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.