Homemade soap making is something you probably don’t hear about too often. We all know about it but we just assume it’s one of those things ‘crazy aunt Zelda’ does after she puts all her cats to bed.
But homemade soap making is more than that. It’s not just a hobby that a few select folks enjoy. In fact, there is quite a large community of “soapers” and I’m sure they would jump at the opportunity to make money selling homemade soap.
I’ve been brewing my own beer for a few years and I love it. I’d jump at the chance to turn that hobby into a profitable business.
Unfortunately, the laws surrounding selling beer are very strict, requiring special licensing and a number of other complicated factors that would make it a not-so-fun headache, instead of a fun hobby.
Doubly unfortunate, there are also some very strict laws surrounding soap making too. I haven't dug too deep into the law, but according the the comment section, it's a little complicated and strict to comply with the FDA, FTC, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to legally sell soap.
Turns out, sometimes it's a cosmetic item, sometimes it's a drug. Just another reason why promoting soap is going to be a more lucrative venture than selling it. (Find out what that means)
Update 2017: I found this post from Mr. Money Mustache about his wife that's making “five figures” from her soap business. I assume that's yearly. She does give some insight into Etsy selling dollar amounts, how she prices her soaps, and other details.
How to Get Started Making Soap
The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of soap(s) you want to make. There is an unlimited number of styles, scents and looks when it comes to soaps, so don’t get bogged down in all the possibilities.
You can find plenty of “soap recipes” online, just like you can with regular recipes. Start with one that’s simple and go from there. Pinterest is a great place to look for new recipes. I don't actually make soap, so can't comment on which one is the best or the easiest, but the info is out there on websites, YouTube, and social media.
The next logical questions is…
“What Equipment Do I Need?”
Soap, like anything else you make, requires different equipment for different recipes.
There are different processes for making soap — some you can make cold (cold process soap) and others you make with heat (hot process soap).
As you can imagine, hot process soaps require different equipment than cold process soaps. In either case, you can go as big or small as you want.
For example, a professional Chef hoping to open his or her own restaurant is likely going to buy industrial equipment to fit the need.
However, you can cook many of the same things the chef will cook in your home with much less. The same is true for making soaps.
There are large, industrial sized tools you can find to take your soap making venture into the stratosphere.
But let's start small for now. Making soap on a smaller scale requires many of the same things you need when cooking a meal in your home, so you probably already have many of the basic kitchen utensils that you will need for making soap.
Things like crockpots, glass bowls, baking sheets and spoons are all used in soap making.
However, you should expect to spend some money on the things you may be missing. Some less common kitchen items you might need are a kitchen scale, stick blender and a thermometer (all shown below).
You can see the prices for each item in the image.
You may be able to find cheaper versions but I found these on Amazon, and although I didn’t feature the cheapest ones, I certainly did not choose the most expensive.
This gives us a cost of $149.73.
You may, or may not have one or all these items in your home already.
But the cost illustrates the lowest possible amount you could expect to spend to start a soap making business from your home.
Granted, it may not be on these specific items, but given all the variations in making soap (and all the things we haven’t calculated yet, like packaging and storing) I think that number is a fair, if not modest, estimate. It doesn't factor in things like advertising, transportation, shipping, time, ingredients, and other unexpected costs you may run into.
Personally, I would set aside $300-$500 for your business if you want to make money selling homemade soap and are starting with no equipment or supplies.
How Much Can You Make?
Now that we’ve looked in to what it might take to get started making homemade soaps, let’s look at what you can expect to make selling them.
Making homemade soaps allows you the freedom to price things however you see fit. You can charge a buck for your soaps or you can a hundred bucks. It’s completely up to you.
You can look around and see that the price of homemade soaps varies just as much as the different styles of soap. However, in all my research I found one place that all soapers agree is the best place to sell their stuff: Etsy.
Looking at Etsy we can get an idea of what you might expect to make by selling homemade soaps.
Etsy, if you don’t already know, is a marketplace, similar to Amazon, but specifically for people who want to buy handmade things, instead of buying products (like soap) from big department stores. For crafters and DIYers Etsy is a place to sell goods.
Etsy has more than 15,000 listings under “Homemade soap”, ranging in price from 49 cents to over than $5,000!
That’s quite a big difference. However, it seems that most soapers are pricing their listings between $2 and $4.
Some of them are offering multiple bars of soap, while others, like the one above, are selling one bar at a time.
Note: Amazon just launched their Handmade at Amazon store, which is supposed to compete with Etsy, so keep your eye out in the future for deals and support related to Amazon sellers. Oh, and there are plenty of other online marketplaces you can try out as well (though none are as big or well-known)
Etsy doesn’t reveal any information regarding product or seller rankings like Amazon does, so it’s difficult to know exactly how much a seller is making. However, thanks to CraftCount.com, a site that pools information on Etsy sellers, I was able to get an idea.
In the Handmade Bath and Body category I was only able to find a few sellers that are selling homemade soaps only. Most were selling a variety of other things like lotions, shampoos, fabrics, etc.
As of today, October 17, 2015, LoveLeeSoaps is ranked #11 in the Handmade bath and Body Category, making her the #1 result for soap-only sellers.
She has made 24,356 sales since 2007 and almost all of her items are priced around $5, so that means she has only made $14,689 per year.
That’s not a lot of money. It’s certainly more than I thought, but when you break it all down it’s barely minimum wage.
She also sells about 480 different kinds of soaps. Her product listing stretches across twenty pages on Etsy.
With that many different products, I’m sure she is working very hard.
Remember, LoveLeeSoaps has been at this for eight years, and she is barely making enough money to notice. Lots of other sellers aren’t making anything.
The future for soap making doesn't look any brighter either.
I looked at Google trends and found that interest for homemade soaps just isn't there. It's not necessarily going down the drain, but it's certainly not a growing market.
You can see that interests for handmade soap has gone down by a lot since 2005. Since about 2009 interests has simply stagnated. If you're considering building a business you want to be sure the market you are serving has a growing interest, not one that's just so-so.
Just a personal anecdote: A buddy of mine owns a brewery and had a friend of his make some homemade soaps from the excess grain he used to brew beer with. It's quite common to do this, and you can get some really great smelling, fun soaps. However, when the soap maker took her wares to the local farmers market, they only sold one from the entire day.
Plus, I have actually bought beer and coffee soaps online before. Though they are fun and interesting, over a long period of time, they can become super expensive. In my opinion, for the average person, the “fun” factor will only
How Will You Sell Them?
One other thing that you need to think about is how big you want your business to be, and how much time you want to dedicate to growing it. The easy way, that most people envision, is physically selling the soaps at a local market. This is a strategy that doesn't involve too much work, though you do need some preparation!
You'll need a table, maybe a banner, and packaging materials. You'll need to pay stall fees (ranges, about $10-$50/day or $300+ per season), and may be required to get a business license to comply with city regulations.
But to make big money, you need to be selling your goods online, where you can reach more people, 24 hours a day, and anywhere in the country.
If you decide to do that, you'll need to either pay listing fees for sites like Amazon/Etsy, or hosting fees if you decide to sell soaps on your own website. Beyond that, you may need to do some paid advertising, free advertising (blogging), or other forms of promotion. All of this stuff can be learned, and isn't that tough (I do it), but it is another aspect of your business that you need to consider!
And just like that, the creative side of making money selling soap online can be dwarfed by the business side of things. I don't mean to scare you off, but if you are serious about making money and starting a business, you have to consider these things.
Like I often do when researching a new post, I became really interested in soap making! It looks like it could be a lot of fun, and creative sellers seem to make lots of cool and unique products. It could be an awesome side project, or fun hobby-business to keep you busy and make a bit of cash on the side.
But if you want to make money selling homemade soaps, there's a lot more to consider than just the creative side of things! When you factor in the costs for the equipment needed to produce, package, store and ship large amounts of soap I think most soapers are probably spending more than they make. Those that make good money, usually have a wider variety of products available.
However, there is still a way to be involved with homemade soaps and make money without need a ton of time and money. You could simply become an affiliate for Etsy, as well as any other marketplaces similar to it.
Etsy pays its affiliates 4% of everything they help sell. Amazon’s affiliate program pays out about the same amount, 4%, up to 15%. In the affiliate world, this is considered low but there's initial investment and risk on your part.
Anyway, I just wanted to introduce to you the idea of affiliate marketing. You can still be involved in the soap making business world, without actually making products.
As an affiliate I can tell you that making money is much easier when you are simply running a content-based website (like writing a blog) rather than producing, storing and marketing products you had to make by hand.