PHOTOGRAPH: The Cotton Shoppe
Crafting can be a great outlet to destress and unwind after a hard day’s work. And if you simply love do-it-yourself projects, you could even turn this hobby into a viable side income. Vivien Tan, founder of online craft store The Cotton Shoppe on Etsy.com and craft instructor, shares how to start a successful craft business while sticking to your full-time job.
1 Develop your own identity
“Your products are a reflection of your unique disposition, character and identity,” says Vivien. Every aspect of your design, from choice of materials and colours to packaging, should tell your customers something about your unique style.
As a crafter, your products need to stand out among competitors by having originality. Vivien says: “In the retail industry, you can have similar products to your competitor's brand but still make good sales by having a competitive pricing strategy. But the craft industry doesn’t work like that. Your crafts must be difficult to imitate.”
2 Focus on your process and brand story
If your handmade product resembles other products out in the market, what makes it unique then is the story behind it.
“When designing a product, ask yourself why you are making the product, why you have designed it this way and what makes you different from your competitors,” says Vivien.
Good workmanship is one of the reasons why people pay more for handmade products than something that is mass-produced. Fine-tune your making process and make sure to source for sustainable, high-quality materials.
3 Do your market research
“While many crafters start off making things they like, they need to think about how this can tie in to what consumers like,” says Vivien. “The truth is that what you like to make may not be something that people want to buy.”
Read more: 5 ways to earn money without a full-time job
Think about how you can put your skills into designing a new product that is in line with your customers’ needs, the latest trends or festive periods.
4 Connect with your customers
Developing a good customer base is key to making your craft business sustainable.
“Communicate your brand story to your buyers either through a well-planned social media campaign or at craft markets,” says Vivien.
Share your creative process or even your background – how and why you started crafting. “People love human interest stories and more likely to part with their cash if they are impressed with the story behind each handmade product.”
Your handmade products and crafts will gain a following through word-of-mouth referrals once happy customers start sharing about your products on social media and with their friends.
Another key factor is customer service. “Think about how you can value-add to your buyers. Instead of rushing to close an order, take time to talk to them about their requirements and offer suggestions on their choice of materials and designs.”
5 Manage your time wisely
Be efficient while at the office and aim to be productive, so that you can go home on the dot every day to work on your crafts.
Before crafting became her full-time business, Vivien would make use of her bus rides to and from work and lunch hours to reply to customers’ e-mails and social media postings.
“It is very important to draw a line between work and your home business,” she says. “You wouldn’t want to be caught in the act by your colleagues or bosses and risk getting a bad appraisal, or worse, getting terminated from your job!”
If you have a very demanding full-time job, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your craft business.
“While you may want to handle the major bulk of the making process, consider roping in a friend or family member to complete other simple tasks like social media marketing, packing or shipping. This allows you to focus on the creativity process and production instead.”
6 Plan and prioritise
Set up a daily, weekly or monthly calendar and plot out your day job and business-related tasks. Give yourself a realistic timeline to complete a project.
Break up big crafting projects into feasible, smaller parts that fit into your work schedule to prevent getting burnt out.
“If you have lots of orders to fulfil and you know your customers need them urgently, then other priorities and commitments will need to take a back seat,” says Vivien.
This means that you may need to cancel that shopping date with your girlfriends, postpone travel plans or even explain to your spouse that you are unable to have a long dinner date on the weekend.