Is Crafting a Good Way To Make Money?

Whenever I see an article on ways to make additional money, crafting and selling the items on 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.

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14 Responses to Is Crafting a Good Way To Make Money?

  1. Carol says:

    Not only do you need to keep these things in mind for crafting to make money, but also if you are crafting to give as gifts. I’ve received gifts (from adults – I don’t expect the ones from children to look professionally done) that were really not that well made, and it made me feel that maybe I wasn’t worth the time and effort. Don’t send the wrong message to people you are crafting for, whether its for gift giving or for income!

  2. Denise T says:

    Crafting IS work. I have made money at it before, and it takes a lot of time and effort. Making enough good stuff for one craft fair can be 40 hours plus of work. And you really have o focus. It’s not something anyone can do. You have to have a talent and you have to really enjoy what you are making.

  3. whitestripe says:

    @ carol: i tend to disagree with the gift giving comment. a gift should always be appreciated, never expected. that’s why it is a gift! how could that be a ‘wrong message’? maybe it was wrong to give you a gift! as denise said, you have to have talent. maybe the person who wanted to give you a gift didn’t have a lot of talent, but still wanted to give you a gift from the heart, that they had made. not everyone can make things that look professional; but they can atleast TRY. especially if it’s a GIFT and they’re not selling it.

  4. Carol says:

    @ whitestripe:
    I don’t disagree that a gift should always be appreciated; however, when giving a hand-crafted gift, it should be of quality, not of shoddy craftmanship. I’m thinking of Homer Simpson making the disheveled spice rack for Marge…it wasn’t able to be used as a functional item at all. I have received a gift that could fit in that category. I thanked the giver, but in my mind I wondered why I wasn’t worth the effort to have the item be constructed correctly? If it is obvious that the gift isn’t suitable for its intended purpose, then the gift shouldn’t be given, and either discarded or reworked so it is a functional item. Unique items are charming, but pieces of junk are just that.

  5. wanda says:

    This article is appropriate for other business ventures also. I see so many people new to ebay and such who really havent researched the items they are selling.

    Very valid points here.


  6. Tightwad says:

    WoW…. I just hope that the acquaintance doesn’t read this article!



  7. Liz says:

    Thanks for the article– you had some good tips, but one I would add is YIKES! buying quality craft material is quite expensive. For example, I knit. I can buy acrylic yarn for $3.00 a skein, or nice wool yarn for $10.00 a skein. An adult scarf takes two skeins and several hours. Who wants to wear an acrylic scarf?

    I don’t have the time or the dedication to try to make money out of my hobby– for now I just try my hardest to create beautiful gifts for people I love.

  8. Melody says:

    As far as the gift giving comments- I agree with whitestripe. That person that gave the gift may have (and probably did)spent a very long time trying to make the recipient something very special- even if it wasn’t up to the standards that the recipient had. A friend is a treasure whether they can make a store worthy craft or not and they should be appreciated because they did try to do something special for you. I know everyone doesn’t agree but those are my feelings on this issue.

  9. Carol says:

    Melody and Whitestripe – I honestly LOVE getting handcrafted gifts. My house is full of things that others have made for me. I truly cherish all of them. I know that love and thought and time and effort went into each one.

    My initial point was trying to say that if you are crafting something to give as a gift, to make sure it works in the manner intended. As an example, if you tell someone to drink from a handmade cup, then it shouldn’t leak. And candles should have wicks.

  10. The cost of quality crafting supplies is a huge outlay.

    I have been able to find some craft supplies for my personal projects at rummage sales, clearance racks and craft store coupons. But you’ll be buying in a much larger quantity if you are purchasing items to handcraft for sale.

    You also need to study the market for where you plan to sell the craft items. I’m noticing fewer craft shows and more resale / rummage shows in my city. The recession is certainly having an impact on what local people are interested in buying via vendor shows.

  11. minny says:

    If you look at flickr and look at craft workrooms, then follow the profile links to the person’s blog or ETSY shop, you will see what you need to be able to do.

  12. Gail says:

    As someone who has given many handcrafted gifts, I totally agree that it should be well made and capable of doing what it is supposed to do. I would be embarassed to give a lousy made article.

    As to crafting for money. This is something you definetly need to know what you are doing, research your market and be able to recoup your costs plus make money for your time spent. Unfortunately most people are not interested at all in paying a decent hourly wage for a handcrafted, well made item. I have also seen people on ebay and other sales venues that just throw things up for sale without even trying to figure out how to make a decent listing and then whine because nothing sells. If you want to craft for pay, you are going to have to work, not dabble, in many areas–the carfting itself, marketing, sales, accounting, etc. to be successful. If you aren’t willing to do that, it might be better to go work for minimum wage.

  13. gaelicwench says:

    I agree with Tightwad completely! Very judgmental of the writer to decide that just because there are many supplies lying about in the home makes the acquaintance seem as if an amateur.

    My significant other has been purchasing all manner of mineral rocks – Read that: GEMSTONES – from ebay for the past year. He’s been very frugal and critical about how he went about his buying of these stones. Many were in the rough, meaning it meant cutting up, polishing and setting gems into beautiful pieces of jewelry. But I digress…..

    Over the course of accumulating his “stash” aka inventory, he’s had boxes of stones all over the place, especially the kitchen and kitchen table. So it is with the polisher, with the stone cutter in the back bedroom.

    Why is he doing this, you wonder? He’s 100% disabled from a service-connected injury while serving in the Corps. After a failed back surgery and no longer being able to be employed, he decided to turn to a long-loved hobby and make it into a business.

    You based your comments on messes and “dabbling” alone, and then immediately thought that she needed to find a part-time job. Had this been me and after reading this column, I would have not allowed you to step into my home again.

    Have you ever stepped into the home of school teachers or professors? THEY are notorious for leaving all manner of piles of messes lying about on every available surface in their home. Does that make them unprofessional? Absolutely not!

    This was a narrow-minded approach to something that is real regarding out-of-work people, desperate to “dabble” at different things before finally settling on something that does work.

  14. Slinky says:

    The number one difficulty in making money from crafts is the time investment. If the product takes too long to create, you’re unlikely to find people willing to buy it for the price you’d have to charge to recoup your time….unless you are very, very good at what you do. On the other hand, if you can make something quickly, you can price it much lower and still turn a profit. However, you then have to make a much larger quantity, which for me at least, results in eye gouging boredom.

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