Whenever I see an article on ways to make additional money, crafting and selling the items on Etsy.com or at local craft fairs is always included. But is crafting really a good way to make money?
I became interested in this question when I visited the home of an acquaintance. Crafting supplies were spread over most of the tables and counters. I don’t know how much money was scattered around the house in the form of supplies, but it had to be a few hundred dollars, at least.
I wasn’t sure, just based on the mess, what she was trying to make. She caught me looking and said, “I’m dabbling in jewelry, scrapbooks, and birdhouses.”
When I asked if this was a hobby or a business, she said, “I’m hoping to make some money. You know my husband’s been out of work going on three months now and we need money. I can’t work because of the kids, so I’m giving this a try. I’ve never done it before, but it’s easy and fun.”
I wished her luck and went on my way. But the whole way home I was thinking, “Who is she kidding? She needs to get a part time job or do something else.”
The samples I saw in the house were not attractive or professional. The colors clashed, the presentation was sloppy, and the items looked fragile, not durable. I know art is subjective, but I just couldn’t see anyone paying for such shoddy work. Most people could do as well on their own. And her lack of focus (by her own admission, “dabbling”) does not bode well for someone seeking to make money.
So, can anyone really make money crafting?
The answer lies in how good you are at what you do and how committed you are to making a business out of it. Just like any other endeavor, for crafting to become a money maker you need to approach it with a business mindset. It’s fine to be a tortured artist, but if you’re going to make money, you need to find an opening in the market and then fill it with something so wonderful, unique, or useful that people just have to have it.
You need to work at crafting with an eye toward profitability. That means putting in somewhat regular hours and perfecting your craft. It means researching your market, looking at competing products, seeing what comparable are selling for, and understanding where your work fits into the marketplace. It doesn’t mean just fitting crafting in around a hundred other things and then slapping some googly eyes on a pipe cleaner, calling it art, and listing it for $100.
You also need to be professional in your approach. There is no room in craft sales for sloppily produced items. If it’s got glue blobs on it or it leans (and it wasn’t supposed to), it’s not ready for sale. If it falls apart at the slightest touch, it’s not ready. If you’re going to make money at crafting your work needs to look professional, not like something that your kid threw together in art class. And you need to produce enough to make your effort profitable. If you’re spending more on supplies than you’re bringing in, it’s a hobby, not a money making venture. Selling one birdhouse won’t solve your money woes. You need to sell a lot of birdhouses.
I imagine that some people do make quite a bit of money crafting. I’ve seen plenty of items at craft fairs that I wanted to own and plenty of sellers raking in cash. A well made, creative craft product has more personality and charm than any store bought item. But I suspect that those who make money view their work as just that: Work. It isn’t something that they dabble in when times are tough. It isn’t something that they do when they’re bored. Crafting is something they do as work. I also don’t imagine that many of them just sat down one day and started making things and selling them for profit. They practiced and learned and probably had a few failures and embarrassments along the way.
By the time my acquaintance gets good enough to make money, either her husband will have found another job or they will be bankrupt from her supply buying frenzy and refusal to “get real” and pursue actual work. If she sticks with it and adopts a business mindset, maybe she can make money one day and, in the next economic crisis, have a legitimate income to fall back on. But for now, her desire for “easy work” outweighs her commitment and ability.
Of course, if you just enjoy crafting and want to do it regardless of the monetary rewards, then by all means have at it. But if you are unemployed and looking for a way to make a quick buck, crafting may not be the way to do it unless you have loads of talent, a commitment to the business aspect, and/or a fabulous product idea.