What I Learned in my First Year of Owning a Handmade Business and Goals for the Next Year

What I Learned in My First Year of Owning a Handmade Busines

I’ve been spending a few days reflecting on my first year owning a crochet business and all that I’ve learned – some very obvious things and some that only experience could give me. First, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone following along on my journey, anyone who has supported my lil shop, or just rooted me on from afar. I truly appreciate it!

This year has been full of the highest highs and some low lows, but I have truly appreciated the opportunity to live my creative dreams and shoot for lofty goals. After careful consideration, I’ve rounded up the 4 big lessons I learned this year…

WHAT I’VE LEARNED



1. MANY REVENUE STREAMS ARE KEY
Me at the beginning of 2017: This will be great! I’ll open my shop, people will buy things from my shop, and that’s my business!
Me at the end of 2017: Poor, sweet, innocent past Me… Just no.

I would say the biggest lesson of 2017 was that my initial dream of sitting by an open, sunny window crocheting all day and making a living was just that – a dream. From my experience this past year, it’s extremely difficult to make a crochet or knitting business work by only selling handmade crocheted or knitted items. Crochet and knitting takes a LONG TIME. Like an insanely long time. I’ve been knitting a shawl for myself literally all year. If I priced it to sell, it would cost thousands of dollars (an exaggeration, but probably not a big one)!

In a culture of fast fashion and machine-knit items made in China (or worse hand-knit or hand-crocheted items made in China!), most buyers are used to paying next to nothing for things. Believe me, I’m a bargain and clearance shopping queen! But as a maker, unless you’ve discovered a really niche market that is willing to pay the price for handmade items, it’s difficult to find customers willing to pay the price it costs for the time spent on the piece. Not to mention the amount of hobbyist crocheters and knitters selling their wares for next to nothing (PSA – stop doing this hobbyists! Charge a fair price for your work!) Seriously, I’ve seen crocheted items being sold for less than $5. There is no way that anyone is making a fair wage for that when you account for selling fees, packaging, and materials.

The key takeaway from this lesson is that I need to better diversify my revenue streams for 2018. For me that means designing more patterns, submitting designs to magazines, seeking sponsorships, selling crochet kits and supplies, and teaching crochet workshops. I will still sell a selection of handmade products in my shop – but I’ll be rethinking what I sell so that it makes the most business sense.

My advice to you: Brainstorm multiple ways your business can make money and try them on for size. If you’re a calligrapher – can you offer classes? Calligraphy kits? Personalized letterheads? There are so many different paths and combinations you could be employing in your business.

2. MAKING THINGS TO SELL ISN’T MY FAVORITE THING
I already told you how my dream of crocheting near an open sunny window all day didn’t come true. But a big reason why was because I realized my favorite part of crocheting was designing and creating NEW designs. Not crocheting the same ones again and again, which is exactly what you need to do when you make items to sell.

Sure, there is something therapeutic about turning off your brain and letting your hands crochet away. But the thing that I really get the most satisfaction from is taking a design from sketch to final product. After learning this, I realized pattern writing was really what I loved to do. And seeing other crocheters make my designs is incredibly rewarding!

My advice for you: Figure out what parts of your business you actually like doing. It may seem pretty simple, but try to structure your business to maximize time spent doing what you LOVE (that’s the goal isn’t it?)!

3. THE INSTAGRAM MAKER COMMUNITY IS AWESOME
I was completely blown away this year by the outpouring of support and love I received from followers on Instagram, especially other makers! I’ve connected with tons of like-minded and talented makers in every niche of the handmade world and it feels like there is an abundance of inspiring work created by these makers every day! My Insta friends helped me feel like I was part of a big, supportive community and I loved it!

My advice to you: Get involved in social media, not just as a marketing tool, but to find your community. Getting and giving support to those in your industry can open doors for you and your business. Plus it’s just fun!

4. WORKING FROM HOME IS LONELY
This one shocked me. I am a natural introvert. My favorite activities are staying home curled under blankets and watching movies. I thought working from home was going to be magical! I’d be home with the cats all day! I could wear pajamas all day! I could make my own schedule!

It turned out to be a huge challenge for me. It discovered wearing pajamas all day makes my motivation come crashing down. Cats? Yeah they are super needy and like to walk on keyboards and want to be held and fed and let in and out of the house. And making my own schedule is a struggle for someone who likes a lot of structure, but also would rather not give that structure to herself.



My advice to you (and myself!): Get out of the house at least once a day and make lots of calendars and schedules to keep you on track (and stick to them)! I’ll be using content calendars, scheduled working hours, and time off.

MY GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR
1. Design more patterns!

2. Submit designs to magazines and yarn companies

3. Try to get sponsorships for content

4. Create a crochet workshop or tutorial series

5. Put together crochet kits and supplies to sell

6. Draw more, explore more, have fun!

7. Post 1 video a month on YouTube

8. Take a vacation!

9. Give my website and branding a mini-makeover

10. Better define my personal style and apply it to all aspects of my life

11. Keep discovering my “why”

12. Get really clear on what my version of success is

13. Figure out profitability for Tiny Curl

14. Get better about marketing on multiple channels

15. Spend more time outside

16. Move more – especially riding my bike

17. Make a content calendar and stick to it

18. Learn how to bake really good sourdough bread 😉

I’d love to hear from you – what did you learn in 2017 and what are some of your goals for 2018?

What I Learned in My First Year of Owning a Handmade Business



2 thoughts on “What I Learned in my First Year of Owning a Handmade Business and Goals for the Next Year

  1. I love what you have to say about selling your items at a reasonable price so that you can make a profit. I buy locally and from artists like yourself all the time, but we need to have a real discussion on valuing the craft or art and being willing to pay a fair price for it. If buyers are not willing to do so then all these wonderful options will not be available for us. Let’s support and encourage homegrown businesses by realizing that when we support our neighbors, our communities become stronger and more prosperous.

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