THIS POST INCLUDES:

1. Why make therapy products?
2. Types of Art Therapy Products
3. Create your Art Therapy Product
4. Manufacturing your Art Therapy Product
5. Marketing your Art Therapy Product
6. Free Download Product Manufacturing Source List

WHY MAKE THERAPY PRODUCTS?

The idea of making, selling, and marketing products may feel unconformable to many therapists. They may feel the position as a proprietor infringes on the sacred relationship that exists between therapist and client. As therapists we are also ethically bound to ensure that our marketing efforts are sensitive to the vulnerable position of our clients.

Producing products for your clients to use can be used in a number of ways:

  • Direct selling of the product from you to your client
  • Giving the product to your client to use out of sessions
  • Providing the use of the product to your client during sessions only

As you can see from the above, you can choose to still produce products for use in your art therapy business because you believe the tool you have created is useful for your clients. It is up to you whether you provide this tool for an additional cost or whether you provide it free of charge.

As therapists, we all use tools and resources within our practice to help facilitate creative work. Creating your own products is adding to your available tools to use.

To read more about marketing and ethics for therapists, be sure to check out our previous blog post: The Best Marketing Methods for Art Therapists

Marketing is an essential part of any art therapy practice, because it can help your potential new client initially find your practice to help them.

The types of products that you make will dictate the type of marketing that you undertake. As an art therapist, you can create products that are not relevant to your core client base, and instead are applicable to other types of work you do in your practice. This could include:

  • Corporate work
  • Government work
  • Community work
  • Consulting work
  • Workshops/Courses
    Work with other therapists

Your ‘customer’ for the physical products that you sell may not be applicable to your client work only, and therefore it’s important to remain open minded about the ways in which you can develop and sell physical products relating to your art therapy work.

If your physical product is relevant to your client work, you can still market your products to clients, however, to ensure you don’t breach any ethical guidelines or cross any boundaries that you are are also personally uncomfortable it’s a good idea to implement a system to follow that protects your client and your therapeutic relationship.

Your goal should always be to improve therapeutic outcomes for your client and your services and products can help facilitate that process. With that point of view in mind, you should only offer products to any of your clients when it is in the client’s best interests and will improve their therapeutic outcomes.

TYPES OF ART THERAPY PRODUCTS

The art therapy products you create can stem from the three main categories of products defined as:

  • Products that have a therapeutic benefit to clients
  • Products that provide an educational benefit to clients, community, and colleagues
  • Products that serve as a marketing tool for your therapy practice. Eg cups, magnets, tote bags etc

You can also sell products based on three different methods of production and manufacturing:

  • Repackaged products – these are products that you purchase that are already manufactured and repackage them into a bundle or collection of your own. In some cases you will need permission from the original manufacturer to label the product with your brand, in other cases you can simply rebrand as your own. An example of this may be creating an art tools package that contains a generic paint brush, cotton buds, paddle pop sticks etc
  • White label products – these products are manufactured by a company and allow you to rebrand it with your business logo and branding. An example of this may be a paint company that allows you to place your name and logo on the packaging as your brand of paint.
  • Unique designs – this is a product that you have designed, developed, and conceived of your own imagination and then approach a manufacturing company to bring the item into production. Examples of this might be a paintbrush you have specifically designed to be used for clients who have a physical disability and find it difficult to use traditionally designed paintbrushes.

The other option is to resell products which involves purchasing products that are already manufactured and marketing by a named brand. You purchase at a discounted wholesale price and resell the product to your customers with all of the original packaging and branding in place. This option is not explored any further in this article as it is purely a retail sale, whereas this article focuses on selling products under your own art therapy practice brand.

You can create your products using two main strategies:

  • Print on demand – the item is created only when the item has been ordered by a customer. A number of print on demand companies can provide this service with a quick turnaround period of only days.
  • Mass production – a quantity of the item is produced in advance and sold to the customer once they purchase it. This is the primary strategy used if you create a product using a manufacturer that is based overseas and production and shipping timeframes may take months.

Below are some ideas of products you can create. For some products you can have them shipped by another company if you are only selling online. For other products you may choose to only sell in your physical art therapy practice and ship them directly to customers:

  • Art therapy tools
  • Art therapy supplies
  • Art therapy books
  • Art therapy workbooks
  • Tote bags for carrying art supplies
  • Electronic device skins (eg, mobile phone, tablets etc)
  • Art prints including posters, canvases, cards etc
  • Mugs and other ceramics
  • Wearable products such as t-shirts, scarves, hats, art aprons etc
  • Planners and other organizational tools
  • Fabric
  • Board games
  • Calendars
  • Hardware and software that helps your clients manage their mental health (eg. Self-care)

One product you may be interested in creating is index cards. Be sure to read our previous blog post about making index cards to sell: How to Create Art Index Cards for Your Therapy Business

CREATE YOUR ART THERAPY PRODUCT

Before you produce your product, you need to create your product so that it becomes a physical manifestation of what’s in your mind.

This might involve designing your product from ideas in your head or instead using already created ideas and applying your twist to make the product more suitable for your therapy practice.

You can choose to design the product yourself and work with the manufacturing company on providing your product specifications in the format they require, or you may wish to hire a designer who can turn your ideas into the final product design.

Professional designers are educated on the various specifications that manufacturing companies require when you design is provided to them. This includes knowing the product measurements, as well as the specific colours that you want. The manufacturing process can be an expensive mistake to make if you don’t supply the designs as the manufacturer requires them.

If you are creating a white label product, the manufacturer will already have the product specifications designed and may only require your logo or packaging branding. You can supply this yourself or work with a professional designer if you want to ensure that all aspects are covered.

The general process of creating a product involves:

  • Imagine the product
  • Design the product
  • Prototype and test the product
  • Refine the product after testing
  • Produce the product

The imagining and design phases can be done by yourself, however, once you need a prototype you will need to start working with a manufacturing company.

You may want to create a few protoypes of your own using basic materials and try and refine your design process before submitting your requirements to a manufacturer. The more you can finalise outside of the manufacturing process, the more you can ensure that all problems and issues are resolved before you begin paying third party companies any of your money.

You may also want to gather some feedback from other people before you begin the manufacturing process. This will help provide you with a broader opinion of your product. Often, when we give our ideas to other people who are not familiar with the field of expertise behind the product design, we can start to gain insight from a variety of experiences that will determine whether our product is confusing, difficult, or simply doesn’t work.

To find designers you may want to use services that help you connect with freelance designers such as:

MANUFACTURING YOUR ART THERAPY PRODUCT

The general process of manufacturing a product involves:

  • Finalise your design
  • Choosing your supplier
  • Ship your product to you
  • Ship the product to your customer (retail or wholesale)
  • Manage inventory and reorder where necessary

The steps above apply specifically when you are ordering products in volume and managing the inventory yourself.

If you choose to use print on demand services, you generally only need to upload your design to the print on demand website and then the product is shipped to your customer directly without the need for you to manage inventory.

This is a more cost effective and efficient way of selling products as you are not required to invest a significant amount of money in inventory that is sitting on a a shelf waiting for a customer to purchase.

The main limitation on using print on demand services is that most print on demand companies offer a limited style of product that is available for sale. Fortunately as more and more people use the print on demand services, the industry can now offer far more products then offered at least 5 years ago. You are also trusting that the company will handle your orders and customer service in a professional manner.

If you use a print on demand service, you can search for reviews online about the print on demands reputation. You may also want to make a small purchase from the print on demand service to test the process yourself on how sales are handled.

PRODUCT REQUIREMENTS:

Regardless of where you source your products from, you should give careful consideration to the following important product specifications, including:

  • The aesthetics of the product – is the product nice to touch, smell, and look at?
  • The durability of the product – does the product withstand multiple uses
  • The user interface/interaction – is the product confusing to use, can the product be used intuitively
  • Target demographic – who is this product for and will this product be supported by this market
  • Function – does the product do what you said it would do?

Below is a list of print on demand and short manufacturing businesses:

MANUFACTURING:

If you’re specifically looking to print books or workbooks, the following businesses print on demand:

You may also want to use a local office supplies store such as Officeworks, Staples (depending on your country) where you can print small runs in person have an inventory of your books on hand as well as having a convenient way to quickly reprint locally.

MARKETING YOUR ART THERAPY PRODUCT

Once you have created your product, your marketing approach will depend on who your target customer is for your product. For example, you would market your products differently if your product was intended for corporate clients, individual clients, or your peers.

Below are some of the more common places to market your products:

  • On your website
  • Newsletter
  • Private practice office
  • Social media
  • Markets
  • Conventions
  • Community events
  • Industry networks such as associations
  • Allied health professionals and hospitals
  • Government departments that relate to your product area

FURTHER READING

To read more about marketing for therapists, be sure to check out our previous blog posts:

FREE DOWNLOAD: Art Therapy Exercise

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