Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Handmade Business - Part 2: Thinking About Product Lines

So last time we talked about different kinds of artists and how this can fit into being a business owner. Assuming you've decided to go for it, now you need to think about what exactly you're going to sell. This goes beyond "paintings" or "knitting" or "handbags." You need to get really really specific.

Basically, after you figure out the type of art or craft you're going to sell, you need to think about product lines - the specific items you're going to be selling. If you're a painter, are you going to sell only original, one of a kind paintings? Or will you sell prints of your work? If you sell prints, are they going to be limited edition, or always available? When I started out, I just started making whatever I felt like, but eventually learned I needed to be more organized. Figuring out if you're doing one-of-a-kind items instead of regularly featured items is going to change how you market your work.

Made in Lowell is a great example. Liz makes her cupcake pincushions and cup cozies in several different color combinations. This makes them appealing to a wider audience.


In my own shop, I want some of my pieces to be "widely accessible," so I make them in lots of different colors and have them as part of my regular stock.

handmade business product lines

Other items aren't exactly one of a kind, but I'm not really interested in making them in every possible color, like my Harlequin arm warmers. I enjoy making these, but if I had to figure out every possible color pairing, it would be too complicated. These will be limited to the colors I feel like using, and any specific requests.

Harlequin Arm Warmers

Another example is Laura from Pansy Maiden. She offers her handbags in a few choice color combinations. She is very clear about the goals for her products, working with cruelty-free, vegan materials.


I also have one-of-a-kind items, which I don't plan to duplicate or make in multiple colors. These are the pieces that are labor intensive and use more expensive materials. The target audience for these is much smaller and more specific than with the other types of product lines.

cabled handknit scarf

This is a snippet of how I think about developing my products. What do you think of when developing new pieces for your shop?

Next time I'm going to talk about the pros and cons of custom work.

All images used with permission from their owners

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