Turn Your Hobby into a Moneymaking Business

You've decided on the crafts you'd like to sell, you've set up your office and learned how to set prices. Now you just need someplace to sell them.

Beyond the selling opportunities you may already be taking advantage of -- at church functions, to other women in your social circle or in your neighborhood -- there are a variety of places you can show your wares and get customers. The list below breaks down these outlets and describes how they work. The exercise that follows will help you determine which venue is right for you.

  • Bazaars and flea markets
  • Festivals and fairs
  • Arts and crafts shows
  • Consignment shops
  • Websites
  • Bazaars and Flea Markets
    These are usually sponsored by churches, schools, clubs or other organizations as fundraisers. Included in this group are open-air markets, antique and craft shows and theme events such as car shows, bake sales, sporting events, air shows and the like. Although the cost of entering these shows is usually very low, the return in sales can be too. A National Craft Association survey of professional artisans showed that this type of show tends to attract more fun-seeking browsers than buyers. If "flea market" is included in its description, it draws bargain hunters looking for "super low-low prices." The merchandise that does sell is usually priced from $1 to $15. You may find that it's not worth taking part for more than one day.

    Festivals and Fairs
    These shows are usually sponsored by a civic group, a merchant or neighborhood association, or a municipality. They're often located right on the sidewalks of main streets, or on the grounds of museums and town halls or in public parks. The deciding factor here is to understand the content of the event. If it's advertised as an arts-and-crafts show, be sure that handmade products dominate in the show's promotion. Ask the organizer who participated last year and request to see some examples of last year's promotional material. You should also make sure that the arts and crafts booths are integrated with the entertainment and food stands, where the main traffic is. On average, the highest selling price at such shows is $50 or so, though higher-priced products do sell, depending on the item.

    Arts and Crafts Shows
    These are professionally produced shows for the specific purpose of promoting the sale of handcrafted art or craft items. The show can be located indoors or outdoors, at a convention center, shopping mall or a commercial building.

    Arts and crafts shows are usually broken into categories by type: fine art, fine craft and traditional arts and crafts. Whatever show you're considering, be sure that it's one that attracts the kind of customer most likely to buy your type of work. If you do a country theme, then a show that caters to an upscale urban crowd probably won't work for you, and vice versa. Talk with the promoter and other vendors to find out more about the show's theme.

    Consignment Shops
    When you place items in a shop on consignment, you're sharing the risk with the shop or gallery owner. Shops that sell on consignment usually do not charge monthly fees. Instead they take commission on each item sold -- usually about 40 percent. A few questions to ask yourself when selling on consignment:

  • Do you set the prices or does the shop?
  • Is the shop responsible for loss or damage?
  • Do you get paid when the item sells, or within a week, two weeks, a month?
  • Does the shop agree to display the items in the sales area during the contract, not stuff them in a stock room?

The Internet allows you to sell to anyone in the world. And Website creation software makes getting up and running easier than ever. To use a site most effectively, use these tips:

  • Be clear on the site's purpose. Decide whether it will be a place to sell wares, provide information and support, or simply act as an online brochure by prompting people to call an 800 number to place orders. For example, an online brochure will simply tell people about your products and prices, describe the features and inform them how to get more information or order. If you're going to allow online ordering, you'll need to provide a secure connection for people entering credit card numbers and other features, which will require a more robust site.
  • Avoid unnecessary graphics. Displaying pictures of your goods is essential, but lots of flashy graphics or complex illustrations can increase download time for potential customers. Focus your attention on using images that show the products and highlight the quality, craftsmanship and colors, and forget about the fancy bells and whistles.
  • Make it easy to order. Provide adequate information about the products, get a credit card payment platform such as PayPal, and streamline the ordering process as much as possible.
  • Keep visitors on your site longer by providing free content and information about your crafts in general, ideas for gift-giving and so on. Many customers may be interested in learning, say, how exactly you make your handmade soaps or they may want guidance in buying an appropriate gift basket for a boss or relative. By providing information, you give them a reason to stay and browse the site, even if initially they weren't planning to buy. And the longer they stay, the more likely they'll be to buy.

Turn Your Hobby into a Home Business Exercise 3: Pick the Best Venue for Your Craft

How can you decide which venue is right for selling your wares? The best way is to imagine your ideal buyer. Is she a working woman looking for quick gift ideas? If so, a Website where she could order your products would be good. Is she a stay-at-home mom who's looking for inexpensive but unique party favors? Then an arts and crafts show or festival might be a good option. Ask yourself these questions to determine who you buyers would be:

  • When is your buyer most likely to want your product? (Example: before and during the winter holidays, at the start of the new school year, all year)
  • If you were your buyer, what would be enough to entice you to buy? (Example: an image of the item, seeing the product up close, word-of-mouth from a friend)
  • What problems does your product solve for the buyer? (Example: allows her to decorate for the holidays inexpensively, provides her with learning toys for her children)
  • Who will not be interested in your product? (Example: women without children, people who don't like "country style" decorations)
  • Where is your buyer likely to go for more information about your type of product? (Example: on the Internet, to a library, to a local store)
  • How Web-savvy is your customer?

  • Write out a description of who you believe will want your product (this can be more than one type of person) then -- using the list above -- target several of the outlets for selling. You can research these options by asking about them at arts and crafts stores, searching the Web and looking through trade show publications, which are often available at the library. A good organization to start with is the National Craft Association, a trade organization for beginners and seasoned professionals, and its list of trade shows. You can also get the advice experienced crafters on the Crafters' Home Business board.

    Next, you'll learn how to market your product effectively and affordably so potential customers know about you!

Adapted with the permission of Alpha Books, Barbara Arena

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