Tag Archives: small business

I’ll Take Your Questions Now

Hello there dear readers,

500 of you are official followers now (the coolest among you), and this silly blog is coincidentally reaching 500 published posts.

Woah. 500 is, like, half of a thousand, and THAT is a really, really big number.

Speaking of big numbers, I’ve also reached well over 1,000 Facebook Likes and Twitter followers. All brag-worthy milestones I’d like to celebrate now.

Megan Petersen

I want to give you all a chance to get your questions out there, and have an “ask me anything” session.

Want to know how I come up with jewelry design ideas? Interested in a specific marketing strategy? Want to know who I had a crush on in the 7th grade? Ask away.

Go ahead and place your questions in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to respond to each one. No question is too ridiculous, trifle, or personal.

I’ll take your questions now.

Saying Goodbye to the Bargain Hunters

I have a confession to make. It’s a pretty major business decision that I made early on, and I am embarrassed of it now. I read plenty of good advice and chose to do the exact opposite of its instructions. I was stubborn and too sure of myself when I shouldn’t have been, and even a little offended by the advice. I purposefully ignored what all of the handmade business experts were recommending me, and strut off in the other direction.

The good advice I shunned so fiercely: Don’t use price to attract the bargain hunters. You don’t want these people to be your customers.

My initial reaction to this advice was, of course, what’s wrong with bargain hunters?! Everybody loves a good deal, and most of us don’t have money growing on trees in our back yards. Of course we want a good price! I wanted my stuff to sell, so I went low. And by low, I mean, LOW.

beaded bracelet

Here’s where my logic was flawed: a good deal is not the same as a cheap deal.

I was offended by the notion that bargain hunters are lousy customers. This was because I thought of myself as one, being the thrift-store-shopper and coupon-code-googler that I am.

When I first started selling my beaded goodies, I stubbornly set my prices as low as they could go, and in some cases, even lower than that. I was able to get some sales, but wasn’t really making money after supply costs and payment fees were taken into consideration. So, after a few months, I raised my prices a little bit (just a little) so I wouldn’t be recording yet another loss come tax time.

It was after I raised my prices (again, this was only marginally) that I realized I had been attracting some of the wrong customers in the beginning. One particular customer, for example, had me create a gigantic custom order for her. As with all of my custom orders, I only ask for payment upon completion if the customer is satisfied with how the product turns out. This particular customer ended up having me remake several pieces before she purchased. This part was fine with me, I pride myself in the costumer service I offer for my custom items along with everything else I create.

blue necklace

Here’s the thing though: I thought, that after all of that work and the raving feedback this customer had left for her finished pieces, she would be more than happy to purchase from me again–even after my prices had been (only slightly) raised. BUT, a few months down the road, she contacted me regarding yet another custom order, and asked for a price quote. I sent her a quick response, letting her know how much the price would be and that I would love to be able to work with her again. I never heard back.

A few weeks after that, I was casually browsing through Etsy (Christmas shopping, actually, you guise all know how much I adore getting handmade gifts for my peeps), and I spotted a reserved listing, and my previous customer’s name was in the title. I am a guilty snoop: I had to check it out. The listing was for the exact custom order she had asked me to do for her, but from another seller who was willing to go cheaper.

Even though I had worked so hard and gone above and beyond for this customer, a minor increase in price was enough to make her go somewhere else. That is the real crux of the bargain hunters: they are not loyal. Bargain hunters will look for the lowest possible price. You can do the best job in the world for them, but if they can find it lower somewhere else, off they go.

Being thrifty on how much you will pay for a factory-manufactured blouse is not bargain hunting. Bargain hunting is trying to convince an artist to lose money on something they hand craft especially for you. Bargain hunters hurt the handmade community as a whole, and from now on, they can find their cheap deals somewhere else.

If you are a handmade seller, I hope you can learn from my mistake. We all put too much love and work into the creation and design of our pieces to have anyone scoff at the value we’ve placed on them. You are worth so much more than what the bargain hunters will give you, and so am I.

How to run a successful handmade business and keep your day job

I didn’t know I needed THAT

I make and sell handmade jewelry. The thing about selling a non-necessity like jewelery is, well… it’s a non-necessity. No one ever really NEEDS a new necklace or pair of earrings. Come to think of it, most people don’t really NEED a new smart phone, pair of dress shoes, or package of cookies either. Turns out, people buy a lot of things they don’t really need.

When people want something badly enough, they will convince themselves they do in fact NEED said thing. It’s up to the sellers to convince their potential customers that they want what they have to offer.

For example:
Susan Smith WANTS to go on a vacation. She sees some brochures and advertisements for a cruise line deal and these images and messages further deepen her want for the vacation. Eventually, the presence of these advertisements make it more and more likely that Susan will convince herself that she not only WANTS this vacation, but NEEDS it. She will tell herself that she has been working way too hard lately, and could use a break. She will convince herself that a vacation would be just the thing to reboot herself, and she would return feeling more productive and ready than ever.

In the above example, the cruise line company increased Susan’s desire for a vacation by placing their ads in front of her often enough for their message to sink in.

Relax. Enjoy. Take a break. You need this.

Susan is the company’s target audience (working, upper-middle class income, with vacation time to utilize.) The marketing campaign of the cruise line turned Susan’s original want into a specific NEED for their product. Susan no longer just wanted a break from work, but to go on a cruise during her time off.

Consider the above example when promoting your own products.

When marketing your products, be they jewelry, bath and body, or baked goods, market your items in such a way that places the emphasis on WHY someone would want them. Discern what your target audience’s desire is, and explain to them how your product fulfills that desire. Turn your non-necessary items into the solution to a problem.

How to Identify Your Opportunity Costs

Let’s take a moment to discuss a really dry term. I probably first heard it in Economics 101, and you’ve probably been tested on what it means in a similar classroom setting: opportunity costs.

*yawn*

Starting to get as bored as you were when you had to listen to a professor lecture on micro economic theory? Hang with me for a second, because I do feel like this is something important that we should brief on, particularly if you are trying to run a business with a limited amount of time at your disposal. (Hint: time is limited for all of us. Nobody gets more than 24 hours per day.)

An opportunity cost is essentially what is lost because you were too busy doing something else.

If we break it down into a simple example, it looks like this:

Jack and Susan are both good at peeling potatoes.

Jack can peel 2 potatoes per minute and Susan can peel 5 potatoes per minute.

Susan can peel potatoes more than twice as fast as Jack.

HOWEVER: Susan can season and cook the potatoes so that they are so mouth-wateringly delicious that the customers at their restaurant can’t wait until their next meal so they can come back and order more potatoes. Jack can cook the potatoes too, but they usually end up burnt or just not as good. It’s a process that takes time and skill that only Susan possesses.

Susan needs time to cook and season the potatoes, so even though she is better at peeling the potatoes than Jack, it makes more sense to have Jack do the peeling. The opportunity cost is what is lost if Susan were to waste her time on something less suitable for her talents.

Now let’s take this example and apply it to your life and your business:

What are the things that only YOU can do, or would really suffer if you didn’t do them? If you are running a handmade business, this could probably be answered with the design and much of the creation of your items, perhaps your blogging talents, or your personalized responses to customer questions. In your life, some of these things could be playing with your kids, taking your spouse out on a date, and consoling a friend with a problem.

What are the things you are currently doing, that someone else could be? This list will generally consist of things you may be good at, but would not suffer if someone else did them for you, like house-cleaning, product photography, sorting e-mail, writing ad copy, packaging, etc.

Now I want you to take your list of all the things YOU don’t have to be personally doing, and identify which of those things are taking up the majority of your time. Which of these things, to put it another way, are causing the greatest opportunity costs? What would you spend your time doing if you didn’t have to do those things?

You may be costing your business (and your life) some serious growth potential if you are spending too much time doing menial tasks that could easily be outsourced to someone else. Crunch your numbers, and if you can determine some real increase in business if you have more of your time freed up, budget to do just that.

How to Run a Successful Handmade Business & KEEP Your Day Job

I love helping my fellow crafty peeps out. I always feel a deep sense of accomplishment whenever one of you dear readers lets me know how much this blog has taught and motivated you to press on and become more successful in your life and business. I appreciate you and I practically end up on cloud nine every time I hear that you return that appreciation.

I love offering you guise help and advice and recommendations based on my own business and personal experiences. However, sometimes my response needs to be much longer than a single blog post, LinkedIn comment, or Twitter response. When I’m asked, “How do you do it all?” It’s hard for me to correctly answer in just a few sentences.

So I wrote an eBook.

cover

… an it’s available on Amazon for your kindle or e-reader right now for $3.99.

In this book I go through the beginning steps of setting up your business (deciding what to make, and who to sell it to), how to promote those products to increase your sales, and how to manage your time so you can still do all of the other things that are just as important.

I set the price lower than a cup of coffee, because I really want all of you guise to read this book. In fact, I want to give a PDF version away to one of you for FREE.

Share this link (http://www.amazon.com/Successful-Handmade-Business-KEEP-ebook/dp/B00BCQCTKU/) on the following platforms, and receive an entry to win each time you share:

– Post on Facebook +1 (can be repeated daily for additional entries)
– Post on Twitter +1 (can be repeated daily for additional entries)
– Pin to Pinterest +1
– Post to your blog +1
– Post to Wanelo +1

Please leave a comment with your links/usernames to prove how many times you’ve entered. Contest is open until midnight on February 19th, winner will be announced on the 20th.

Create a Tribe of Followers by Being Different

Being different is tough, especially at first. Selling something unusual, that won’t appeal to as broad an audience as a bronze-toned owl necklace might, is a challenge to get off the ground. But, I’m here to tell you, when you DO get your unique products found by the people who love them, they will be fiercely loyal to both you, and what you are selling.

It’s like the marketing geniuses say: If you try to appeal to everyone you’ll end up appealing to no one.

Say you are a photographer, and you want to start selling your pictures on Etsy. You might take a look around, and quickly see that a lot of sparkly pictures of carnival rides sell well, and are sold by several of the photographers within the marketplace. You now have two choices: try to compete with these already established sellers by selling very similar items to theirs, or, sell something completely different. Monty Python style.

What if: you took some inspiration from these sellers (such as carnival rides) but put your own spin on it? For example, scary images of carnival rides completed with splattered blood and frightening clowns would appeal to the horror-loving crowd. Or, stylized, pastel-colored renditions of these rides could work well for children’s nurseries. See what I did there? I just carved out two possible niche markets that a photographer could be aiming for, rather than the very general definition of anyone who shops on the internet.

Not everyone thinks my eye rings are cool – and that’s a GOOD thing!

When you establish a niche market by selling something unique and different, you will be able to more effectively target your desired audience with the appropriate marketing. You will be able to identify where they hangout online, what they “like” on Facebook, and which local events they might be attending. Since you are making items that your target market is more likely to LOVE, they will also be more likely to become loyal followers of you and help spread the word. By merely selling something unique, your tribe of initial customers will help do a lot of your promotion for you. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be first to tell the world about an awesome new product they just bought?

Is Fear Holding You Back?

Running a business can be pretty freaking scary sometimes. I know I look all calm and collected on the outside, but I’m usually shaking in my bones right before trying out a new opportunity. You can ask my hubby how well I sleep at night before a big craft show. (As you might have guessed: not well.) The possibility of rejection or failure is downright nerve-wracking.

The down-side to this sort of anxiety is that it doesn’t exactly instill confidence from others into our business. We all know that confidence is sexy, and that we have to be the biggest believer of our goods in order to convince others to do the same. So how do we handle our inner, insecure artist side that would rather give up before even trying? It seems that all of the sales, success, and positive feedback in the world could not appease our own fear of failure…

Fake it ’til you make it.

In all honestly, you don’t even really have to “fake.” a whole lot. You already HAVE made it. If you are creating and selling your goods, putting them out there for all the world to see and judge, you are a success. You have given your insecurities the biggest blow to the gut they have ever received. Now revel in that success and build on it!

Focus on the fun part.

How much fun are you having coming up with new designs, getting feedback from your customers, and meeting other crafty peeps? It’s a good time. There is always more good than bad, the bad just screams the loudest.

Suck it up and jump in.

And if you fail? That’s OKAY. Really, there is no such thing as an ultimate failure. Even if you don’t end up selling much at that craft fair, or that one boutique turns your items down, you’ll have gained experience to learn and grow from.

Not sure if your new product will be a hit? Make some samples, list them and just SEE. They either will or they won’t.

Afraid of a gallery calling your work amateur? You’ll never know if that’s what they think unless you apply to get in. Even if that IS what they end up calling your work, you can ask them for specific feedback as to WHY, and see if you can apply their criticism or not in your future productions.

Scared they’ll say no? The answer is basically “no” if you never ask.

You can’t wait to the fear to go away before you try to accomplish your goals. If you work towards those goals, despite the fear, it will gradually fade into the background. Eventually, you’ll hardly even notice it, except maybe those nights before craft shows.

Pricing for Time-Consuming Creations

If you know anyone who makes beadwoven creations, or have tried it yourself, you know that it takes FOREVER. Even after years and years of practice and the development of some seriously mad beading skills, most of my pieces still take me several hours from start to finish. Even the simpler pieces take me at least 1 to 2 hours each.

Other time consuming crafters (this post isn’t exclusively for beadweavers) can also relate. When it takes multiple hours to finish a project, following most handmade pricing formulas is daunting. Take this very simple, and often used handmade pricing formula:

(time x $per hour) + 2(cost of materials) = wholesale price

wholesale price x 2 = retail price

The retail price is what you charge in your online shop, at craft fairs, etc. The wholesale price is what you offer boutiques and shops so that they can re-sell your items at full retail price for a profit. It is recommended that, depending on your level of skill, you give yourself at least $20 an hours for your labor.

While this formula works all fine and good for one of my quick projects, for example, a glasses lanyard that takes me 20 minutes to make, it gets tricky when using it for one of my more time consuming projects, such as a cuff bracelet that took me 4 hours. (I’m totally making up my supply costs here, so just bear with me.)

Glasses Lanyard:
(0.333 x 20) + 2(3) = $12.67 <- wholesale price
12.67 x 2 = $25.33 <- retail price

While over $25 feels a bit high for me still, it’s a reasonable price and I could live with it.

Now let’s try it with the bracelet cuff…
(4 x 20) +2(6) = $92 <- wholesale price
92 x 2 = $184 <- retail price

Okay. Let’s take a moment to process this. According to one of the most conservative handmade pricing formulas out there, I should be getting close to two-hundred buckaroos for one of my beaded bracelets. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

I would LOVE to actually sell my pieces for that much, but let’s be honest here. I’m not working with solid gold or silver, I’m not incorporating diamonds or rubies, my items are made up of mostly glass seed beads. Who is REALLY going to pay me that much for a new accessory. I’m simply not targeting the affluent, upper-class fashionista audience that apparently I should be. While my customers are happy to support handmade, and are willing to pay a bit more for a unique piece of jewelry that they won’t be able to find anywhere else, I have a hard time imagining that they would be willing to pay anything more than $80 for a bracelet like this, and even that’s pushing it with most of them.

So what’s a time-consuming crafter to do? How can we continue to create the unique, labor-intensive items we love, be able to actually SELL them, and make enough money off of our sales to consider our model a realistic business venture? Here are a few solutions from yours truly, a time-consuming crafter who does not charge for her time, but still manages to make money selling handmade… (Totally just referenced myself in the third person. Do I get an award for douche-baggery now?)

Figure out ways to speed up the process.
For me personally, this means prepping several projects that utilize the same supplies at once. This can also mean making multiples of the same project, one right after another. You’ll have all of your necessary supplies out and ready, and the repetitiveness of creating the same thing over and over again will result in better timing for each one.

Mix your time-consuming projects with non-time-consuming ones.
Just as in the glasses lanyard example above, I buffer my Etsy shops and craft fair booths with plenty of “filler” pieces that take much less time to make, but ensure I have a full inventory. Some of these simple items take me less than five minutes to create, and I can easily make several at one time. As a result, these projects often make up for any profit-loss that the most time-consuming projects take-up regarding labor spent.

Optimize what you sell.
What else can you sell besides your finished handmade pieces? Can you make and sell patterns of your original designs? Maybe you can sell left-over supplies as destash lots, or get paid to teach a class in your art form. If there are other ways in which you can supplement your income from selling, it never hurts to explore those options.

Keep all of your costs in mind.
When coming up with prices for your items, don’t forget that your costs aren’t all included in your labor and materials. Remember shipping charges, packaging materials, craft booth fees, Etsy and PayPal fees, time spent photographing and writing descriptions for your items, marketing time and costs, and so on. Even if you are like me, and planning on ignoring the results of the basic pricing formulas for handmade, you still need to make sure you are covering all of your bases.

Consider your target market.
If you are targeting geek-item-loving college students, chances are, they don’t have a whole lot of cash to spare and you need to do your best to keep your costs down so you can charge less for your items. However, if you are targeting an older, more well-to-do audience, you may be able to splurge on some high-end supplies and charge a bit more for your creations.

Consider the tangible nature of your product.
Some items can command a higher price simple because of what they are. Others have much lower expectations, due to the very nature of the item. For example, everyone expects a T-shirt to be a basic, low-priced piece of clothing. Even if you were to spend hours and hours hand-embroidering a design onto one, most people would still balk if you commanded anything higher than $30 as the final price. However, those same people would probably expect a wedding dress to be a much higher-priced item, and often come prepared for that when shopping around for one. If the previous hand-embroidery had been completed on a vintage wedding dress, even if it initially cost you the same as the blank T-shirt, you could command ten-times the asking price, and no one would question it.

Whenever you start to get caught up in calculating your labor time, your supply costs, your marketing tactics, etc., it doesn’t hurt to take a step back and consider what your item actually is. A t-shirt. A necklace. A scarf. You can cover a toilet seat with Swarovski crystals, but it’s still just a toilet seat. If you REALLY want to push the limit of what customers expect to pay for your product (like Starbucks did, for example), then you need to preprepared to work on some serious branding efforts to change people’s mind-sets.

How high is your craft-barrier?
Your craft barrier is the design and creation skills you possess and use to make your items. Basically: how many other people can make what you make, or easily learn how to? If the answer is anyone who can shop at Micheal’s, then you won’t be able to charge very much for your items. If you price too high, people will simply get their goods from someone else selling the same thing for less, or they will figure out how simple it would be to make it themselves. If you have a low craft barrier, you won’t be able to make much of a profit in order to compete.

On the other hand, if you have a high craft barrier, you get to command a higher price. The more skills and experience required to master your craft, the more people can expect to pay for it. Before slapping a price on your goodies, keep in mind how many others are already making what you make, and if they are at the same level of skill as you or not. If the number is small, you have good reason to ask for more.

What did I miss? Please share your tips for pricing time-consuming items in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

Guest Post: How to be “Likable” on Facebook

Social networks are filled with big and small businesses trying to sell their products.

A lot of them are doing it wrong.

Before you start showing me all of the new stuff you have listed in your shop, I need to know why I should care about your stuff in the first place. More importantly, I need to know why I should even care about YOU. Facebook is a great platform you can use to build up the reputation you need to gain a following that will care about you, AND your products.

Find out how by reading my Handmadeology exclusive post…

When It’s All Too Much

I am most frustrated when I’m overwhelmed. I doubt anyone enjoys that feeling. It’s probably not what The Black Eyed peas were referring to with their hit “I’ve Got a Feelin’…” (That’s my guess, anyway.)

So how should you handle it? Throw shyte? Yell at your spouse? Emmit every curse word imaginable when that case of beads pours all over the goddamnmothereffingshytesucking floor?

Okay, so those are probably just a few of the things I you SHOULDN’T do. Something else you should avoid is giving up altogether. It’s the procrastinator’s crutch: there’s too much to do, so why do any of it? As tempting as this can be sometimes: don’t fall into this trap.

Instead, identify exactly WHY you are feeling overwhelmed, and consider what on your “to do list” actually lines up with your priorities. In other words, figure out what you really NEED to do, what you WANT to do, and what it’s okay to omit altogether.

When we set up impossible goals for ourselves in the first place, we’re bound to get burnt out and overwhelmed. So let’s take a look a looks at those goals, the ones you came up with while fantasizing about being Superwoman…

A major presence on EVERY social network. No wonder you are pulling your hair out. Pick a few, ditch the ones you don’t really care much for anyway. (Hint: no one uses MySpace anymore.)

5 blogs. Are you kidding me right now? One is good. In fact, one will be BEST because you will be able to focus more energy on it, making it better in the long run. You don’t need a separate blog for your book reviews, one for your recipes, and one for your crafting business. Chances are, your readers will be interested in all of your hobbies, so keep ’em in one place for your own sake as well as theirs.

Promising same-day turnaround time on custom and made-to-order items. Did you realize you were going to get MULTIPLE requests for these AT THE SAME TIME when coming up with this goal? You probably didn’t. Set your turnaround time with a buffer for when this happens, especially during busy seasons like the holidays. Besides, you’re customers would rather be pleasantly surprised if you finish their order early, rather than later than promised.

Mess leads to stress. (I confess, this is something I need to work on.) A messy work area will contribute to your feelings of stress and being overwhelmed. When you’re in a hurry and can’t find anything, or don’t have the space to work, every small task will take that much longer. It’s worth it to take the time to tidy up after each work session.

Finally, make sure you’re making time for fun. When running a business, you’ve probably quickly discovered that days off no longer exist. While this may be true, be sure you are reserving some YOU time. I generally set aside Friday and Saturday evenings. If you have to, schedule a couple of days/evenings that work best for you. Get out and see a movie. Stay in and read a book. Visit a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. GO SOMEWHERE. DO SOMETHING. It’s worth it and you’ll feel more fulfilled for it too.

What’d I miss? What tips do you have for dealing with the overwhelming days? Please share, I’d love to hear them!