Today's post is on what so many artists and crafters need - CONFIDENCE! I recently talked to a couple of crafty friends who are just starting out in their businesses, and they were reluctant to either open an online store or participate in craft fairs because they thought that no one would buy their work.
By the way, both of these crafters' work is fabulous (in my honest opinion).
Which leads me to the point of this post. You will always be your own worst critic, and in actuality, it's not your opinion that counts - it's your customers'. So how do you know if your products are something that other people would buy? Here are two questions to help you discern if you have something worthwhile:
1. Are your products something that not everyone can make? (i.e. do they require a certain skill or a large amount of patience to produce? If so, then they are most likely marketable.)
For example: Crafter A makes necklaces by threading a single paper clip on a string. Probably not much of a market for that. Crafter B, on the other hand, makes complex scenes out of bent paperclips, paints them unusual colors, and markets them as "desk art." Now, there may be a market for this.
You may be thinking, "Well, anyone can bend paper clips," or "Anyone can work with wood." But that's simply not true. The key question is: is there SKILL involved? For instance, I can work with wood by gluing it, hammering it, or drawing on it, but my father in law can make entire benches and mailboxes. His skill level is vastly greater than mine in woodworking. Not everyone can do what he does. I certainly can't right now.
2. Put your ego and your self-esteem aside. Do you (in general) like your work? Would you buy it? (Don't focus on your worst piece; when answering this question, find a piece to critique that represents the majority of your work.) If you would buy it, probably others would too.
Now some people have trouble honestly critiquing their own work. If you cannot do this fairly, enlist an honest person to tell you what he/she thinks and be prepared for both positive and negative feedback. (Asking a friend isn't always helpful, because the friend may not want to hurt your feelings. Asking a total stranger is preferrable.)
If yes, it is not something that just anyone can make, and yes, it is something that you would buy yourself, there is most likely a market for it.
Now here's a common scenario: a crafter attends a craft fair and does not sell many goods. Does this mean there is no market for his craft? No! The crafter may simply be at the wrong venue for his work. What sort of people would your goods attract? Are they artsy, country, girly, manly, students, old ladies, or steampunk? A seller of goth steampunk jewelry probably won't do much business at a parish craft fair attended by little old ladies.
So, if no one or few people buy your work at first, don't despair! Reevaluate the type of person your work would attract, and seek venues to sell your products where those kind of people frequent.
And above all, remember that most businesses start out slowly. Don't expect great mobs of people to buy your work at first, but don't be so hard on yourself that you assume that your crafting endeavor is a failure right off the bat. It may take a year or two of dedicated work to get your name out and establish a solid customer base.
One word on integrity: don't infringe on other people's ideas. I see so many crafters using copyrighted characters on their goods. You wouldn't want someone copying your work and selling it, so don't do it to others, even if it's a big corporation. Instead, why not come up with your own characters? Write a story to go with each item when the customer buys it. That not only heightens your creativity, but prevents your integrity from being injured by becoming a "knock off" artist.
So, fellow crafters - have confidence! Confidence attracts others. If at first you don't succeed, reevaluate, and try, try again!