7 Reality Checks For New Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs

life as a handmade entrepreneur

But the fun and fresh look can quickly turn into dread and tears if you are not fully prepared for what life as a handmade entrepreneur is truly like. This article is designed to give you a heads up. If you are a newbie, read it carefully and take notes, and share it with other new entrepreneurs. I wrote it not to scare you, but to empower you. I want you to be ready for the real deal. With that in mind, here are seven checks for new makers and handmade entrepreneurs.

Life As A Handmade Entrepreneur

1. You Will Not be Able to Just “Make” All Day

I know that one of the reasons you started your business is to make money by continuously making the things you love to make. While you may anticipate that your life as a maker business owner will be a right-brained playground, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in order to make money, you’ll spend about a quarter of your time making things. The rest of the time will be invested in marketing, sales and leadership activities. Be prepared for this from the start.

2. You Will Need to Hire Help Before you are Ready

In line with the advice above, to ensure that you have enough time to market and sell your products and lead your business, you will need to hire help — and probably faster than you’d like to. What kind of help you hire first will depend on you. Generally, it’s best to hire people to do the things that you either don’t like doing or do not do well.

For example, if you hate fiddling with technology, your first hire should be someone to help you with technology including your website, SEO, social media, etc. Conversely, if you are a geek, but really don’t want to be making everything all the time, you’ll want to train someone to help you make your products so you can be free to focus on other things your business needs — things you enjoy doing.

3. You Will Need to Take Some Phone Calls During Family Time

You may think that you’ll be able to work during the day and never have to take a business call during the family dinner hour. Don’t hold your breath on that one. While there will certainly be some days when you can sashay out of your studio in time to prepare and enjoy an uninterrupted home-cooked dinner, most days will not be that way — especially at the start of your business. Get used to this, and more importantly, make sure your partner understands that this is a reality of entrepreneurship.

4. You Will Need to Keep Up with Technology

One thing I hear makers and handmade entrepreneurs talk about frequently is their reluctance to embrace and leverage technology. Unfortunately, this leads to a domino-like effect from which it is difficult to recover. Failing to intentionally make time in your work week to study how you can leverage technology to engage your customers automatically results in lost sales.

In order to be successful, you will need to embrace social media and certain types of automation. You will also need to learn to leverage video and audio technologies and, yes, you will need to embrace living life outside of your comfort zone where a lot of technology is concerned.

The idea of embracing technology may sound scary at first, but believe me, it is not as scary as dumping piles of cash into a business and never making enough money to even keep up with inflation.

5. You Will Need to Create New Income Streams

You will likely start your business thinking that you will be able to make whatever you make, and sell enough of it to make enough money to secure your future. That may happen to you, but it does not happen to most makers. Most makers eventually discover that, in order to make enough money to sustain the type of life they want, they will need to create additional sources of income. Do not let this idea scare you. In fact, this is where the fun can actually begin.

By the time you have been in business about five years, you should have enough help and enough systems in place that the business can run without your day in and day out involvement. That’s when you can begin to consider creating additional sources of income. From writing and selling books to speaking at conferences and events to teaching classes to leading membership programs — once you have built one successful brand, you can build another.

Look forward to this, but don’t put the cart before horse. Make sure to build one brand out before you start building another one. Eventually, you can build as many as you’d like, with all of the preceding ones supporting the ones to come.

6. You Will Need to Learn How to Write Well

Many maker’s sigh when I say this. While a product must be made well before it can be sold, the bulk of your sales success still depends on your ability to write well. Your product descriptions must be well written. You will need to write well enough to connect with your audience on social media and at your blog and/or newsletter. Brochures, direct mail pieces, Tweets, Instagram posts, thank you letters — every word that represents your brand must be carefully crafted to represent you and your customers well.

If you were not in advanced placement writing classes in school, don’t worry. There are plenty of places (online and offline) where you can begin to hone this important craft.

7. Some of Your Friends Will Turn Out Not to be so Friendly

It is a sad fact of life that some people are uncomfortable with the success of others. Unfortunately, it can be those closest to you who are most likely to try to discourage you from pursuing your entrepreneurial desires. While it is not always possible to figure out exactly why someone is not supportive of your work, it’s not hard to notice when that’s the case.

Understand that everyone will not be as excited as you are about your new venture. Share your journey with those who show that they are committed to encouraging you to grow and be successful. As an entrepreneur, you will need heaps of positive energy around you all day every day. Be discerning. Carefully choose the people you want to travel your entrepreneurial journey with you. Minimize people who are spiteful or who don’t take you seriously. Don’t get comfortable if you have not seen them yet. They’ll come. It’s just a matter of time.

I could go on from here, but I’ll stop. I realize that some of these points may be discouraging. You may think I’m trying to rain on your parade. I am not. I just want you to be ready. I want you to be prepared for the bad and the ugly, as well as for the good. There’s plenty of both, and if you use the points in this post as a guide, you’ll find that you have more good than bad and ugly.

What do you think?

What do you think, do you have what it takes to live life as a handmade entrepreneur?  If you’re a seasoned maker, what advice or “reality checks” do you give to those coming along behind you? I’d love to know your thoughts and advice in the comments below.

Reality Photo via Shutterstock


Donna Maria Coles Johnson Donna Maria is the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, a trade organization providing mentoring and coaching services, and affordable product liability insurance, to makers and creative entrepreneurs across North America. An award-winning small business advocate, Donna Maria has hosted the Indie Business Podcast since 2005. She blogs at Indie Business Blog.

5 Reactions
  1. That’s right. You can only do so much in a day. So you have to manage your time well while not sacrificing quality.

  2. You have to base your business on the premises, A is A, so reality checks are a good thing! 😉

  3. I find that if I schedule my tasks daily weekly monthly, I’m able to better manage a myriad of different phases of business. In the beginning working way too hard because it is difficult to find a dream match that gets the full picture. Be prepared to do it yourself. Success is truly up to you!

  4. There are so many variables involved in transitioning a hobby into a viable business. Many creative people do not think about this until it is too late, become overwhelmed with the realities of “boring business tasks” and subsequently quit.

    I have always been a responsible full-time job type person with the heart of an entrepreneur. I never allowed myself the chance to do what I love full-time and opted for what I called a “regular paycheck”.

    The reality is, ANY job you have can end without notice. The good, the bad and the ugly jobs can all go away depending on the economy and whims of the CEO’s that make the decisions. So, I’ve tried to keep that in mind while pursuing my handmade business and branching out into other services tied to it which I didn’t originally entertain.

    It’s not a regular paycheck yet, by any means. It does, however, give me the opportunity to pursue my creative path while I am able to do so. Many people are not able to do so, especially if they have kids. I don’t have children, so my situation is a bit easier to make that leap of faith, however, it still takes A LOT of courage to be your own boss. I am thankful that I can try this venture right now.

    It hasn’t worked out exactly as I’d planned when we moved to a new state and I thought it to be the perfect time to open a bead store. Then I saw what overhead expenses were REALLY going to cost in my new hometown. I couldn’t justify that cost, especially minus one of our full-time incomes. So that portion of the plan is on hold.

    I’ve gained more experience and unexpected opportunities as a result of what didn’t go as planned though. So, I feel like I am moving towards something and that I have more control over how my life is flowing. It takes a HUGE amount of work to work for yourself. You won’t see immediate success, but you will get results and learn ways to improve. All of this experience is valuable and can lead to better things, even if you wind up going back to a regular paycheck type job. My outlook on my future is better and brighter because for the first time ever, I am taking the chance on myself and enjoying the path to my creative career along the way. That, and I drink plenty of Diet Coke. lol.

    Good luck to all you handmade entrepreneurs out there!!

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