And then there’s you. You have awesome ideas, too. You’re work has come a long way and it looks really polished now. You’ve been creating a portfolio of new designs and you’ve gotten really good feedback about it. You write insightful articles about your craft on your blog. Here you are, ready for new opportunities. So how do you get to the next step?
Photo by solidether on Flickr.
Reading craft blogs you can begin to think that opportunities land in people’s laps. It may seem that some people get chosen for these new ventures and then they’re off to the races, while you’re not being chosen. What is it about their work that is so special? Why have they gotten tapped for all these neat deals? What about you?
Let me tell you a story. About dating. But it relates, I promise.
In 1999 I was in graduate school and every Friday night I attended a Shabbat service at Harvard Hillel (Hillel is the Jewish student union on college campuses). I hadn’t been involved with Jewish life for a few years and I was ready to get back. The service was pretty intimate with about a dozen people in their 20’s coming each week, sitting in a circle together. We all became friends. The service was led by a guy who was living in Cambridge and working at a non-profit downtown. I sat in this circle, across from this guy, for a year singing songs and celebrating Shabbat and generally having a good time.
And then one day it dawned on me that I was in love with him.
And this is where the story hits a crossroad. Do I wait and hope that he’ll notice me, or do I take action and ask him out. The reality is I’m not one to sit and wait. I emailed him that night and asked him if he might like to get some dinner with me. He said yes. He was a bit surprised, but he said yes. We agree now, after ten years of marriage, that if I hadn’t asked it may have never occurred to him. Never. Even though he was single and looking to find someone. Even though we were both Jewish and already had that in common. Even though we shared a group of friends. But I could see that there was potential so I took a risk and asked him out.
Photo by Birger Hoppe on Flickr.
The underlying idea here can be applied to your handmade business: ask people out. I’m serious. If you think about your business at all (or obsessively…ahem) you’re bound to see potential opportunities for your work as you’re browsing around Twitter, or Flickr, or Facebook, or craft blogs. You’ll find yourself saying, “That person’s work is so cool. Maybe we could make something together.” Or, “I love that ezine. I wish I could write something for them.”
Photo by jet_star on Flickr
If you make great stuff and create great content you very well may be chosen out of the masses for new opportunities. It’s happened to me and it’s probably happened to you already. But it may not happen very often and those opportunities may not be the ones you’ve been striving for. If you take action, you can make it rain.
When I say take action, I don’t mean to go asking out random people on the street. I mean take considered action. Prepare a well-written email that is geared specifically to the company or person you’re hoping to work with. Include great photos of your products and a bio that really shows you off as an expert in your field with a lot of offer. Make it easy for them to say yes. Because the truth is most of the time, if you ask the right people the right question in the right way, they’ll say yes.
Photo by John Gilchrist on Flickr
Of all of the successes I’ve had with my business the vast majority have come to me because I asked for them. I wanted to write a book so I send out a book proposal. I wanted to teach a workshop so I asked if I could. I wanted my patterns to be for sale in some of the major online shops so I asked if they were interested in selling them. I wanted to be in shows, I wanted to collaborate with other people, I wanted to guest post. If I had sat and waited to be chosen, most or all of these things would not have happened, not because my work wasn’t worthy, but because it may never have occurred to these people to reach out.
Rainmaking is a big part of success as a sole entrepreneur. If you never ask, opportunity may never knock.