Industry Expert FAQ: Top Questions Ask Before Starting A Home Based Craft Business

photo credit to http://www.workfromhomeuk.org.uk

by Stacy Altiery of InkSpot Workshop and friends

Hello Everyone! By the time you read this post I will be sunning myself on the lovely island of St. Martin (ahhhhh) don’t hate me, somebody has to do it:) While scanning my braincells to come up with a good post for you this month, it occurred to me there are probably a lot of you reading this who are right on the verge of jumping into their own home based business, right? I sure get a ton of emails each week from biz newbies asking me questions about all sorts of different topics, mainly regarding how to “start”. I’m always flattered to receive such inquiries and always respond thoughtfully and promptly. It is for this reason alone I reached out to some of my favorite, successful online “peeps” to see what types of advice they had for ladies looking to get started. I also thought it would be a good idea to put them into question format (like Jeopordy) and this post could be a little marker of sorts where you could get some straight forward FAQ’s and even some answers on starting a crafty, home based biz.

We all hope you find these Q+A’s to be helpful, thought provoking and most importantly the little shove you needed to get out there and hang your “Open” sign on your very own shop! If you already have a business, please feel free to leave a comment (in the form of a question of course) should you think of a helpful question you wished you would have asked when first starting out.

A big thank you to everyone listed below who gave us their two cents worth:)

Emily of Emily Ley Paper suggested you ask yourself…

1. What is my brand? Is it a true reflection of myself and my personality/personal style?
Strong brands are authentic and personal. They grow and change with the owner/designer/creator, but at their core, they are truly representative of the heart upon which they are based. As you develop your brand, consider every aspect of your business. Is your brand reflected in your aesthetic (website, packaging, logo, etc). Is your brand reflected in the way you work with people (emails, customer service, turnaround time, Etsy shop descriptions, etc). Making sure that you consider the smallest of details from the beginning is a great way to build a strong reputation even as you are just starting out.

2. Consider your business name – what does it say about your business? Does your business name explain what your business is all about? Are you using your own name to help brand yourself and let your customers get to know you? Or, are you using a name that you created yourself? Be certain, if this is the road that you’re taking that you search the TESS system (this can be found on the USPTO website here) as well as Google for any brands that may already be using your name. I highly suggest trademarking your name if you are using a “made-up” name. Choosing not to trademark basically gives the rights to your name to anyone else who decides to trademark it first. Naming a business can be very difficult. Many people start out, as I did, attempting to appear to be a big conglomerate – using words like “we” and “our” instead of “I” and “my.” Keep in mind that personal connections are so important. Many customers aren’t as impressed with the big business appeal as you might think.

Debra Buker of Yummy Delicious Cookies asked herself …
Do I have the desire or stamina to work late at night or early in the morning on my business while still being the main caregiver to my children? Using nap time to get work done is far too stressful. My answer to that was “NO” for the longest time. It’s only now that I have both kids in school that I am committing to my business.


Kate Landers of Kate Landers Events says her top 3 are…

1. Why am I doing this? Is this something I love to do, am passionate about, and want to make profitable?
2. Is there a market for my creation? Is it unique, original–who am I targeting, and how am I going to get the word out about my handmade products?
3. How do I register my business with the state and national government and how will I file taxes?

Lauren of Sunbasil Garden suggests asking…

1. Do I need to have everything “perfect” before starting my business? Your business is a work in progress, just like people. Do not allow perfection nto prevent you from trying and getting started. Everything online can be modified and changed, added and deleted (well except the name of your Etsy shop (should you choose the Etsy route) Some of the proudest soaps are my first ones because without them I would never be where I am now.

2. Is there a “secret” to easier printing shipping label methods? I wish I would have purchased my Dymo Printer on day one. I use it now to print all my shipping labels. It’s fast and never requires you to purchase ink,  it is a huge time saver, inexpensive and very professional looking. Buy it sooner rather than later (plus you will label the entire house too, it’s very addictive!).

Jen of Posh Tots Events says most importantly…
How much is my time worth? Make sure you factor in time and not just supplies when determining price.

Tanya of Save The Date For Cupcakes lives by these three…

1. What is the market you wish to pursue?
2. Is there a demand for that market?
3. How can you market yourself differently than your competitors?

Vana of Le Papier Studio always suggests…
1. How will I finance my business? Will I get a loan or use personal savings?
From the get go I knew I wasn’t going to knock on anyones’ door to finance my business. I started small borrowing some money from my personal saving which I was able to pay back shortly

2. Is there order in my house? Will my current situation allow me to commit to growing this business?
I know this is something I struggle with even to this day but what I’m trying to say is you should have some sort of order in your house which will allow you to focus on the business. Chances are you have little ones, without any help around you wont be able to take your business to the next level.

3. Where do I go for advice on how to start, etc?
Surround yourself with people who have gone through this before and are willing to share what they learned when they started out. Do your research! Blogs, websites geared towards small business offering tips and free advice should be number 1 on your list. Connect connect connect! I cant stress this enough and check out books on small start ups from your local library.

Stacy of InkSpot Workshop tells everyone to ask…

1. Do I need a PO Box?

The answer is yes and no. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have your home address listed on items visible to the public eye, such as mailing labels, the internet, etc… this is the perfect place for your PO BOX. You will need a home address (for some applications) if you are getting a LLC or perhaps something else “official” but I would still try to use a PO Box when you can because all of those lists are sold and you may even find a picture of your house when you google your home address, not good when you have little ones! I do use my home address for my suppliers because it’s easier to get my deliveries at my house rather than dealing with the USPS. Try to deal with suppliers who keep their lists private, although there is no guarantee.

2. Do I really need a Blog, Twitter Account, Facebook Fanpage, etc.?Are you sure I can’t just have a booth at my local arts and crafts showcase or online shop?

My answer will always be YES! Social networking is everywhere like air and constantly increasing in usage and popularity. It’s not only a great way to connect with your customers and potential customers, it’s a great resource tool when looking for advice or info from your fellow craftsy, business owner peeps. Not to mention if you are not social networking, it’s a SURE bet your competition is! For more info on getting the word out visit this Oh My Handmade post on Social Networking 101.

3. Should I get a state sales and use tax certificate and pay sales taxes to my state?

More than likely my answer is always yes. I have a state of Georgia Sales and Use Tax ID certificate and I pay sales taxes to the state each month. My business is online so most of my sales occur outside of Georgia, so I don’t pay very much, more of a hassell than anything else. The main reason I have a tax certificate is to get wholesale prices from my suppliers that require such identification. It’s also the main way to get into the merchandise marts and large trade shows.

Thank you for reading!

  • http://www.pipnmilly.com Fiona Ballard

    For small, home-based businesses in Canada, do we register for HST, charge, collect and remit the tax? Where can we go to find Canada-specific information about running a home-based business that wants to sell online?

  • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

    Thanks for the comment Fiona-an article focused on Canadian businesses is in the works!

  • http://lovinclaydolls.etsy.com Lisa

    This is a really helpful article! Thanks so much for posting it. Having 5 kids and also a work-from-home husband..if you would ever like to expound more on the “Order in Your Home” part, I would be all ears!!!!!!:)

  • http://annakatesoaps.com Jennifer Sondag

    Thanks for putting all these questions and answers together! My friend and I started a handcrafted soap business together last winter and have struggled with a LOT of these issues. It’s always good to hear what our peers and inspirations have to say.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/NavyBlueNotes Kathy {Navy Blue Notes}

    That’s great news Jessika! I’m look forward to reading the Canadian piece too. Thanks!

  • http://www.marketmyhandmade.webs.com Lucy Thornton

    Hi

    Great article Stacy.

    I agree with Kate about knowing your market – you need to have a vision in your mind before your start of who your customer is, what they like, where they go, what they do.

    Make your products with this in mind – and remember it every time you communicate with them. What’s important to them? What problem does your product solve?

    I’ll be writing a post for OMHG on ‘knowing your customer’ in a few weeks so see you then, Lucy x

  • http://hiyaluv.blogspot.com hiyaluv

    this is super helpful! thanks so much:)
    smiles,
    gina

  • http://www.inkspotworkshop.com Stacy – InkSpot Workshop

    Greetings from St. Martin! Wish you could see my view right now:) Thanks for the great comments and suggestions everyone. Wonderful ideas for future posts too!!

  • ThisOldPMQ

    Once again, great advice. Thanks for getting so much insight from different businesses all together. 🙂

  • http://wildhairinthenight.blogspot.com/ LaRee

    Lisa, I have been reading a lot about mothers who home school their school children and have preschoolers running around. I think its basically the same concept. Where your entire attention and focus needs to be on the project, yet your little ones need to be occupied. I am trying to write an article of all my favorite tips. Perhaps I’l post it…if I every get it done 🙂