Sunday Afternoon Housewife

Handmade Crafts and Unsolicited Advice

Book Review: The Handmade Market Place June 22, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews,how-to — sundayafternoonhousewife @ 7:00 am

The Handmade Market Place: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online by Kari Chapin is not a book for under-achievers. Kari Chapin has taken into account nearly every possible thing that exists which  you can do to have a successful craft business, and she writes with a sense that makes you feel required to do all of these things to be successful. I feel like I do an awful lot, but I sure am feeling the need now to do a whole lot more! It’s a motivating book and an informative book, and if you only care to do the very least you can to have a craft business, then don’t bother with this book. This book is written for those of you who want to become craft selling powerhouses.

Kari begins the book with a great introduction to what she calls her “creative collective.” These are some of the biggest crafty men and women on the scene, people like Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, Leah Kramer of Craftster, and Megan Reardon of Not Martha,  and they provide many tips and words of experience throughout the book. She utilizes their minds all for your benefit, and probably will introduce you to some people in the craft community you may have never heard of.

The remainder of the book is split into 12 very informative chapters in 3 parts. Part 1 covers goal setting, branding, and pricing, among other topics. Most of the information covered in Part 1 is similar to information you might have already read if you have read Craft, Inc. or Crafty Superstar. One idea Kari covers in Part 1 is something fairly new to me, an “inspiration wire” as she calls it, and how you can use it to get “unstuck” when you are feeling a little uncreative. When it comes to branding, she writes a lot about really developing you name and your brand to represent who you are. This may be a very beneficial chapter if you have a hard time making people remember who you are and what you do. When discussing basic business practices, Kari provides pretty detailed explanations of setting up businesses (are you a sole proprietor, in a partnership, or a LLC?), as well as the always helpful details about pricing your own products.

Part 2 covers all you need to know about how to market yourself online and face-to-face. Part 2 is certainly the part of the book that is going to open your eyes to all the marketing possibilities out there that you may not be utilizing to the fullest. Kari discusses photography, making online connections, blogging, online newsletters, advertising (including creating press kits and press releases), as well as podcasting and social media, and much more. I have to say that this is probably the first book of its kind that really spends time focusing on how beneficial Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites can be to your business, as well as how to use it to make connections with other crafters. As far as the section on podcasting goes, I have to say that to me it was really inspiring, and really does make me want to make a crafty podcast (though don’t hold your breath– I only have so many hours in my day!).

Part 3 is probably the most important chapter of all because here is where Kari discusses getting ready for craft fairs- including filling out applications correctly, and also how to start your own fair (fun!). She also covers every other sale making opportunity like selling in online stores, brick and mortar stores, trunk shows, house parties, and more.

I can promise that taking the time to read this book means that when you are done you are going to come out on the other end as a better crafty business person. It might make you moan at all there is to do that you don’t have the time for, but in the end it is going to make you consider all the options out there and give the motivation to sit down and make the most of yourself.

If you have read The Handmade Market Place already, what were your impressions of the book? If you haven’t read it, do you plan to now? Please let me know what you think now, or after you read. I always welcome your comments!


Book Review: Crafty Superstar May 9, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews,Business,Craft Fairs — sundayafternoonhousewife @ 11:56 pm

You might have noticed I was pretty absent last week. I took a trip for the week and spent some time away from the computer and with my grandparents in Florida. It was a fun trip, though not particularly productive from a blogging or crafting standpoint! One of the good things that did come out of the trip is that I got to catch up on some reading. I picked up my copy of Crafty Superstar by Grace Dobush while on my trip and finished it on the plane ride home. It’s a fairly quick read, but chock full of useful information about how to become, of course, a Crafty Superstar.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book because it has a strong focus on what it takes to be a part-time crafter while still working a “regular” job. While I strongly desire to take my crafting to the next level, I’m just not there quite yet, though this book makes me feel better about the fact that I haven’t yet taken the leap. Many crafty business related books specifically focus on what is required to make the jump into full time crafting, and Grace Dobush makes you feel good about the decision to keep your day job. She spent time interviewing lots of “part-time” crafters who may seem to be dedicating all their time to craft, yet still have a “regular” job. Some of the crafters who contributed to the book include Olivera Bratch, owner of Wholly Craft in Columbus, Ohio; Faith Levine, director of Handmade Nation; and Jenny Hart, founder of Sublime Stitching.

Faith Levine, Director of Handmade Nation, is one of many contributors to Crafty Superstar

With so many similar books hitting the shelves lately, you might wonder why to pick this one up. Enjoyably, Crafty Superstar is a compact, tote-able book. It’s got 6 chapters and a great appendix full of forms, templates, and list after list of online resources for crafters. In chapter one Grace covers the basics about DIY and gets into detail about what being an “indie” crafter is all about. More detailed business advice is the focus of the rest of the book, and the author covers things from where to sell (internet, brick and mortar, craft fair), how to prepare for craft fairs, how to get good press for your business, and most uniquely, how to find balance between your personal life and your crafting life.

Right away I realized this book was going to need to be read with a pen handy for marking important things as I went along. The book also has quizzes and checklists throughout, so having a pen handy means you’ll be more likely to work along as you read.

I found so many helpful tips I hadn’t thought of before, or that were presented to me in a new way from other books that cover the same topic. I really enjoyed all the real pictures from Wholly Craft, and pictures of super well designed websites, as well as the focus on product display at stores, booth display for fairs (I’m already giving mine some new considerations), and I especially enjoyed the section about packaging design because this is something I have been personally working on a lot lately.

One of the biggest things to hit home for me was breakdown of cost of product and product pricing.  Grace takes the time to break down penny by penny the cost to list an item on Etsy (FEE), sell it on Etsy (FEE), get paid through PayPal (FEE), and ship your product out. While this is something I probably should’ve done for myself, I haven’t. Wow did this open my eyes!

Other helpful tips include how to build your own light box for taking good photos, and how to promote yourself to the fullest. Additionally, besides Grace’s fantastic advise, there is long list of new sites I need to visit from the amazing list of contributors.

If you’re thinking about kicking your craft business up a notch and are looking for some straight forward, well written advise, I highly suggest you go get yourself a copy of Crafty Superstar. I promise you will find yourself flipping back through the pages again and again as you work your way toward becoming the craft maven we all know you want to be!

If you’ve already read Craft Superstar, please let me know your thoughts on the book and what you found most helpful! For those of you rushing out to buy it now, happy reading! And don’t forget to come back and tell me what you think!


Book Review: Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love February 24, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews,Business,craft,press kits for crafty businesses — sundayafternoonhousewife @ 5:17 pm

For my birthday earlier this month, my sister-in-law graciously sent me a copy of Country Living’s Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love by Kathie Fitzgerald. I just finished reading it, so I wanted give it a little review for those of you out there who might be curious if this book is for you.

This book was published in 2008, so it isn’t new to the market, but it was new to me because I had not seen it before. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a book put out by Country Living because I am not really a country livin’ kind of gal. That being said, I would not let the fact that it is by Country Living put you off in anyway. The one thing that makes it obviously Country Living is that all of the featured artists and crafters belong in the pages of a Country Living magazine. It might seem kind of hard for you to imagine finding any inspiration from most of the women in this book who are your mom’s age making things like American flag rugs (which is how the book appears at a cursory glance), but there were a few crafters in here I had heard about before, such as Amy Butler and the ladies of The Junk Gypsy Company.

If you aren't an avid reader of Country Living, Amy Butler may be the only person in "Crafting a Business" you've actually heard of.

I’m certainly not saying the other ladies in here aren’t inspirational, it’s just that, well, they are a lot older than me, and it makes it hard for me to relate to them or see any linear connections.  See, one thing about this book is that the first 140 pages is 2-3 page short bios about successful women. If you like reading about others successes, or sneaking a peek into the shops of successful women, then the first 140-ish pages are for you. One of the women who “spoke” to me the most was probably Julie Dobies who said:

“I enjoyed my job at Shabby Chic and had a great salary, but it wasn’t about having money anymore; it was about having a life. So, I decided to take a week off and paint every single day as if it were my job and see how it went. I produced so much work it was phenomenal.”

See, this is a desire I can relate to. So, yeah, I get some of these women, but just not all of them in Part 1 of this book.

Part 2 of this book is about 40 pages titled “Business-Crafting Workshop.” Here is where the reader starts to glean a bit of information about how they could  accomplish what the other ladies in the book have done.  There are 7 sections: The Business Plan, Financing, Product Development, Marketing and Sales, Financial Management, Staffing, and Growing Bigger. Each section is anywhere from 3-5 pages long and has very basic information about how to create a business plan or deal with staffing issues. In the “Financing” section, I was surprised at how much focus was spent on debt and equity financing. Personally, I don’t feel like most people starting out in a craft business like I am should be dependent on credit cards, taking out bank loans, or dipping into our home equity lines to finance our needs. It just seemed really intangible.

Now, the Product development section had good information on pricing your items and remembering to including such things as not undervaluing yourself or being afraid to raise prices as the market changes.  The Marketing and Sales section however, gives advice like “Get Your Products into the Hands of the Media,” but does not tell you how to go about doing this at all (Of course you could check out my post about Craft Business Press Kits for some ideas).

Overall, I found this book to be a bit out of touch with the typical type of crafter I am used to working next to at craft fairs. It’s focus is more on the successful women than telling the reader how to succeed, and one thing that it doesn’t spend nearly enough words on is how to use the internet to help your business.  My last words: If you are just starting to consider starting your own business, then this book is definitely for you. However, if you have been successfully running your business for a year or more, then you probably won’t benefit much from this book. If, though, you are looking for some simple inspiration, regardless of how long you have been in business, and you like peeking into the lives  and workshops of others, but are not hoping for all the answers to your craft biz questions, you’ll probably enjoy this book quite a bit.

So, please tell me, what are your favorite and most useful books to go to for inspiration? What book do you go to again and again for business help or advice?