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[42] A Guide to International Orders for your Handmade Business

Deciding to accept international orders in your handmade business can be a big decision, and can seem overwhelming and a bit scary.

However, I truly believe that if you can work out a way to do it, you will find it more than worthwhile. You will vastly expand your customer base, and therefore grow your business faster than you could only selling domestically.

If you are interested in offering your product to international customers and you don’t know where to start, or you’re unsure if you’re ‘doing it right’, then this episode is for you.

It it, I take you through a checklist of the things you need to do in order to set yourself up to sell your craft overseas.

While selling internationally is different for every country, there are some general rules to follow to ensure both you and your customer are protected throughout the whole process.

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Should you be selling internationally?
  • Some products can be a barrier if they are large or delicate.
  • You will never know if it is for you unless you try!
  • ‘Don’t let the fear, or the workload, stop you from doing it’. {Jess}
  • You need to do the work to calculate shipping, as customers want it to be easy or they will most likely not bother.
  • Do your research. Who will you ship through? How much will it cost? How long will postage take?
  • Perfect your packaging so that it is sturdy and protects your item.
  • Communication is key in this process!
  • Never assume that your customers know. Sending a personal email can combat misunderstanding.
  • Blog Post: Are you using your customer correspondence to tell your story?
  • Podcast Ep 3: How to provide outstanding online customer service. 
  • Make your policies clear. Is tracking included? Insurance?
  • Make sure you have a policy that addresses that the customer is liable for import duties or customs charges.
  • Does sales tax apply?
  • There is always going to be a chance that you undercharge at some point.
  • If undercharging on postage occurs you are liable and not the customer.
  • Know the postage rules and systems to stop this happening.
  • Scams – do they happen?
  • Have a replacement policy rather than a refund policy.
  • If something goes missing always confirm the address, refer them to your policies and remember to trust your customer.
  • Keep receipts from the postal service.
  • ‘Keep your integrity but stick to your guns when something goes wrong’. {Jess}
  • Miscommunication is usually the number one problem.
  • ‘Have a relationship with your customer rather than just a transaction. {Jess}
  • Remember that different countries will have different rules. If you aren’t comfortable – don’t send there.

 

Download/Listen to this Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

How to Celebrate Your Successes – Big or Small!

 

We dream of quitting our day jobs to follow our creative passions.

We chase the idea of being in charge of our own day to day and the flexibility of working for ourself.

It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to do so well while still learning the aspects of running a creative business as we go, that it’s easy to skim over the top of all of the achievements you HAVE made because you keep looking towards your larger goal.

We often forget to stop, look back, and see how far we have come. It is so important to reward yourself as it creates a positive feeling towards a job well done instead of a burnt out, restless night before getting back into it the next day with a ‘here we go again’ approach.

You know the feeling, that little pang of pride, that sense of achievement you get?

As soon as you feel that feeling you need to celebrate it! Even if it is just a small success. All successes are a step in the right direction and all of them are important.

You are your own boss when you run a creative business. You have no one to pat you on the back, give you an early minute or simply say ‘thank you’.

Did you make the local paper? Share wine with friends.

Did you secure a custom order? Spend an afternoon outdoors breathing in fresh air and light.

Did you finish a project that has been lingering? Buy yourself a small gift. A candle, a magazine or some new music.

It really doesn’t matter what your reward is. We are all so different and we all find joy in different places. It could be a glass of good wine, an afternoon reading in the sunshine, a trip to the beach or an early night after a long soak in the tub.

It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. It just needs to feel good, and allow you to take a moment to say ‘well done’ to yourself.

 

 

Here are a few great, pampering ways to enjoy your creative biz journey even more by really celebrating every milestone you reach.

 

Itty-bitty successes

1. Spend the afternoon reading a great book.
2. Have a long soak in the tub.
3. Take a slow walk to enjoy the outdoors.
4. Have a glass of wine (or two!)
5. Share the joy by having a good chat with a great friend.

 

The in-between successes

1. Buy yourself a new candle.
2. Go for a mani, pedi, or massage.
3. Take a day off and get some salty sea air.
4. Drink some champagne, the real stuff!
5. Enjoy a picnic with friends or family.

 

Life-changing successes

1. Book a weekend away somewhere relaxing – or maybe go on a yoga or mediation retreat?
2. Go to the best restaurant in your city.
3. Start planning (or booking!) that big holiday you have been thinking about.
4. Do something new and exciting, go on an adventure.
5. Visit your hairdresser and enjoy some retail therapy.

 

You need to acknowledge a job well done, reward yourself and celebrate even the smallest success in order to create the positive reinforcement required to keep yourself motivated and inspired.

 

[41] Megan Eckman on the Sweet Spot Between What You Want to Make, and What Your Customers Buy

Megan Eckman runs a creative business, Studio MME, selling her illustrations as embroidery patterns, kits, and other crafty creations.

We discuss the huge growth that happened in her business when she started selling embroidery kits – an unplanned direction for her creative work. Like me, she’s now at the point where she not only runs her business full-time, she also employs her partner!

We talk a lot about the tension between what we want to make, and what our customers actually buy. I call it the ‘sweet spot’. Finding it – and accepting it – can be a real struggle for artists and makers.

We also discuss the benefits she sees in outsourcing some aspects of her business as well as the dreams she has for the future of Studio MME.

If you would like to hear an inspiring story of hard work and dedication leading to business success, don’t miss this one!

 

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Megan Eckman runs Studio MME, is an artist and makes embroidery kits.
  • Megan got to the stage where she wasn’t having fun with her art any more.
  • ‘I gave myself permission to just play with art again.’ {Megan}
  • One of her biggest challenges was the tension between making what she wanted to make and making what people want her to make.
  • Last year Megan built her business to the point she was able to hire her partner.
  • She now runs her business full time, and last year for the first time ever she reached her financial goal.
  • ‘Don’t let the people who don’t believe in you stop you.’ {Jess}
  • Megan has a five year plan for her business which includes outsourcing many different aspects of the day-to-day running of it.
  • ‘I schedule my day around things that are important to me’. {Megan}
  • She now schedules creative time for the time of day that she is most productive.
  • ‘Don’t be afraid to test email marketing incentives’. {Megan}
  • Email marketing is a very cost effective form of advertising.
  • ‘You have to have that desire deep down to push through, to make it happen.’ {Jess}
  • You can find Megan at her website or Instagram.

 

Download/Listen to this Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

How a Head Full of Dreams Became petal & pins

 

 

 

Guest Post by Sandra Alcorn.

 

A Head Full of Ideas & Dreams

When I began petal & pins I didn’t start with a plan – but I did have a head full of ideas and dreams – and if that’s you too, it’s a good place to start! My project manager husband would say it’s an agile approach, responsive to change and opportunities.

I wasn’t new to running a small business, but like all new creative start-ups, I found you bring skills with you, discover ones you didn’t think you had and find new things you need to learn – sometimes quickly and sometimes with a bit (or a lot) of trial and error.

Starting a blog before I had a product to sell was a great way to get feedback and firm up my thoughts on what I wanted to do and allowed me to build up a following while researching the market as well as how I would produce and sell them.

Taking the plunge to get my product to customers, I started with a small print run which I listed on etsy with a link on my blog as well as selling them from my studio.

I soon discovered I enjoyed writing and it has been instrumental in getting featured in an article in Faerie Magazine (Issue 27 Summer 2014) and on other blogs and it also led to my first wholesale customers in Australia and America.

 

Tips:

  • Blogging takes commitment, you need to do it regularly and if writing has never been your strength get a friend or partner to proofread what you write before posting – it will help you improve your writing skills and develop your own style over time.
  • Make sure you put your name/website on images you post so if people share your images (which they will) it leads back to you.

 

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

When petal & pins was still just an idea my father was diagnosed with cancer. Designing and blogging provided a calming positive space for me throughout his illness and I am pleased that before he died he got to see the fledgling beginnings with the launch of the first petal & pins card collections – Spring Gala & High Tea.

The dream was starting to become a reality but I realised to build up sales and a significant wholesale base would require me getting out there promoting, selling and cold calling retailers not to mention more of my time.

My experience is in a studio environment and when I designed clothing ranges in Sydney someone else did the selling so with this side of building the business I was out of my comfort zone. Grief also scattered my focus and I still had other work commitments so for a while I let the sales side just amble along without much pushing.

A year later I applied for a space at a local design market which helped renew my focus and I started the petal & pins Facebook page to work on promotion – it was the beginning of the next phase in the petal & pins story.

 

Tips:

  • Be realistic about the amount of time you can commit to your project – it will influence the time it takes to achieve things.
  • Give yourself an objective strength vs weakness analysis and set yourself a challenge to build/work on them.

 

Time to Dream Bigger

My dreams are now our dreams – my husband Simon has always helped behind the scenes with his IT expertise and he happily stepped out front with me at that first design market, we both enjoyed the face to face interaction with customers talking about something we’re passionate about.

Twelve months on, with a year of design markets under our belt, the addition of art prints to the range and a beautiful petal & pins website (credit goes to Simon!) sales have grown.

I’ve discovered the fun and value of having an Instagram account as another promotional tool and I’m proudly still blogging!

Doing the markets has led to new stockists, new friends, a weekend magazine feature, a wallpaper commission and the confidence to tackle our first trade fair in February.

We have tons of ideas and other plans for 2016 so there are new things to learn, excitement and fear but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All this from a head full of ideas and dreams … where might yours take you?

 

Tips:

 


Sandra Alcorn – Bio
Sandra Alcorn studied fashion design in Sydney and after working for several fashion houses made a sea change to Hobart where she opened her own successful fashion design studio.

Swapping fabric for flowers from her Tasmanian garden, Sandra started creating petite ephemeral dresses and in 2012 launched petal & pins to retail and wholesale greeting cards and art prints featuring images of her garden couture.

You can find Petal and Pins in the following links:

Website:​www.petalandpins.com

Blog:​​blog.petalandpins.com

Facebook:​/petalandpins​​​

Instagram:​@petalandpins​​

Twitter:​@petalandpins​​

Image Source: © 2016 Sandra Alcorn www.petalandpins.com

[40] 5 Things You Need Before You’re Ready To Sell Craft Online

 

Having an online presence is one of the most important things you can do for your handmade business.

If you are yet to launch your online shop; are on the fence as to whether it’s worth it; have been thinking about it for a while and don’t know where to start; or you have one but you aren’t sure about how improve it – this episode is for you!

I outline the main benefits of having an online shop – even if selling online is not your primary venue of choice.

I also share the 5 things you need to get a handle on before you can start successfully selling your work online.

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • You need  to create an enticing, well functioning, cohesive and professional online shop.
  • ‘An online shop takes time and dedication but it is worth it’. {Jess}
  • You can accept orders while you sleep.
  • You are more likely to be accepted by retailers.
  • You don’t have to have heaps of stock already made.
  • You can reach your ideal customer no matter where they live.
  • You can start selling for a low initial cost.
  • You can work and sell from the comfort of your new home.
  • An online shop makes it easy for people to buy your work.
  • A strong online presence is very important.
  • The 5 things you need before you are ready to sell craft online?
  • 1. An attractive and useful product.
  • 2. A brand.
  • ‘Smart business people quickly realise the power of branding in all that they do’. {Jess}
  • Without constraints we have no boundaries or barriers.
  • 3. The ability to take stellar product photos.
  • ‘Your photographs will make or break your business’. {Jess}
  • 4. A basic understanding of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
  • 5. You need courage.
  • ‘Without courage you won’t succeed’. {Jess}
  • You need to believe in your brand, your products, and your photography.

 

Download/Listen to this Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

 

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