If you’re thinking about starting a handmade business online in 2021, I’m here to tell you that there has never been a better time.
With that being said, there are 4 things you should know before jumping in and in this post, I’ll walk you through that.
Hi, my name is Mei Pak and I help makers, artists and designers make a living by selling their handmade products online.
1. There's a lot of Competition
There’s a ton of competition with online businesses right now.
Yes, this is true year after year but the competition is even more now because of COVID.
Because of all the quarantine lockdowns and people losing their jobs (or working from home), more people are looking to entrepreneurship for a way to make money.
People are seeing that it’s possible to actually make money from home.
To stop competition from being a worry, you need to be super clear about what makes your product or shop different.
Of course, you don’t want to be different just for the sake of it. That feels disingenuous.
Another way to think about it is you need to be very selective about selling something that you know is in big demand and that people want to pay money for.
Gone are the days where you can sell something just because you love making that product.
You have to do research to scope out the competition and see where you stand with your product.
Are there other successful businesses that are doing well and making a lot of sales selling a similar product? That’s a good thing because it tells us you’re on the right track!
Don’t overthink your product idea. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a totally new, never before heard of idea anymore.
What your job is, is to think of existing products and how you can make them different, because maybe those existing products are not totally perfect.
For example, personalized hand stamped jewelry is always going to sell well and tons of shops do them, but if you’ve noticed, they tend to be silver or gold jewelry.
What if your new product made personalized jewelry that was super fun and colorful? So you’re not reinventing the wheel here, just setting yourself apart.
2. Set Aside Some Startup Cash
Set aside some money to start your shop and to do marketing.
A lot of people start businesses thinking that you can do it for free but unless we’re back in the early 2000’s, that’s no longer realistic.
A business is an investment, and all investments take money to start.
If you want to start gardening, you have to spend money to buy seeds, gardening tools, supplies, and some books or magazines on how to do it if you’ve never done it before.
If you want to start to learn how to bake, you have to spend a lot of money on baking equipment and buying ingredients.
It’s very close to impossible to start a business without any money.
You have to spend money on buying materials and supplies to make your product, but don’t make the mistake of spending all your money on that.
You have to also set money aside for:
- setting up a website
- taking product photos
- buying software
- buying education to learn how to start a business right
So, if you’re really good at managing credit, then you can take out a new line of credit. But if you don’t trust yourself with credit, then start saving up some money now.
You don’t need a ton of money to start, but the more you don’t know about how to build a business, the more money you’ll need.
I’ve been in online business for over a decade and because I’ve learned so much over the years, when we started our new personalized art shop in 2019, we spent about $2,000 using a credit card to build up this shop, which made 7 figures in the first full year of business.
That sounds like an amazing trade-off. Spend $2,000 upfront to make a million dollars?
But don’t forget, all my experience has taught me what to do with that money, so I knew how to use it wisely and I knew what I could spend on and what I could do myself for free.
3. Have a Marketing Strategy (Outside Social Media)
It's important to have a strategy for marketing and promoting your business that isn’t just social media.
Social media is inundated with too many profiles and it’s too competitive.
There’s also the social media algorithms that prevent your accounts from getting seen by more people. It takes forever to grow your following and so few people see your posts.
It’s not impossible, but it’s super time consuming and not the best use of your time.
So if you’re new to me, I’m a big proponent of using media outreach as a way to promote your business.
This is where you send emails to people who already have their own large audiences and ask them to talk about your product in exchange for a free product.
This could be people like:
- Big YouTubers
- Instagram influencers
- Print magazines
- Big websites like Huffington Post or Buzzfeed
All of these big guys have already spent the resources to amass a super huge following, so you don’t have to.
I’ll link a video here that talks more in depth on the process of media outreach.
And, if you have the budget for it, and you’ve taken the training on how to do it, I also recommend doing paid ads.
It can be very technical to do, but it works insanely well even for new shops.
Paid ads like on Facebook, Instagram, Google or YouTube ads, allow you to target your potential customers with incredible specificity.
For example, if I sell hand-sewn dog collars, I can target people who are dog lovers and who are also fans of Dogster magazine.
On Google and YouTube, I can also target people who have been searching for dog collars on Google.
There is no better and faster way to get in front of your potential customers than with paid ads.
The biggest caveat is that it costs money.
4. You Can Do It!
It’s totally possible to have a successful shop in 2021 and make a living from that, even if you don’t sell something totally original or if your idea isn’t 100% unique.
All the ideas out there, no matter how unique, are just derivatives of something else that already exists.
You can absolutely make a healthy income online if you know what you’re doing.
So you need to know how to do it.
I know a lot of people learn from doing, like you use trial and error, make mistakes, and then learn from that.
There’s nothing wrong with that, except it takes a long time and a lot of wasted time, money, and energy to go that route, especially with the degree of competition we’re dealing with these days.
So many people starting online shops are taking the time to learn how to start a business, and if you deliberately choose not to do so, you are shooting yourself in the foot because you’re not rising to the level that other people are at.
The fact that you’re here watching my video is a great sign that you’re keen to take the time to learn how to do it right.
Don’t ever stop learning.
When you think you know everything and you don’t need to learn, you’re not going to get anywhere.
As of this writing, I would have been in business for myself for 15 years now, and even to this day, I still read books to learn how to do something, or invest in courses and work with coaches so I can continue to sharpen my skills.
Please don’t discount the power of knowledge and education, it’s one of the secret ingredients to becoming successful.
Not to mention, it’ll save you a ton of time to follow a framework that’s already been proven so you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.
This way, you’re also not just relying on luck and that means you have much higher chances of reaching your goals.
If you’re thinking about starting a business this year, leave me a comment below.
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube Channel for more great handmade business tips!