Ah yes, I can still remember the day when I naively decided to learn how to make candles at home as a hobby. It was supposed to be my escapism, a way of relaxing and destressing from a punishingly long week in the office. The notion of candle making doubling up as a side hustle was the furthest thing from my pea sized mind. But fast-forward a year later and that’s exactly what happened…it became a freakin’ side hustle!
When I started my candle business, I initially opted for a hybrid wax blend consisting of beeswax & coconut oil, but later transitioned to only using rapeseed wax, due to beeswax being classified as an animal product, but I knew I wanted to produce 100% vegan friendly candles so I had to rebrand. Note to self...always do your research to avoid making costly schoolboy (or girl) errors like this!
Over the year’s candles have become a lucrative commodity as people find more uses for them. Today they have grown wildly popular as home decor elements, with people increasingly including them in their interior decoration to create a homely and relaxing atmosphere.
Candle fragrances are now available in such dizzying variety, ranging from fresh, fruity, floral, musky to dessert inspired and everything in-between, the options are truly limitless!
I remember a time when paraffin candles were the only available scented candles on the market. But in more recent times there has been an influx of more natural plant inspired waxes such as soy wax, palm oil wax, rapeseed wax, and coconut oil wax, just to name a few.
Candle Making Tutorials - YouTube
Of all the arts and crafts hobbies that I could have happened upon why candles?...
Surprisingly candles are one of the simplest products to craft at home using some basic tools and equipment. I can still remember enthusiastically watching my first candle making tutorial on YouTube. It explained how to melt wax on a cooker by filling a large saucepan with water and then inserting an aluminum pouring pitcher to create a double boiler.
The wax was then added and melted on a low heat; the temperature was monitored with a thermometer to ensure it didn’t overheat. Once melted the pan was lifted off the heat to allow the wax to cool and reach optimum temperature before adding fragrance oil and colouring. The cooling wax was poured into a glass vessel, complete with centered wick.
As with cheese (yeah you heard me!) candles need to cure for around 2 days to 2 weeks, the length of time depends on the type of wax used. The curing process, at a molecular level, enables the fragrance oil to effectively penetrate and infuse with the wax, thus resulting in a better performing candle when lit.
Although it’s fair to say following a step-by-step process to candle making is relatively straightforward, what’s EXTREMELY difficult is mastering the skills and techniques required in order to make the perfect burning AND smelling candle. For me, YouTube tutorial videos such as Standley Handcrafted, and Timber Ridge Gifts are invaluable resources.
DIY Candle Making Kit – For Beginners
The learning curve for candle making can range from moderate to frustratingly difficult. This is because there are so many variables involved that you can only master the technique through trial and error. Inevitably you will encounter difficulties and setbacks along the way (i.e. candles frosting, sweating, tunneling or developing sinkholes).
As a novice beginner the best way to learn the basics is to purchase a DIY candle making kit. A simple trip to your local arts and crafts shop or an online search can yield some good results. The objective is to avoid purchasing expensive tools and equipment too early in the game, as you may have a change of heart and decide this just isn’t for you.
The contents of a complete DIY candle making kit depends on the price paid, but should typically include:
Remember your kit may have more or fewer items. Besides the content of the kit, consider the quality as well. If you are aiming for premium candles, then you need raw materials of the highest standards. So, don't get enticed by cheap pretty kits on the market, remember the long game is for this to become a legitimate commercial venture.
With practice you will gradually advance from being a nervous novice to a seasoned pro, with enough confidence to seriously turn your hobby into a profitable side business.
How To Sell Candles At Craft Fairs
So, now you have beautiful handmade candles, but where do you sell them? The first crucial decision is whether to sell online or offline, as finding a suitable marketplace to sell your products is another aspect to consider. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s about what serves your needs best.
My first selling experience was at a local craft fair, I thought I was going to sell shit loads (technical term!), but I only sold two all day! oh the shame...
Not knowing how to sell candles at craft fairs might feel a little daunting, but it does get easier over time. If you are confident and have good sales and communication skills, direct selling might be the best way to go.
You can find lots of local craft fairs and farmers markets via Facebook Events, so don’t waste good money buying stallholder directories. Usually, you can hire a stall for around £40/day (depending on size and scale of the event). The busiest time of year for such events is typically Mother’s Day, Bank Holidays and during the Christmas festive season, this is when you can maximise your chances of selling more products.
Please be aware that you will require Public Liability Indemnity Insurance, this is to protect you against a claim should a member of the public become injured as a result of your negligence. An example would be a customer tripping over and banging their head because you left some boxes lying around. Usually event holders will request to see proof of your insurance certificate before allowing you to hire a stall.
The other type of insurance you will require (whether you sell directly or online) is Products Liability Indemnity Insurance, this is to protect you against an insurance claim should a customer become injured as a direct result of using your products. An example would be a customer suing you because a candle glass cracked causing a potential fire hazard. In this instance your insurer would cover your legal costs, and if you won the claim because it transpired that the customer was at fault (i.e. they accidentally dropped and damaged the candle) no further action would be taken. However, if you were found to be at fault due to negligence (i.e. you used cheap knockoff materials) your insurer would be required to pay compensation as well as cover the claimant’s legal costs.
The UK insurer that I like to use is Hayes Parsons, as they specialise in market trader’s liability insurance and they provide both Public and Product Liability Indemnity Insurance cover for up to £5 million for as little as £60/year.
Where To Sell Handmade Crafts Online – Best Marketplaces
Fortunately, thanks to the internet it’s easier than ever to start a business without incurring major setup costs. So, if you don’t wish to sell in person, you can always sell your candles online. But where is the best place to sell handmade crafts online?... as a small handmade crafts business there are specialist online marketplaces eagerly awaiting your artisan candles.
ETSY is especially customised for handmade crafts. Billions of buyers flock the site for everything from candles to art to jewellery. You can quickly create a profile and post your crafts with no trouble at all. At Etsy, you get to reach a more specific target audience.
Amazon Handmade is dedicated to offering one of a kind handmade goods, its sole aim is to support small businesses and solopreneurs who are wanting to expand their customer base via the Amazon platform. Not everyone can sell on Amazon Handmade, you must apply by completing an online application form.
Folksy like to refer to themselves as the home of British craft. They are more focused on supporting the craftsperson, as opposed to ETSY whose focus is on pleasing the customer. Personally, I like Folksy's approach, as a happy crafter ultimately results in happy customers 😊
NuMonday considers themselves to be the affordable alternative to ETSY. Their ethos is about championing independent, talented, creatives without fleecing them in the process. Unlike other online marketplaces, NuMunday doesn’t charge commission fees or product listing fees, woohoo!
Handmade Candles – Social Media Strategy
Owning your own Website is the best investment that you will ever make for your online business, as you get to retain ultimate control (mwahahaha – evil laugh). You can also set your own T&Cs such as shipping costs, customer returns policy, refunds, etc. It’s also a good way of building trust and presenting yourself as a professional business. The next step would be to implement a social media strategy which will drive traffic back to your oh-so-sexy ecommerce store.
Facebook founded in 2004, is the go-to for local sales. You can create a business page that lets you target local users. Sellers have the choice of sharing their listings on other Facebook profile pages and groups to increase sales and brand awareness.
Instagram founded in 2019 for photo sharing, has eye-catching shoppable posts where you can curate content to suit your branding. Personally, I find that customers are more engaging on Instagram compared to Facebook, and it’s much easier to gain new followers.
Pinterest founded in 2010, the site is a favourite for many shoppers looking for category-specific products and is always a good bet for handmade goods. Home decor is one of the most searched sections on the platform. The majority of the site’s users are female, which is ideal given that over 80% of all candles purchased are by women.
Candle Business – Rules and Regulations
As a Chandler (AKA candle maker) you do not need a license to sell candles, but you will need to understand your legal obligations regarding UK legislation and regulation. For example, there are mandatory requirements that you must obey such as Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP), General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR). I highly recommend the two following resources.
British Candlemakers Federation. Represents UK candle makers and candle suppliers while setting the standards for candles made in Britain. Visit britishcandles.org
The Association of European Candle Makers. Promotes the European candle industry by delivering solutions to ensure the safe use and enjoyment of candles. Visit europeancandles.org
As a small batch candle manufacturer, you can either trade as a Limited Company or as a Sole Trader. The key differences between the two are as follows;
Limited Company is recognised as a separate legal entity, meaning your personal assets (AKA your arse) is covered! Companies House requires you to file annual accounts. Corporation Tax is payable each year to HMRC. For more information read how to prepare a company tax return
Sole Trader means you and your business are the same entity, meaning your personal assets (your arse) is not-covered! so you better have indemnity insurance. Income Tax and National Insurance is payable to HMRC via an online Self-Assessment portal. There is a tax-free income allowance before Self Assessments are applicable. For more information checkout how to set up as a Sole Trader
As you have seen making candles at home can be more than just a hobby to occupy your free time and help you unwind; it can also be a profitable business. Hopefully this information has given you plenty of insight and ideas for how to begin.
Blog Recommendation: Top 7 Handmade Marketplaces