How to Manage a Handmade Business of One


At the start of your business, you are doing everything yourself. As you grow, may decide to hire people to help you act on and manage certain tasks. But not everyone wants to hire help. Some people enjoy making products and managing a business on their own. They want to be a handmade business of one and “stay small and keep it all.”

Whichever camp you fall into, if you happen to be a handmade business of one, there are some specific things you’ll need to do on a regular basis to build a profitable and sustainable venture. Here are 11 of them.

Helpful Habits For A Handmade Business Of One

1. Choose a Tiny Niche of Retail and/or Wholesale Customers

Make absolutely sure you are not trying to be all things to all people. Become uber selective about who you sell to, and do not complicate your life by selling internationally. Only sell into retail stores that order regularly and never balk at paying your prices. Spend most of your time treating your repeat customers like gold, and less time working to attract new customers.

2. Use a Shipping Service That Will Pick Up Your Orders

Don’t waste time going back and forth to the post office. Use a shipping service that will pick up orders at your door and deliver them safely to your customers. Invest your time making, marketing, selling, and packing your products. Let the shipping experts handle the rest.

3. Keep Products to a Minimum

Don’t overwhelm yourself by creating a huge line of products. Keep your inventory fresh and small. Rather than spending time making new lines of products to sell, spend time making your small line of products as unique as you possibly can — with price points to match.

4. Automate Everything

You may spend some money here, but it is worth it. Automation is the tool that frees you up to truly enjoy your business, and you can implement it and still maintain the personal touch. Here are just a few automation ideas that pay off big.

Automate emails requesting that ordering customers share a review of a product they recently purchased from you. Set up a system where the review automatically goes into a cue for your review, and where you can push it to your website with a click of a button.

Use HootSuite, Edgar or another social media tool to automate your social media posts.



Use email auto-responders to let people know when you are away from your business so they know when you will be getting back to them.

5. Publish a Bi-monthly Blog Post

Even solopreneurs need to regularly add new content to their websites to feed the search engines and attract organic traffic. Blogging 24 times a year gives you several search engine boosts without wearing you out.

6. Hire an SEO Specialist or Take Classes to Learn How to Boost SEO Yourself

A bi-monthly blog post will keep you in the online game and provide great content for your website visitors, but it alone will not crack the SEO nut for you. To do that, you’ll need to hire a good SEO specialist or take some classes and learn how to manage SEO for yourself.

7. Publish a Bi-monthly Newsletter

No matter the size of your business or your staff, you’ll need to be consistently engaged in list building activities. Make sure it’s easy for people to sign up for your newsletter by clearly displaying a newsletter sign up option. When you travel to events, offer everyone an opportunity to sign up for your list.

Send out an update to everyone twice a month so you can remain top of mind for the people who have opted in to hear from you. Offer information that will help them live a better life and remind them of how easy and fun it is to purchase and experience the products you have to offer.

8. Take Several Vacations Each Year

If you are doing everything yourself, make sure you fit in as many vacations as you can. One or two of your vacations may last a week or more, but if you cannot get away for that large a chunk of time, try taking several mini-vacations throughout the year. Getting away to a favorite spot for one or two nights can mean the difference between burning out and thriving.

9. Schedule Everything

Whether you use Google Calendar, a paper planner, a smart phone app, or an open email edited to update your schedule daily, a calendaring tool specifying exactly what you will do every day will be indispensable to your success. At the end of each day, applaud yourself for accomplishing everything on your list.

10. Buy Ingredients and Supplies in Bulk

Order as much as you can in bulk, and at regularized intervals. This will save you the time consuming task of checking your stock to order what you are nearly out of. It also virtually ensures that you never run out of anything you need to make your products. It will also save you money since buying in bulk lowers the per unit cost of everything you use to make your products.

11. Master a Single Social Media Outlet

Like all entrepreneurs, you’ll need to use social media. The difference between you and others who use social media is that if you are doing everything yourself, you are better off using a single outlet than to try to manage half a dozen of them.

The best thing to do is to have a minimally maintained presence on all of the major outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Instgram, and Pinterest), but make it your business to become a master at just one of them. In this way, you can maintain a stellar brand presence at one social media platform, rather than a sub-par presence on all of them. Refer your customers, the media and other stakeholders to your main social media outlet and perform minimal monthly maintenance on the rest of them.

I’m sure there are more things you can think of that a handmade business of one needs to do on a regular basis to keep the orders flowing in and the quality product flowing out. What did I miss? I’d love to hear what your experience has been. Do share in the comments below.

Shoemaker Photo via Shutterstock

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Donna Maria Coles Johnson


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.

4 Reactions

  1. Great tips! I especially like the one about automating small tasks. I’ve also been trying to concentrate on one social media outlet. I’ve been focusing on Instagram and have been growing my following. I’m using the tracking sheet you made for your IBN members. It’s really helpful. Thanks.

    • Yes! Automation makes everything go more smoothly. It always takes a lot of time and energy to set it up, but once it’s done, it works fr your with minimal maintenance and headache. Instagram is great, and I know you are putting energy into your list — which is even better! So glad the IBN tracking sheets are helpful. We’ll end the second quarter on June 30 and everyone will be able to track quarterly progress then! 🙂

  2. I am following up on that tracking sheet, thank you for the head’s up Donna DeRosa!

    I love your tip about publishing a bi-monthly blog post. It is amazing how people find us when we blog. We show up in Google searches and we build our communities, and that is huge for our growth!

    • Two posts a month sounds like a lot … until you realize that it’s 24 posts a year. If your business is not worth that much to you, then it won’t be worth even half f that to anyone else 🙂 (If you cannot find the IBN member tracking sheets, check the “Files” tab in the private Facebook group and you’ll find them there.)

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