2017 is fast approaching and everyone is filled with optimism about the future! Now, I know that my title is a little miserable, but I am here to bring you good news and a friendly warning!
I actually was going to write this blog post last year, but because I listened to my own advice, I ended up having no time, as I had my busiest January in business! Yay!
So, myself like a lot of small businesses like mine, Christmas sales can either leave you overwhelmed or disappointed. If you had a busy Christmas you will feel enthused and pumped to do more! The same goes if you had perhaps a disappointing trade period, as you will want to take steps to improve your business and build on it.
Thankfully for me every Christmas has been better than the last! Phew! Although, even with money in the bank you still look for ways to invest your earnings into your business to make it bigger and better!
Last year I saw a lot of people making money from people’s hope to improve their business. How are they doing that?
Things like, Business Journals and year planners. All beautiful and bright which look cute in your studio. You add in your goals and make it look pretty. Its sure to get you social media likes when you share the snap of them online, right? Are you actually going to carry through this for the full year? How many hours will you spend filling and colouring them in?
Help books on building your social media account. These are mostly e-books that you can download for little money. The answers within which can actually be found in Google. They are written by instagram account holders that target small businesses like mine and yours and they have 1000’s of followers. They involve you stalking instagram and spending time that could be in my opinion spent elsewhere. Is it not better to have 500 genuine followers than 5,000 following just for the follow?
Showcases on Instagram. Instagram is full of them! Again by instagram account holders that target small businesses like mine and yours and they have 1000’s of followers. They also charge you to “showcase” your work on their account for a small fee. There’s a big flaw here. They are showcasing your work to other small businesses and in some cases competition. They aren’t people customers who buy handmade, perhaps only a small few. Why aren’t they showcasing to customers? Because they are hard to pinpoint on Instagram. How do you know by looking at an open public profile that they will buy? In these showcases, you are being sold to sellers. So it doesn’t matter how many likes or follows you get from that post. Unless other handmade businesses are going to buy from you its not very good value for money.
Business workshops with strap lines like ” Boost your sales!” or “Earn More, work less!” There are some that you can watch online and usually it’s a male or female who has targeted your little business. I took time to watch one from a lady entrepreneur. How I came to be on her mailing list is a mystery. It was free but she was trying to lure you into paying for a workshop. It was full of uplifting words, enthusiastic hand gestures and intriguing salary figures, we’re talking six figures! I listened to about 30 minutes of a 1 hour live podcast. There were lots of questions and very little answers. She talked about how well she was doing, being able to work from home with her children, buying a bigger house etc. What she didnt tell you was that she was actually preying on small inexperienced, young businesses and luring them into buying her workshops. I am sure her answer if your business did not improve would be, “oh did you follow all the points?” of which I’m sure about 20% would not be applicable to most businesses, then resulting in your automatic failure! I could write the script! Do not waste your time or money!
My tips to improve your business.
- Do what you like doing. If you resent it, your work will never be as good a standard, than when there is real love for an item.
- Price things correctly. Sometimes being too “cheap” can leave peoples expectations that its not good quality and lose you sales!
- Packaging. This is still something I still struggle with. I am still finding something for me that’s small enough to post but looks good and not too “manufactured”.
- Have genuine fun content on your social media. It’s not ALL about the hard sell! Share other peoples work that not only you love but you think your followers might be interested in. They might do the same in turn for you!
- Hashtags # Did you know you are allowed up t0 30# in any single post on Instagram? Use them to their full potential! I have also found with the silly way Facebook is getting on, that hashtags actually improve reach of posts. The question about paying for posts is still up in the air. I have done it in the past, but I never feel like it’s value for money, for me anyway. You’ll know if your followers are early birds or night owls, so post at your pages peek times!
- Photos, Photos, Photos! Always work on making them better! This doesnt mean run out and buy the latest camera! I take all my pictures with my iphone. Yup, my mobile. Its going online so it doesnt have to be a good resolution. If you are fortunate enough to have items featured in a magazine, that’s when you need the big girl camera!
- New items, you may have been successful at selling a certain item. You might hate the thought of changing it because it’s been good income for you. I found that taking these items away – yes best sellers – and bringing in new items gains you new customers. You can always bring the good old faithfuls back from time to time. It’s important to keep your stock and website fresh and exciting, especially if you want to keep those new customers you’ve gained!
- Email Subscription! Dont have one? Get one sorted out! Its a great way to communicate with customers and its free! MailChimp.com is a great place to go to get started! Remember, not everyone is on social media on a regular basis or at all!
- Website or Selling Platform? I have both. Some customers do not like having to create an account when purchasing something for the first time. So that’s when my website it great! Others like the format of the likes of Etsy.com. They like the community or the protection as a buyer they provide. I think it’s good to have both. Also there are no selling fees with my website just a simple small monthly fee for hosting it. Etsy sellers fees can quickly add up at the end of the month especially if youve been very busy and its not a nice chunk to have to pay back.
- Lastly, How you want to work? A very simple but most important question!For me at the end of 2014, after the loss of my father-in-law and seeing how it affected my husband, I realised I was being a busy “fool” with some aspects of my business.
In 2013 after 3 years of business I took on a studio near to where I lived and my goodness I loved it! I took on workshops and also Kids birthday parties, which were a lot of fun!
I still made all my own jewellery which I sold online and sold at various craft markets. I pretty much worked every day! I was happy to do all this while I grew my birthday party business and then gradually in 2014 I cut down many of my craft fairs, focusing on peak times which for me were Mother’s Day, June for teacher gifts and Christmas – the more obvious one.
I was happy, but I was still working a lot because as I wasn’t at craft fairs, my customers were using my website more and that added to the work load, not to mention the parties!
It’s safe to say at the end of 2014 I had well and truly spread myself too thin! I was exhausted after another busy but successful year. I look towards 2015 and said right thats it, something needs to change!
I asked myself, “How do I want to work?”
In my dream world, I would make jewellery in my PJs (not all day, but for some of the time!!) at home. I didn’t want to have to do any craft fairs any more or attend birthday parties anymore. So I thought well I will have to get my act together and improve my online sales!
I basically went on every selling website I used and my own and refreshed and in some case corrected silly mistakes on all of my items.
I made the decision to make all my earrings available on the website sterling silver rather than giving customers an option which causing me more work. I gave it a good digital clear out and also looked at my pricing too!
So I was making my dream a reality, slowly. Its funny, making jewellery at home in my tiny home studio was how I started. I dreamt of a big girl studio, but with any big decision there came pitfalls. People didn’t want to use online when they knew I had a a studio. They wanted to come to my studio and collect items and look at others. At the start this was fun and I enjoyed meeting customers again. Unfortunately in busy periods I just didn’t have time to drop tools and chat. I work with resin and it only has a limited working time. Customers arriving were actually starting to cost me time and money. So at the end of 2015 I closed the doors to my studio and never looked back! I changed my dining room into my studio. It over looked the garden, and it was perfect!
So 2 years on from that I have flown solo online. I wish I had done it sooner! So, my message for you this new year is, really look at your business and what you want to gain from it. Follow that gut instinct and sometimes the harder route is the better one long term. Don’t waste money on silly things, be a leader not a follower, and most importantly have the most wonderful year in business ever!
Love and Dandelions,