Starting your own handmade business is a real learning experience.
I’ve had to make a lot of tweaks and adjustments along the journey to where I am now.
It’s easy to look back and think about what you might have done differently but I’m also a believer that everything happens for a reason.
So today, I’ll be sharing three things that I don’t regret doing for my handmade business because it got me where I am today!
Hi, my name is Mei Pak, and I help makers, artists, and designers make a living by selling their handmade products online.
The first thing I don’t regret is that when I was first starting out, I DIY’d all my own branding.
A lot of people will tell you that unless you’re a graphic design expert, you should leave your branding to a professional.
But here’s what they don’t tell you: no professional in the entire world can give you a brand that you’ll love.
Unless you can clearly and accurately communicate your vision for what you want the brand to be.
That’s quite a bit harder than it sounds–especially when you’re first starting out.
I can tell you that when my business was new, I tried hiring people to create my branding for me.
But because I was pretty inexperienced at the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted.
And since I wasn’t able to communicate a clear vision, those projects ultimately failed.
At a certain point, I decided to take on all the branding myself.
What I didn’t realize then was that this allowed me to, take my time and really explore what I wanted Tiny Hands to be.
I will admit that this took some soul-searching since, as a maker, creating a brand vision was way outside my comfort zone.
Your brand vision is more than just a logo and some brand colors.
It’s deeply understanding who your customers are and developing the aesthetic and experience that will appeal to them.
This process of learning and exploring is exactly what helped me grow Tiny Hands from a hobby to a million-dollar business.
By DIYing all of the branding myself–and we’re talking promo material, packaging, even web design–I was able to adapt my business and actively shape it into what it is today.
It only took me multiple rebrands over the years.
Now here’s my small disclaimer.
Branding is important, and for your business, it should always be presentable.
Hiring a designer is definitely not a bad thing.
Especially if you don’t necessarily have an eye for design or if you don’t know your way around design software.
In fact, if you can find a designer who will work with you and help you develop your vision, I’m all for it!
But there’s no need to spend a ton of money here.
Some agencies will charge thousands of dollars for a branding project, and you almost always need to know exactly what you want ahead of time.
When it comes right down to it, don’t be afraid to DIY your branding.
While good design is important, it doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect–especially when you’re just starting out.
The new business my husband and I started, selling print on demand art, I designed the branding for.
It’s nothing sophisticated, and that business made $900,000 in sales in 2020.
2. Offer Giveaways
The second thing I haven’t regretted is doing giveaways!
There’s a pretty common myth floating around, that instead of growing a quality audience who engages with you and your products, giveaways only attract freebie seekers.
This is only true if you do giveaways too often.
If you spread them out and do them unpredictably, you won’t run the risk of “training” people to only visit your shop when you’re giving them something for free.
Giveaways were one of the few things that helped me grow my business in the very beginning.
I would do a giveaway once every few months on my site and on my social media accounts.
This strategy has really worked to build up both my followers and my email subscribers.
In fact, many people who found me through my giveaways have stayed on my email list for more than seven years, and they continue to buy from me year after year.
Plus, giveaways are an extremely cost-effective way to grow your audience!
The only real expense is making your prize and shipping it.
If you do it strategically, like with my Giveaway Funnel, you can even make some sales along the way.
Between the extra audience engagement, getting a few extra sales, and how easy it is to do, I’ve found that giveaways are a lot of fun and an effective way to reach more people.
As long as you don’t do them too often, they’re more than worth it!
3. Craft Shows
The third thing I don’t regret is doing craft shows.
Now, if you saw my other video called ‘things I’ll never do again,’ you may remember that I listed craft shows as one of them.
But even though I definitely don’t want to do them again, I also don’t regret them.
Doing craft shows was very, very rarely ever profitable for me.
And I did a ton of them.
That was a bit discouraging at the time, but looking back, I can see that they helped my business in ways I didn’t expect.
For example, they helped me build a local audience.
They may not have bought from me at the show itself, but they did follow me on social media or signed up for my mailing list and eventually bought from me later on.
Most of my craft shows were done in Minneapolis, and after doing shows consistently for a few years there, I started seeing my online sales to Minneapolis residents go up!
Craft shows also provided really great real-life feedback.
I was able to see how people reacted to both my brand and my products, and that kind of instant, honest feedback is basically impossible to get online.
By observing people’s behavior, I quickly learned that people either
- Thought my jewelry was super unique and the coolest thing ever, or
- They thought it was way too weird and wondered why anyone would ever buy it.
The negative reactions were always hard to swallow of course, but seeing how polarizing my products were to people, indicated to me that I was doing something right.
My ideal customers loved my products, and those who were not my ideal customers just didn’t get it.
And that’s what you want!
Speaking of negative reactions, one very unexpected benefit of going to craft shows is that they helped me build a thick skin.
Even though it’s still not very thick, it’s thicker than it was before!
I definitely heard a lot of comments that weren’t exactly nice to hear.
People would say things like, “your prices are really high,” or “I could make this myself!”
After hearing these things over and over…and over… you eventually get numb to it!
That sounds like a bad thing, but in the world of sales and business, having a thick skin means you spend way less time stewing over something someone said and more time being productive.
I will also say that craft shows can bring in good money.
The best shows I’ve had, I could make a couple of grand in total sales over a holiday weekend.
And I know there are handmade businesses out there that make their living from doing just shows.
Lastly, but certainly not least, craft shows are a great opportunity to make friends.
I really enjoyed meeting other makers and learning from them!
It’s really nice to connect with other people who are doing the same thing you are.
When you’re completely online-based, it can be really lonely when no one understands why you do what you do.
And you can feel like you have no one to talk to about your victories or your challenges.
I’ve met a lot of cool people over the years from doing shows, they’re so creative and have inspired me so much.
What are some things you don’t regret doing in your business? Let me know in the comments below!
And don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more great handmade business tips and tricks.