The last few years, there’s been a huge surge of people turning their dreams into businesses. Etsy alone has over two million sellers, many of whom do it full time.
And if you have aspirations of doing the same, you’re gonna have to look the part. You’ll be competing with big companies, all employing dozens of designers and marketeers making sure that their brand is well represented.
If your own work isn’t up to the same caliber, it could look sloppy and amateurish, and some potential customers might decide to go with someone else.
Luckily, there are many ways you can look professional without hiring an entire marketing department.
Here are some tips.
Few things look as unprofessional as a typo. A grammatical error might not be a big deal in a text message, but coming from your personal brand, it can make you look bad.
These small errors communicate carelessness. It looks like you can’t be bothered to pay attention to details.
Viewers might see these errors and think you treat your own work with the same carelessness. If you don’t pay enough attention to notice typos, how can they trust that you’ll pay enough attention to your work?
Before hitting “print” or “publish” on anything, give it a once over to make sure it’s free of any errors. If that’s not your forte, send it to a friend or run it through a tool like Grammarly.
Build a Strong Brand
Big corporations pour millions of dollars into building a strong brand for their business. This is essentially the sum of the company’s entire presence: their logos, colors, the fonts on their websites, and even the voice they use in their advertising.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money yourself, but you do need to build a brand that boosts recognition and allows customers to remember you.
Use a consistent color palette across all of your media: your website, packaging, designs, etc. Choose a couple typefaces that you use consistently.
Identify a few core values to drive the way you present your brand to the world. Take Dove for instance. Ever since launching their Real Beauty campaign, all of their marketing has come from a place of helping their customers feel comfortable in their own skin. Find a similar value and use that as a guideline for all of your marketing.
Once you develop a strong brand, stick to it.
If you go to buy an iPhone, you’ll find very little variation between individual models. An iPhone is an iPhone, and they are mass produced in such a way that they seem perfectly replicated.
But in the handmade, DIY market, consistency is a little less common.
Which is why if you are consistent between items, it will make you stand out.
If your goods vary greatly in look and quality, you’re going to have a hard time convincing customers to stick around. An unpredictable product is a one way ticket to unproductible cashflow.
Work hard to nail down your process so you can pump out consistent products. This will keep your customers happy and make you look like a bonafide pro.
Need Help Stepping Up Your Game?
Luckily, looking like a legit business doesn’t mean you have to spend as much money as the big boys. With a little focus and attention to detail, you can compete at a fraction of the cost.
But, if you need some help getting there, we’re here to give you a boost. Come into the shop and use our resources to help you take your DIY brand to the next level.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
You have breakfast, then get right to work. After a few hours of answering emails from clients, planning new products, and working on your social media marketing, you feel a pang of hunger. You look at the clock and see that it’s 8:30pm.
You worked right through lunch, and you’re on your about to do the same to dinner. You wish you could have made something healthy, but now you’re too hungry and tired. You order in some junk food and call it a day.
As business owners and freelancers, finding a work-life balance can be difficult enough without needing to worry about your wellness. We often work alone, far from the accountability that might come from working in an office.
But that isn’t an excuse to just give up. There are still a number of ways to keep yourself healthy while grinding away on your own. We’re hardly the experts, but we’ve picked up a few tips along the way.
Think Ahead On Meals
Eating healthy is difficult for everyone, but it’s especially hard for those of us not working conventional nine-to-fives.
When you’re running your own business or doing freelance work, your time truly is money. And when you take time to cook a healthy meal, that often comes at the expense of time you can spend making sales.
Instead of relying on take out or fast food, take some time on your days off (you really do need to take a weekly day off) to do some meal prep. Make simple, delicious—healthy—meals that you can have ready to eat throughout the week.
You might also want to set some alarms throughout the day so you actually remember to eat too.
Make Your Workspace Work For You
These days, so much of our work is done online. And if you’re anything like me, you do much of that work on your couch slumped over your laptop.
Not only does extended periods of sitting contribute to inactivity and weight gain, it can also increase your risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Luckily, you can make some simple changes to your workspace to curb these risks. A portable standing desk stand can bring all the same benefits of a standing desk at a fraction of the cost.
Look at your current work situation and think about what small changes you can make to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Start Your Day Right
After a long day of work, the last thing any of us want to do is work out. It doesn’t matter that we already paid for a gym membership—we’re exhausted. And, we already paid for Netflix too, and that seems like a much more attractive use of our time.
Instead of skipping exercise altogether, try to get it out of the way before you start working. You could wake up early and head to the gym, or you could do something simple. We walk our dog most mornings, which isn’t a huge commitment to fitness, but it’s better than doing nothing.
And it’s certainly easier than walking him after we get done working.
Find something easy you can do and commit to doing it before anything else.
Wellness isn’t easy—if it were, we’d all be doing it. But the busyness of our work schedules doesn’t need to thwart our hopes of good health. Using these tips, we’ve been able to make strides for taking care of our bodies even as we take care of our business.
Most of the time, anyway.
Halloween is just around the corner, which for many people means that it’s costume time.
Sure, you could head to a big box store to buy a mass-produced costume, but where’s the fun in that? True makers know that nothing beats the satisfaction of making your own costume, whether you’re throwing together a hilarious low-effort costume or creating a picture-perfect cosplay.
But making those costumes can take work...and tools that you might not have just lying around.
That’s where we come in. Here are a few ways that our makerspace can help you make the best costume ever this Halloween.
Custom Made Clothing
Sometimes, a subtle costume can go a lot further than a loud, over the top ensemble. Take for instance Jim Halpert’s understated costumes on The Office.
But not everyone is as pop culture savvy as you. There’s a good chance that your The Dude costume will be misinterpreted as “Bathtub Hippie.”
To get the point across, you might need to enlist the aid of a custom printed t-shirt, jacket patch, or hat. The screenprinting studio can be used to make custom prints of anything, but unless you’re doing a group costume, the vinyl cutter and heat press would be way less hassle.
You could also order a custom mug, towel, or the like from a site like Custom Envy to really hit the nail on the head.
And of course, you can also use our sewing area to design your own elaborate costumes.
3D Printed Accessories
Many characters have instantly recognizable accessories, such as Ash William’s Chainsaw arm or Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. If you want to recreate these characters, you’re going to need to nail these accessories.
Often, this means buying a replica online. But thanks to the modern miracle of 3D printing, you can create accurate recreations of just about anything and create it yourself, from belt buckles to pendants to signature weapons to sidekicks—even masks!
You can design your own model in a 3D modeling software or find something from Thingiverse’s enormous database. Just make sure you give yourself enough time—some of these prints can take a while, especially if they require multiple pieces.
While some characters are known for a weapon or helmet, others have an unforgettable piece of jewelry, such as Jareth the Goblin King’s pendant, Holly Golightly’s famous Tiffany necklace, or The One Ring to Rule Them All. Matching that jewelry can make or break the entire costume.
You could head to Goodwill to see what you can find that looks sorta close, or you could come to our shop and make your own replicas. Use our metalworking tools, polymer clay, and even stained glass to recreate iconic jewelry yourself!
Having a great Halloween often comes down to having the right costume.
This year, don’t rely on a cheap, store bought costume. Make your own costume here in our shop and get fewer tricks and more treats!
There are a lot of reasons people stay at their day jobs when they’d rather do something they’re passionate about.
But not all of those reasons are worth a darn.
Here are a few common—terrible—reasons people give for staying at a job, and why they don’t actually matter.
You’ll Lose Your Health Insurance!
Health insurance is a touchy topic these days. It’s dominating the debate cycle during this election, just like it did in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and…
Yes, healthcare is a necessity. And for many people with a full-time job, that healthcare is provided by your company. Losing that would cost too much.
But there are two things you have to remember.
First: you can find insurance on your own without a company’s group plan.
Second: you’re already paying for your own insurance. It’s just being taken out of your paycheck before you see it.
What If You Need To Verify Your Income?
There are a lot of instances where you’ll need to verify your income. When you apply for a car loan or a mortgage, the lender will want to see proof of your income so they can make sure that you make enough to afford the payments.
In most cases, you’ll provide the bank with a pay stub from your employer verifying your salary. The people telling you not to quit your day job will tell you that without an employer, you won’t have any pay stubs to show. How can you get a pay stub without a payroll department writing it up for you?
And yeah, a pay stub is a much neater method of income verification than a spreadsheet with all of your various PayPal transactions, Square reports, and cash deposits from craft shows.
But you can turn all of that documentation into a pay stub of your own at a site like PayStubs.net, and it will work just the same.
Your Job is Stable!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Stability is one of the biggest reasons people settle for a non-dream job. It might not get their heart racing, but it’s stable.
But the fact of the matter is, even a “stable” job isn’t unshakeable. Speaking to a graduating class at Maharishi University, Jim Carrey told graduates that his father decided to ignore his dream of being a comedian and take the “safe job” to be an accountant. But then one day, he was laid off—from a job he didn’t even want.
You can fail at something that you don’t want to do, so you might as well do find what you love.
If You Do What You Love For a Job, You’ll Hate It
There’s something toxic about Americans’ relationship with work. Work is that thing that you hate, and there’s no other way around it.
Many of us are so tied to that mindset that we think that if we get a job doing what we love, we’ll end up resenting it. The second we get paid for our passions, it sours and is ruined forever.
But the good news is, that’s not a necessary part of work. That’s more a symptom of poor stress management than an intrinsic part of monetizing your passions.
So don’t be afraid to get paid for doing what you love. That should be the ideal, shouldn’t it?
Do What You Love
There are a thousand reasons not to do something. But sometimes, those reasons don’t hold much weight.
If you’re tired of starving creatively while you slave away in an unfulfilling job, head over to Killer Creators to see how our webcourse can set you up for success.
Here at MAKE SOUTH BEND, we believe that creativity is an important part of everyone’s life. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a natural talent or if you’re in a boring job. Having a creative hobby or trying a new skill is a great way to expand your horizons.
But we also understand that for some people, having a creative hobby isn’t enough. Creativity is the fuel that drives their whole being. We dream of making our artistic passions and making it a full time career.
But getting started is easier said than done. The “starving artist” trope exists for a reason, after all.
However, there are a number of ways that you can start monetizing your creative projects this weekend!
1. Set up a Patreon Account
The Renaissance was one of the most prolific periods in art history. All across Europe, artists and musicians worked hard to create amazing works that are still celebrated today. From Michelangelo to Leonardo Da Vinci to Raphael to Donatello—and even all of the artists that don’t have Ninja Turtles named after them—the Renaissance had the greatest concentration of important artists of any period in history.
But they didn’t do it alone.
Most artists were sponsored by patrons—wealthy individuals in European society that sponsored the work of artists to create a richer, more creative world.
And if you’re anything like us, you hear that and think, “must be nice!”
While the specific details of patronage have changed a bit, the idea has made a comeback lately, thanks to the website Patreon.
Patreon allows friends, family, and fans to commit to a monthly donation to allow you to continue creating your art. Many artists use Patreon to help supplement their monthly expenses, offering exclusive perks to their patrons in exchange for supporting them.
Setting up an account is easy and free.
2. Use Square to Make a Free Store Page
If you have dreams of making and selling your own handmade goods, it can take a while to get off the ground. You might be able to sell in a boutique or local gift shop, but it might be weeks or months until your goods end up on shelves—and longer until money ends up in your account.
However, there are a number of options to set up an online store quickly and cheaply so you can get to selling faster.
There are many different marketplaces you can use, but our favorite is Square. You can set up a free webstore within minutes and get buyers to your shop right away.
While your at it, sign up for a free Square reader so you can take debit and credit payments right from your phone. It will take the headache out of taking payments at art shows.
3. Post Your Songs on Bandcamp
This one is for you musicians out there.
We all know that streaming has completely changed the way that we consume music. And if you’ve got any work recorded, you might even have it posted on Spotify. And as accessible as Spotify makes your music, there’s one big drawback…
It doesn’t pay. Like, at all. On average, Spotify pays around $0.005 per play. You might be excited out of your mind to see 1,000 streams on your song. But when that only nets you $5, it’s a bit of a let down.
By those numbers, Bandcamp is a much better bang for your buck.
Bandcamp is a music website where musicians can upload their music for free. Listeners can stream these songs from the Bandcamp site or app, or purchase them directly.
Bandcamp allows you to set your own prices, and can even facilitate pay-what-you-want prices. Bandcamp does take a 15% cut of digital downloads, but that’s a small price compared to the miniscule earnings of streaming.
While your at it, make sure you license your music properly. Not only will it protect you from copyright theft, but it will allow you to license your songs for use in commercials, TV, and other media, should a music supervisor stumble upon you with their media planning tool.
4. On Demand Print Services
Screenprinted items are a great money maker. T-shirts, tea-towels, totes, and more can be a great way to sell your designs for a healthy profit.
But screenprinting can take a big investment to get started. If you print a bunch of shirts, you might find yourself sitting on the bulk of them for months.
However, there are a few print-on-demand services online where you can sell your designs on shirts, totes, sheets, and even shoes without an up-front investment. Users select a design, select an item to print it on, and then that company prints it right then and there. Our favorite is Redbubble.
While it might take a while for you to find people willing to purchase your creative works, there are a number of people who are already looking for your creative skills.
Freelancing websites like Elance or Fiverr connect creative experts with clients who are looking for those skills. Start an account for free and browse requests to find a project that matches your skillset.
Freelancing can be a great side hustle for anyone, but if you’re hard-working and dedicated, you can make a full-time career out of it (like Nat has).
6. Sell an online class
Over the last five years that we’ve been open, we’ve learned that people love learning something new. We’ve had thousands of people through our classes over the years, all of them excited to learn a new skill.
And while we’re always looking for teachers for new classes, planning that can take a while. In the meantime, there are a few sites where you can start teaching video lessons quickly and cheaply.
Udemy, Teachable, and Skillshare are all good options. Start an account today and start teaching!
As the old saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” While you might be a long way from doing your art full time, you can start making money with your creativity right now!
And if you’re interested in more advice for a more creatively fulfilled life, go join the Killer Creators mailing list :)
It’s a familiar conundrum.
You check your mail and find an invitation to a party. You excitedly mark your calendar and RSVP.
That’s when it hits you: "I’m going to need a gift."
You head over to Target or Wal-Mart (or Amazon) looking for the perfect gift. You look through the shelves, trying to decide which mass produced something or other really encapsulates that person.
But if you’re looking for a truly special gift, you’re looking in the wrong place.
There are countless options for great gifts available at your local makerspace! Here’s why you should ditch the big box store for good.
Regardless of where you’re shopping for your gifts, you put a lot of effort into making sure that the recipient will love it. We spend so much time hoping that they don’t hate it that we completely ignore the other tragic possibilities…
Maybe someone else at the party brought the same thing.
Or even worse, maybe they already have one.
What was supposed to be a moment of affection is ruined. You slouch down into your chair, hoping you could disappear into the embarrassment.
But if you give something handmade, it’s almost impossible that someone else could bring the same thing. Your gift is truly unique. There’s no need to worry about someone else stealing your thunder.
Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Custom
It’s one thing to hand someone something you found on a shelf and say, “I thought you might like this.”
It’s something else entirely to give them something completely customized. You can emblazon a gift with their name or their favorite TV character or an inside joke. This gift will mean much more than just a thing that they got at a party. It will be a piece of yourself that they can carry with them for years to come.
Now of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can customize just about anything with the tools in our shop. Emblazon your own designs across tote bags, pillow cases, or t-shirts with the heat press or screenprinting studio (only if you plan on making a lot). Etch an image on a keychain, cutting board, wall hanging, or whatever else you can imagine using the laser cutter. Hand stamp a ring with a custom message.
You can even design a mini-sculpture and bring it to life with the 3D printer.
If you don’t feel as confident in your own skills, you can commission an artist to help you make it, or order something from an online shop like Corporate Gifts for about the same price that you’d spend at a big box store.
Your Money Supports Local Makers!
Over the last several decades, our economy has become more and more globalized. If you walk into a big box store, you’ll find no shortage of cheap foreign-made goods adorning the shelves.
What happens to your money when you spend it there?
Sure, some of it stays in your community, paying the workers there and the local utility companies. But the vast majority of the profits go to someone you’ll likely never meet who has no concern for the people you know or the city you live in—besides how much money they can get out of you.
These major corporations often crowd out local competition. With the cushion of millions of dollars in profit a year, they’re able to take risks and survive trends that local shops don’t have the capital to compete with.
And sometimes, those people might use your money to do things you don’t approve of. I think we all remember a few years ago when the president of Hobby Lobby was caught buying Biblical artifacts on the black market.
Not only that, but transporting mass produced goods across the world has a massive carbon footprint.
But lately, this impersonal, international corporatism has been falling out of favor with consumers. The last few years has seen a huge rise of localism.
When you buy handmade, that money stays in the community. It pays owners that live in our neighborhoods. Their taxes pay for the same schools your children go to and the same roads that you drive down.
It strengthens the local economy, which bolsters pride in the community. And a community that loves itself is a strong community.
Give Better Gifts
If you want to give better gifts to your friends and family that actually mean something, you’re going to need to get out of the big stores and start thinking smaller.
Luckily, we can help. In our store, we have a curated gift shop of locally made goods, including jewelry, art, local music, and plenty of South Bend merch to show of your hometown pride. If you can’t find something you like in there, you can use our workshop to make your own gifts. We’ll even teach you how at one of our classes.
So come on in and see what you can make today.
Summer’s almost here. And with it comes weddings, family reunions, work cookouts, and a whole host of other special events.
But with so many of these events all swirling together, how do you make sure your event stands out?
Easy answer: personalized favors.
And don’t worry: they don’t have to be expensive. In fact, we have a number of ways you can make custom gifts right here in the shop.
Here are a few ideas.
Is there a better freebie than custom t-shirts?
A comfortable t-shirt with a stylish print builds hype for your event, and can keep people excitedly remembering it for years to come. Just look at all the people paying top dollar for vintage concert t-shirts!
You can use our screenprinting studio to print as many shirts as you bring! Make a strong, memorable design, and make sure to print on a comfortable base shirt. No one wants to wear a stiff shirt with a tight neck hole.
Personalized Tote Bags
With all the concern for plastic waste, many people are opting to use reusable cloth tote bags.
And why not? They’re durable, stylish—and easy to personalize.
Using our Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter, you can cut out intricate designs (including text). Then using the heat press, you can bond it right to the fabric. It’s sort of like an iron-on, but way more durable, and way more classy.
Unlike screenprinting, which is best for quickly printing lot of one design, you can personalize each heat press graphic. This is perfect for putting guests’ names on each bag (or shirt—you use the heat transfer on basically every cloth).
Hand stamping is a simple, charming way to personalize a number of items.
You can use metal stamps to inscribe on metal or leather. Make a bracelet, keychain, necklace pendant, belt, whatever you can think of.
Simply choose your item, line up the stamp, and give it a few wacks with the hammer. It’s a quick and easy way to make a charming party favor that your friends will love for years.
Laser Cut Name Badges
Few tools in our shop are as versatile as the laser cutter. It can be used to cut through wood, acrylic, and leather, and can engrave wood, acrylic, leather, glass, ceramic, and more.
There’s a million ways you can use the laser cutter to customize great gifts (photo ornaments anyone?), but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll look at name tags.
If you’re hosting a party with a big guest list of people that don’t know eachother, you could offer up some white sticker tags and Sharpies…
Or you could use the laser cutter to make attractive name tags.
Make wooden tags with a classy typeface, or acrylic tags with an LED illuminating them. You could also add an icon that corresponds with something they like as an icebreaker.
For a more formal affair, you can order professional-grade magnetic name tags and alter them yourself. Find more here.
When the printing press was introduced, it revolutionized the world. And while it’s not the most efficient way to print text anymore, there’s something undeniably alluring about the aesthetic of letterpressing.
If you’re going to a wedding or birthday party, skip the Hallmark aisle and make your own card in the shop. An abstract watercolor with a custom letterpressed message is sure to make an impression.
Custom 3D Prints
Okay, so this one is a bit more involved, but the payoff is enormous.
Using the 3D printer, you can design just about any gift you can think of.
If you have access to a 3D scanner, you can create an accurate 3D model of a person’s face. Then using a modeling program like TinkerCad, you can refine that into a bust, which you can print a model of (we recommend adding a pair of beefy arms, like this).
If you don’t have a scanner, you can make use a modeling program to make a more simplified version, sort of like a Funko Pop figure. After it’s printed, you can paint on the model to make it even more personalized.
Just keep in mind—3D printing takes a while, so you might not want to make one for everyone on your guest list. Maybe just the guest of honor.
What Will You Make?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands more ideas that you can make a reality in our workspace.
So put on your thinking caps, get a day pass, and get to work!
We’d love to see what you make!
The word is loaded with all sorts of connotations. And as creative entrepreneurs, we’d like nothing to do with most of those.
It conjures up pictures of strict dress codes, covered-up tattoos, office cubicles, early-morning alarm clocks…
All things that we can do without. After all, if we didn’t find the idea of professional life utterly offensive to the deepest regions of our souls, we’d still be working in a cushy office job instead of busting our humps to do what we love for a living.
But if your customers were to see us in our natural state—eating ravioli straight from the can in our pajamas at 4pm—they might think twice about doing business with us.
For all of its stifling straight-lacedness, professionalism communicates reliability and authority. It instills confidence in the people we’re doing business with. If the customer sees someone sloppily dressed, they might get the idea that they’ll treat their business with the same carelessness.
Luckily, there are a few ways to put on an air of professionalism even while living the free lifestyle you want. Here are a few helpful hints.
Up Your Packaging Game
When we were teaching, my husband and I had a student whose mother made the most delicious tamales. Every couple months, she would come around to all the classrooms asking the teachers if they wanted some.
Later in the week, she’d show up in our classrooms doling out gallon ziplocks filled with tamales.
Recently, we came upon a Mexican food truck that made identical tamales, except these were served in a craft-paper sleeve with the company’s logo stamped on it. And people were happily paying $5 a pop.
Imagine the customers’ reactions if they received their tamales in a ziplock bag.
As makers, we know that the packaging of a product doesn’t speak to its quality. But attractive packaging can affect consumer’s thinking in a big way.
We had one vendor in our shop see sales skyrocket after altering their packaging. The product was exactly the same, but the original, amateurish packaging made it look cheap.
Think of how you’re presenting your product. Are you packaging it like it was put together in your basement, or like a serious business produced it? And yes, we know you did put it together in your basement, but the packaging doesn’t need to reflect that.
A Solid Web Presence
A 2017 found that 92% of customers visiting a company’s website aren’t there to make a purchase: they’re there to scope the business out.
They want to learn more about the company. Who’s behind it? What’s their mission?
If your website looks like you don’t know what you’re doing, then your consumer trustworthiness is going to take a hit. They’ll take one look at your sloppy, amateurish website and turn the other way. Especially if your domain still has the default URL from your webhost.
This isn’t just true of your website. The same goes for your social media pages and email communication. If your Facebook page is filled with memes and typos, or if you’re emails still have the “Sent from my iPhone” signature, it’s going to send the wrong message to your customers.
Keep Your Branding Consistent
Speaking of your web presence, I cannot overstate the importance of your branding.
Like packaging, branding is one of those things that might not speak much to the quality of your products, but it communicates volumes to your customers.
Branding is more than just a good looking logo, an attractive color scheme, and consistent typefaces.
Branding helps communicate trust to your customers. They see that you treat your business seriously, so they want to see what the fuss is about.
On top of that, your brand is one of the best ways to build recognition for your business and stand out against the competition.
Communicate Like a Business
One of the biggest mistakes creative entrepreneurs make is sloppy communication (apologies to anyone who’s had to wait a month for us to respond to an email).
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Let’s say you find a company online that looks promising. You want some more information, so you pick up the phone and call the number on their website (a warning to all of you would-be business owners: people still make phone calls!).
The line picks up, and you’re met with a stammered, “um...hello?”
You ask a question about a product on their site.
“Who is this?”
You explain that you found their website and were interested in learning more about the business. Suddenly, it clicks with the business owner and their demeanor changes
Not exactly the best impression, is it?
Or maybe, you go to to send them an email and their address is something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”
Just because you’re the only person working for your company doesn’t mean you mean to let your communication reflect that. A custom email domain—or at least a more professional address—goes a long way. If you want to go even further, hiring a virtual assistant or a service like Receivr telephone answering service can make it seem like you have an in-house receptionist just like a “real” business.
Professionalism On Your Own Terms
It might sound like a ripoff, but if your business seems amateurish, people aren’t going to care how great your products are. You could make the most impressive handcrafted jewelry anyone has ever seen, but if you don’t take your business seriously enough to make it seem professional, no one is going to care.
Luckily, you don’t need to put on real clothes to do that. If you follow these pointers, nobody will ever have to know that you’re just sitting in bed with your laptop.
But seriously, you should probably leave the house. Why not stop in for some coworking?
“If you want something done, do it yourself.”
Such is the mantra of many makers, entrepreneurs, and artists. Ours is the realm of elbow grease, D.I.Y., and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We’re used to working alone—on just about everything. We make all of our goods from scratch. We do all of our own marketing. We spend hours making things from hand instead of using a machine that does it in seconds.
We are fiercely independent, devoted to the purity of our craft.
But sometimes, that independence might get us in our own way.
Sometimes, it might be a better idea for us to outsource certain aspects of our process.
Now, before you grab the torches and pitchforks, allow me a moment to explain.
I’m not asking you to hire a factory in China to manufacturer your products and depersonalize everything. Instead, outsourcing different things that we don’t enjoy—or are terrible at—can help us streamlining our process and allow us to put more of ourselves into our work.
Only Do What Only You Can Do
When we work for ourselves, we often spend a lot of our time on menial tasks.When I first opened the shop, a lot of my time in the shop was spent sweeping the floors and tidying up materials areas. Both are necessary things.
But every time I picked up a broom, I had to put down something else that I was working on, whether that was designing new products, planning new classes or events, or contacting local vendors to stock in our gift shop.
I couldn’t not do those menial tasks: nobody wants to come to a filthy shop. But I was hardly the only person with the ability to do them.
However, finding someone else to do all the big picture stuff was out of the question. After all, how am I supposed to find someone to run my business for me?
If you don’t have a brick and mortar, you probably don’t need to spend time tidying up for customers. But you’re probably wasting time doing something that you could hire someone else to do for you. It might be social media marketing, checking your emails, or something equally tedious.
When you take the burden of those tasks off of yourself, you can focus on doing the stuff that you actually want to do.
Jack Of All Trades: Master of None
The small business owner wears many hats: CEO, marketing agent, accountant, secretary...
But that doesn’t mean you’re the best person for each of those jobs.
Our first few years, we handled all of the bookkeeping ourselves. A couple times a year, we’d sit down with all of our bank statements and copy every transaction into a spreadsheet, then organize each of them by category.
Once, I was so overwhelmed by it that my husband Nat did all of it.
Needless to say, neither of us are expert accountants. We were able to figure it out, but since we didn’t know what we were doing, it took two whole weeks for us to work through the whole year. And during those two weeks, we couldn’t get much else done.
Since then, we’ve realized that there are like, experts you can hire to do that for you. And those people will do a better job of it than if you do it yourself. Last year, we outsourced our taxes to an actual tax expert, and did the stuff we’re actually good at while they were working on it. Since then, I’ve been trying to learn more about finding a more regular accountant to even help with things like payroll month-to-month account management so I can spend less time on stuff I’m still trying to understand and more time on the things I’m good at.
To be frank, I was a terrible accountant. I was slow, sloppy, and inefficient. If I had an accountant that did their job as poorly as I did, I would have fired them.
If we get real honest with ourselves, we might see some places in our responsibilities where we deserve to be fired. Keeping ourselves in those ineffective roles doesn’t help anything. Fire yourself, and find someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
Time vs. Money
One of the biggest struggles of outsourcing work to other people is the financial cost. We might scoff at the price of hiring a tax preparer, or feel like it’s too big to fit in our budget.
But as the old saying goes, “time is money.” I might pay a few hundred dollars to an accountant, but I get back two weeks of my own time that I can use on more fruitful endeavors. I can spend time doing the things that I’m actually good at—and that can grow my business. Instead of hunkering down for two weeks with several months’ worth of banking statements, I can focus on creating new classes, making new pieces, and supporting the members at my shop.
Some of the other creative female entrepreneurs I meet with regularly have hired other people to manage their Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, ship their online orders, and even check their emails. It certainly costs more than doing it themselves, but the time they get back allows them to do more of what they actually love to do—you know, the stuff that actually gets them paid.
It’s easy to think of your business’s budget in strict monetary terms. But don’t forget how much time you might be saving yourself—and what you could do with that time. You might actually be able to make more money than you spent outsourcing...
Go Forth And MAKE
Outsourcing can be a dirty word. It conjures up images of Chinese-made, cheap commercialized crap. But in reality, outsourcing the parts of your workload that you don’t enjoy (and are just plain bad at) can free you up to do more of what you love, allowing you to put even more personal attention into what you make.
So don’t be afraid of outsourcing. Fire yourself from all of the positions you’re doing a bad job at, and find someone who can free you up for what you’re actually good at.
For the last four years, we’ve been working hard to make South Bend a more creative, more beautiful, more inspired city. And we try to help our community access their creative side through loads of one time classes, great for any beginner. Plus, we offer use of our makerspace and tools for anyone who needs a creative place to work on their own projects. It's a pretty cool deal.
Luckily, we’re not alone in our efforts to offer this town some creative options for getting out. We’re just one of several creative local businesses in the area who have been pouring out their blood, sweat, and tears for the artsy folk of South Bend.
And today, we’re sharing four of our favorites. If you haven’t visited these spots, make it your top priority!
1. The Pigeon & the Hen
I’ve lost track of the times that someone comes in or calls asking if we have premade pottery that they can come in and paint. But every time someone asks, we point them to the Pigeon & the Hen.
Located right in the heart of Downtown South Bend, this shop was opened in 2014 by two ceramics students who had only known each other for four months.
With a wide selection of premade ceramic pieces and glazes, this is a great place for anyone looking for a fun activity for the kids, a great group outing, or a date night.
Drop in anytime, or sign up for one of their classes.
2. Fire Arts
Back when we were still trying to learn more about business insurance, Fire Arts was well into their second decade of business.
In 2004, three local sculptors were looking for a place that could house a kiln, a foundry, and a gallery space for metalworking and ceramics. They found a building slated for demolition and pooled resources with several other artists to restore it and convert it into the studio they wanted.
Since then, Fire Arts has become an institution in the South Bend arts scene. They host regular workshops in jewelry making, metalworking, stone sculpting and more. But the main event is their rotating gallery exhibitions that showcase the best sculptors, glass workers, potters, and jewelry makers around.
The gallery is open every First Friday if you want to take a quick look around.
3. Martin’s School of Cooking
Here’s something you might not know about me: before I launched MAKE South Bend, there was a hot minute where I wanted to teach cooking classes for a living. And if you’ve taken my sushi class, you might believe it.
I’m the last person who would ever say that cooking isn’t an art. And if we had a commercial kitchen, I would probably offer a much more extensive offering of cooking classes.
But there’s already a great resource for would-be chefs in the area: your local neighborhood Martin’s!
For many of us in the South Bend area, Martin’s is our go-to grocery store. We already go to them for ingredients, so it makes sense that we’d go to them to learn how to use those ingredients.
Their School of Cooking is located in Heritage Square and has a wide variety of cuisines to choose from. They offer classes for kids, couples, and anyone looking to expand their skill set in the kitchen. Hmm...maybe I’ll send my husband there...he only knows how to make omelets (but they’re, like, really good omelets).
You can’t talk about creative businesses in South Bend without mentioning the granddaddy of them all: the South Bend Museum of Art.
The museum opened its doors all the way back in 1947. Since 1987, they have been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, which recognizes the highest level of professional standards in the field.
Besides its respectable permanent collection of local and regional art (including pieces from our friend, the late great Harold Zisla), the South Bend Museum of Art boasts a great series of special exhibitions, including local artist showcases, installations, and works by tattoo artists.
As if that weren’t enough, SBMART is also home to the Dot Shop, where you can buy work from local artists. If you’re inspired to start creating yourself, the museum offers a number of long-term classes in a variety of mediums.
Go Out and MAKE
Even through the city’s ups and downs, South Bend has long had a vibrant arts community. And while we’re doing everything we can to foster that community, we’re in some great company.
Go visit these businesses on Facebook to see what they’re up to, and expand your creative outlets. Just don’t go too far that you forget to come back to us.
While you’re here, why not take another look at our class calendar and start planning your next creative adventure?