Crafting veteran talks about what distinguishes the hobbyist from the professional

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Sun, 2008-02-10 10:56.
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BusinessWeek's Kerry Miller spoke to crafting veteran Barbara Brabec, author of Handmade for Profit and several other craft-business guides, about successfully bridging the gap.

What's your advice for crafters who are anxious about selling their work in person—to customers or to wholesalers—rather than online?

Sales anxiety, believe it or not, is a problem for even the pros that have been out there for years. Mostly it comes down to self-confidence. When somebody begins to sell a product they've made, they're selling themselves as well as the actual product, and they're afraid of being rejected.

One thing that helps build confidence is to educate yourself about everything related to your industry, and learn as much as possible about the audience that you're trying to sell to—read, talk to people, build a personal network of people in your field with similar interests. Then I tell people to make a list of all of the benefits of the product that they're trying to sell. They're going to feel a lot more confident when they see how much value their item has.

A friend of mine, a weaver, told me he was able to overcome his initial sales anxiety because he knew before he ever went out to sell that people were likely to be interested in his product. He said, once you know you're in the right marketplace with products that are rightly priced, mostly all you have to do is sit back and let the people sell themselves on your work.

But people have to make the time to do [the research]. You can't just say, "Well, I'm too busy producing. I'm an artist." The question is: Do you want to be an artist or do you want to make a living?

What's the crucial difference that distinguishes the artist/hobbyist from the professional who is earning a living from what he or she makes?

The thing that has always separated the hobbyist from the professional is that the hobbyist makes things that they want to make with little regard for what their audience might really like to buy. You know, they say, "I love to make dolls," and so they start making dolls to suit themselves. Sometimes they put in hours of unnecessary work with bows and trimmings and all the little stuff that you can't justify with a price.

The serious seller will learn to get rid of all the ruffles and frills. They're able to make that item in a set length of time, and they know how much they have to charge for their labor. Hobbyists have a really hard time making products for the actual marketplace instead of for themselves.

I've always believed that the only people who make money are the people who need money. I don't think I would have succeeded if I hadn't started a business when I really needed money to help my husband, who was out of work at the time. People who go to work with the idea of actually making some meaningful income are far more likely to succeed than the hobbyist who just says, "Oh, I just want a little pin money," because if that's your goal, that's all you'll ever earn.

[Via - BusinessWeek.Com

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