Turning Your Craft Into Business

Author: Yvette-Michelle Cottle Darby

When I was a child I spent hours creating. I explored every form of craft that I got an opportunity to learn about. When it came time to pursue a career later in life, I started off studying the sciences. It was something that I enjoyed, but I discovered I was not passionate about. Taking the path to follow my passion meant that I had to embark on a whole new learning experience. I had to ask myself what it is that I saw myself coming for many years to come and identify how I was going to get there.

The first craft fair that I attended, I remember taking a collection of items I had sewn and some of my handmade jewellery. I was not sure what people would like, but used the feedback from friends and family as a guide. I do not recall making a profit at my first show, I am sure that if I was lucky I must have just broken even. However, what I do remember is the amazing feeling of my first sale. It felt amazing that someone I did not know really liked my work and was willing to purchase it. I was blown away by the thought that something that I had created was now some else's little treasure.

Over the years my creative journey has been steady but has taken a few twist and turns. My work has evolved and I have gained so much knowledge about how to manage a creative business. Much of this knowledge have been gained through trial and error. I have also had to step out of my comfort zone on occasion and have gained a diverse amount of skills. However, twenty years later the same amazing feeling remains when someone purchases my work. Seeing my ideas transformed into something new continues to fill me with joy and a sense of accomplishment. I cannot envision my life without creativity.

One can decide to nurture their creativity through a hobby and feel a sense of fulfilment by sharing their creations with friends and family. They may even choose to keep their creations private. However, for many the desire to live a creative life extends into transforming their creativity into business. Creating and being able to support yourself and your family through your creations can be a fulfilling and economically viable career path.

Over the years I have spoken to and assisted others in this transition. Some common questions have been; How can I make a viable living with my creative works? How do I price my work? How do I overcome the challenge of shifting between artist, designer or maker to that of sales agent?

Business Potential
With any business venture it is important to identify the viability of your business. Determine if there is a market for what you do and how you will reach your target audience. A creative business is no different than other businesses in this capacity. It is important to have an in-depth understanding of your market and having a plan is crucial to your businesses growth and survival.

I have found that pricing is a challenge that many creative entrepreneurs face. The pricing is not just about the materials and time spent in creating, but placing a price on creativity. This becomes a challenge on several levels, because the balance between what the market will bear is also a factor. How does one quantify their creativity? How unique are your creations? What value does your potential clients place on your work? These questions will address the salability of your work.

Your price will also be influenced by what others are doing in your industry. Having an understanding of the overall industry can be valuable and when it comes to pricing and being up to date on what is happening to influence the market, the availability of supplies and the cost of getting it to market.

If you are not confident approaching others and selling your work, that is one area where I strongly suggest seeking the skills of another. However, like so many things, practice can make perfect. Presenting the value of your work and having the ability to connect with those that can appreciate your work can take time. The more you provide yourself with opportunities to connect with others on your work the more proficient you will become with selling your work. An agent or other professional may also be invaluable.

Online platforms have made getting your work to market easier than ever. The options available today means that you can have your work sell itself with the aid of some well chosen descriptors. This provides you with an opportunity to connect with those interested in your work at a global level. It also means that the focus can be on your work and less so on your "sales pitch."

The Transition
Moving from a "regular day job" and predictable pay-cheque is a big decision, and should be made with some thought. Take the time to learn about the creative business sector you are interested in working. Ask others about their experiences and seek the expertise of others that can fill-in the gaps in your own skills. If you have a partner or family, discuss with them your desires and plan a strategy that will work best for all those involved.

Creative Business Industry
The creative business industry is a viable and growing industry globally. However, as with any change in ones life entering with a plan can save you valuable time and money. Having an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses is also important and knowing how to work within your resources.

A creative business can be rewarding on many levels. I hope that if you are considering this carrier and life path that you will find the fulfilment you seek. We all define success differently, so I hope you find your success and an opportunity to live the creative life you want.

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