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January 26, 2015

How to Create an Owner's Manual for your Handmade Business

When you’re starting your own business, there isn’t an instruction manual on how to make it successful. That’s the upside and downside to being a business owner; you get to think outside of the box and make your own rules but it involves a lot of trial and error. If you’ve mastered your product or service but are at a bit of a loss when it comes to the other areas that make up a successful business, here are some steps to make a guide that’s unique to your business.

When you don’t plan out the steps you need to take to get somewhere, you’re putting your mind into panic mode and causing doubt before you even get started. This process is meant to help you take a closer look at your business, organize your to-do list and break it down into manageable pieces. Let’s get started!


Sit down and think about where you want to be in a month or year and all the areas that are required to get you there. There doesn’t need to be any order, just write down anything and everything you believe is involved to reach your goal.

If you’re feeling stuck, try to imagine a business, big or small, that you admire. What do you think their typical day looks like? What type of departments do they have employees running? You don’t have to make sense of everything right now, just think big about what makes up a successful business.


You may have a mix of broad areas and detailed tasks in your list above but we’re going to start with the broad ones. If you’ve got a ton of smaller tasks, then start grouping them together into main areas of your business. You can use different colored highlighters to signify which tasks are alike, then name their groups.

Think of these as areas that will need to be addressed each week to continue to grow. When you’re working on growing a handmade business, your groupings may look something like this:

1) Get into stores 
2) Apply to craft shows
3) Get into the media
4) Grow social media following
5) Build stock

I find it particularly handy if I can break my key areas down into 5 or less steps so that I can focus on 1 step per day. Obviously there will be days that you can’t help but work on multiple areas but when you can plan to dedicate a particular day (or week) on one area of your business, it gives you a clear direction. The more you try to break up your day into working on every aspect of your business, the less productive you are.


Now it’s time to create steps for each group. Take each grouping you have above, write each one at the top of a sheet of paper then begin listing all the steps that are required to achieve that main step. Let’s start with Group 1 from above to take a look at how it may be broken down into steps:

1) Get into stores 
a. Research trends for the season’s product line
b. Create a lookbook
c. Research appropriate stores to approach
d. Contact them & set up arrangements for them to see your work
e. Fill orders


Now we’re going to go one step further and break these steps down into tasks. If you have lots of tasks from your brainstorming session, you can now start slotting them in. Here’s how Group 1, Step 1 might be broken down into tasks:

1) Get into Stores
a. Research trends for the season’s product line
i. Research color and texture trends
ii. Source materials
iii. Decide on key pieces
iv. Design patterns and create prototypes
v. Determine prices

b. Create a lookbook
i. Hire a photographer or set up time to take quality photos
ii. Edit photos
iii. Write descriptions and prices for each product
iv. Use program to create lookbook
v. Have lookbook printed

c. Research appropriate stores to approach
i. Decide on city/town/area to get into next
ii. Google boutiques in that area
iii. Create a list of top stores you would like to be in
iv. Visit website to gather contact information and be sure your products will be a fit

d. Contact them & set up arrangements for them to see your work
i. Call and ask for manager or store owner
ii. Ask if you can stop in with your products or send them a lookbook
iii. Meet with the store manager/owner or mail out lookbook
iv. Follow up if a yes or no answer isn’t given

e. Fill orders
i. Create order sheets or system to track orders
ii. Build up stock
iii. Tag products
iv. Create invoices
v. Package stock
vi. Ship or deliver stock to stores
vii. Follow up with stores carrying your stock to see if they would like to place another order

This may seem like overkill breaking your list down to every last task but it really does help on those days you’re feeling stuck. You’ll need to do some tweaking along the way and alter your groups, steps or tasks based on what’s working and what’s not.


If there are any groups, steps or tasks you’re unsure of, use Google to find advice on the subject. There are so many blogs and articles out there, it’s not hard to find someone who has done what you want to do and has some advice on how to achieve it.

Image courtesySicha Pongjivanich/

Here are some other articles on Productivity you may be interested in:
4 Steps to get your Work Back on Track
5 Tips to Get Back on Track After the Holidays
Feeling Unproductive? Follow These Steps
10 Steps to Get More Done Before a Craft Show
How to Make the Most Out of a Slow Craft Show
How to Make Sure you Have a Productive Day
5 Tips for Sparking Creativity

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