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How T-Shirt Crafting Makes Me Money with No Website

In 2008, I had an idea. Since I was passionate about drawing and collecting graphic tees and hoodies, I decided it was penquinforpost2time to begin my side gig in apparel crafting. I had an extensive collection of t-shirts and hoodies and as time went on, I got really good at picking out unique designs that usually attracted a lot of attention when I went out.

I always found that the attention my t-shirts got sparked a burst of creativity and motivation in me. So I began to draw my own designs on tees and hoodies I had at home.

This became so much fun for me that I found myself buying many portfolio books to keep my sketches organized because my ideas were popping in my head too fast for me to keep up in producing them onto tees.

When I first started crafting, I used Heather Grey tees and hoodies. I figured the coverage with the markers I had in mind to use would be easier. Other colors would be too dark and I wasn’t a fan of white hoodies so I worked with what I liked and had at home.

I started using a Sharpie to draw the outline of my picture and paint markers such as Decofabric to fill in the drawing. This is a picture of one of my first designs.alien

I began wearing my designs.

Soon after, my friends and family members started to approach me about designing tees for them. Some people even asked me to teach them.

In time, I had a developed a following so I decided to make it a side business and registered my brand as Inner Monster.

Eventually I started changing things up because I realized the colors weren’t as vibrant as I wanted them to look. And every time I washed a shirt or hoodie, the colors would fade.

I started thinking about what I needed to do to get the fabric to feel like I was working on a white canvas. So I continued to use Sharpie markers for the outline and then started filling in the outline with white Palmers Fabric Paint.

Now that it felt like a piece of blank canvas I was able to add color over the white. I would use Palmer Fabric PaintMarvy the Fabric MarkerSetaskrib+Crayola Fabric Markers or Elmer’s Paint Markers.

I definitely preferred the brands of paint and markers I was using (Crayola, Marvy, Setaskrib+ and Elmer’s) because the tips were softer and others were too stiff. I found that the softer tip adhered to the fabric paint better. On the other hand, Sharpies were the best for outlining because the tips are stiff.

Once I was done with the design, I would let it settle for about 24hrs. Then I would take a piece of blank white paper and monsterplace it over the image. I would iron over the white paper covering the image on low heat just to set the colors.

After starting to use the white paint as a base, I could use any color tee or hoodie because I wasn’t painting directly onto the bare fabric.

Here’s a picture to the right after I made some adjustments in the materials I was using.pebbies

A couple of years after designing and producing my own apparel, I thought about exploring ways of transferring my drawings digitally. I began to research printing shops for mass production. The demand for my tees had increased for what I could supply – I simply couldn’t keep up because I was working a full-time job.

I eventually had some of my designs produced at a screen printer and others I would craft by hand as limited edition designs.

I sold my tees at flea markets, craft shows and car shows and managed to not only enjoy it, but also make extra money on the weekends.

Car shows were quite good and offered a better return on my investment. My Inner Monster theme went well with the muscle car perception of car enthusiasts.  As a car enthusiast myself, I was enjoying this aspect of my marketing.

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I also started uploading images unto Zazzle which I promote on Instagram and make some sales that way too. I’ve even graduated to making custom tees for children’s birthday parties.

I put up a website through Wix to showcase my designs but since I did it myself, and I’m not the least bit techy, I decided to take it down because I didn’t want it to represent my brand. For now, I send people to Zazzle to look at my designs but have plans to have a website made professionally.

So if your thinking about not knowing where to get started with making your crafting hobby a business, do like I did. I knew nothing except how to draw. The rest just flowed as it came to me.

I still work a full-time job but I also make a pretty decent side income in t-shirt crafting with no website. To be able to engage in my craft and get paid for it is a nice perk.

5 Tips For Selling Online

buttonDo you want to start selling your crafts online? Or have you been dabbling, but want to amp it up a bit? Here are five tips to get you going in the right direction?

Start An Online Shop. Sites like Etsy make it so easy to set up an online shop! Here is a tutorial from Etsy on how to get started with them.

But You Still Need A Blog. Even if you have an Etsy shop, you still need a blog! Your blog helps you build a relationship with your readers. People want to do business with people they like, and you need to form that relationship! You can also post links on your blog to your shop and your items. Having a blog is a win-win situation. I recommend that you buy your own domain and use WordPress (here are some tips on that), but you can start out with Blogger (a free service, offered through Google).

Get Involved In Social Media. There are a lot of social media sites out there! You can just pick one or two, develop a following, and then you can branch out from there. My favorite ways to connect with people are through a Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I admit, I am not very active on Google+ or LinkedIn, but I do have accounts with both of them. Try them all out, and find out which ones you like best.

Start A Newsletter. You need a newsletter to stay in contact with your customers and potential customers! MailChimp is a free option, but I think you’ll do better with Aweber. They even integrate with Etsy, so you can create a list of your customers!

Be Active About Marketing Your Business. You really do need to be active about marketing your business. If you don’t market it, no one else will. I have people tell me all the time that they don’t want to seem pushy or salesy. That’s fine. I get it! But there are lots of ways to market a business without pushing your business down someone’s throat. I offer more tips about marketing, here.

Here is one more bonus tip for you: Believe In Yourself! You can do this! But you have to believe in yourself first!

 

Choosing a name for your Craft Business

Getting the right name for your business is very important and it’s a decision that will accordingly require a good amount of thinking through.

Why is the Business Name so important?

Well, it’s one of the first things that the public will notice about your company, that and your logo, and then your strap-line (if you have one – and you should). Those three things combine together to make up your brand identity. Thus making your company easy to identify and to understand (both of which are very important in any business).

Take a minute to think of Martha Stewart, and Amy Butler, and Purl Soho. As well as knowing what products they sell we also know what their logos, and their fonts, and their company colours look like (and this didn’t happen by magic!)

I don’t have background in web or graphic design so I can’t help you with that knock-out logo. It’s definitely worth getting a professional in to do that job if you can’t do it yourself, but I can help with getting choosing a craft business name.

Things to consider when choosing a company name:

  • Check for the website domain- whatever you choose check to see if the website domain name is available for you to buy. Even if you are not ready for your own website now you may well be in the near future.
  • Be descriptive – I think my own business name ‘U-Handbag’ is somewhat descriptive of what I do. I sell things to make handbags – hence the word ‘Handbag’ , and it is you making the handbag, and the bag is yours, and the bag is unique – hence the letter ‘U’.
  • Keep it simple – a good name will be short, catchy, and trip off the tongue. A long name is a pain in the butt to write, looks bad on business stationary, and it makes for a hard to remember website name.
  • How does it look – this might sound funny, but try writing down your business name choices and collaborate with your logo designer to see how your name looks on paper and importantly how it looks when incorporated with your logo.
  • How does it sound – as well as looking good on paper your name should be pleasant to say and appealing to hear. This one is hard to define, but you know how some babies names just sound a bit off and some babies names sound lovely? Well it’s kind of the same for business names…
  • How memorable is it - ask yourself and ask others how memorable is your business name. Does it strike a chord with people? Ask people what they feel/what images are conjured up/what judgments are they making when presented with your chosen business name choices. The more folks you can ask the better. This all might sound like a bit of a pain or it even might sound like overkill, but really if you are willing to make your beautiful craft into the early hours then a bit of time spent on doing this research isn’t going to hurt and it’s worth it.
  • Careful with the comedy – when used appropriately comedy is great for sales and giving a positive image of a company, but used inappropriately it can make your company look unprofessional. Also things spelt like ‘bagz’ jelwz, etc. etc. etc. can look a bit tacky (IMHO).
  • Using your own name – Some folks such as Amy Butler & Martha Stewart use their own names to name their company to great effect, but us mere mortals can’t do that because we don’t (yet) possess the strong brand identity that these 2 women names have. So if you name your business ‘Cathy’s Pottery’ (for example) the business name won’t necessarily be very memorable…
  • Look around you - what town do yo work in, do you work on a converted factory, workshop, etc., what famous landmarks are nearby, is there a loved on in your family history that has a nice sounding name, is there a name of a craft technique or craft material that you use that you like the sound of? These are just a few things that might inspire a business name; just remember to keep things relevant.

See also: How to name your craft items in your craft business.

CraftBoom’s! Most popular posts of all time (well, the last 8 months anyway)

Thanks to everyone who has popped in for a read/subscribed/linked to/commented on CraftBoom! Your response to this blog has been wonderful :) I’ve been rooting around in the CraftBoom! stats and I thought it would be useful to put the most popular CraftBoom! posts all together in one place. So here you go:

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I couldn’t think of suitable pic to go with this post so I thought this one would do as a close 2nd . Yummy :)

How I set up my Craft Business website shop.

My handbag making supplies e-comm shop went live in Nov. 05. I first had the idea to set up the shop the previous winter and from planning and putting the wheels in motion it took me 7 months to source my supplies, get myself a website, and all of the other necessary stuff in between in order to be able to trade online. In this post I’m going to list all of the steps I took to get my e-comm shop off the ground, I’m hoping this will be useful for anyone else who wants to trade via their own website.

After a few seasons of selling my bags in a craft market I knew that I wanted to start selling bag making supplies online. There were several positive indicators that this could be a viable business. So armed with a loan from my family and no knowledge whatsoever of how to go about it I set up my first website. This was how I did it, in the order I did it:

  1. Sourcing supplies - I decided upon what supplies I needed to open my shop and then I ordered them to be made in the factories. I ordered my supplies first because I needed samples to be made and approved, the factories would need time to produce the items (which could be anything from 4-6 weeks) and the thing that would take the longest time was that I wanted the items to be shipped to the UK (rather than flown). Shipping is far cheaper than flying but it can take months rather than days, or weeks.
  2. Website design- I knew from the start that I wanted my own website rather than sell through eBay or Etsy. I phoned around LOADS of website designers from friends, to agencies to freelancers. I was quoted prices from £200 ($400) – £2000!! In the end I decided that agencies were too expensive and I settled upon a freelancer who seemed to be very knowledgeable in e-comm and I asked someone else to do the website design and logo. I found them both through this Freelancers site. The design process took approx 3 months in all – I intentionally gave them a long time to do this because there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing with asking my opinions on design and re-jiggling and testing. etc.
  3. I opened a business bank account – keeping your business finances separate from your pesonal finances makes life much easier.
  4. I set up a merchant bank account - this type of account receives funds from the sales of my items and sends them in my business account. I chose not to go with Paypal for website payment system because at the time there was bad press about Paypal’s security – this doesn’t seem to be an issue now, but at the time it was. I also wanted payments to take place completely on my site (rather the customer being taken to Paypal pages). Another advantage of having my own payment system is that (in the long-run) this method is cheaper than Paypal, so I can pass this saving onto my customers. Therefore I needed to set up my own payment system – hence the need for a merch, bank account.
  5. I set up the payment gateway - because of the above (and me not wanting PayPal) I had to set up a system that processes funds from the sale of my items. The payment gateway takes these funds and then passes them onto my merchant bank.
  6. The samples arrived from the factories – 8 out of the 12 custom designs were great so I ordered a shed load of them. The other 4 designs need modifying…
  7. I purchased office furniture - good old IKEA they have great office furniture.
  8. I purchased postage & packaging stationary - I looked at the dimensions of my smallest and largest items and chose padded envelopes accordingly.
  9. The admin part of the website is ready - the part where you upload items and make any changes to your website is now ready and I can start uploading products to the site (even though it’s not live yet).
  10. The finished goods from the factories, bag patterns, and the fabrics start arriving – sooo exciting, but loads of work. I have to check through the all of the orders to make sure I have been given the right amount of everything and that all items are in perfect condition. I now have heaps of photos to take and photoshop. I have to go through all of my invoice sheets for each item and price and describe each item. Before going live this process took me 3 weeks of working in it every day.
  11. I register myself as a self-employed person - oooerr…no going back now! I tell the tax people of my self employed status and I tell them that I am going to be a sole trader (which is the most basic form in which a company can trade).
  12. I’m live; U-handbag lives!!!! - The site goes live on the 11th Nov 2005 and I bite my nails down to my elbows (virtually sitting on my computer) until Michaela in UK makes the shop’s first ever order on the following day.
  13. I start looking into pay per click advertising with Google - this is bloody expensive (at least it was because I don’t need it so much now because of my blog).
  14. I start approaching various craft mags to let them know I have started my business - most of them aren’t that interested, but a few of them do mention me in their magazine which is great!

So that’s how I brought U-handbag.com into existence. I don’t know if that’s the best way to go about creating a website as I had no knowledge of how to go about it, but it all seemed to work out fine in the end  :)u-handbag-logo.tif

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Types of Suppliers for your Craft Business

One of the things that I really enjoy in my craft business is hunting around for different products to sell in my shop. Well, it’s not always as enjoyable as shopping in the shopping centre/mall as suppliers can be unreliable, and hard to find, and sometimes not very reasonable, but most of the time I like it. Shopping for my business satisfies my desire as female who likes to shop, but I don’t experience the guilt of trying to sneak past my husband with a new (and unnecessary) pair of shoes :)  In this post I am going to look a different types of suppliers and some of their characteristics…

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Starting from the top of the ‘Food Chain':

  • Manufacturers (the BIG league guys) – I’m not in the league of these suppliers, so I don’t have any experience of them. These are factories that you can commission to produce items for you. Often they will have a catalogue of products that they manufacture or you can commission you own designs for them to produce. They usually do not keep items in stock so you cannot order smaller amounts from such suppliers therefore, we are talking HUGE quantities (in the thousands) of a given product. If you can afford the investment this is by far the cheapest cost per unit option.
  • Manufacturers (business to business) - I do work with such suppliers. These are factories (usually somewhat smaller than the aforementioned manufacturers) sometimes keep a limited amount of ready made stock, they will have a catalogue of items they produce, and they will also accept custom work for production. The minimum order amounts are typically large (in my experience) varying from 300 – 500 pieces upwards of a given item depending on what the item is. If you can keep a tight control on quality issues and you can afford the investment using this type of supplier is very cost effective solution.
  • Wholesalers/agents to manufacturers – I also work with these folks. These suppliers aren’t quite the same as typical wholesalers as they usually work with a very small number of factories. These suppliers will hold ready made stock to sell to you and they will also act as agents for a small number (or one) factories taking your order and passing it onto the factory when the minimum order amount is sufficiently large enough. They will do all of this for a fee. The benefit of purchasing from an agent to a factory is that the minimum order amount will be somewhat smaller. The downsides are that they cost more than the above, if items are not in stock lead time can be a guessing game, and they are devilishly hard to find!
  • Wholesalers (not direct to the public) – I also work with this kind of supplier. These suppliers will typically have a large and varied catalogue of items. To be able to purchase products from this type of supplier you will often be required to open an account (which usually involves proving to them that you own a business). The minimum order amounts are for this type of supplier are usually much smaller than that of manufacturers and they vary wildly from minimum cash amount (e.g. £50 – £250/$100 – $500) to minimum units per product. It really depends on the individual wholesaler. These suppliers cost a fair amount more than manufacturers, but the choice of items is usually very good, and the quality of items is usually more consistent than that of manufacturers. Wholesalers are also devilishly hard to find (goodness knows why!)
  • Retail /Wholesalers – I also work these suppliers. Some business run a wholesale operation alongside their retail operation. These suppliers are similar to the guys above except the minimum order amounts are usually yet smaller, and they may not be so formal about opening accounts in order to buy wholesale.
  • Retailers – that’s what we are! We hunt around for our supplies (and in my case I sell them on) and we process them by turning them into gorgeous handcraft before selling them to the public :)

I hope this was useful and it wasn’t stating the obvious to you. I didn’t know too much about suppliers when I first started my business and I know I must’ve sounded pretty naive ditzy when dealing with them for the first time!

Next time: I will talk about to approach suppliers and how to deal with them – like what stuff do you ask them in the first instance and what things to expect when dealing with them.