Sunday, 15 December 2013

Starting a crafty business - what are you trying to do?

What are you trying to do, for goodness sake? 
What are you trying to do - it won't work, whatever it is ... 
What are you trying to do, woman?  

And so on ...

If you're thinking of turning your hobby into a business, the moment you mention it you'll be asked this question, with variations in exactly where the emphasis lies, by everybody who thinks they are anybody in your life, and by plenty of people who are nobody in your life.

However, this question is most usefully asked by yourself, to yourself - and answered by yourself. 

Ok, what you want to do is to start a business from the craft or creative hobby that is your passion. 

We know that already! 

But what sort of business and what is your eventual aim? 

Are you trying to be able to give up a boring, ill-paid job and, instead, do what you love, all day long? 

Are you trying to make your fortune in a year's time with the simply BRILLIANT whatsits you craft? 

Are you trying to make a bit of extra money doing what you love in your spare time? 

Or are you trying simply to subsidise your hobby? 

Perhaps you want to try to use the creative hobby you love to raise the profile of a cause about which you are passionate?

There are many, many legitimate reasons to want to turn your crafty hobby into a business - few, if any, are bad reasons (unless your hobby is making nuclear weapons and the reason for turning it into a business is try to rule the world ...) although some are less likely to be successful than others. 

You really do need to decide what YOU are trying to do, before you dive in. 

Now, I can't and won't give any advice on your brilliant whatsits and your intention to make a fortune in a year's time, except you must go elsewhere for this sort of business advice - have you tried Dragon's Den?

If you want to pack in a boring but secure job, and try to replace a steady income with the proceeds of your own creative efforts, the best and only advice I will offer here is to carefully consider your circumstances. If you and/or your family rely on your income to pay the costs of food, housing and utilities, you must make sure that you have a sound financial plan in place to take care of these essentials before telling your boss what to do with your job.

You can start this planning by looking at where and how you can cut your outgoings, and how you could supplement your income if necessary. And it probably will be necessary; typically it can take four or more years after startup to replace a previous mid-range salary. Most new businesses don't even last that long!

So what's left? 

Part-time/spare time, of course, is far less risky  - and who knows how far, and to where, it might  lead you? 

Wait a minute, I hear you saying. I want to be a business person, not a glorified hobbyist!

My answer to that is that you are no longer a hobbyist if you treat your hobby like a real business - and you can start doing that right now, while still only crafting in the odd free minutes you can grab while baby's sleeping, or the day in lieu you take for working the bank holidays, or the half-hour break from exam revision. And if you are unemployed and hoping against hope that you might just be able to make it in the self-employed world by developing a creative hobby, you can most certainly treat your hobby like a business, right now, without compromising your benefits and as a bonus learn useful skills.

Just read tomorrow's post to find out more!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Why bother trying to help ...

... if offering an honest opinion when it has been asked for is considered hurtful and upsetting?

On a forum I've been frequenting for the past couple of years, new members thinking about, or in the process of,  turning their crafty hobby into a small business often post asking for advice and opinions. 

Being in the fortunate situation of having run a successful part-time specialist sewing business for the past several years, and having run a very successful part-time home baking business while living overseas some 25 years ago, I think I have some experience to share, and I try to help others when I can.

I also enjoy learning about the trials and tribulations of other crafters in other areas of the country. Sharing experiences of UK craft markets and customers in these difficult economic times is really helpful, too. Most of the writing on these subjects come from the USA, and although always interesting, is of doubtful relevance here in the UK.

However, I won't beat around the bush if someone asks for opinions on an idea. I will give my honest opinion, neither dressed up not toned down, and will not mince my words if I think an idea is ill-advised or ill-considered. 

I also refuse to call a spade an implement for  manual garden-soil disturbance, and cannot abide posters who make suggestions that one need  not 'bother' complying with business and taxation law. It seems to be a fairly common 'folk' belief that there's no need to register with HMRC or even abide by the recommendations of Trading Standards or Environmental Health, if one's business is 'small enough' - although no-one is ever able to define how small is 'small enough'...

However, it seems that this particular forum is losing its way and becoming nothing more than a cliquey bunch of histrionic people who claim 'hurt' and 'upset' if any member expresses disagreement with their own pet opinions, even when other opinions on a matter have been specifically requested!

Sadly, several experienced and successful  craft-business owners are being and recently have been treated like rude and naughty children for doing nothing more than offering their honest opinions when these are requested, and for issuing warnings against what they consider may be a dodgy business practice or an overly-risky decision.

So I'm on the lookout for another creative/small business forum with an active UK membership - somewhere with a more down-to-earth ethos, with less diddums diddums soppiness about it.

A pity, as I'll miss some of the members.

In the meantime, though, I'm going to post a series of 'advice' posts which will pull no punches and which will be full of MY unvarnished opinions and of what does and doesn't work for ME. 

Starting tomorrow, with 'Starting a crafty business - what are you trying to do?'