How to Make a Living as a Crafter
I have made a living as a crafter for close to 15 years. It has not always been easy. There were times I was poor, and there were times I felt rich. There were times without health insurance, and times when I was staying in hotels in Beverly Hills. The craft industry waxes and wanes like anything else. This, my friends, is why I always live by the motto that you need to have several financial irons in the fire at once.
A lot of people think they can’t make a living off of their craft business. Most of those people are right. However, could they make a living selling their jewelry at festivals, selling supplies on Etsy, writing freelance articles for magazines, and running paid ads on their blog? Maybe. That's a lot of balls to keep in the air, but it can be done. Most people who make a living in the craft industry don’t make it off one paycheck alone. This is the most important lesson I can bestow on you. Sure, you could work a 9-to-5 job and make $50K a year. You could also work several smaller craft-related jobs, never wear pantyhose again … and still make $50K a year.
Strategy #1: Sell
How many times have you heard, “Hey, you should start selling those!” about something you made? Maybe all those people are right. I’ll be honest: With the advent of Etsy, the market for handmade goodies has become a lot more saturated than it once was. Since the barrier to entry for running an online craft business has been lowered, there is a lot more competition out there. That being said, it has also never been easier to open your own online craft store.
And online is just one way to sell your handmade soap, dolls, art, or what have you. Are there shops in your town that might be interested in taking out a wholesale order with you? Do you have any craft shows, even seasonal ones, in your town, and would you consider getting a booth? When I made jewelry for my company, Naughty Secretary Club, I was doing all three. Again, it is a lot of work, but it's one way to turn your side business into your full-time business.
Strategy #2: Blog
If you craft, chances are you also blog. (What’s the fun of crafting if you can’t share what you made with the world, right?) So, are you making money off your blog? You could be. You can apply to a number of companies, including BlogHer, to do so. Usually it works like this: The more traffic your blog gets, the more people look at the ads, and the more money you make.
In addition to ads on your blog, BlogHer (and other companies) also offer additional opportunities for members, such as writing sponsored content. You can also start your own ad program and sell ad space on your blog or set up something like Google ads.
Another way to get paid for blogging is to be a spokesperson for a craft company. Craft companies are always looking for design team members. Keep an ear to the ground for when your favorite craft supplier puts out a casting call. I, for instance, work with I Love to Create. I get paid weekly to write a sponsored how-to post for them, in which I use their products. If you use a company's products constantly, don’t be afraid to pitch yourself to them!
Note that if you're involved with a network that offers advertising and sponsorship opportunities, there may be rules about approaching brands directly. And the brands you approach may also have requests for working elsewhere. Make sure you ask, and make sure to review all agreements carefully.
Strategy #3: Write
If you are already writing a blog, why not get paid to write for other blogs and magazines, too? Did you know BlogHer pays for great how-to articles? Many websites do -- and magazines, too. Check out your favorite publications online, and look for their submission guidelines. I am the editor of a magazine called Kids Crafts 1-2-3. I am constantly looking for creative how-to projects and articles, and I pay for each one of them.
Strategy #4: Teach
Teaching is another great way for crafters to make money. Sure, we would all love to have an online class at Craftsy or Creativebug, where people are paying to download our expertise all the time. But if you're handy with cameras and computers, you could also make that happen on your own blog.
Downloadable classes and projects are something I call PIGs: Positive Income Generators. These are things that make money while you sleep. You teach one online class and have it available for download, and -- while you are sleeping -- people are paying you for something you already did.
Even something like starting your own YouTube how-to channel can be lucrative, if you opt to run pay ads on your videos. Not so comfortable in front of a camera? Why not check with some local stores and craft studios and see if they are hiring new teachers? Maybe they have been dying for someone to come in and teach screen-printing or embroidery, and you are just the gal.
Did I mention making a living as a crafter is a lot of work? Yeah… I wasn’t kidding. It can be done, but prepare yourself to work. If you love what you are doing (and what crafter doesn't?), then it shouldn’t really feel like work at all.