Whether it be a single product or a full range you’re looking to launch, Part 1 will hopefully have given you a good insight as to what works well when designing. Part 2 is all about taking that design and running with it as I delve into the world of actual production.
This post should get you thinking about funding as well how to turn that funding into cost effective ways of producing your stuff. Boil that kettle again, put that tea bag in your favourite mug and let’s get making!
So you’ve already invested time and money in designing your pieces and you reckon you’re onto a winner. You’ve made prototypes and samples and you’ve hopefully gained some feedback in the form of constructive criticism from peers and people whose work you admire. You’re ready to get making, but you’re stuck on the age-old question – how the hell am I going to afford this?
There’s no hard and fast rule as to how and where to get money to finance production of your new idea. You might have savings. You might have a day job. If you’ve been making and selling for a while, you might have profits to reinvest. I won’t lie to you – I could write a whole series on how to finance a project and would barely scratch the surface, but for the sake of keeping this post (relatively) short and sweet I’ll tell you the three things that I would recommend:
Put simply – get rid of all the stuff you don’t use, wear, eat off, drink with or drive in anymore. A LOT of my projects have been financed by de-cluttering my house once a year and flogging all the things I don’t need on eBay. Not only am I always amazed at how quickly the money adds up, but I love that feeling of a fresh start!
If your design is so good that you’re able to get an investor to advance you some money, then you are light years ahead of a lot of us and I salute you.
If like me you still want to keep things in house as much as possible then you could do a lot worse than an interest free credit card or a Start Up Loan. As with all financial products though, they do come with an element of risk and you need to be sure you can afford any repayments that are asked of you. My saviour over the years has always been to check Money Saving Expert for the best impartial advice on all things financial before taking the leap and applying for something.
I haven’t crowdfunded for anything yet, but having recently attended a Crafty Fox Talk all about crowdfunding this will be my number one choice for finance next time I develop a new range.
Crowdfunding does exactly what it says on the tin – it raises money to put ideas or projects into production by showcasing them to the world. You offer prospective backers incentives to invest and they throw some money your way.
It’s a great option if you don’t fancy the risk of a credit card and a superb way to drum up some PR for your product at a very early stage. You have to commit a decent amount of time to setting up a page and get creative in the way you advertise it, but the prospective opportunity for financial investment is huge.
With such a vast range of crowdfunding sites out there, you’re almost spoilt for choice but do your research carefully. As always – find similar ideas or products along the same lines as yours that are achieving their funding goals through sites such as Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Indiegogo and you’re halfway there!
FIND THE BEST SUPPLIERS
Ok, so you’ve found some money down the back of the sofa/your lucky penny scratched off more than £1 in winnings from a scratchcard/you’ve had some success gaining finance for your project in any other number of (hopefully legal) ways. Whether you’re now looking to outsource production to a third party or find the raw materials and tools needed to turn your designs into a physical reality yourself, it’s likely you’re going to need to find yourself some pretty good suppliers.
Here are three tips that should help cut the wheat from the chaff:
1) Never use the cheapest supplier.
In my experience, the ‘cheapest’ supplier is rarely ever the ‘best’ supplier. Don’t get me wrong – we all love a bargain once in a while, but cheap can also mean low quality. If a supplier’s products are not up to scratch or delivery times are too long, you’ll end up letting your own customers down.
As my step mum once told me “you buy cheap, you buy twice”. I’d rather pay a little bit extra for a tool that will last longer and is of a higher quality than for one from somewhere that offers me free postage on my first couple of orders. Sure it’s a cliché, but remember you get what you pay for!
I had a really bad experience once with a casting company after they lost the wax castings I’d spent hours working on. They finally found them in the bin after they’d accidentally thrown them out. It wasn’t this that was the issue for me – it was their lack of apology that really bugged me.
It’s important to develop a good working relationship with your suppliers, especially if you’re using them on a regular basis. Working with jewellery means I’m often up in London’s Hatton Garden on supply trips. It can be quite a closed world and very intimidating the first few times you go, but be friendly and ask questions and you’ll soon find people will be happy to talk to you and offer advice. As a lot of business there is done through their own working relationships, you’ll often find that if someone can’t provide you with what you need personally, they’ll be able to recommend someone who can.
3) Be loyal, but don’t be afraid to shake things up.
If I find a new supplier I like I’ll tend to send a lot of business their way. As a result I might benefit from an occasional discount or be offered the next service up for the same price. Loyalty definitely pays in the short term but, by the same token, be careful not to become too complacent. It’s always worth checking around to see if anyone else is offering the same, but with an added extra. A bit of healthy competition keeps everyone on their toes!
MAKE, MAKE, MAKE!
Raw materials – check. Tools and supplies – check. Teabags in the cupboard and biscuits in the tin – check. It’s time to get making.
1) Get a production line going.
If you’re making one-off, bespoke items this probably won’t help, but if you’ve got a range of products where you’re hoping to sell more than a few, a production line can be a very time efficient way of maximising output.
I prefer to spend an hour or so shaping a dozen bits before an hour’s soldering and then a final hour finishing them. It’s very tempting to make them one at a time so you can see the end results, but this is not a very efficient way of working so try and control that temptation as much as possible!
2) Take regular breaks.
It’s easy to get caught up in the making process and find you haven’t surfaced for the best part of a day. If I’m making something that takes four or five steps from start to finish, I’ll make sure I take four or five breaks along the way so that I don’t forget what the world looks like. At the end of each step I’ll quickly tidy my workspace then might go for a walk round the block to stretch my legs or read my book for 20 minutes.
Regular breaks help keep you motivated and allow you to come back to a making session with a fresh perspective, making you better able to critique any problems you might have been having. They also stop you getting cabin fever!
3) Get snapping.
Taking a few photos of your production process is great as a personal reminder on how you tackled it last time, and is also a fantastic way of sharing the love on Instagram too. Obviously be careful not to over-share before the big product launch, but people love to see a process almost as much as the end result so do photograph as you go!
In summary there’s only one way to go when you’re in the production stage and that’s full throttle.
A lot of incredible designs don’t end up going into production because people are afraid to reach out for funding. Don’t be afraid. Make a plan on how you want to get funding and go after it.
Once you have funds in the bank, work out a way to keep spending to a minimum – do you really need a studio space or can you produce your products from a spare room? Need to pick up some supplies, but some of them aren’t available until tomorrow? Wait until tomorrow so you can pick up everything at once and save yourself a bus/car/scooter journey. Once you’ve got everything you need it’s all about being both cash and time efficient!
Part 3 will be all about finishing your products to a high standard and getting them ready to sell to the big wide world. In the meantime though we’d love to hear about your own creative process – are you working on something new? Got any questions you’d like us to answer next time? Let us know in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter.
Latest posts by Rod Barker-Benfield (see all)
- Rodology on Making, Part 4.1: Pricing Your Products for Sale - September 18, 2015
- Rodology on Making, Part 3: Finishing - August 11, 2015
- Rodology on Making, Part 2: Production - July 10, 2015