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Are you ready to make a living from your craft? Learn how to map out a financial plan, expand production, automate distribution, address legal matters, and much more. Start growing your business beyond the dining room table and leave your day job behind.
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About the Author
Since the publication of The Handmade Marketplace in 2010 and Grow Your Handmade Business in 2012, Kari Chapin has gained national visibility as a sought-after speaker at craft business conferences and events. She also offers one-on-one creative coaching and courses online. She is known for her effective coaching style and distinctive, supportive voice, along with her strong ability to market and network.
Read an Excerpt
Identify Your Dream Business
Dreaming big is one of the best (not to mention the most affordable!) business skills you have. Being successful doesn't mean that you have all the answers and you have nothing left to work for. If you play your cards right, your dreams will always be growing and expanding. Realizing a dream is definitely an aspiration — but first you need to actually identify your dream.
What Form Does Your Dream Business Take?
Exactly what does the ideal dream business look like to you? Surely you've thought about it ... right? Perhaps you've deemed that business as too far-fetched to be even remotely possible. Or perhaps that ideal couldn't possibly be so perfect because it doesn't match up with what most people would consider an ideal business. Well, friend, I'm here to tell you otherwise.
Your ideal business or even the business you have now doesn't have to look like someone else's business. Your perfect business may simply be one that lets you keep your full-time job. Or your perfect business may be you sitting behind a big desk with lots of employees that keep things running while you focus on designing products. Sitting down and taking stock of what you really want to accomplish will get you headed in the right direction. Dreaming big is a key component of the process.
Imagining the life of someone you admire is a great way to get your dream juices flowing, but think really carefully about what you're envisioning. For example, Martha Stewart's life looks great, right? She has lots of amazing houses and lovely animals and everything always seems perfect, plus she has her own media empire. She's world famous, can bake a perfect turkey for Thanksgiving, can whip up clever party favors in seconds flat, and even has a gift-wrapping center in her home. Sounds awfully good!
And it may well be. But she is also responsible for employing an army of people. She works tons of hours. She has to be "on" and perfect all the time (can you imagine that every time you ate dinner out, it made the papers?!). And, well, she's Martha Stewart! That's a lot of pressure to be under, I would imagine.
Clearly, there are both an upside and a downside to her business life. Does the downside sound just as good to you as the rest? If so, super! If not, that's OK. Frankly, it doesn't sound all that great to me, either. I like weekends to myself and being able to wear my yoga pants to the grocery store once in a while without fear of having my photograph end up on the "Fashion Faux Pas" page of a gossip magazine.
But that's the beauty of having your own business. It can look however you want it to look, and it can be whatever you want it to be. Let's face it though; it's not always easy to know exactly what you want, and when you're forming your overall picture of perfect business bliss, it's really important to be completely honest with yourself.
Here are some questions to ask when trying to decide what your perfect business life would look like:
* How many hours weekly do you want to work on your business?
* How many hours weekly can you actually work on your business?
* Where will you do this work?
* How much money will this business need to get off the ground/grow?
* How much money do you have to actually contribute to this business?
* Do you have all the tools that you need to make this business successful?
* What systems do you already have in place that can help make this business successful?
* What makes THIS your dream business?
* If you were applying for a job at your own business, what qualities and qualifications do you possess that make you a good match for what this business needs?
* Do you have any weak spots in your skill set? How can you work on them?
* What makes you deliriously, over-the-moon happy when you envision your business life?
* Do you see yourself being able to personally grow as your business grows? Will it offer you challenges that are a good match for your personality and working style?
* Speaking of working style, do you know what yours is?
* Do you have professional and personal support — people whom you can talk things through with or lean on if you have a problem?
* Have you ever worked for yourself before? All by yourself? What did you like about it? Did you find anything especially difficult?
* What motivates you? What really gets you going?
* If you didn't make this business happen successfully, how would you feel?
* And last, but perhaps most important, how would you feel if you didn't even try?
It's important to be impeccably honest with yourself here. For example, regarding a time commitment, you may think that you can work 15 hours a week on your business, but if you're already working 35 or 40 hours full-time somewhere else and/or have other responsibilities outside of your business — like community commitments, a family, or even just errands that need to be run or a dog that needs a long walk every day — then perhaps 15 hours is too much. Really, we all need our beauty sleep!
What Direction(s) Will Your Dream Business Take?
When you're dreaming up your dreamy dream business, you need to be clear about just what exactly you want to do. This is not to say that your business can't have many different arms and components to it; this just means that you need to be very, very clear about the skills you bring to the table and just what it is that you want to do with them.
If, say, you're a graphic designer, do you want to mostly make collateral materials for people? Do you want to work with a coding professional and create websites? Would you like to focus on designing packaging for yarn companies? Do you want to design stationery? Or would you rather design signs for hip restaurants in your town? Do you dream of seeing your invitation in wedding magazines? Or would you most like to work with bands to create their album artwork and concert posters?
You get the idea. A graphic designer can go in many different directions. One main skill, awesome designing ability, can be used in so many exciting places.
Deciding on a direction is important because your business needs a home base of sorts. You need a center, a place to return to when you're overworked or confused, need to scale back, or want to build out and expand. As a creative-business owner, who are you at the core? What is it exactly that you do? Get out your journal, and finish these sentences:
* My strongest creative skill is ...
* My favorite thing to sell is ...
* My most popular product is ...
* People most ask me for ...
* When I look at the list of things I need to do for a normal day-in-the-life of my business, the thing I want to do the most is ...
* My weakest skill that I use is ...
* My least favorite project or product for my business is ...
* I love to do it, but I hardly ever sell ...
* If I never had to for my business, it would be too soon ...
OK, now look at what you've written. What do your answers have in common with one another? Do you notice a pattern in your answers? How do you feel about them? Perhaps your answers look something like:
* Monthly vegan zine
* Copywriting help
* Business cards
* Custom-designed recipe cards
* Use most forms of social media
With these answers, you will have discovered a lot about yourself in just the few minutes it took to respond to the questions. You like to write and cook, but you feel weak when it comes to photography. You can make and design printed materials, like zines and business cards and probably lots of other things. You make some money doing copywriting, but writing for hire doesn't show up anywhere else on your list.
So this Q&A session has given you a better understanding of how and where to begin building your business foundation. You now know that as you explore the nooks and crannies of business planning and development, writing will (or should!) play a strong role, and that gives you a great place to start.
Of course, questions like these aren't the only way — or maybe even the best way — for you to figure out what your foundation is. Perhaps you already know what you're exceptional at and where your skill set lies. If so, good for you! Either way, once you have some solid ideas about what it is you want to do, you need to start thinking about where you want to go with your talents. And before you can truly figure out the nuts and bolts of your amazing enterprise, whether you have a business now or you bought this book because you want to build one, you first have to know yourself.
Right about now you may be saying to yourself, Wait a second. Am I starting/expanding a business, or going into therapy?! Well, the fact of the matter is, the success of your business depends on you, and you are human. You have strengths, shortcomings, superpowers, and areas where you might want to improve. Both your personal life and your business life are comprised of the choices you make, and you can make better, stronger choices if you get really clear on where you are and where you want to go. There are no right or wrong answers. There are just choices that will change how you operate. You can always rework your choices, and you can always change your mind. That is the true beauty of being the boss and of being who you really want to be.
Over time, your answer to the next question may change, but take stock of where you are right now, at this exact point in your business: What would make you the happiest?
Dream Business Fundamentals
Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Deciding to dive in fully committed to your business is a way to tell if what you have is a sometimes-profitable hobby or if your future lies in a full-fledged business.
Do You Have a Hobby or a Business?
What's the difference between a hobby and a business? Well, to my way of thinking, a hobby is something you do because you love it and expect nothing back other than personal satisfaction. If you make a profit on it here and there, or even sell something and just recoup your costs, it's still a hobby. You love doing it, and it's nice to make a little cash on the side.
A business, on the other hand, is something you do for profit. Fortunately these days, with our new economy and our huge creative community, you can also run a business for love as well as profit (lucky us!). Running a business means that you are selling something (products or services) to make money. Your objectives are to support yourself, meet your financial goals, and be your own boss.
But to create a booming business, you'll need more than just creativity or a genius idea or loads of cash in the bank. You'll need other skills and abilities. You must simultaneously be a boss, a manager, a bookkeeper, a designer, a salesperson, a marketing director, a public relations person, and a budgeting wiz, among other talents. In fact, you're about to wear so many hats, you should consider building a walk-in closet to hold them all.
A Hobby Is Great ... and So Is a Business!
Getting back to the hobby-versus-business question, having a creative passion is a wonderful thing. Having a hobby where you also earn some money back for your time and investment is a great way to get your feet wet and see if you really want to or could turn your endeavor into a full-on business.
By all means, you could take things slow and just see how it goes. If you're not ready to jump in with both feet, there is no reason to do so. That's where business planning comes in. Working up a business plan will help you to see the directions you could take if you choose to do so, and it can help you figure out exactly what it is you're working toward.
There is nothing wrong with having a hobby that brings you much joy, offers you an outlet for your creative expression, and makes you feel good. It doesn't have to go beyond that ... unless you really, really want it to.
Where Are You Now, and Where Are You Going?
Chances are, you'll be able to relate to at least one of these scenarios:
I have no idea where I want to go because I'm not sure what my choices might be. You love to crochet, and you're good at it. The few craft fairs you've hawked your wares at have sold out. You're able to take custom requests from local folks, and you just created a website so that you can expand your sales potential. Recently a local yarn store asked if you'd like to teach classes, and people have begun to ask you for copies of your original patterns. When you step back and look at your big picture, it seems like you have many opportunities, but you don't have any idea what you really want to do or what you should focus on. All you know is that you want to turn all of these amazing chances into something profitable, but you know you can't do everything at once.
I want to grow my business. You've been plugging away and chugging along at the same pace for a while now. You've identified areas of your business that would be easy to expand, and you're up for the challenge. You're pleased with your customer base and most details of your enterprise. Your prices are good, and you're bringing in enough money to take some risks. Your nuts and bolts are mostly in place, and you are more than ready to begin a new adventure.
I want my business to stay the same but be better organized. You are happy with everything you're doing for the most part. While you love your product lines, and the response from the public is good, and the money you net makes you happy, you are feeling overwhelmed. You may have trouble shipping out your goods when you're scheduled to do so, and your studio is a mess because you don't even have the time or energy to sort out the chaos. You haven't seen your bookkeeper in months, and you're facing a big tax payment. Often, to finish up a project, you have to place an online order or run out for supplies. You know you're on the right track; you just have trouble staying on track.
I want to divest some of my business responsibilities so I can have tighter focus. Your company grew so fast! Before you knew it, your little sewing enterprise turned into a real business. You have local stores calling for products, and they need help with displays. Your online store is more empty than full because your products sell so quickly. You're thinking about seeking out a manufacturing option, but you don't have time to do the necessary research. You dream of getting back to doing what you love best: designing children's clothing. But your brain is too scattered, and the last thing you seem to have time for is what got you started in this venture to begin with.
Try writing your own example about yourself and your business. Where are you at? What are your biggest concerns? What do you want to improve the most?
Onward and Upward
No matter where you are right now, together we're going to get you to where you want to be. We're going to first examine the various directions in which you can take your company, and then break down the different components of a business plan. We'll help you to devise a strategy that will get you on track and keep you on that track — the fast track to getting what you want out of your business.
OK, let's get started!
Working for Your Vision
Starting a business or pumping up the volume on an already- operating venture is hard work. Trust me when I tell you that you'll never work harder days than the ones you work for yourself. Being your own boss is tough, and running a company while running your life can be tricky.
If you decide to do it, though, it'll be one of the best times of your life, including those exhausting days. Being fully in charge of your destiny and your future is an amazing feeling. The sense of freedom, doing what you love, and feeling accomplished goes a long way and will sustain you on even the toughest of days.
A Business Takes Work, and Plenty of It
It goes without saying that you need to be totally committed to what you're doing. Your business will demand 100 percent of whatever it is you have to give, and you have to meet it more than halfway. Being flexible is an absolute must. Sometimes things won't go your way, and sometimes the abundance of your efforts will stockpile up to the point where your head will spin.
Excerpted from "Grow Your Handmade Business"
Copyright © 2012 Kari Chapin.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Meet the Creative Collective
Part 1: Mapping Your Dream
Chapter 1: Identify Your Dream Business
-What Form Does Your Dream Business Take?
-What Direction(s) Will Your Dream Business Take?
Chapter 2: Dream Business Fundamentals
-Do You Have a Hobby or a Business?
-Where Are You Now, and Where Are You Going?
-Onward and Upward
Chapter 3: Working for Your Vision
-A Business Takes Work, and Plenty of It
-Visualize Your Perfect Workday
-Practice Mindfulness around Feelings
-Why Are You in Business?
-Formulate Your Mission Statement
Chapter 4: TLC
-Just Say No!
-Who Cares? You Do!
-Take Yourself on a Creative Retreat
Chapter 5: Goals and Intentions
-Keep Yourself Honest
-Goals versus Intentions
-Make Reasonable Goals
-Keep Track of Your Goals and Intentions
Chapter 6: Benchmarks
-Measuring Your Success
-What Does Success Look Like?
-Calculating Success One Step at a Time
Chapter 7: Get Some Help!
-Say It Loud and Say It Proud: Help!
-Mentors: Your Business Gurus
-Your Personal Board of Directors
-Build a Brain Trust
Part 2: Planning for Success
Chapter 8: Types of Business Models
-Business Model Defined
-Running Your Business from Home
-Renting a Studio or Office
-Renting a Storefront and Keeping Shop Hours
-The Off-Site Bottom Line
Chapter 9: Business Plan Preliminaries
-What Is a Business Plan, and Why Do You Need One?
-Business Plan Basics
Chapter 10: Do You Manage Your Time, or Does Your Time Manage You?
-Keep Your To-Do List in Check
-Managing Time Is Easier Than You Think
Chapter 11: The Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans
-Who Exactly Are You, Anyway?
-Business Plan Checklists
Chapter 12: Know Your Marketplace (or Marketing!)
-Know Your Industry
-Target Market, Say What?
Chapter 13: Putting It All Together: Your Marketing Plan
-Marketing through Advertising
-Marketing through the Media
Chapter 14: What Do You Make, and How Do You Make It? Having a Production Plan
-Ready, Set, Produce!
Chapter 15: Money, Money, Money
-They're Just Numbers
-Numbers 'R' Us
Chapter 16: Budgets and Budgeting
-First of All, What Exactly Is a Budget?
Chapter 17: Profit and Loss
-Detailed P&L by Department
Chapter 18: Money and How to Get Some
-Family and Friends
-Financing with Personal Credit Cards
-Finding a Way
Chapter 19: Making It All Legit
-What Kind of Business Are You?
-Going into Business with a Loved One
Chapter 20: Professional Support and Where to Find It
-Accountants and Lawyers and Agents, Oh My!
What People are Saying About This
Countless crafters have turned to The Handmade Marketplace for advice on selling their goods. Now Grow Your Handmade Business helps creative entrepreneurs achieve their long-term business goals. Kari and her contributors talk frankly about budgeting, licensing, marketing, time management, loans, taxes and even the law. Whether you are new to the handmade business world or attempting to grow your business, this book will be valuable.
If there was ever such a thing as a creative business therapist, I would be laying on the couch in Kari's office gladly throwing cash at her.
Time to bust the starving artist myth! Kari covers heavy business topics with creative flair and arms readers with knowledge they need to succeed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fans of the television series "Shark Tank" who are wanting to start a small business, but lacks a business background, will love this book! 'Growing Your Handmade Business' takes you through the steps of making your small business ownership dreams a reality. The author uses a mixture of personal experiences (both successes and failures) and sage advice from many other small business owners as she leads the reader through laying the foundation for starting a small business. The author explains the ingredients that goes into writing up a business plan, moves into generating a marketing plan, and even covers such topics as choosing a legal advisor, filing for proper licenses, aquiring funding, and rounds it out by giving instruction on setting benchmarks to ensure personal successes are being reached. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever entertained the notion of starting a small business but was fearful of trying. This book will have you dreaming up new business ventures as you thumb through its chapters learning the ins and outs of starting up and running a successful small business.