Sunday, July 13, 2008

Persistence is free but invaluable: the single most important trait (besides talent) for the handmade artist or crafter

I have been frequenting the Etsy forums lately - probably much more than I should. With so many like-minded artists and crafters to chat with and a never-ending stream of crafty information it is very hard for me to stay away. While surfing through the endless posts there, it seems that I've noticed one distinct theme among many Etsy sellers' discussions, especially in the Business Topics section. And, as usual, it has to do with selling, in particular, how to sell more. Whether it is a new seller discouraged because they haven't had a sale yet or a seasoned seller discouraged because of the lagging economy and thus lull in sales or a question of how to promote or market more in order to sell more, it all falls in the same category of wanting to sell, sell, sell! Don't get me wrong, I am not putting down this behavior - hey, on Etsy, there are many shops to compete with, not to mention the entire world of internet shopping. It is only natural for a business person (large or small) to be concerned with how to boost their selling. All the chatter about it has made me think what is at the core of success in this area.

Although successful online selling in the realm of handmade arts and crafts has a lot to do with the product your offering and the talent of the artisan, I think that ultimately it is persistence that can define overall success. I know that mentality probably seems simplistic, believe me, I know! I, like many others, spend most of my day on small tasks that add up to improve my business. Whether it is about making the product itself or finding new ways to promote that product, there is a huge amount of effort that goes into running a small indie business. Yet, it is the dedication and willingness to repeat those necessary tasks that ultimately grow a successful business.

And yes, I have seen some sellers on Etsy who appear to have overnight success, but what does that mean, other than that their persistence can be focused in other places than marketing efforts. A successful seller still has to have the stamina to remain persistent in their task of delivering a good product, or they may not be successful for long. Then there are sellers who want that kind of success or another kind of success, depending on how they choose to define the word, and have other tasks to be persistent with so that they can achieve what they're after. All-in-all, what it boils down to, is the willingness to keep on going - creating, promoting, selling, and repeat. I have found that the longer I do this, the more "successful" I become.

Here are some of my suggestions to remain persistent..........................

1. Develop a routine. Yes, you artsy fartsy artist, keep track of your time. I'm sure that there are some of you that are already list makers and note takers, but for those of you that aren't, try to develop some rhyme and reason to your day so that you can be the most productive all-around with creating, promoting, and selling. If you aren't a full-time artisan, this can be tricky, but even if you are a part-time, weekend, or evening artist or crafter, try to set some time goals for your week. Such as, you may choose to spend X amount of hours this week on your goals.

2. Set some goals. So what is your intent with your small arts and crafts business? Do you want to make it full-time someday (if it isn't)? Do you want to start consigning or wholesaling or selling online (if you aren't already)? Do you want to develop a new product line, etc.? It is easier to be persistent when you know what you are being persistent for so set some basic (non-overwhelming) goals for your indie business. You can do this yearly, monthly, or weekly, or as I do, set goals for all three time frames.

3. Get organized. This means everything, yep, everything. Organize your work space, your business papers, your online venues, etc., etc., etc. I admit it; this is the one that I probably have the most trouble with - especially the paper work part! Although, I find that when I have a nicely organized space to work in, it helps me to organize my thoughts, achieve goals more quickly, and persist in my creative and business endeavors.

4. Get legal. So if you haven't already done it, and you're serious about being a part-time or full-time money-making artist or crafter, you need to make sure that you have all the proper paperwork in order. This can vary from state to state and city to city so check with your state's government website and your city's website to see what you need to do. You may ask what this has to do with persistence. Well, if you think of your business as "the real deal" with all the necessary paperwork, you are more likely to take it seriously in my opinion and persist for its success.

5. Develop your art/craft.
This comes up a lot in the design courses that I teach at a local community college - students are still trying to find their niche. I know that it took me several years to come across fiber arts and feltmaking and to realize that it was this media that I could ultimately express my style. Although I am an experienced graphic designer, the truth is that my style and talent can ultimately be best seen in my fiber art creations. Sometimes it takes much time and experimentation to find the right media and talent for you - the one that will wow people and make them think that they can't live without your creations! Be persistent in finding this as an artist or crafter.

6. Do listen to others and don't listen to others. Wow, how confusing is that statement? Let me break it down for you. Always have an open mind and heart to others suggestions, but also have self-awareness to be able to judge what information you're receiving. Not all advice will be useful to you and your chosen art or craft. Be able to discern what is necessary information that will help you and your business grow. Persist in your endeavors. You are your own boss ultimately!

7. Don't be afraid to............... You fill in the blank here. Whatever it is that you know deep, deep down will help you to move to that next step in creating or promoting or selling or whatever, but you're just too afraid to do it - Don't! Just don't think that way. There is a quote that I love, although I'll probably mess it up and I have no idea who the author is, but here it goes..........."What would you accomplish, if you knew that you could never fail?" So what would you accomplish and what are you going to accomplish?

The image is that of a billboard that has always stuck in my mind for one reason or another. You can find the full story behind it along with several other inspiring stories at The Foundation for a Better Life.

And, as usual, here are some helpful links for you. Hopefully, these will help you to be more persistent in your arts and crafts endeavors.................

Routines, Schedules, and Organization:
Organizing Your Crafts and Hobbies from
Home Based Craft Business Tips to Work at Home Effectively
Craft Room group on flickr - see photos of how others organize

Small Business Legalities and Development:
U.S. Small Business Administration - a resource for small businesses
Canada Federation of Independent Business
United States Patent and Trademark Office

Crafty Forums for inspiration, information, and advice:'s Forums
Etsy's forums
The Felting Forum
The Switchboards


  1. What a fantastic post, im right at this stage in my business and this has given me a great place to start sorting things out. Onwards and upwards !.

  2. I definitely needed this read today. Thank you!

  3. good post! You are so right. There are some definite tips in here for me!

  4. Good reminders.. especially about the organisation part ^-^

  5. Inspirational post. Thank you. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I am going to use this to sort out what needs to be sorted out and to move forward. You hit the nail on the head - persistance!

  6. Super WOW on this one. That is what i am continuoslt practicing. It is exhausting but necessary.

  7. Hey,

    Just wanted to say: FANTASTIC article.

    I enjoy your blog and will be adding it to my bloglist :)

    Please check out my blog when you get the chance (it's a less than a week old - but it's getting there)!


  8. Thank you for this article. :) I'm new and found this to be helpful.


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