Business Advice

I must really SOUND like I know what I am doing when it comes to ‘my little crafting / vintage / re-purposing business, because I sure do get a lot of emails ‘asking for my advice’.  MOST of the time my reply is the same, READ MY BLOG.  I really DO pretty much ‘tell all’.  Only a very few tidbits of information are kept as ‘trade secrets’.  

Since I just got another such email, I thought I’d go ahead a do a post on the topic to ‘get it all in one place’.  First of all, I am NOT an expert.  I have learned by trial and error, and in the end, that is how EVERYONE should learn.  You will MISS many valuable lessons along the way if you don’t ‘push the boundaries’ and ‘experiment a little’.  BUT, perhaps you can learn a little from MY experience and ‘expedite’ and I can help make your journey more FUN and less stressful.

FIRST AND FOREMOST:

“There is no easy way; but there IS a way.”  That is a quote form a greeting card I saw once.  It has stuck with me though, and it’s a good reminder when ‘tough times’ come you way.  And in business, just as in life, there WILL be STUFF that comes along to knock you off balance and sometimes just plain knock you on your BUTT! 

The thing is, to remember it’s ‘just a thing’.  It’s your business.  It’s your BABY.  It’s your DREAM!!!  But still, it’s just a thing.  And sometimes things just don’t always work out the way we imagined.  SO, when the going gets tough, and you think “This just ISN’T working for me!”  This was SUPPOSED to be fun!”  This was SUPPOSED to SUPPLEMENT our income, not DRAIN it!”  Sometimes, is IS time to ‘let it go’.  

IF it is HURTING rather than helping your financial situation.  HERE’S YOUR SIGN!

IF it SUCKS THE LIFE out of you and you are crabby with your family/friends or just no longer have TIME for family or friends. HERE’S YOUR SIGN!

Now that SIGN isn’t necessarily telling you to GIVE UP.  Maybe you just need to RE-THINK.  Put what is MOST IMPORTANT FIRST in your life, your family and friends; then model your business to fit AROUND that.

It’s better to start small and GROW, then to start BIG and have to downsize.  

If business is GREAT, don’t mess with success.  BUT, at the same time, “Don’t put all your eggs into ONE BASKET”.  Try to have ‘multiple streams of income’.  Craft shows, craft malls, farmers markets, on-line venues, home parties . . .are ALL good options to explore AFTER your initial business is ‘up and running smoothly’.  

ADVERTISE.  ADVERTISE.  ADVERTISE.

The great thing about selling via more than one venue is that each will be advertising for the other.  Start a business blog.  MANY great blogging sites are FREE.  I actually don’t like the ‘pay’ blogs because they have ADVERTISEMENTS on them. And they just distract the reader FROM my information.  You want to KEEP THEM on your blog. (or send them to your other on-line venues!)Add new content to your blog AT LEAST once a week.  Show what’s new.  Talk up your upcoming sales venues in your blog.  Show LOTS of pictures in your blog.  Put your blog address on all your price tags.  

You can get business cards and LOTS of other kinds of business advertising products from Vistaprint.com.  VERY inexpensively, sometimes even FREE, you just pay shipping.  They have TONS of design options.  AND you can design your business cards so that they can be ‘cut in half’ and used as hang tags OR price tags.  Other things I order from VistaPrint are:

Address labels to use as product labels

Address STAMP with my biz name and blog address to stamp on the backs of items if I run out of labels.

Thank you cards to enclose with etsy orders.

Sticky note pads with a thank you message to enclose with etsy orders.

Rack cards to also send with etsy orders.

Business cards to put out in my booth at the antique mall

Small magnets with biz name and blog to put in my booth.

Post cards to put in my booth

Lawn signs to use as booth signs

Banners to use as booth signs

Car door magnets with biz name and blog address to advertise.  

YEP!  I have gotten ALL that stuff FREE; just paid shipping!  You can usually order up to TEN items free at a time.  Although LATELY they have only had the biz cards and post cards for half price instead of free.   Of course you only get a small amount of free things, like 25 of the magnets at a time; but as a SMALL business that is all you really NEED!

It’s also good to advertise on sites like craigslist or other local on-line places that offer free advertising.  But your BLOG will be your BEST advertising, so ALWAYS set aside time in your week to update the content and add pictures.

You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  It’s a good thing to remember.  But at the same time, remember that things can CHANGE; so always have a plan B.  If black furniture has ALWAYS sold well for you, keep it up!  But also try ‘adding in’ other colors now and then to EXPAND your color repertoire.  You just never know when that color trend is going to bottom out.  

I’ve been doing the ‘beachy blue’ for nearly five years.  And it continues to sell very well for me.  BUT I also complement it with black furniture in the fall and winter; and whites and creams in the summer.  I’ve tried PINK many times and it just NEVER sells well for ME!  When we had our own store, the pink section always got the most ‘Oooooooooooh and aaaahhhhs!’  but it never SOLD!  I usually ended up re-painting it!  

When you DO introduce a new color to your palette, be sure to add enough of it to ‘make a statement’.  You want people to see it as a color TREND they should consider.  Not just a few random mis-matched pieces!  

The BEST way to ‘protect your bottom line’ in business is to SPEND WISELY, of course.  Find out if your local thrift stores have any kind of discount programs.  Most do.  And if you are over 55, don’t be afraid to ask if the offer a senior discount.  Go to the BIGGER estate sales that are done by a professional estate sale COMPANY.  MANY of them will offer discounts the last day of the sale.  Locally, we like Kathy’s Estate and Moving sales.  On their last day, everything under $50.00 is HALF PRICE.  Works great for me because I’m usually buying that really beat up stuff that everyone else has passed up.  Occasionally we’ll go the first day for some high end stuff and again the last day for the ‘deals’.  Ask any estate sale rep if they have an email list, and sign up for it.  MANY times they will have PICTURES for you to preview before the sale.  

Pricing.  That’s another ‘hot’ topic that I get frequent inquiries about.  There is a separate post  about that.  There are MANY who would entirely DIS agree with my pricing philosophy.  But, it works for me.  It’s LESS work.  And sales are good.  You do what works BEST for YOU in YOUR AREA.

Just ALWAYS remember, that a ‘small business’ (or hobby as it really is for many of us) should be ENJOYABLE.  Not that EVERYTHING in life has to be fun.  But if it’s something you put your ‘heart and soul into’ it should be fulfilling, not DRAINING.

If I forgot to touch on anything. please feel free to leave a comment.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank-you for all the info/ideas you have given freely. I try to promote all other local businesses close to me because I never want to feel we are in a competition but working together. I think you feel the same. But again thank-you!

  2. ABSOLUTELY! We were in a better position to ‘cross promote’ other craft/gift/antique stores when we had our brick and mortar shop; so I’ve kind of forgotten about that advertising aspect. My area is GREAT for that kind of camaraderie amongst small businesses. If YOU don’t have what a customer is looking for, but KNOW where they can find it, DO tell them. It’s really NOT taking away from your business since you didn’t have what they were looking for. And your KINDNESS will be LONG remembered AND passed along and paid forward.

    Sooooooooooooo much nicer than ‘competing’ with the other businesses and treating them like the ‘enemy’!
    aj

  3. I love your advice & read each update. A couple things I’m wondering are 1) How do you get people to read your blog?
    That may sound like a stupid question, but with so many blogs out there, how do you make yours noticeable? I’ve been trying to figure this out….
    & 2) Which ‘Address STAMP with your biz name and blog address to stamp on the backs of items if I run out of labels’ do you order from Vista Print? I cannot find one that will accomodate my entire blog address on one line. Any suggestions there?
    Thank you so much for your time!
    I appreciate the feedback!

  4. Jenn,
    I’ll answer question #1 in the blog in the very near future,

    As for the address stamp, I just get the pre-inked ones from VistaPrint. My blog address is pretty long also, and it fits. I can’t remember specifically WHICH of the styles they offer that I actually get. But I guess you could just try them ALL and see which will fit your address. I THINK it just automatically DECREASES the font size to fit the space. BUT you can also leave off the www if you need to shorten it.

    aj


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