Guest Contribution by: Sharon Fain, Academy of Handmade
We started Academy of Handmade because we wanted to celebrate the amazing jobs makers do and get very little recognition for. After it was decided an awards show for makers was needed, we quickly realized that an ongoing community for makers that was neutral (read: not a group that was trying to get you to buy something or that supported a selling platform specifically). As a PR practitioner, I had the luxury of membership to trade organizations like Public Relations Society of America that would organize social and educational AND an awards show for our industry. Plus they advocated for the industry. We saw nothing really like this for makers and knew that community would be a key part of what we do. Here’s a few reasons why community is essential for your business.
1) You Need an Understanding Ear: When you decided to sell what you make, you were likely doing so because you got to choose work that was meaningful to you that also made you money. What more could you want?
But then you realized that hours in your studio or at your kitchen could be hard. Fulfilling, but hard. And then you also realized a lot of people with “normal jobs” just didn’t get what you do.
To prevent burnout or feeling down, having people who get what you do and can empathize with what you do is vital to sustaining your business– and your own sanity.
2) You Need a Sounding Board: Because you don’t have coworkers or even a boss, making decisions and bouncing ideas off someone else becomes really hard. Sure, you can ask a trusted friend or significant other if your line sheet looks right or if that’s the right kind of packaging, but then you probably have to explain a lot to them and always wonder if they really get it.
Creative and business decisions can either feel like the best idea ever and go really wrong or never happen because you’re telling yourself it’s stupid. While talking with your peers about it won’t ensure flops or success, it can help to mitigate weird feelings that can tend to take over your decision making.
3) You Need to Know What’s Up: Before becoming a maker, you likely had a full-time, 8-6 (let’s get real– they were never 9-5) job where you were immersed in what was happening in your industry. You got who the competitors were. You knew the trends and best practices. When you’re a maker it can be very hard to do this without a community.
Peers can share with you the experiences they’ve had on certain selling platforms or craft markets. They can alert you to new business tools or ways of making that will help you create a leaner and meaner business.
Learning what not do is also just as important. When you’re a beginner you can make mistakes that can be avoided with the help of mentors who have gone down that path before. In community, you can find those people.
While the Academy of Handmade aims to cultivate online through our Google group and in-person community through our chapters, you most certainly don’t need to join our community (though, we’d love to have you!) to get one. Do some research and find out who is a good fit for you. Create multiple places for connection online and off. I think you’ll find it an added value to your business. Just remember that you’ll get the most out of community when you participate and put yourself out there.
p.s. One of our favorite things to do in our community is our #emojistatuscheckin each Sunday on Instagram. I hope you’ll join us!