Have you ever spent the weekend sewing, painting, crafting, gardening, restoring old furniture or any other hobby for that matter, and thought to yourself, “Now this is fun. I wish I could do it for a living?” Who hasn’t? Only 20 years ago, that may have been a pipe dream. But with the advent of the Internet and its numerous e-commerce opportunities, thousands of people are finding that generating cash from your hobbies is one of the best part time money making ideas. With a little bit of know-how, you can, too!
The crafting world is so varied, it’s impossible to provide one solid start-up figure. Yours will depend upon your materials cost–less for the knitter, more for the metal smith, for example. Other than materials, your primary cost will be for your online venue. Fortunately, these vary widely in price (see more information about this in our article 10 Sites for Selling Your Creative Masterpieces). Some charge nothing for registration, but take a small transaction fee on every sale. Others charge for registration. If you choose a company which provides an e-commerce platform, be prepared to pay a monthly fee. Typically, you’ll choose from service packages, ranging in cost from $25 to $200, depending on the options you want. Depending on materials costs, therefore, you can begin your business for as little as a one time investment of less than $100 to as much as $500 (or more) per month.
How Much Can You Make With This Money Making Idea?
Just like your costs, your income can vary widely, depending on the type of crafts you sell, the amount you charge, and business costs. If you sell high-quality sculptures, or sew museum-quality reproduction costumes, you’ll make much more than is you sell Afghans or beaded jewelry. When you start out with, expect to go for a few weeks (or even months) with no income and then ramp up to maybe $100-$500 per month, on average as you find your first customers.
Remember, the two things that ultimately determine how much you make are – (a) how good you are at your craft and (b) how good your marketing skills are. If you noticed, I did not mention what you sell in that list – simply because, if you have good marketing skills, you will find a way to sell whatever it is you make. That said, for most of us non-marketers, this seems intimidating at first. But the good news is, it really is not as hard as you think it might be. If you have kids and you have convinced them to drink their milk, do their homework, stay out of trouble etc, you already know a lot of marketing principles. You just need to apply it to a wider audience. No kidding. (And for you youngsters out there, if you have convinced your parents to let you go to a late night party, or to let you drive, or managed to wiggle out of your chores – there you have you first lessons in marketing and selling your ideas )
Once you pick up some marketing skills and pair it with your creative pursuits, the potential for income is practically limitless.
Here are some things you’ll need:
A source of affordable supplies:
This needs to be reliable, so you can keep up your inventory in sync with the demand, and more importantly, keep it reasonably priced so you can make a profit.
A list of projects you can do well:
If you are looking for a past-time, any half-baked idea is fine – as a matter of fact, the less you know the more fun it is in figuring things out. But if you wish to earn an income from it, you need to identify the projects you are good at as you can create an inventory of high quality items to keep customers happy.
A smoke-free, pet-free area for crafting and storage:
Many customers have sensitivities and will not buy items that have been exposed to allergens such as smoke, mold, or pet hair. So you need to make sure you have a place free of these allergens where you can store your supplies and create your master pieces.
A good online venue:
There are numerous online sites which will let you connect with potential customers either through simple listings or by creating your own online shop. They vary widely in price, style, and benefits. You need to pick one that is right for you! (We will cover Etsy in detail in a future article – stay tuned)
A system to keep track of inventory, earnings, costs, and taxes:
Many e-commerce sites offer inventory control, tax calculators, and other tools. You can take advantage of those of use other methods you are comfortable with to keep accurate profit/loss statements for tax purposes.
Shipping materials and funds for postage:
Although you will almost certainly charge for postage, you won’t always have that money immediately. Be sure to set aside funds for shipping. And stock up on shipping materials whenever you can find a good deal. For instance, as of the writing of this article, you can request a free flat rate shipping kit containing four flat rate boxes and four flat rate envelopes via the USPS website.
Business letterhead, cards, invoices, receipts, etc.:
These will enable you to conduct correspondence in a professional manner and create a personal brand. As you start out these are not quite necessary, but as you get established start paying attention to creating a personal brand and nurturing repeat customers so you can take your income potential to the next level.
Most people who sell crafts online love it because….
- They can work from home/dorm. Unless you need specialized equipment, you can go to work in your bathrobe. If you are a veteran crafter who has spent years traveling from show to show, you know what a definite plus this is!
- You can set your own hours. Work in the morning, late at night, throughout the day, or just on weekends. If a special event comes up–spring break, exams, you fall sick etc., you can just take the time off.
- You’ll meet other crafters and artists. Few human experiences are more satisfying than meeting “kindred spirits.” Whether you find yours at a show, or in an online forum, you’ll enjoy the camaraderie and helpful advice.
- You get to be creative. When you’re given the opportunity to practice your craft constantly, your skills will improve. That in turn brings in more customers. It’s a heady experience, and that confidence will spill over into other areas of your life.
- You’ll gain business knowledge. Whether it’s handling a customer complaint, spotting a scam, or marketing, your business knowledge will expand, providing another valuable skill set.
- They do not need to find childcare. And for those of you with kids, one of the biggest perks of working at home, and a big money-saver, is that you don’t have to worry about childcare. Again, this depends to a certain extent on what your craft is. And if your children are old enough, they can help with craft production or shipping.
Sooner or later, even the most enjoyable work becomes a job. Here are pitfalls you may encounter.
- Trouble with time management. You may have problems finding or managing your work time, or you could find yourself working non-stop. Either way, it’s a problem.
- No support system. Sometimes, no matter how much they love us, our family and friends do not take our dreams or jobs as seriously as we do. Oddly enough, this cavalier attitude seems to decrease when the money starts coming in.
- High expenses, no cash reserves. Many businesses fail because their owners were not prepared for dry spells. It is unusual to make money in your first few weeks/months/years in business. You need a savings account large enough to cover your costs for the months in which you make no profit.
- Boredom. Many activities are fun–until you have to do them all the time. The day may come when you never want to throw another pot–unless it’s against the wall. You’ll need to persevere for your business to succeed.
Ways to Make Money
There are many different ways you can make money from your crafts (rest assured, we will cover all of them sooner or later on this site) and it all depends on which direction you want to take things, and/or which direction life takes you –
Simply sell you crafts
You’ll find an online market for practically anything you create, as long as it’s well-made, and well-marketed. When you think of making money from a craft/hobby, most people only think of this option. But don’t limit yourself to this.
Teach your craft
What comes naturally to you may seem impossible to someone. If that someone is interested enough, they may be willing to pay for it. So, while you are working on your marketing efforts to sell your crafts, start offering private lessons to create some extra money.
Sell an info product (eBook, eCourse etc)
If you are not technically inclined, this may seem like a Herculean task. But seriously, it is not as hard as it seems. All you need to do is put together everything about one aspect of your craft (ex: how to make beautiful crochet receiving blankets) into words. Next you can either put this together into an eBook of eCourse format yourself, or hire someone (look on freelance sites such as elance and odesk) to do it for you. The nice part is once you get past this stage (one-time effort) you can generate income for a long time to come with very little additional work.
Blog about it
OK, lets be realistic – a blog is probably the most difficult way to earn a living. That said, you should consider starting a blog anyway, because it will help you establish yourself as a “brand” and an “authority” in your field. This will help you generate income using one of the other approaches above – such as selling the crafts, teaching or offering eBooks and eCourses. Even though it is not easy, you could potentially also make some small income directly from the advertising and affiliate sales on the blog itself.
Nurture a community
If you set up a blog and things take off, you can consider nurturing a community. Think of membership sites and tradeshows. Or set up a community on a site like etsy. The nice thing about membership sites are once you have a member, say with a monthly fee, as long as you provide consistent value to them, they will probably continue being a member. This means that you will have recurring income month after month!
Get into the business of selling supplies
You know of some wholesale avenues which can offer you the supplies in bulk for a cheap rate? Then consider selling those supplies for a small profit. You can do this by setting up an eBay store and may even be able to take advantage of dropshipping.
Get creative – Host sale “parties” and “Holiday Bazars”
Finally, if you are as creative about your marketing efforts as with your crafts, you can get together a bunch of like minded people and host craft sale parties and holiday bazaars. Talk with management folks at corporate office building and set things up in their lobby at lunch time. Or in the mall or other busy places. As I mentioned before, this requires some creativity, but sky is the limit!
With effort and imagination, you can take your crafting business from a pin-money-enterprise to a financial empire. Just ask Martha Stewart.
Other Things You Should Know
Whether you like the term or not, once you start making money from your crafts, you are a business owner. And as such, you should keep abreast of state, local and federal tax laws, as well as regulations which may affect where and how you make your products. Keep your business and personal accounts separate; to combine them is to court disaster.
Finally, in commerce, two principles remain constant: quality products, and good customer service. No matter what you sell, those practices will make you, and your money making ideas, a success.