Whether you plan to sell a few items on Etsy or launch into a local storefront, turning your passion into profit means perfecting your craft, improving your marketing, and understanding the lay of the professional land.
1. Gather Intel
If you want to be considered a professional, start with a deep understanding of your product or service. For example, if you’re into woodworking, understand the different types of wood and wood grain. Study how each type responds to tools as well as finishes such as stain.
Similarly, if your passion is candles, explore beeswax as it compares to soy. Know the melting temperatures. Experiment with different types of wicks and containers so you can make the best quality product to attach your name to.
Also take the opportunity to learn from others. Fall into the YouTube vortex to watch the talents of others. Take a class, online or in person, consider an internship or apprenticeship, or look for a local group with similar interests where you can meet and swap ideas.
2. Go Back to the Basics
To further your understanding of your craft, learn and practice the traditional methods. Whether your dyeing fabric, carving wood, building bird houses, or making mosaics, employ the original tools and processes. This will deepen your understanding and appreciation in a way that will show in your product.
For example, although you may own a powered planer, master a hand planer first. In order to truly know what works best for you, you need to know how other materials and processes work. In woodworking of any kind, the finish is critical to a professional look so although you may end up using shellac 99% of the time, explore all types of finishes so you know why shellac is the best option.
3. Become a Master
Knowing the history behind your DIY project and gathering as much knowledge as you can is a great start, but you also need to practice, practice, and practice some more. Become a master. If you want to produce professional-grade results in furniture making, for example, master the mortise and tenon joint as well as dovetail joints.
In addition to producing a quality product, a master also understands laws and regulations of the trade. Know when you need to register your side hustle as a business. Also study up on regional limitations on anything from livestock in urban areas to building codes.
4. Invest in Your Craft
It’s important to invest in yourself in regards to education and time allowance, but also invest in the proper tools for the job. It can be a touchy cycle of wanting to earn money before spending money, but if you want professional results you need to have the right tools to create that result.
In addition to high-quality tools, invest in a work space. This doesn’t have to mean building a shop. It can be as simple as carving out a designated spot in the corner of the laundry room. However, having a spot where you can eliminate distractions and commit to your craft will inspire you to work towards your goals.
Within your space, be sure to also invest in organization and safety. Keep supplies clean, sharp, and readily available. Don’t waste precious time looking for the materials you need. Instead, set up the space so everything is accessible and safely within reach. Make sure cords are out of the way, outlets aren’t overloaded, and a fire extinguisher is nearby.
Another necessary investment is finding a quality and reliable supply chain. Perhaps sourcing materials is as easy as heading to the craft or hardware store, but with an understanding of how materials perform (wood, candle wax, photo paper, flooring materials, etc), you will need to make sure you have a continual supply of the best materials you can find.
Finally, invest in the final look of the product. An impression as to whether something is professional or amateur can be the result of packaging alone. A double-printed label or cheap container sends a very different message than a thick canvas bag, informational labels that include social media tags, or sturdy shipping boxes with a professional-looking logo. Whether you’re selling wares online or at a local craft fair, invest in professional marketing materials, packaging, and displays.
Once you’ve mastered your specific DIY category, share it with others. You don’t have to give away every bit of knowledge, but teaching others not only reinforces your own understanding, but it allows others to view you as an authority in your field. Start making your own YouTube videos, put together a website, and present a class through the local community college. From welding to automotive repair, teaching others creates a resume you can use when launching your business. Whether you offer a class in sewing, soap making, or photography, be sure to gather testimonials you can use as you grow your business.
6. Actually Go Pro
At some point you may almost accidentally cross the threshold from amateur to professional, but if you’ve taken the steps above and are ready to fully commit, get the certification to earn the professional title. Take the steps to become a certified electrician, plumber, roofer, or deck builder. Earn a certificate from a master gardener or interior decorating program. Take classes from the culinary institute or community college to build up your expert status as a baker.
Regardless of the current status of your DIY endeavors, continuously investing time and resources into your craft will get you closer to your goals. Know your strengths, but cater to your weaknesses and develop those areas. Create a quality product. With that mastered, learn more about small business ownership, online sales, taxes, or community events. Each piece of the puzzle will add to your professional presence.
Dawn Hammon has thrived in freelance writing and editor roles for nearly a decade. She has lived, worked, and attended school in Oregon for many years. Dawn currently spends her days convincing her children she is still smarter than them while creating new experiences with her husband of 24 years.&nbsp;
Her multiple interests have led her to frequently undergo home improvement projects. She enjoys sharing the hard-earned knowledge that comes with it with the audience of DoItYourself.com. Dawn and her sister make up a power-tool loving duo that teaches classes to local women with the goal of empowering them to tackle their fears and become comfortable with power tools.
Tapping into her enthusiasm for saving money and devotion to sustainable practices, Dawn has recently launched a passion project aimed at connecting eco-friendly products and socially-responsible companies with consumers interested in making conscientious purchases, better informing themselves about products on the market, and taking a stand in favor of helping to save the planet.
When she is not providing stellar online content for local, national, and international businesses or trolling the internet for organic cotton clothing, you might find her backpacking nearby hills and valleys, traveling to remote parts of the globe, or expanding her vocabulary in a competitive game of Scrabble.
Dawn holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, which these days she mostly uses to provide therapy for her kids and spouse. Most recently, I worked for a small local professional organizing and estate sale company for four years where I learned a ton about organizing and/or disposing of just about anything.
She was raised in a tool-oriented, hands-on, DIY family. Her dad worked in the floor covering business and owned local floor covering businesses, so of course selling floor covering was one of her first jobs. Her brother was a contractor for about 30 years and site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity. I worked with him often, building decks, painting houses, framing in buildings, etc. With her sister, she holds power tool classes to empower women who are scared or have never used them.
Not quite homesteaders, she did grow up with a farm, tractors, motorcycles, expansive gardens, hay fields, barns, and lots of repairs to do. Plus she and her family preserved foods, raised cattle and pigs, chopped and hauled firewood, and performed regular maintenance on two households, outbuildings, fencing, etc.
As an adult, she has owned two houses. The first one she personally ripped out a galley kitchen and opened it up to the living area, plus updated every door, floor covering, and piece of trim in the place. In her current home, she's tackled everything from installing real hardwood flooring to revamping the landscape.