When I think about making arts & crafts and selling them, I think back to my childhood days of painting pet rocks, creating pinecone ornaments, and making perfume with the Barbie Perfume Maker and trying to sell them to my neighbors — true story!
While I'm not super creative, if you look around on handmade sites like Etsy, you'll find gorgeous jewelry, art, clothing, housewares, pottery, printables, handbags, and lots more.
If you're a gifted artisan or crafter and would like to earn money from home, here are ten steps you will need to take to start selling arts & crafts online.
1. Business Structure.
You most likely will be working by yourself, so choosing your business structure should be easy – Sole Proprietor. But if you are going to have a partner or a few employees, you will need to decide which structure works best for you (Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or Corporation). Each structure has its pros and cons, meeting with a lawyer or an accountant can help you to determine which structure best suits your needs.
Related Content: Four Reasons to Incorporate Your At-Home Business
2. Naming Your Business.
If you plan on using something other than your own name, you will need to apply for a DBA – Doing Business As. You will need to research to make sure that someone else hasn’t already taken your company name, or trademarked it. To see if someone else is using the business name you're considering, check out the US Patent and Trademark Office website. This is also an excellent time to look at available domain names for your website or blog if you plan to have one.
Related Content: A Step-By-Step Plan for Naming Your Business
Apply for a sales tax license by calling or emailing your States Comptroller’s Office; they will be able to tell to which forms to fill out. Also as a self-employed individual, you will want to contact your local Internal Revenue Service, (IRS) or meet with an accountant to discuss taxing structures and expectations for self-employed individuals. One thing that I did not know when I started out was that as an independent contractor (self-employed individual), you need to pay quarterly taxes, both sales and income taxes. I didn't do this, and it resulted in a hefty penalty.
4. Bank Accounts.
Opening up a separate bank account for your business can help you keep better track of your income and expenses. And if you decide to incorporate your business, you absolutely must keep your personal and business finances separate, or you'll forfeit the protection that those structures offer you.
You'll also need to tally up all of your income and expenses (remember to save all of your receipts) so that you can file properly when tax time rolls around. You can use a spreadsheet to do this, but honestly, it's so much easier to use accounting software like Quickbooks. Using a professional platform will make managing your finances and doing your taxes so much easier.
5. Accepting Payments.
If you're going to be selling on your own e-commerce platform, then you'll need to set up a payment processor. One of the easiest ways to accept credit cards online is by opening up a PayPal business account. The rates that PayPal charge are reasonable and it's very easy to use. If you're going to be selling your wares at fairs or craft shows, you'll need to be able to accept mobile payments on the go — this post here covers some different options.
On the other hand, if you decide to use a third-party platform like Etsy, they already have payment processors set up so you'll be able to accept payments via credit and debit cards, PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and Etsy Gift Cards. Funds from your sales are deposited directly into your bank account. Be sure to read all the fine print for terms and selling fees.
6. Choosing a Platform.
There are many different ways you can set up your online store, and each has its own pros and cons. You can create an e-commerce store with Yahoo or Shopify, you could set up a WordPress Blog and use an e-commerce plugin, or you can choose to use a third-party selling site like Etsy or Zibbet. Building a website is of particular importance for home-based businesses, because your website may be the only impression you ever get to make with your customers. To reach a greater audience, you may consider having a blog and an Etsy store. Explore all of your options and determine which option works best for your craft business.
7. Business Email & Phone.
You will want to designate a separate email account for your business activities. If you create a website, you will be able to get an email address that reflects your business name, which looks more professional than using a free Gmail account. Most online business owners don't need a separate phone line, but depending on how big your business is and how you run it — you may decide it's best to have one. The article below can help you decide if you should invest in or not.
Related Content: Do You Need a Business Phone for the Home Office?
8. Take Photos.
You will need a digital camera to take pictures of the pieces that you’re selling. Try to incorporate the appropriate lighting techniques and attractive backgrounds for professional-looking shots. If you don't know anything about photography, this post has some fantastic tips for setting up your home photography studio!
Once you have your online store ready, you will need to get traffic to it. Start by setting up social media accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to promote your business. Place free ads on Craigslist, print business cards, start blogging, establish an email newsletter, and ask family and friends to spread the word. You may also want to consider renting a booth at local craft fairs in your town. If you need more in-depth information on how to promote your craft business, check out this article below for helpful promotion tips.
Related Content: How to Promote Your DIY Craft Business
When you make a sale, you'll have to ship the item to the customer. Be sure that you include shipping and packaging costs into your overall price structure. Also, take some time and decide how you are going to package your wares. Are your items fragile or breakable? Consider stocking up on bubble wrap, padded envelopes, and shipping supplies like boxes and tape. Using some ribbon, colored tissue paper, and personalized business labels make a lasting impression. Remember to include your business card and a thank you receipt or note with every purchase. Think about your favorite retailers and how they package their products for shipment.
Additional Arts & Crafts Resources.
As a business owner, you'll need to stay on top of industry trends, new marketing techniques, and other sorts of business information. Here are a few resources that will be helpful on your journey.
Related Content: How to Be Successful on Etsy
If you're artsy and crafty, you can make good money selling your wares from home. Just follow the steps outlined in this post, and you'll be well on your way to making a living from home.
Do you sell arts & crafts? Do you have some tips for others who want to sell arts & crafts online? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this article — please share it on your favorite social media site.
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Originally published September 17, 2009. Content updated February 27, 2019.
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