Turn your homemade talents into cash

3 September 2012

A positive impact of the recession is that many people are discovering innovative ways to boost their income or even exploring new careers in light of redundancy.

So while the wider economy is floundering, it is not surprising that the handmade economy is experiencing a boom.

Hordes of creative folk, from illustrators to knitters, ceramicists to photographers, are profiting from their passion as consumers show renewed vigour for the handmade touch.

"The popularity of handmade shows how discerning shoppers have become," says James Broadwell, founder of folksy.com, a site that sells handicrafts.

"We all want something unique that our friends don’t have, and we are naturally drawn towards items that are handcrafted with care by a real person rather than mass-produced in a factory."

If you have a creative talent to make something special, there is now myriad of websites to help take your product to market and earn an income from your craft. Online platforms such as folksy.com, etsy.com, seekandadore.com and notonthehighstreet.com have transformed the way artists and designers make a living.

"Traditional routes to market for craftspeople, such as galleries, fairs and exhibitions, are restrictive and expensive," says Hatty Fawcett, founder of Seek and Adore. "Selling online is so much more flexible and affordable."

Strength in numbers

These online marketplaces give a wide range of earning opportunities, from building a fulltime career as a self-employed creative to simply supplementing your income.

Each website operate slightly differently but all work on the premise of strength in numbers. By bringing sellers together in one place, each benefits from online traffic that it would be difficult to achieve alone.

"The marketing and public relations support from Seek and Adore is invaluable," says ceramicist Claire Lovett, 25, from Epsom in Surrey, who has been selling her wares through the site for over a year. "It would take so much time and effort to build this kind of press coverage and so many contacts on my own."

Dorothy Gillies, 47, from Glasgow, agrees. She quit her job as a lecturer for more creative pursuits. After discovering her passion lay in rescuing vintage finds and repurposing reclaimed materials, she launched her online shop - Peony and Thistle (peonyandthistle.com). She says: "I found it difficult to promote myself and working on my own without a team can be hard." Dorothy now sells through both Etsy and Folksy.

Crafty cash

Finance remains the biggest challenge for many business startups. Dorothy relied on savings built up before she quit her job, while ceramicist Claire still juggles part-time work as a school technician.

Meanwhile, Leanne Garrity relied on her partner to help get her accessory business off the ground. Leanne, from Stoke Newington in London, had been making textile accessories such as headscarves, laptop sleeves and cushion covers in her spare time from teaching English as a foreign language.

"It was increasingly hard to find the time to make pieces so I finally took a leap of faith to quit my job in January to focus on the business," says Leanne, 29. "I was fortunate my partner Nicolas was able to help meet financial commitments as it meant I could concentrate 100% on making new stock."

A few months down the line and Leanne now earns enough to live on from her brand, Chichidee Handmade (chichidee.yolasite.com). She says: "It is incredibly hard work but I absolutely love it and look forward to growing the business further."

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