Getting Clear on What You Want Out of Your Handmade Business

One of the things we've noticed in talking with thousands of makers about their businesses, is that frustrations often come when makers don't have a clear idea about what they want out of their business. They think they see a business on Instagram or see them on store shelves and think "Yes, I want that!" But the realities of that are much different than they realize. 

We talk with three makers about how they adjusted expectations and had mindset shifts that helped them grow their businesses.

Adri Luna: Adri Luna Studio
Kansas City, Missouri

Q: Tell us about your big business shift and the mindset shift that went along with that.
A: My big business shift occurred when I realized I was doing too much. It's a slippery slope when you start a business. When I decided to start selling I made an Etsy shop and then a website. This should have been enough but just starting out I had a fear of missing out on everything that would bring in sales. 

So within three months of starting my business, I had:
- opened an Etsy
- opened Aftcra
- opened a shop on my website
- opened a Shopenvy stores

Because I was brand new to selling and still figuring out how to run all the platforms I didn't learn how to properly use any of the platforms. I had 20 listings on Etsy and Aftcra, five on my personal website and I was not selling anything. 

Additionally, to have opening four shops at the same time (that sounds so insane now), I would upload random images to social media with no intention past uploading something because you should do it consistently. I would post blurry or sub-par photos because I didn't have time to set up the scene again. Social media because a huge burden instead of a way to connect with people because I signed up for Instagram, a Facebook business page, Twitter, Tumblr, etc... I also tried to sell work through Instagram, because I saw other people doing it. 

Finally, in 2015 I decided that I was working 40+ hours on my business and not making sales and something had to change. I finally buckled down and decided to focus on Etsy and Etsy only. I made sure my website was adequate and directing people to my Etsy shop and stopped working on all other projects.

It took me a year working the hard way to test and try things out until I finally started seeing some changes. In the middle of 2015 I purchased an Etsy class and made drastic changes that I would not have made on my own. From 2013 to 2016 I had made 100 sales (and most of those were in person at craft fairs.) From 2016 to 2017 I made 100 sales in one year and I am on track to break that record for 2017. 

Q: What was the process of letting go of the "old way" and was there a turning point in your shift?
A: Once I decided to stop doing everything under the sun and focus on one thing then things changing dramatically. It was very difficult to realize I was sabotaging myself and I still have to check myself when I start seeing a new project.

But once I started making consistent sales on Etsy I decided to go back to my website and focus building that up instead of trying a new platform.

Now I am getting custom orders through my website because I am making changes with intention and focus. My website and Etsy bring in customers so I want to make sure I have done everything possible to make that grow instead of starting from scratch. 

Q: How did this impact your business?
A: Because of these changes, I was able to raise my prices because sales were increasing and I can focus on creating bigger, custom pieces instead of cranking out smaller affordable pieces to break even. 

I am growing my business in a stronger, smarter way. Instead of trying to be on every site that sells and spreading myself thin I am going to focus on a marketing strategy and implementing the changes that keep Etsy and my website profitable. "    

Q: Anything else?
A: Accountability partners or working with mentors can make all the difference. Sometimes you get in your own head or your signed up for 300 emails all telling you what you should do.

At one point I was listing off the platforms I was selling on and someone asked me if I was making a profit on any of them... and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Without that conversation I might still be trying to sell my work on every single site out from Amazon Handmade to craft fairs and making no sales.  

Sunday White: kNiTpUnK
Portland, Oregon

sundaywhite

Q: Tell us about your big business shift and the mindset shift that went along with that.
A: Originally started with a friend that wanted some of my pieces to sell in her store. Creation, inspiration and dreams occurred and shortly after I realized, I do not like production work.

I "woke up" to my "it is ok to say no" moment. I know that I am not going to sell a bunch of small knit items. I love to make custom, one-of-a-kind pieces from hand-dyed and hand-spun fibers. This means I am building a following and looking for slow growth. I love commissions and I love making items that mark events in your life. Physical memories and sculptural reminders of events. Gifts to others and to ourselves.     

Q: What was the process of letting go of the "old way" and was there a turning point in your shift?
A: Saying yes, getting overbooked and not enjoying my work was a turning point. I got overloaded. I got bored with my projects. I finished those orders and have not looked back. :)  I have a day job, this is not my only means of income, so I do require that I actually like what I am doing.     

knitpunk

Q: How did this impact your business?
A: No notable impact. Instead of making a bunch of $20 items, I am playing the long game. That said, kNiTpUnK is only about two years old.     

Q: Anything else?
A: Nope. still learning. Still experimenting. Still perfecting my site, myself, my offerings. :) 

Wendy Vitzthum: Av Jorden
Denver, Colorado

wendyavjordan

Q: Tell us about your big business shift and the mindset shift that went along with that.
A: There are so many courses and resources out there for small businesses it can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren't careful, all you will be doing is "taking classes" and not fully tending to your business.

It seemed like I was researching classes and trying to absorb all the knowledge more than I was actually working on growing my shop. I started to get stressed out and decided enough was enough. I came up with a plan that changed my world and put it into action.

Q: What was the process of letting go of the "old way" and was there a turning point in your shift?
A: What I have found helpful is to focus in on what area I am struggling most in, what area do I need the most help? Then I find a course or a resource by someone who really resonates with me. Once I feel like I have a good handle on improving the area I am struggling with, I will take a month to really work on it before I begin to look at the next area that needs help. It has been so freeing!  

AVjordan

Q: How did this impact your business?
A: By putting this plan into action I was able to focus more on my business and begin working on what I needed help with most. This not only helped me be less stressed, it helped me start to grow.