The first time you go public with your handmade products is nerve wracking – we all remember that day.
You are desperate for approval, for affirmation, for people to say, yes, it’s great, you’re great, here’s my money to prove it.
You’ve put your heart and soul into your designs and the last thing you need is rejection.
But oh boy, are you going to get rejection!
But it’s not about you.
You have to grow a bit of a thick skin, because if you can’t handle people not liking your stuff, you’re in the wrong business. I’ve learnt to smile at the people who walk right past and repeat the mantra “my products are perfect, those customers were not MY customers”. Anyone who’s stood behind stalls will know that is a mantra that they have to use an awful lot!
Think about a time you visited a fair as a customer. Were you interested in every handmade product on offer?
Personally, pretty floral textiles are not my thing. It doesn’t matter what the price point is, or how they are displayed, or how useful the items are, or how professional your business cards look, I’m not going to bother with your products.
Lets be clear, I don’t think they’re rubbish, I don’t think they’re badly made, or not worth the price, I don’t have anything against you, they’re just not my taste.
Let me walk by – I’m not your customer.
Some of my best friends make stuff I don’t like … and I make stuff they don’t like.
Our businesses are not like bog-standard enterprises; being handmade, we put a lot of ourselves into both the product and the brand but we also need to distinguish between our brand and ourselves. What we have to sell is not our souls. It’s a thing that we made.
Your handmade product may reflect your own taste, and skill, and design sense and ethics and personality, but it is not you.
Any criticism or rejection is not criticism or rejection of you either however much it hurts at the time.
Don’t be precious
Somewhere between mass-produced factory-fabricated products and a piece of fine-art that incorporates the artist’s heart and soul, is a handmade business.
Love your brand, love your products, but always remember they are not your babies. That’s something I’ve learnt the hard way – you need to be able to let go.
If your handmade products aren’t selling, don’t be unkind to yourself: you are great, it’s your business that needs some more work on it. Your product and the way you market them may have flaws and problems – designs may need to be reworking, or rethinking altogether, your marketing strategy may need to change – the real measure of you is how you change it, move it forward, adapt it, make it better, or even walk away from it. That really is about you.