I suspect most of us creative types have, at one time or another, considered picking up a few bucks on the side doing something we’ve previously done just for fun — whether it’s knitting ASCII-art wrist warmers, making spicy fruit preserves, or making hand-tooled leather belts. But not all of us want to turn that hobby into a full-fledged business; there are plenty of fine folks whose Etsy stores are maintained in their off-hours. But how do you ensure that your extracurricular enterprise is both fun and profitable?
Enter Grace Dobush’s Crafty Superstar: Make Crafts on the Side, Earn Extra Cash, and Basically Have It All, a very helpful resource for crafters who are looking to make a part-time living from their crafting work. It’s a short, portable paperback — under 160 pages including the appendices & index — and reads like a breezy but informative chat with a roomful of helpful friends (which, as far as I’m concerned, is way more fun than getting your info in dry, bullet-point style). Each chapter is illustrated with beautiful drawings, snappy checklists, fun exercises, and pull quotes that lend the book a magazine-like feel.
(Full disclosure: Grace interviewed me for the book, so I am both rooting for her to sell lots of copies and a little biased about the advice contained within its pages — since some of it comes directly from me.)
It’s focused on crafting specifically, so although other entrepreneurs making products may glean some tips, the spotlight is firmly pointed at purveyors of indie, handmade goods — and that’s the book’s strength. There’s a chapter on indie craft shows, including a handy Day-of-Show Checklist; a “How to Make Your Own Light Box” guide for DIY product photography; and lots of tips on using Etsy effectively. (But don’t worry, there’s plenty of info for technophobes, and for people who prefer not to go the Etsy route, too.)
The prose is richly peppered with tips from experienced crafters (and, uh, me — though I am hardly a crafty superstar myself) & written by someone who’s been there – Grace Dobush runs her own bookbinding “quasi-business, gracie sparkles books.
I loved the section called “Taking Stock,” where Grace talks about the importance of re-evaluating your business on a regular basis, and learning to take input & criticism from outside sources. There’s a great bit from Sublime Stitching founder Jenny Hart on filtering the helpful input from the not-so-helpful:
Once, a dude started telling Hart what to do with her five-year-old company within the first five minutes of their conversation. “I listened politely and considered his advice, but I recognized it as not applicable to my business model. You should never apply advice that you don’t understand or work with an adviser who doesn’t speak to you in ways that make perfect sense to you.”
That doesn’t mean you should discount an adviser who is unfamiliar with the craft scene. “One of my most trusted advisers is someone with years of business experience but no direct relation to the DIY movement, needlework or crafting. He didn’t start offering advice before he’d spent several hours listening to me talk about my business model, my customers and my goals,” Hart says. “The types of questions he asked about my business were how I knew he ‘got it.’ He offered advice in our first meeting that I had never before considered, but it made sense to me and I could apply it immediately and see results from it. Those were all indicators that I was dealing with a valuable adviser.”
We’ve had the same experiences as Jenny on both fronts, so her words really rang true for me. But my favourite part of the book is the three bullet points with which Grace closes. Every entrepreneur could do well to use them as guiding principles in shaping her business:
- Be informed.
- Be confident.
- Be yourself.
Added 21 Oct 2010: We just discovered Amazon’s new Kindle for Web feature, so we thought we’d embed the first chapter of Crafty Superstar right here: