Thank you Vanessa for hosting me on your awesome CraftyGemini blog! Vanessa's readers: allow me to introduce myself. I'm Maria Peagler, author of Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts, and the founder of SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com, where Vanessa teaches the YouTube 101 course (she's an incredible teacher!). Today I'm offering advice to those would-be craft designers out there who would love to start their own craft business but don't know where to start.
I've been a quilter for 20 years and never had any ambitions to write a book about it. I was a seven-time published author already, was staying home to raise my children after a high-flying career, and relishing every minute of it. I started teaching color classes at my local quilt shop, and saw an enormous need for a book that really taught quilters how to see color and use it effectively in their quilts. That's how Color Mastery was born.
Except no one wanted to publish it. I was an unknown in the quilting community, and publishers didn't care if I was already a successfully published author. It was too much of a risk for them. So, I self-published, and the first printing of several thousand books arrived in September 2008, when the American economy tanked. Oh, did I mention my husband is a residential homebuilder? Ouch.
I was in trouble. I had a significant investment in those books, and I had to sell them. But I had no budget for marketing or promotion, as those funds went to keep my husband's business afloat. That's when I got creative with social media.
The results? Color Mastery went on to Amazon's top ten list for two years in the Quilting category, won a Benjamin Franklin award for Best Craft Book of 2010, and is on its way to a third printing.
How can you start a successful crafting business, even in a challenging economy, and earn an income? Here are my recommendations:
- Start with quality. The best marketing and promotion aren't going to sell a dud of a product. Every decision about the production and content of Color Mastery was about quality and longevity: what would make this the best book on color for quilters, and how could I do that cost-effectively?
- Learn how to take excellent photographs. Crafting is big business, your product won't sell unless you have an outstanding cover photo. I studied photographs on Etsy and shot dozens of my quilts and table runners until I was satisfied with my photography. Style your photos, indoors or out, and put your product in the place of most potential. Make your photos so beautiful people can't take their eyes off of them.
- Get online. Start with a small website or Facebook page. People want to get to know the person behind the business. Make it easy for them to find you online. Start with a WordPress website or a Facebook page, learn how to use them, and use them to promote your products and ask your clients for feedback on new items.
- Find a network. As a newbie quilt designer, I turned to the Yahoo Quilt Designers' Group when I had questions. The ladies in this group were terrific and very helpful as I prepared to go to International Quilt Market, had questions about pattern testers, and pricing.
- Learn everything you can about marketing your product. I taught a Quilt Marketing Boot Camp webinar earlier this year, and it answers every single question I had when I started out in this business. No matter what kind of a crafting business you want to start, you'll learn something here. The webinar is one hour long, and has a side-by-side presentation of my slideshow and me teaching and answering questions.
- Use video. The power of a video to demonstrate your expertise and your product is huge. Before crafters will buy from you, they need to trust you, and video offers an excellent opportunity to reach out and connect. Vanessa's CraftyGemini YouTube channel is the absolute best at this. Look at what she's done and learn.
Here's your opportunity to learn from the best: I'm giving away one YouTube 101 course to one of Vanessa's readers. Here's all you need to do: SHARE with your friends and colleagues about Vanessa's new YouTube course at SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com and tell me you did it. I'll select a winner from the comments, and you'll all be entered to win the grand prize: the Unlimited Class Pass, one year of classes from SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com. By this time next year, YOU could have a thriving craft business!