Bootstrapping Tips for Craft Businesses
Let me start by explaining the term bootstrap and how it applies to selling your handmade crafts online. Bootstrapping is a concept all about creative solutions and sweat equity. A bootstrapped business is started with what you have available. It is a business that is started with little or no money and avoids taking on loans and debt. Here are a few ideas on how you can apply bootstrapping concepts to making and selling your handmade items.
Test your market before making a full line of your crafts. You want to know if they will sell before you invest too much time or money. One way to do this quickly is with Google Adwords. Use Google Ads to drive targeted traffic to your site or items. You do not need to wait until you have many different product categories and products, start driving customers to your site after you have the first couple items ready. You are just trying to get enough feedback before you expand your offerings.
SEO can take months to drive traffic to your site while Adwords is instant. You can see IF people are actually searching for what you make, how many people do actually search, and you can determine if those potential customers are willing to purchase your handmade items. Depending on the results, you can forge ahead and make a full series of your designs or you may choose to change directions and make something different.
Another quick way to get feedback is by putting your handmade items on Ebay. You can save on listing fees by using very minimal starting bids. Your goal is to see if your items sell and to get an idea of what people are willing to pay for them. Ebay will quickly expose your crafts to potential customers. You do not need many items to start with, one or two will be just fine. Starting on Ebay will also save you money since you will not need a personal website, monthly hosting, or outside advertising. You can literally change your products from week to week and see what sells best. You will also be building up a customer base in the process. Selling on Ebay is great practice for working with customers, building your products, and learning how to ship and take payments.
Start with the least expensive handmade items first. You may eventually offer large sizes and more complicated designs, but start off with the smaller and simpler ones while testing a market. This will save you money on building materials and will save money on shipping materials. It will also be easier to store your materials and finished products. The idea is to have the smallest initial investment necessary to make your first products.
Start by making crafts that you already have tools for or can borrow tools for. Minimize your upstart costs. Tools can be very expensive. When you are first starting out you may change directions a few times and you may not ultimately need the same tools that you needed for your first items.
Do everything yourself. Put in sweat equity. Learn new skills by buying books or learn from videos online. Spend your time rather than your money. Eventually you can hire some help after you have a profit and that will save time, but may build up your debt when you are just starting out.
Use cash only. Do not use credit cards or spend money you do not have to start your craft business. This will force you to come up with creative solutions. There is always a less expensive way to do things. You will avoid high interest fees and possible long term debt. If you decide to change directions you can because everything is paid for. You will not be forced to continue in something you do not enjoy just so you can cover monthly credit card payments.
Good luck with your craft business