Turning your passion into a side hustle can be very rewarding, both personally and financially. But like any business, you should do your research first. Whether you’re designing custom t-shirts or crafting handmade jewellery, scaling up means extra overheads, resources and pressure. Rather than spreading yourself across too many markets, focus on the countries that are most likely to value your products. The biggest buyers are the US, Australia and the UK, and although it might mean more in postage, it’s definitely worth targeting these three markets.
Before you launch your handicraft business, think about what makes it special. Successful brands have iconic designs that set them apart. They become popular because they are simple ideas that capture people’s imaginations.
When graphic designer Milton Glaser scrawled “I love NY” on a piece of paper back in 1976, he didn’t know it would go on to be the official logo of the city. Although it seems simple, those four individual characters come together in an elegant shape which says the message quite clearly.
Another classic t-shirt is the tongue and lip logo from The Rolling Stones. By overemphasising Mick Jagger’s famously large mouth, designer John Pasche created a symbol that captures the physicality and sex appeal of the band. Again, the idea is simple but it says a lot.
Similarly, your own designs need to appeal to your audience. They need to look at it and instantly feel a connection. If you can make them say, Yes, that’s me, you’ve got a customer. Don’t try to copy other designs. Find your creativity inside yourself and stay genuine – that’s always more appealing than yet another copycat design. That’s true whether you’re knitting beanies or drawing logos – do what you love and other people will love it too.
Find your audience
Once you’ve established your style, you should do some serious research on your audience. There’s no point selling hot water bottle covers to people in Florida!
Audience segmentation is not just about product fit. Some people value good quality handmade crafts and understand why they are more expensive than factory items. But other people have no idea how much work has gone into a product and they are less likely to buy your piece of art.
One way to attract people to your product is to tell your story in an authentic way. How did you get into it? Why do you create things the way you do? What story or themes are you conveying in your craft? What does your workshop look like?
One of the most popular sites to sell handmade items is Etsy which is a global marketplace especially for art and crafters. The majority of buyers on the site are from the USA and if you want to be really successful, this will be your strongest market. When it comes to buying and appreciating handmade items, the most popular demographic is millennial women who value the time and energy that goes into making good quality items. The next most popular countries are Australia and the UK.
Showcase your items!
Before you open your store, make sure you have several examples of your work ready to go and beautifully photographed. Even if you’re making to order, you have to show your audience what the final product will look like.
It’s totally possible to get cheap t-shirt printing on high quality fabrics to kickstart your inventory. Or go back through your Insta photos and find examples of other items you’ve made for friends and family. The research shows that good photography pays off. If American millennial women are your target – and they should be! – they appreciate beautiful styling and clever set-up. Older demographics are also swayed by Insta-worthy photos.
Basically, you want your images to demonstrate just how much love and effort went into crafting your products.
No matter what you’re making or where you’re sending it from, you definitely need to consider the American market if you genuinely want to launch your custom clothing or craftwork business. If you’re happy to stay small and local, then stick to your home base. But if you’re looking for an audience that will value your products and is willing to pay for higher quality, then you need to factor in American millennial women. Happy crafting and happy selling.