Back in July, I attended a workshop in San Francisco on CreativeLive. Remember the photos I posted from the trip? I had learned so much and realized many points while I was there and as I've reflected since I've been home.
The workshop was, "Marketing for Crafters: Successfully Sell Your Handmade Goods" taught by Tara Swiger. I was so ecstatic to attend this 3-day course because I love to constantly learn-not only new design techniques but also about the "business side of things" and what goes into trying to run a successful small business. As I work in the craft studio, CreativeLive is usually playing in the background. It's a great education tool for makers, photographers, business & money savvy people and those who love DIY.
From July 17-19th, I was able to really focus on where I wanted my brand to take me and what I really wanted from Love Sparkle Pretty. Before coming to the workshop, I thought I had an idea of goals/plans, etc but I soon realized that I was really just going with the flow and following where ever LSP went. I never wrote down any clear business plans and when I thought of my long term goals, I couldn't really make up my mind on one "big picture." I mean, how could I? I am a mother and a wife who stays at home and tries the best I can to multi-task the shop, the house, what to eat and feed my son throughout the day, the chores that need to be done, the time spent with my husband when he comes home from work, the learning activities I play with my son, the events we attend, etc. etc. I don't have time to think of a business plan on top of it all-until I had 3 days to myself in San Francisco.
Being a woman trying to balance many roles is hard-especially when your heart is divided with your family/children and your work, which for many creatives, is your passion. It's difficult to see the productive results of your work when you are doing so many different things all in one day (usually feeling like a chicken with it's head cut off). It's good to take a moment, or several and really think about what you really want-in this case, from your small business. When I was able to do this, I was smacked in the face with a different reality and goal than I initially may of thought.
Here is Part I (see Part II here) of what I've learned and come to realize over the past few months and years as a small business owner.
I don't want to be a corporation or a large-scale company. I once thought that if my little shop grew organically into a much larger-scale business where I could hire several employees, have an incredibly inspiring and beautiful headquarters, large rooms full of hard-working designers and a glamorous desk to call my own, I'd be happy with that. I mean, who wouldn't be right?
After thinking about my priorities a little more and having Tara Swiger make us write down our ideas and what's really guiding our business, I can honestly say that this large-scale dream is truly not my ultimate goal and it's something I no longer think about. The power of putting thoughts onto paper!
I need to value my time. I've talked about this before in a post here and I really think that this is so important for any small business owner. I have so much going on in each and every day. They may be menial tasks some days but none the less, they are things that need to get done or time poured into relationships.
I remember when all of this was just a hobby and I would just create for anybody and everybody. The turning point comes when you decide to take what you do seriously. Once you become overwhelmed with work, you realize that the hours you are spending on your business is taking over the hours in your day that need to be placed elsewhere (i.e. taking care of your children/family, doing your daily devotion, keeping the house clean, grocery shopping, paying the bills on time, etc.)
Print by The Quote LabThere comes a point when you realize that you need to make some changes in how you spend your time. Make a list of your priorities and know that it's ok to say no to things. Learn to say no so you can say yes to the things that really make you excited about your day and your business.
The next point that I learned has been a key factor in helping me value my time.
Pricing, pricing, pricing. I live in an area where the majority of the population shops at Target, Walmart and bargain clothing stores (hey, I love to get good deal too!). With that said, the market that I live in is not my target market. This took me a while to accept initially. I wanted to please everyone and sell to everyone around me who asked. Doing this, I was not only losing money but I was losing out on my days because I was cooped up in a small room for hours. Not that I didn't love what I do or wasted the experience but my mind set had to change if I wanted to take my work more seriously.
Here's a story-a lesson learned really early on in pricing.
The very first order I ever sold as Love Sparkle Pretty was actually a skirt that I had sold for $20 that actually ended up taking me 14+ hours to make in total not including the adjustments the customer later wanted to make (making the skirt twice as short as it originally was). I initially thought that $20 was even high and felt guilty...until I got to work on this custom piece. It took me so long to make because I was still learning to sew but after this girl approached me in a mall asking about the ruffled skirt I was wearing that I had created, she wanted one as well and I didn't turn down the opportunity. Since it was my very first order, I was a MAJOR perfectionist and spent a heck of a lot of time on this skirt. When all was done, after supplies were bought and gas money was used (I had meet her 2 different times) and the several hours spent, the only thing I was left with was a HUGE learning lesson.
I have also started to take on a couple wholesale orders which has really made me see that my prices were certainly not priced for wholesale. I thought that I was making a decent amount because they were large orders but with prices nearly chopped in half on each piece and spending the same amount of time creating each piece, I was again, not valuing my time in my pricing. So for me, because I certainly want to keep my wholesale relationships, my prices changes (once I reopen shop on the 15th) will also reflect this among many other factors.
If this a business that you want to take seriously, you need to also make a profit on top of making the money it takes to keep up on your website, business cards, utensils used everyday to create (scissors, glue, thread, needles, pens, paper, etc.). This would all be considered overhead because this is money that goes back into your business-not your profit.
You don't need to market to those around you if they aren't your target audience. When you think about your ideal customer and pricing, where do they shop? Do your prices compare and relate to that stores prices? This is usually the best way to get thinking about your prices. For example, if your ideal customer shops at Anthropologie, your prices need to correlate with those prices. If your prices are much lower, the quality of work may seem a lot less. Same for any store you see your customer buying from. Make sense?
Here are some other great pricing tips to learn from:
The Etsy Blog: A Simple Formula for Pricing Your Work
Tara Gentile: Making Your Customers Comfortable with Price
Tara Gentile: 88.2% of Business Owners Should Double Their Prices
See Part II here where I cover these topics:
- I have a different view point of hiring.
- My brand is a reflection of myself.
- What is my North Star?
- At the end of the day, what is truly important.