Craft Business on a Budget

This post is mostly looking at ways to present your product on a shoestring and also some other little tips that have helped me.  If you’re a craft business and trying to make your product look the best, it can be very frustrating sometimes that you don’t have the budget or facilities to achieve the vision you want. There’s no doubt that having cashflow can make it a lot easier but with a bit of resourcefulness, you can still create your own look and brand without a huge financial outlay.  It’s pretty easy to have a fabulous looking product when you have a team of designers and advertisers working on just that. Very different when it’s just you and you have only a few Euro in your business account J

As this was usually the case with me at the start, I’ve become very good at utilising every free resource and have learnt to be a little bit inventive as well. Maybe because I’ve never really wanted a ‘corporate’ look, this works for me so far. I try to keep my packaging fairly simple and I upcycle a lot which obviously saves money. It does involve quite a bit of work though, so not the easiest option!

I use Facebook and other social media as much as I can to advertise what I do and just use my iPhone mostly for all my photos. There are many fantastic editing/creating tools online - one I have been using a lot lately is Canva. This is so easy to use with loads of templates for creating Facebook covers, twitter posts or pinterest images. The beauty of this is that the size appropriate for each one is preset so you get maximum quality.
Pixlr is great for basic editing, I normally just use the Pixlr express online tool, it's very useful for cropping, adding effects or text and for improving lighting in your photos.

My website is all done by myself through Blogger, also free and easy to use. If you want to use your own website name, you can buy a domain and link this to your blogger site which is what I have done. So instead of this blog being, it's linked to which I own. The process of linking can be a little bit tricky but your domain host company should be able to help if you run into difficulties.
There are lots of other options in terms of setting up a free website, some sites offer a blog/shop package - do be aware, though, that the free options can be quite limiting and if you want a little bit more functionality, there is usually a monthly fee. Do a good bit of research before you decide to commit financially.

So where do you start when you have a small budget? My main piece of advice is keep to the basics - the first essential being the quality of your product itself. Any initial outlay should be on the tools or ingredients that you need to make everything properly. For example, in my case, I have always bought the best quality wax because, honestly, any amount of flashy advertising or labelling isn't going to mean a thing if my candles are poor quality.

Once you have done that, presentation is probably the next step.  You have to allow for the fact that creating a product you are proud of involves a process of change and experimentation and learning. I'd be wary of buying enormous quantities of anything. You'll probably adjust quite a few times, so try out things until you're happy with the final result. Packaging is important even if you’re starting out and although it’s probably more economical to order in bulk, there are many sites where you can just buy limited quantities of bags/boxes. There’s also the option to share an order with someone else and save on postage.  If you can’t afford to have your packaging printed with your name, it’s a good idea to order a custom stamp. Having a stamp is a total life saver because you can use it to stamp tags, bags, boxes, pretty much anything! It makes a big difference to your branding at a minimal cost. Here's just one instance where I stamped a tag to complete the look of a candle, the little clay heart was also made by myself, great for making something for a special occasion or if you want to personalise an item.

Check out also this great blog from Etsy, loads of ideas and beautiful examples.

As I’m a big fan of reusing and recycling, I try to hang on to any nice packaging I ever get and friends know by now that I’ll use anything like this so they save things for me which is great.
Little baskets are brilliant for gift packs, pretty tins, ribbon, all these can be used again and I think it’s much better to use them than to throw them away, besides saving money.
I also hang on to any bubble wrap and boxes I get and reuse them when I’m posting orders.

Next up is stickers – I use Vistaprint and lately Zazzle because I need small quantities of many different stickers but there are lots of companies with good deals if you just want one type. Again, stickers can be used on tags/boxes/bags to give your product that ‘finished’ look. Vistaprint and Zazzle both have lots of templates you can use or you can design your own and incorporate your logo. If you don’t feel you have the skill to design a logo for yourself, just ask around, you never know who might be willing to do it in exchange for some of your products.
I think product packaging is an ever evolving thing anyway, I’m never 100% happy with mine and always thinking of ways to improve, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, if you can get the advice of a mentor, this can be really helpful. Check out your local enterprise office and the Crafts Council of Ireland to find more details of this, it is a free service (to date anyway) and I definitely got a lot of tips.

As I said previously, use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram to promote what you do. It does involve some work and commitment but it really helps to get your product out there. 
Join craft groups or business groups, get to know people and ask for advice if you need it.

Taking good photos of your craft product is essential because people will respond to something beautiful. Again though, if you’re on a budget, there’s no need to feel that you have to have an expensive camera or professional photos. As I’ve said, I take all my photos with my iPhone, I’m mostly happy with the results and I usually take loads of different photos of the same product, experiment with different lighting and props and then select the best ones and delete the rest. There’s no doubt that professional photos can really make a difference but you can leave that for when you have a healthy bank balance.

If you want to get your product out there and hopefully make some money, maybe just start with doing local markets. It's easier and cheaper to begin this way as small local markets don't cost as much as the bigger events.
I have done a full guide on doing markets here - Crafters Guide to Markets.

You might also like my guide to working with retailers, this is something to consider when you are happy with your product and want to introduce it to more people - Crafters Guide to Selling to Retailers

So, to sum up, spend your money wisely!

As always, I'd love to hear from you, if you have any good tips you'd like to share, just comment below :)

(Updated May 2016)

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