by Patrice Lewis

Courtesy of The Crafts Report
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When a hobby becomes a business, the new entrepreneur is forced to consider a lot of things that didn't seem important before. Craftspeople are particularly plagued with this reality, because too many of them forget that it takes more than just a beautiful product to successfully run a business. It also takes business smarts.

How do craftspeople efficiently manage their time in order to get everything done without getting frazzled? How do they handle the administrative side of a business in addition to the crafting side without sacrificing their family? This particularly applies to women with children. Passionate about their product, women must, nonetheless, juggle the needs of their family with the needs of their business.

My husband and I have run a home woodcraft business for 18 years, and over that time we've learned our own ways of doing things. But, how do other successful craftspeople do it? Curious, I talked to a number of artists and craftspeople and learned their secrets.

Pay Yourself First

Time seems to be the scarcest commodity for crafting entrepreneurs. With all of the demands of business and family, many people simply learned to ''pay themselves first.'' This means that they literally schedule family time, sleep time, and other non-work time as much as they schedule time for their artistic and business endeavors.

''I make sure I start work between 8:30 and 9:00, and unless I'm preparing for a big event, I make sure I stop work when normal business hours are finished for the day,'' notes Miriam Rowe of Miriam Rowe Jewelry (www.miriamrowe.com). ''As my business grew, I knew I had to put systems in place that would allow me to be present not only in the important aspects of running my business, but also in my role as a wife and mom,'' adds Vanessa Coppes of enV Jewelry (www.envjewelry.com).

Photo Credit: Jan Willem Geertsma


These women learned that, in order to maintain some semblance of normalcy for their families, the families must be scheduled in such a way that no one suffers neglect.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Schedule

But, what these two women--and countless other entrepreneurs--depend on to juggle professional and personal lives is scheduling.

''To help us manage everything, we use our online calendar program in Outlook,'' says Jonathan Nowling of Rock Hill Lavender (www.rockhilllavender.com). ''Since we are a mom-and-son business, it is easy to share our calendars. We also use Google Labs to share files and other documents. This comes in handy when one of us is on the road.''

''I am old-fashioned enough to rely on paper and pen in some aspects,'' notes Lauren Weinstock of Esthers Girls (www.esthersgirls.com). ''I keep a folder for receipts, which I use dutifully, and organize when I need the information. I also keep a folder of show information, those I've attended, or hope to attend. I have a three-ring binder with column sheets and use this to record income and expenses of half a year on one side so that I can see everything at one time.''

Whether high-tech or low-tech, the ability to see things in black and white is a major contributor to maintaining sanity during the sometimes-insane business that can otherwise hamper a smart craftsperson.

Organize!

Hand-in-glove with proper scheduling is organization. Craftspeople and other artistic types often spurn organization as being antithetical to their creative muse, but the fact remains it is a necessity when running a business. Be as disorganized as you can get away with in your studio or workshop, but keep your office neat.

Georgina Willson of the Eye Pillow Company (www.eyepillowcompany.com) agrees. ''I stay organized! I quickly found that if I let paperwork pile up, it takes me twice as long to sift through it.'' She marks receipts immediately as an expense; she prints out receipts from online purchases right away; she immediately follows up e-mail inquiries so as not to fall behind. This kind of organization allows her to spend time with her family and even plan vacations without letting her business suffer.

Robert Rickard of Rickard Studio (www.rickardstudio.com) confirms this. ''Handle each piece of paper only once,'' he says. ''Enter online purchases into your accounting system immediately. Enter in-person purchases as soon as you return to the studio. Deal with each piece of mail when you open it. Create and follow a schedule.''

Photo Credit: Lodsa Work via Stock.Xchng


Some craftspeople may object to the regimentation that this kind of organized approach implies, but it unquestionably increases efficiency and the ability to ''do it all'' within a 24-hour period. Why not use proven methods to help your business succeed?

Go with Your Strengths

Despite all the clichés of how many hats an entrepreneur must wear, some jobs are either beyond our abilities or beyond our interest to learn. In these cases, it's best to delegate these tasks to someone more experienced, whether that person is a family member or a paid professional.

''In my experience, it all came down to being honest with myself,'' admits Vanessa Coppes. ''I had to realize what my strengths were when it came to running my business, but also outsource the things I was unable to take on. I hire independent contractors who can solve immediate or long-term projects that will allow my business to operate and grow. This gives me time to focus on things that need my attention.''

Writer Cheri Powell (www.cheripowell.com) and her silversmith husband Rick Powell (www.chericksilver.etsy.com) confirm this. ''One thing I learned early on is to evaluate our individual strengths,'' says Cheri. ''If something needs to be done, and there is a large learning curve for either of us (website design, professional photos, accounting functions), we hire it out. No sense wasting energy on things that are not our primary focus. That way, my husband can concentrate on jewelry design and actually making it, and I can have time to let my writing develop.''

This seems to be one of the most-utilized, as well as most-unspoken, aspects of success. ''Ask for help when you need it,'' advises Jean Miskimon, who runs not one but three businesses: Quilted Cupcake (www.etsy.com/shop/quiltedcupcake), SeamedUP (www.seamedup.blogspot.com), and JeanInk (www.jeanink.com). ''Nobody can do all aspects of a business to the highest level.'' Tax preparation is the most common example of hiring outside expertise. ''At first, I tried using [a popular business tax software],'' says Jean. ''It just wasn't worth the expense, so I found a local CPA who is only a few dollars more than the software and can also answer my questions year-round.''

Family First!

Especially for craftspeople with families, it is necessary to recognize that there are some things more important than business pursuits. ''Remember to put yourself and your family ahead of your craft,'' advises Kelly LaRoche of Specifically Random (www.etsy.com/shop/specificallyrandom). ''Even if you are dependent on your craft for an income, the right balance will automatically help maximize the time you can set aside for your business. Don't forget yourself, your family, and friends in the schedule you create.''

Single mom and full-time student Meca McKinney of Jypsea (www.jypsea.com) says, ''I try to remain very organized so I don't waste time looking for things. I've learned to stop over-committing myself to other things, such as social events.''

But this doesn't mean your family can't be an integral part of your business, especially for older children. Renee Harris of MadeOn Skin Care (www.hardlotion.com) has eight homeschooled children, many of whom are involved in the family business. After a modest start, sales grew rapidly. ''I was on a roll and knew that with Christmas approaching, we could really do well. But, I was also expecting baby number eight in November and wasn't sure if I could physically handle a lot of sales, plus deliver a baby. I decided family was more important and that I wouldn't try to create a big holiday sales season. As we approached the due date, my husband got laid off after 10 years at a large computer corporation. We had a huge decision to make. Would we need to move to a larger city for my husband to find work, or would we push to make the lotion business full-time income for our family of 10?

Photo Credit: Patrick Moore

''We opted for the latter, and it's been a fantastic ride. My husband is now behind the scenes handling the internet side of things while I am the 'face' of the business. We coasted through November and December with sales that were even higher than my husband's income. We involve the kids wherever we can.''

Team Up

Making a business a family affair has led to the success of many craftspeople. ''My husband helps search for art shows, but I do the applications,'' says Sandhi Schimmel Gold of Schimmel Art (www.schimmelart.com). ''If we book some shows, he handles the travel arrangements. When we're at a show, I'm the star, but he's the work horse; he helps me physically, emotionally, and makes sure I eat. We are a team when we're on the road.''

Teamwork--a supportive spouse and children--is tremendously important. Another reason to put families first!

Streamline the Manufacturing

''It is not the craft itself but the peripheral obligations that will take up most of the time,'' observes Caitlin Sullivan of Alere Modern (www.aleremodern.com). With that in mind, she learned that ''a repeatable item is going to be the backbone of your business. For a site where you are constantly listing and re-listing items, this is a huge time saver.''

By concentrating on one main product, Caitlin was able to streamline her manufacturing and increase her efficiency, which frees up more time as well as increases quality. As an added side benefit, it means her profit increases, because she spends less time per piece.

Mixing Business with Pleasure

One of the cleverest techniques is to combine business with pleasure. ''I teach instead of going on vacation,'' says glass artist Joseph Cavalieri of CAVAglass Studios (www.cavaglass.com). ''Or, I should say teach while vacationing. I will be teaching glass in Pittsburgh, North Carolina, and two places in Germany this year. I get paid, I meet people and see amazing parts of the world, and, most importantly, I change their lives while sharing my art. The school pays for transportation, food, and board. It creates a very fulfilling lifestyle. While I travel, I rent out my New York apartment and make some cash off of that, as well.''

And that ability--to find great pleasure and fulfillment in one's art or craft--is nine-tenths of the reason so many of us go into business in the first place, isn't it?



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