Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: "Craft Inc. Business Planner"

Finally, after much impatient waiting, I got my hands on the new "Craft Inc. Business Planner: The Ultimate Organizer for Turning Your Crafts Into Cash."  I absolutely adore the original Craft Inc. and HIGHLY recommend it to anyone with a crafty business, whether it be full- or part-time.  There is a lot of inspiration, advice, and motivation packed into that book, and I treasure my copy dearly.

First off, it's hardcover and spiral-bound, so I'm already happy.  Second, it's very much an interactive workbook...whereas the first Craft Inc. was more of a read-only resource, this one is PACKED with areas to jot notes, worksheets, lists, etc.  I WILL say that this is NOT a how-to book by any means, and really should be partnered with the original Craft, Inc. to get the full effect.  And by that, I mean that they have sections on budgeting, craft shows, trade shows, etc, but they don't go into the details that the original Craft, Inc. did.  

The pros: this workbook will help you put pen-to-paper things that you really should have written down somewhere, such as your Creative Mission, your Open-for-Business Checklist, budget breakdowns, Marketing Campaign Worksheets, and even places to list contact info for blogs, magazines, and other advertising venues to consider.  There are three heavy-duty pockets in the back for tucking snippets, samples, and receipts (think of a bride's wedding-planning binder). 

I think my favorite thing about this planner is that it really helps you put down in black-and-white the core elements of a BUSINESS PLAN...something that sounds really scary and big, but is truly essential to anyone taking their business seriously.  If you were to go through and fill out all the exercises and worksheets in this planner you will have (HAPPY DAY!) already completed most of your business plan, you'd just need to organize it into a single document form.

This planner, when completed and with the included professionals' advice, can also function as an AWESOME motivational tool...when you're feeling down because you haven't made a sale in days, or you're feeling overwhelmed, or not quite sure why you got into this in the first place...whip this bad boy out and hear your inner indiepreneur roar!

The cons: to say that I was surprised that this book includes additional blank worksheets to photocopy would be an understatement.  Yes, call me a snob if you like, but I really think this book would have been finished off perfectly with a cd-rom or pdf-download link of all the pertinent worksheets.  Even if I had to pay an extra dollar for it, it would have been worth it, since I now have to head to Kinkos to make copies of the worksheets within.  In a market where similar "For-Dummies" books all have included cd-roms, I really feel this is an inexcusable omission.  

I think the organization of the book could have been a wee bit I was cruising along in it I was surprised to see that the author had her section about trade shows (something many indiepreneurs will never tackle) before a section on craft shows (the first big step for many crafters).  Not to say that the trade show section isn't necessary...but it's a HUGE step that would probably have fit better later in the "progression" of advice.  Additionally there is a section about your product line that (IMO) sticks out like a sore thumb.  The entire book is very focused on BUSINESS advice about your craft BUSINESS, and then suddenly there is a tangent about sketching out the items you intend to sell.  Yes, the worksheets about calculating the costs vs. wholesale vs. retail are helpful, but to have several blank pages of places to sketch designs out didn't quite fit. 

I also feel like the book came to a screeching halt after the sections on trade and craft additional section on expanding your indie-empire could have been helpful...maybe a tool to help evaluate after a year?  

Overall rating? Probably a B...the tools within this book are invaluable and approachable to a start-up business, and will be a wonderful resource to fall back on once it's completed.  The lack of a cd-rom for the forms and lack of focus on the business AFTER the start-up is also a negative for me.  Overall, though, I would definitely recommend this workbook for anyone STARTING a new business, or anyone who needs a little help refocusing on their crafty bottom-line.

(Cross-posted to Russell Yarn)

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