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Start Your Journey To Becoming A Fursuit Maker
While becoming a furry doesn’t require owning a costume, you see that many people entering the fandom are desperately looking for a fursuit maker to take their commission. Unfortunately, most searches end with the dreaded “not open for commissions” message on an artist’s website or social profile. Although deflated, many new furries remain undeterred from bringing their fursona to life, willing to wait months or years for a slot to open up in an artists’ schedule.
The truth is that furry fandom currently has a big problem, and that is a shortage of quality fursuit businesses that can keep up with the growing demand for commissions. Unlike other fandoms such as Cosplay, where many patrons buy retail costumes, fursuits are typically unique to a single person and aren’t massed produced. While the custom-made nature of furry costumes creates extraordinary pageantry within the culture, it could also be the Achilles heel hindering its growth. The good news is that rising demand creates a great business opportunity for entrepreneurial-minded people looking to roll up the sleeves, and capitalize on their talent and creativity.
You are in luck because, in this article, we will get paws deep, showing you the steps on how to become a fursuit maker. Here are the things you should consider before starting your first commission:
- Take your fursuit business seriously
- Find an online class to enhance your skills
- Have a dedicated fursuit making workspace
- Establish business processes and workflow
- Get a business license and commercial insurance
- Consider jumping in headfirst to start
- Create your fursuit brand
- Get a real website for your business
- Be your first client
- Focus on customer satisfaction
1) Take your fursuit business seriously
Taking yourself seriously when starting your fursuit business may sound like a simple concept, but it can be challenging to execute in the real world without a good plan. It’s no secret that the difference between people who accomplish their goals in life, and those who spend their entire careers standing on the sidelines is often self-belief. Part of the process in developing confidence in your abilities is to surround yourself with symbols of the success you are looking to achieve.
Symbols can come in various forms, such as classes, to enhance your skills or to invest in professional tools so you can feel professional. On a deeper level, it can include moving towards a structure in your personal life that permits you the ability to minimize outside distractions and focus on your goals. If becoming a fursuit maker is your ultimate goal, make sure to take it seriously from day one.
2) Find an online class to enhance your skills
In this age of instant gratification, the thought of needing to learn new skills is typically where most people check out of the fursuit making process. Why? Because learning is time-consuming and requires investing many hours that you would much rather be doing something more tangible for your new business, like making fursuits. The reality is that making costumes is only a fraction of the skills required to run a business efficiently. Although you may be talented with a sewing machine or drawing fursuit referencing sheets, it’s always beneficial to have additional business knowledge. Skills like building a website, eCommerce, digital marketing, managing inventory, and accounting are all critical skills you need if you want to be successful over the long-term.
Another important concept that most people don’t consider is how they will scale their fursuit business once they reach their workload capacity. Techniques and advice regarding these topics can make an incredible impact on how you approach making fursuits, and also help steer you away from some of the potholes you may encounter in the future. Remember to take time and invest in your foundational knowledge.
3) Have a dedicated fursuit making workspace
One of the quickest ways to completely bomb as a fursuit maker is to fail to provide yourself enough adequate space to work. Fursuits are big, sometimes very big, so you will need a dedicated work area that can support the business. Also, you will need a storage area to hold your supplies, such as fabrics, glues, accessories, and manikins, to only name a few.
The problem that many new fursuit entrepreneurs make is that they try to fit a business workspace within their existing living quarters, which often spells an organizational disaster. Your workspace could be a dedicated studio, garage, shed, attic, or an empty room, but make sure the area is allocated for business use only.
4) Establish business processes and workflow
A disorganized business will not only affect your ability to get things done but can also create a negative customer perception of your work. Many new fursuit businesses are quick to want to hit the ground running, enthusiastic about making their first sale. However, far too often, a large portion of them put little to no thought into their internal fursuit business processes and workflow.
These procedures are critical and act as a guide for how you move a customer’s order from initial intake through final delivery. Bypassing this step will likely keep you playing catch up for months or years down the line, causing unnecessary bruises along the way. There are many things to consider here, but here are some critical elements to keep in mind as you develop your processes:
- Order intake
- Customer communication
- Tracking fursuit construction milestones
- Capacity planning
- Supplies ordering
- Mail and delivery
- Customer satisfaction and feedback
5) Get a business license and commercial insurance
As you are probably aware, purchasing a custom fursuit is not a cheap activity, and you will likely be charging thousands of dollars for your services to customers. If you are going into business for yourself as a fursuit maker, it’s highly recommended that you first obtain a business license and insurance for both perception and personal liability protection. There are many excellent legal resources on the internet explaining why having both are essential assets to any business owner, so we won’t cover those details specifically here in this post. However, it’s a wise decision to take the time and make your company official in the eyes of the government.
6) Consider jumping in headfirst to start
It’s vital to assess your capabilities and make some important decisions when you launch your fursuit business. One of those decisions will be to decide if you will offer a buffet of fursuit garments or focus on specializing in a single type. While it may be tempting to offer everything including head-only fursuits, partial fursuits, full-body fursuits, and additional customization options, you could be taking on a lot more than you can handle starting day one. There are some obvious, and some not so obvious benefits to having a more focused selection of furry items. Let’s look at some of the possible benefits of having a limited-service offering when starting out:
- Reduction in the cost of buying materials in bulk
- Less inventory and storage cost
- Become an expert craftsperson in a particular suit or accessory
- Develope a reputation as being the best at a specific niche fursuit
7) Create your fursuit brand
Having a unique brand name and logo from day one is essential when you start selling your marketing your services. Every major company in the world has brand awareness within their industry, providing an identifiable trademark that resonates with customers. While this part of the process can be exciting, it’s also important that you keep the right perspective when it comes to branding.
However, a brand is only as good as its reputation within its market. A mistake that many people make is spending far too much time thinking about a brand name or logo, instead of the more tangible aspects of building your fursuit empire that we outlined previously. Remember, you can have the most creative logo and fancy name in the world, but if you don’t have a good reputation within the furry fandom community, and don’t have customers, well then everything else it’s pretty worthless.
8) Create a real website for your business
If you are a regular visitor of YellowZebra Sports, then you have probably seen multiple articles explaining in depth why having your website is critical regardless if you have a business, team, or brand. The fact is that while social media can be a fantastic tool when promoting your fursuit making business, it should never be the foundation of your marketing and sales efforts. Why? The reason is that you don’t own your social media account or followers. A social media platform can suspend or delete your account for any reason at any time, making it an unnecessarily risky way to build or maintain your fursuit business.
Imagine two years from now, logging into your social media account only to realize that you were hit with a policy violation, and all of your tweets, followers, and conversations with customers were gone. To make matters worse, you did not have any other form of a backup platform, like a website, to manage the public-facing side of your business. When it comes to mitigating risks within your new fursuit making venture, remember one of the best decisions you can make is to build your own website.
9) Be Your First Client
You have come a long way since step one, congratulations, but now it’s time to put everything together in preparation for your first customer. You! The goal here is to treat yourself, family member, or friend as your first customer. Take them through your entire workflow from beginning to end, allowing them to beta test your business processes from a customer’s perspective.
This data you collect from this experiment is critical because their feedback will allow you to become more efficient in how you ultimately deliver fursuits to real customers. Tracking experiences with things like intake forms, sending status updates on order progress, delivery timelines, or software programs are all examples of great ways to put yourself in the shoes of a customer.
10) Leave a memorable impression and ask for a social share
The focus of all your efforts should be providing the best quality fursuit garment possible and a memorable customer service experience. Remember that your service is much more than just providing a fursona, it’s also a potentially life-changing experience for someone to be able to express themselves in new artistic ways. So when a customer continually nags you about costume delivery dates or completion timelines, keep in mind that most of the time, it’s because of excitement.
Always maintain an empathic approach and try to exceed their expectations if possible. Going above a customer’s expectations makes it a lot easier to request and obtain a social share, which can be the gateway to many more clients!
You are now ready to become a fursuit maker
Remember, the road to living out a dream will undoubtedly come with obstacles, but each challenge you overcome just puts you one step closer to your goals. While there are many other great tips we would have included in this post, these should get you going in the right direction!
Now it’s time for you to get involved down in the comments! What do you think about this list of 10? What did we miss? Make sure to comment down below, share this article on social media, and keep coming back from more furry related content!