Start your shop off right by offering something people actually want to pay for!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 4 years on Etsy, it’s that medium matters.
I’ve seen so many new online shop owners overlook this first and most important factor. They’re only interested in filling their shop with the art they love the most, without considering what people actually want.
That means, your end product needs to be something people want to pay for. The sooner you choose correctly, the sooner you can reinvest and grow your budding business.
I’ve found it’s best to explore which ideas are worth running with before investing too much money in expensive apparel like enamel pins and crew-socks. If you’re a designer or illustrator, start small with RTP services and having your designs printed as stickers.
Seeing your ideas come to life in your hands is truly exhilarating!
Final products are what keep me consistently going and my clients say similar things when they receive their buttons from me. Handing out free stickers and producing buttons for other makers in my circle has been my favourite way of building a community around my creative practice; this a great real-life example of “slow growth” in action!
I’m now going to share how I opened my Etsy shop and started my button-pressing and graphic design business with next to no money and no income:
Tips to start you craft business with next to no income:
- Work with what you have—this sounds so simple, but is possibly the most difficult step! I know so many crafty people with a plethora of supplies in their closet, just waiting to be cracked open. If you’re not one of those fortunate people, I found swapping on Depop and Varagesale, as well as just asking ambiguously on Facebook if anyone has any supplies they have laying around!
- Only invest as much as you’re making—it’s tempting to take your first few dollars to the store and “restock” your shop, but don’t invest in new stock until you sell out of something else.
- Look critically at your expenses. Do you really need a domain yet? Yes, but you don’t need about anything else. Your domain (or url) comes with a shiny new business email and those are the only 2 things you need to start growing (although an email list wouldn’t hurt, either).
The proof is in the pudding, so I also wanted to highlight for you the first stages of my own online business!
What the stages of my own business looked like:
- Painting patches from up cycled fashion scraps and selling them on Etsy ($10 fabric paint, $15 startup fee)
- Buying sticker paper and selling stickers (I started with a cheap, crappy printer I already had for printing college reports) ($20 sticker paper and $25 in shipping supplies from the dollar store)
- Buying my first products, which were hand-pressed buttons for another local “button-pusher” ($40 for 100 buttons)
- Expanding with higher quality products: I transitioned to higher-quality vinyl stickers produced out-of-house ($56)
- Bought a button press off Ebay to start my own “button-pressing” operation ($180)
- This allowed me to Upgrade my printer to produce my own high-quality prints and zines ($250)
- Invested in my first batch of enamel pins ($560USD ~$800)
- Reordered and Expanded my line of enamel pins with a new provider ($600)
Now that I’ve established myself in selling enamel pins and vinyl stickers—after 4 years—I can expand my practice to hand-made OOAK and custom resin crafts. This new and exciting venture wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t dedicated myself to my own personal “slow growth” method to build my online business.
Now go rummage through your craft rooms, storage bins, sewing supplies and leftover DIY materials to see how your slow growth will begin!
Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.
Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.
Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.