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Holiday Prep + Reality Check

danielle's article
How many times have I said it? This year was a huge transitional year for business and for me personally. It has impacted nearly ever aspect of business and so obviously, this holiday season is no exception.
Because I am planning some big and different things for 2015, I am aiming to use this holiday season to make room ( read: clear out ) a lot of stock! I’ve added action steps for you to take as part of each of my preparations as well to help you sort through it!

Action step: prep your holiday season calendar, mark off newsletters and their content and set order and shipping deadlines for national and international orders!

I’m in the process of brainstorming and nailing down some ways to take advantage of the “official” start of the shopping season in the states, Black friday – and the whole of Thanksgiving Weekend. It’s an embarrassing time for us Americans wherein we leave our family gatherings to go fight it out for a huge discount on a TV. It’s shameful really, but there are some positives to the whole thing. This is a huge opportunity for retailers and it is, in fact, foolish not to take advantage of it.

Action step: make sure any holiday items are renewed, correctly categorized and tagged appropriately!

Beyond the Thanksgiving weekend show down, I have already added a few key Holiday specific items to my shop. On Etsy, I always try to have a few items that can be pulled for features or treasuries even if I don’t plan on selling a million of them. They bring in the interest and help me get some placement in Holiday specific site-wide marketing initiatives.

Action step: order new marketing materials and packaging supplies now so they are ready to go!

My other main goal this season is to implement some of my favorite marketing know how. During times of (hopefully) high traffic and sales, it’s best to make the most of packaging materials and follow up! I like to include postcards with my orders advertising my website and this holiday I am going to include a piece with all orders about the big things I have planned for 2015.

Action step: Stock up on tea and chocolate now. Haha.

The holidays are so exciting but can be so stressful. Honestly the past three holiday season wore me out through to march. Completely chaotic. This year I would like to leverage the opportunity to make money, obviously, but also maintain some sense of normalcy in my life, I have no plan for that yet, and it truly is a wait and see sort of situation, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Take care of your customers, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well! And enjoy the holidays with your friends and family. That should be part of the goal as well for us all I think!

 

3 Simple Paperwork Practices to Free Up Brain Space & Save Your Sanity!

 

 

 

 

paperwork organisation

As a child, I was very interested in organisation and paperwork. It’s strange, I know!

My mother worked as a secretary and I was intrigued by all the ‘art supplies’: pens, pencils, paper etc. I was known to carry a folder full of paper and at least 6 pencils with me every where I went, and I was also keen on filing my papers in my file cabinet.

Well, that was a long time ago and I’ve pretty much outgrown my paper organisation inclinations. It’s sad, because really, I would benefit from it now more than ever!

I have, however, maintained a few key organisational practices that are simple, but keep me out of trouble.

 

1. Keep and then file paper receipts

I have a very simple organiser with tab dividers that I use to keep my receipts in – I have one for each of the past two years as well. It’s easy to keep up with monthly – I collect everything in one spot, then organise at the end of the month or quarter.

 

2. Keep small file box for other important documents

LLC records, bank statements, etc… I keep a carry-all file for these documents. It’s easy and tidy and requires very little thought for keeping up with or finding things. Whatever is important to you and your business for reference or legality, keep it filed!

 

3. Get an accountant .. or establish a book-keeping system that works: really works!

It costs money but it’s worth it. I used to do my own book-keeping – but I never did it on time and I was always worried it was wrong – especially when it came to tax season.

My book-keeper and I communicate via email primarily, and I collect all the statements and documents she needs and put them in a shared drop box for her to access. It’s easy and effective and it works well! A very good investment. If it’s not feasible for you right now, find and maintain a practice for book-keeping that you can understand and keep up with. It is so worth it!

 

So while I might not be completely organised all the time, it works well enough for now and I free up a lot of brain space not having to worry about where things are: and that is worth so much to me.

What systems do you have in place to keep your business paperwork organised? Do you have ANY?

Taking Stock of the Year So Far: It’s all About the Long Game

 

 

 

 

Taking Stock it's all about the long game

This year is just flying by for me personally, and subsequently, time seems to be getting away from me in business as well.

It’s all good though. As we enter the summer season in the states, it is usually a slower season for sales, and for life in general. A good time to relax a little bit and rest up for what is traditionally a very busy time: fall and winter, and then, the holidays!

In previous years I have been very dedicated to meeting a monthly sales goal. It was realistic but a bit ambitious some months.

This year, I knew that because of everything going on, I would have to be a bit more flexible, and not so hard on myself with meeting all these goals. I had consistently met the sales goal 10 months of the year the previous years. I felt confident though that even if I eased up on myself, I would still have fairly successful months. I had worked so hard the past three years – to get my business to a place where it could run on autopilot if I was needing to focus on something else from time to time –and not like I had much of a choice – but, I went for it.

 

Perhaps some people are wondering – what is it that I was making room for in my life that business had to slow down a bit?

 

Let me fill you in. In January, my husband of four months got the news that he would be starting his career as an officer in the United States Navy in February with a three month training and bootcamp program. Basically this meant he would be away for three months with very little communication. I would be taking care of things at home and prepping out household to move to his new duty station upon graduation from his training. So that was a bunch to deal with, and it did require that I spend less time working.

It wasn’t a wildly off the charts successful season, but I stayed afloat and I even attempted to launch a new collection!

I did launch the collection, and I loved the new pieces, but I was not able to launch all at once like I had planned – in fact, it took about a month for me to get everything up and for sale. It wasn’t how I planned it, but I got caught a few days without internet, had to be away from my studio more days than expected, had other more urgent work to do… etc… Overall, I felt good about the work I was able to accomplish while I had so much other stuff going on.

It was nice to have to make room for other things, actually, and honestly, I probably worked a more regular schedule and less crazy hours than I normally would’ve.

To see that at the end of that period of time, nothing fell apart and everything was okay, was actually really wonderful.

I could’ve just taken the time off, put my shop on vacation, and come back to it when things were calm again. But I realized that, for one, I still needed and wanted to have my business up and running and also, was it ever really going to become ‘ideal’ for me to ‘reopen’? I might’ve gotten distracted and stayed away for a long time. It was better to do some, even if I couldn’t do all I wanted to do. So that is what I did.

It’s hard when you are the life force of your business and your life forces you to do other things that take away from your focus.

In the end, I would still rather have this job than any other, and I feel lucky that I am able to make these adjustments and decisions – and that I have the freedom and flexibility that I do.

So as I take stock on business this year so far, I know that my numbers are down all around, but I feel good about what I have been doing within the confines of the current situation. And now that we are settled in, I am eager to get back to creating new work and doing more work in general.

If you’ve ever had a similar experience, where you had to adjust the overall approach you take to running your business – short or longer term – please comment and share you experience. I am interested to hear how others navigate these tricky situations where the dual focus is more pronounced and is not part of the usual day to day!

Breaking








danielle's image

This month we are discussing the idea of taking breaks from work. It is an interesting subject for me because I’ve never taken a break in the sense that I’ve shut my online shop down or put a hold on taking orders for a certain amount of time. To me, that would be considered a “break from work.”

I don’t know if it is actually possible to really take a break from work …

If it is, the consequences are serious unless someone takes over for you while you are in break mode. Unlike a regular job where you have vacation days and you are completely away from your work and very likely can get away with doing no work whatsoever whilst on vacation – such is not the case for the self-employed, small business owner. No one expects that if you work at a coffee shop, you’d have work to catch up on or do on your days off… it’s just not like that. The expectation, I believe, IS different for the self-employed. Probably because there is such a huge overlap between personal life and business for entrepreneurs.

For myself, I don’t find that I require, or desire long stretched of “time off”… the beauty of being self-employed is that you can create your own schedule and set your own work hours – and most of the time, this is flexible. So while I do feel I work hard, I don’t FEEL drained or in dire need of a vacation.

All of the time I have gone on a trip someplace – near or far – I’ve left my shop open for business. It can take a while to bounce back from several days off the grid but it just never seemed worth the shut down to me. A simple “only checking my messages once a day” would suffice. When we have the freedom to schedule our own time, we can work smaller breaks into our days or weeks and we can take time away from our desks as needed –the way I see it real long-term breaks are not as necessary in this sort of work-style.

It actually stresses me out more to think of being totally disconnected from my work for any extended period of time… Does that make me a workaholic?

But what about just time away to clear my mind and rejuvenate creativity? It doesn’t work that way for me. Having the business rolling continuously is the thing that keeps me inspired and motivated. I get more done when I have more to do. I can still go out and take trips or breaks – but I like to keep business on track as much as possible.

So while I haven’t ever officially shut my shop down for any length of time – I have had days or weeks where I am “quieter” or not working as much – but very much still open for business. At this point I feel that if I were to take a longer break – and shut my shop down for a period of time – it would be out of necessity, not desire.

It is interesting to hear how others feel about separating their personal lives and desire for vacation with their business lives and desire for business. Seems these decisions are dependent on the person, their business and the particular moment of time in question. Another wonderful thing about being self-employed is that things are always changing and you have a great deal of say in how they do.

 

image credit: The Merriweather Council

How My Business Sustains my Life and my Creativity

 

 

 

how my business sustains my life and creativity

Though it is obvious that everyone has different financial needs, it may be less obvious that everyone has different creative needs as well.

 

Some people need to constantly be challenged or under a tight deadline in order to feel motivated. Others feel more motivated by having a painting on their canvas for a few months. Either way, financial need is usually not the only thing that motivates an artist.

 

My business has allowed me to be self employed, fully, for more than three years now. I am so grateful for the venues, opportunities and resources that have helped make this possible.

 

I love the work I do, and I enjoy working with people to create custom work. I also enjoy the community aspect and camaraderie of the handmade world. The challenge of staying current, fresh, inspired and motivated can be hard to overcome sometimes but in the end it is worth it.

 

Being self employed and selling my work full time has allowed me flexibility and more control over how I spend my time. Of course a great deal of my time is spent working, but I can be available to help a friend if needed, or grab a spontaneous lunch out with my husband on a Tuesday when he has the day off. This lifestyle suits me and gives me options to travel, attend classes, or tend to other tasks that arise without totally disrupting the flow of business.

 

A few things I have in place to help me run my business to achieve this level of flexibility:

 

Multiple mobile devices – I have my phone which helps me do small business tasks on the go day-to-day. I have a laptop that allows me to do most of the same work I would in my studio while traveling and I also have an iPad that fills in for overnight trips or day trips. These devices really make it possible for me to stay connected while I am away from my hub.

 

I work small – most of my work is very portable. If I go to visit mom and  dad for the week, I pack up a handful of materials and I can still be making things on the go without having to lug a giant extra suitcase around.

 

Drop box + Evernote -These two utilities allow me to save images and data that I can access anywhere if needed. If you’re on vacation and a magazine wants a high resolution image for the cover, this can be a lifesaver!

 

I wouldn’t trade this job for any other! I love the flexibility and freedom I have to plan my own time each day. It’s not always easy but staying organised is key and everything else will fall into place!