Business (3)

My reviews are listed below, but you can also click on this link to buy & find reviews of even more Craft Business Books

N. B. There are a lot of craft books around on the subject of crafts as a business/career, but UK buyers please note that the only one aimed specifically at the UK market (i.e. published here) is CRAFT AND ART: The Business by ELIZABETH WHITE.  It is years since I read it – at the time I didn’t find it especially relevant, and given the amount of time that has passed, how up-to-date can the information provided be?  The craft world has changed a lot.  It’s still probably worth a look; however, the US books are probably more comprehensive with a wider variety of inormation.  The only bits you really need to skip are the legal bits (check the Business Link website, instead) and the trade oganisations.

(Titles are listed A-Z by author.  Check side bar for links to book reviews covering different stitch techniques.)

MAKING A LIVING IN CRAFTS: Everything You Need to Know to Build Your Business by DONALD A. CLARK

This is a larger format hardcover book with good quality glossy pages and photos throughout.  As such, I expected it to be more of a skimmed overview of crafts as a career.  In actual fact, it is a very forthright, practical guide absolutely full of information.  Based on the books I have looked at in this subject area, it seems rare in that it assumes you have already made the leap into crafts as a business, so the advice is more practical than I have seen elsewhere, which is a good thing.  However, I also felt it assumed the reader has already covered all start-up costs (& beyond) whereas in reality, it is very necessary for the crafter to understand that a business will not necessarily begin paying for itself – certainly inclusive of living costs! – for several years, and therefore other sources of income and/or finance need to be considered.

There were sections based on studio space, selling through galleries and craft shows, selling wholesale that I had to skim or skip because they were irrelevant to me, and unfortunely, that was a large chunk of the book.  However, the pieces are so in-depth and clear-cut, it is worth at least skim-reading sections you dont think are relevant, as there are still often bits of crossover information you can cull.  The information that I did find relevant was very good, for example marketing through print media as well as internet, and packaging of pieces you have sold, etc (things that aren’t often covered).

Another highlight of this book was the interviews with craft professionals.  The questions are very perceptive and pointed leading to useful responses, and each set of questions is tailored to the person they are asked of, rather than asking everyone the same set of questions, and thus findng information repeate in different voices, and people talking about areas that is not necessarily their area of expertise.  A couple of craftspeople are interviewed, but actually, the majority are on ‘the other side of the fence’: gallery owners, store buyers, educators etc. This is good, though, as it makes clear what is expected of a professional crafter in different arenas, from the people who make the decisions that affect your career.

On the whole, I felt this book was aimed at different kind of crafter than myself (I will not be selling one-of-a-kind pieces to galleries any more than I will be going into production-line design for wholesalers).  Most people considering crafts as a career – I believe – find themselves somewhere in the middle, and it is the middle ground that is not really covered here.  However, I do like the tone of the book and although it wasn’t exactly the right book for me, I suspect it might be just the right book for somebody else.

THE SAVVY CRAFTER’S GUIDE TO SUCCESS by SANDRA McCALL

There are lots of business books available about crafting as a career.  This is by no means the best or most comprehensive.  If you have already taken the plunge, it is probably relatively useless to you.  However, if you are at the stage where you KNOW you love to craft and you THINK you might be able to make it work as a business, this is potentially the book that will convince you to take that plunge.  It is personal, it is affirmative, and it is full of reassurance about all the little niggly things that only a fellow (non-business-headed) crafter would realise you might be worried about.  It will convince you that it will all be okay, after all.  It is a very good basic guide, in the sense that it tells you all the things you need to think about, and find out more about.  But that’s where its limits are: you will need to buy another book to unravel the finer details.

So although this is not the best craft business or small business book available, I do still firmly believe that (if you buy it at the right time in your decision-making process) it is a worthwhile purchase.  It is also presented in an aesthetically pleasing way, so if you are the kind of crafter who is scared by the ‘serious face’ of business books, it will ease you in gently!  Another nice feature is the personal accounts written by different professional crafters, covering different aspects of the crafts business or starting out.  Everyone has different experiences and reactions to different experiences in life, so reading a personal account by someone whose feelings or opinions seem close to your own may be another helpful deciding factor for you.

If you want a comprehensive business guide, you are best to look elsewhere.  If you are looking for a little inspiration or motivation to follow your dreams, start here.

CREATING A SUCCESSFUL CRAFT BUSINESS by ROGENE A. ROBBINS

In the introduction, the author says she would like this book to be a textbook used on college courses (as well as suitabe for self-study).  I don’t really think it is quite at that level.  However, it is a very useful book.  I thought intially that I would just skip the ‘homework assignments’ at the end of each chapter, but actually, they are very good for gathering together in a more formal, reference-able manner the information that has been disseminated in a very chatty, roundabout way in the preceding chapter.  There are also handy point by point checklist/worksheets, some more useful than others.

Although not all of the information in the book was directly relevant to me, I found a lot of useful stuff, regardless of which heading it was under.  The informal style of the writing makes it easy to read the book straight through – you can then, of course, go back to the sections you would like to study in more detail.   As I’ve already mentioned, the ‘assignments’ are good for pulling together relevant information, and actually make the reader do something a bit more pro-active than just think.

Having survived as a professional crafter, the author realises that the reader may not be able to afford to give up the ‘day job’, certainly not immediately, and it is this perspective of experience that makes this book more relevant to many than Clark’s book (review above) – he is a gallery buyer, she is a quilter: you can already see the difference in point of view!  She also suggests dfferent ways in which you can diversify to supplement your crafting income whilst not leaving crafts from the equation.

The main stumbling block I found in this book was the sections on using the internet for marketing and business purposes.  It is an area the author has dabbled in, but is (clearly) not especially comfortable with.  Unfortunately, I believe that the internet is one of the greatest tools available in terms of marketing, with many people more likely to spend time browsing a website than flicking through a print catalogue, and MANY more people likely to come across your product/website by pure chance, if you promote it in the right way.  Therefore, published in 2003, this book is already quite dated.  A list of resources, including websites and chat groups is included at the end of each chapter.  I confess I haven’t checked any, but I’m fairly certain a reasonable number of these will no longer even be in existence.  The gap in the craft business book market is surely for a single volume directory of information that is updated annually, to ensure current relevance.

That aside, though, this is definitely one of the better books I’ve come across, on the subject.

I haven’t read the following books, but they look as though they might look at some interesting angles of business for crafters:

BASIC GUIDE TO SELLING CRAFTS ON THE INTERNET by JAMES DILLEHAY

MARKETING AND SELLING YOUR HAND-MADE JEWELRY by VIKI LAREAU

PUBLISH YOUR PATTERNS! How to Write, Print & Market Your Designs by NANCY RESTUCCIA

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