Often times we think of our on line business as an extension of our favorite hobby. This is disastrous thinking if we intend on making that business a success. Our hobbies are what we use to escape the ugliness of “work”, but once we cross that line from creating for enjoyment to creating for income, we have to change our way of thinking. That’s not to say that you have to give up your hobby. Just know that the things you create but don’t intend to sell are your hobby items now. Those items that are created to sell or use as promotional tools are your business.
Ok, so having established which are your hobby items and which are your business, ask yourself this question: Is my business as successful as it could be? I’ll bet each one of you reading this heard a resounding “NO!” in your head. I’ll even bet some of you said it out loud. Many of us start each year, month, week, or whatever telling ourselves that some day we’ll sell more…some day we’ll be so successful that we won’t know what to do with ourselves. Well…how, my dear, do you plan on doing that? You can’t get to Disney World without a plan. And once you get there, you’d better have a map and be prepared to wait in line…unless… you know exactly where you want to go. Wandering aimlessly around the internet, listing items wildly on every site you find is about as effective as if you were at Disney World, standing in every line for every ride, when all you really want to do is get to Cinderella’s Castle. Have you figured out the analogy yet? The castle is your goal. And it can represent anything, you just have to define it. Once you do that, your odds of meeting that goal will be much better.
So what now? We need to identify our individual goals. No wait, screw that, it sounds too much like homework. Just answer this question: What is it that you want to accomplish with regard to your business? Do you even want to be in business? If your answer to the second question is “No, this is just a hobby.” then stop here. Take your items off-line and stop cluttering up the web with mindless junk. In this scenario, on the road to success, you are either a speeding two-ton truck or you are road kill, creating speed bumps for the rest of us. Now, if the answer to the first question is “Total World Domination”…ok, well, you’re still dreaming, but at least you’re headed in the right direction.
Why don’t we start with something a little more attainable like, “I would like to double my sales from last year.” Or, if you don’t really have any sales to speak of from last year, pick a number. It could be 50 sales, 100 sales, or a dollar amount like $500, $1000, $5000. Whatever the number, be realistic. That does not mean pick a low number. It is perfectly realistic to pick any one of the numbers I mentioned, even if it’s at the high end. Other sellers have done it, why can’t we? I’m going to set my goal at doubling my current sales. Now, that isn’t random but I have to state that clearly in order to have a set number in mind. As of my one year anniversary on Etsy, I had made 49 sales in my on-line shop. To keep it simple, I’ll round that up to 50. According to my goal for this year, I should make 100 additional sales by March 27 next year. I have picked a particular number, a clear target to reach. I am now 5 weeks into my second year on Etsy and already, I have 16 sales in my jewelry shop. That’s 1/3 of my total sales from my first year, made in just over a month. Not a bad start.
The idea is to keep that going. We are headed into summer in the US which is notoriously slower in retail, generally speaking. It is, however, a busier time for those who choose to sell their handmade items at art and craft fairs. I cringe at the thought! Sitting behind a table in the hot summer months hawking my jewelry is not my idea of fun in the least. But it is definitely one way to boost sales, big time! It is also difficult for anyone in my position who works a 40 hour a week job and needs to be at work on the weekends. (Did I tell you I love retail?) That makes it very difficult for me to sell at art fairs and festivals since I don’t want my jewelry business to disrupt my full time job if I can help it. Another option for me might be to do house parties during the week. A few hours selling at private parties has often put an extra $700 or so in my pocket. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
So, if you haven’t done it yet, a very important goal for this coming summer should be to book a few festivals or parties to keep the cash flow a little steady. If you’re lucky and have the time and energy to devote to one of these a week or every two weeks, you should be sitting pretty well before the holiday shopping season in the fall. Don’t forget to plan your inventory accordingly! Check out your local and state government web pages to find festivals in your area. In Illinois, check out the Illinois Arts Council for a yearly schedule of all the arts and craft fairs in the state. They put out a book each year with a list of all the festivals and art fairs, dates, entry fees, contact information, and deadlines. If you’re not in Illinois, try checking out a great web site called Eventlister.com to find events in your area. Many of these fairs have entry deadlines way in advance of the actual fair date, so now is a good time to plan for next year as well.
Get your goals in order and stick with the plan. A clearly defined target is by far the best motivator!
Mary Ryan is not an expert in Marketing and Promoting, just a keen observer in the retail business of which she has been cursed to work in for most of her adult life. She is an Interior Design Consultant and Jewelry Designer and sells her jewelry online in several venues (some still under construction) including
Her blog can be read at http://thelittlebrownbird.blogspot.com/