Starting your sewing crafts business

So you have your product idea and you’re ready to get started sewing!  Here are a few thoughts on what you should have in place before you get to work.

  1. Get your state business license: This is an easy process but often a scary step for new entreprenuers.  It involves choosing your business name, your business structure and paying the fee of approx. $25.  For this you will be registered to do business in your state and receive a UBI number that you will be able to use to buy your supplies wholesale and tax free.
  2. Get your city business license:  The rules vary from city to city, so you will need to check on the requirements where you live.  Generally if you do any business within the city you live, you will need a license there and pay an annual fee (in Seattle, mine is $90 for a year).  If you only sell at street fairs for a portion of the year, you may qualify for a reduced rate.   The city officials do check out the fairs and if you don’t have your license, you’ll eventually receive a letter letting you know that you’re overdue!
  3. Apply to street fairs:  Assuming you have a product in mind and you’re ready to start turning it out, you’ll want to apply for fairs approx. six to nine months in advance.  Get on the mailing lists of the local fairs that you would like to participate in, so you will receive the applications as soon as the come out.  The good fairs have a specific “jurying” requirement, such as photos they require, dates you need to appy by, etc.  They often fill quickly and you’ll be out of luck if you miss the deadline.  The fairs usually have a jury fee of approx. $25 each, may require slides of your products or digital photos to be submitted online.  You must have great photos to stand out from the crowd!  You may want to start small the first year, if you may not have enough product to fill a booth.  An option is trying out some local church bazaars before jumping into a large fair (not as much up front cost and commitment, but also not as high earning potential).
  4. Set up a Website:  Even if you don’t plan to sell online, it’s great to set up a simple web page to tell about yourself, your work and how to contact you.  When you get your fairs lined up, be sure to list them online.
  5. Get your business cards:  Take your new business name and get some cards made up right away!  I like to use Vista Print – you can get free cards with their designs, or design your own logo and pay for some cards.  No matter how small you are, you should get cards to give to people who like your work.
  6. Find your wholesale suppliers:  With your UBI #, you’ll be able to buy supplies for your product wholesale.  Sometimes this will be the best option.  Sometimes, you may decide to buy retail if the wholesale minimums are too large for you while just getting started.  You can research suppliers in your local community or online.  If you decide not to purchase wholesale, your UBI # will allow you to purchase tax free (if you live in a sales tax state).
  7. Set a work schedule:  When you work at home, you’ll control your productivity.  The distractions of everyday life will easily disrupt your plans so it’s essential that your work time become a priority in your schedule.  Pick a time that you will most likely to work uninterrupted for a period of time.  Even if you only have a short time, if you stick with it on a daily basis, you’ll soon build a supply of your crafts to sell.
  8. Set a dedicated work space:  If at all possible, find a place in your home that you can use for your business.  It your space is in the general living area, you’ll find you spend more time setting up and taking down your work area, then you do on the actual sewing.  It’s wonderful if you have a spare bedroom where you can just leave your work mess, close the door and come back to it easily.  Check that your sewing machine and quilting tools are in good working order.
  9. Perfect your craft:  You will be competing with a lot of people for the customers sales dollars.  If you need to brush up on your sewing techniques, learn new quilting skills, embellishing ideas, and so on, you should invest in yourself.  Take classes at a local quilt shop or the larger fabric stores.  You products should be professionally made, original and creative to attract the eyes of potential customers and to secure a spot at a craft fair.
  10. Set up your online social networking presence:  Begin looking at Facebook, Twitter, blogging, My Space, YouTube and more with an eye towards establishing yourself as a business, introducing yourself and gaining a following.
  11. Sew up a few sample products:  Create a few of the products that you plan to sell so that you can photograph them to submit for crafts festivals.  You should take special care with the items you plan to submit for judging.  They should show your unique style and your skill.  Your photos should be close ups without any background clutter.  Many shows have very specific instructions for the photos that they need.  The photos should be well lit and show detail.  If your photos are not up to par, you may want to consider investing in a professional photographer.

Now you’re ready to set up shop and hang out your shingle!  Good luck with your new sewing career.  I’ll be posting additional tips about sewing for profit in my blog.

More about Alice

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