Should you hire someone else to make your handmade products?

September 15, 2012
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Rebecca outsources to women’s collectives in the developing world to help inspire her customers. – Photo by Children Inspire Design

Being an entrepreneur gives your workday special meaning. You interact with your customers personally, and that feeling is amplified when you hand make your products. But when your business or home lives really get busy it may be time to think about outsourcing your handmade products.

The decision to outsource is a big one, and there is a lot to consider. I spoke to entrepreneurs who handcraft their products about outsourcing and received a range of answers that I hope will help you make this big decision.

Tiffany turned to outsourcing when her custom stationary business received more orders than she could handle alone. Outsourcing let her expand Spotted Ink to reach new clients and ensured she had the volume to keep up with demand.

“Whenever you create products in mass with additional help, you have to carefully watch all the details and make sure that each piece is created with a high level of care. If you don’t, you risk tarnishing the reputation that you have built,” she says.

Quality is alway something to keep in the front of your mind when considering hiring some added hands. Erica, owner and designer at The Crop Shop, says outsourcing just wouldn’t be a good fit for her scrapbooking business.

“There is already a premium added to the price of products that are handmade. There is a certain level of trust between myself and my clients that allows them to bring their business to me. They have seen my previous work, built with my hands using my creative spirit.”

Some of the entrepreneurs I spoke with found a mid-point between outsourcing and trying to do it all themselves. Tzivi of Chibuki Baby Innovations hired two mommies to hand sew her baby carriers. She says working with these two women has increased her creative flow and lets her enjoy new challenges by concentrating on the business end of her company. She says:

“It’s really hard when trying to build a new business, to have to worry about making payroll and being a good boss, while still being new at running a business, but for me, its been completely worthwhile.”

Niki, owner of Niki Pfeiffer Designs, also found a way to outsource that lets her retain control of the final product.

“I outsource the cutting of shapes for Curtain Candies and I assemble the final product,” she says.I outsource this part because it is labor intensive and it is more cost effective for me to have a manufacturer handle this portion of the process and thus keep costs reasonable for my customers.”

By outsourcing just one part of production, she gets her products into customers’ hands faster and stays competitive. She says it was challenging to find the right manufacturer to offer the high level of quality she needed, but well worth the time.

For Rebecca of Children Inspire Design, outsourcing offer another way to give back with her handmade products. She works with women’s cooperatives in Mexico and Haiti to produce her company’s handmade decor. While the language barrier and distance can be challenging, it gives her inspirational stories to share with her customers about the women she’s trained, and lets her customers feel like they’re giving back when they purchase her products.

You know your business best, and will have to weigh the challenges and advantages to decide if outsourcing works for you. As the women above show, there are as many ways to outsource as there are entrepreneurs out there. I’d love to hear your experiences with outsourcing your handmade products.