Getting on Top of Your Game

Getting on Top of Your Game
By: Charlene Davisphoto

Times are tough and as more and more people are laid off, many are looking at new and innovative ways to make money by exploring their talents and turning hobbies into businesses. So what does the new competition mean for veteran artisans who have been in the trenches and paid their dues? With the right attitude and creative planning it could be a great turning point. Artisans who want to endure the fluid landscape of our economy can step up their game by teaching workshops and seminars, creating new products, or constructing a new marketing plan.

Christine O’Toole from Stetsonville, Wisconsin, designs custom, handcrafted gifts and teaches group and individual lessons. She feels that artists will find a new avenue of income when they move towards sharing their talent and skills. "Experienced artists who desire to survive will find themselves teaching as well as providing custom, high-quality finished products,” Christine says. "There has been a move towards sharing traditional arts with the start of people taking up knitting and crocheting again. That will continue to grow in these and all other areas.”

Many marketing experts feel that the recession is actually good news for specialists in any industry because individuals are going to spend their free time discovering new trades or learning how to improve their skills. As a knowledgeable and skilled artisan, you can take advantage of the incoming wave of novice artists and crafters by teaching them some of the ropes – for a fee, of course. Jordanna Petkun, CEO and Founder of Emerge Art Center (, works with many artisans looking to expand their business and advises artisans not to give away anything – services or work – without compensation. "Even if the clients come referred through friends, or are your friends directly, it's wise to have a policy of never consulting with or giving away your art or handiwork for free,” she cautions.

Jordanna also feels that to continue making sales in this economy, it's important for artisans to provide alternatives to all one-of-a-kind or handmade work they do. For every expensive, one-of-a-kind piece for sale, you should always try to have similar versions (that don't compete with its one-of-a-kind nature) on sale. Make reproductions of originals – such as cards and posters – that people on a tight budget can still afford. This also helps with marketing of your work, as word-of-mouth can work wonders.

What are some other ways artisans can ride out the economic downturn? Almost every type of business has experienced a tangible shift that necessitates the need for a revised game plan – whether it’s a new product, marketing strategy, or business plan. Some artisans are using the slowdown as an opportunity to expand their product line, while others are testing out different marketing strategies. Professional artist, Jordan Mercedes (, recommends joining forces in a cross-promotional partnership with someone like a writer, restaurant, or a business that can feature your work while advertising their own. Jordan says the main thing is to remember to be as creative in your business as you are when designing.

Keep in mind that although more amateurs are joining the ranks, they are not always producing quality goods. The talented ones are going to raise the bar, which is not a bad thing. The not-so-good ones will disappear quietly into the night. However, experienced artisans can remain in the forefront by maintaining their core values and high-caliber work, while diversifying by expanding their product line and services.

As a successful artist living the good life, Pablo Solomon ( has seen his share of economic ups and downs and advises fellow artists and artisans not to worry too much. "In the short run, times will be tough,” he says. "But eventually the old standards for success in art – quality, creativity, and name recognition – will win out.” And that’s good news for all of us.


Charlene Davis ( is a nationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry. Copyright © 2009 Association of Artisan Businesses. All Rights Reserved