We recently read an interesting book on business which states that the most successful companies ask themselves questions about what service they will provide, rather than stating what they will do, when they launch. This encourages business owners to stay relevant and perspective to the market around them and their customers. There are many books and blogs on this, however there doesn't seem to be many relevant to smaller, handmade businesses. So here at Drawn Together we have compiled a list of questions which we hope will help you launch or grow your creative business.
1. Will customers 'want' or 'need' my product?
Is your brand going to provide items which are seen as ‘luxury’ or are you providing something that is a 'necessity'? This is very integral to how to brand yourself and advertise your products. For us, it was an easy question to answer, as artwork is definitely a luxury over a necessity. We have tired to keep our branding clean and slick to mirror this idea. People want to feel excited to purchase one of our art prints, so packaging has to feel a bit special. We make sure our online orders are beautifully wrapped for our costumers.
There are certain handmade items that can fall into both categories of course, such as bath products or clothes. Have a good think about who you expect to buy your items and make sure your branding mirrors this.
2. Why will customer want or need my products?
As a business owner, you should be constantly asking yourself 'why'. One of the main appeals of purchasing a handmade item is the opportunity to meet the maker and hear the story of the product. Make sure you know how to speak about your handmade items (an artform in itself!). Also try to understand why someone would want your product. Is your product unique? How so? Think about things you've brought recently and ask yourself why you brought them? Why did you choose that product over another? Did price matter? Did the product have a personal significance to you? Did you think it was unique? Any other reason?
3. What value will my product have?
This is a very important question to ask yourself. First, price your items according to the cost of materials, expenses, time it takes to make it etc. Then ask yourself some questions. Will people purchase your item because they think it is good value for money? Or will people want to purchase your product because it is handmade and unique? Will a higher price in fact make your product more desirable? Once again, make sure the branding corresponds with the pricing of your products. Also, the price of your products should dictate where you try to sell them. If you're selling jewellery for £1000 a piece, you're probably not going to have much joy selling at a small local market. You would probably be better off focusing your efforts on more established trade fairs or shows.
4. What is my USP (Unique Selling Point)
It's nearly impossible to make a completely unique product, but you need to think about how your product will stand out. This is something you'll need to think about to add into your products story. Jewellery and art are probably the most common items in the handmade marketplace. How will yours stand out from the rest? What is special about you and your products?
5. What message will my website / stall have?
Seeing your website or your stall at a market is often the first impression people will have of your brand. So both your website and stall should reflect the the products you're selling. Are your products fun or serious? This will make sure you catch the attention of the right people.
6. Does my website explain to the visitor what I sell immediately?
We've seen tons of websites where you have to click around various pages to actually understand what the website is selling. The percentage of visitors looking past the first page of your website is tiny. You only have one chance to really capture the attention of your visitors. It is also well worth familiarise yourself with a few facts about how people visit websites, for example, only 35% of visitors will come directly to your homepage, the rest would have found you via a search engine and will end up on another page, so make sure it's easy to understand the message of your website and brand on every page.
7. Will my stall explain to the visitor what I sell immediately?
People can often be hesitant to ask questions about your products if they're unsure of what they are for or how they work. We often see handmade stalls that sells a huge range of products, which can get confusing to potential customer. If you do sell a range of different products, make sure you have a really strong brand to link all your products so your stall looks more consistent.
8. What did I achieve?
It can be hard to keep motivated when you are working for yourself. Whenever you sit down to do an admin day, make sure set a goal of what to achieve in the time you've got. This will guarantee you don't spend hours on a task without achieving much. Looking back and evaluating what you have achieved in the last week/month/year can be a useful motivator.
9. What mistakes have I made and how can I learn from them?
This is a good question to ask yourself after selling at a market or show. Did you not make as much money as you expected? Which of your products worked and which didn’t work quite well? Can you find a reason for this? There are a lot of external factors at markets that you can't control of course (eg. footfall, and who walks through the doors). But observe nearby stalls that are doing well, can you learn something from them?
10. What is my long term goal?
It is easy with a handmade business to just go with the flow and hope for the best. But it's also great to give yourself some direction by setting yourself a list of goals for the month / year. Whether this be increase traffic to your website by X amount or create X more different product by X date. Giving yourself specific goal will help keeping you inspired and motivated to keep going.
Do you have any questions you ask yourself with your creative business? Let us know in the comments!
Download your copy of our handy worksheet 10 Questions to ask yourself when starting a creative business here