Do you have a written plan for 2017? If not, let’s get one in motion right now.
I know we all dream of our businesses being like a well-oiled machine that just simply “works.” However, not very many of us have a full-time staff complete with marketing managers, bookkeepers, inventory control or even front desk customer service smiley girls. Many times we’re lucky if Paw Patrol will keep the kid’s attention long enough for us to heat up that cup of coffee again for the 5th time today.
But even though we may not have the luxury of having full-time help, we do have the ability to make a plan of action that works for our situation and then execute it.
One of the hardest things I have faced in my business is planning. Not necessarily because I don’t know what I want to do… but because I tend to get distracted or overwhelmed or too excited and I end up throwing the “plan” out the window. While there is something to the “go with how you feel” execution being a part of the creative process… we have to learn to turn that creative brain off and let the business brain turn on occasionally. Otherwise, creative brain will have you painting rainbows and butterflies on the wall and then taxes will go unpaid.
Being your own boss means that you are responsible for the boss stuff too. Thus experiencing all the glory that entails. While it may include mind-numbing tasks, those tasks are necessary to make your business successful. They don’t have to be painful, though! If we set up a plan that works for our lifestyle, not someone else’s, our chances of success and follow-through increases.
Let’s identify 6 areas to focus on in 2017 for your business to thrive.
1. Finances.Yuck. Why start here? Well. Because we have a business to make money, right? If we didn’t care about the money, then this would be a hobby and not a business. In the HoopMama Crafter’s Calendar there is a day designated for planning each month. Understanding your financial situation is necessary for understanding your forecast of growth. Yes, sometimes in business we do have to take a loss, but we need to analyze carefully if that loss will bring us growth later. For example, investing $200 in a new machine may put us in the red for a month or two, but will that $200 investment help us grow by $2,000 a month? And then the opposite, will $200 on higher quality supplies gain us that many more orders if we don’t up our pricing?
In owning a business, it’s important for us to weigh our purchases and make sure we’re making smart decisions. Sure we may make a few bad choices, but having a better “long term” view of how our money is working, will help us to say “no” when the return just isn’t there.
Another important thing with finances are that we need to protect them. Crafters have some of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. I have met so many people who just want to help their customers out. While this is admirable, there must be a point where the switch flips back and the business mind jumps in control otherwise we will craft ourselves right into the poorhouse. This is where standing behind your pricing and payment policies will also help you protect those precious dollars.
2. Pricing & Payment Policies.
“What should I charge for this.” Is a question I am asked over and over again. I personally do not like pricing formulas. Pricing formulas do not take into account anything other than “what it cost to make” and “how long it took to make it.” Pricing formulas do not have anything to do with branding, your target market, your personal life, your craftsmanship, or your salesmanship abilities. We’ve all heard the phrase “she can sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves,” right? Well here’s where crafters go wrong. We rely on “pricing formulas” to answer the questions that WE need to be asking and answering ourselves. We group ourselves into a “what is everyone else doing” group and forget that we are different. There are crafters who do products for their neighbors and follow a pricing formula, sure. But if we want to establish ourselves as a brand and a real business, we need to ignore what everyone else is doing and do some serious research on the market we’re trying to reach and price accordingly to the market and your expertise. Basically, price it where you WANT to price it. And then be ready to back up that pricing! Don’t charge $22.99 for a thin and poor quality shirt, but do charge that for a high quality, well made and show worthy product.
Same goes for payment policies. An easy way to establish yourself to your customers as a business is to stand firm in your payment policies. Getting payment up front, canceling unpaid invoices, and having a clear cancellation policy for them to refer to will help tremendously in the long run. If you’re lax in your policies, word will get around fast, and you’ll be trampled on. Take time this year to write out your policies, post them everywhere you sell, then follow through with them. Obviously this doesn’t mean to turn into the Grinch and not have a heart for a customer going through a hard time, but it does mean to stand firm especially when it comes to the topics mentioned above.
3. Equipment & Inventory.
The beginning of the year is a perfect time to examine your current equipment and supply inventory. If you’re wanting to upgrade machinery or switch brands you use for your supplies, turn that business mind back on and get your pros and cons sheet out. If you determine that a new machine will help you this year, but the funds aren’t immediately available, start working on a goal sheet that puts a date on when you want it by, and the weekly or monthly funds needed to get there by that target date. This will sometimes be tricky, especially if you may be in debt with your personal finances. Reading Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover is an excellent start to getting your personal finances on track so you can focus on business goals without feeling like the money should be going elsewhere. I think many crafters still have their mom-cap on that says “I shouldn’t buy anything for myself,” but if we’re serious about being a business, we need to go ahead and accept the fact that costs are, and will always be, involved. This doesn’t mean to go into purchases without careful consideration, but it does mean to stop feeling guilty spending $200 on a heat press, or $150 on some AMAZING Mighty Hoops!
4. Product Offerings. If you know what you want to offer already then you’re heading in the right direction! Most crafter’s end up picking up an “I can make that” syndrome and quickly become a “me too” girl. The same thing that makes us entrepreneurs is also the problem that many of us face. Yes! We CAN make basically ANYTHING. However, what happens is we get pulled in so many directions that we lose our focus and become “just like everyone else.” If your business tagline is “Vinyl & More!” or along those lines. Consider narrowing your scope and specializing in just a few products or occasions. We will dive into this deeper with CraftMama University, but narrowing your offerings to what YOU WANT to do and not what you CAN do, may help you free up a lot of time and frustration, and may even make your business grow!
5. Social Media & Online Presence. This one is huge! Sure we can buy the stuff and make the things, but so what? If no one knows where to find us, then how will we ever be successful? Having a Facebook page is great! But if we don’t market it correctly, then we may have trouble getting up and going. Etsy may have some negative emotions pop up especially now that they’ve gone public. But Etsy honestly reaches a market that you may not be able to reach on your own. I see people constantly worried about getting their Etsy shop shut down for no reason, but with my research and experience, that isn’t usually the case. Sure sometimes they make a mistake and close a shop wrongfully (they are humans too) but when a mistake is made, they will fix it! If you make smart business choices and avoid using trademarked or copyrighted materials, Etsy will be a great resource for you! You can also get your first 40 listings here FREE!
I also always recommend to have several platforms to sell on. My website HoopMama Designs is on BigCommerce. Which is similar to Shopify. CraftMama is on WordPress and hosted on BlueHost, which is where I will eventually take HoopMama because there is more flexibility. But with WordPress, you will have to learn quite a bit more of the technical side which can be pretty time consuming. But in the end, it’s always a great idea to have a website to send people to. Even if you just purchase a domain from somewhere like GoDaddy and “point” the domain to your Etsy store for now, the domain will add another layer of credibility and trust with your customers. Domains can be very cheap! I believe I paid .99 cents for the 1st year for my HoopMamaDesigns.com domain name. So it’s definitely worth it to show your customers you mean business!
I know a lot of you are more comfortable selling through Facebook, and YES you can have a very successful business this way! But having a domain name provides a level of professionalism that many customers desire.
6. Personal Growth. This must never stop. Ever. When we stop learning, we stop growing. Books like 48 Days to The Work You Love and No More Mondays by Dan Miller inspired me in ways I can’t even explain. I have always had an entrepreneurial mind so books along those lines have always held my attention longer than any fictional book. I always listened to Dave Ramsey’s debt free podcasts while I worked and my husband and I read the Total Money Makeover together. These books and books like these will inspire you to grow not just in your business, but in your personal/financial life as well. If reading isn’t your thing, try taking a class/webinar on a topic that interests you. Craftsy has many classes that will help you refine your craft!
7. Business Goals. A business without profit is just a hobby. As small business owners, sometimes we’re embarrassed to set a monetary goal. We see ourselves as “the little guy,” when we should actually be aggressive in hitting our sales goals and reaching toward growth whenever possible! Take time to create monthly, quarterly, and yearly business goals and review them often! If something isn’t working, adjust it. If you hit your goal earlier than expected, set a new one. But your business should always have a focus. If you are asked “what are you working on right now,” you should be able to respond with 3 key areas that your are focusing on. Goals are what keep the business rolling month after month. They limit boredom and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
2017 can be the best yet, but you have to put in the time if you’re going to collect the dime.
That’s all for now! Join me in March for another GAME PLAN! Until then, stay positive and always move forward. – CraftMama
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