There are many consumer-related factors that have contributed to DIY's spike in popularity. For example, homemade versions of common household items are often environmentally and budget-friendly, and if they're purchased from a local artisan, consumers can feel good about supporting a small business. But perhaps the biggest driver of the DIY industry is the technology behind it.
"Now, more than ever, people want to feel connected with the products they're consuming, and want the transparency about where, how and by whom the products were made," said Ethan Song, co-founder and CEO of menswear brand Frank & Oak, which recently announced a partnership with Etsy to offer a curated collection of handmade home goods from Etsy vendors. "Etsy and Pinterest have been successful in creating platforms using this kind of information, offering consumers a more intimate and educational experience [about their products]."
"There has been a great emergence of new Web portals and technologies, like Weebly, Etsy, [etc.] ... that have made business owners out of people who didn't even know they had a product of value or demand," added Jason Martin, chief technology officer of small business online marketing company 29 Prime. "Many local artists and hobbyists have now been able to display their works on a global level through blogs, Pinterest and Instagram, to gain a following. Through that following, they are also able to sell their items globally."
Martin noted that many of these technologies are based on a DIY mentality, too, and that helps these entrepreneurs get up and running more quickly and cheaply. [7 Handmade Business Ideas for Nonartists]
"DIY for small businesses is nothing new," Martin told Business News Daily. "When you are first starting a business, your No. 1 concern is saving money in every possible way so you can use that money to grow in other ways."
So what's the best way to break into the DIY business? Here are a few tips to help you navigate this growing industry.
Create a solid business plan. Because it's relatively easy for a potential handmade-product entrepreneur to open an online shop, it's also easy to forget that, at the core of it, you're running a business. And like any business, you'll need a plan to carry you over the long term, especially when it comes to the financial aspects of your company.
"Form a business plan," said Lyla Rodriguez, president of homemade tea and soap retailer Tea 'n Sanity. "You have to calculate your costs so that you still make a profit because people who buy in the DIY market tend to want things at a lower cost."
"Set a budget for your business and do your very best to stick to it," added Edward Parker, founder of clothing patch company The Easy Patch. "Businesses often slip down the path of spending far too much precious capital on under-researched ideas."
Test your idea. One huge advantage of using third-party marketplace platforms is that there's very low investment and risk involved in testing out your product with your target audience. Parker advised launching your store and putting yourself out there, both on the platform itself and on social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, to see if there's a market for what you're selling.
"Start an Etsy or Amazon store and get going," Parker said. "Participation in the Internet marketplace will help you develop insights into your products' viability."
Think ahead to future growth. If your goal is to transform your business from a side hobby to a full-time gig, you'll need to consider what that growth might entail, including staff expansion.
"There are a lot of technology tools out there that can help any small business that wants to grow," Martin said. "However ... there is a time when you start growing that you will need to hire the right person or company to take over [some aspects of your business], so you can continue to focus on the core."
Remember that your story matters. For some businesses, the novelty of their product is enough to make them stand out in the marketplace. In the DIY space, with so many competing sellers making similar items, you need to emphasize what makes yours different.
"[Find] what is trending and make sure that your products have a demand, [but make] sure you add your own personalized twist on it to stand out from the rest," Rodriguez said.
"Products that are simple enough to manufacture and have a unique story to tell have the potential to be most successful in the DIY space," Song added. "Find something you're really passionate about, and focus on one or two items you can make better than anyone else. Then, make sure your product and the story behind it become one in the same."
Updated on Nov. 20, 2014.