Yesterday I took part in my first Guardian Small Business Live Q&A session, ‘How to start a craft business from home’.
The live question-and-answer session was conducted via the Comments section on this article, and the moderator Emma also fed in questions from Twitter directed to @GdnSmallBiz. Questions were answered by a panel of experts, including Jane Guaschi from Direct Line for Business (@DL4Bnews) which sponsored the event), representatives from Folksy (@folksy), UK Craft Fairs, the Craft & Hobby Association (@CHA-UK), and several successful craft business owners.
I had a number of questions for the panel, and they gave great advice. I started by reiterating a question I’d previously asked on Twitter during #handmadehour, which was “What are your top tips on how to start a craft business from home?”
Tips from the experts on how to start a craft business from home
‘Know your target audience and find your niche’ was the first response to this question – and having a ‘unique selling point’ (USP) is definitely something that is on my mind. I make paper and crochet flowers, but so do a lot of other people, so doing something different, and/or being better than the competition is certainly going to be important.
Jane Field from gift company Jonny’s Sister (@jonnyssister) concurred on the USP idea and, along with freelance artist Karen Jinks (@kjinksdesign) suggested ‘getting out there’. Karen said, “it is just a case of hitting all the wedding magazines and websites with well written press releases with your ‘story’ and hop[ing] to get seen and featured. A lot of the wedding blogs are always on the look out for new people to feature so they are the best place to start perhaps.”
Something else that Karen and Elena Pintus from Sew it With Love (@SewitwithLove) said struck a chord with me: it’s not just what you sell, but how you sell it. Elena commented, “In my opinion letting customers know you and your personality and not just your product can help tremendously in establishing a sense of trust with your potential buyers and keep them coming back.”
Maria Juelisch (@MJuelisch) from Maria’s Emporium gave some financial advice on how to start a craft business from home and recommended checking out Enterprise Nation and The Prince’s Trust for funding, as well as the Entrepreneur pages of the Guardian website. Sadly I think I’m slightly too old for The Princes Trust as they prioritise funding for 18–30 year olds, but I’ll definitely be looking into local funding sources and new business support.
More answers to more questions
I had many more questions for the panel on how to start a craft business from home, as did other participants, but there just isn’t room or time to discuss them all here. Topics covered included tax affairs (should you do your own tax return, or hire an accountant?), the benefits of being a sole trader vs. a partnership or limited company (short answer: ask an accountant!), how best to utilise social media, and what to do when pitching products to retailers. You can read all the questions and their answers on the Guardian Small Business page here (scroll down to the comments section): http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/oct/07/how-set-up-run-craft-business-from-home.
It was the first time I’d ever participated in a Live Q&A like this, and I found it a really enjoyable – and useful – experience. It was a little frenetic at times as the questions came in thick and fast, and I was constantly refreshing the page to see the responses, but it’s definitely something I’d do again. I tweeted about the session too, which helped boost my Twitter follower numbers!
Talking of Twitter, my handle is @FlowersHandmade (@HandmadeFlowers was already taken, boo!).