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!