Hi, I’m Lesley Elder, owner of ethical jewellery brand Seahorse, as well as the owner and creator of the training programmes at Launch Your Craft Business. After many years as a business consultant to large financial services companies I gave it up to move to Spain and do something different. I love having the freedom of running my own business as well as helping other people start their own dream businesses. I’m so excited to share this journey with you!
Mistake 1 – Not being clear on your purpose
Make sure you are laser focused on what your business is about and why you are doing it. Quite often when people start out they try to be all things to all people, making lots of different things and trying to sell them to everyone. We call this the machine gun approach! And when that strategy doesn’t work they get discouraged and give up. Which is why it’s so important to write down your reasons for doing this and your goals. So that you can go back to them time after time when things get tough. Because they will!
Mistake 2 – You don’t know who your ideal client is
When I started Seahorse I thought I was fairly clear on who my “ideal client” was going to be. But I wasn’t specific enough! Now I know where she shops, where she goes on holiday, why she buys my jewellery, what she reads, and most importantly where she hangs out online. But if I don’t know this, especially that last point, then I am not going to be able to target my marketing or my social media posting in the right place!
Mistake 3 – Branding for you, not for your “Ideal Client”
It’s so easy to spend hours doodling logos, brand names and colour schemes. You love pink, you want some flowers in your logo and you want to include your initials. That’s all lovely but if the result doesn’t tie in with your ideal client’s aspirations you are not going to appeal to them and get them to buy your lovely products!
Mistake 4 – The machine gun approach to marketing
As mentioned above, when you are not clear on your ideal customer or you purpose it’s easy to try and reach everyone. So you pile money into Facebook advertising and don’t get the sales. Or you’re posting on Instagram daily and using loads of hashtags but nothing is happening. Luckily all social media platforms have tools that allow you to target your niche successfully. It’s just a matter of knowing who you want to target and where they hang out online. And you don’t need to be on all social media platforms either. Pick 2 and concentrate on those.
Mistake 5 – Failing to control your business costs
It’s very easy to buy things for your new business and not keep a tally of what you’re spending. Or to write it off because it’s your hobby and you would have bought it anyway. That’s not how business works! You need to be able to make a profit to keep your business sustainable and to be able to afford those lovely, shiny new tools in the future. So start collecting those receipts and keeping a note of exactly what you’ve spent. You will thank me later!
Mistake 6 – Avoiding pricing for profit
When we start out it’s really easy to get focused on what we think the market will pay for what we’ve made. No, no, no! I refer you back to point 5 above where we know exactly what it costs to make our products, and we add on our wages and our profit margin. You need to make a profit to continue doing what you love. And if one of your goals is to give up your 9-5 job and pay the bills with this new venture then you need to make sure it pays. You are entering into a business venture and you need to think with your commercial head on.
Mistake 7 – Not buying business insurance
This one is really important as you are likely to need both public liability and product liability insurance. And if you are thinking about doing any craft fairs many organisers will ask for your insurance certificates. There are specialist insurance companies who deal specifically with craft businesses. Make sure you sign up to one, it’s not as expensive as you might think. And don’t think you can rely on your home policy as you’re unlikely to be covered and may even invalidate your existing policy.
Mistake 8 – Trying to be Superman/woman
You are super, you are amazing! But that doesn’t mean that you can do everything by yourself. As your business grows you will eventually run out of time/energy/mojo and your business will grind to a halt. You need to work out what things can only be done by you, and what can be outsourced or delegated. Can you outsource other tasks such as accounting, email marketing or social media management to someone who can probably do it better than you, thereby saving you hours of time? And if you are telling yourself that you can’t afford it right now then stop and think again. Your focus should be on growing the business and making the investment to allow you to do that. Otherwise it will continue as a hobby. Ad that’s not why we are here, is it?
Mistake 9 – Postage & Packaging
My business ethos is all about being plastic free and it was really difficult to find boxes and packaging that met my criteria when I started out. I eventually found something eco-friendly, in my colours, it was perfect. And then something just clicked in my brain! I needed to check the weight with the jewellery inside. And what do you know, it was 10g over the postage threshold so I would have been almost doubling my postage costs. Which would have eaten up all my profit! Luckily I had already covered point 5 – controlling my business costs and I started again!
Mistake 10 – Get Going and Keep Going
And finally, many people expect their newly formed craft business to be an overnight success. They don’t have a support network of people who have been there, or they don’t get the sales and they give up. It takes at least a year for most small businesses to make a profit, especially if expensive tools have been purchased at the outset. And there is a lot of competition for online attention. You need time to get to know your ideal clients and engage them, not just sell to them. So give yourself a break and make sure you have a supportive network around you who can not only give informed advice but also keep your motivation high and your attitude positive. It’s the people who get knocked down and get up again who are the winners!
And a final BONUS TIP!
As I’ve mentioned competition above, it’s something I know a lot of people just starting out worry about. But please don’t be overly worried about your “competition”, or what other people are doing. There will always be people who will copy your ideas or find inspiration in your designs and annoying as it is, it really doesn’t matter. Your job is to focus on your niche, target your ideal customer and be the best at what you do. The market for beautiful handmade crafts is huge and there is plenty of room for all of us to flourish!
I really hope you’ve found this quick summary helpful and you’ll avoid some of the mistakes I made early on. Luckily for you I have now written that step-by-step guide and have incorporated it into two different, easy to follow programmes. The 5-day Rapid Start programme is aimed at those who already have their product and are raring to go. They just need a helping hand on the business side, or perhaps need to give their business a little boost online. The 12-week Business Builder is aimed at those who are working on their products, or need a bit more flexibility around existing work or family commitments.
Either way, both programmes will get you set up for success and give your fledgling business the solid foundation you need for your future success. Our next programmes start in September 2020 and we also offer a self-study option. The programmes are taught by people who run their own small businesses (including me) and have many years of experience between them.
Lesley Elder, Owner at Launch Your Craft Business & Seahorse