Has this happened to you? You started a new hobby (maybe embroidery?) and have fallen in love with it. In fact, you love it so much that you are developing quite a collection of finished projects!
Your friends, family have noticed, and love your work. “Wow, you should sell these!” a few of them say.
The daydreaming starts.
You start thinking to yourself, What if I did?
What would it take to start selling my work?
I would have no idea where to start when it comes to pricing and promoting it!
Will I lose money?
Thankfully, switching your hobby to a business can be a very lucrative venture, if you keep a few crucial things in mind.
In this article, I’ll help you look at it objectively so you can start planning and launching your handmade business!
Are you ready to take your embroidery hobby to the next level?
The good news is that you most likely have everything you need to get started, material-wise, and you know where to get more because you've been doing it as a hobby for a while, so that part is taken care of!
Now you just need to figure out a few logistics.
First, if you are serious about turning your hobby into a business, promise to give yourself a good amount of time to allow it to become the business you want. I suggest committing to it for a year. This will give time for you to work out through any speed bumps along the way and adjust as needed. It also allows you to gather some reliable data on how your business is performing and perform the necessary adjustments to keep a steady profit margin.
Become an expert!
First, you want to make sure you focus on what you do well. Even within embroidery, you can niche down to any number of things. Take the time to choose what you do well and develop your skills even further, working towards becoming the expert in that area!
Start small and don’t worry about expanding until you are established in one particular area. For example, some embroiderers niche down to making the best baby blankets on the market. Others niche down to embroidering logos on company shirts or caps. Still, others applique baby shirts as their business!
There is always room to expand your product line or services as your business grows, but niching down allows you to really become the expert without becoming overwhelmed.
Here are a few ways I recommend working towards building your skills:
-Take a course for a focused approach to learning. Often, courses will cut out the fluff and give you what you really need to move forward, making it well worth the money. (Try the Sew Sweet Academy!)
-Watch as many free videos as you can. My YouTube channel has dozens that will help you learn!
-Join a Facebook or other group of like-minded people. My Sew Sweet to Learn group on Facebook is free to join!
Money, money, money!
Selling your products is no fun if you are losing money! So even though you love your hobby and would do it either way simply for the enjoyment of it, it’s important to create a business that makes money, not leaks it.
Start by limiting your spending at the beginning. Don’t feel like you need to build a huge website, stock up on more supplies than your local sewing store, or pay for marketing off the bat. Those things will come as you grow. In the beginning the most important things to focus on are:
-creating high-quality work
-providing excellent customer service
-making it easy for people to find you (social media is great for that and it’s FREE!)
To keep track of what you are spending, save your receipts. You can use them to write off supplies, equipment, travel, shipping supplies, internet usage, and more, so it’s a win-win!
Also, keep detailed records, even at the beginning. If you master it now, it will be easier as you grow! You can use a simple spreadsheet to track expenditures vs. income. Track everything on it, including internet bills and anything you buy online that helps with your business; even if you are buying a spending tracker form from Etsy because this seems overwhelming, for example!
Speaking of money, what should I charge?
Ah, the cornerstone of every hobbyist's questions; how much to charge?
You will find many different answers and formulas online. The best one is really just the one that works for you! But here’s what I have found works well.
First, keep track of how long it takes you to do a project from start to finish, as well as what the materials cost approximately. It’s important to keep these things in mind, as well as overhead costs when you are calculating your final price. A good formula to use is:
Overhead costs divided by the approximate number of items you make in a month (internet, gas, marketing, etc)
Production costs (cost of materials and your time)
Profits (average is 10%)
Markup (used to absorb the costs of guarantees, free shipping or other incidentals. I usually calculate it at 20-30%)
We go into more detail on this in the Sew Sweet Academy, but this is the basic formula to make sure that you charge a fair amount while still making a profit.
Show the World!
It’s time to get your amazing work out there! But, how do you start?
If your friends and family know about your new business, that’s usually the best place to start. Word of mouth is by far the most powerful marketing tool there is! As a side note, you can use testimonials from these happy customers to further promote your products online.
As you start selling, be sure to integrate the best and most often overlooked part of marketing, excellent customer service! After all, referrals are one of the very best marketing tools there is, and a happy customer will always refer you to friends!
Social media has become one of the top ways to market a business in recent years, and it integrates well with Word of Mouth marketing. Post your item to an Instagram account, make a reel or tik tok, or just talk about what makes your product awesome.
There’s really no better way to get your items in front of a lot of eyes, really fast. Be aware though that using social media to grow your business can take awhile, so consistency is key. Commit to posting at least a couple of times a week, and if you can, use a giveaway as a promotion to get the ball rolling!
Don’t be afraid to show off your uniqueness. Celebrate your personal style, or develop a signature item or design to set your work apart.
Other effective ways to promote are:
-get business cards made
-use the internet to network with fellow business owners
-network with people in your community
-join a chamber of commerce
-take part in small business seminars or conferences in your community
Planning to turn your hobby into a business is a very realistic goal, and if you keep these things in mind as you start, it will be a step that you will be very happy you took!