Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scalability and Our Handmade Business (Part II) - how do we get to be spidey-woman and still make stuff?

white heart studios - get your spidey on
I wrote a series of posts a couple years ago on different ways to make money on Etsy, but it was really a kind of whine about how tired I was. You can read it here.

Burn-out is an occupational hazard of working from our hearts and with our hands and heads and I don't believe it is totally preventable. It is one way we know it is time to change things.

Scaling our business is something lots of makers start thinking about when we are burned out or our businesses become unsustainable; sometimes because we are selling more than we can make but sometimes because we are making more than we can sell - the smart ones work it into their model from the start.

For those of us who haven't, raises hand here, redefining our business later is a lot of work. It is like trying to comb your hair in a hurricane. Our business still needs to stay open and making money while we make changes in the background. This takes time and time is the one thing we think we don't have. Time is kind of stretchy though - if we need to make changes, we need to figure this out.

It's like spending more money now - for example buying your supplies in bulk - to save money later, spending time now to save time later works the same way.

One maker model of scalability is the make something once and sell it again and again model - the illustrator who sells prints of his work for example. He still gets to do what he loves which is draw, but he doesn't have the one for one maker model that limits his sales to how many drawings he can produce in a day and he has the bonus of still being able to sell his originals for much more.

(of course he still needs the traffic and he still needs to be producing original things people want to buy to make this all work for him)

Anytime you can make something once and sell it again and again you have created scale. Anytime your fixed costs or the time it takes to make the next one of something you make is reduced from the first one you made, you have created scale - it can take me as much time to make 1 of something as it does to make 3, for example. So every time I make 3, I create scale (of course this assumes I can at some point sell 3).

Some ways for makers to
start thinking about scale:

1. Sell a pattern or tutorial (the old create it once, sell it again and again thing)

2. Sell 3 things to 1 person - Upsell to existing customers. It is cheaper to sell 3 things to one person than 3 things to 3 people, so set up your site to make this easy.

For example a customer looking at rings should be shown a link to other rings or maybe a customer looking at a ruby ring should be shown a link to other ruby jewelry, you decide what you think they want to see, and pics are always better than words when it comes to links and selling online.

When thinking scale it is always better/cheaper
to focus on existing customers ... or is it?

3. Sell 3 things to 3 people (you know my rules are always bendy) 

Create a referral system - more happy customers create more good word of mouth which creates more customers that you didn't have to do anything to get (other than be your amazing self, of course)

For example - try a send a friend deal with a coupon code for people who refer people - you might not totally be able to police this, but who cares.

4. Create a mailing list - this is very important because it is so much less work to sell to people who already love our stuff - just ask your customers if they want to be added and make it worthwhile for them. Give them sneak peaks and discounts and information they want.

I wouldn't email them more than once every 4-6 weeks - when people using mailchimp email me more frequently than that I almost always remove myself from their list - the emails, just like every interaction with a customer, should always reflect your brand. Don't just throw something out there.

For example - Email customers a coupon for a discount on something in your store and in the email include a downloadable simple card they can give with it if they purchase it as a gift. I have found this works better than just a coupon.

5. Keep track of your existing customers' wants and needs - remember, the less time and money you have to spend finding new customers the more you are thinking scale.

For example - Soap lasts, I don't know 30 days - can you sell auto-renewals or subscriptions? You have probably seen this genius viral campaign for this genius tampon delivery company.

Someone who bought mittens from you last year will almost certainly have lost them by now.

Someone who bought cufflinks from you for their wedding a year ago will have an anniversary right now.

Ask customers for their birthdays and email them a birthday card and a coupon two weeks before.

This stuff will take time and maybe money to set up in the beginning, but if you do it right will more than pay for itself later. Hire someone local on TaskRabbit to help you get this set up.

6. Streamline your makings

for example - if you sell on Etsy, maybe you created certain whosee whatsees that you don't sell much, but they drew customers in who maybe bought other things - or this was your thinking anyway, well, maybe now that search is so different and so crowded this isn't true anymore and you can just ditch this stuff and save yourself time, money and headaches

7. Think passive income

For example - sell blog advertising, create a subscription service, etc

8. Hire help; any kind of help that saves you time - if you can pay people less to do things than you can charge someone else, you have created scale. You may not technically create scale if you do this solely to save your own sanity, but in a spideywoman world it totally counts. So if you save 4 hours a week, by having someone clean your house and can put that time into your business, or into wth a nap, and need to do it - go ahead.

Spidey-woman is not superwoman. 
Superwoman burned out.
Spidey-woman is just getting started.

The best thing we can do is build scale and passive income into our business in the beginning - this does not have to be something gigantic.

Big thinkers do not always look like big thinkers to the outside world because our thinking is more broad than tall - we are thinking deep. We are not leaping tall buildings anymore - we are scaling them. This allows us to move over here and over there when we need to, so we get to have an actual life as well as a business.

Spidey-woman has taken superwoman down, folks.

Of course the problem with dollars for hours has always been that if you create a successful whosee whatsee you will run out of hours.

Next week - part III what to do when we really run out of hours


KJ said...

Thinking ahead I see with the teaser "next week."

You talked about scaling money and time, but my own favorite quip is: there is never enough money, time, or storage space. You have to have the space to work. I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to leave my work out and come back to it- I have left the put it away and get it back out cycle.

Finally, for jewelry makers, you left out my favorite selling time- Mother's Day. It is a great time of year- it is not Christmas and it is spring when people want something fresh.

DancingMooney ♥ said...

I have a friend who does coffee subscriptions and she's suggested to me that I do monthly soap subscriptions. I've tried it in the past but didn't get a lot of takers... however that was a couple years ago. Might not be a bad idea to try again, with the holidays coming...

Jane Pierce aka zJayne said...

Wow... I love this. I will read it over and over again until I do something about some of this stuff.

Vague maybe, but mannnn I so get this!!

Thanks a bunchola,

Catherine Ivins said...

You caught that teaser, huh Kathy, now I just have to actually post it- ha! I like subscriptions Janelle, as long as there is an easy opt-out - maybe just reminders would work when you know people should be out. I hear ya Jane- I get busy and forget to do the stuff that got me busy and then get very ... un-busy