{Business Tips} Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Handmade

The 4th of July or Independence Day, has been a day of celebration and revolution since the 18th century. Over time, the importance of the event has been strengthened by community events, barbecue gatherings and glorious displays of fireworks. I say strengthened, rather than weakened because all of these things have become American symbols of camaraderie and inclusion. While I realize that not all of our fellow EcoEtsians (or EcoEtsy readers) are American by heritage, I do believe that all of us have a wealth of knowledge right in our own backyard. We just have to learn how to tap into it! The Challenge is in finding your community and making it work for you. . . and everyone else!

Declare Your Independence

Beet the System

Beet the System by Black Sheep Heap

Congratulations! You’ve done it. You’ve decided to create your own Business. You have officially declared your Independence from “The Man”! You are now self employed. Or are you?
Be fully aware of what declaring your independence means before taking on this task. Building a handmade business takes a huge amount of dedication. I can assure you, your bedtime may become later or your wake time earlier. At times you might feel like you spend all of your energy listing and listing and no one seems to be buying (or even looking).  It is difficult to navigate the world of building a business alone. It’s probably impossible.
The trick in declaring your independence is remembering that you are not the first to do it. Other independent business owners have come before you and many contemporaries are accessible! Make sure to look into your local small business initiatives as well as the U.S. Small Business Administration. These sites offer wonderful tips on starting and managing a business, knowing how to figure out when you’ll begin earning profit and where to get the moola to fund your business. One-on-one business counseling is often offered at many state level organizations. These organizations do not discount any personal connections you may have in your local art world. Your art community members may include acquaintances, friends-of-friends, certain EcoEtsy members or even people you happenstance to come across at rare and opportune moments. Take advantage of perfect timing. Do not let valuable business relationships slip through your hands because you were “chicken”. That’s right I said it!
In order for you to assert your Independence you have to first make others listen to you. You have to convince them that you are worth paying attention to, investing in and believing in. A steady foundation of teachers, mentors and creative professional relationships will make the joy of the process truly apparent. The road may be long and sometimes seem fruitless but the payoff will be soooo sweet!

Make Resolutions

Resolutions is where you determine the things your are willing to compromise on and those things that you refer to negotiate. This will be different for each individual business owner. Now comes the point where you must, no matter how much you dread it, create your Business Plan. This document will be the most important thing you have. It is where you will go for all of your reminders when you need to clarify what your goals are. . . and how you PLAN to accomplish them. An Etsy business is difficult to initially get the hang of because often we are working backwards. In a lot of cases, our shops were created on a whim. . . remember that “Declaring Your Independence” thing! A skill became a hobby, became a shop and then became a business. . . without a plan.
You’ve recognized you have skills and a passion; it’s now time to put it in writing. Think of your business plan as your contract with yourself. It’s a type of insurance. It allows you to identify those areas you may need help with (like navigating those nasty tax documents) and find a way to learn the skills or develop the contacts you need to get these things accomplished. Uncle Sam has been a longstanding personification of American government but we don’t want him to turn into a monkey (in a top hat) on our backs. Don’t forget that your business plan is just that, Yours! You can make your business whatever you want it to be. This is the beauty of being your own boss!

Know Your History

Revolution Magnetic Ring from Polarity

If you don’t know where you’ve been, how will you know where you are going? This is especially important in business development. And often times you can learn many lessons from those who have come before you. This can be a sticky situation if you aren’t aware of some of the inferred rules of online etiquette. Think about the ways that you develop relationships in your personal life. Apply these concepts to meeting other business owners who have businesses, blogs or websites that are more developed than your own. Don’t do this hastily. Remember relationships are built on trust, communication and equal opportunity. This means focusing on your strengths and accepting or even initiating opportunities to give. Random acts of business kindness tell people “I support your cause and I’m willing to help”. Sort of like business Karma!
That being said, be careful not to fill your plate too full. If you run out of energy in the middle of a week when you have tons of things due, your opportunities could turn into letting others down. Know when to say no and don’t spread yourself too thin.

Rally the Troops

Sustaining a business cannot be done alone. As many of us have figured out, to run a business requires supplies, business cards, logo designs and possibly website creation. Most of these things can be acquired by bartering for the skills of others. If you have a shop, you have product. Imagine you sell a custom order. In creating the custom order and building a relationship with your customer, you discover her best friend is a Graphic Designer. You later come to find out this friend loves your products. From here a logo is born and maybe a banner and some business cards too! This works for haircuts too I am told!
Trading materials is also a great way to save some cost and get friendly with the troops. You will also find that some Etsy supply sellers are willing to buy in bulk for you if they know you’re reliable. Make sure to do your homework on this one though. You don’t want to end up purchasing cheaply made supplies from a big business using Etsy as a selling platform (I’m sad to say this does happen).

Create a Revolution

Original Artwork by TanjaSova
EcoEtsy Rules from TanjaSova

Etsy will only take you so far. Your connections and the relationships that you/we have developed and will continue to develop will take you much further. Get involved in your local communities. Find out what those near you are doing business wise and reap the benefits of these kinships! Put energy into your cause and create the face that you wish to project to the world. I encourage you to share your good (and bad) business relationship stories in the comments section. We all have something to teach one another!

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  1. “You have officially declared your Independence from “The Man”!” Well said.. Halleluiah!

    • Unfortunately I still have to pay him taxes 😛 But we can’t have everything, I suppose?!! I definitely appreciate your enthusiasm on this one Natural Grace!!

  2. Excellent article. I agree wholeheartedly that a business plan, even a simplified version, is imperative. The ball starts rolling and before you know it you don’t know where your business is or where you want it to go… (she says, sheepishly looking around)

    Great advice here.

    • I can completely relate to this Lisa. You start off and everything is going great and before you know it you’re overwhelmed with shipping, packaging, photographing, listing etc. etc.! Um, guess I should take my own advise and dig out that Business Plan Huh!!

  3. A brilliant way of connecting this historic holiday with running our business. You are so right about independence, rallying your troop, building a community, and making resolutions. They are all so important points to consider.

    Now, if I can just find the time…….I know, I know. I have to MAKE time.

    Thanks for a great reminder.

    Have a Happy July Fourth!

    • Karen,
      As our leader, I think you do an awesome job at “making time”! You have a pretty big team to care for, while also taking care of your own obligations. Thank you for always making time for us and taking the time to make us all better at what we strive to do.

  4. Thank you SO much for this motivation, Magpietree! Brilliant!
    Summer goals:
    1) Make business plan
    2) Actually READ the Bookkeepers’ Boot Camp book that is sitting on my shelf
    3) Figure out how Quickbooks works and start using it
    Just sayin it out loud!
    Anyone else feeling a bit intimidated by the business end of things? :-)

    • Thank you Jenn for the kind words <3 and I love your list of summer goals! I've always been a bit overwhelmed with the business aspect of things. . . I guess it sort of goes with being Right Brained?! I have a great template for creating a business plan. I will be sure to post it in the Etsy Yahoo Group for anyone interested. It's sort of long, so don't let it overwhelm you! I have to admit I haven't even completed the entire thing yet. But it's a great resource it you're interested?