Earlier this year I joined up with the East Bay Arts Collective and for the month of November they have featured me on their blog,
I highly recommend for anyone who usually works alone to get together from time to time with fellow crafters and artists for mutual support, learning and inspiration. It can get lonely and discouraging without input and direction from others and it has really helped me to talk with peers and friends through any issues I may be experiencing, or triumphs I want to share.
When I first started my side business earlier this year I had some previous experience in retail and marketing to draw on, but I learned quickly how hard it is to wear all the hats that go along with being an entrepreneur as well as having a full time 9-5 job. What makes me happiest is thinking up and creating new designs, but also to sell in person at craft fairs and have a real hands-on approach to the sales. Unfortunately that is only 1/3 of what I need to be doing to make this become a successful sustainable business.
At first I started with my online Etsy store and had a couple dozen designs that I had been experimenting with. Testing the waters so to speak. When online sales were slow I didn’t get discouraged, I just kept creating and crafting away until I had a nice collection going and decided I had enough product to display in a booth at a craft fair. My first venture wasn’t a small local craft fair, I decided to open with a big splash and signed up for San Francisco’s Haight St Festival and a friend joined me to display her art work too. I really wasn’t mentally prepared for what a large drain it would be on my energy, at times exhilarating and also exhausting with the large number of people who came out. Mostly it wasn’t the right crowd for my crafty wares, but with the sheer number that came by I did really well sales wise and had a ton of compliments. A real eye opener to what could be possible with the right clientele.
A few lessons I’ve learned since then:
1. Say “Yes” as often as possible without stretching yourself too thin. Even if you are unsure about how successful a venture or project may turn out to be, its better to just do it and learn from it. Sometimes a poor event may lead to a wonderful new contact or friend, its really what you make of it.
2. Get HELP! Don’t assume you can handle it all on your own. Nothing is more draining than sitting at a table/booth all by yourself all day. Alternatively if there is something you are not good at (accounting, marketing, maintaining your online etsy store etc) and don’t enjoy…ask for assistance from members in your community, family, or hire outside help. There’s no time like the present for building your support system and you’ll be happily surprised that once you ask how often people really want to help make you a success. If you don’t have $$ to hire, sometimes a trade in skills is the way to go.
3. Stay inspired. Whenever I feel that my creative side needs a pick-me-up I head outdoors and away from the glue gun or computer. Take a walk, see an art show or movie, browse in the bookstore, or go for a short trip out of town. Taking a break from the grind can revitalize and rejuvenate me, I highly recommend.
Lastly, keep learning. I constantly try to improve my process. In design, in marketing, for my online presence, and thinking about where I will go with this business in the future. Staying focused but open to opportunity is my strategy and here’s hoping it works!