Start a Handmade Business in Australia!

The handmade thrill: sitting down to create an amazing handmade project and getting that little buzz knowing it’s going to be amazing. We get it. It’s how Sarah Lauren ended up being Australia’s largest supplier of grosgrain ribbons – we LOVE handmade. Here are some lessons we learned from the early days creating beautiful hair accessories at home, to starting our own thriving handmade business in Australia.

What you’ll need to consider and what it will cost!

Business Name Registration: If you’re going to use a business name, you will need to register it.

ABN: It’s free to get an Australian Business Number but you may not need to early on – if the tax office believes you’re running a hobby business it may not require you to register. Find out more here.

Insurance: Chances are this will be your biggest start-up cost besides materials. You will need to speak to an insurance broker about the kind and level of insurance you need for your specific product. Product liability insurance can be expensive – and safety standard compliance even more so. This is an important one, look into it carefully!

Graphic Design: Most handmade businesses start on Hand-made Australia or Etsy. You may go down the eBay route (but handmakers have a hard time on eBay in my experience). You’ll likely need to use social media to market your products – this means a few well designed bits and bobs. Your logo is important as it sets the tone for your whole business. Your packaging is a vital part of your branding too. It doesn’t have to be lavish but it should be “on brand” for your lovely handmade things. A gorgeous fairy tutu is less gorgeous in a plastic shopping bag. You may also wish to consider some nice backgrounds to frame images of your products and good quality cover photos for your social pages. Graphic design fees vary widely. Have a glass of wine and browse their work on Facebook – find one you like and get a quote!

Photography: Handmade sells on the quality of its images. There are programs and apps that allow you to tidy up images so that you have a “WOW” image. It will sell a lot more product than a home-taken happy snap. Decide what you need. Is it just a better camera? Maybe a photography course? Some lighting and “home studio” gear? Without great photos, your sales are going to be slow! Of course all this costs as much as a piece of string! Get the basics you need to present your products well – or partner with a photographer just starting out to do it all cheaply!

Materials: This is going to be another big cost. Don’t buy ALL THE THINGS today, buy enough stock to make up a selection of “show pieces” that you can use to start your online store. Of course, if you need grosgrain ribbon, and craft embellishments, we know a great place to get them!

Market Research: This is an overlooked one! Spend a few hours on Facebook, Etsy, Pinterest etc and see who else is doing similar stuff to you and how they price their products. Check out who else is competing in your market. Are you doing baby gifts? Check out other baby gift sellers and really look at how you will compete in the marketplace. Where you can, create a Survey Monkey survey and find out what people actually think about your product and why they would or wouldn’t buy it.

Pricing Strategy: This is going to be tough. Chances are your hourly rate will rival some of the world’s finest sweatshops. Pricing has to be about the market, not your hourly rate. If you can’t get your materials and other overheads for the price you sell your products for – your little Australian handmade business might not be viable. Really consider this one. Do some serious maths and decide if it’s worth it!

And what you don’t need for a handmade business

For the first few months, you’ll be getting your stock out there, setting up Etsy stores and Facebook pages and the like. You don’t need all the services that will be knocking on your door asking for money. When you’re first starting a little handmade business in Australia you won’t need:

• An expensive website

• A business coach

• A dedicated studio (although really, who DOESN’T need this)

• A business plan (no, you don’t need this just yet – test your products out first to see what will sell)

The beauty of starting a little work at home biz in Australia is that there are plenty of online resources to help you learn as you go. There’s lots to learn, but for now, don’t stress about the big stuff – get your little lovelies all sorted!

Why handmade businesses need more passion!

This is the terrible truth about creating unique, bespoke lovelies for sale – you’ll struggle to get the money you deserve! You’ll be on a low, low hourly rate unless there is an untapped market for your passion! It does happen – frilly nappy covers, Wish You Were Here Dolls, eczema friendly sleeping bags, Love Lockets, organic baby bath – they have all ventured out of the sewing room and reached for the sky. For every “big hit” there are a lot of mums, at home sewing for long hours only to have customers complain about price. If you’re going to be a professional handmaiden, you may need to put in some long hours for your modest profits in the first year or two. That’s where passion comes in! If you’re passionate about your products, always evolving them to reach new markets, always excited by big ideas, those long hours will feel like an indulgence, not a chore.

Your successful start-up could grow and grow and find your gorgeous products on the walls of celebrities or in the royal nursery. Or, your business might take a turn to the left like ours and you may become so obsessed with lovely craft supplies that you make them your business! You may find you become the “designer” and an offshore factory starts making your products for you – there are a lot of options on the horizon, enjoy the ride!

There have been plenty of inspirational handmade stories to come out of Australia in recent years, there’s no reason yours shouldn’t be one of them! Why not launch your own little handmade business in Australia – you’ve got so much to gain, and nothing to lose!

Thanks to Dana from Talk About Creative for her assistance with this blog.

handmade business australia

26 thoughts on “Start a Handmade Business in Australia!

  1. Harry says:

    Hi, This is great article nd actually motivate me, i love to make different dresses specially maxi dresses. Till now i used this skill just for personal use ealry on i want to convert my passion as a profession so so requires some suggestions 🙏

  2. rebecca says:

    Hi I’m wanting to start a handmade sewing business making bibs and other small baby sewing products like blankets and burp cloths what labelling do I need to apply to my product to be able to legally sell them?

  3. Chami says:

    Hi Lauren, thank you for your valuable information. I am planning to start handmade earrings to sell on etsy just wondering do I need to follow any safety standards to this and insure my business at the beginning?

  4. Lisa says:

    I am looking at starting a business on hand made baby bibs and bobs. Just wondering of anyone has experience in this area. Just worried about using sewing pattern and than someone going that’s I used their pattern or copied them. So how do you go about using pattern for bibs and hats. Do you just uses your own pattern or can you sell using other peoples pattern. Just want to know others experiences before start more. Also do think I would be bias if I look at just bibs for boys and not using the colour blue. Just trying to think out side the square. Thank you. Hope this makes sense. All maybe I should give it a miss. Thank you in advance.


  5. Elaine says:

    Hi Janine,

    Great article! Just a quick question re cardstock. (My craft is card making).

    For the fancy cardstock that has imagines, from places like spotlight etc. , are these fair use or would they fall under the copyright issue? I know you can buy cardstock graphics online that you can print yourself with a commercial licence but im wondering if there is anywhere I can buy printed patterned cardstock that I’m able to use commercially.


    • Janine Evans says:

      Hi Elaine,

      I am a very cautious crafter. If the cardstock has images that are say TV characters (cartoons and such) the printer has hopefully paid for a licence to use and promote the cardstock. You can make something for yourself or gifts but my understanding is that you cannot promote and sell the item without paying for a licence. The owner of the image has paid a lot of money to make and promote the character. They don’t want you profiting off of their work. It would be prudent to check with the store selling the cardstock what you are able to do with it (and what the licence covers). If you have seen fabric with a cartoon character on it the selvage will generally say “for personal use only”. There will be some who disagree with me but this is how I see the licencing. Janine

  6. Gemma says:

    I am wanted to sell my handmade bows/headbands which are aimed at children under 3 and infants. I can’t find anything in Australian standards about this though. Are you able to point me in the right direction on where I find the legal information?

  7. Gwen says:

    I cannot find out about how to go about making and selling hair accessories that complies with the law, please help. Do I need my products approved by some safety standards company etc. Any info would be much appreciated. Thankyou

  8. Ally says:

    I’m having troubles getting started online with selling my handade earrings. Any tips to build a following and promote online sales? I attend local markets and am on Facebook and Instagram, I’m just not building a following or gaining sales.

    • Janine Evans says:

      Hi Ally,
      Selling anything online is hard work. In relation to Instagram research hashtags and keep a record of what works and what does not. You need to do anything you can to get your name out there. With Facebook try to get your friends to share your posts on their personal profiles. Good Luck.

  9. Kimberley says:

    Hi, I’m hoping to start selling my timber animals. I was just wondering if there is anything I need to print on my packaging being that it’s marketed at children as a toy?

  10. Aaron says:

    Starting a new business is an achievement of the life but how will you promote your business on the internet? Having a website is not enough in today’s world. You can opt for promotional methods, Submit your product to websites that offer review service as well as promotional giveaways. This is the best way to promote your product/ business and it costs less than other traditional methods too.

  11. Emma says:

    I’m making pet collar bandannas to sell and 100% of the money made is going towards a charity. Do I need insurance if so where do I look and get some. Thanks

  12. Chey says:

    Hi! This was a great blog to read. I am hoping to start a small online business where i wish to sell handpainted and handmade bookmarks, I was just wondering if you had any advice? It’s just a small business and im not an adult so I’ts not going to have to be a super successful bussiness or anything, it was just an idea for a hobby. I havent set up an online store yet but i have made about 30-40 bookmarks, The problem is, my mum wont let me start up the online store! I’ve already spend over 2 months preparing for a pop up stall but it got too expensive so i planned an online one. But because im not allowed, i have lots of bookmarks lying around waiting to have an owner:( Do you have any advice or suggestions?

  13. Lina says:

    Hi Janine. I wonder If I buy and use your ribbons for making my crafted ornaments, am I legally ok to sell them as my own copyrighted items, for example both here in Aus or overseas? Same question for ribbons and materials bought from Spotlight and from Ebay sellers?

    • Janine Evans says:

      Hi Lina, Sorry about not replying. I was in hospital. Any of the ribbons you buy from me can be sold with no copyright issues. Some of the Spotlight printed ribbon has notices on the packaging that it is for personal use or similar wording. Some people will say you can use it as you have bought it from someone with the licence to use the image. I take the opposite view but leave it up to each customer to make up their mind. Most of the ribbons with cartoon characters or superheros or Disney has been printed without the proper owner being paid for a licence to use the image. Using this type of ribbon on an item to sell could land you in trouble with the owner of the image. If you really like the ribbon and want to use it the seller should be able to let you know if the ribbon is legitimate or counterfeit.

  14. Pat says:

    Hi Janine

    Thank you for this article, I have been reading many about starting a handmade business, but nearly all are for the USA – whose laws are different. So it was awesome to read one from Australia. With regards this article I have 2 questions:

    Q1. With insurance – do you need it from the beginning of starting selling, even if you start as a hobby business?

    Q2. Should you pre-wash fabric 1st before making say a machine washable pot holder to sell?

    The answers I have found to this questions seem to be split about 50/50 (In USA it seems you need to pre-wash). I have looked at all the government website I can find, and many that deal with clothing, but to not specifically state whether you need wash fabric before making garments. They just say the label for clothing is to say designed for shrinkage – wash before use. But does this apply to bags, pot holders, aprons etc? I could not find any mention of them in these articles.

    (I was always told with handmade people expect to feel that newness of fabric – when sewing for school fete’s etc, was always told not to wash fabric) The question of washing fabric or not to wash fabric, I have found by reading seems to come down to personal preference. As a business in Australia dealing in craft could you please shed some light on the topic.

    • Jasmine says:

      Hi Janine,

      Great advice for this subject! I just started out a business this year that I have been wanting to do for a long time! I am enjoying it heaps but just struggling with advertising ideas if you would have any? If any chance you could mention me on your site I would deeply appreciate it :)

    • Janine Evans says:

      Hi Pat,

      I believe you should have insurance as soon as you sell and item. If there is an issue with an item you need to be covered. In the unlikely event you are sued you don’t want to have to use all your savings or house to pay costs. In relation to pre-washing fabric I never used fabric to sew and sell. I certainly used it for bows and buttons on hair bands. Most of what I have read is that you should pre-wash fabric just in case the colour runs or shrinks slightly also to remove any chemicals that may still be present in the fabric from the printing process.

      In am not aware of any laws in Australia that say you must wash fabric before using. In the case of bags and potholders I would think it would not matter much as the fabric is not being worn (ie close to skin for long periods of time).

      Sorry I could not be of further assistance.

  15. Raquel says:

    Hi I was wondering if you could give me any information on safety standards. I manufacture a womens handbag and if I was too get my product into stores in Australia, what steps would I need to go through reguarding safety checks etc

  16. Tamara says:

    Hi Lauren, I am curious as to the use of sewing patterns and what the laws are here for sewing using a pattern say from a company from overseas. I know they have copyright but my understanding is that this is for the reproduction of the pattern itself not for the making and selling of the product from the use of the pattern? I am interested in sewing to sell but this is the only thing that is really holding me back. I understand the laws in the US have changed so that cottage licensing is no longer required. Is this the same for here?

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