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.