A lot of us in the business of handmade are parents working from home already juggling the needs of family and work on a daily basis. Others are pet-owners, newly-weds or students. Everyone has someone or something that needs our love and attention. As we head into the busiest time of year let’s think about getting organized and being prepared for the end of year rush. Your family will thank you for it!
Take a look at your sales figures from previous years (or months). Has your business grown? Hopefully you can expect your sales to increase as your business is now more established. More people are coming around to the idea of buying from independent retailers and confidence in buying online continues to increase. How were your sales over the quieter months of summer? You can only expect them to be better in the latter part of the year. Christmas might not be celebrated by everyone in the world but it remains the biggest selling season. Do some calculating to estimate how much you might sell and plan accordingly. A bit of positive visualization won’t hurt either – say it: “this will be my best year ever!”
Apart from the obvious of having product ready to sell, I encourage you to look at your administrative needs as well. Packaging, shipping and delivery are the big ones.
What does each order need before it’s shipped out? Swing tags, stickers, care labels, envelopes, tissue paper, cellophane bags, ribbon. Now might be a good time to look into buying in bulk from an office supply store rather than your local stationers. Can you make improvements to how your product is packaged? or cut costs while still making it look great? Will you offer a gift-wrapping service? That might be the deciding factor for a time-pressured customer who is comparing your product with a similar one.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated space for your craft you can still organize your packaging materials so it’s as streamlined as possible. Most of my orders come in overnight. It really helps if I can quickly grab the sold item, package it up and take it to the post office first thing. Then I can carry on with my errands knowing that my work is done for the morning. Use a chest of drawers as a mini office. You might assign a drawer each to cellophane bags and bubble mailers. Invest in a return address stamp and spend an evening in front of the television stamping your boxes. Handwrite your thank you notes in advance with something that might be appropriate for every order. Pre-sign a stack of customs declarations if you mail a lot of parcels internationally. Use a drawer organizer tray for these small items. A checklist is a good idea for days when you are feeling really overwhelmed.
Our customers want their packages to arrive quickly. Personally I won’t buy something that has what I consider an unreasonable shipping charge attached. Find a cost-effective method of shipping that is also not too time-consuming for you. Can any of the paperwork be done online? Does the delivery company offer a pick up service? Will you just ship once or twice a week? Is your parcel going to withstand the shipping process? You wouldn’t want to spend hours making your special items only to have them returned because the box or mailer you sent them in fell apart in transit.
While on that topic make sure you have a good set of policies in place for handling returns or refunds. Nobody wants a dissatisfied customer and nothing makes a customer more disgruntled than a lack of information, especially where money is concerned. Make dealing with customer inquiries or complaints a priority in your schedule and you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.
Your calendar is your best friend. Pull one out and count the number of weeks left till the end of the year. There are not many! Fill in birthdays, weddings and other family commitments that you can’t miss. Decide on a cut-off date for shipments to arrive in time for Christmas. Work backwards to plan how much time you have to devote to your business. Will it be enough? Will you need to hire a dog-walker or call in your mom to babysit? Have the conversation now with your husband so he knows that weekends and evenings might have to be devoted to your business.
In the coming weeks we will address time management and taking care of ourselves. If you have any great suggestions leave a comment and we’ll include it in our article.