designing an mba

guest post: creating multiple streams of income

Today I’m excited to share a guest post from Tara Swiger.  Tara’s sharing her secrets for creating multiple streams of income around your craft – a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.  Thanks, Tara!

Sell your handmade work for any amount of time, you will discover one cold hard fact: you can only make so much.

Once you reach this ceiling on production, you may feel stuck. If you can only produce a finite number of things, is your income limited?

How can you make more money?

Do things OTHER than making your craft and selling it.

The business world calls this “multiple streams of income”, but I like to think of it as adding some spice to the recipe of your tasty business. Trying a new income stream not only spices up your work (variety!), it also brings you (and your knowledge and expertise) to a new market. It makes you more money (when you get paid for it) and may bring you more sales (when new people learn what you do).

There are lots of different things you could do to bring in more money and not every one will be right for your business. I limit my spices to the things I know will do double-work: they pay AND serve as marketing. You may find some spices work and some don’t and you just don’t like other spices. Experiment and let me know what works!

Teaching

When you tell people what you do, do you hear, “Thatís so cool! I wish I could do that!” If so, you can teach it. And everyone person who gushes over your handknit socks is a potential student!

Teaching can include everything from one-on-one personalized lessons to fully-organized classes to teaching at an industry event.

There is a lot of room for play and experimenting when it comes to teaching, but keep these things in mind.

  • Have a clear offer: be specific about what you’ll teach, how you’ll teach it and what they can expect.
  • Donít be shy about your expertise, that’s what people pay for!
  • Reach out and connect with people in your local community. References are the best way to build a reputation as a great teacher.

Pattern-making

Many crafters are worried about someone stealing their ideas. If this is you, selling patterns of your ideas may seem like a big risk.

But remember this: the people who MAKE your craft are probably not the same people who will BUY your craft. If I’m a knitter, I’m not going to buy a handknit hat, so if you’re a knitter of hats, I would never be your customer. But if you sell me your pattern? You have a whole new market for your work!

You can get started by self-publishing your patterns or by sending design proposals to websites, magazines and even book authors who ask for submissions. Shannon Okey wrote a great book for fledgling designers and it covers the gamut from self-publishing to getting a book deal.

Writing

The media, subject matter and potential audience for your writing is huge. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Write for blogs, zines, magazines or books.
  • Write for other crafters (how you craft, where you craft, the specifics of your craft).
  • Write for your customers (how to wear/display your work, fashion advice, lifestyle design, a behind-the-scenes look at life as an artist)
  • Write your research (like my article on finding local fiber in a crochet magazine).
  • Write your personal experiences (like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s knitting humor books).

Selling your finished craft

I know, I know, you’re probably already selling your craft… but are you selling it in every way possible? Hereís a few ways you may  want branch out.

Retail

  • Do you sell from your own website?
  • Do you sell packages or kits, so that an interested person could buy more than one thing at a time (eg. a bracelet and necklace set or a Learn to Knit Kit)?
  • Do you sell at craft shows or other places you can meet your customers?
  • Have you tried home parties (like tupperware, but with your art)?

Wholesale

  • Do you sell in the local boutiques?
  • Have you tried a trade show (check out Megan’s book to learn more about that)?
  • Is your wholesale information clear on your website?
  • Have you tried a trunk show at a boutique?
  • Do you call shops in an area when you’re travelling, to see if you can meet with them and share your work?

Whew! That’s a lot of different ways to share your crafty self with the world! And it’s just the beginning!

What have you tried? What are you going to try next? Share it in the comments!

Tara Swiger is the owner of Blonde Chicken Boutique.  She blogs about embracing the wonky while crafting a business at taraswiger.com.

20 responses to “guest post: creating multiple streams of income”

  1. Stephanie

    My own jewelry making skills are more on an amateur level still (working toward changing that!), so I’m not in a position to consider teaching formal classes… but I’ve considered, in addition to doing traditional jewelry parties, having “make your own jewelry” parties. Guests would pay a fee to participate and would be able to make a particular number of pieces. And of course I’d have some of my own work on display and available for purchase.

    Another thing I’ve considered, which would be a complete departure from anything jewelry-related, and more in line with my business and library/information science backgrounds is designing customized budget spreadsheets for people. I’ve already had a number of friends, as well as some total strangers on the internet, ask to see the template I designed for myself. Since I don’t do any customization on that, I haven’t bothered charging anyone for it. But, particularly if I customize it to an individual’s personal expenses and savings goals, it would be a genuinely useful product and quite possibly something people would be willing to pay me for. And maybe, once I perfect my own financial spreadsheets for my jewelry business, I could also market a similar service to other crafters. Any takers?? ;-)

    1. Tara - Scoutie Girl

      Hey Stephanie. I think it’s important to realize that you always know more than somebody about something. And that’s an opportunity to teach. You just have to recognize your level and market your teaching to the right people. That being said, your party idea sounds great. But I would encourage you to work in that you can offer to show people new trends or how to use certain tools! Good luck!

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  3. Marie Young

    Hi Tara,

    Great advise! I’m particularly interested in expanding my income stream through writing. With so much “free content” out there, have you found it difficult getting paid to write for blogs and other sources?

  4. Gina

    Tara- Great post! I am always interested in expanding my revenue and making multiple revenue streams is one thing I have focused on as of late. I have always been a writer for “fun” but in the past few months I have focused some of my energy on how I can make money from this.

  5. Tara

    Thanks, everyone, for the comments!
    Stephanie, I love the customized spreadsheet idea! The thing you’d want to keep in mind: people who want spreadsheets would probably be a different market than people who want jewelry (especially if you aim the spreadsheets at crafty businesses).
    Your make-your-own-jewelry parties sound like fun! I want to go to one!

    Marie, I haven’t tried to get paid to write blog posts, so I’m not sure how that would work. I’ve managed to get paid to write by looking into more traditional formats, where the producer is already planning on paying for writing.

    Gina, good luck with the writing! It can be so fulfilling!

  6. Eva / Sycamore Street Press

    Great ideas! I’ve done some teaching, a little bit of writing, and I do retail and wholesale sales regularly. Now you’ve got me thinking about the idea of pattern making and how I might apply that to letterpress. Hmmm…..

    1. Apik

      Wonderful interview and the exersice has literally set me free! I too have been doing what Im doing for many many years and do not have the correct college degrees. My critic in this case is my little worrier . Perhaps the fact that I have worked with so many people for almost 30 years I can actually ask her to see she has battled those questions and may now want to become more of my little warrior. Just looking at this part of myself has opened up great possibilities! Mahalo Tara you are absolutely amazing! Big love to Jillian too for her openness and her warrior self for bucking the system and doing what she is here to do![]

  7. Dannielle

    Thanks for this post Tara! I have been really thinking about this lately. I love to write and am just starting to find my ‘blogging voice’, so that’s definitely something I could look into on top of my craft business.
    Teaching is also something that I wouldn’t mind trying out, I have taught people for fun before but not for money.
    Now my mind is racing. Better go write all my ideas down!

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  11. Ron Kolb

    Thanks for the inspiration, but I’m still blocked. I make jewelry that’s “meaningful, comfortable, fashionable and fun to wear.” ( my service mark) When I’m selling more than I can make with my own hands I’m fully prepared to subcontract the production, or raise the prices to limit the demand. Where I get stuck is when customers suggest stores that should carry my products and in the rare case where stores ask to carry my product. Please help me understand the trade offs between higher volume and lower margin. In my limited experience the lower margin wholesale business comes with complications like collecting the money from retailers for whom I am a minor supplier and far down the list of bills to be paid, satisfying the retailer who wants to see the product out the door next week at a high profit and the final consumer who wants to cherish something forever that they bought at a bargain price. Has your wholesale experience been positive?

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