what we know for sure {part 1 of 2}

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

I’ve noticed lately that every time the topic of my home-based, online business comes up with a new acquaintance, I start out by answering the same few questions about what I do, how it works, etc., and by the end of the conversation I’m cheering on this new friend, encouraging her to follow her passion and start her own business.

I started thinking about the advice that I find myself sharing over and over, and I asked a few of the other contributors here at Oh My! Handmade Goodness what her best tips are for anyone who’s thinking about starting an online business.  Below is a compilation of everyone’s advice (tomorrow’s post will focus on growing a small business).

  • Make sure what you choose to do is something you LOVE! Running your own business is hard work, and it helps to be obsessed with your job. (Arianne Foulks)
  • Do your research and know your competition. (Stacy Amoo-Mensah)
  • Be true to your own style. It’s ok to look at others for inspiration, but make sure you are truly plugged into YOU! Don’t try to copy the trends, they always fade. (Stacy Altiery)
  • Jump right in and DO IT! If you take the time to educate yourself and research each and every detail to death, you are more than likely looking for a reason to NOT start your business. (Stacy Altiery)
  • Opening an Etsy shop and starting a blog are easy & inexpensive ways to test the market and get instant feedback. (Sara Tams)
  • Don’t let fear get in the way of trying. If you are truly passionate about your idea, you can find a way to make it work… remember, EVERY great business started with an idea! (Stacy Amoo-Mensah)
  • It’s not necessary to have the “top of the line” everything before you start. In fact, I still have and use a $150 HP printer and a $250 Canon PowerShot camera. (Stacy Altiery)
  • Focus! Don’t try to do it all or cater to every possible customer. Pick a niche that you can excel in and keep perfecting your expertise in, rather than spreading yourself too thin and sacrificing brand identity. (Arianne Foulks)
  • Before you start offering something, make sure you know how much of a profit you’ll earn on that item.  If you can’t make enough of a profit so that it’s worth your time, don’t offer it! (Sara Tams)
  • Keep track of other online sites you admire – no matter the industry – and note what it is you like about them: functionality, feeling, look, organization, ease of checkout.  Whatever it is that catches your eye. It’s easier to show than to tell a web designer what look & feel you’re after when it’s time to design your own shop. (Nicole Morell)
  • It’s never too early to think about building a quality customer database. Etsy exposes your business to a huge number of browsing customers, but you still have to develop your own list of customers who know and like you. (Nicole Morell)
  • You will work much longer hours and work much harder for yourself than you ever did for a boss. Either embrace this and be sure that you enjoy how you’re spending (all of) your time, or constantly plan and adjust your workflow so you can find ways to pull yourself away from the computer to be with your family, while still earning a living. (Arianne Foulks)
  • Words like “Blog“, “Facebook” and “Twitter” will become second nature to you. (Stacy Altiery)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask other people in your “industry” for help.  You would be surprised how many people are willing to share with you…especially in the handmade world. (Stacy Amoo-Mensah)


  1. Allison Hansen says:

    Sarah, I’m so excited! And inspired!

    Your Greatest Greeting Card Fan

    PS If anyone is reading this, my Sara & Abraham Christmas Cards are now legendary in my neighborhood. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. carla says:

    Lovely and wonderful idea!! I’m trying to start my own business for more than 1 year and most of the time I caught myself on some “traps” as having the top of the line printer (and I don’t have $ for that right now), the perfect studio (my craft space is in my bedroom), or scared for not being as good as I think I am, not being a graphic designer, thinking too much on every single detail, afraid of not making sales, no customers… Sara’s work/blog was always an inspiration for me, as well as Stacy’s (I’m happy knpwing she has a 150$ HP), so now I have the best of the worlds together… Thank you!!

  3. MaryAnn says:

    What great tips/advice! I too am “crafty” and in the “baby steps” of starting a online business….. Thanks for sharing, I all of a sudden dont feel so alone!

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