5 tips before you start selling

 17 January 2014

What do you need to consider before selling your products? Cheryl Adamson, from designer-maker website Mastered, has five steps you should take before you start selling anything.

You need to decide who exactly you want to buy your products.
You need to decide who exactly you want to buy your products.

When you’re teetering on the brink of making a business out of your creative talents, there’s a lot to think about. From websites, to branding, to dealing with the well-meaning comments from your family that you’re mad to take a chance on your own gig “in this climate”. It can all seem a little overwhelming.

At Mastered, we’re here to give designer-makers the advanced creative skills and opportunities they need to succeed. And to help you beat the overwhelm, here are five steps you should take before you start selling your products.

1. Get the right education

Creative talent is a wondrous thing, and the ability to design and make beautiful products is very special, but talent also needs to be honed.

Look out for opportunities to develop your skills. Internships and apprenticeships are fantastic, but if you can’t commit to a formal programme, organisations like Crafts Central offer a skills brokerage service. Here you can work with one of their designer-makers and learn from someone who is currently doing.

Degree programmes are incredible, but they’re not always practical if you’re currently working to fund yourself or you’re miles away from the campus. Good quality short courses are worth considering as an alternative.

Don’t forget that you can also get excellent quality teaching online. YouTube is fine for quick snippets (or browsing cat videos as a break!) but for more advanced education, look for sites with proper syllabuses and a commitment to your development. 

2. Seek feedback for your work

When you start thinking about selling, it’s common to be plagued by self-doubt. Is your work good enough? Will anyone buy it? Can you really make a living from your passion?

Creative talent is a wondrous thing, but talent needs to be honed.

Doubts multiply when they’re left to fester. Rather than let them get the better of you, expose them and ask others for feedback. Past tutors, course-mates, buyers, past customers, future stockists can all give valuable advice about your product. Be brave in asking for it and be open to receiving it.

If you’re lacking a creative community to rely on for this advice, consider joining online groups and forums where you can share photos of your products or discuss ideas over email or Skype. All our courses at Mastered include the opportunity to upload pictures of your work in progress and get feedback from the tutor, industry insiders and the rest of the community.

3. Community – not competition

When you’re working in the same field as others, it’s easy to feel that you’re in competition for the same customers and so sharing ideas or information isn’t a good idea. Not so. This scarcity mentality harms your business rather than helping it to flourish.

As a creative, your work will always be different to everyone else’s. You bring your own vision and your own interpretation to the product. Look for the upside in sharing resources and ideas with your community.

Develop connections with fellow designer-makers and support each other. Can you share a studio? Get bulk discounts if you buy supplies together? Take a stall together at a market? Buy equipment together?

You could even form a ‘mastermind group’ where you share your goals and meet (in person/on the phone) monthly to hold yourselves accountable to your plans.

Success comes when we connect with others. At Mastered, we foster a sense of community within each course so that all students get to make friends with like-minded creatives and learn from each other.

4. Get coached

As you start your business, it’s important to acknowledge where your strengths lie and where you might need more support.

If you’re immersed in the creative world then delving into the worlds of marketing, pricing, sales and other business based topics may seem overwhelming. Consider working with a coach to start filling this gap. Your passion may be making, but someone else’s passion will be marketing and they’ll relish sharing ideas, articles and helpful tips with you.

Develop connections with fellow designer-makers and support each other.

Not only will a coach introduce you to areas of business wisdom you might not have previously considered, they will also encourage you to stretch yourself, introduce you to new contacts and generally motivate you when you’re feeling down.

If coaching is out of your price-range initially, consider doing skill-swaps with people, working with coaches who are just starting out and will help you in return for testimonials or seeing someone just once to kick-start you.

At Mastered, all of our courses come with access to a personal coach who is on hand to answer business questions, discuss ideas and support you to make a real living from your creative skills.

5. Who is your dream customer?

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to think that anyone is your dream customer, just as long as they have cash. Not so.

When you’re positioning your product and deciding on your marketing plan, you need to decide who exactly you want to buy your products.

Initially this may seem counter-productive and you’ll worry that be targeting only one group, you’ll be missing out on the custom of everyone else, but remember: if you focus on everyone, you end up focused on no one.

  • Who is your customer?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What’s their biggest frustration?
  • Why do they want your product
  • What words do they use to describe that, and why?
  • What puts them off buying your product? (tip: it’s rarely price)
  • How will buying your product make them feel?

Once you understand who you want to buy your product you can talk directly to them. You can understand where they’re spending time (do they shop at markets or boutiques?) what their concerns are (and then address them in your marketing materials) and understand the words that they’re using to describe what you do (then mirror those words in your own materials).

All of this helps your customer feel listened to and understood which, in turn, makes them feel more comfortable about buying from you.

Don’t be afraid to be clear about who your product is or is not for.

Put these five tips into practice and let me know how you get on. Did they work? Do you need any more help? Feel free to contact me at cheryl@mastered.co with your thoughts.

Mastered is an online education platform bringing designer-makers sought after teachers like Holts Academy of Jewellery and Hand & Lock and giving them the best teaching online, on demand. All courses include feedback from industry insiders, access to a personal coach and future opportunities to get your work seen by press, buyers and more.

Try any Mastered courses for free. The first 500 enrolments will also receive promotion on our website, exclusive offers and an opportunity to win a designer-maker business changer package including a personalised lesson and business overview and £250 to spend on supplies.

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