Pop Shop America hosts a series of handmade & vintage pop up events. We have monthlies at Pavement Clothing and 2 big festivals a year in Houston TX. We work with over 400 makers and small businesses and have an annual attendance of somewhere around 15,000 people. The business of being a crafter is something we work with, think about, and talk about every day. It’s what we do. We want all of the small businesses that we work with to have fun and financial success at our events.
We’re starting this series, The Business of Handmade (but it’s also the business of vintage) in which we’ll talk about taxes, consignment, supplies in your studio, craft fairs, lots of ideas, do’s and don’ts, and quick tips to give you some of those “A Ha” moments. We see a lot of articles on the web that don’t really say anything. They have tips like “Have a positive attitude.” or “Return Your Emails on Etsy everyday.” Well duh. Those articles drive me nuts.
There is a meat and potatoes knowledge to earning a living as an artist that goes way beyond having a good attitude. Like understanding your wholesale rate, paying your taxes, and just how to get organized in general. There are all kinds of different angles to having a handmade business like: organizing your studio, the value of the products you are making, selling at craft fairs or other events, building your etsy, consignment boutiques, teaching, creating a wholesale line sheet, wholesaler’s events (like Magic), your website, social media, and sending out your e news.
These are the topics that we’ll be covering, except we’ll be giving actually useful information. But here’s the rules: you don’t have to follow any of these tips – use them for brainstorming. We are not taking the place of any professionals like attorneys or cpa’s and our advice should not be treated as such. At any time we welcome your questions in the comments section.
So here goes, Part 1 of The Business of Handmade – The Reading List.
I wanted to start you guys off easy, with something fun. So I’ve compiled my favorite books about making crafts, DIYs, packaging your crafts, and the business of handmade. These are great tools of inspiration and wonderful things to have in your studio. Feeling stuck? Turn to these books. Wondering what other people are making? Well here you go. Bored at home on the weekend? Grab a book. The photos are better quality than looking at your computer screen.
So let’s start with this top row which I like to call my faves. Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business is written by Oh Joy! ‘s founder Joy Cho who makes extremely stylish design goods for Target. On the Oh Joy blog, you can find lots of easy DIYs -especially party DIYs. I like a lot of things that they do and this book is definitely a good overview of the craft business field.
Next is Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & More by Viola E. Sutanto where you can learn a million different techniques to packaging the items that you make. If you want shoppers to be drawn to your items so they decide to purchase yours instead of other items, they should look beautiful and professional. A complete vision is crucial to your brand. Last is #GIRLBOSS because come on! If you haven’t read this book yet, read it now! It’s light, fast and fun and outlines such a great success story of a handmade/vintage business.
These books are more about having fun and having good well rounded skills than the first set which was mostly about business. The first one, The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos is an important topic. Good product photography is absolutely essential for online sales, getting accepted at competitive events or being recognized for any type of award when your products can’t be viewed in person. It’s the window to your work. Some crafters struggle with good product photography, because it’s a skill in and of itself. Although this book isn’t perfect, it’s a good start to changing gears and being a photographer.
The second book, Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt is hands down the best guide to altering t shirts. Most patterns only require scissors. Basic clothing alteration will be a handy skill to have if you have any interest in fashion, textiles, or accessories. These cutting techniques are a core. Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs is a great overview of ecological friendly products. A lot of people shopping local/handmade are looking for healthier less toxic home goods. This is a great place to start for anyone who is interested in soaps, cleaners, beauty products, and botanicals.
The Crystal Bible is a beautiful picture book encyclopedia of gemstones and crystals. I recommend this book for anyone that is making jewelry or anything metaphysical. The books describes the rarity and hardness of certain minerals and is a great resource to find gemstones that you haven’t yet worked with.
Did I mention that on top of all of that you must also be a writer? Blog, Inc., another book by Joy Cho, illustrates the details of blogging for design, art, and craft.
Ellen Lupton literally wrote the book on graphic design. D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself (Design Handbooks) is a little different because it covers all kinds of different media from cd packaging to embroidery and from kid’s clothes to logos. It’s a picture book. It’s an idea book. And it’s really brilliant. This should help you get excited about selling your products and start thinking like an ad man and a graphic designer.
“I think when people say they dread going into work on Monday morning, it’s because they know they are leaving a piece of themselves at home. Why not see what happens when you challenge your employees to bring all of their talents to their job and reward them not for doing it just like everyone else, but for pushing the envelope, being adventurous, creative, and open-minded, and trying new things?” Excerpt from Delivering Happiness
Delivering Happiness was written by the founder of Zappo’s and reads a lot like #Girlboss. It’s uplifting, it’s exciting, and will make you feel optimistic towards a field that can sometimes be challenging and competitive. Delivering happiness is full of retail knowledge.
Last but not least is Handmade Weddings a beautiful picture book by the founders of Hello!Lucky. It’s contains over 50 wedding specific DIYs. The thing is, most people that want their own wedding to feel handmade don’t have the time to make all these things. The wedding field can be a lovely place to enter the design field.
The next book, Martha Stewarts Handmade Holiday Crafts 225 Inspired Projects is one of the best DIY books I’ve looked at. It’s interesting to think seasonally although many projects are perfectly appropriate year round. There’s 225 projects and they are all stunners. If you wanted to only own one DIY book, this should be the one.
So read on makers! Our next chapter of The Business of Handmade will be about your studio and your product inventory.