A couple of weeks ago I almost folded and came close to closing my Craft Business, in fact a couple of weeks on I am still teetering on the edge of will I, won’t I.
In almost (well really it was) a hissy fit I threw my toys out of the pram and posted on my personal Facebook page that I had enough of this crafting lark and that it wasn’t worth it. I was so over dramatic, but I had just got so frustrated and in a last ditch attempt, I put a post out on a social media group to ask for some specific help on a particular listing, that was on a site I sell some of my creations on. Most people were great and came back with useful information, one person left me exasperated coming back suggesting I turn the make into something else completely, as they didn’t even know the category it was eventually listed in existed. However there was one piece of feedback that came back general and not specific, and this was the one that broke me. I had asked for specific feedback to avoid the general, as it would tell me something I already knew, that I was a failure as a business. Sounds harsh doesn’t it, but it was something I knew for some time and it had been frustrating me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am running a business, but I am too emotionally attached, to not only the business, but my makes too. I love what I create, and put my heart and soul into it, I’m extremely eclectic too, I have a mind bursting with ideas of things I desperately want to make, but can’t, and we shall come back to that issue in a bit. So the advice out there for a crafter running a business, is consistency, that you sell either one type of item, or be one style as a crafter. So if we take my starting point which was Word-Art stretched canvases or prints, I should have stuck solely with them, and not branched out as I did into my diamante creations, then Dragon Eggs, Keyrings, Illuminated Blocks etc. and so on. Now I can understand this from a business perspective if I was there with my prints, in between waiting for orders to come in I could have been marketing my products, formatting a consistent social media presence, in a style that whenever someone saw an advert of mine they knew it was my brand, my products. Sadly for me I got caught up in the makes, I love nothing better than attempting something new, refining it and putting it out there to get a reaction, I can honestly say that although a sale is wonderful and a vital requirement if I want to continue making items, the truth is I glow as much with feedback, comments or a review telling me how much my creations means to them. I want to be making all the time, it fills my heart with joy to be creative, but every time I want to go and make a new creation, that isn’t tied to an order, I become awash with guilt. Guilt that I am not focusing on promotion, I am not advertising consistently, I haven’t sorted my Tags here, my boards there, I have not posted every day at 19:30 to capture the interest of my ideal buyer (which I should have researched and worked out). So what happens, I don’t make anything out of guilt, and I don’t promote anything because my brain is empty of inspiration to advertise (without it seeming like advertising) to my ideal customers, so my sales tend to come in inconsistently too.
Here’s a key thing, I am a professional crafter, not because I am a member of the professional crafters guild, but because of my approach to how I work. Firstly I’m insured, really important for anyone that sells to the public (well to anybody), I can go without insurance but it is a professional attitude to do this, and a safety net for myself. I am registered as self-employed with the tax office, because I take money for my makes I need to complete a tax return, I may or may not make enough money to pay tax, but being registered means I am being professional. In cases of those people who are retired, working another job, running a family, even if they class this as a hobby, just as something they do to relax; if they sell their items for money they need to register this with the tax office. I comply with and abide with the distance selling regulations, I have to by law the moment I sell anything, as 95% of my sales are done at distance, either through my little online shop or social media. I also abide by Trading standards, I don’t make anything that needs CP or CE markings, but by not making those items I make sure that my items don’t fall into those categories by how I make them or the materials I use to make them. For example my illuminated blocks have battery operated lights, not mains powered, if I use mains powered, because I have changed their ‘design purpose’ they would need re-testing and I would need to apply for a CE marking, get it grated and make sure it was displayed on the product. It’s something I may do in the future but for now battery operated keeps me happy. I also make sure I communicate professionally, I aim to respond to enquiries in a swift fashion, I say that, there is an expectation to answer immediately even at midnight on weekends, I have written T&C’s and policies (another professional expectation) and I include that I will respond in 48hrs unless I have taken leave (which will be announced). Along with the communication I make sure I take the payments professionally, through the Shop site they have secure card payments, but on social media I will always Papal Invoice, I want to give the buyer the reassurance I am professional and that I want to give them buyer protection, I will never ask for friends & family payments or bank transfer as this gives them no protection and no buyer should be put in that position. Then there is copyright, it’s very easy as a crafter to go and copy someone else’s work like Disney etc. but that’s unprofessional and also illegal. Items with such work needs to be licenced, companies like Disney invest a lot of money to create a character, and the excuse that they make millions off of a creation is irrelevant, once those takings get divided out down the line all the way back to the one person sitting at a desk, who came up with the creation it isn’t millions, but that not the point as a crafter I am better than that, I could ride on the shirt tails of the big guys but that’s wrong. Have I had my work copied, yes I have, I recently found one of my designs, (a quote in the public domain) copied in almost an identical way, the quote isn’t mine but the design is, and perhaps if it was a big seller I would challenge the other person, but perhaps I’m just being a coward, so I have let sleeping dogs lie.
So it comes down to this I am a professional crafter, but I act as a hobbyist not a business. I am an Artist come Crafter trying to sell her work and not a Business who is Crafting to make money, and there lies in my failure. I make crafts with love and often with too much effort for the reward I do receive. It’s then there that I then try and sell my creations, hoping that someone will fall in love with what I have made as much as I do. Where as a Business person will research the market, find out what is on trend and then make what is apt for the market, they will promote accordingly and consistently keeping focused on sales. In my head I want to be a business, but my heart has a fear that it would break my creativity to turn in that direction, so currently they are fighting and I am not sure who to follow, or who will win. Do I stop, even close the business and re-start and conform to the business format (if I re-start at all)? Or do I stay the being the eclectic person that I am and continue trying to sell the crafts I make with Love? I remain teetering on the edge for now.