Quilty Love » A quilting creative blog

Today I’m sharing a little bit about starting a creative business.

Creative business is something I’m passionate about and love talking about!   I’ve been self employed for most of my adult life and have learned a lot over those years.  The good, the bad, the ugly…  (like the first year’s shocking tax bill)

Currently, I’m running two creative businesses.   My photography business is a local small business and is 6 years old.  My Quilty Love business is an online business and about 2 years old.

I’m one of those weird creatives that loves the business side just as much as the creative side.  I heard someone say once that the service they provide is really just a means to run a business since that is what they really love.   I can so relate to that! creative_business

I would love to start sharing more of business side and helping creative business owners get started!

Starting a business can be very daunting!   Starting a creative business is no exception.  In some ways it feels more daunting because of the personal aspect of it.  We are selling something we have personally created and there can be a lot of emotions tied to that!

I’m a big believer in starting before you feel ready. 

That goes for all things.   I would much rather figure things out as I go along than wait until I have everything figured out.   Action is always better than over thinking.  If we all waited until we felt ready we would never start!  The most successful creative businesses have figured things out as they go.

I’m a big believer in doing things right though. (i.e. paying the tax man)

Getting your ducks in a row.
Paying taxes.
Being legit.
When I started my first creative business I didn’t accept a single dollar until I was prepared to disclose that dollar as income.   In most cases, it’s not difficult to get to that step.  You may have already collected money and now don’t know what to do.

I’ll break down 10 steps to take right now to get your creative business going.  If you are a maker or a designer and want to take your services online, these steps should help.

Step 1.  Pick your name and Obtain your domains

The first thing you will need is a home on the web.

You will need a website address.  This is directly linked to your business name so these two things really go hand in hand.  If the perfect business name is already taken, it’s not perfect for you ;)   So find a name where the domain is still available.  Once you have chosen a name and know the domain is still available it’s time to set up your website.

In most cases it is easiest to purchase your domain directly from your website host (more on that in step 2).  Or you can use a third party domain site such as Godaddy.   I personally use Go daddy and link from it but it’s an extra step and I don’t necessarily recommend that.  If I were starting over today I would choose to grab my domains through:

DreamHost

Squarespace

start creative business Step 2.  Set up your website/blog

Step 1 leads me directly to step 2.   Creating your home on the web is the most important way to establish you are in business.  Having a home base (website) is so important to show your potential buyers/ clients that you are legit.  Your website or blog will help to establish trust and start to build relationships.  Your website might start out as a landing page to direct clients to your selling site, your blog, your social media or really anywhere you want them to end up.

There are two ways that I would go about obtaining your website/blog.

WORDPRESS with a host
The first choice is the one I personally use. WordPress requires a hosting site to hold your content.  I would skip the free (wordpress.com) choice and go straight to the self hosted option.  (wordpress.org)

This requires a separate web host.  Most hosting sites walk you right through the set up process so choosing a hosting site first and following their prompts to download wordpress will be the best option.

SELF HOSTING
I recommend Bluehost.   Their rates are reasonable and they are user friendly.

Another option is Dreamhost.  I currently use DreamHost but I will say Bluehost looks a little more user friendly.   I’m not super tech savvy and require a lot of google searches when taking care of this stuff but so far I have maintained it all on my own.   I would recommend having someone who knows what they are doing set this up for you if it makes you want to pull your hair out ;)   I think most hosting sites offer some kind of set up service for a fee also.

Once you have your wordpress set up, you can choose from their free templates or purchase your own theme.  A good theme will be somewhat easy to change.   Third party Free or inexpensive themes may not be very user friendly!

SQUARESPACE
Squarespace is definitely gaining popularity as a good all around website choice.  I may switch over to this at some point because of how user friendly it is.   They host their own sites with lots of pretty template choices so it’s a one stop shop.   The only deterrent for me currently is the price.  I currently host two sites through DreamHost for less than $100 a year and squarespace would require two separate websites at almost $150/ per year each.

Step 3.  Obtain an e-mail address

Next you will need an e-mail address.   Like websites there are a ton of options.   You can get a free e-mail through yahoo or google but they will contain @yahoo instead of @yourbusiness name.

GOOGLE
Chances are you already have an account set up with google’s G Suite.   You can easily purchase an e-mail address through google for $5/ month.

YOUR HOST SITE

Most hosting sites offer e-mail addresses.  In some cases they are included in your hosting.  Sign into your host site and set up your e-mail address there.

Step 4.  Set up your selling site

Now that you have a website to blog and share information about yourself and your business it’s time to set up your selling site!   If you are a maker, this is where you will sell your products.   If you are a designer, you might sell your services or your digital products here.

ETSY
Sell digital and physical products
I think most people think of Etsy when they think of selling online.  This can be a good place to start because it’s super easy and affordable to get up and running.  You can sell physical handmade items, automatic digital downloads or custom items.  There are listing fees and selling fees.   

Most sellers and designers start on Etsy.  But I don’t recommend relying solely on Etsy.  It’s not your site and you don’t have full control over your store.   I currently still use Etsy for the occasional Etsy searchers but it’s not the shop I link everything to.

BIG CARTEL

Sell digital and physical products

Big Cartel is the shop I link everything to.  Big Cartel is my main selling site.   It’s a great option to get started on because it’s easy to set up, use and design with their templates.  It’s free up to 5 products and then around $10/ month for 5-25 products.   

The free option definitely sucked me in and the site is working out just fine.   It does have it’s limitations though and is not quite as robust as Shopify but you can’t beat the price and ease of using it.

I will say though, if I could do it over, I would probably start with Shopify.

AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS
If you sell digital products, Big Cartel has a solution for automatic downloads.   I highly highly recommend you set up their pulleyapp option.   Selling while you sleep… yes please.   What this means is that every time someone purchases a digital product, pulley-app will automatically e-mail them the product.  Nothing is required on your end and the customer gets their product instantly.  Win-win.   

Pulley-app is an additional monthly fee but definitely worth it.

SHOPIFY
Sell Digital and physical products

online-slate-320x50

Shopify requires a little more upfront investment.   This can be a little scarier for new sellers.   Their opening pricing is $30 month.

No free option, however they do offer a free trial.

Shopify is a bit more robust.   I think it plays better with Pinterest displaying those awesome buyable pins.   It offers the option to collect e-mail addresses which is pretty important!   Honestly, that’s the feature I want the most right now and really would pay for itself but there is the whole hassle of switching over.

I don’t currently use Shopify but it looks like the automatic digital download option is included. 

Which leads me to an important point…  Set up your shop domain with your own custom domain so you can easily switch shops without losing all of  your old links!

For example, my big cartel shop domain is:   emilydennis.bigcartel.com/    I only recently realized the value of having a custom domain and just purchased emilydennisshop.com.   That way, when I need to switch shops, my links still direct to my current shop.

CRAFTSY
Sell digital products
Craftsy Logo

Craftsy is a great option for pattern designers because it’s free!   Yes, Free!  Pattern designers can sell their patterns digitally with zero costs involved.  I think this is so generous of Craftsy and just another reason why I really love them.

Craftsy is a great place to start for a lot of pattern designers.   They take care of the automatic downloads for you.  The only negatives are that you are competing with hundreds of other products and you again have no control over your store.   Craftsy could change their structure or eliminate this option all together at any point.   I list on craftsy but also on my own store site.

Step 5.  Grab your social media profiles

Keeping your profile consistent across all social media is so important.  You start to develop brand recognition a lot faster when your name and profile photo is the same across your platforms.

Searching social media for your business name is a good place to start when coming up with a name.  Grab the user names on the popular platforms now whether you plan to use them or not.    You never know if in the future you really do want a Facebook page or Twitter account.

Here are some popular options:
INSTAGRAM
FACEBOOK
PINTEREST
YOU TUBE
TWITTER
SNAPCHAT
PERISCOPE

Step 6.  Obtain your tax ID

This is the part where checking in with your accountant or even a business lawyer is a good idea.  I am neither one of those things so I can’t offer you specific advice.   

Most makers and designers will start out as a sole proprietor using their own social security number.   But getting a tax ID number is free and easily done online through the IRS.

There are cases where having a tax ID is required to open certain wholesale accounts or get tax exempt purchases.  Plus, how legit do you feel with your own tax id number!?  ;)

I obtained my own Tax ID number easily online.

Step 7.  Obtain your sales tax number

Again, this is the part where checking in with your accountant or even a business lawyer is a good idea.  I am neither one of those things so I can’t offer you specific advice.

Sales tax is very state specific but most states will require a sales tax number to sell products to people within your state.  It’s easy to obtain a sales tax number through your state’s website.   Most of the time sales tax is only charged when an item is sold within your own state.   Most selling sites allow you to easily set this up in the settings section.

Sales tax is money you collect for your state.    Sales tax is not “money you pay”.   You are simply collecting it for your state and passing it on to them.  The sooner you have a system in place to separate this money you collect out of your main account, the better!   Otherwise you begin to feel like you are “paying sales tax”.

I sell product directly to my clients in my state in one of my businesses so I charge sales tax.  It definitely adds up over the year and if I didn’t have a system in place to transfer that money directly out of my checking account it would feel like another bill.  But I know that is never my money to begin with and sending it over to the state on a quarterly basis is painless when it’s directed into a separate account immediately.

Step 8.  Obtain a business license

This will also be very state specific.

The SBA is a great place to start when looking into a business license.   Most makers will probably find they don’t need a business license.

Step 9.  Open a business checking account

Do yourself a favor and open a checking account for your business!   Separating your business accounts from your personal accounts will make tax time so much easier.   This is an easy step and one you will be so glad you did!  Once it’s set up, run all deposits through it and all expenses through it.

Step 10.   Register your business

There is no better way to feel legit and motivated than to register your business!   If your business name is anything other than your actual name, this step is required.  Most makers will start out using their own name and be recognized as a sole proprietor.  But switching over to an LLC is an easy to step to take.

It’s not difficult to register your business as an LLC and doing so will offer some legal protection for you and your family.    The SBA has some good info on it here.

I had a lawyer form my first LLC for about $100.   I recently just updated, renamed and restructured this info myself through my states website.   A little digging on your states website will probably be enough to tackle this on your own.

 

So there you have it!   10 concrete steps to take to rock your business and make this thing happen!   I’ll be rooting for you!

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**This post contains affiliate links.   If you click on the links and purchase through them, I will receive a small commission.  This does not increase or effect your pricing. 

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  • JENNIFER Krebsbach - FABULOUS article Emily!!! I have been contemplating this for several months and you have answered (very thoroughly) my questions about the web aspect!1 Thanks so much.
    JennyReplyCancel

  • Nicole Williams - Thank you so much Emily! I’ve just started with the blogging thing in partnership with my local quilt shop, and this has given us so much to think about!ReplyCancel

I am currently compiling a list of quilt pattern testers to pull from for future projects.   I tend to release patterns every few months and would love to have a group of quilters ready to contact.

If you are interested in being added to this list fill out the info below to be considered!

pond fabric Isn’t this Pond fabric by Robert Kaufman so gorgeous!   This fabric was provided by fabric.com.   I’m excited to partner with them on this new pattern.   Fabric.com was easy to agree to work with since I use them on a regular basis :) pond fabric This is one of two new designs ready for testers!   My patterns tend to be precut friendly and repeating block patterns.   pond fabric

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  • Jeanne - Love to sew and quilt. Have developed several patterns myself. Always looking for new techniques and practice.ReplyCancel

  • Deb Sweet - I would be interested in being a pattern tester. I’m a advanced quilter with a longarm. I do all techniques of quilting.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - It would be an honor to test your patterns. I am an advanced quilter, aim at perfection and have won numerous ribbons. Love to quiltReplyCancel

Welcome to week 3 of the Ombre Gems quilt along!

Blocks are starting to come together this week!   Hopefully by now you have made a few blocks and are starting to get the hang of how they are going together.   Once you make a few they start to get faster and easier.

Jelly Roll strips vs Fat Quarters

My blocks this time around are turning out much better than my original quilt.   I was winging it for the original and didn’t actually write the pattern until it was done.   I also am using a fat quarter bundle this time around and used jelly roll strips for the original.   Those jelly roll strips were a lot trickier!   I would recommend checking and cutting your jelly roll strips to an exact 2.5in wide before using them!

One thing I am already noticing with the fat quarters is that my blocks are a little darker.   There is definitely less color variation in the fat quarters.   I’m playing around with reversing the cutting order on some the blocks to use more of the light areas.

ombre gems quilt


Week 3 / 10

This week we will:

  • Make 6 blocks

These can be either all full size blocks some full blocks and some full blocks and some half blocks.


Here are my 6 blocks for the week!  I made 5 full blocks and 2 half blocks.

I cut and sewed them all together on a Sunday afternoon.   They are already starting to go together a lot faster for me.

ombre gems quiltalong

Keeping track of your progess

I’m trying to really keep these organized by marking which number block they are in each corner as I finish them.   Once I’ve made the block, I’m also shading in the centers on my coloring page.   This is making it a lot easier to see what I have already done and what I need to do next.

ombre gems quiltalong

Chain Piecing

There is quite a bit of chain piecing you can do in this quilt.   I made all of my blocks at the same time by doing each step together.  I find they go together so much faster when I do them all at once.

ombre gems quiltalong ombre gems quiltalong ombre gems quiltalong

How are your blocks coming along??   It’s been so fun to see them start to pop up on instagram!   Remember to use the hash tag so we can all see and comment!

#ombregemsquiltalong


Ombre Gems Official Post
Ombre Gems Week One
Ombre Gems Week Two
Ombre Gems Week Three
Ombre Gems Week Four
Ombre Gems Week Five
Ombre Gems Week Six
Ombre Gems Week Seven
Ombre Gems Week Eight
Ombre Gems Week Nine
Ombre Gems Week Ten

 

 

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Welcome to Week 2 of the Ombre Gems quilt along!

Also known as the official starting week ;)   Because we are cutting!  And sewing!

 


Week 2 / 10

This week we will:

  • Cut the 2.5in white background squares
  • Make 2 full blocks and 2 half blocks

Cutting

You can either cut as you go on this quilt or cut everything up front.   You might consider cutting all of your background squares at once and then cutting your ombre fabrics as you go.   I highly recommend making a block or two before cutting everything.

Accuracy is key for this one.   So getting a feel for how the blocks go together before doing all of your cutting is a good idea.

The background squares are 2.5in but you might find 2.5in x 3in is so much easier to work with!   If your blocks are too small when you try to trim them, use the larger size background pieces.

Below is a video demonstration of the stripology ruler.  Guys, I didn’t get this ruler for years so please don’t feel like you need it!   I made my original Ombre Gems quilt before I got this ruler.   It is pretty amazing and such a time saver but a little on the spendy side.  I have no regrets of purchasing mine and have used it quite a bit since I got it.  (Sorry about the standard def video!   I uploaded quickly and didn’t realize it wasn’t high def and then deleted to make more room on my phone for more videos!)

 

I picked up my ruler from Craftsy.  


Make 2 Full Blocks and 2 Half Blocks

This week we are cutting into that fabric!   We will start out by making 2 full blocks and 2 half blocks.

ombre gems quilt along

If at any time you feel inspired to keep making, I say go for it!   This quilt has a lot of blocks and there may be some weeks where you have less time to get them all done.

Keeping track of your progress

I’m attempting to keep these blocks organized and in order.   I started out by marking my fabrics with numbers 1-18.   As I make these blocks I’m also marking the blocks themselves so I know where they are on my coloring sheet.   My blocks this week are pretty random since I had a few random fat quarters pre-cut as I was planning out the quilt along.

ombre gems quilt along ombre gems quilt along

This quilt along lasts 10 weeks so there is plenty of time to join along!

Share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag:

#ombregemsquiltalong


Tips for Accuracy

  • Use Starch.  Lots of starch!
    I’ve been using starch every step of the way.   First I starch the fat quarter before cutting.   Every time I press a seam, I use starch.   I finish off by starching the entire block.   So lots of starch!  I use this starch but buy it locally.
  • Cut consistently
  • Use a scant 1/4in seam
    (This means sewing about a stitch length less than 1/4in.  This allows enough extra room to keep your measurements spot on when pressing your fabrics to the side.)
  • If using jelly roll strips, trim to 2.5in wide
    (A lot are not an exact 2.5in wide!)

ombre gems quilt along


Ombre Gems Official Post
Ombre Gems Week One
Ombre Gems Week Two
Ombre Gems Week Three
Ombre Gems Week Four
Ombre Gems Week Five
Ombre Gems Week Six
Ombre Gems Week Seven
Ombre Gems Week Eight
Ombre Gems Week Nine
Ombre Gems Week Ten

 

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