Make Your Business Stand Out In A Crowded Market

Make your Business Stand out in a Crowded Market

We all know someone who is an amazing singer.

The star of the school musicals or the lead soloist from church choir.

We’ve all got a friend, relative, or classmate who could out-vibrato anyone on the top 20 charts.

And yet? Most of these amazingly talented people will never “make it big.”

Why? The music industry is so saturated with talent to pick and choose from, that talent alone isn’t enough.

Arguably, talent isn’t even the most important thing.

Bestselling author Stephen King once said that there were writers much, much more talented than him– but they would never be as successful. Why? Because they weren’t willing to put in the same amount of work.

I agree with King. It’s going to take a lot more work on your part in order to stand out. But I feel it’s important to note that it’s not just the person who works the hardest who makes it, either.

Rather, it’s the person whose brand attracts a large enough, and loyal enough following that will stand out.

Think about it.

When you hear the performer name “Lady Gaga,” do you think “Ah, yes. The one with the nice singing voice.” OR do you think of LADY GAGA, the woman and the BRAND in it’s entirely?

Being the whip-smart woman that she is, Lady Gaga did not bank on her vocal abilities alone. She created a memorable brand persona that would be immediately recognizable, attract her target market, and stand out from other performers of the same caliber. Whether or not you are a fan of her music, you have to admire her fan-focus in an industry that requires sold-out tour dates to maintain record contracts.

Same goes for Stephen King. As a member of his loyal following, you can expect that I’m going to pick up and read any new book that he puts out. Because I am familiar with his established brand, I have a good idea of what I can expect from a King novel and don’t even need to read the inside of the jacket cover to decide if I’m interested or not. If he wrote it, I’m in.

Now let’s apply these same principals to your business.

It can be daunting to think about how you can make yourself stand out in a saturated market.

I sell jewelry, the most saturated market in handmade by a long shot, so I know. I’m right there with you.

To move past the overwhelm it helps to shift your focus.

Rather than thinking “How am I going to stand out?” think “How am I going to make my brand the most appealing to my target market?”

Because that’s where it all begins.

Lady Gaga isn’t worried about competing with Marilyn Manson, and Stephen King isn’t worried about competing with Nicholas Sparks. They may be in the same industry, technically, and while there is probably some crossover, they are generally targeting different audiences.

Be a Lady Gaga

By shifting your focus from your product category to your audience, you can turn your business into a brand irresistible to its loyal following.

Consider your brand’s touch points and what you can do to make them more attractive to your target market.

Think about what’s lacking in your market that your customers are searching for. Can you tweak your products so they fulfill an unmet or undermet need?

You may wish you could have a successful, booming business right this second. (Who doesn’t?) But it’s through trial and error you will be able to tweak your brand until it’s something that draws a loyal following of it own. If you put enough effort into it, it won’t matter that there are thousands of other sellers in your category, or that everybody knows somebody who can “do what you do.”

Because we all know somebody who can hit the high notes, yet Lady Gaga’s tour dates continue to sell out.

Let’s Rock Your Business – New 2017 Weekly Business Planner

“How on earth do you have time for everything?”

I get asked this a lot.

As someone with multiple handmade businesses, a full-time 40-hours-a-week job, a kid under a year old, and several relationships to maintain with the hubby, family, and friends, I can see where they’re coming from.

The short answer is this: I define my priorities, set long term and short term goals based on those priorities, and break those goals down into projects with individual tasks that I can map out for myself in reasonable chunks of time throughout the year.

Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be.

I created a tool to help myself (and anyone else who wants to help themselves) accomplish exactly what I need in order to manage my business and life.

Hence, the Rock 2017 Business and Life Planner.

Weekly Business Planner Download 2017

I introduced this printable planner last year for the end of 2015 through 2016, and it was such a big hit, I’ve updated it for re-release.

I’ve purchased a lot of planners. And by a lot, I mean A LOT.

But none of them could fully give me what I needed to manage all of my priorities, maintain my busy schedule, and keep me focused on my overall goals. So I designed one that could.

The Rock 2017 planner includes introductory pages to help you envision your long-term goals, set your priorities, and break them down into individual tasks that you can plot out throughout the year.

Taking action on what needs to be done will become so much more effortless after you know exactly what you need to do.

Each month contains a box to remind you of your overall focus for that month, and each week gives you space to define your priorities, make to-do lists, and space for reflection/learning once the week is completed.

This is a weekly planner unlike anything you’ve seen before. It not only helps you keep track, it helps you define your track to start with, and learn from your experiences from week to week as you go along.

Because the Rock 2017 planner is sold as an instant download, printable PDF, you can claim your own copy for just $2.99.

Really, that’s a small price to pay for the tool you need to “have time for everything.”

Click here to order your copy.

Starting from Zero: How to Get Sales on Opening Day {Part 3}

Welcome to Part 3 of the Starting from Zero blog series, where I’m explaining exactly how to get sales from your new handmade business beginning DAY ONE.

Need to catch up?

In Part 1 I introduced you to my new handmade business, Twisted Pixies, and showed you how I went from the fear of starting a new handmade business to a demonstrably successful launch, despite having a small list of less than 100 e-mail subscribers.

In Part 2 I explained the most important step in prepping your new business for launch. If you skipped that post you’re going to want to check it out before moving on. Trust me, you’ll be sad if you don’t.

Now, for Part 3, I’m going to go over the exact production and marketing plan I executed to launch Twisted Pixies. It’s far from perfect, but I hope it will help you go from crickets to cha-chings when you launch your own handmade businesses.

Launch your Handmade Business to Sales

After determining who my target market would be (you can read about how I did this in Part 2), the next step in launching my new business was two fold: branding and products.

Because I knew who I was making my business for (hint: my target customers, not myself), these two things were really the easy part.

After just a few hours of customer research, I was already bursting with new product ideas.

For my initial product line, I settled on creating leather chokers with matching earrings, using my own glass eye cabochons as centerpieces to the designs. These are products that would be unique enough to stand out among the rest of the Gothic/Alternative market, but still fit within the style my target audience was already looking for and purchasing.

eye gothic choker

For branding, I went with images and colors that my audience appeared to favor, but that would stand out from the rest of the competition vying for the same demographic. That’s why I went with purple, black, dark green, and light blue, instead of the red and black I’m personally more prone to (as you can tell from my main website.)

Twisted Pixies

With the branding determined, and the products in production, I moved onto the next two-fold steps of marketing:

Getting traffic and funneling them to my new e-mail list

To do this I bought the hosting package for my new website (I purchased from Bluehost which included the domain name) and set up a very simple Coming Soon page with my new logo. On it I invited visitors to enter their name and e-mail address.

With nothing to bribe them with (I couldn’t offer a discount code, for example), I asked for e-mails in exchange for exclusive sneak peeks.

To get people to visit my Coming Soon page (and hopefully enter their e-mail address), I set up a new Facebook page, Instagram account, and Pinterest account.

Twisted Pixies Coming Soon

The emphasis of these new social media accounts? Tease. Tease. Tease!

I showed images of the behind-the-scenes production of my leather chokers (hardly giving anything away) and promised even more, better exclusive looks if people signed up for e-mail updates.

leatherwork

As launch day grew closer and closer, the sneak peeks got more intense.

I included short videos I taped during my lifestyle photo shoot.

I shared some of the sneak peeks from my Facebook page to relevant groups that i knew my target audience was hanging out in. I figured out what hashtags my audience was using on Instagram and added them to the captions of the photos I shared there. All the time building up more and more excitement.

It started working. I got several list sign ups and people were getting excited for launch day.

But I wanted even more.

So I hosted a giveaway on my Facebook page, and promoted it on Instagram to draw even more people to it.

Twisted Pixies Giveaway

By offering people a chance to win a choker and earrings set before they could even buy it, I built up anticipation for when people would be able to actually get their hands on the jewelry whether they won or not. The giveaway added several more e-mails to my list, and even more followers and shares on my social media accounts.

Throughout the launch period I nurtured my e-mail list. I sent them even more sneak peeks than I shared on social media, explained the why behind my businesses so I could resonate with them, all the while building up trust and anticipation.

Finally, launch day hit, and my audience was ready.

Even with an e-mail list of less than 100 people, Twisted Pixies got sales from day one.

The basic production and marketing formula I used was the following:

new business launch sequence

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that most people don’t see until after launch happens.

This is why sometimes it can look like a brand new business opens up and is suddenly successful, and you’re left scratching your head and wondering how in the heck they’re getting sales but you’re not.

Now you know why.

The time it took for me to go from audience research to launch was about 3 months. (I wasn’t shooting for perfection, because we all know how much of a stalling tactic that can be.)

It could take you the same amount of time, shorter, or longer.

My point here is that if you put in the work to build and execute a launch, you’ll be setting yourself up for success from then on out.

Now, of course, I know what you’re gonna ask.

But what about after launch? How do I keep my customers coming back and buying more?

Ah, yes.

What I think is so awesome is that I get to use my very real handmade businesses as test cases for you. I enjoy tweaking, experimenting, and trying new things. Then, as I figure out what actually works, I come back and report to you.

I’d rather give you advice based on what really worked for me, rather than some theory I’ve read about online somewhere.

So stay tuned. Because you know that as soon as I start seeing results from some of my efforts, I’m going to be sharing them with you.

Be sure to sign up for e-mail updates from me, if you haven’t already, that way you don’t miss my next post. It’s bound to contain even more useful information you can apply to your own handmade business.

Starting from Zero: How to Get Sales On Opening Day {Part 2}

Welcome to Part 2 of the Starting from Zero blog series, all about launching a new handmade business.

(If you need to catch up, you can read Part 1 here.)

In this post I’m going to discuss the most important step when launching a new business.

Yet it’s the part so many people skip over.

They think of a product they want to sell, and get too excited to wait. So they just throw it out there, and unless they get lucky by sheer coincidence, they launch to crickets.

If you skip the step I’m about to explain to you, you can rest assured that crickets are going to be the most likely result.

I hate to break it to you, but you can’t plan on any amount of success unless you do this work first. But don’t worry, I’m going to show you how.

So what’s the first step to a successful handmade business launch? Producing a product line? Designing a website? Building an e-mail list? Setting up a Facebook page?

It’s none of those things.

The first, and most important step for a successful launch and business, is to define your target audience.

You have to know your market first before you can be certain that the products you are designing for them will be something they will want to buy. twisted pixies lookbook

If you start with your ideal customer, and then work on your product line from there, you’ll be working towards an almost guaranteed loyal customer base. When you know your market inside and out, you’ll know exactly what sort of products to make for them that will bring in the sales.

(Please note: this doesn’t mean you have to create products you hate. It’s just about finding the sweet spot between what you like, and what your customers like. A win-win for everyone!)

So how do you find your target market?

Well, fortunately, because of the internet, it is easier than ever to do market research. It just requires a little bit of internet stalking on our part.

Allow me to explain.

Here are the exact steps I took to research my audience prior to launching Twisted Pixies:

Step 1: Think of one, individual customer. This is not just any customer, but your ultimate, ideal customer. You can fill out the ideal customer worksheet included in the free sample of my Run a Handmade Business and KEEP Your Day Job Course to help you get a handle on it. But make sure you aren’t too set in stone here. What you are looking for is a starting point, after we delve in deeper in the research, the perimeters of what you consider an ideal customer might change.

Step 2: Write down some of the major stores your ideal customer shops at, people/things he or she is a fan of, groups he or she is a part of, magazines he or she reads, and so on. Write down all the major ones you can think of.

Step 3: If you can only come up with 1 or 2 stores you think your Ideal customer would shop at, plug those stores’ web addresses into SimilarWeb.com to find more options. Write those down too.

Similar Web

Step 4: Click through to the social media profiles of the stores/magazines/fan clubs/etc. from the previous 2 steps. Check out who the real people are who are following and engaging with their social media accounts. Really take your time here, this step is where you are gathering the most valuable information.

Step 5: Write down overall trends. For example, if you find out your target audience hates the color orange (or loves it), how they respond to certain products shown by the stores they follow, what posts they are most likely to recommend to their friends, their likes/dislikes, style sense, and so on.

Step 6: Keep repeating Steps 4 and 5 until you have a decent amount of information to work with. Then, for Step 6, pick through that information to see what applies to you. By now you should have a much better idea of what products, shapes, colors, marketing, design, etc. will appeal to your target demographic. This isn’t about guessing, it’s about making strategic business decisions based on what real people are going to respond to.

Step 7: Get to work making products that you now KNOW will be a hit with your target audience.

If you take the time to do these steps, it will be really hard for you to fail your handmade business launch.

But wait, we’re not done yet! In Part 3 of this blog series I’m going to give you a complete marketing plan for how, exactly, to set up your launch campaign so you can open your new business door with a bang. We’re going to get you sales from DAY ONE. Stay tuned for that.

 

Starting from Zero: How to Get Sales On Opening Day {Part 1}

In this post I’m going to give you a peek behind the scenes of the recent launch of my latest handmade business, Twisted Pixies.

Like my main business, Megan’s Beaded Designs, this new business offers my handmade beaded jewelry, but it focuses on a more niche alternative fashion/gothic market.

It was a spontaneous decision on my part to start a new business, and not the best timing with everything else going on in my personal life. But once I got the idea in my head, I just couldn’t shake it.

Starting a new business is scary.

Why?

Because it might not work.

There’s a lot of money, time, and emotional energy that gets front-loaded into a business before the public even gets a chance to let you know if it’s any good.

I wondered if my success with my handmade business so far has just been a fluke.

What if it’s all been pure luck? Maybe it was just the result of me just-so-happening to do the right things at the right times without even realizing it?

But then again…  what if it’s not? What if I’ve actually learned a thing or two about running a handmade business, and opening up a new one is my chance to start over, except, now I get to do it knowing what I know now?

(Ever wish you could go back to high school, just for a day, with all of your grown-up wisdom and knowledge that you’ve acquired since? This was kinda like my chance to do that.)

And so, from what started as a fleeting whim, I created Twisted Pixies.

twisted pixies website

Going from the initial idea to launch took just over two months, a period of time which included brand development, setting up a new e-mail list and new social media accounts, designing and producing new product lines, getting professionally modeled and photographed lifestyle shots, and creating an entirely new website.

Is my work done? Far from it. There are still products that need to be listed and holes on the website that need to be filled, marketing that needs to be mapped out, and more. The social media platforms created for Twisted Pixies are still in their infancy (where much of the energy will be dedicated to building a following), and my e-mail list for this site is still under 100 subscribers.

Needless to say, there is A LOT of work left to do.

But you know what?

Twisted Pixies started bringing in sales on DAY ONE.

This is not something I could claim when I opened my main website. There was took a lot of tweaking and promoting before I was able to build the following, trust, and funnel to start getting sales there instead of over on my Etsy shops or other marketplace platforms.

So what did I do differently?

I launched with a BANG instead of a whimper.

I cultivated a small audience of targeted followers who were EXCITED and READY TO BUY before they were even able to.

There were people waiting at their computers for the strike of midnight, when I flipped the switch and turned the website on.

facebook-comment-20-minutes

This wasn’t by accident. To combat my fears of no one caring, I put a lot of effort into building up the excitement for this launch. And, hooray, hooray, it worked.

In my next post, I’m going to show you, step-by-step, how I did it. Stay tuned.

 

But first, I want to hear from you! In the comments below, tell me how YOU felt when opening your handmade business. Were you shaking in your boots? Just curious enough to give this handmade thing a try? Or are you too scared to give your handmade business a try? I’d love to read your story.

When you only have so much time…

Like the rest of us, you only have so much time.

It’s tough, but you gotta prioritize.

How to prioritize in your handmade business

Those of us running businesses–especially handmade businesses–have more than our fair share of tasks to juggle on a daily basis.

If you consider your handmade business a business and not a hobby, that means you need to be strategic about where you put the majority of your efforts.

When you want your business to bring in the bacon you need to figure out (1) what’s bringing in the the money now, (2) what will bring in money eventually with enough consistency and dedication and (3) what you aren’t willing to give up even though you know it won’t ever bring in money.

We didn’t get into a handmade business to do what we hate, after all.

Business gurus will tell us to do what brings in the dough, and get rid of everything else, but I take a more diplomatic approach.

For optimal business success and personal satisfaction to be derived from your business you need money and moments of enjoyment.

You can start by making a list of the things you are doing in your business that aren’t bringing in any money, or very little compared to the things that do and then:

  • Eliminate all of the things you hate. Did you think you HAD to be on twitter because you read somewhere that online businesses are “supposed” to maintain an active presence there? If you’re not seeing results there in the form of obvious income, cut it without ANY guilt.
  • Determine what MIGHT make you money if you stick with it longer. Some things take time. Blogging is a good example of this, SEO optimization another. If you aren’t sure if your list item falls into this category or not, wait a bit (such as a month or two), and watch your numbers closely to make sure.
  • Finally, decide what you are going to keep anyway. There are probably some products you love making, or online marketing activities that you’ve grown rather fond of, despite the fact that they don’t bring in the cash. This blog is that for me. (In fact, I spend more in hosting fees than I make back from ebook sales or ad revenue, so BeadingForBusiness COSTS me money.) Even if you can’t let go, knowing that these activities are for pleasure instead of profit will make you think differently about them. Take the time to enjoy them, and de-prioritize them when your other activities are looming and the bills needs to get paid.

Now I want to hear from you!

What business activities are you going to eliminate, prioritize, or keep doing anyway (but consciously) now that you know they are bringing in the funds? Tell me in the comments below!

This is for the Quiet Ones

This article is for the quiet ones.

How to sell your products when you don't feel comfortable with loud marketing

The world of commerce is finally lending itself to us, the quiet ones.

We are the introverts, the INFJs, the softly-spoken.

We’d rather listen than speak. We prefer time to write out our thoughts than being put on the spot in a “brainstorming” session.

We are more comfortable as observers and the thought of playing carnival barkers in order to sell our wares is so averting it makes us feel physically ill.

Thank goodness we are no longer playing the game where the person who shouts the loudest gets the prize.

It’s different now.

Now it’s all about finding your people, and making connections.

In the world of online commerce, people can smell fake-authenticity from miles away.

That’s why the quiet ones will win. We are never comfortable faking it, not even to get a sale.

This is great news.

We get to be ourselves. In fact, we get to be even more ourselves than ever, and by doing so we attract the right people.

The right people will not only be drawn to us (and our products), but they are so much easier for us to work with, making the entire experience of running a small, handmade business enjoyable.

It’s a win-win.

So if you’ve been feeling like there’s no way someone with your silent demeanor can make it in the world of business, think again. You have options, and you have the ability to dominate them just as much (and often more) than your extroverted colleagues.

While the talkers might thrive at trade shows or in-person networking events, you might be more suited for diligently marketing with your e-mail newsletter, building a following on Instagram, and surprising your customers with the sort of premium branded packaging that will have them clamoring back for more.

By being yourself and playing to your strengths, your peeps (i.e., your ideal customers) will feel more connected to you and brand. Connected customers are not only more likely to buy your products, but to identify with them and therefore share them with their own social circles.

You get all this, with no shouting required.

10 Ways to Clear Out Old Inventory and Boost Your Business

10 ways to clear out old inventory

After awhile, old inventory starts to stink up the place.

Whether in your Etsy shop or on your web site, continually renewing the same tired old listings that aren’t bringing in customers can actually hurt your business.

They distract browsers from paying attention to the listings that they may otherwise be interested in enough to purchase, and can give your customers too many options as to instill decision fatigue.

(Decision fatigue is what happens when someone is overwhelmed by all of the options to the point of simply giving up and picking NOTHING instead.)

We don’t want that to happen.

So what can you do? Simply throwing it all out would be the equivalent to throwing away dollar bills, and thus, a sure-fire way to kill you business. Instead, there a several other options you have to choose from, all of which could give your business a BOOST. I’ve listed 10 of them out for you below:

1. Clearance sale what isn’t selling at regular price.

This is what most of the bigger retailers do, and there’s no reason why those of us with smaller, handmade businesses shouldn’t be learning from example. In your Etsy shop you could add a separate section for your clearance items, and mark those suckers down to price points that would be simply too crazy to resist. If you include how few of each item is left, you’ll also induce scarcity. This will give your customers the extra push they may need to buy before missing out!

2. Send your old inventory to bloggers in exchange for exposure.

You can check out this blog post for how to find bloggers to review your products. Bloggers can provide a great way to advertise your products to your target audience with little upfront cost.

3. Include items as surprise freebies in the orders you send out.

Do this if the freebie item is related to the paid purchase, such as a matching pair of earrings (you want to make sure that the customer will actually like the freebie item and not be annoyed by it). This is a level of generosity that will incite loyalty and raving reviews among your customers.

4. Use your inventory as giveaway prizes.

Host giveaways to get more e-mail subscribers, Instagram followers, and more. It’s amazing how something that no one wanted when it had a price tag attached to it suddenly because desirable when it’s a prize to be claimed. 🙂

5. Donate your inventory to a charitable event.

If you’re keeping up with local events (and you should be), you’ve probably come across a conference, charity ball, or ceremony that offers door prizes and gift bags to it’s attendees. Almost always the items included in these gift bags have been donated by local businesses, and these businesses get to claim the exposure equal to that of being a cash-providing sponsor.

6. Sell your old inventory through consignment shops.

Normally, consignment isn’t high on my recommendation list for how to sell your goods (because it holds your products hostage when they could otherwise be sold outright and making you money), but I make an exception when it comes to stale inventory that’s cluttering up your online storefronts. Just make sure you only partner with reputable consignment shops and keep a copy of your contract ensuring that you will (a) get paid within a certain timeline and (b) get your remaining inventory back, even in in the event of the storefront going under.

7. Put a discount bin in your craft show booth.

I’m always amazed at how little inventory I have left in my $3 discount bin by the end of the day at a craft show. You’ll find that many people, especially at an in-person event, love the thrill of a bargain.

8. Donate your items to charity.

Not only can you claim a deduction on your taxes for the value of your items, but you can feel good knowing that your old inventory is making a difference.

9. Save old inventory for a re-release date.

Sometimes having something “back in stock” in as little as 6 to 12 months can make it exciting enough to be desired and purchased.

10. Transform pieces that can be re-used or re-purposed.

Sometimes it makes more sense to take apart your pieces that aren’t serving your business and make something new out of them. You could even document the process for your blog or Instagram feed to present the interesting story of a before and after transformation.

 

Now onto you:

I’d love to hear what tactics you’ve used to move your old inventory. Tell me in the comments below!

 

 

How to Manage Your Limitations as a Maker

How to Manage your Limitations as a Maker

When you are the maker of the products you sell in your handmade business, you have one major limitation: you can only make so many products before you reach maximum capacity.

Now, most makers scoff at this because they are dealing with an opposite problem: they have too much inventory sitting on their shelves, not selling. The very idea of “reaching capacity” is a starry-eyed goal that they feel they could never really reach, so why worry about it anyway?

Let me tell you why.

When you structure your handmade business in a way that works with your limitations as maker, you set yourself up with the necessary systems to reach your goals of business success.

If, instead of building a solid foundation for your maker business, you continue to just make and list, make and list, make and list… you are not only going to be spending too much time on production that would better serve you working on the marketing side of your business, and you very well could be selling yourself short on the opportunity to sell a lot more inventory when you “hit the jackpot” with a killer product.

There are several things you can do to structure your business that will allow you to expand into the level of sales and income you are reaching for, without having to spend 20+ hours a day making product.

For starters: consider making multiples instead of one-offs. When you make products that you can make over and over again, you only have to photograph them and write product descriptions for them once, instead of every single time you make another product. You can also batch your creation of this product by making several at once, which usually saves time and money on materials.

If you choose to make one-of-a-kind products (and they need to REALLY be one-of-a-kind if you are going to call them that, meaning you really COULDN’T make another one–not that you just don’t feel like it) then you need to be charging premium prices for those products to make up for the fact that you will have to spend that much more time listing and promoting each one.

Secondly, look at your product line to see if you can add quick-to-produce, lower-cost options. For example, if you sell original paintings, then some options would be infinitely-reproducible prints and/or greeting cards. If you sell jewelry, this might be a basic pair of earrings that only takes you 2 minutes to make, in contrast to the necklace they match that took you 3 hours. These lower-cost options can serve as up-sell or gateway products to your line, encouraging more initial purchases and larger orders among existing customers.

Finally, consider bringing in some help.

Instead of waiting until you really are at maximum capacity, consider the benefits of having someone trained and ready to go before that happens.

Before you freak out over the cost of hiring outside help, consider what else you could be doing with your time if you have someone helping you with production for as little as a couple of hours a week. If you spent that time on revenue generating activities, such as reaching out to new wholesale accounts or designing the up-sell products I mentioned earlier, what little you spend on an employee could be returned to your business 10-fold in a matter of weeks.

Before I hired my assistant I really thought there was no way my business could afford to pay someone else (I could barely pay myself for crying out loud!) But when I didn’t want to have to shut my business down while I went on a trip to Europe, I went ahead and took the leap.

For me, having an assistant means more time designing and marketing, and less time packaging orders and other mundane, time-sucking tasks. I still make all of my handmade beaded jewelry, but having help means that I have time to make more of it during periods of high demand, and allows me to take on more custom orders that I would otherwise have to turn down.

 

Now onto you: I’d love to know what steps you have taken in your handmade business to manage your limitation of production time. Tell me in the comments below!

Give Your Business A Boost By Tracking These 5 Things

Give Your Business A boost By Tracking These 5 Things

My goodness the days certainly run together when one is taking care of a newborn! I knew that my time would be limited for the first few months following my daughter’s birth, but I can honestly say I had NO FREAKING CLUE just how frantic and desperate things could get. For the entire holiday season, the most I could do for my business was ship out orders when my assistant was on vacation, respond to customer inquiries, and disperse minimal marketing. Fortunately, because of systematizing much of what goes on in my business, things never got too far behind or overwhelming that I couldn’t handle it, but many of the projects I’ve considered tackling while on maternity leave will probably have to wait until long after I return to my day job.

It’s is however, a new year. And like most business owners, January has the effect of causing me to reflect on what worked and what didn’t for my business the year before, so I can be smarter about what actions I take moving forward. With my time being even more limited than ever, it’s that much more important to be smarter about what I have to work with. Even if you aren’t a member of the “parent club” I’m guessing you could likewise use some more freedom in your life and business, even if it means simply being able to steal away some extra hours for bubble baths or Game of Thrones marathons.

Evaluating when didn’t and did work for me for the prior year is only possible because of the tracking I do within my business. If you feel like you can only guess at what made a difference and what was a waste of time for your business, then you need to start deliberately tracking the following things:

1. Your best-sellers.

This may seem obvious, but a see a lot of handmade sellers that don’t really pay attention to this one. Instead of making the types of products that are continually flying off the shelves, they consistently run out of stock on these items, and instead, just make what they feel like making. This is fine if you only make your product as a hobby and don’t really care if your business makes any money or not, but if you are in business to bring in income, then you need to seriously pay attention to the exact products and categories of products that spend the least about of time sitting in inventory prior to being shipped out.

2. Your highest-sellers.

This could be your best-selling product, or it could be a product you sell less units of, but because of it’s higher dollar amount you end up making more money off of it over all. For a lot of handmade businesses, it’s the best-selling product that serves as the impulse buy to bring customers in, and the high-selling product that is the easiest to sell to trusting, repeat customers. Knowing and tracking what these products are will help you more effectively market them to the right people (easily doubling or tripling your sales as a result of doing so.)

3. Where your traffic is coming from.

A lot of handmade business owners think they need to be everywhere online in order to market their business and sell their products. So they stretch themselves thin trying to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, WordPress, and on and on… While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to sign up for many of these places (if only to reserve your name and post a link directing platform searchers to visit your website) it simply takes too much energy to be excellent at all of these. Instead, I suggest honing in on only 1 or 2 social media channels, and really dedicating yourself to making things work there. Then, after a few months of observing how each platform affects your traffic and sales, you can then judge from a much more concrete standpoint whether or not your time spent on social media marketing is bringing in the right kind of people that are your target demographic and leading to sales.

4. Your expenses. ALL of them.

It’s all too easy to wait until tax-time at the end of year to start tallying up receipts and calculating your business expenses. But this could easily mean that your business isn’t making any money and you won’t even know it until it’s too late. Things like shipping supplies, merchant processing fees, and of course, the supplies required to make your products add up. It’s important to know where your business stands at any given time before you make the decision to shell out for a Facebook ad or purchase those shiny new beads you’ve had your eye on. It’s also important to make sure you’re tracking ALL of your expenses, not just the obvious ones. Some that you make not be considering include travel expenses (if you have to drive long distances to attend craft shows, for example), the cost of your internet service and/or data plan, and the amount you spend on furthering your own business education. When filing your business taxes this year, be sure to talk to your accountant about all of the things you can deduct (so long as you keep track of them and save your receipts!) keeping in mind that these are all things that are taking away from your bottom line, whether you claim them as business expenses or not.

5. Your e-mail list.

E-mail remains the most effective way to sell to your audience. Even if only 10% of your subscribers are opening and clicking on the links in the e-mails you send, that is still a far better lead conversion rate than what most people are going to get out of any social media platform. (This is why having an e-mail list remains my utmost regret for what I wish I would have started sooner.) Tracking not only your number of subscribers, but where they are coming in from, will help you most effectively increase your sign-ups and ensure you are attracting the right people to your list.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what you pay attention to is what what gets done. Tracking at least the 5 things mentioned in this blog post will have you making smarter decisions for your business and start offering you results long before it’s time to do another yearly review.