Getting recognized ..& Advertising
Parties (at home, office, gatherings)
Other Advice
Resources & Legalities

 

STARTING a BUSINESS
see also Business -- especially for books, and helpful info, on many topics)

Getting recognized ...& Advertising

How do I get myself out there and recognized?
Persistence is the biggest part (other than having interesting-looking work), and its not easy. There are slow months. Sometimes there are big/little sales...but sometimes you just plug away anyhow. Keep working...build a name by first of all SIGNING things whenever possible. Write articles for magazines or the web, even if its for no cash payment(like in the Polyinformer, or Belle Armoire). Submit slides to the NPCG slidebank. Send 'em to publishers, get into other people's books when possible, and build up a body of work. Do shows. Do sales. Post in NewsGroups ! Build a website, or get one built. Teach classes, even if its two neighborhood kids, for free at first-you'll learn a lot. Wear your work in public-this is my biggest Sales Aid at stores. If they comment on my beads/pins/whatever then I have a chance of making a sale. If they don't, I have never had much success at selling to that store. Barter and trade(I got a whole year of chiropractic adjusments once a week for a set of Santa and Mrs. Claus dolls that way.)Educate the public about "What is it" and that helps too. Get a business licence, do your taxes (schedule C-profit/loss in business)--even a financial loss can be a Good Thing once in a while as it offsets taxable income. Work, work, work, and have fun too---enthusiasm is very contagious! Good luck! Sarajane Helm

I wear my jewelry every where I go. . . . I take on custom orders (even tho sometimes it puts me in a dither to get them done) . . . I do have a web page (needs updating badly). . . I use Ebay when I can . . .I have taught a few of my fellow workers....and I pass out my business card every chance I get....talk talk talk to everyone and anyone that will listen....Denita

Everytime I sell an art piece, weather clay or painting, I make sure to get the before pic, but what's really made my portfolio stand out is I get an "after" picture too. Meaning if I've sold a necklace I take a pic of the person who now owns it wearing it. I make clay flower pots and sell them to businesses. I will take a photo of the pot in its new office home. I always send a thank you note. 9 times out of 10 the customer will write back and I save that letter for my portfolio. So I have the before pic, the after pic and a letter of the happy customer. .....This goes over very well when I approach a business to see if they would like to place their plant in a nice pot rather than the boring one the plant came in. Or if its jewelry your selling, people like "what's hot and in" and when they see others wearing your piece, they want to too. Annadara

Another thing I can think of to add is to enter contests. I have not done this with clay, but I have with painting. I have sold a painting for 3 times its worth because it won in a contest. I entered a piece that only got an Honerable Mention, but I was still able to put that in my portfolio and it sold much quicker than it would have, and for more money. Annadara

"donation" advertising .....Dawn's idea of beginning to get known by giving some things away to charity, etc.) is super sharp!....
...say you do home parties, and decide you will donate 10% of every show's proceeds to the local food pantry or homeles shelter...make that a banner you fly in your invites, flyers, brochures, cards, or whatever. ...You will draw in more people that way (--just make sure you make the donation, however large or small).
... you can then call your local paper after you have determined your main details (when, how, what charity, how much, etc) and tell them you are a small local business who is holding an event that will provide the chosen charity with a donation of proceeds. (worst case scenario, they say thanks but so what.)
. . .local newspapers are often looking for feel-good filler during the holidays.... Maybe they will take interest and do a little write up in the paper in the community section . . . if that happens, and it just might, be sure you follow up...they will do a follow up story on how much you donated.
. . .(admittedly, this is presented in a rather crass way, but it isn't intended to be so ... the charity gets its money, you get yours, and the feel good extends to everyone who participates. It works and everybody wins.)...... Alecia
....you could also donate art items or free classes, etc., to public TV or radio stations for their fundraisers... hospitals and schools, etc. sometimes do this too...

I recently read a past CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) newsletter on basic business practices that really struck me. Along with the usual discussion of setting accurate prices and developing a business plan, the article also emphasized the importance of developing a cohesive body of work. ...After reading that, it hit me that lack of direction can be a big problem...
.....There are so many cool things to do with polymer clay, so many great techniques, but you can't possibly do them all and maintain a specific focus (at least I can't.) . . . How did you develop your body of work, focus, or specialty? Any words of advice for those of us struggling with this aspect?
....I'm looking back at past sales to determine what sold well, what hasn't, and why.
....I'm also starting to think about what I really like to make, what themes I like (e.g. Asian influences, pre-Ralphealite images, etc), artists I admire, and so forth.
. . . Finally, I'm starting to carry one technique across several items (e.g., making faux marble, turquoise and abalone, for business card cases, pens, wine bottle stoppers.)
....While I don't want to give up experimenting with all the fun stuff out there (thank goodness for demos at Guild meetings and workshops), I've come to realize that I need a focus if I'm going to make this new adventure successful (in some form or another.). Amy in MA

PARTIES or DEMOS at homes, or offices, etc.

(also see Shows > Home Shows for more info on doing shows at home, and Teaching )
(for more on teaching classes to kids (or adults) at home or at school, see Kids/Beginners > Working with and Teaching Kids)

info on how various polymer teachers do their classes, what they teach, etc. ..good for perusing
http://www.polymerclaycentral.com/teacherindex.html

I also made some bits and pieces of components I'm going to use for a "jewelry-making" party. It's a suggestion from my pastor's wife that she thought would help me sell the things I make. Invite friends over for a party in which they purchase the parts and get to put their pieces of jewelry together themselves... kinda like a tuperware party idea. I dunno, it might work! Tinidril

(We used to do home shows in our home occasionally and they were okay...we've also done them in other people's homes...and that was okay too.)
.....BUT, the absolutely best form of craft marketing that we've experienced was from doing office parties.
People would arrange for us to set up in a coffee room or lunch area of their business...then people would just drop by on their breaks or during lunch. They would typically last from 11:00 to 1:00 and then we'd often get referrals from those people for other office or home parties. It was really a great way to meet a broader range of people and to develop a network of contacts and clients. Now we were marketing wood turned items such as pens, perfume pens, desk sets, kaleidescopes etc. So there was not a lot of set up involved and customers were able to purchase items outright or place custom order's! Most of the office parties were for legal firms, real estate, medical co-ops, etc. so the average size would range from 20 to 50 people. Anyway, just thought I would mention it because so many of our customers liked the idea of being able to fit it into their day, rather than having to give up an evening after working all day or taking up weekend time. No one had to worry about invitations or serving food, cleaning house etc., and so there was no added expense for hostessing. Great part was, you only had to do an office once, then everyone there was familiar with our inventory and they could become repeat customers or offer referrals to family and friends. It was also great for my schedule because it gave me morning and afternoons free to take care of other things and still left my evenings free for the family. Teri (camarogranny)
... rather than simply selling pre-made things, this might be a good way to do "classes" or demos at offices too (could sell also, of course)
(see also Teaching, Demos, and Shows for more possibilities)

Other possibilities would be at gatherings of any sort:
....quilting guild meetings, camera clubs (especially for showing how to do or offering to do transfers of photographs), church groups, senior groups, birthday parties, etc., etc.

Let me tell you what I am doing that is starting to pay off.. .home parties
. . .family and friends and co-workers can't help you financially, but they can help do a couple of things. Think of good ole Mary Kay and Tupperware, Pampered Chef, etc. They come up with a list of friends and addresses, you send those people postcards with the info. Not too expensive, but very financially rewarding.
. . . during the fall season, I would be completely open to the idea of hosting a gift party or an ornament party where you can select gifts to give for Christmas.
A few things to remember about these - reward the person hosting the party with a credit in merchandise. You don't have to pay them cash, and usually they will use up their credit and spend a little more!
.....Another thing is to realize that if you invite 20, 5 might show up.. . . Offer the hostess an additional credit or prewrapped surprise gift if she can get 2 or more people to agree to host another party and commit to a date before her party is over. Make a big deal of this in front of the guests, sometimes a little guilt is all someone on the edge needs - though I haven't had a problem getting a couple of people to commit - it is simply unique and convenient! Alecia

If you don't feel comfortable getting names and setting up parties, locate someone who sells Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, etc.
....Tell them if they host a party for you, you will host a party for whatever they sell - this is networking at its finest.
. . . What also happened when I did that is that the director of the unit I swapped with contracted with me to make incentive pins (the pins look like little tubes of lipstick she gives out when someone reaches a goal she has set for them...there are changes in the look of the pins for multiple achievement levels). I made thousands of dollars last year this way and could have made more if I had made enough product. Alecia

(for more ideas on good things to sell, see Business > What and Where to Sell)

I have been blessed to teach after-school classes at my children's school (I approached the principal after we moved to a new home. I had been teaching in my home and didn't think the students (who also attended the school) would follow me to my new home. She graciously offered me space (fee free) and 3 yrs later I am still drawing in students.

I also teach summer camps in my home.
.... I advertise at home, in the neighborhood newsletter, adn at the local elementary school. . . I must admit that the summer classes don't tend to fill up until the end of the summer when word has spread about what i am doing in my house!
....I try to keep the fees reasonable ($10 per 1 hr class, plus materials).
....So far no complaints and the parents LOVE the projects that come home.
....For the students that continue to come back I plan more difficult projects that may take 2-3 classes to complete rather than 1...this year we worked on some caning techniques, made butterfly canes then used them to make Mother's Day and Father's day presents.
....I am excited that I will have 2 adult groups this summer! they are such fun!

Offer to do a first class or demo for free to get people interested... lots of people will try something they're not that familiar with if they don't have to worry about wasting their money on something they won't like.

Crafts ala Cart
http://valscalc.homestead.com/calcinfo.html
CraftSocial
http://www.craftsocial.com/rl-cms/project/92-552/index.html

Mar 2, 2000: This message is directed at anyone who may be interested in helping others learn to create with polymer clay and earn money… I discovered polymer clay a few months ago when I became an instructor with Crafts ala Cart and am having a blast continuing to learn and create, and teach others how to work with this and other media. I the space of 3 months I have gone from wishing I could make the drawer knobs I saw Lynette Jennings make on her TV show to introducing others to the basics of polymer clay jewelry-making to creating my own advanced designs and selling them. …Crafts ala Cart is a business started by Donna Kato, Connie Sheerin and Patti Conti. Those who choose to become Certified CALC Instructors receive instruction, tips, materials and tools directly from these pros. Our daily communications are accomplished through email lists and websites. Our 2nd annual retreat is in May in Newport, RI. Donna Kato will be there (as will Connie and Patti) teaching her latest techniques. Many, many vendors will also be there giving instructors their latest products and asking for input on current and future products. In addition, several of our instructors have had their designs picked up by several vendors and magazines as a result of their work with CALC. If this sounds like something you'd like to know more about, I encourage you to visit the Crafts ala Cart website at http://www.craftsalacart.com and email me at sara@geolectica.com Take care, Sara
.......
For even more info, see also these threads from past posts in the polymer newsgroup...instructions for how to do this are in Business/More Resources:
--Re: Make It and Take It
--Crafts a la Cart update

"A CraftSocial is a creative gathering – we bring expert craft instructors to your group to teach you how to make something with your own two hands. . . .CraftSocial participants can be any age, any gender, . . .You put together a group of people, and we bring everything you need – materials, supplies, and the instructor. Call (480) 671-0766 or email info@craftsocial.com for a free CraftSocial class catalog or to schedule your CraftSocial event! ...We will soon be offering CraftSocial packages (if you don't live in the Phoenix area)."

LN need you (Aleene’s Creative Living Network... classes at home, etc.)--defunct now?
http://www.delphi.com/DemoPros/messages/?msg=37.1&ctx=1

Other advice

Your name is so important. When I first started painting I ran into a couple of customers who basically jerked me around but I took it because I didn't want anything to tarnish my name.
.... It's like eBay and the feedback... its really important if you want to get paid for what your art is worth. The name and the product is so closely tied together. Make sure that your name is always free of neg. "feedback" and that's not really that hard to do. Annadarra

Have something unique that's all your own... that will draw attention to yourself and your other work. Annadara

Never Doubt Yourself.....that's a good one. Annadara
....Don't let other people influence what you feel you can do. . . .Many, many people, including family, friends, and teachers, will try to undermine artists because they themselves do not have faith, and don't want you to either. This validates their P.O.V., and they often do it "For your own good". They will say its so you won't be dissapointed, but in my honest opinion, disapointment is all around us, so why not try? Better than NOT trying.
...And if by chance you can't manage the not doubting part, at least DO work on not letting it show in public. ...Smile at shows. Smile at sales. Optimism sells better than dispair. . . . When I feel truly down, I talk about it with those I trust to understand and be supportive. Sarajane Helm
...Another thing that I've ran into from my family is, Honey, "you can't make a living from art."... Perhaps... but so-o-o?... I tried the money making route and was a miserable attorney. The first year of art I lost money... several years later I'm making a profit... not the profit that I made as an attorney, but I'm happy with what I do. I had this conversation with my mother reciently because my sister is leaving medical school to become a message therapist. I have talked to my sister about this and she's so happy. The whole environment of message therapy is her scene... but my mother thinks she's joining me in throwing away an education to follow a pipe dream. The thing is... if my pipe dream was to be a lawyer she would have been stoked for me. But its to be an artist. She wouldn't be an artist and doesn't view it as a "real" career therefore it doesn't count for me either. Those who are not "artsy" just don't get it. Sure there are some who appreciate it... but it's harder to be supportive if you don't get it. Annadara

LOL, it's mainly a lot of work,,,,,12 to 14 hours a day just at the table not to mention all the other jobs,,,accounting...webpage...photos....ect...is just dosent seem to be enough hours in the day but you know what I am having the time of my life.....it is fun and that is the best marketing tool I have found is having fun and letting others see how much fun you have.... . Denita

nothing learned is EVER wasted... as long as we are intelligent and creative.
There's always something valuable to be gleaned from every experience, and a diploma or job title is only one small part of it. I still use what I learned in school, though not always as my teachers might have envisioned--but that's why I'm an artist. My visions are different and have diverged from the lesson plan, into new areas and ways of doing. Sounds like yours have too! Sarajane

. . . right now I am having to live in both worlds,,,,the "real" job pays the bills and suppliments the clay,,,but hopefully with in the next 6 months I will be able to clay full time,,,,I will be debt free and that is what my "real" job has done for me,,,,,,,I am taking my time to get all my ducks in a row before I step out.... I want to make this work,,,,I want to work at my passion and live my dream.....I have spent the last 3 years setting up the tools, and have tested the waters with positive feedback from here and family and friends and total strangers.......Denita

On a personal level, since I tottered on the brink of "been there, done that" (I talked to SCORE, and chose NOT to go ahead) you might want to pause and reflect about how stepping up production to the wholesale level would change what you do now.... It sounds to me like it wouldn't bother you too much, that you already work in sufficient multiples that it wouldn't stress you out. For me, however, I can barely make enough similar beads to complete a necklace --
.....
there is no way I could tolerate the (to me) boredom of mass production -- for me it would wreck what I enjoy about craft work.) Maybe I'm at one end of the continuum and you are at or near the other, but it's important to know where you stand and not simply sweep yourself along with "I love crafts, I can sell crafts, I can sell LOTS of crafts, THIS is work -- I hate crafts!" which happened to me with fiberarts in a previous life! Good luck Sherry

For even more info on starting a business, see also these threads from past posts in the polymer newsgroup rec.crafts.polymer-clay (...instructions for how to do this are in Business > More Resources):
--Re: inspiration for starting a business
--Re: starting out
--Re: Poly Clay and Business Starting
--Re: starting over with 60.00 (how to protect yourself)

Resouces & legalities (see much more in Business)

Anyhow, thinking of this as a small entrepreneureal manufacturing concern (which is how the IRS would probably see it), you should probably do several things.
.....Make an appointment with a volunteer from SCORE
(Service Corps of Retired Executives) which is the Small Business Administration's team of usually-retired businessmen who counsel people like us who are thinking of taking the plunge.
.... They have experience in startups, and know what sort of things YOU need to know to do it.
........If you happen to get a person who has done something similar to what you want (not TOO likely with crafts, but you can't tell...) they can sometimes even advise about specifics like resources, services to use, and stuff like that.
...you can find the telephone number for the SBA in the
the Yellow Pages (in the Federal Government section which is usually in the front).

I printed the business plan template available through Microsoft and developed by SCORE. Amy in MA

ONLINE:
loads of free info on many topics related to starting and running a craft or individual business, at Barbara Brabec's website
http://www.barbarabrabec.com/homebizARTICLES.htm ..... + http://www.barbarabrabec.com/index.htm
many articles on starting a crafts business (starting, marketing, supplies)
http://artsandcrafts.about.com/bl101.htm
(3 separate pages)

Preston Reuther's many online articles about home businesses, doing shows, etc. (his orientation is wire jewelry home businesses, but much of the info should apply
http://www.wire-sculpture.com/resource.html

Read the Craft Report magazine ..., maybe your library has back issues... lots of excellent information in there
http://www.craftsreport.com

Check out "selling your crafts" books at bookstores and amazon, etc.

hiring help. . .
Now that I can see your situation more clearly, it sounds like you are really talking about starting a small business which will be ongoing. So, if you really want to do this, you'd better research it that way. The bad news is it moves you out of the hobby level to the level where the IRS takes interest. So you need to understand the implications of filing (or failing to file) 1099 forms on income paid out to contract employees, you need to decide whether to have a workplace for people or whether to have them do stuff at home, and a whole raft of other details. If this is the kind of long term goal you had anyhow, making a living from crafting, then sooner or later you might have had to bite this bullet anyhow. (Myself, I am avoiding it at all costs!!)
...
Also, you might get in touch with some of the polymer clay artists who use or have used hired help. Grove and Grove gave a talk at Ravensdale about their experiences, which was interesting and revealing. I don't know how accessible they are to chat with these days, but some of these people have "been there done that" and it might make a difference in how you choose to go.
...Browse a few of the "selling your crafts" books for sections on hiring help. I think family members are the only ones you can use without hassles. (If the hassles are worthwhile, that's fine -- only you can figure that out!)
...If you have an accountant for your taxes or anything already, consult with them about hiring people -- they probably know about local regulations, or at least can probably give you some suggestions and insight.

 


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