Craftsperson’s Seven Deadly Sins

So your business is up and running, BUT how many of these Deadly Sins are you committing?


REALLY? Yes really. You wanted to be a craftsman because you enjoy making, so you are making stock.

Once you have lots, you will go and sell it, until then you will make. Lots because you don’t want to run out  and find yourself turning customers away. Also customers need lots to choose from, the more you can offer the better chance you have of a sale.

BUT it’s just not going to be like that. You will sell some, or possibly none, not all  of what you have made. Stuff sells in fads, one day everyone wants one thing, another something different. If you carry a lot of stock of any item you will at some point be left with a lot of it as buying patterns change. Make to replace sold pieces or to create a new product

CHOICE confuses the customer, they find it impossible to choose so they don’t buy. Choose between three colourways and you have a favourite, ten and you struggle. You need impulse>choice> sale  to be simple not complex.

CONSIDER: Cost of materials; time taken to make; room needed for storage and its realistic chance of being sold within the next month. If you make ten, sell six, then the cost of the unsold four have to be borne by the six you did sell. The ideal is make one, sell one.

Overstocking: Innocent or Guilty?


When you were little the fun of nearly all the make-believe games lay in the setting up, arranging the shop, the teddy bear school, the train set . Dont play at setting up a business.

You don’t need to buy headed STATIONERY nor a thousand business cards, run your stationery off as you use it on the computer and buy low-cost 100 run business cards from someone like Moo cards Why? because what needs to go on your stationery will change rapidly.

Dont even open a BUSINESS ACCOUNT. It will cost you a lot of money in bank charges to run. A self-employed sole trader can use their personal account and PayPal or similar to take credit and debit cards.

You are selling handmade so HAND DO as much as you can, it does not make you look unprofessional, it makes you look like a genuine hands on craftsperson.

Dont tie too much money up in MATERIALS even if buying in thousands does seem to do wonders for your unit cost,  as you need to use every last scrap to achieve it.

Overspending on set up:  Innocent or Guilty?


If you sell online but do not have a direct selling website with a shopping cart which you have daily control of, then  you have no website.

Being on Etsy or similar just won’t cut it. You need to have somewhere to tempt your loyal customers.  Why would you want that to be Etsy when they might well get waylaid by other craftspeople’s offers and spend there and not with you?

A website helps you consolidate as you gain customers. Do some computer web design evening classes, then BUILD YOUR OWN SITE. It won’t start great, but it will get better and better as you learn more and realise how to do things. Buying off the shelf by employing a web designer means his fitting your business to his design, whereas you will fit your design to your business and it will evolve with you.

It also means that all editorial and social media mentions have immediate sales potential through your website. Without a website you are always paying a premium to sell your work through commission or exhibitor fees. You need to break free of that as soon as you possibly can.

No website: Innocent or Guilty?


It is remarkable how few craftspeople really understand where they are in the simplest of terms. They do not know how much profit they are making or even their actual turnover.

It’s about EVASION, as if the profit police will come and lock them up. You have to know. The figures are your playthings, half an hour with a calculator a month will help you see what you need to do. Where is the money being spent and  where is it coming from? Is it better or worst than this time last year? Inside even the worst of figures sits some helpful stuff . The unopened bill destroys faster than the opened one.

 Poor Accounting: Innocent or Guilty?


Yeah that old bugbear. I am talking to the hand here. You are not going to listen. I don’t know why I am bothering .

I have heard every excuse in the book, “it’s not art”, “people can’t afford it”, “its only made out of paper”

So you would rather fail, than ask customers to pay more , can’t you see that is irrational? Yes you will lose sales if you double your prices, you could lose half your sales. Now please get a cup of tea, go and lay down in a darkened room and think about that. Think hard.

Got there? Worked it out? Yes exactly that would be great, you would get the SAME MONEY FOR HALF THE WORK .

Be experimental about putting your prices up, try three different prices on similar pieces and you will find your customers don’t automatically buy the cheapest. A Harrods buyer knows that Primark sell clothes cheaper but that isn’t what it’s about for them.

Always factor in time it took to make, not just in terms of how much you think your labour is worth per hour, but also look at it this way. If your selling line takes five hours to make and you can make for three days a week and you sell it for x then as you can only make six a week  it has to be sold at a least a sixth of a weeks income.

In pricing remember the SAS motto He who dares wins.

Cowardly Pricing: Innocent or Guilty?


Some makers are l shy and so they will do all kinds of things to not face their customers.

You have to get out there at the most basic level and risk a mauling. It hurts when the other stalls sell and you are a lonely island but it happens and you just have to be pig-headed and accept its the wrong place, and wrong people Try again.

You have to understand you are part of what they are buying into, your skill, your lifestyle, so share stuff, if you live in a little cottage in the deepest wood Tell them. BE INCLUSIVE.

Customer Shy: Innocent or Guilty?


When you start out your expectations are often too high, the sooner you bring them down to earth the better.  Be determined, but be realistic or else you are going to feel DISAPPOINTED and unsuccessful when you are actually doing quite well.

£20,000 profit from a sole trading craftsperson is really good, anything over £10,000 is very respectable. It takes time, be patient, you will make  lots of mistakes, just learn from them.

Ignore the monkey on your shoulder who says you don’t have a real job It is about life choices People envy your way of  life it looks great from the solicitor’s office.

Set your mind to I AM NOT YET SUCCESSFUL BUT I AM GETTING THERE. It can easily take five years for a business to bed down.

Unrealistic Goals : Innocent or Guilty?

TELL ME your guilty score in the comments and where I can find you online. I will respond with a piece of tailor-made advice for your enterprise

101 comments later :

I am calling a halt on the tailor made advice on this post as I  want to write new stuff now. Thank you if you  took up the offer and especially to those who came back with feedback on the advice they got.

I frequently felt that I was shooting from the hip and what I had to say would have made harsh reading for many, but finding someone who will really tell you what they think is near impossible and so I told it how I thought it was.

118 thoughts on “Craftsperson’s Seven Deadly Sins

  1. chrissicat says:

    Well I am guilty of at least two if not more of these sins- and hubby said that if I displayed two of each colour available if I were offering say Crystal drop earrings, one in a gold and one silver was too much, so possibly also overstocking too was the reason I figuratively ‘drew in my horns’ and am rethinking how I should run my business, from other jewellery maker-sellers (and not those where I was actually selling) I have learned that my pricing structure was for want of a better word chaotic, as I did not have jewellery appropriately priced to sell at the venues which I actually used- it was a case of Harrods goods with H Samuels prices at a Primark event so even had I actually sold anything I would have to be pricing at a level where I would lose money on the Sterling, Gold on silver and gemstone ranges let alone my gold and silver filled costume jewellery because of the fact that as I was selling in weekly Church hall markets and seasonal fairs, or at school fairs whether seasonal or Craft people (locally anyway) either can’t, don’t or won’t spend large sums of money at this type of event, and to get my ‘high end jewellery’ to a wider market, where I can actually sell it and make money – as I do not have transport and cannot drive, I will need to have some kind of online presence- which I did not have at the time-and am now working on developing with the help of my son who is a far better photographer than I could ever be -and for selling,if I continue using a similar type of venue for face to face sales, I need to have a cheaper, or even two cheaper levels , (though I won’t compromise on design or quality of work-) of jewellery to sell at this type of venue I don’t know if my assessment would stand true in other parts of the country and I must admit to being unsure of committing to this strategy but as it seems to work for others from my area and nearby I think if I wish to have a business that grows rather than depends on only one source of revenue (repairs in my case) to bring in regular, predictable cashflow I will have to look further into it

  2. kay edwards says:

    Thanks Dixie. I know that I am guilty a little of all of the above .
    I am really very grateful for this blog. I am getting some sales but I am spending a lot on weekly advertising on Etsy . I hope you will critique my shop. I was just thinking to start sewing instead of beading to boost sales. Thank you.My shop is:

      • kay edwards says:

        Dixie, I thank you very much for letting me know my mistake about the comma and the need for a capital K to spell ” Kaystyle “. I have been working so hard to my market and up so late . I have to be more careful. I will make corrections.
        Thanks again .

  3. Jayne Rozario says:

    This is the best advice and information I have read and enjoyable easy reading too. I have signed up to everything so I dont miss out in the future! I look forward to your postings. Thank you, Jayne

  4. zenmaiden says:

    This post is SUPER informative! What hit home with me the most is the idea that choice confuses people. I bet this is the problem I had with people. Everyone without fail admired my set up and products, ohhing and ahhing, but the sales were not as often as I would have expected. I think after reading this, I will try again with a simpler approach this time.

  5. Patty says:

    I actually did pretty well…I am trying to get my stock ahead because I produce in the winter and garden/farm in the summer. I never spend to much money if I don’t have to.
    I have a web site but I’m not sure it is a help. I am only just now trying to use the internet to promote wholesale and/or consignment sales.
    I am thinking of doing one or two shows this year…
    I think my prices are OK?

  6. Hannah says:

    Hi Dixie, Doug sent me to your 7 deadly sins post. It certainly makes me think hard. I’ve liinked it to a few groups that I know would appreciate it too.

    Too much stock, possibly, it’s that age old thing of not knowing what folk will want and the kiln has to be full and the stand has to have a good display when you get to the show. A lot of my work is to commission so that of course is made to order.

    Hiding from customers, not in the online world I don’t think but certainly in the real world I could be accused (and rightly so) of that one.

    Underpricing. Oh my, probably so with the commissions especially.

    Unrealistic expectations, often yes but not always I don’t think.

  7. Dixie Nichols says:

    Thats it on advice from me on this post. I have written zillions of words. I just hope that all the writers read my response as lots of midnight oil went into their writing.

    If you stick around and subscribe I am going to do similar reviews on other posts but its time to move forward on this one

  8. Louise Mingua says:

    Dixie, I found out about you on LinkedIn. I am guilty in all areas, though in varying degrees. Lots of stock, and want to make more (to fulfill my creative side). I do have an ETSY shop. I am trying to build a website, though am struggling a bit. So hard to know who (online program) does best in this regard. Have tried lots. I have a very large website, and am building a second just for my products (not listed below). I don’t crunch numbers, though I’ve kept all receipts. Hiding from customers? Hmmmm… I do wear my products, but I must admit they don’t get a lot of exposure. I’m thinking about freebies next, to get that. I make jewelry. I’ve subscribed to a few online sites to learn all I can. My greatest obstacle is time. In order to fund my project/hobby, I work two part-time jobs. It’s a catch-22. Help!! I found this article helpful. I look forward to more! Thank you Dixie.


    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Louise, You are so muddled and your confusion confuses.

      I went to your Beyond Imaginings page but dont quite understand what I am looking at. Is it a blog? Is it a business? Is it a cult?

      I discovered (eventually) some lovely natural writing. I read the piece about going to visit your daughter in naval training and you made me relate to how you felt. But it was as if I was searching through a forest for mushrooms, I kept thinking I had found some more but half of it turned out to be advertising. A site about calm and peace and priorities landmined with interuptions and intrusions.

      I found the link to your Etsy shop and here too your offering is too diverse, there is no cohesion in the collection.

      Some of your photos are lovely in themselves but they are not informative. I need to see all the necklace and understand how it hangs. I know you give a length but it would be helpful to see it worn or hung on a stand. I also think it is a mistake to try and sell a bundle of products such as earings bracelet and necklace. You are losing customers because I might love the necklace and the bracelet but dont have pierced ears or I wear bracelets but not necklaces so I will not buy the set. Just list them seperately but put a note on each to say other matching pieces are listed.

      But tweaking your Etsy shop is not what its about, you need to slow right down. Forget your own website for now. You dont make a website until you have products which are selling and at sensible prices which make them worth making. Freebies will just be freebies they won’t lead anywhere at all.

      You have to get a table at a market or event as cheaply as you possibly can and sit and see whether people are prepared to buy and which pieces they seem attracted to. And you must not sell at knock down prices as then you are proving nothing. You need to take a flatterring mirror for people to try things. Be friendly and tell them about the pieces, you dont need to try to sell, just chat. Dont go with huge expectations.

      I think you are whirling round trying to catch your tail, you have two part time jobs which hopefully bring you enough to live on. Are you sure that you are doing the best thing by trying to make money from your craft?

      You may loose less money by giving yourself a budget to spend on your hobby and permission to enjoy creating wonderful pieces purely for yourself which you can take pleasure in wearing. Buying materials in the hope that you can sell at a profit is a high risk strategy, especially when you are already time poor.

      I wish you well but please have a big think.

  9. Dreana Bulmer-Thompson says:

    Great quiz. I opened my etsy shop in January. My score is as follows:

    Over stocking – not guilty, I make when I get orders in. But I do need to photograph my cards to put on display, so unless they sell I will be guilty of over stocking.
    Unnecessary spending – Possibly guilty, not so much on business costs, but on ‘hardware’ to make the cards, I spent too much anyway when it was just a hobby.
    No website – guilty as charged. I have only just started and thought an etsy shop would be a cheaper option than my own website. I work full time and only have enough free time to make items to sell and network on facebook and twitter.
    Not doing the figures – not guilty, I factor in every cost possible and have a excell work book on the computer to help me keep track.
    Underpricing – guilty, I sell cards, there is a limit to how much I can charge. I initially put my prices at around the £2.50 mark for an A6 card, a friend advised me to get initial sales to reduce my prices and increase later. I have done this, but against my better judgement. I’m still making a profit. I will find it very hard to justify charging more in the future for cards that have a similar make up to what I’m already advertising. I keep toying with the idea of increasing the price of what I have on offer now, but as I’ve built up a reasonable amount of followers through facebook and twitter, I don’t want to put them off.
    Hiding from customers – sort of guilty. I haven’t been to any craft fairs to sell, I’m still checking out the sort of clientèle that my local ones attract to see what does sell. I’m also going to target local florists and a hand made chocolate shop. I thought I would at least advertise myself in these shops if not keep a selection of the cards that I sell.
    Too high expectations – definitely not guilty. I make handmade cards. I am not going to break any records. I hope to sell enough to fund my hobby. If I make more then all well and good.

      • Dixie Nichols says:

        Kathy Your website is so eerie, everyone seems to have left, just one or two overlooked products have stayed behind. Its partly the design, which is uber clinical, but there is no trace of warmth or a human being anywhere. Most new makers are over chatty but you are totally absent.

        Maybe you are still working on your store, I really hope so. At the moment even the page tab still says Volusion Demo Store and what an odd name for a business “Easy to Use Jewelry Etc” thats so wierd and absent. You “wear” jewelry you dont “use” it and what on earth is that etc doing?

        I would never buy anything from a seller that had abolutely nothing to say about themselves.

        You need to make it personal. Think what you are selling. Look at the site. You click on necklaces and a mixture of bracelets and necklaces come up.
        You need proper photos, several of each from different angles and check all the links and fill in every thing you can. Also get rid of “Our price” you are not selling baked beans.You need to explain the materials more accurately too. Gold and silver needs to be gilt and nickel plated if that is what it actually is.

        I think you need to have a long hard think about if this is really what you want to do, maybe you should walk away now, it all looks very half hearted. You need to know when to say this isnt really right for me, I thought it would be, but it isnt. If you are determined to stay and fight, then increase your prices as you are loosing money on these and offer some idea of postal charges before checkout.

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Dreana,That friend has given the wrong advice and you know its wrong but you took it WHY? Put every price up imediately and those people who bought before will know that they got a bargain. Do put it up to a solid round figure £1.96 is not the price for a handcrafted item it is the price for mass produced articles. Also include the UK postage in the price so dont sell under £3.00

      I think there is a market for gigantic cards that are a present in themselves why not experiment with a whooper Valentine and see what happens, but charge £20 it will make the others look really inexpensive

      Take out all the description of how the card is made just put how long it takes to make. Otherwise all you are doing is being a free make your own service.

      If you offer too much customisation you will come a cropper, they ask for pink you do it pink and then they say not that pink, I meant shocking pink. Lots of colour combinations will look terrible its your job to pick the colours. Offer very particular customisations like Hypo’s balloon text.

      Do two card lines: straight what you see is what you get and a custom change range but very very specific.

      Why dont you offer to supply handmade gift cards for the chocolate and flower shop, make each card different and suggest if senders choose to send a handmade card then the shop charges and you get the money as its an extra service that they are offering at no cost to themselves. Make ten for each shop and see what happens.

      Think of other products like place names for weddings, offer the sevice to wedding planners as you could make to co ordinate with their theme

      Incidentally Etsy is fine at this stage as you are still learning about what product works and pricing when you know that you willl need a website but not now.

  10. Jenny Johns says:

    This has been a very informative thread. Thanks Dixie and everyone who has participated. I am in good shape on some things and not so good on others.

    OVERSTOCKING – I don’t keep much inventory on hand. Like you say, it eats up too much space and I like to make sure that what I am making is what everyone wants at the time.

    OVERSPENDING – although I do get carried away sometimes, I am usually pretty scotch with my funds, sometimes to my detriment. I have probably hurt my self sometimes by not spending money for quality tools and materials.

    WEBSITE – I have a simple one with a shopping cart I set up on Big Cartel that is very inexpensive and does the job. The things I need to add to make it better are an irresistible offer to capture email addresses and start sending a newsletter and a better intro page instead of just jumping right into the products. I do agree with your point for some others that you want to get to the products as quickly as possible because that’s what they came to see. I also have a Facebook Page.

    POOR ACCOUNTING – Guilty, nuf said!

    UNDERPRICING – Guilty. My friends tell me all the time I charge too little. I have raised prices 20% this year. Don’t want to go too fast or I will lose customers I already have.

    UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – I expect to make a reasonable amount, but i’m not trying to support myself with it, so whatever I make is good. I don’t like to go into really expensive shows because I have found too often that it just depends on the day and the crowd. Some shows are great sellers and some are not, so I stick to the inexpensive ones. My products are very affordable.

    HIDING FROM CUSTOMERS – i am guilty of this on one level and that is talking to stores. I have a sales rep for that, so I don’t have to worry about it. I sell to a lot of people from a large network I belong to and that is always good for me and I also do a lot of barter. I enjoy talking with people at shows and getting direct feedback.

    Thanks so much for any feedback I can get from you!

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Jenny Yes your prices are low, really low considering they include post and packing. I would suggest you put in a simple sum for that just as a way of increasing your price. Maybe $10 but you could then make a feature of post free on a couple of items. I hate to think what your wholesale price is.

      There is a moral issue here by not asking enough you are undercutting those craftspeople who need to make a living from their work; so dont see it as being greedy, see it as solidarity with other more vulnerable makers.

      You dont do the figures as you know already that they dont really stack up, so address your prices and the accounting will follow.

      Your website looks fine but there are some issues you might consider

      I think you should use your whole name. Jenny Johns is a great name which buyers can relate to. Think, if I was showing someone round my garden where in pride of place stands your bench, what sounds better “This is by Jenny Johns ” or “This is made by J Johns Design” You are a craftswoman so it should be personal.
      I also think it would be helpful to flag up what your material is so it would be Jenny Johns Hydrostone Pieces for Your Home and Garden.

      Having said use your whole name I would like you to rethink your About the Artist. Without meaning to it is carries a sad little parade:cancer, stroke, death, caring for elderly parents this is not the place for that, lets have some pictures of you at work and how long it takes you to make the pieces and something of the process. Dont tell us you are semi retired, it makes you sound like a hobbyist I want to believe in you as a craftswoman, passionate and knowledgable about your work.

      On the same note the piece made in memory of your sister goes into too much detail. If I saw that and thought ,how charming that would look terrific in the conservatory, I would be turned away by the sad story behind it. It would seem almost insensitive to buy it to decorate my room.

      Organising the site. I hate all those categories which when I click bowls just one appears. I would have just two sections Original Jenny Johns Works and Crafted, but not designed, by Jenny Johns.

      Then I would whack up all the prices in the Original Jenny Johns section and call them them limited editions of …. and then decide how many you will mould and number each. On the short runs you keep the prices really quite high. That way your buyers can find their own level and they are made aware of the fact it is a crafts piece. You then create a certificate for each major piece where you fill in its number and sign it.

      If you have a sale you must show what the reduction is.

      Product Information This is where you explain the finishes and materials and explain your guarantee. I think putting the guarantee in every product description introduces an element of worry just at the moment I am about to click to buy. It makes me think yes what if its not what I want, I shall have to go through all the effort of returning it.

      I think a better intro page would be a big photo of you in your workroom with lots of your product around and then just a click to To buy ..

      What do you think?

  11. Jean Edwards says:

    Good Morning!

    My scores:
    Too Much Stock: Yes and No. Since I make all my products in batches, if something turns out to be not as popular with my customers-then I have too much. My most popular items, it seems I never have enough!
    Unnecessary Spending: Guilty-In the process of trying to “perfect” my image, I have gone through and had to recycle many a business card, postcard, and label because I thought of something better. I’ve also tried to conform with craft show recommended themes only to arrive and see I’m one of the minority that went out and bought decor to do so.
    No Website: Not Guilty-had one with PayPal from day one. I know, as a customer, I like to go to a website to see more details or to purchase something I liked when I run out.
    Not Doing the Figures: Semi-Guilty-I absolutely must keep track of my sales and file sales tax every three months. Keeping track of sales AND expenditures and seeing where I am profit & loss has not been one of my strong points.
    Under Pricing-my mother would say I’m Guilty, but I feel I am competitive compared to what is on the market and the expense other companies are able to put into designer packaging.
    Hiding From Customers: Definitely NOT Guilty! I have to call people to my booth constantly because my products are often called soap, candles, or food. If I don’t call people over and explain what a lotion bar is, I’ll lose potential customers!
    Unrealistic Expectations: My first craft show did so well that I did start to have some unrealistic expectations. I was soon properly educated. I have high hopes, but I now know that to be realistic-it’s going to be a long journey to get where I want to be.

    Thank You!

    Jean Edwards

  12. Dixie Nichols says:

    Wow I am flattered that you might take a look around your castle and start building works.

    I agree with your analysis of why artists and craftspeople avoid the business side. I can see why as many have given up good salaries to do their craft full time only to find that they still can’t.

    I looked at your website and it needs to be sharpened so that it can achieve commissions and online sales. At the moment it is a bit like holding a slippery fish it is hard to be quite sure what you are offering is it paintings or murals or theatrical work?

    Lets consider the paintings, are those on display on sale? Could they be? If they are then you need a price which should be for the unframed painting. You also need to loose the dates as they make it look as if they dont sell. You give dimensions but what is the unit of measurement, websites are international, it could be inches or centimetres. Are the paintings on board, paper or canvas? You then need some kind of online payment system like PayPal so that the customer can buy at the moment that they wanted to, its really risky to delay as they suddenly get a bill for car repairs and its goodbye painting sale. You would also need to research delievery packaging and costs. But its worth it you will pay no commission on these sales.

    Now lets consider the murals and faux finishes You need to charge so much per sq foot and give an indication of how you work. Do you paint it all on site or on board and fix it to the walls? How long does it take? Does the room have to be cleared? Does it smell? Show some pictures of work in a room. Do a project at home and photograph the stages, price that project. Tell customers they can give you a budget for a room and you will do a scheme that keeps within that. Introduce the idea of shop and restaurant decorative work as well as domestic.

    You also need to get rid of your FAQ page its a rag bag, just change it to a gallery list. I love your answer to What is your price range for commissioned work? To which you dont give an answer at all apart from saying that bigger and more complicated pictures cost more, which I suggest your would be customers may have guessed.

    There is a deeper issue here, you are afraid to tell people what you charge and I bet you undercharge too and that is why you shy away from the selling bit. Anybody who wants to know the price likes your work so stop worrying and ask for a decent amount. Nobody buys art because it is cheap, art is bought because the buyer likes it.

    Your profie piece is too much of a cv for a salaried job. Say something simple and confident and have some pictures of you at work This bit is where people relate to you, they already like your work to read this page, reach out share a bit of your lifestyle.

    One last thing on my laptop your website is vertical rather than horizontal it seems odd because all screens are landscape I would want to widen it.

    Hope I havent put you off your good intentions

  13. Leisa Luis Grill says:

    OK, so I’m guilty of at least 4. (I hate admitting it, but I am.) Also, my husband points a lot of this out to me, and I just get annoyed and call him too “practical”. I guess “artsy” folks resent having to be too practical. It only hurts us in the end. I still think deep down that many creative people are reluctant to give enough time to the business end of what they do, not only because it’s dull compared to art, it is seen somehow as the antithesis to creativity on some weird emotional level.These are excellent reminders and explanation as to why some ventures may not be as successful as I would like them to be. (See, I said “like”.) What I should think is “How successful can I MAKE this be?” After looking in the morror today I probably wil re-evaluate my approach.

  14. justreading4now says:

    I found your post interesting and more ‘on’ than ‘off’.
    I’m a professional craftsperson having made my living at it since 1976. I only participate in juried shows. 1/3 of my shows are run by a member organization that runs high quality shows. These are the shows I am most successful at.
    I feel I’m still learning something each year but the most important stuff I learned during the first 10 years of my career.


    this is really difficult for me to give my input as over the years I’ve seen different scenarios. The craft fairs I participate in are considered ‘high end’ in Maine and selling excess stock at reduced prices is forbidden. Other shows exist where this is a frequent occurrence so it must work for some. I also think that “choice confuses the customer” is not so ‘across the board’. My personal price range is $11 – $175. The higher the price, the fewer (if any) choices are available. But choices work in the low price range items.


    This is soooo true. I’ve seen craftspeople come and go after overspending on promotional items and equipment/tools. I don’t even buy business cards. At some point, I’ve xerox’d a page of my cards, saved that original page and cut ‘cards’ out. Tacky, cheap, frugal….I don’t care. If a customer is serious about looking for me in the future, this will not deter them. I also don’t buy into spending extra for bags to put purchased items into. I buy brown paper lunch bags from the supermarket.


    some day, I might have items featured on Etsy but presently, while I’m doing 12 or so shows a year (I used to do 20 or so) will not invest the time or money. I know a lot of professional craftspeople but I don’t know a single one who has been able to significantly augment their income to where they can drop even one show. Even if it takes time, the ‘curve’ just wouldn’t work for me. This has lot to do with the nature of my product so will not apply to all.
    you make very good points here

    ….you would get the SAME MONEY FOR HALF THE WORK .

    I totally agree with this. I never allowed myself to be a slave to my craft/skill. This is, however, the most difficult thing to convince ‘newbies’ of.


    I almost totally agree although there is that occasional customer who just wants to be left alone to peruse the display. They may want to purchase or not but talking won’t help and might hurt. What you may have included in this category is that every craftsperson should be prepared for the ‘extremely uninformed’ (bordering on, ….I hate to use the expression…., stupid/rude) questions. I always try to handle these with diplomacy and a healthy dose of self esteem about my product and skill.

    Ignore the monkey on your shoulder who says you don’t have a real job It is about life choices…..

    this is soooo true. More so when I first embarked on my career. ‘Real’ jobs were more secure. Not so much today. My income has always dictated my lifestyle but I have a sneaking suspicion that many choices I’ve made would have been made even if I was not self employed. I do think I might have been more of a consumer but that would be because I would have had to ‘reward’ myself for having a job I wasn’t happy in. It’s, indeed, an alternative lifestyle and the most successful artists/craftspeople i know have linked career and lifestyle to compliment together. Another thing that was important thirty years ago was that the most important thing to any given craftsperson was that they loved what they did and possessed a skill which enabled them to fulfill their creativity. More and more these days, ‘craftspeople’ embark upon the career armed with what they think will be a ‘money making idea’ and their understanding of specialized skill is secondary if it even exists. This is unfortunate but impacting such evolution is almost impossible in the short period of time we have here on Earth.

    Well, I’ve ranted a good deal here; I hope you will forgive.

    I appreciate your article.

    One thing…..: why is the text in your article/post a gray color? So difficult to read.

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      I so agree with all you have said and thank you so much for adding your perspective.

      I think you are right the learning curve is steep at the begining and then you find a way of doing things and you settle back a bit and enjoy it more.

      I see what you mean about choice being good for the lower range but when the price gets higher I think choice can produce uncertainity rather than excitement.

      You and I are on the same page for bags, I use white caterer’s bags for face to face sales, in fact the customers often refuse them which is even more ecconomic.

      Thank you for flagging up the print issue I will experiment

  15. Dixie Nichols says:

    O Sally I think you two might have defeated me. You are so muddled! You have even driven me to use an exclaimation mark and I never ever use them.

    You seem to have spawned the most gigantic Tarantular which has spawned all over the web, links to you seem to mean links to another of your websites, its all so hopeless and baffling. Its shot through with nonsenses, for example the plague rats ( readers be not alarmed, they are historical replicas )you list three products but you dont have three you have one product that can be bought in three different quanities. There is also a literal which means that a pack of 4 costs £10 but 102 cost £3.

    You are muddled because you both do what ever you choose and then try to sell any of the by products of that activity in one huge bring and buy sale.Stop adding products take the modern off the site entirely and just do that through Ravelry.

    Here is my take on how the site could be organised:

    This site has to be about Replica authentic historical dress and artefacts of daily life. You have the finished products and the make your own. Everything should have a brief historical explanation.

    The product section should probably be organised by era rather than object so some pieces would be repeated if they crossed through periods.

    There should be an Education section where you sell your talks and workshops and costumed interpretation
    An Expertise section where you offer your research and advisory work for film and tv.

    The selling business should have a name that indicates what it does “Mountain Ash Historical Replicas” or some such. Use your names, but under the Mountain Ash umbrella.

    It maybe that you have to get someone in to sort out the website I have a nasty feeling that your best efforts will just further confuse. Perhaps you could find someone who would accept payment in plague rats.

    I do believe you have a good business underneath but you have to charge more even if it means that some people will buy a cheaper article, you need enough buyers not all the buyers.

  16. Sally says:

    I’ll join in, here’s my notes for our historic skills and traditional crafts business

    OVER STOCKING: yes and no, we have a very wide product base and I do try to keep enough in to fill a stall at one of the really big re-enactors markets at any given moment, but at the same time I fully agree that sales patterns are fickle, and what was all the rage last year isnt selling this one. Still, if I don’t make some of the more time consuming things in the slack time I’d have no flexibility to fill a stall if one is coming up and I’ve been spending all my making time on commissions or new items and research.

    OVER SPENDING on set up: Not terribly guilty, I’d proven the viability of what we do over a good decade or more before we made the leap to fully self employed, and although I do have an initially unseemly looking stock of yarn, fabric, bits of bone and piles of wood in, it really all does get raided regularly and often for things that I’d really struggle to buy in a hurry when a specific commission comes in. Specialist materials in particular need buying when you find them, they can’t often be sourced off the peg.

    NO WEBSITE: Innocent, but it has been through a lot of incarnations and I’m very aware of my own limitations as a web wrangler. This version still needs work, but seems to function ok and can be improved as I gain skills or more importantly time.

    POOR ACCOUNTING: Guilty of not claiming everything I can. I’m terrified of being pulled up for forgetting to log the last penny that comes in from something, so am scrupulous about recording income, but despite trying to be good I end every accounting year concious that there are all sorts of expenses and allowances that I havent properly logged and therefore can’t claim.

    UNDER PRICING: Very guilty. For many of my items although our specific offering is unusual or occasionally unique, there is also a clear expected market price within the heritage marketplace for certain types of object, and exceeding that would put us into an unfavourable comparison with others in the same industry (example, a handknitted and fulled hat based on close museum research- at least 6 hours work plus the background expertise and materials, but there just is no way to charge more than about £35 for it. Sad but true)

    HIDING FROM CUSTOMERS: Yes and no, I’m too available by email, I tend to leave the laptop open and respond to enquiries the moment I spot them which isnt as efficient as it should be if I could bear to let people wait til later in the day. I loathe the phone with a passion and will do almost anything to avoid using it, so try to avoid taking phone enquiries.

    UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: I expect to be able to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads as a result of my work. If there are a few pence over at the end of that, we’ve had a good month. I don’t think thats unrealistic as an expectation

    CONCLUSION: I suspect my biggest sin is trying to do too many things at once, but our main selling point is our versatility and the level of research and expertise we can bring to that diversity, so its not something I’m willing to cut back. Long term, I need to plan for a small workshop and a part time assistant, but thats a very long way in the future, so til then, we multitask and hope for the best.

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