There comes a point when just about every hobbiest suddenly realizes that they have overdone the gifting of their beautiful creations to relatives & friends. It happens to all of us at some point - ceramics, knitting, jewelry making, whatever - at some point the relatives & friends start to turn out the lights & pretend they're not home when they see us coming up the walk with a package in hand. It's understandable. If there wasn't a limit to how many sweaters, ceramic doodads, & fused glass necklaces a person needs, we'd be keeping all those creations for ourselves! The thing is, we can't stop doing what we're doing because, a) we love it; and b) because most of us have a stash of expensive supplies to keep us doing it into the next millenium and continue to buy more.
So, what are we to do? One possibility (& the one that I recommend) is to turn semi-professional & sell those beautiful creations instead of giving them all away. It really isn't all that difficult or costly to turn your hobby into a nice little part-time business & there's several terrific advantages to it.
The first advantage is that as soon as your handmades have a dollar value - Eureka! - your relatives & friends will look at your gifts in a whole new light. Funny how knowing that you could have sold that sweater for cold hard cash makes your friends & relatives downright glad to get it. It's screwy, I know, but that's how it seems to work.
The second advantage is to your wallet. Even if you don't make a good return on your labor when you first start selling (& you probably won't), at least you will recoup the cost of your yarn & supplies. And, that means you can waltz on down to the yarn shop to buy the yarn for your next creation - without guilt & without breaking the household budget. This is a wonderful thing. Once you've built a reputation & a following of customers, you'll be able to command a decent profit on your labor. Until then, selling your creations will at least give you enough cash flow to feed your yarn buying habit & a little to boot. What's not to like about that?
The third advantage is to your ego. Until you experience it, you can't imagine the thrill of hearing compliments on your work from perfect strangers. And, there's no bigger compliment than to have that perfect stranger dig out their wallet to spend hard-earned cash on something you made. Take it from me...you'll be walking on air the first time it happens...& the next...& the next.
The fourth advantage (& my husband's personal favorite) is the tax advantage that comes from a home-based business. Don't misunderstand...the IRS has specific guidelines as to what constitutes a bona fide business & what is just a "hobby," but even part-time businesses can deduct the expenses of doing business. Even if all it does is cancel out the income tax obligation on the money you make, it's a great thing, & worth the bookkeeping. Get the advice of a tax consultant to get your business off on the right foot & keep the IRS happy.
Finding a marketplace for your creations isn't all that tough, either. My first suggestion is to get yourself some business cards, carry them with you at all times, & pass them out like candy. Take a look at the sidebar on the right side of this page. There's a link there for Vistaprint. It's the company I use & I highly recommend them. They give you 250 business cards FREE...yep, FREE...just to try them out. There's a small charge for shipping (like, five bucks). If you can find a better deal than that, please let me know. I purchase 500 at a time. Cost is $3.99 plus shipping. When I first went into business I purchased the blank business card stock & printed my own on the computer. I think it ended up costing me something in excess of $20 for 100 cards, after figuring in the cost of printer ink. Not the smartest move I ever made. Now you know why I use Vistaprint. LOL
Ok, with business cards in hand, put on the nicest example of your work (that cardigan sweater, felted purse, hat & scarf, whatever) & go out trolling for compliments. The minute that checker at Safeway says, "Gee, that's a nice whatever," hand her your business card & say, "Thank you! I made it myself. Shall I make you one?" The technique works! I've made felted purses for: a clerk at my post office, a barrista at my favorite Starbucks; my hairdresser; & my doctor's receptionist, just to name a few.
Find out about your local farmer's market, craft market, & gift fairs. The cost to have a booth is generally very low & I've had good experiences in all of these venues. Online opportunities for marketing your creations include: Craigslist, eBay, & Etsy. Personally, eBay has worked the best for me, but Craigslist is FREE & Etsy charges a mere 20 cents to list your item for sale - so there's nothing much to lose from trying all three. There's a link in the sidebar to Etsy. Check it out.
Last suggestion is to enlist the public relations skills of friends & family. Give them some of your business cards & ask them to pass them out for you, too. Plant enough seeds out there & something is bound to grow!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to get in touch with me. If you'd like to turn your hobby into a business, I'm pulling for you!