How to start an indie business

how to set up an indie business


Get tips on how to start up an indie business from someone who’s been there, done that, set up the Etsy store. By the way, if you’re planning to set up your own Etsy store, check out our 18 selling on Etsy tips

Anyone with talent and a desire to live independently should strive to be their own boss when it comes to setting up their own indie business. However, not everyone is cut out to be a self-starter. There are a few questions one must ask before determining if this is the right move for you.

  • Do I mind working long hours (at times, into the wee hours of the morning) even though I am doing this for me?
  • Can I accept rejection… over and over and over again… without losing my cool and without cracking under the pressure?
  • Do I have the financial means (even if limited) to obtain all of the supplies I need?
  • Do I have alternative financial resources to ensure the bills are still paid even if I don’t sell anything?
  • Do I want this badly enough?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then you definitely may have what it takes to start an indie business. Even if you answered ‘maybe’ to a few, don’t sweat. However, without organization, the right connections, dedication, and confidence, you may crack under the pressure, and your business may flop. Every great business began with these factors, and by systematically developing your business plan, you too may be able to join the ranks.

1. Develop a business plan.

A business plan is essentially a blueprint and a road map for your business. It is, as I like to say, your business ‘on paper’. It should be a concise framework that you will fill in as you go along, but definitely have the basics written out before beginning your entrepreneurial pursuit. The business plan will also be your tool for applying for grants, entering small business competitions, etc. There are several resources on the web and at your local Small Business resource centre to help you with developing a business plan – I suggest checking them out to help you get started.

2. Get a website.

The great thing about the internet is that it puts the world at the doorstep of your business. Having a website will allow you to sell your products internationally, and gives you a competitive advantage when talking with potential customers on the street. It also gives you a great tool for organizing your products. There are a couple of great sites for indie business owners and crafters to get started for relatively cheap. I personally use Dawanda and ETSY.

3. Advertise, advertise, advertise!

Advertising for a business can be expensive, but when you’re an indie business owner, who has time and money for that? There are great ways to advertise and get customers to check out your products – without going through the system. I personally am a big advocate of guerrilla advertising – designing flyers and promotional items and leaving them at places I know will get traffic – whether or not mainstream consumerist society tells me I can advertise there or not. Offline community bulletin boards were provided by the establishment to aid you but actually they can limit you. They are often so littered with junk and people competing for the same business as you that your chances of gaining the public’s attention are slim. The tops of toilet paper dispensers in bathroom stalls, bus stop seats, supermarket carts, and even coffeeshop tables make great points of advertising interest. Stretch your brain – there are plenty of others.

4. Have your business cards with you at all times.

You never know when you may meet someone you know or are striking casual conversation and… bam… there’s a perfect opportunity to plug your business. Carrying business cards with you will definitely help attract customers to your website. Business cards should be sexy and eye-catching. You want them to stand out. I design my own. Since I am a paper goods designer, I want my business cards to reflect my style and my handmade creed.

5. Have your products with you at all times.

Or at least a hefty sample of them. This goes hand in hand with number 4. You never know when someone may want to make a purchase from you on the street! I personally keep a stash of my cards and invitations in my car, so if the moment arises for me to make a sale, I am ready!

6. Hit up as many venues as possible.

Here is where you make your money. Being seen, having your products at public locations for sale, and ‘getting out there’ is what gets you paid. It is most crucial to try to attend as many public venues as possible – flea markets, farmers markets, craft shows and fairs, etc. If you’re cheap like me, and don’t have a ton of money to shell out for a show that may or may not pay for itself in the end, make sure you hit up as many of the cheaper venues as possible. (Then as you begin to build more capital for your business, so you can try your luck with more expensive venues that are likely to reap better returns.)

7. Wholesale and consignment.

Try your hand at selling your goods through local stores and shops. You may have better luck with bricks n’ mortar and mom n’ pop shops than with chain department stores, so my suggestion would be to start small and work your way up to bigger endeavours. When stores purchase your goods wholesale, they buy a bulk amount ‘outright’ (at once) and then set the price per individual item for sale. When businesses sell your items through consignment, They do not pay you outright. Instead, as each item sells, you receive a percentage, and the store receives a percentage. (Typical arrangements are either 60/40 or 70/30. Anything else – unless you know your items will sell really well at a higher price – may not be worth it). Both wholesale and consignment have their benefits and drawbacks. However, when approaching a business for either arrangement, be confident, dress nicely, and carry your products with you.

8. Register for a Tax Identification number.

Doing so not only makes your business seem even more legit, it definitely helps merchants purchase confidently. They know that you are serious about your business, and that you have nothing to hide. Check with your local Small Business Administration for details, as they vary per state (in the US).

9. Apply for grants and enter competitions.

If you follow the above and have your own organized system for writing your own book of business, then applying for grants will help with the financial aspect of starting a business. It will also help build your confidence, and help you feel more like your business is an actual business. (It definitely is, but YOU need to know and feel that way about it.) It also gets you noticed and ‘out there’. Entering small business competitions helps to get you noticed by investors looking for the next big thing in your field.


What do you want to get out of this? Do you want this to be a part-time gig, to earn extra income? Do you want to full-time it? Know what you want to get out of your indie business, and direct your every move towards making that happen. For me personally, my goal is to full-time it, and in order to do that, I need to sell one thousand cards a month. My average card costs about $3.50, so that’s roughly $3,500/mo (US Dollars). That income is enough to cover all of my business costs, and pay my bills with some profit after all is said and done. So far, for the month of September, I have sold 100. Thus, my goal that I am working towards is 900. Everything I do business-wise is aimed at selling that 1000th.

While these are not the only steps towards starting your own business, it definitely covers the bases. As you progress, you too will create your own steps for filler, and will find that it may not be quite as easy as it seems. However, you knew that before you started, so try not to get overwhelmed, and above all, have fun!

Useful resources for setting up your own business

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