The craft marketplace is saturated with handmade items from all different kinds of artists and designers. Many people are making the same types of products and even using the same patterns and materials, making it very difficult for small craft businesses to succeed at standing out.
I’ve been running my own craft business for about four years now and I can tell you firsthand how frustrating it is trying to keep your products unique and up-to-date. The temptation to copy other people’s successful ideas is also high. But I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error that the very best way to stand out is to use your own imagination to come up with the best, creative ideas.
If you want to succeed at making a living by selling crafts, you will need to produce products that are unique and desirable enough to rise above the competition. Here are some tips on how I ensure that I make craft products that stand out from the crowd.
1. Start with something that inspires you.
When you’re trying to come up with a new product line or design, start your brainstorming session by thinking of things that inspire you. I’ve found that my very best products have started with a thought about something that I love or admire greatly.
Incorporate your senses. What is beautiful to you? What do you love the sound, smell or taste of? Ask yourself other questions too. What makes you laugh or smile? What makes you want to be a better person? The answers to these kinds of questions will be your inspiration.
A lot of my best selling products are animal related. I absolutely adore foxes and hedgehogs and I was an owl fanatic well before they became fashionable. I incorporate my love for these creatures into a lot of my jewelry and collectibles and it’s obvious to both me and my customers that my love of wildlife shines through in what I make.
Maybe you’re passionate about sustainable living, you enjoy volunteering at a children’s hospital or you love collecting old books. Whatever inspires you, use this to feed your creativity.
2. Come up with workable product concepts.
Now that you’ve spent some time dwelling on inspiration, you can begin forming some workable product concepts. Brainstorm about the different types of things you’d like to make and form a list of possibilities.
For instance, you may have an interest in making earrings, but find the thought of creating plush toys equally appealing. Don’t be afraid of having too many ideas. Write down everything you think of, because even if you don’t use all of your ideas immediately, you can always come back to old ideas at another time.
After you have a list of ideas, choose a couple that especially stand out to you. Now you can begin to design your actual products.
3. Sketch your own designs and patterns.
Once you have an idea of what you want to make, you can do some rough sketches. Sketching your ideas will help you to visualize your finished products and figure out how to actually begin constructing them.
Even if you aren’t very good at drawing, making sketches of your ideas can still be a great help as you begin the design process.
If you’re going to be working with fabric, paper or even wood, you can make patterns and templates with your sketches that you can use to actually cut out the material that you will be using. If you’re crocheting or knitting, you can use your drawings as a rough guide to help you construct your written pattern.
4. Create a prototype of your new product.
Once you’ve designed your product or made a pattern for it, you can create your first prototype. A prototype is like an experimental first product. It gives you the chance to make a finished physical item that’s not necessarily ready to sell, but that gives you an idea of how well your idea will work.
As you make your prototype, don’t be afraid to tweak it while you go. You can make changes either by changing your sketches or by changing the physical item you are actually working on. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Cut, tear and make marks where necessary. You aren’t making something to show off yet, so don’t worry about mistakes.
Once you’ve played around with your design, you should be able to make a finished item that you’re happy with. Spend as much time as you need to get it right. As the old adage says, you can’t rush art.
5. Get feedback and make any final changes.
Once you have a prototype you can get some feedback. You don’t need to show potential customers. You aren’t ready for that yet. Show some friends or fellow crafters who can help you by giving honest, helpful criticism.
Take some notes as you get feedback so that you can incorporate any final changes that you think will make your finished products better. Obviously, you don’t need to use all of the suggestions you get but it’s good to take note anyway for future reference. It’s good market research.
6. Create a batch of salable products.
Now that you have a prototype finished, you’re ready to make a batch of salable products.
Using your prototype as a guide, make five or ten more of the same item.
It’s good to make multiples before you begin selling so that you will have a variety of colors or styles available. It will also give you a chance to change any last minute, niggling issues that you may notice in your finished items.
This process for creating unique products has always worked well for me. I hope that my design tips help you to create wonderful handmade items that stand out from the crowd. Your craft business will naturally attract sales because of your one-of-a-kind creations.