Friday, 16 January 2015

Turn your hobby into a business - part 2

Today we have part two of a three part series running this week and next week on the blog entitled "Turn your hobby into a business".  This brought to the blog by Fiona Pullen from The Sewing Directory who is also the author of Craft a Creative Business which came out this week in the US and is already out in the UK (UK readers click here, US readers find it here).

Part 2 – Research and Planning 

Now if you’ve read part one, and think that running your own business is for you the next stage is to research and plan your business idea. Many crafters kind of fall into running a business, people offer to buy what they make so they start selling it without ever having properly thought it through.

Most of them haven’t costed it out, haven’t researched which products to sell or planned where they want their business to go. They start selling a few items to friends and family, which goes well so they decided to start selling at craft fairs or online. Before they know it they are running a business with no idea of what they actually want, or need from that business.

Even if you are already at that stage there is nothing to stop you from taking a step back and doing your research and planning now. Nothing is set in stone, if you research tells you that you should be doing something a little different then you can do it. If it shows you there is no way to make a profit carrying on as you are then you can adapt.

So where do you start? Grab a pen and paper (or a computer if you prefer) and start writing down what you want to do. What do you want to make, how do you want to spend your days. Close your eyes and envisage a shop of your products, what products would they be? What would they be made from, how would they be presented. Draw it in your mind and note down the finer details.

This is your starting point, the dream! Now you need to look into how you could make it a reality. Firstly you want to see what competition there is. Is anyone else doing what you do, if so how can you differentiate yourself? You don’t want to be seen as a copy of another business, you want to be offering something unique. If there is no one else doing it all you need to investigate why not. Have people tried it and found there was no market? Or do you have something really unique?

Even if people have tried it and failed it doesn’t mean you will, you need to study what they did and see if you could identify where it went wrong, and what you could do differently to make it succeed. Speak to people in the industry and get feedback, research online, look on blogs/sites/forums to see what other people said about the businesses that failed. This could help you identify how to do it successfully.

If others are already doing something similar to what you want to do you want to study them and assess their strengths and weaknesses so you can learn from them. How will you do it differently? How can you improve on what they offer? How will your products stand out amongst all the others? Is there too much competition already or space for another business such as yours? Do their products seem to be selling well? Are their customers happy?

Another thing you want to research is where best to sell your products. Visit local craft fairs and see what sells well and what doesn’t. Weigh up the pros and cons of the various online market places. Look at options for setting up your own website and think about how you could market it. You need to decide what is the best option for you to get your product in front of your potential customers. 

Competitor analysis is an essential part of business, but I want to emphasise here that you want to learn from them, be inspired by them but do not copy them. Apart from that fact that breaching someone else’s copyright is illegal, you will also lose the respect of industry peers, and your customers if they see you copying someone else. It would be very hard to re-build that trust should that happen.
As well as researching your competitors you also need to research your customers. Who are the type of people that would buy your product? You need to narrow it down as much as possible, don’t just say all women would love what you make because that isn’t true. Not everyone will, so what differentiates those who will like it from those who won’t? What will make people buy it as opposed to just looking at it and admiring it?

The more precisely you can identify your customer the easier it will be to target them with your marketing. You want to have an idea of what sex they are, roughly what age they are, where they shop, what they read, where they hang out, how much they spend... All of these things will help you plan your marketing strategy. If you don’t know the answer try conducting marketing research surveys to find the answers.
Let’s face it if you are talking full size quilts you are looking at people with fairly big budgets. Quilts are not cheap to produce and take a lot of hours to make therefore making your costs high, so someone buying a large quilt is going to have a very different budget from the kind of person that would buy some quilted mug rugs.

In part 3 on Monday 19 January we will look at pricing your products to make sure you make a profit.


  1. Great ideas and such great Union Jack projects!

  2. Very good advice but could I add please be respectful of someone's hard work if you are asking a quilter how they run their business. I am happy to talk generally about it but not to give away exactly how I run things, souce my packaging , deal with my customers etc. it has taken lots of time and thinking to come up with my business model and as you say, people need to think of unique ideas rather than ' taking inspiration' which can be close to copying, from other makers.


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