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The Business of DIY (2022)


Salted fish is traded for fur and feed grains. A block of wood is whittled into a toy horse and sold at an artisan market. Watermelon seeds, sowed and tended, become full-fledged fruit before exchanging hands at a roadside stall. 

These inceptive transactions planted the seeds for commerce as we know it today. And, countless small businesses still produce goods made by hand, selling them at craft shows and pop-up shops, through online marketplaces, and their own ecommerce stores. 

Selling handmade goods is an ideal first business for aspiring entrepreneurs. In most cases these businesses can be started from home with minimal upfront investment. Ahead, explore ideas for things to make and sell online, with suggestions for every skill level from beginner to advanced craftsperson. 

1. Bath bombs and handmade soaps

Two handmade bath bombs sit on a shower ledge
Burst

Bath bombs and soaps have a low barrier to entry as a craft to make and sell. Online tutorials are a great place to start to learn the ropes, and commercial molds make assembly easy, even if you’re not creative. Start with simple recipes for products like bath salts before trying more complicated formulations with emulsions and preservatives.

Get inspired: Suds to Stardom: How the Founder of Royalty Soaps Went Viral
Get started: How to Make Bath Bombs

💡 Tips:

  • Keep your inventory tight—fresher bath bombs have more fizz, and natural ingredients in handmade soap can expire.
  • Investigate your raw ingredient sources to ensure they’re beauty grade and safe for skin. 
  • Check with your local government that your production facility (even if it’s your own kitchen) meets health standards. In the US, for example, the FDA sets guidelines for ventilation, air control, and surfaces.
  • Packaging and branding are important for beauty brands, so don’t skimp on brand strategy and hire design help.

2. T-shirts and printed merchandise

A person holds up a graphic t-shirt that reads "forever queer"
Passionfruit

This is a maker business for the non-maker. If you’re looking for a (almost) hands-off product to make and sell, a t-shirt business could be the route for you. Your digital design can be printed onto various goods—including t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, keychains, and dog bandanas—and shipped to your customers. Looking for a more handmade feel? Consider learning the art of screen printing and print your designs at home or in a studio. 

Get inspired: Passionfruit Interview: Her LGBTQ+ Lifestyle Brand was Inspired by a Dog
Get started: How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know

💡 Tips:

  • T-shirts and printed merch can supplement an existing business. Gyms, musicians, and charities, for example, can sell branded swag to existing audiences.
  • Not a designer? Use services like Shopify Experts to find talent who can turn your ideas into t-shirt designs.
  • Use a print and fulfillment app, like Printful, Lulu Express, Gooten, or Teelaunch. These apps integrate with your Shopify store and automatically print, fulfill, and ship each order.

3. Jewelry

Merchandized gold jewelry lays arranged on a table
Moorea Seal

Jewelry is another business idea that can range from simple and low-tech (say, beaded necklaces) to specialized (think silversmithing). It’s a saturated market, so doing your homework is important. How can your designs stand out? Is there a niche market to cater to? Success in this field will rely on solid branding and craftsmanship.

Get inspired: Sloths and Shiny Things: Inside the Mind of a 10-Year-Old Founder
Get started: How to Start a Jewelry Making Business

💡 Tips:

  • Validate your idea by tracking trends in jewelry—use Google Trends, and follow popular fashion creators and influencers.
  • Photography is important but also difficult, because of the scale and reflective qualities of jewelry. Invest in great photos by hiring a pro. You can save money by partnering with complementary apparel brands to share the cost of lifestyle shoots.
  • Jewelry making is an ideal DIY craft business for budding entrepreneurs. Woven bracelets and beaded necklaces can appeal to makers of all ages.

4. Curated gift and subscription boxes

A wall in a retail store showcases multiple gift sets on shelves
Matthew Wiebe / Present Day Gifts

A gift or subscription box business is the perfect idea for those less crafty but still interested in making items to sell. If you have an eye for curation, assorted gift boxes could be an ideal business idea. Since subscription boxes are usually packed all at once, at the same time each month, and in the same size box, the shipping process is simple.

Get inspired: A Day in the Life of Sophia Pierro, Entrepreneur
Get started: How to Launch a Subscription Box Business

💡 Tips:

  • Calculate your storage and assembly needs. Can your home accommodate your business, or do you need to rent additional space?
  • Ease your customers into commitment. Offer a substantial discount to those who pay up front for subscriptions, or offer the first month free.
  • Use a subscription management app like Bold Subscriptions to keep everything organized.
  • Handmade items make great gifts. Consider partnering with other makers to provide curated gift items for your boxes.

5. Candles

A candle maker cuts wicks on a batch of candles arranged on a wooden table
Jennifer Roberts / Red Sky Shop

It is estimated that the global market for candles will be worth $16 billion by 2031. While it’s a crowded market, there are several niches to explore: religious, birthday, eco-friendly, scented, beeswax, novelty, and more. There are plenty of online DIY tutorials for novice candle makers to get started. And basic melt and pour methods require no previous craft skills, making candles one of the easiest craft ideas to make and sell online. 

Get inspired: How One Founder Fulfilled Her Cottage Living Dream
Get started: How To Start a Candle Business

💡 Tips:

  • Get insured and use safety labeling. Due to the nature of candle use, and the increased risks of injury or fire damage, be sure to protect your craft business from civil suits that may result from the use of your product.
  • Tap into a niche to stand out in a crowded market. Frostbeard Studio appeals to book lovers with cleverly named candle scents and copy filled with literary references.
  • Pay attention to branding and packaging. Candles don’t differ much from an ingredient perspective, but your product can stand apart with ecommerce packaging and strong branding design. Even inexpensive Mason jars can be dressed up with creative labels.
  • Consider offering customers customization to make personalized gifts or wedding favors with their own messaging, scents, or labels.

6. Sweets

Macarons stacked against a pink backdrop
Burst

Candy, cookies, baked goods, chocolates, and jams. Sugar can be spun and dissolved and baked into endless things to make and sell online or in person. This is a category with unique complications—legalities, labeling, and shelf life—but also with lots of room to get creative. Niche markets include: holidays and occasions, custom, novelty, catering, pet treats, and gift baskets. Local craft fairs are the ideal testing grounds for your new sweets business.

Get inspired: This Dessert Founder Doesn’t Sugar-Coat Her Start-up Story
Get started: How to Start an Online Food Business

💡 Tips:

  • Trace the supply chain. Carefully select your raw ingredient suppliers to ensure that what’s on your label matches what’s inside.
  • Consult with a lawyer or food inspection agency to be sure your labeling meets local requirements for nutritional content, ingredients, and allergy warnings.
  • Rotate your inventory and stress the importance of doing so to everyone who handles it.
  • Investigate the viability of selling your product online when considering any food business ideas.

7. Art and prints

An artist works on a graphic 2D art project on a table
Spoke Art

It’s never been a better time to be an artist. Creator tools and selling platforms let artists make and sell their creations directly to fans. Paintings, digital printables, photography prints, sculpture, and textile art can all be sold online. Whether you’re looking to sell original fine art or reproductions, find the business model that works best for your business. 

Get inspired: This Artist Conjured a Magical World of Black Anime Characters
Get started: How to Sell Art Online

💡 Tips:

  • Work with an established gallery to show your work in person and help build an audience for your online store.
  • For product photos, have your work professionally photographed or scan it on a flatbed scanner. For lifestyle photos, show wall art within the context of a room.
  • Consider reproducing your art in multiple formats, like prints, cards, t-shirts, and mugs. Do it yourself through a print-on-demand company, or license your work to other ecommerce brands.

8. Digital products

A ad for a digital product that reads "The Mid-Century Brush Collection"
Retro Supply

Digital products like font licenses, wedding invitation templates, webinars, or Photoshop actions are all things you can make and sell from home—or anywhere with an internet connection. There are several benefits to selling digital products, including low overhead costs and no dealing with physical inventory or the shipping process.

Get inspired: How This Designer Created His Own Passive Income
Get started: How to Sell Digital Products with Shopify

💡 Tips:

  • Choose a delivery method. Apps like Digital Downloads and Sky Pilot integrate with your Shopify store to automatically deliver digital goods, or provide a download link to each customer.
  • If you’re hosting files on Shopify, make sure files are each 5 gigabytes or less (for faster downloads). For larger files, try compressing them into .zip archives.

9. Enamel pins

A close up of a denim lapel with a pin that reads "California"
Tuesday Bassen

Enamel pins remain a solid business idea, as the accessory trend is holding strong. You’ll usually work with a manufacturer to make enamel pins, but the creative part is up to you. Design your own, or work with a designer to bring your vision to life and build your own business.

Get inspired: Lessons from an Indie Artist Who Waged War on a Mega-Brand
Get started: How to Make and Sell Enamel Pins

💡 Tips:

  • If you choose to design your own pins, you can use software like Canva or Photoshop. Stick to solid colors (no gradients) and avoid fine details. Check with your manufacturer on the acceptable file format for your designs.
  • Research manufacturers before committing and ask the right questions: What are the clasp and material options? Can they send physical samples? What packaging options do they offer?

10. Traditional handcrafted goods

Handcrafted wooden spoons arranged among country farmhouse items and flowers
Old World Kitchen

Leather tooling, wood carving, furniture making, and embroidery are all traditional mediums with thriving markets. The backlash against mass production is driving trends back to slow food, one-of-a-kind and bespoke goods, and artist craftsmanship. Many of these disciplines require skills honed over time, but access your inner maker and learn a new trade via online tutorials or local college workshops.

Get inspired: One Family’s Journey from Etsy to Shopify
Get started: How to Sell Furniture and Home Décor Online: The Ultimate Guide

💡 Tips:

  • Much of the appeal of crafted goods is the maker’s story. Weave your own story into product pages, a compelling About page, and even packaging.
  • How will you scale at selling crafts? If your idea takes off, consider how you will maintain the handmade nature of your goods while producing in large quantities: Can you hire contract makers? Can certain components of the process be outsourced to a manufacturer then finished by hand?
  • Consult Google Trends to determine how to use your skills to make and sell things that are in high demand.

11. Lip balm and cosmetics

A person sticks their finger in a pot of lipbalm
Burst

Lip balm is one of the easiest products to make using tools you may already have in your home. Simple formulations of beeswax and natural oils require little more than a heat source to assemble. While you don’t need fancy equipment, you should ensure your setup meets industry and safety standards. Scaling your business to include other cosmetic products might mean working with an experienced manufacturer or white label producer.

Get inspired: How an Ex-Financier Built a Beauty Brand from her Kitchen
Get started: How to Start a Lip Balm Business

💡 Tips:

  • Research sources of your ingredients to be sure you’re using those that have been rated for cosmetic use.
  • Understand the labeling laws of any country or region where you plan to make and sell your products. In some countries, the word “organic” is regulated, and you cannot use it unless you have acquired the proper certification.
  • Beauty products have a shelf life, especially natural cosmetics. Keep your inventory tight to avoid spoilage. 


12. Pottery and clay objects

A group of speckled ceramic vessels is arranged against a neutral background
Corbé

Pottery is one of the more specialized ideas on this list, requiring skill and proper equipment. If you’re new to the craft, check out local ceramics programs to give you the know-how and shared studio space to use a kiln and tools. There are, however, other materials that have a lower barrier to entry and can be used to make similar products. Try air clay, polymer clay, or poured concrete. 

Get inspired: How I Build and Sell Handmade Products in My Spare Time
Get started: How to Sell Art Online: A Complete Guide

💡 Tips:

  • Ideas for things to make and sell with clay or clay alternatives include: planters, sculptures, ornaments, jewelry, magnets, containers, and coasters.
  • Have a future entrepreneur in your family? Safe clay alternatives can be the basis for many business ideas for kids

13. Pet supplies

A dog wears an orange lifejacket in an outdoor setting
Burst

Making items to sell for pets is a business idea with huge potential. In fact, the global market is estimated to top $232 billion by 2030. Homemade dog treats, catnip toys, and pet collars are all easy things to make and sell from home if you already have a creative flair.

Get inspired: How Masks For Dogs Landed a Deal on Shark Tank
Get started: Sell Pet Products: Ideas for Your Own Pet Business

💡 Tips:

  • Use your own pets (free models!) as the “faces” of your business. Pet owners value lifestyle photos that help them see how an item will fit their own pet. 
  • If you’re making and selling dog treats or toys—basically, anything that can be ingested—be sure to do your research. Are your cookie ingredients safe for pets? Do your toys have small parts that could cause choking? Have you considered the appropriate labels and warnings to protect yourself legally?

14. Music

A person sits playing a piano
Burst

Music is a challenging industry to break into, but if you have the talent, the world should know! There are many advantages to starting a music business in the age of ecommerce and TikTok. Most notably, you don’t need to rely on a major record deal to reach fans. Some music-related things to make and sell from home include stock music, music lessons, song licenses, and band merch.

Get inspired: Sharing Messages of Empowerment, One Shirt at a Time
Get started: How to Sell Music: 6 Ways to Make Money as a Musician 

💡 Tips:

  • Brand storytelling is important, even when your brand is just you.
  • Build your following by collaborating with other artists and sharing your music across multiple platforms. 
  • Beyond making a splash on social media platforms, own a dedicated domain name, and build a website so fans can find you. 

15. Photography

An indoor pop-up photo studio with a plant
Burst

Anyone from a professional photographer to a hobbyist with a smartphone can sell photography online. You can sell prints of your work, license your images on stock photography websites, or even sell yourself as a photographer for hire.

Get inspired: How This Company Grew 200% Year over Year
Get started: How to Sell Photos Online

💡 Tips:

  • Consider release forms to ensure you have permission from any people captured in your shots. You may also need permits to shoot in specific locations, like National Parks.
  • Create packages for your product photography services. This makes it easier for potential clients to find an option in their budget.
  • When you’re just starting out, use free photo-editing apps to give your work an extra edge on a small budget.

16. Woodworking projects

A person measures a 2x4 piece of wood in a woodworking studio
Burst

Woodworking is a popular hobby among makers, and it can also become a viable business opportunity. This is a business idea that requires specialized equipment that may require high startup costs. If you’re interested in making and selling woodworking projects, take a class first before you invest in the idea.

Get inspired: How Instagram Brings Ventana Surfboards a Wave of Sales
Get started: 12 Woodworking Projects and How to Sell Them Online

💡 Tips:

  • You can specialize in bespoke items like custom one-of-a-kind furniture or more affordable templated pieces. The level of effort and skill should both be reflected in your pricing strategy.
  • Capture content to document the process. Potential buyers may be interested in how your products are made.
  • Woodworking things to make and sell include: cutting boards, salt and pepper shakers, boats, ornaments, planters, furniture, and toys.

17. Tote bags

Side by side images of two views of a canvas printed tote bag
Stay Home Club

Like t-shirts, tote bags can be produced with very little hands-on work. Simply upload your doodles or digital designs to a print-on-demand app and your orders are automatically fulfilled. If you’re skilled at sewing, you can make totes bags from scratch using canvas, reclaimed materials, or leather. Also try craft techniques like screen printing, felting, or applique to give them a unique touch.

Get inspired: These Nightlife Entrepreneurs Just Wanna Dance With Somebody
Get started: 10 Best Print-on-Demand Companies and Sites 

💡 Tips:

  • Totes make ideal canvases for art. If your original art is too pricey for most of your fans, totes offer a low cost way for them to buy a wearable reproduction of your work.
  • Consider making and selling (or giving away) branded tote bags as promotional merch for any type of business.

18. Sauces and condiments

Birds eye view of a jar of spicy oil with a spoon
Burst

Love cooking? If opening a restaurant is currently out of reach, consider small, non-perishable food items that can be made and sold online. Oils, spices, and hot sauces are all simple ideas for new business owners. 

Get inspired: Jing Gao on Putting Community Ahead of Competition
Get started: How To Start an Online Store in 9 Simple Steps

💡 Tips:

  • Start at local markets and expand your reach with an online store once your packaging is shelf stable and shippable.
  • Regulations regarding the production and packaging of food items can be strict. Be sure you are following government guidelines to keep people safe. 

19. Fragrance and essential oil blends

A black glass perfume bottle sits on a marble surface
Burst

Essential oil blends are among the simplest products to make and sell from home. Experiment by mixing skin-care-grade oils to produce and bottle your own unique scents and aromatherapy experiences. And research the properties of each oil to provide accurate information to customers. 

Get inspired: The Creator Who Scaled an 8-Figure Fragrance Company
Get started: Simple and Low Cost Ways to Build a Memorable Brand Identity

💡 Tips:

  • Success in the fragrance industry relies not only on your scents but on packaging and branding, too. Don’t rush this step!
  • As you perfect your scents, consider working with a white label manufacturer to expand your line into creams, soaps, and other body care products.

20. Paper products

An orange thank you card
Ferme à Papier

The sky’s the limit when it comes to building a DIY craft business with paper. Great ideas for paper crafts include: paper flowers, papier mache sculpture, greeting cards, paper stickers, and party décor. Experiment with different projects to discover your niche. Paper crafts range from primitive (think paper-making from recycled pulp) to advanced (like intricate cutouts using a Cricut machine). 

Get inspired: How Two Merchants Found a Niche in a Waning Industry
Get started: How To Make and Sell Stickers Online in 5 Steps

💡 Tips:

  • Consider how you might scale your business. If you craft greeting cards from scratch, for example, can you eventually transition to having your designs commercially printed?
  • Many paper businesses depend on seasonality. Be sure to plan your collections and products around holidays, seasons, and other occasions.

21. DIY tutorials and online courses

Thumbnail for a YouTube course on assembling a PDF pattern
Jalie Sewing Patterns

Lastly, consider spreading the joy of handmade to others by creating and selling online courses. Others like you will be looking for ideas for things to make and sell. Why not meet the demand? You can also offer free videos or short DIY tutorials as a content marketing strategy to drive customers to paid content. Consider teaching skills in sewing, soap making, or woodworking, either as on-demand video or live classes.

Get inspired: How a Self-Taught Wedding Expert Cashed in on Courses
Get started: 10 Steps To Create an Online Course That Sells

💡 Tips:

  • Bite-sized tutorials on platforms like TikTok help you build authority and grow an audience before you start selling content.
  • When selling courses, consider what value you can add over the many free tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere. Do you have downloadable templates or patterns? Do you offer “office hours” to chat through projects or challenges?

Make it, sell it!

The ideas don’t stop here—there are many creative ways to make money by handcrafting your own goods to sell online. To find the right business idea, balance your current skill set with your passion and market demand. 

Homegrown businesses are the perfect springboard for aspiring entrepreneurs. Start as a side gig to learn the ropes before you make the leap. You’ll set your own working hours, earn extra money, and reap the emotional rewards of building your dream with your own hands.

Things to make and sell FAQ

What can I make at home to sell?

You can make almost anything from home to make extra cash, provided you have the space and tools to do so. Creating a profitable home business starts with finding the right idea. DIY crafts like knitted scarves, soaps, baked pet treats, bath bombs, crochet, and costume jewelry are all easy things to make and sell from home, because they don’t require specialized skills or equipment.

How do I find popular things to make and sell?

Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube are excellent sources for trends in handmade items as well as for step-by-step tutorials to get started. Google Trends and industry reports are also useful sources to help find handmade items that are in high demand. Consider seasonality when launching your business—items trending at Christmas may not have the same demand year round.

What handmade things make money online?

This depends on a few factors. Make sure there is a market demand for your goods, that you understand pricing strategy, and that your spin on the product offers unique value above your competitors. A business plan and financial plan are valuable documents to help you plan your business and calculate your potential to turn a profit.

How do I price crafts and handmade goods?

There are simple formulas for establishing a retail price for your products that factor in all of your costs (materials, labor, overhead) plus a markup. But there are several other strategies for setting prices. Consider the uniqueness of your items as well as perceived value. Established artists, for example, can fetch higher retail prices for items of similar size and effort due to demand and cachet.

Where can I sell my handmade products?

There are many places where you can sell your handmade products—and you don’t have to choose just one. You can sell online, in person, and everywhere in between. Reach a wider audience by starting your own ecommerce store while also selling through an online marketplace (like an Etsy shop) or at handmade markets on the weekend.

Feature illustration by Eugenia Mello



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