Is your handmade business ready for the holidays? Because, believe it or not. They’re here. Really, they’ve been here, and they are only going to get more in-your-face as we head on into next month.
To double-check your level of “prepared-ness” here are some back blog posts that you may want to re-visit (or read for the first time if you missed ’em to start with:
Continuing with this month’s trend of goal-setting and scheduling in celebration of the Rock 2016 Planner launch, I’m going to talk about dealing with goals that feel completely unfeasible.
These goals are so big or require so much sacrifice that many of us will give up on them before even considering what the steps would be in order to actually achieve them.
Usually these massive goals have to do with our businesses bringing in a certain amount of income. However, they can also include a plethora of other things as well, such as allowing us more time to spend with loved ones, crossing off travel destinations from our bucket list, making a big impact on an issue we deem significant, and so on.
For a lot of handmade business owners their goal is to replace their job salary with the income made from their business, or at least be able to build up a sizable side income to make a difference in their overall lives.
But once we do the math, it’s easy to give up on those kind of monetary dreams and simply continue plodding along while telling ourselves that we’re happy with the bits of pocket change our business brings us. We may continue with our hobby business, but we slowly abandon all dreams of business-financed vacations, living debt-free, and having more time to spend with our families.
But then there are some of us who don’t give up. At least not right away.
Instead we tell ourselves, Okay, this is a big, scary goal, but if I break it down into separate, smaller, mini-goals, I can make this work.
Here’s where we get tripped up and paralyzed: we don’t break our goals down far enough.
What we actually do is break them down into projects, and then we go and take those projects and try to put them on our schedule.
When the time comes to work on said projects, they are too big and overwhelming that we either (a) don’t know where to start or (b) get frustrated with how long each one ends up taking us.
The solution? Take it a step further. Go from breaking goals down into projects, and then break those projects into sub-projects and individual tasks (preferably tasks that can be completed in a single sitting.)
Seriously, taking the time to do this will make even your biggest, widest, and most ambitious dreams start to feel possible. (click to tweet this!)
Let me give you a concrete example.
Let’s say your goal is to double your business income over the next year. That’s a 100% increase, and if you’re just starting out, or just starting to really take your business seriously as a business, this is a perfectly reasonable (albeit lofty) goal.
For the sake of example, let’s make up some numbers for this goal. Let’s say your business made you $12,000 last year. That means your goal for the next year is to end with a total of $24,000 (or more).
At first, seeing a big number can make you feel intimated and want to run for the hills. Hopefully you’ll find it less terrifying and more of an interesting challenge once we break down your goal some more.
The first step would be to evaluate some of your businesses’ numbers from last year.
Where was the money coming from? What activities contributed to your bottom line? Which attempts ended up causing you more expense than gain? (Keep in mind, there may be some activities that aren’t bringing in the money yet, such as creating a blog or building up a presence on Instagram, but they very well could be longer-term activities that require a lot more time before you can judge their effect on your business results.)
Once you know where the bulk on your income is already coming from, you’ll be able to to get an idea of what activities you could potentially start doing or simply do more of that could increase those numbers.
For example, if after calculating you realize that you brought in a quarter of last year’s income by participating in a handful of retail craft shows, you could look into doubling the number of shows you sign up for this year to boost that revenue stream.
So if you attended 5 craft shows last year, then “Participate in 10 Craft Shows” is a specific goal that you know has a strong potential to help you reach your main revenue goal and that can then be broken down into projects and tasks to be systematically approached in a way that is non-overwhelming.
“Participate in 10 Craft Shows” could, for example, be broken down to the following projects: apply for 15 craft shows, create enough inventory for 10 shows, design updated craft show booth, and plan and implement local craft show marketing plan.
Where many people go wrong is they stop here. But plugging something as daunting as “create enough inventory for 10 shows” into a planner or calendar is only going to set you up for frustration, overwhelm, and despair. That’s why we break projects up into sub-projects and tasks.
Here’s a visual example of what this could look like:
Individual tasks designed to be completed in 1 sitting can then be much more easily plugged into a weekly planner or electronic to-do list.
This process is much more manageable than trying to schedule a major goal “Make $24,000” or even “Make enough inventory for 10 craft shows,” don’t you think?
Now it’s your turn! Using the worksheets provided in the Rock 2016 weekly planner, a blank piece of paper, or your own calendar or planning system, take one of your major projects that stem directly from your biggest business or life goal, and break it down as much as you can into individual, manageable tasks that can be scheduled directly into your weekly planner or daily to-do lists.
We all have a list of projects that we’ve unwittingly placed on the back burner, even though we know some of them are important to the growth of our business or our own personal self-improvement.
The problem is, they don’t feel as urgent as say, responding to customer inquiries, answering e-mails, or getting the day’s orders shipped out.
Some of your big, important, non-urgent projects might include designing a new jewelry collection, writing the first draft of a novel, or re-branding your business.
You know that these things would help your business get to the level you want it to be at, but it hardly seems like it’s possible to work on them when you barely have enough time for the need-to-happen now, urgent tasks already filling your plate.
There are two schools of thought as to how you can continue to get all of your urgent work done, and still chip away at your big-but-not-urgent projects at the same time.
I practice and use both (so no, you don’t have to choose just one method), and I can tell you from experience, these methods of productivity can change your life and your business.
Method #1: work on your important, non-urgent thing for 15 minutes a day, every single day. Even the busiest of people can find or make up 15 minutes. Schedule your time slot in, do it, and you’re done. Before you know it, you’ll be inching your way towards completion.
Method #2: Schedule longer blocks of uninterrupted focus time on a weekly basis. This could be 2 hours on Wednesdays, or two 45 minute sessions on Sunday. Dedicate this time chunk to a single project and that project only. Turn off all other distractions and work from start to finish of the focus session. You’ll be amazed at how much you will be able to accomplish during that time.
I like to use method #1 for tasks that I procrastinate on because they are either really hard or really boring. Hard (for me) means sending out pitches and/or making phone calls. My super-introverted self may be scared to do these things, but knowing that I’ll only be working on them for 15 minutes makes it a lot easier to get started (and finished.)
I prefer method #2 for tasks that I like to delve deep into and get lost in for a couple of uninterrupted hours. This might be designing new jewelry pieces, drafting new blog posts, or taking and editing new product photographs.
You may be skeptical as to how well these will work, but I implore you to give at least one of these methods a try, starting this week. Then, let me know how it goes, either here in the blog comments, or hit me up on social media. I’d love to hear from you!
Also, if you have any productivity tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below. Everyone can always use another tip or trick how to maximize the 24 hours in each we’re given.
I couldn’t wait for the end of the year.
I want my business to have a kick-ass holiday season over the next few months, and there are some pretty major things I need to plan in my personal life, too. Most of them have to do with this:
So I decided to create and launch the Rock 2016 planner earlier than usual.
This planner is designed to help you set defined goals and strategically schedule out each day from the start of September 2015 all the way through the end of December of 2016.
This edition of the Rock planner has gotten a major overhaul and redesign.
No longer a quarterly calendar download, this is a weekly planner designed to break down your goals into individual projects and tasks that you can schedule out hour-by-hour each day of the week.
This instant download digital PDF provides you with guidance and tips for how to manage your time and set manageable stretch goals and priorities that will hep you reach the success that you crave in both your business and life.
Want more details? Check out the short video below:
I hope it helps you map out your own life and business for the next few months and year as much as it’s already helping me with mine.
And if you know anyone else who you think could benefit from its digital and printable pages, please share this post with them. You are ever so much appreciated!
We creative-types aren’t always the most organized.
A few descriptive words come to mind: scatter-brained, flaky, over-worked, stressed, spread-too-thin, and so on.
Basically, we wish we could just make our stuff, and let the marketing figure itself out.
But of course, that’s not how it works in the real world. You can’t just make a thing, put it in your web store or Etsy shop, and cross your fingers hoping that people buy.
Maybe sometimes they will, but even if that’s the case, you’re still be missing out on a lot of potential business opportunities by not working on your marketing.
So when things aren’t automatically selling, you start to panic. You engage in a hap-hazard “marketing strategy” that usually consists of the following: list a new item, post it on Facebook, post it on twitter, post it on Instagram, maybe write a blog post about it, pin it to a Pinterest board, check everything you just posted, wonder why none of this is working, rinse, and repeat.
When I first started selling my jewelry on Etsy, this is exactly the sort of “marketing” I did for my shop. Needless to say, it didn’t really work.
All this kind of online marketing does is create a lot of extra work and stress for you, and not a lot of results or sales at the end of the day. You feel like a hamster spinning its wheel, and not really getting anywhere in your business. Maybe you conclude that you’re just not good at the “marketing stuff” so you go back to what you know what you’re good at, the making stuff, and return to hoping that random strangers will simply find you organically on the internet and make a purchase.
So what’s the solution? How can you effectively market your business while still leaving you with enough time to actually make your products and get everything else you need to do done?
The answer is systematizing.
I know that sounds like a boring, dry, business word, but here me out, okay?
All systematizing means is creating the basic blueprint, or template, for plugging in your marketing plan and -pulling it out every time you are ready to craft a new one.
When you plan your marketing ahead of time, you are allowing yourself to strategically reach your potential customers in the ways best suited to them, and you can pre-schedule and prep all of your content ahead of time. When you have a system in place you can feel prepared and relaxed even during the busiest of shopping seasons.
Pick a Theme
Essentially, I begin my marketing system by defining a central theme for a certain time period. For example, this past month theme was back to school, and I marketing around this theme throughout August. Having a general theme in mind makes it significantly easier to fill out the rest of the campaign details surrounding it.
Define Your Audience
Once you have a theme or product line in mind that you are going to be marketing, and have checked your calendar to figure out the best time you want to market it, the next most important thing for you to do is define WHO you are going to be marketing to. Nothing will make you feel more scattered than feeling like you are sending out random marketing messages to the universe and hoping that your right people find them. Instead, you want to define who your ideal customers are, and take your marketing to them.
For example, when I market around back-to-school, it makes sense that I would be targeting students, teachers, and so on. Sending out back to school messages to retired women in their 60s doesn’t make a lot of sense–unless of course they are buying for their grandchildren.
Get Clear on What Makes You Different
Next, and this is very important, you want to consider what your points of differentiation are concerning the actual products you are trying to sell. There are probably a lot of things that make your products different from the masses so the important thing to do here is pick which of those things are going to be of the most value to your target audience, and make sense for you to emphasize during this particular campaign. For example, if you are planning your holiday marketing around gift-giving, you may want to focus on why your products will make unique and cherished gifts, rather than on your price point or the materials you use to craft them.
Brainstorm Content Ideas
Once you have those important factors decided, the next step is to brainstorm potential content ideas that will flesh out your campaign. Considering the amount of time your campaign will be running, consider how many blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and social media posts you’ll want to create around it. Other marketing could include reaching out to press, potential partners for cross-promotion, and so on. The options are really limitless, and that’s why writing all of your ideas down will keep you from becoming too overwhelmed.
Set a Schedule
After you have a general outline of your marketing campaign all laid out on a single piece of paper, it’s a lot easier to then open up your planning calendar*, and start putting in specific tasks for specific days. For example, you may post your first blog post and Facebook update during week one, send out your e-mail newsletter and host an Instagram giveaway during week two, and set up a twitter chat around your campaign on week three. It’s all entirely up to you. Having the dates plotted out, you can then begin crafting your materials and storing or scheduling them so they are ready to go out when their time comes – and you get to breathe a little easier, knowing it’s all taken care of.
Now you get to work on your favorite part: the actual making of the things.
Did you find this post helpful? If so, please take a moment to share it with someone else who you think may benefit from it.
*The Rock 2016 panning calendar is coming soon. Sooner than usual, because I personally wanted an upgraded version for this year’s holiday season, and I have a feeling you could use one too. To be among the first notified of its existence, be sure to subscribe for e-mail updates.
Running a handmade business can feel like a very personal and even scary thing.
When you’re trying to make money from designs that you’ve conjured from your own mind and crafted with your own two hands, it’s easy to feel hyper-sensitive to any reactions the outside world is going to have about them.
It’s also easy to deem our products or business as a “failure” when, after we’ve finally summoned up the courage to put it (and ourselves) out there – we get crickets in response.
We think to ourselves: even criticism would be better than this. At least it would provide us with feedback so we would know what to change when we try again. (Or so we tell ourselves.)
So we go back to the drawing board and come up with something new, leaving the first try sitting on a shelf, in a bin, or the junk drawer for re-purposing later.
But what we probably need to consider before we call it a day is how much we have really put into getting our products seen. Have we actually given them their best chance at success before we start telling ourselves that we’ve made un-sellable duds?
Most handcrafted sellers are guilty of doing this.
We make a thing, put it up on our websites or Etsy shops, maybe post a thing or two about it on social media, and wait.
When no one buys right away, we immediately feel the excitement and hope we were harboring for our new shiny thing diminish.
We tell ourselves: maybe it wasn’t so great after all. Maybe we were all wrong about what our ideal customers are interested in. Maybe we aren’t even really that good about this whole business thing after all.
And on and on with the negative-self talk we go.
When really, what we ought to be thinking is this: have I really given this product a fair chance? Has it really been seen by my ideal customers?
Because in today’s hectic world of noise, there’s a very good chance that, no, a new listing and a few social media posts isn’t going cut it.
Conventional business guru wisdom currently tells us that people need to see your product 13 times before they buy. 13 times!
Considering the low likelihood that your target customers saw your tweet, Facebook update, and/or Instagram post, you aren’t getting hardly anyone primed to buy with a drip system like what you’ve been doing.
Not only are you not really giving your products a chance to be sold, you aren’t giving your ideal customers a fair chance at finding out that they even exist.
The #1 damaging story we tell ourselves is that our people don’t want to hear from us. That we’re only being annoying when we e-mail our lists, or write about our latest product launch on our blogs.
Very, very, very few handmade sellers are making the mistake of selling too much. Most of us sell far, far too little. We ignore the fact that we have followers who have symbolically raised their hands to hear from us, and we’ve essentially convinced ourselves that it must be for other reasons.
Chances are these people saw the pictures of your lovely creations on Instagram and chose to follow you because they want to see more of them. Or they loved what you had on your website so they signed up for e-mail updates so they get to be the first in line when you launch new collections. In any case, they may not have been interested in buying right at that very moment, but they signed up to get updates from you because they knew that there was a good chance that they would be at some point in the future.
Your job as a business owner and product marketer is to foster that desire and provide your followers with the opportunity to act upon it as often as is strategically fitting.
Does this mean spamming your twitter feed with links to your Etsy shop listings every 10 minutes? No. But it doesn’t mean only telling funny jokes and never mentioning that you’re a handmade seller, either.
There is a strategic way to make you product marketing a welcomed part of the conversation. (Click to tweet this!)
The first step is to stop telling yourself that no one wants to hear about them (or you), and the second is to insert yourself (and your products) into the conversations that make sense.
You can’t really say your business or your products are a failure unless you have really, truly, given them the chance they deserve.
Curious how exactly you’re supposed to do that? Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I’ll help you create your own simple marketing system that will help you map out a specific plan for putting your products out there. Sign up for e-mail notifications from me to make sure you don’t miss it.
Let’s get touchy-feely.
Okay, maybe just touchy.
(And not in the way you’re thinking.)
I’m referring specifically to getting touchy with your BUSINESS.
(Nothing against you, I’m sure you’d be great to touch, but this is a blog about how to run a business after all, not spice up your love life. *Ahem.*)
What I’d like to discuss today is the touch-points your business has with your current and prospective customers. Can you identify them? Let’s take a moment to brainstorm where they all could be.
A touch point could be seeing a link to your website or blog in a list of Google search results, viewing an update from you shared by a friend of theirs on social media, opening an e-mail newsletter from you, making a purchase from you, getting their product in the mail, and beyond.
Identifying all of these touch-points gives you a starting point for how you can present and define your brand along the customer journey in a way that instills trust, loyalty, and ultimately, more sales.
To begin mapping out your touch points, you’ll first want to think of all of the ways someone who doesn’t even know your business exists is introduced to your brand. Maybe it’s on social media, maybe it’s via word of mouth through a mutual friend, maybe it’s a craft show, maybe it’s through a blogger or local news media outlet, and so on. In any case, you want to start off with a good impression. Think of the controllable, specific ways you can contribute to that first impression that will leave your business as something the be remembered and returned to.
Next, there is the process between when a customer becomes interested in your offerings and actually buys. Maybe she signs up for your e-mail newsletter, reads your blog, follows you on social media, etc. This is a crucial stage where you build trust and loyalty, letting your potential customers know whether or not you are the right fit for them.
If your touch-points are inconsistent, confusing, and send mixed messages, you’re a lot more likely to turn potential customers away – including the ones you mean to be attracting.
Then there is the actual purchasing and delivery process. What is it like for someone to make a purchase from you? Do you send a follow-up note thanking them for their order and letting them know when it will be shipped? How do you package the products? What experience happens on the other end, when your customers excitedly open their order and get to finally see their Shiny New Thing in person?
Finally, there is the follow-up. Because the relationship isn’t always over when the initial transaction is over. Are you giving your customers a chance to sign up for your e-mail newsletter so you can stay in touch with them? Do you give them a loyalty discount in their order for them to use when they make a second purchase? How do you encourage reviews, and once you get them, how do you use their feedback to improve your overall business?
All important things to consider, plan for, and systematize.
Also, I feel like its the perfect time for this song:
What are your thoughts? Can you think of any touch-points between your business and customers that could use a little reinforcement? Please share in the comments below!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what gets tracked, improves.
If you have to write down everything you spend your money on every day, you’re going to be a lot more conscious and careful with your finances. By the same logic, if you have to journal every single calorie or piece of food you put in your mouth, you just must start eating a little bit healthier.
It sounds like it’s too simple and easy to be true, but keeping track can be really motivating.
What gets measured, gets worked on.
What gets consistently worked on, get better (or gets done!)
There is one caveat, however. This principal does have its limitations.
It can only work with so many things.
Imagine if you tried keeping track of every little thing going on in your business and life, from how many tweets you send out daily, to how many steps you take during your lunch-hour walks. You’d end up spending too much time keeping score and not enough time actually doing the work.
The solution is simple. You only get to pick a few goals, honing in on the big important ones, preferably, and keep track of those.
Taking inspiration from Gino Wickman’s business book, Traction, I made up a simple scorecard that you can download for free here. It prints 4 to a page, so simply cut the page into quarter sizes, and you have 4 portable scorecards that you can carry around with you everywhere!
Keeping track is simple. Just write your main priority goals in the left column and where you want them to be at by the time you get to the right column of the score card. In the first week column fill in last weeks dates in the top top box (for example, (7/5 – 7/11) and the numbers that occurred by the end of that week according to the goal. Then, as each week passes, input your numbers for that week. To keep yourself even more motivated, you can also add your percentage of growth (or decline) from week to week.
Keep this card in your purse, by your computer, or wherever you can easily access it and look at it on a daily or at least weekly basis. It will help you stay on top of the goals you’ve decided on for your next 6 months and beyond, and keep you motivated to reach and go beyond the challenges you’ve set for yourself.
Accountability, even if only to yourself, will help to keep you pressing on.
Did you find this downloadable resource helpful? If so, please share this post with your friends so they can print out their own scorecards too! I see a lot of progress and improvements in our future.
Per several customer requests, I have added an array of animal-inspired glass eye cabochons to my current listings of glass eyes for sale.
In case you’ve missed their quiet introduction to the selection, here are a few of the newest members:
These handmade and originally designed glass eye cabochons are suitable for use in jewelry making (as I use them in bead embroidery or as pendants for wire wrapping and more), art doll making, taxidermy, sculptures, scrap booking, and beyond. Really, the possibilities are endless!
You can shop all of my glass eyes for sale here. There are lots more new additions I couldn’t fit into a single blog post.
You’ve made it. You’re halfway through the 2015 year.
How do you feel about it?
Never-mind, don’t answer that.
Unless you’re the rare exception, most of us with businesses and a mountain of to-do’s on our list are feeling just a little behind. Like most of humanity, we’ve overestimated how much we are capable of doing in the amount of time allotted the 24/7 cycle, especially considering that we need to eat, sleep, and sometimes even take showers.
But now is not the time to fret regarding how far we think we should be, but rather to plan ahead to get to where we want to be by the years’ end.
To make this process easier for you, I made you a couple of simple, interactive worksheets.
These may seem overly simplistic, but trust me, if you follow this simple planning process it’s going to make the next 6 months of running your business SO MUCH EASIER.
First, you’re going to download and save the 6 Month Planning Calendar to your desktop.
- In the highlighted fields below each month, type in the things you know that will be happening within each of those months (whether you want them to or not.) This includes the family reunion in August, a week spent at your sister’s in December, the craft show you signed up for in November and so on.
- Next, type in the major things that you need to work on for your business in their appropriate months in order to just keep things running. I’m thinking of things like following up with your wholesale accounts in July, and setting up your holiday marketing calendar in September.
- Finally, put in a project or two you may not NEED to complete by the end of the year, but would really, really like to. This could be finishing the first draft of a book you’ve been wanting to write, or completing your spring jewelry collection.
Having your events and “to-do”s for the next 6 months forced onto a single page will (hopefully) keep you from over-booking yourself, and give you a realistic time-table of just when you need to get started on what in order to have a successful holiday season.
Keep this 6 month calendar saved to your desktop where you can open and look at it at the end and start of each new week. Use it to keep yourself on track, and tweak the contents within as necessary.
Next, download the Weekly Planner worksheet. This document you can fill out electronically, or print out to fill out by hand – whichever way helps you process your to-do’s better.
- Fill this sheet out at the end of every week for the upcoming week, and reference it every day during the week you are using it to make sure you are able to keep yourself on track.
- Assign a main priority to each day (you can of course use identical priorities across multiple days), that way you know whether to work on something when it pops up unexpectedly, or push it to a different day more suited to that day’s assigned priority. This will help you keep your focus and give needed attention to each of your priorities without leaving you feeling scatter-brained.
For example, your Monday priority couple be marketing, which may include tasks such as planning themes for your marketing calendar, writing e-mail campaign drafts, and creating social media graphics to be posted throughout the week. Or maybe on Wednesday your priority could be collection development, where you research, design, and create new products. You get to decide, and, as with the your 6 Month Planner, you get to tweak as you go along.
The combination of planning for the next 6 months and planning on a week-by-week basis will keep you focused on your overall goals, while also allowing you to provide yourself with the weekly baby-steps that will guide you in a much more manageable fashion to achieving those goals.
Good luck with your next 6 months!
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