A couple of weeks ago I had a meeting with someone from the local Small Business Administration (SBA). I got a lot out of the meeting and would recommend that any artist who is having trouble with or just needs some advice on the business side of art give it a try. My meeting was specifically about writing a business plan. It is something you have to do if you want to get funding, but my goal is to be able to provide myself with a road map with some clear goals.
I went in concerned that I was crazy to want to dive into a full-fledged craft business in a rocky economy. One of the first things that the counselor told me was that the art and craft market is a little different from other sales markets. In part, this is because people buy the connection with the artist as much as they are buying a unique item. So one suggestion she gave me is to make myself, not just my product, stand out. A bad economy is not necessarily a bad time to start a craft business. Planning and hard work can make it viable.
Another suggestion the counselor gave me was to go over my prices carefully. She said artists and crafters tend to undervalue their time. I am certainly guilty of not tracking my time very well. It can be difficult to do when balancing working at home and caring for an exuberant young child. But I have started recording the time I sit down to work and the time I get up, even if only for a moment. It has been an eye opener.
Finally, the counselor gave me some great general advice on craft fairs. She said that each craft fair is a different market. What sells at one may not sell at another even if they are close geographically. It can take some trial and error to figure out what to bring to each fair. She also suggested bringing a portfolio of my work that includes items that I have sold or that I didn’t include in the fair. With this customers can see the full range of what I can do. If I advertise that I take commissions and do custom work, I may be able to get more sales.
My first craft fair is coming up soon (Applefest in Peru,NY on Sept 17 and 18). I hope that I can use what I have learned and make it a successful and enjoyable experience.
As for new work, I have a lot of it. Here is a sample of some of my most recent.