Have you ever wanted to start a handmade business, but were worried about how much it would cost?
Starting your own business can feel totally overwhelming – especially when you just aren’t sure what the initial expenses will be.
For planning purposes, you want to avoid any unwanted financial surprises.
That’s why today, I’ll break down the cost of starting a handmade business for you!
You’ll know exactly what to expect as you get started and it’s not as expensive as you might think.
My name is Mei Pak and I help makers, artists, and designers make a living by selling their handmade products online.
I’ve started a handful of successful online businesses myself, from Tiny Hands to Creative Hive and the new art shop my husband and I started in 2019, and I’m excited to share my insight with you.
Just for Business
Before we get started, just know that this list is for the business side of things.
It doesn’t include any money spent on materials and supplies to make your product.
That’s going to largely depend on what you make.
The one note I will mention is don’t fall into the trap of spending all your money on materials and supplies.
Ideally, you’ll want to allocate 80% of your budget to business and marketing, and the remaining 20% on materials and supplies.
I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but you really don’t need a lot of inventory or products, in the beginning, to start making sales.
It’s also important to note that prices change all the time, so be sure to check for updated prices before you make a purchase.
The pricing in this post will still give you a great idea of what to expect financially moving forward.
You just might find that it’s more affordable than you thought or that it’s something I don’t recommend paying money for in the beginning!!
Now, let’s get into it!
If you choose to sell directly from your own Shopify site, you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription.
I highly recommend going this route even in the beginning.
You will keep 100% of the earnings (instead of sharing a cut with a third-party service) and have so much more freedom and control as a seller.
Shopify makes purchasing super easy for your customers and you, and if buying from you is easy, you’ll make more sales in turn.
If you need more details about why I recommend Shopify, check out this video here.
A monthly subscription to Shopify is $29/month.
If that seems steep, it really is worth it and you’ll make your money back quickly coupled with the right marketing strategies.
This might feel like one of the pricier purchases you make, but it’ll also be one of the best investments for your business.
You’ll make up that cost with your sales, and you won’t have to take a cut from third-party sites like Etsy or Amazon, which can take up to 25% of your total sales.
You’re also going to want a business email address.
A business email address is where you have your domain name after the @ symbol.
For example, [email protected] this helps you look like a professional shop that people can trust.
It’s also a good practice to separate your personal emails from your business ones.
With a business email address, you can do email marketing, which allows you to send email newsletters in bulk to your email list of people that signed up for them.
You can’t do that with a personal Gmail or Yahoo account.
I mean, you can, but that’s called spam.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: can’t I just set up a second email address for free?
I’ve seen people who have free Gmail accounts like [email protected]
Honestly, I still wouldn’t recommend doing that, not if you want to be professional.
When you pay for a business email, you’re essentially paying to make it easy for people to trust you.
And trust is super important to have with your customers when you’re a new online shop.
A business email address from Google is $6/month. Not terribly expensive and you’ll find it’s well worth the price.
If you get one from Google, it’s using the same Gmail service you’re probably already used to using, which is a nice perk.
Not to mention Gmail has a ton of great extensions that help you be more productive.
If you’re starting a handmade business, you’re also going to need to take excellent pictures of your products for your website.
That means good lighting and crisp, clear photos.
I cannot emphasize the importance of professional looking photos enough.
If you’re taking blurry or dark pictures on a flip phone, no one is going to buy your product.
They just won’t trust that the product is worth the price.
You work hard creating your product, so do it the justice of a great, professional photoshoot.
Otherwise, you’re just underselling yourself.
If you have a newer smartphone, you can use that to take your pictures, but you’ll still need to make sure the lighting is on point!
Photography lighting kits, studios, or lightboxes range in price from $15 to $100, depending on the size.
You can decide which level is best for your product by checking out the reviews for the lighting kits and doing some careful research.
I’ve gotten all my lighting equipment on Amazon, so that’s a good first place to check out.
You can DIY your own lights, but you’ll still need to buy the correct colored light bulbs.
If you sell art as wall decor or other physical products like mugs or t-shirts, you can always choose to use stock photos instead of taking your own pictures.
They have a large variety of photos to choose from, so you should have no problem running out of content.
After you’ve photographed your products, you’ll need to edit them in photo editing software.
Photoshop is a popular choice which costs about $21/month.
If you’re really strapped for cash, you can use a free software called Gimp that can edit your photos in the exact same way as Photoshop.
I have a great tutorial here for how to use Gimp to edit your photos.
Email marketing is another useful tool to use when starting your business.
Email marketing will help you develop relationships with potential customers and turn total strangers into first-time buyers and eventually, into loyal customers.
If you think you don’t need email marketing, think again.
A 2018 survey by GetResponse found that email is the most effective digital technique for marketing.
Yep, that’s right.
Even in the age of social media madness, email is actually better than social media to reel in those customers.
And I’ve personally seen this to be true in all my businesses.
Email is one of the biggest assets you have in your business.
How much money you make is directly tied to how many people you have on your email list.
The great news is that you can get started with email marketing for free!
Check out MailerLite.com, a site designed to curate advanced email marketing campaigns, at no cost to you when you’re just starting out!
It’s way better than Mailchimp, and all their cool money-making features are free to use up to your first 1000 subscribers.
This is a wonderful place to begin your email marketing journey as a newbie.
You’ll have access to everything you need to set up a successful campaign, even if you aren’t totally sure how.
Just like any business needs a professional email address, any business also needs great copywriting.
Your products need product descriptions!
It’s what often leads a person to clicking that “buy now” button.
People are less likely to buy from you if you don’t have product descriptions or if they aren’t great.
If you choose to do your own copywriting, you won’t have to pay a dime (plus, you know your products better than anyone).
You may feel that this is the best move for you.
There are plenty of YouTube tutorials and online blogs that will help you to craft the perfect copy.
I have some videos here that talk about how to write great product descriptions.
At the same time, copywriting isn’t for everyone.
I suck at it!
So much goes into running a successful business, that you might find it’s better to save yourself the time and energy of writing copy and delegate that particular role to someone else.
You can check out some great copywriters on Fiverr, where pricing starts at just $5 per product description.
You can also check out a recent video I did where I hired and reviewed three different copywriters from Fiverr.
This is the best option for anyone who wants to focus on the other aspects of business – or who just doesn’t have a particular knack for writing copy.
Packing and Shipping
When it comes to packing and shipping your products do not go too crazy.
See how you can get a box or mailer size that can be a one-size-fits-all for your products.
That way you don’t have to stock up on too many different-sized boxes or mailers.
You can get 25 boxes or mailers to start out with, for under $30 on eBay or Amazon.
Another tip: if you ship using USPS Priority Mail, you can use their Priority boxes free of charge.
You’ll definitely want to buy a roll of bubble wrap, but again, now is not the time to buy these things in bulk.
We want to stay as lean as possible with our spending.
How you actually pack your product depends on what you sell but you’ll definitely want to account for packaging supplies for that too.
Whether that’s with:
- a velvet pouch
- a hang tag
- a plastic sleeve
- or maybe even a gift box
My challenge for you is not to spend more than $75 here on all your packing and shipping supplies.
Just like your product materials, it can be easy for us to overspend here.
In terms of shipping software, there are a lot of options you can choose from.
In the beginning, you can keep things simple with PirateShip, which is totally free to use.
If you don’t have a shipping scale, you don’t have to buy one just yet if you have a kitchen or bathroom scale.
You can do a lot for free (or for very little) if you’re willing to put in the muscle grease.
- Market for free on social media using hashtags
- Build an audience from free Facebook networking or word of mouth
- Media outreach to get your products on popular blogs, magazines, or even TV shows
- Use stock images instead of your own photography
If you can spare the time and really get creative, you can make strides without spending much money at all.
It just might take a little bit longer to grow, so brace yourself for a few slow months when you’re starting out, especially if all of your marketing is done through social media.
If you try to do everything yourself, you might save a little money, but get exhausted fast. So don’t feel bad if you need to pay for some extra help.
Your business will benefit from all the money you can put into it.
The more money you can invest in your business, the faster it’s going to grow.
If you can only afford a little, check out my video here on what I would do if I were completely broke.
Don’t let a lack of finances keep you from starting the business of your dreams.
Are you starting a handmade craft business? Tell me about it in the comment section below!
Don’t forget to also check out my YouTube Channel so you stay up to date on the latest insight and advice when it comes to handmade business tips for growing your business.
Thanks so much for joining me today and best of luck with your future business ventures!