Just like Marc-Uwe Kling in his Kangaroo Chronicles flinches every time someone calls him a kangaroo Small artists I get a shock when someone asks the question: "Aha, embroidery designer – and you can make a living from that?"I usually think to myself, because after more than 10 years I usually don’t feel like (anymore) the subsequent glazed looks while I explain what an online business is and how I earn my money.
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Especially in the field of handicrafts one is smiled at quite quickly, because everyone knows that only grannies knit and in general the field is rather dying out, isn’t it??
I can only say one thing: no, no and no again!
No matter which area you choose, if and how much success you will have depends on it:
- how well your ideas solve the problems of the people you want to address (product)
- how well the people find you (in the sense of being found), whose problems you want to solve (marketing)
- how long you stay with it (perseverance&) persistence)
- how much you are willing to invest (commitment: time& persistence) money)
And that is the case in every single business area.
Handicrafts are also a business
The big mistake I see with a lot of new starters in my industry is that it’s often not even considered a business by those involved. But as soon as you offer products for money, you are doing business. How big or small does not matter at all. Only if you assume that you are a trade and that this is also there to earn money, you can take the matter in hand.
That’s how it went for me. At first I saw myself more as an author who also offers knitting and embroidery instructions to make ends meet. Only when I realized that my editorial content (my blog) can help to make my products visible, it clicked. Before, both were rather in parallel worlds on the way – I had not even linked my store on the site, so uncommercial I wanted to be perceived. But in the end it only led to me trying to be visible on 2 fronts instead of combining the two.
If you want to run your blog or products purely as a hobby, that’s ok. As soon as you earn money with it, you have to report it to the tax office.
Your product – what is there?
In the handicraft area there are a lot of areas where you can let off steam. Not only the different handicrafts like knitting, embroidering, crocheting or weaving, but also the way you solve problems in these areas are versatile.
Digital vs. Analog
Business ideas in the digital space are something like digital tutorials, ebooks, online courses, membership areas, coaching, online events, print on demand, or even bloggers/influencers with affiliate programs.
Outside of digital, there are the classic handmade stores, online stores that ship physical goods, on-site classes and events.
Both can of course be mixed together. So local stores also more often have an online store or blog regularly. Conversely, online course providers also have local events or workshops from time to time.
The advantage of digital is that you can get in quite easily and cheaply. Meanwhile, many analog business ideas require a larger initial investment to get started. But here, too, you can’t make a general statement: digital is cheap, analog is expensive. It always depends on what the business idea is!
For example, you can offer workshops in cooperation with a fabric store without having to advance a lot of material yourself or rent a room. It’s all a matter of what opportunities you have and open up in your environment.
Since I work exclusively in the digital area with Pumora, I don’t want to say anything about the analog products. The topic is so complex and I would rather not say anything at this point than spread half-truths or wishy-washy.
Digital products are all the products you don’t deliver in physical form. You can sell the same product as many times as you want, so theoretically you have no limitation by limited quantities. Once created, you can use your product over and over again.
In the needlework sector, this includes z.B.
- eBooks, manuals, templates, compiled info – just a book in digital form
- Online course: covers a topic extensively and can include more media such as text, images, audio, or video
- Member area: for a one-time or regular payment, the customer has access to content that no one else can get to. Member areas should be expanded and filled regularly.
- Coaching: if you prefer to work in small groups or 1 on 1 with people, you can use video z.B. also work directly with your customers. Z.B. a weekly online meeting with video chat where you show someone how to knit and your customer can ask you live questions.
- Online events: are more complex to organize and technically implement. With other vendors in your industry, you can offer exclusive online workshops that are only available within a certain time period.
- Print-on-demand: instead of having products like shirts or mugs printed and shipped yourself, you can use companies that do it for you. You create your designs and advertise and the print-on-demand company does the production and shipping. Most of the time the profit margin here is quite small.
- Blogger/Influencer: as a pure Influencer without own product, you can earn with affiliate programs. There are different models like affiliate links, banner ads or directly sponsored content.
As you can see, the possibilities are great. Each one of them has its advantages and disadvantages.
Your product has to solve a problem
The key point that your product has to fulfill is that it has to solve a problem of your customer. The bigger the problem, the more expensive your solution can be.
"But Anne, I’m just making instructions for a stuffed animal, what kind of problem am I solving??!" Quite simple. A dear aunt would like to sew an elephant for her newborn nephew. One like his mother used to have and loved absolutely. Now there are 1000 instructions for stuffed animals, but only a few are elephants and only one of them looks something like the one from before. And bang, bought.
So by problem I don’t necessarily mean that you have to solve far-reaching problems in the world or save a person’s life.
On the contrary, there are so many little problems that we face every day. This also includes wanting to give a nice and thoughtful homemade gift, but not knowing how. Or you finally want to learn macrame because it appeals to you visually, but you don’t understand all the photo instructions – perfect for an online workshop or course.
But there is already so much free content – who will buy my product??
You won’t believe it, but there are people who take free content from other authors and sell it in their store. This is illegal, but is done and also bought.
Although everyone has access to more movies and series than they can watch via public broadcasters’ media libraries, everyone with a TV or YouTube to blast their brains all day, people pay for streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Why? No annoying advertising interruptions, access to exclusive content and self-determination in choosing what to watch.
It is important that your product should have something that the others do not have. Maybe you have a writing style that particularly appeals to your clients. You may be picking up your customers right where they are with your remarks. Perhaps your style is so unparalleled that you will be instantly recognized and build a fan base. These are all points that make you and your offer special.
How do I make other handicraft enthusiasts aware of my offer??
Especially in the beginning it is important to find people who like what you do or who need the information on your site. When I started with Pumora in 2010, I underestimated way too much how much marketing you really have to do for anyone to find my site at all. So as a rule of thumb at the beginning is: 70% marketing 30% rest. Insanity or?
I struggled quite a bit with marketing at the time. There was also by far not as much info and great courses as it is the case nowadays. If you are just starting out now, you have an incredible information advantage – use it!
Your homepage – base station
Having your own homepage – even if it’s just a single page – can be your business card, your catalog/showroom, your go-to girl and much, much more.
Personally I always recommend to have your own domain with webspace, because this way you can be sure that your homepage won’t be taken from under your butt. This can be done via WordPress, where you can create a lot yourself, but you also have to schedule a lot of time for learning.However, there are also modular systems like Squarespace, where you can use ready-made designs and only modify them with your content. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
Platforms like Blogger and co are easy to use, but if the platform closes down (does anyone remember Myspace or Dawanda?), then you’ve lost access to your readers. Honestly, who researches a store or website if the link doesn’t work anymore?? There must be a high level of enthusiasm or need for this. Besides, having your own domain always looks more professional.
That does not mean that you must immediately put everything on your homepage. For example, I’ve always run my stores through other platforms like Elopage and Etsy so far, because the effort to build an internal store is still too high for me.
A simple homepage can also contain only your legal texts (privacy, imprint), a section about you, your offer and social media links.
A now popular method of marketing is the so-called "content marketing" (content marketing).
What’s behind the fancy name is simple: You offer a content (audio, text, video, pictures) and then redirect in some form to your product. Either directly (linking the product) or indirectly (e.g.B. via a newsletter registration). That’s all there is to it. The conversion is naturally again another affair.
On my blog z.B. I write a lot about embroidery techniques and many beginner questions. That’s why many visitors come to me who are rather beginners or simply don’t know much about certain areas or want to refresh their knowledge.
Through these contents (content) first of all people find me who are interested in the topic. Some people find my content so great that they want more and z.B. Book a course with me or buy an eBook. Without these contributions, by far not so many people would become aware of my site.
The advantage is that the financial costs remain relatively manageable. Other forms of marketing cost quite a lot of money and you either have to deal with the subject a lot, hire a professional, or pay a lot of apprenticeship money.
However, the content marketing only makes sense if your content is also seen. Say: the search engines must consider your content interesting and relevant enough.
Here comes the word dreaded in many places:
Search engine optimization
Or also briefly SEO called (from the English search engine optimization). This means that your pages and posts are designed in such a way that search engines like Google see your content as the perfect answer to the searcher’s question.
So if I want to have the question answered "which fabric do I use for embroidering?" then I better have put the words "stuff to embroider" in strategic positions.
The topic is very complex, but worth reading up on. For WordPress, for example, there is the plugin Yoast, which gives you very extensive hints and tips – even in the free version.
But Google is not the only search engine, Pinterest is a search engine too. Just for pictures. Pinterest is the reason why someone found me in the first place when my blog was still mumbling along.
Use Pinterest for more traffic
As mentioned before, my blog pretty much bumbled along for the first few years. In the background, "No one calls me aaaaaan" ran virtually every day. That changed quite massively when I started regularly pinning embroidery tutorials on Pinterest in 2016.
Instead of my usual 100 people a month (yes, so sad& ) suddenly came thousands. Pinterest finally exploded in September 2017 and has been giving me the majority of my readers ever since.
Since that moment, I’ve been a huge advocate of the Pinterest strategy.
In the last 3 years I was able to increase my reach on Pinterest to 2.1Million views (German page) and 1.1Million views (English page). My German Pinterest account didn’t come into existence until September 2019.
One of the people who are very active in marketing for online business is Caroline Preuss. Maybe you’ve run across their yellow and pink banners on Facebook or Instagram before?
Caroline Preuss Has one of the most extensive offers on all online marketing strategies. From profitable blogging, Pinterest and Instagram to building your own online course, it’s all here.
Here you can register for free and without obligation to her webinar on the topic of more reach for your blog with Pinterest.
No plan from Pinterest? Here’s how!
The most important thing for Pinterest is not the number of subscribers or how many repins you get. No, the most important thing is actually having images on your blog that are suitable for Pinterest in the first place.
Why are Pinterest-ready images so important?
So often I see great blog articles that I like to save because they are enriching for me and possibly my subscribers as well. And what is? Only pictures in landscape format and then it does not say what it is about.
When I pin an image like this on Pinterest, it gets lost in the flood of oblong and square images, because it is only visible in a very small way.
If it’s also an article with information that can’t necessarily be derived directly from the image, I don’t even know where the article is taking me a month later.
How to make my blog images Pinterest-ready?
You’ve probably already figured out the most important thing from the previous paragraph: The format.
Pinterest currently prefers a longitudinal format. 600pxx900px are a good aspect ratio to make the image not too big and at the same time also be displayed completely.
Lately I also like to use the landscape format. Mainly because it’s more practical for my blog, but this format also does well as a pin. If you also want to use the image for Instagram, you’ve killed 3 birds with one stone. After all, we don’t want to sit at the PC forever and edit pictures, do we??
Tip: To adjust the size and format of your images you can use free services like Canva or Gimp.
On the topic Text on pins or not, opinions differ. I find that text becomes important when the image doesn’t directly show what the blog article is about. Just as an example, my blog article "Stitching until your hands hurt – what you can do" is a rather abstract topic. I can show a picture of someone rubbing their aching hands like in an advertisement for medicines. The person looking at the picture doesn’t know that the article is about how to avoid overstraining your hands when doing needlework.
Even with the pin of Caroline Preuss’ Pinterest course shown above, no one would know what it’s about if there was only a picture of Caroline at her PC without text.
Hint: There are people who only pin images without text. That’s why it’s important to have images in your articles that do not contain text.
What you have to pay attention to in order to optimize your pins and how you spread them sensibly is a wide-ranging topic. To explain everything here would be a huge excursus. That’s why I highly recommend the Pinterest course by Caroline Preuss (check out the reviews further down the page, you’re sure to find a few familiar names there)!
If you’d like to get some no-obligation tips first, here’s the free Pinterest webinar.
Some extensive topics are just too complex to learn exclusively through free blogposts. This eats up a lot of time and sometimes nerves, because different information is given on different pages. I have also tried a lot and informed me until I have decided for a course. With a course you always have a self-contained system that is ideally well thought out and tested. This way you don’t waste so much time with outdated info or tips that may have only worked by chance for one person.
For an own store, the technical side is too challenging for many at the beginning. That’s why there are marketplaces like Etsy where you can offer your products for fees and commission.
Always keep in mind that you are always only one of many on such external platforms, you can be deleted overnight the store or even close the whole platform (hello Dawanda). That’s why it’s incredibly important to gradually build up multiple sources of income so that you don’t end up with a disaster when the worst happens.
I know it’s a lot of work to list your products on multiple platforms. In between, it took me a whole hour to post per product because I was using 6 different platforms. Little by little, I weeded out the platforms that weren’t generating much revenue. But without trying it first, you never know which platform will work out for you and which will flop.
For the beginning, of course, a single platform is enough for now. If you are ambitious, build your own store right in the beginning.
Here are some platforms through which you can sell handmade:
For digital tutorials, these platforms are good:
A variant between marketplace and own store is to run his store through a provider. That would be for example Shopify or Elopage. This has the advantage that you don’t have to be as technically fit as with your own store, but at the same time you don’t have the same competitive pressure and dependence on changes on these platforms. Plus, you have a lot of features that are eliminated with marketplaces. For example, your potential customers only see your offers and not those of others on Etsy, etc.
Marketplace, own store or construction kit store?
For some things like online courses, workshops or events, there is often no other way than to use modular stores or your own store.
My personal observation of the last years: the bigger the marketplace gets, the more the conditions for the individual sellers on the site tighten up.
Dawanda has recently demonstrated how not to do it. Even the closing of Dawanda was significant: in spring it was announced that Dawanda will close – end of August. People who had built up an existence through Dawanda for years, have had the summer vacations to build up a new business.
Even Etsy is now going down paths that for me have been heading in the wrong direction for the last 2 years. Etsy has gone public and now it’s all about growth. There are now methods used to fleece the sellers, that is slowly no longer solemn.
As a consequence I switched to Elopage with my German products for example. There you have an incredible number of functions and everything is in German. The support is fast and did I already mention the many features? On Elopage you can offer simple digital products such as an e-book (e.g.B. a manual as PDF) but also more complex things like creating an online course, eTickets for workshops or a members area.
My recommendation: Elopage
Since 2019, I have been offering my courses& Instructions on elopage and very satisfied.
Shopify z.B. is again great for digital (e.g.B. eBooks) and physical products. Since I haven’t tried Shopify myself, I can’t say much about it though.
With both Shopify and Elopage, there is a monthly cost first, which you have to pay even if you don’t sell anything or very little in the first few months.
It is different with an own store or a marketplace. With Etsy and Co you do pay a listing fee, but it is relatively small. After that you usually pay only as soon as something was sold. Thus, the entry costs are manageable and you don’t have to be afraid to take over right at the beginning.
For the allocation of coaching or workshop places, for example, you can also put a simple contact form on your site and complete the rest personally. There doesn’t have to be a store system involved in every case.
In the end, it is always a completely individual decision which type of distribution you choose. That’s the beauty and at the same time you have the agony of choice.
Let me tell you: nobody does everything 100% right at the beginning. Those who seem to start from 0 to 100 with a new project have learned their lessons in previous projects, jobs or education. So if you think after a year: "oh, that with platform A was a stupid decision", "I don’t enjoy writing tutorials at all" or "if I keep on knitting so much, I won’t be able to use my hands soon" – then that’s ok and quite normal. The important thing is that you draw your conclusions, find your solution and act.
And that leads us directly to the next part of the "success formula":
Perseverance and tenacity
A company is an endurance race – not a sprint. No matter how much you want this and that to be achieved tomorrow or next week or month or year: it always turns out differently than you think.
There are many things you may not know yet. Depending on how much experience you already have in this area, you may be able to foresee the possibilities and challenges better. But you can never do it 100%. And that’s a good thing, because just because you can’t predict it, doesn’t mean it’s going to get worse!
The first commandment for self-employed: inform yourself, stay up to date and educate yourself further.
Whether it’s with books (audiobooks are great if you want to do crafts on the side), lectures or courses: find people who are much better at something than you are and learn from them.
Attention: It is very easy to get sucked into this information maelstrom but then do nothing. Without implementation, no knowledge in the world is of any use to you. You may feel incredibly productive because you have learned so much about a topic. But if the next day you just absorb knowledge and don’t put it into practice, you will soon forget all this great knowledge and won’t put anything into practice. There are many people who in theory could build up everything great, but never set the first stone.
Perseverance and motivation
Seth Godin, one of the biggest marketing gurus from the US, described it great in his book The Dip: Everyone gets to the point with their business idea where he/she invests more than they get out of it. This low. Dip) can sometimes take longer, sometimes shorter. One fights against windmills and goes constantly downhill without knowing when it goes uphill again. Only those whose vision and confidence in their own idea is strong enough to get through this dip will actually make it up the mountain. Your motivation is the most important thing at this moment. Why do you do all this? What is this whole effort worth for you?. Without this inner drive – your motivation – you will not make it further.
It would go too far now to explain more in this direction. However, I can tell you that it only started to work for me after I started to deal more with these topics. I can recommend in any case: