So your one of those potters who has dreamed of having their own studio one day.
What if you could do what you love all day, every day? No more of having to work your boring job day after day.
Many passionate Potters have struck out on their own to spend their days in the pottery studio making pieces that will bring joy to others for years to come
Starting a Pottery Business takes a lot of thought and some caution. In this in-depth guide,
I go through the costs to start, where to sell, to the profits you can make.
What Do You Need to Get Started
Some of the things that you need to get started in pottery include:
- Pottery Wheel ($800 to $2,000)
- Slab Roller ($300 to $2000)
- Clay ($0.60 to $2.00 per pound)
- Clay storage ($15+)
- Glazes ($30 to $100 per gallon)
- Pottery sink trap ($20 to $100)
- Hand tools ($25+)
- Advertisement ($20 to $5,000+)
- Business cards ($20 to $50)
- Shelves ($50 to $300)
- Kiln ($2,000 to $10,000)
Most pottery studios will spend anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 to open up a physical business location. You can also start with a home pottery studio and branch out slowly. Otherwise, it requires solid confidence in yourself.
Important to Note: $50,000 to $150,000 is the average cost for a potter to start up their own business at a physical location. You don’t necessarily have to pay that much to get started. Beginning with a home-based operation, you can do it for under $15,000 and go bigger as you find your way.
You don’t need a lot to start a pottery business, but the things that you do need can be costly. You can make it as expensive or as cheap as you want. Especially if you’re new to the business, you will want to buy good equipment, but you don’t want to buy so much that you will have a hard time turning a profit. In particular, don’t skimp on your pottery wheel. A more expensive wheel will let you do more things, be more durable, and last longer.
Is Pottery a Profitable Business?
In the beginning, you may want to do it more for a side income rather than your main income. Especially if you do pottery as your passion, you won’t find it difficult to keep going with it. Once you get going with it, you have tons of opportunities to turn a fast profit, but it takes time for you to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
Don’t expect pottery to be an easy business, but you can make a lot of cash when you know how to do it. If you want to earn real cash in the business, you have to have a plan for how to get started. Handcrafted pottery can especially turn you a profit because of the time, skill, and materials put into it.
To give you an idea of what you might be getting into, the global ceramics market held a value of $229.13 billion in 2018. Most analysts expect it to grow 8.6 percent from 2019 to 2025. You can make a decent profit in pottery if you know how to sell and you have a good product to sell.
Don’t Need to Run a Business
You don’t necessarily have to run the business yourself. Maybe you just want to work with clay all day. Plenty of opportunities exist where you could work as a ceramic artist with a company. Manufacturing potters on average can make anywhere from $15.00 to $30.00 an hour. This would depend greatly on your skill level and the region of the world you live in.
To work as a potter, you will need four years of formal education as a bachelor of fine arts. You could start as an apprentice.
Where Do You Sell Your Wares?
Understanding where to sell can make a difference between turning a profit and not making enough to pay the rent. You have several profitable venues where you can sell pottery both online and offline. Some of the places to consider selling include:
- Arts and crafts fairs
- Flea market
- Craft shows
- Arts and crafts festivals
- Farmers’ markets
- Local furniture stores
You may want to experiment in the beginning to figure out where your pottery sells best. For more detailed information check out this Step-by-Step making a living Guild.
Pay Attention to the Commission
Selling at a gallery, one of the biggest problems with this comes from how much it costs. You will have a much higher commission rate than if you sold on Amazon or Etsy. Some art galleries will take as much as 50 percent of the cost of your work. With that said, you should never use an art gallery that charges more than 50 percent.
Farmers’ markets, in comparison, charge more based on a six-month season. You might pay $500 for a six-month season, but keep in mind, some will expect you to keep selling your ceramics for the whole season. That can make it an unattractive prospect if you don’t sell much for the whole six months.
How to Promote Your Pottery
After you have set up your pottery business, you need to know how to promote it. Doing this can make or break your business. Before you begin, first look at the audience that you want to reach. What marketing message will have the biggest impact on them? You may have to refine this several times until you find the message that works best with your buyers.
Some of the most common ways that potters have used to market their wares include:
- Personal website
- Social media
- Open house
- Mail invitations
Where Should You Start?
We’ve given you many options for where to market yourself and sell your ceramics, but where would we recommend that you get started?
If we had to give you one recommendation on where to start, we would advise that you begin with Etsy. A lot of potters sold their first wares on Etsy. The artist-friendly social commerce platform had 81.9 million customers in 2020 alone. The platform has exploded over the years and will likely continue to grow as more people learn about it.
To put it into perspective, Etsy had 46.35 million buyers in 2019. They more than doubled their customers in one year alone. Back in 2012, Etsy only had 9.32 million customers, which shows you how the platform has provided ceramics artists with a great, new place to sell their wares.
Etsy only collects a five percent transaction fee. You don’t want to lose all your cash on the commission, and Etsy provides you with a place to pay less.
For more detailed information on selling online, you can read this Step-by-Step Starter Guide for Selling Online.
What Kind of Insurance Do You Need?
Like all businesses, you want to have insurance because it protects you if things go wrong. All businesses, regardless of industry, will want to have general liability insurance. General liability insurance protects you from several things like:
- Property damage
- Bodily injury
- Medical payments
- Personal injury
- Legal defense and judgment
No one requires you to carry general liability insurance, but nothing would be worse than if you were to suddenly do well in the pottery business when someone tripped over a pot and suffered an injury that cost you tens of thousands of dollars. As a startup, you would go underwater and drown. Even a seasoned business would feel the strain if they didn’t have general liability insurance.
What Common Situations Would General Liability Insurance Cover?
Let’s say that you decided to offer pottery classes to your students. It helps you to earn extra cash while inspiring a love of the hobby.
Unfortunately, a student gets hurt in the studio. With general liability insurance, they would cover you for the student’s medical bills, the legal fees, and anything paid out from a lawsuit.
Another example of where general liability insurance would cover you comes from where you have a driver who makes a clay delivery. The driver fails to see the ramp, and he hits it as a result.
Not only does this crush his rear bumper, but it damages the wheel well. Having general liability insurance would pay for the damages to his truck, covering the costs of having a broken ramp.
Other types of Commercial Insurance that a pottery shop may want includes:
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Property insurance
- Umbrella insurance
- Auto insurance
You have certain types of pottery shops that may need special types of coverage. For example, you only need commercial auto insurance when you use your personal car to make deliveries. If you have an accident because of a work-related task, someone could file a lawsuit against your business, which could crush you without insurance.
Protect Your Business
Insurance serves as the first line of defense, but you have other things that you should do to protect your business. For example, use watertight legal contracts that prevent someone from coming back later to file a lawsuit. Also, you may want to set up a limited liability company (LLC). This means that the business exists as its own entity, which protects the members and owners from personal liability.
In other words, you can’t hold them responsible for the daily operations and debts accumulated from the business.
You can set up an LLC easier than you could a corporation, and you have better protection and flexibility with it. You may even choose not to pay federal taxes. Your pottery business’s profits and losses as an LLC will instead be listed on the personal tax return.
Sell What’s Hot—Not What You Want
Many potters go into business because they have a passion for pottery that they want to share with the world. However, passion doesn’t always translate to good business sense if it’s not tampered with business sense.
You can’t go into the pottery business thinking that you can make whatever you want and walk away with the most profit—the successful pottery businesses sell what their customers want to buy. Don’t sell what you love; sell what they love.
Some potters don’t like that style, but you will have a much harder time making it into a lucrative business if you only make what you like. The upside is they may love what you love to make.
You can do that as a hobby without an issue, but doing it as a business could put you on shaky ground.
Start Small and Go Big
Running a business can come with stress—you may have stressed that it won’t sell or how you handle your finances and the decisions you make. Everything may make you feel stressed out.
Starting out with it as a side income, you don’t have to worry as much. You keep it friendly as you learn the tricks of the trade.
Many potters say that they love to use it as a supplement to their income, but they’d prefer to keep it friendly to where they don’t depend on it as an income.
Diverse Skills Required
To run a pottery business, you need more than good pottery skills. That alone won’t be enough to make you profitable. Other skills that you may want to learn include:
- Financial management
- Sales skills
- Communication and negotiation
Like any business, starting a pottery business requires you to invest a lot of time and energy if you want to make more than a middle-class income. You can make a lot of money in pottery, but you have to understand how to do it. Along with these things, you have to know how to price your ceramics. You don’t want to price them so low to where you don’t make anything, but you don’t want them priced so high that no one buys them either. Have a starting point and make proper adjustments to profit from all your hard work.
These are all things to think about before starting your business. Knowing all these things helps you to be more prepared, which increases your success. Enjoy the process.