11 Oct Hobby to Business – Top 10 Tips
My first year of running a creative business is nearly over. I took my hobby into the business world and what was kind of an experiment has actually become a thing – a real business!
I recently asked my followers on Instagram what they wanted to hear from me and the top answer was – “HOW DID YOU GET STARTED”?
So here’s my response – a ‘Top 10 Tips’ for getting your lettering hobby to a business.
(I could go into a lot of detail on all of these points, which I might do in the future – but hopefully this overview will point you in the right direction).
Seems obvs, right? Well yes and no. If you are someone already creating lovely looking things it is easy to think ‘job done’, but a cursory glance at the #lettering hashtag on Instagram will show you the job definitely is not done.
The market is saturated with amazing artists and calligraphers and you want to shine amongst them. I would put a month’s salary that those with the most beautiful lettering styles are the ones who practice – regularly.
There is always something to learn – different lettering styles, keeping letters the same size, finding your signature style, keeping your lettering consistent, different types of pens and brushes and paints and inks. So practice, practice, practice. That’s the fun bit, right? So it’s not gonna be a problem.
You need to think about how you get your work to your audience. If you are creating prints, then I am guessing you are not going to want to draw each design over and over for each person who buys it.
So are you going to paint them and then scan and print? Are you drawing digitally so you don’t need to scan? What software will you use to print from? How will you print – at home or using a professional printer?
Do some research and weigh up your options. For what it’s worth, I have a semi-professional A3 printer at home. I draw digitally on my iPad Pro and I finish my designs in Photoshop or Illustrator before printing. I source my paper through PaperSpectrum.
3. Who Are You?
What is your vision or mission? Who are you selling to? Who is likely to buy your prints? Are you going to sell as yourself or have a company name? Why are you doing what you are doing?
Knowing the answers to these questions helps you to focus. It means you know who you’re aiming at and what sort of products to create. It gives you an identity and a brand and a voice.
If you’re not entirely sure, use your friends as a focus group! Create some lovely prints and give them as gifts to different types of friends to see what kind of response you get. It’s a win-win, because you get to be generous, and you get some decent feedback! And if you don’t get any feedback, ask for it! You need it!
4. Be Courageous.
Taking a hobby into the business realm is going to require a whole heap of brave from you. You’re going to be talking to people you don’t know, making tough choices, setting boundaries, putting your work out there for the whole world to comment on and also having a WHOLE LOT OF FUN.
None of it is going to happen if you’re stuck wondering if you’ve got what it takes. Of course you have, mix yourself a cocktail of self-belief, courage and sheer determination and you’re ready for the next step.
5. Actually Do It!
We can ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ for a long time about whether to do something or not. It’s good to be wise and it’s good to plan, but wait too long and you’re just procrastinating.
Make a list of what you need to get going, and start doing just one thing a day. Seeing the list get smaller (or in my case bigger, but with lots of ticks against it) is very rewarding as you’re intentionally working towards your dream.
No one else can do this for you. This is your moment!
6. Open an Etsy Store.
This one feels big right? It all just got real. Well yes it did, but it’s not as scary as it seems.
Etsy (in case you didn’t know) is a market place website full of wonderful (and some times weird) handmade goodies from creative folks around the world. You set up a shop there so people can easily buy your work.
Yes, there are small fee’s for you to consider, yes you need to figure out how to get seen in the searches (Google Etsy SEO and you’ll find a LOT of information), yes you need to think about how your products get to your customers, yes you need to make sure your photography is tip top (see next point), but you CAN do this!
7. Have Great Product Photography.
This is an absolute must. Your photography is the number one thing that is going to sell your products. People can’t come to your home to see your products in person so your photography has show off your products to their absolute best.
Your photographs need to be well lit, nicely styled and clear to see. You can get experienced and amazing product photographers like Holly Booth or Copper Boom Studio to do the photography for you or you can do it yourself at home – like I do.
I have no fancy lighting, I just use props I have found in home ware shops, I get my layout inspiration from Pinterest and I wait for a bright day and take photos by a window.
I use my iPhone a lot of the time. Occasionally, I use my digital SLR and I use Snapseed app or my iPhone photo app to edit the photos. One prop that I couldn’t do without now would be my Photo boards, from Photoboards.org – inexpensive and they really add a professional finish.
8. Master Social Media.
So you have a ton of lovely products, beautifully photographed and an Etsy shop…so how do you tell the world you exist? Social media is your friend. You need to build a following on a variety of platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc.
You don’t need to use them all if that feels too much, but you probably do need to be using Instagram and Facebook. You need to think about your target audience and which platform are they most likely to use.
Post regularly, find your voice, use your lovely photos, let your audience get to know you and don’t be tempted to always go in for the hard sell. Be engaging with people, interact with people who comment, find your audience and comment on their posts, use good hashtags so you show up in people’s searches, be funny, be compassionate, be open, be yourself – and be consistent! You need to post every day (especially on Instagram), sometimes several times a day. You may want to plan your posts in advance or do them on the fly.
There are all sorts of hints and tips available to you about how to use social media to your benefit – search online and do some research. There will be lots of people promising the world if you pay for their online seminar. Don’t do it – there’s a lot of help out there for free!
A bonus of being on social media is that you will make new friends. You will find people who encourage you and champion you – and you’ll make sales. You’ll also find people who can help you and offer you wisdom as you develop. It’s time consuming but it’s worth the time, this is your audience and this is how you grow.
9. Have some boundaries.
Oh my gosh… when you open your own business there is so much you want to do – create new products, be on social media, make your shop look pretty, work on SEO, network with other businesses, consider wholesale, craft fairs, other online retailers…you could be working every hour of the day, and because you enjoy it you might, right?
Find a balance, right from the beginning. What time of day to you clock off from social media? When you do draw for fun and when do you draw for work? Do you work over the weekends? How often will you respond to emails? Think about this stuff and then STICK TO IT.
You owe yourself balance. You owe your family and friends the best of you, not just the tired, overworked you… find a pace that works for you and keep to it.
10. Don’t neglect the admin.
I can almost hear the collective groan as I write this, but you are a business now, that means you’ve got to behave like one. You need to let HMRC know about you and you need to do your accounts. You need to keep receipts and records. You need to be organised, know your stock levels and when orders come in and go out. You need to track products that sell and those that don’t… I kinda like this stuff (well not the accounts) so I crack on, but if you hate it, then do it little and often. If you leave it, it will feel TOO big, and you won’t ever get round to it. You might even discover, because it’s your business, for YOU, that you enjoy it!
Just one last thing…reading a list like this might make it seem all too much like hard work, well yes, it is hard work, but you’ll love it. It’s a creative job, with no one breathing down your neck. There’s an incredible community of people out there just like you, making similar decisions and taking the same risks. I promise you, it’s fun, you enjoy it and when you get your first sale, you’ll be hooked!!