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Right. You have all the ideas, you have all the sketches – but how to bring it to life? This page is a guide to help you on your journey transforming your daydreams into tangible objects.

Let’s get started with the elephant in the room first; the money. The amount of money you will need will vary massively depending on the intended scale of production as well as the products themselves. What is it you want to create? Small objects and accessories on a small scale for sale at craft fairs & markets? Perhaps you want to set up an online shop, or are you aiming to create an entire collection of fully customised branded clothing? These variables will determine how much you will need to invest to get started.

Small printed pieces: stationery, paper goods, accessories, posters, badges etc.

It is advisable to start off small to test the waters, as you don’t want to end up with a boat load of stock taking up space and gathering dust in the corner of your bedroom. If you’re wanting to have small printed pieces created for craft fairs & markets, order a little extra just in case. Anything you have left over can be sold in an online shop or at future events. Below is an example of what a basic starter inventory for an online shop or market event could look like (may vary dependent on the scale of the event) to give you an idea of minimum costs. Links to manufacturers along with their prices (as of Dec 2017) have also been included.

 

CRAFT MARKETS / ONLINE SHOPS

25 x 25mm badges (5 different designs) – Awesome Merchandise – £11.25

20 x A3 heavyweight posters (3 different designs) – Awesome Merchandise £30.00

5 x printed mugs (1 design) – Banana Print£27.75

25 x A6 greeting cards (as many designs as you’d like) inc. envelopes – Moo approx £25

10 x printed diaries (1 design) – Pixart (Italy) – £50.00

10 x A5 notebooks (2 designs) – Awesome Merchandise£50.00

(all inc. standard delivery, prices may be subject to change.)

Around £200 will be enough to get you a kickstart with the production of your printed pieces on a small scale. The pieces you’re after may differ from this list completely, but a rough guide is handy. Click here to access the directory of printing / manufacturing companies.

(Don’t forget to factor in costs for a table & pitch. Also, public liability insurance – this can be purchased annually, or for free if you join the Artists Union.)

 

FULLY CUSTOMISED CLOTHING LINES

This form of manufacture is considerably more expensive as there are way more variables to consider in this field; material, sketches, trend forecasts, prototypes, function etc.

For example, if you wanted to create your own line of swimsuits, you would have to factor in costs for material and prototypes. A single swimsuit prototype can cost anything between £100 – £500 (more or less) dependent on the type and quality of fabric & materials used, as well as the intricacy of the design. A recommended starting point for a collection is anything between 8 – 12 pieces, all of which will need to be prototyped, tested and possibly revised should there be a need for tweaking. Once you’ve passed that stage of the process, you will need to factor in quantity. A lot of manufacturers have MOQ’s (minimum order quantities) and these can differ massively from one factory to the next. Often, the pieces individually don’t cost as much as the prototype – you will need to contact the factory directly for such information as this rate is affected by quantity, material and details.

Some may permit you to print 25pcs of each as a minimum, for example, whereas others may only accept min orders of 100 – ensure you have all these details figured out before you make a decision. Finishes will need to be considered as well, in regards to labelling, packaging and presentation.

For this type of manufacture, this may require an investment in the thousands as a starting point based on producing a collection of 8 swimuits. This amount is only a basic approximation and you may find it can cost even less or considerably more – as each factory has different limitations & requirements.

 

Searching for the right manufacturer.

Research, research and research some more. Google the company name and read reviews from customers – all of them. Consider the amount of clients they’ve had, are they active on social media? Do they have recent examples of their work? How accessible are they?

Be especially careful when using platforms such as Alibaba to locate manufacturers, as some sneaky factories may steal images from other websites, and write false information about their clientele in a bid to lure people in. Ensure they are enforcers of the ‘trade assurance’ policy that protects you from payment through to delivery, and that they are highly rated with a high order rate.

  • Get clear answers to all of your questions in writing (e-mail) and keep a record of everything.
  • Send sketches or mockups to minimise chances of error. Ensure they have received these images and understand completely what you are requesting from them.
  • Samples. Confirm that they provide samples (either by posting the sample item featuring your print, or taking an image of the first one they produce). Samples are vital to the process. The last thing you want, is for them to cock up your order, and send 50 of them to your doorstep. Samples give you the chance to make revisions and clear up any inaccuracies.
  • Return/exchange & refund policy. What happens if they print your pieces incorrectly – do they offer exchanges? If so, who has to pay for the shipping should the box of goods have to be returned? Do they offer refunds? How long does it take for refunds to be processed? Archive every email with their written responses, just in case anything hits the fan.
  • Material selection. Look up the longevity and quality of the materials they provide, as well as the printing methods they use to create each custom printed piece. You don’t want to end up with a box of clothing that only looks good until you wash it for the first time.

Decent manufacturers will be more than willing to answer all of your questions and reassure you that you will receive the best quality service, without rushing you to make a purchase.

Don’t accept half-arsed or misinformed responses – grab as much information as you possibly can and get all your questions answered succinctly – before making any sort of decision.