four hours a month to managing and recording all the incomes and outgoings. You may find it simpler to hire an accountant, or there are online services and computer programs that can make it easier, however you do it, just make sure you keep on top of it.
Contact your local council; most local councils have services or grants within their budgets tailored for assisting small businesses and start-ups. Obviously, every council is different and what they offer can vary but it is worth enquiring to see if there is any support you and your company are eligible for. This is something we wish we had known sooner, as Olivia only discovered a few years ago that the Eden District Council were able to support OnlyWillow with ten hours of free professional assistance each year. Now, ten hours might not sound like much but with the right person doing the right thing it can make a huge difference to your business. Most importantly for OnlyWillow, it was when someone rebuilt the website and taught Olivia how to manage and edit it.
Time; we all know there’s never enough of it, so you should manage the limited time you have carefully. It’s tempting to accept every order as soon as they come in, but you have to be realistic. It’s not healthy to pull all-nighters and in some cases dangerous, especially when working with hot metals. You should know how long it takes to make your products, take into account the orders you already have booked, add in ordering supplies and the delivery times, and suddenly a project can take weeks. It’s important to manage your customer’s expectations, be sensible when accepting deadlines or negotiating a completion date. If something causes a delay, open communication with your client is vital. During peak periods, like Christmas, advertise limited availability early to avoid disappointment and give yourself time off.
Pricing; this is really tricky, as you want to be competitive but it’s important to charge enough for your time and skill. Don’t undersell yourself early on, research your competitors, know your material costs and the time taken to make, then price your products to cover those costs and with a little profit for reinvestment so your business can grow. Did you know most of the mass-produced items you find online or on the high street have a mark-up from the initial production cost of over 90%? This is how those companies can afford to have 70% off sales and still turn a profit. Handmade craft pieces are made with a degree of love and care you don’t get from mass-produced merchandise.
Balance; we’ve spoken about it in a previous blog (see Over Worked?), but it is so important we are mentioning it again here. It’s an important lesson to learn. During our Textile Crafts degree, in one lecture focusing on how to launch your own craft business, we were told that most start ups fail within the first two years. We were also told that you shouldn’t expect to turn a profit until your third year, and to plan your finances accordingly. If you measure success by the size of your bank account, then maybe opening a craft business isn’t for you. OnlyWillow was born from the need of a creative person to add beauty to the world. Olivia’s passion for her work is clear and that’s why it has been difficult to find a balance between work life and personal life, especially when working from home. Recognising the signs of fatigue and stress then finding ways to counteract them is only a temporary fix. Having a sensible routine that accounts for all the important aspects of life is the healthiest long-term solution.
We hope these snippets of advice help you as you think about launching your own business. We would love to hear any feedback or answer any questions you may have, feel free to get in touch through the message function at the bottom of the webpage. If you know anyone who could benefit from this advice please share, we would love for our independent crafter community to continue to grow.
Stay Safe and Shop Local where you can.
Written by Siobhan Green.