#CTWordsofWisdom: What YOU Want to Tell People Starting a Handmade Business




What YOU Want to Tell People Starting a (1)

A while back, I put out a call.

The other contributors and I share our own thoughts, experiences, and lessons learnt here on the blog every week. It’s all hard-won knowledge, because you know what?

We’re JUST like you.

We’re all indie makers. Solopreneurs. Learning as we go. Risk-takers. Dreamers. Do-ers. We don’t have all the answers. We haven’t figured it all out yet. We’re just sharing what we HAVE learnt, what we DO know to work – at least for us – because we want you to figure it out sooner than we did.

There is nothing extra-special or super-important about us that sets us apart from you. We’re all in the same boat.

With that in mind, I wanted to tap into the wealth of wisdom that exists here in the Create & Thrive community. So, a few weeks ago, I asked you:

What would YOU tell people just starting out in handmade husiness?

And you answered!

Below is a compendium of those answers – which I’ve dubbed the #CTWordsOfWisdom.

Look out for many of these on our Instagram and Facebook page over the coming months – Megan E’s been hard at work turning your words of wisdom into inspiring and motivating shareable quotes! I’ve taken your comments from the previous post and broken them up into concise snippets of advice. Feel free to tweet and share these – just use the hashtag #CTWordsOfWisdom and link back to this post if you can!

Before we immerse ourselves in your wisdom, though, I wanted to extend an invitation.

This is not a static document.

I want YOU to share your tips, ideas, lessons learnt, aha moments with us in the comments. Let’s keep the bank of wisdom growing and flowing and help each other figure things out!

Now, it’s over to you.

What would YOU tell people just starting out in handmade business?

Making clear times to do your craft (especially if you’re doing it around work) will help ensure that it doesn’t take over your life. Make sure that you include pack up time into that too! ~ Macramake

Believe in yourself and your craft. After I quit my day job to follow my dream, people say to me, “What are you doing now that you don’t work?” Well actually, I do work. More than I ever did. Now I can proudly answer that question. “I’m a jewelry designer”. Don’t let people trivialize your work! Believe in who you are, your talent and your creations. Because no one else will believe it until you do. ~ Tracey Atkinson

Always have your “end game” in mind. Is what I’m doing today in line with how I envision my business down the road? Is the way I’m running my business scalable and sustainable long term and at a higher level? Can I make enough money doing my handmade business full time? ~ Cortney Nichols

Don’t stock up wanting to “save money” on items that you visualize you are going to need when your product “takes off”. Get the information you need to order, what you need in bulk, so that way when the time comes you can have it when you need it. Otherwise you will end up with a whole bunch of “stuff” that you may or may not use within your lifetime, because you are so over the product you were creating when you stocked up on that item. You tie up your money thinking you “save” and then you don’t have the working capital when you need it. ~ Miska Black

One thing I found I missed out on was as soon as I had a business name was not getting it set up in all the different social media options. Even if you aren’t using them to begin with, get registered and be consistent with your name. It will help with branding and customers being able to identify. Don’t do what I did and be ‘frightened’ of all the options out there. People use social media differently so you need to cover all the bases even if you don’t like them yourself! ~ Tricia

Just keep going but go like water in a stream. If you can’t move the rocks in your way, you have to be flexible to go around them. ~ Allison Dey Malacaria

Unless you are one of the very fortunate few to suddenly be “discovered” after making and listing a few items for sale, you have to really work hard to figure out who your customers are and then find them. Who you are, how you dance with the music of business is more telling of your future success than anything else. ~ Allison Dey Malacaria

Temper the initial passion for your biz. When I started I thought everyone would love it so I overbought and money I could have used for other things got tied up in inventory for years. ~ Wendi Unrein

Be careful who you get ideas from and pay attention to what you are needing/asking. When I started I got inundated with the “You should..” people with good ideas but not the ones I needed. That is very important. ~ Wendi Unrein

Show up, each and every day. Do something for your business every single day. ~ Barb Lieberman

Bookkeeping from day one. Real cost of each item, inventory, sales tax, sales, shipping, everything. If you don’t have the time to do it right now, today, you won’t ever find the time. The task grows exponentially if you do not do it as you go along. ~ Barb Lieberman

Research events before you do them. Not all handmade? Might not be a good fit. Talk to others who are vending about the event. Most are happy to share their opinions. ~ Barb Lieberman

Network! Find other handmade businesspeople and get together to commiserate and celebrate. ~ Barb Lieberman

Celebrate! Every sale. Every new lead. Every new product. ~ Barb Lieberman

Organize your workflow. Organize your packaging flow. Organize for events. Organize inventory. Don’t waste time looking for things. ~ Barb Lieberman

Ask questions. Try new things. ~ Barb Lieberman

Look for inspiration. Add new products or twists/improvements of your regular items now and then. Give customers a reason to come back. ~ Barb Lieberman

Say “I” when you talk about your business. Be your brand. ~ Barb Lieberman

Do not give away your products. Do not discount their value. Charge what they are worth. Place value on “handmade” and all it offers. ~ Barb Lieberman

Enjoy what you do. LOVE what you do. If you don’t, it’s a job. If you do, it’s a blessing. ~ Barb Lieberman

PLAN!!! What your long term plans are, what do you want out of this? When you are going to make, market, book keep, supply shop- organise your time. ~ Sue Bertozzo

Trust yourself to be capable of learning the skills you need as you go along.  ~ Alison Comfort

Don’t be afraid of the many hats you will end up wearing as you grow your handmade business! ~ Alison Comfort

Start where you are, do your best, and don’t be afraid of stepping up to learn each new skill as you go. Your handmade business will grow organically, and you can grow along with it. ~ Alison Comfort

Make peace with the seasonality of your business. Your year will likely be dominated by the busy season and the slower season, so take advantage of each while not getting too attached. ~ Alison Comfort

Have what I call a ‘complete concept’ – a confirmed aesthetic, unique selling point, ideal customer profile and keyword collection. ~ Penny- Elizabeth Neil

Treat it like a real business with intent to profit, and to get used to that idea. And get used to the idea of doing it 24/7 for the first…. 10 years. ~ Penny- Elizabeth Neil

Having a set visual concept (brand) is incredibly important – it helps you figure out what to call yourself, how to design your calling cards and social media graphics, who your customer is, where to find them, how to sell to them, what kind of photos to have and how to make sure the stuff they’ll make is something that will actually sell. When you figure out those three facets, half the work is done for you. ~ Penny- Elizabeth Neil

You really need to love what you do. Not only because you will be doing it, taking about it, living it and breathing it for the rest of your days…but because your love for what you do needs to show in your product and also in how you present it to the world, to make it special. ~ Margeaux

Create systems that you can replicate & stick to them. Alter if needed but if you have to do it more than once: determine a way to make it consistent & efficient each time. ~ Robin Ritz

Enjoy the Process. “When we take care of the Process, the Product takes care of itself.” ~ Robin Ritz

Learn from ‘trials & errors’ and be persistence, tenacious & determined. Keep trying. ~ Robin Ritz

Be kind to yourself & give yourself credit for all your bravery, courage, effort and hutzpa. ~ Robin Ritz

Listen & Observe. Ask customers for feedback, find out what’s working & do more of that. ~ Robin Ritz

Trust your Intuition. Stay True to Yourself & remember the reason you began creating to begin with. ~ Robin Ritz

Really nut out whether you’re doing it as a hobby or business. ~ Jewel Divas Style

Decide if you have the time or energy to put into a business and the hours it will take and the energy it will suck out of you. ~ Jewel Divas Style

Do you have the ability to sell at markets, or don’t have any near you at all? ~ Jewel Divas Style

Is social media something you are already into or want to go into? Because you will need to, and then spend time updating and using it. ~ Jewel Divas Style

Embrace social media, if used correctly it will be a great friend. ~ Tania

Do you want to set up a website straight away, or start selling on shops like Madeit or Etsy? ~ Jewel Divas Style

Do you have the money for set up costs or will you have to hassle with bank loans? ~ Jewel Divas Style

Do you need to do short courses to learn about the aspects of running a business, or perfecting your craft? ~ Jewel Divas Style

Do you have any support system around you or are you doing it all yourself? ~ Jewel Divas Style

Maybe start of as a hobby for a year or two until you fully understand how it’s going to work… and then decide whether you want to turn it, (or it’s become successful enough to turn), into a business. ~ Jewel Divas Style

If you start a business you will need to register the name and get an ABN (or equivalent in your country) and make sure you put in a tax return even if you make NO money (something I was not told and did not know). ~ Jewel Divas Style

When you make a sale note it down in your ledger/ excel doc… and make sure you have a day set aside once a week, or once a month to jot down all your expenses for that period. It seems like hard work in the first couple of months but soon it will be second nature, and come tax time it will make life SO much easier. You may need to write down all the steps you need to take (and frequency you are going to do them, daily, weekly, monthly etc) and refer back to it until you get used to it… but you won’t regret it! ~ Imogen Wilson Jewellery

It’s bloody hard work!! ~ Tania

Good photos are everything. Take the time to ensure your products are photographed in the best way possible. This doesn’t have to mean spending money on professional photos. There are lots of great photo taking tips out there so read up on them and also make sure you edit photos after taking them. ~ Tania

In the beginning, there is so much work, so many new learning experiences, so many first offs and much time spent working out how its done… but once you do these all once, the second and third are easier and take less time. ~ Fluid Ink

Try not to judge your business by looking at others and competing with others that are in the middle (time wise) of theirs. Things take twice as long at the start and it feels like you are a mouse on a treadmill, but gradually things take less time once you have worked out systems. Feeling competitive or trying to compete with others in the same industry is heartbreaking and mentally exhausting. ~ Fluid Ink

Do your own thing and stick to it. If you get a random request for ‘do you do this’ if its out of your range and its going to take more time effort resources than you have, say no. In saying that, sometimes, accepting a customer directed request, can force you to experiment with something you hadn’t though of and can be refreshing (although often un-profitable!) ~ Fluid Ink

Pay yourself!!! Just because someone else is selling a similar product for cheap, doesn’t mean you have to! When I compared my sales to others that were selling cheaper, I found that I had MORE sales for HIGHER prices! Don’t short yourself. ~ Yarned Together

Don’t procrastinate! Just list your items on whichever platform you have chosen and let the buyers out there be the judge. Don’t go by what your family and friends say, just get it out into the marketplace and gauge the response. And if the marketplace does not respond well then what have you lost? A few listing fees and a bit of time and material. What have you gained? The knowledge to alter your product so it better suits your buyers ~ Leanne Hewens

Create a brand and carry it through all you do. ~ Barb Lieberman


Now it’s YOUR turn…

Success Stories ~ JooJoobs

joo 1

JooJoobs is an amazing business run by Bibi, her husband, Kelly, and her father, Noi. Together, these three are making the most beautiful leather accessories.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

In a lot of ways, JooJoobs was created by accident. Like most kids, you don’t really expect to follow in your parents footsteps or at the very least, you want to try something else as your career, to form your own identity.

But when you grow up, living, sleeping and eating in a leather workshop, coming back to it later in life just seems the most natural thing to do.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

Shipping! International shipping has the extra hurdle of clearing customs security screening, which puts us at a competitive disadvantage to domestic craftsmen. To assist with this, we’ve been able to strike a great deal via Fedex to offer expedited shipping for a just a little more.

joo 5

Leather iPhone Wallet Case

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

This is an easy question, we even know the exact date. On July 12, 2013, Gearmoose.com featured our wallet. While this article didn’t go viral in the normal, social media sense, this article was syndicated virally. Which means, other websites, also featured it. And they kept featuring it, in multiple countries, and multiple languages.

This one blog post was our tipping point. The previous 6 months sales were matched in 2 days.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Not really. Leather is one of the most versatile materials to create things with and its popularity never wanes.

We love talking to our customers and we do our best to listen to their feedback, both good and bad.

Most of our designs were suggested by our customers.

joo 3

Men’s Leather Satchel

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

JooJoobs has three creative minds always looking for new things to make. We take turns, keeping the ideas fresh.

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

At this stage in life, work is our life. We try to leave a little time for ourselves in the evenings but most days and nights are filled with JooJoobs related activities.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?


joo 2

Red iPhone Clutch

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Take pictures. Take more pictures. Keep taking pictures.

When you sell online, you not selling products, you selling pictures.

If you don’t follow this mantra, you won’t be successful. I’m always trying to improve our pictures.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

This is a question we struggle with. We ask ourselves this question all the time. Each time, I think we find the most happiness comes from just living in the now and not worrying about the future.

We love our customers and we love putting smiles on people’s faces. For now, if we can accomplish that consistently over the next 5 years, I think we’ll all be happy campers.

joo 4

Leather Money Clip

You can find JooJoobs online at:

Her Etsy shop – JooJoobs

Her online shop – joojoobs.com/

On Facebook: facebook.com/JooJoobs.store

This is Why I Want You to Make Your Dream Come True





I  just got back from spending 2 weeks travelling around Cambodia.

I have been to South-East Asia before… but I’ve never spent so much time in one country, travelling around on the ground between towns and cities.

It was an experience I wish every single person who lives in a developed nation could have.

Why? Because you will realise, in a visceral, fundamental way that you never have before, just how good you’ve got it.

I never truly valued such simple things as clean air, clean streets, and clean waterways before spending time in a country that doesn’t have any of these things.

Truly. I know I’m pretty lucky – and I work hard – to have the life and lifestyle I enjoy. But you know what? A huge part of my success simply comes from being born where I was… and taking advantage of that.

Most people in Cambodia are still so focussed on survival, that they will never get the chance to follow a dream. It is getting better there, slowly – but they face so many fundamental challenges. After all, over 20% of their entire population was killed in the 1970s during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

I don’t know where you’re sitting as you’re reading this. However, given that you are here, with a internet-connected device, with leisure time and the curiosity about handmade business that has driven you to spend a few precious minutes of your life reading this article… I’m going to assume you are most likely in a developed nation, with a comfortable life. You have clean, safe water. A roof over your head. Healthy, clean food on your table and in your fridge. You have a supermarket nearby. You can walk outside and breathe clean air (I hope!). You’ve probably had a good education. In short – you’re one of the lucky ones, blessed to have been born in a clean, safe, wealthy country – and you’ve got endless possibilities in front of you if you would only reach out and take them.

Are you reaching out and taking them?

Or are you wasting your life just dreaming?

Don’t get me wrong – dreams are vital. Without hopes, dreams and ideas, we would never grow, change, evolve, or strive.

But in the words of the great philosopher + psychologist…


Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ~  William James


If you have a dream… don’t ignore it. MAKE IT REALITY.

Turning my own dreams into reality has been the most rewarding part of my life. This is why I’m so passionate about helping YOU do the same. I want you to feel the joy, the strength, the freedom, the fulfillment, the self-esteem, and the power that comes from turning the dream to run your own business (or whatever else you dream) into a reality.

Putting yourself out there and taking the risk to do this is scary. For sure. But as Susan Jeffers says: “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

The more often you take action, the more courage you feel. The more confident you become. Because you realise you CAN do it. You DO have the courage, the smarts, the get-go, and the information you need.

The internet has created a world where no information is farther away than a Google search. Don’t let lack of information hold you back – go out and hunt for it. Search the hills, valleys, and deep ocean trenches of the web until you find what you seek. It’s out there.

Once you have the courage, the passion, and the knowledge… you can make amazing things happen.

Don’t squander this amazing chance you’ve been given. You are one of the lucky few who has the freedom and opportunity to actually follow your dreams.

Don’t live a life of ‘If only’s’.

Live a life of ‘I did’s’.


Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE. ~ Joss Whedon


If you want to turn your dream of having a successful online handmade business a reality, join us for Set Up Shop – a 30-day e-course where I take you step-by-step through everything you need to know to get a fabulous shop up and running smoothly. You’ll also join over 400 alumni in our private facebook group and gain invaluable support, friendship and understanding from those already turning their dream of having a handmade business into a reality!

Click here to find out more…

Image source: Robin Benad

5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Own Success





5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Own Success

Over the last few years, I’ve taught, talked with, and watched many hundreds (perhaps even thousands!) of people who have the shared dream of turning their handmade hobby into a thriving business.

Unsurprisingly, they all share many positive things in common.

A passion for making something. A love of being creative. A drive to evolve. The desire to make real dollars from their craft.

All of those things are vital if you want to reach your goal.

That being said, I’ve also noticed commonalities in those who are struggling to move forward.

These are the people who dream the dream, but just can’t seem to turn it into a reality.

Sometimes, there are outside factors that hold us back, for sure.

But very often, these people are actually getting in their own way. They’re holding themselves back, or sabotaging their own success – and they might not even realise it.


I want to share 5 ways I see these people sabotaging themselves – because becoming aware of the issue is the first step towards moving beyond it.


1. Giving up too soon

Let’s just get this out of the way straight up. If you’re starting a handmade business expecting to be making a 5-6 figure profit in the first year – or even 3-5 years – please don’t bother.

Even those people who seem to be an ‘overnight success’ usually have many years of experience behind them – whether that’s years of doing their craft professionally (like an illustrator) or as a hobby.

Unless you are in the infinitesimal minority who have an absolutely brilliant, unique idea, AND know how to run a brilliant marketing/advertising campaign to get your brand off the ground, it is going to take YEARS before you’re making really decent money from your handmade business.


Obviously this will vary on umpteen factors, such as your cost of materials (for me, silver is pretty expensive and eats into my profits, but if you’re a graphic designer, you’ve probably got all the tools you already need, and you don’t buy ‘materials’ as such), the time you have to devote to your business, whether you have another job, and so on.

Too many times to count have I seen someone open an Etsy shop, chuck in 10 or so badly-lit, badly-photographed items, and then throw their hands in the air after a month because ‘they’re not making any sales’.

Of course you aren’t. You’re competing against other makers who have been not only honing their craft for years – they’ve been honing their branding, photography, marketing, etc.

You need to up your game.

Not only that – you need to go into this thing with patience and dedication.

If you’re not in it for the long haul, don’t start.


2. Focussing on the negative

The perfect place to see this in action is on the Etsy forums.

There is some great advice in there, but it’s more often than not buried amongst the masses who are moaning about some change Etsy has made that’s apparently caused their sales to suddenly cease. Well, honestly, I haven’t been in there for years apart from the very occasional and quick dip in, so maybe things have changed… but I’m guessing not. (Also, just a case in point – I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2008, and not once has a change they’ve made so far had any real noticeable impact on my sales. You know what has? Me – working on my photography, titles, tags, descriptions, marketing and customer service.)

This is just one example of how people are sabotaging themselves by focussing on the negative.

If you catch yourself doing this – stop.

No-one is responsible for the success or failure of your business but YOU.

Stop blaming, stop complaining, stop obsessing over your competitors, stop focussing on the negatives, and start focussing on the positives.

If you stumble across a product that looks suspiciously like yours… click away and forget about it – after all, how do you know you came up with the idea first? (Exact copies of art and photography obviously exempted here.)

If your venue makes a change you’re not happy with (for example, I disliked that Etsy moved from a 3-choice rating system to a 5-star system, but I never once thought of leaving) – either stick with it and see how it affects your business in the long term, or start building your own shop on your own dot com.

Don’t focus on the sales you don’t get – focus on making the customer experience for the sales you DO get absolutely fricking amazing so your customer raves to all their friends about how amazing you are and how gorgeous your product is.

Focus on how you can grow your business in the right direction. See every challenge as a way to grow and evolve.


3. Split focus

I’ve made this mistake myself – starting too many new things at once, and not being able to give any of them the attention they truly deserve because I’ve spread myself too thin.

It’s an oh-so-common pitfall amongst creative types, because we have so many ideas, and we get bored easily.

So, instead of starting that yoga clothing business… we start that, and a dog-walking business, and a web-design business, and maybe work as a barista on the side.

Which is, no doubt, fun and challenging… but there’s no way we’re going to give each and every one of those ventures the time and attention they need to grow truly successful if we’re trying to do them all at once.

Sales follow your focus.

That’s not to say you can’t do them all – just do them sequentially rather than simultaneously.

Give yourself a timeframe to focus on one only (say, 12-18 months) before you’re allowed to start a new venture.

Nick banned me from starting anything new in 2014, because of my habit of doing this very thing. (I jest… sort of… I banned myself, too).

Make sure, however, you’re not falling into the ‘giving up too soon’ trap I discussed earlier.

Give it true, 200% effort in the time you devote to getting a new business up and running.


4. Too much ‘research’ not enough action

You’ve done the courses. You’ve bought the ebooks. You’ve checked out every single related book from the local library.

You have all the theoretical knowledge… but you’re yet to do anything about it.

You know I am a HUGE proponent of consistent investment in your own education – both personal and professional. I teach courses, I write ebooks.

That said… there is definitely such a thing as too much research.

There comes a point where you just have to take the leap.

Stop planning and start doing.

Yes, you will fail and fall down.

Yes, you’ll make an embarrassing mistake (or 20).

Yes, you’ll undercharge on postage at least once. Badly.

But until you actually step into the arena and start failing and succeeding, you’ll never make real progress.


5. Waiting for perfection

This is closely linked to number 4. Too often, people hang back from taking action because of fear.

They’re afraid of not being perfect. Of not having a perfect product, or perfect packaging, or perfect photography.

Nothing is ever perfect.

Get it to the stage of ‘pretty darn awesome’ and get it out into the world.

You can evolve. You can work on it, you can make it better.

Don’t hide your light from the world – let it shine.


Now it’s over to you – do you recognise any of these traits in yourself? What are you going to do about it?


Image source: Elisabetta Foco


If you want to turn your dream of having a successful online handmade business a reality, join us for Set Up Shop – a 30-day e-course where I take you step-by-step through everything you need to know to get a fabulous shop up and running smoothly. You’ll also join over 400 alumni in our private facebook group and gain invaluable support, friendship and understanding from those already turning their dream of having a handmade business into a reality!

Click here to find out more…

C&T Q&A – What Do I Do When A Parcel Goes Missing?




What do I do when a parcel goes missing

Today’s question is from Bronwyn, who writes:

Hi Jess,

Long time reader, first time emailer 🙂

For the last 12 months I have operated a (very!) modest Etsy fabric shop.

I received notification last night regarding a sale that was made in late January. Bottom line: the customer didn’t receive it. To keep my postage rates low (and appealing) I quote regular mail in my listings, and offer registered mail upon request. No customers have taken up the extra registered postage, so for most of the time I’ve been in business, I’ve taken a photo of every unregistered parcel that I’ve sent, and the photo shows the customers name, and where possible, the postage stamps on it.

But I find out that this single parcel, out if 50 sales and 12 months of operating does not arrive at the destination.

I lodged an enquiry with Australia Post, but since there was no tracking, not much more assistance they can provide, which means one of two things:

1) I lose, or
2) The customer loses

(Neither of these scenarios are appealing to me.)

What I want to know in this case, has this ever happened to you (in early days maybe)? What did you do (what would you do)?

Should I offer refund less postage (even though I decline responsibility of lost/damaged items in my shop policies)?

Or should I offer replacement (but insist the customer pays for registered post)?

Any advice you could give would really help me out 🙂



Ahh, lost parcels. If you sell online for long enough, I can guarantee that it WILL happen to you – especially if you ship internationally.

It’s definitely happened to me – both locally and internationally – a few times over the years.

This is one area where there are definitely shades of grey, BUT you need to be aware of the rules you are operating under.

First – if your customer has purchased using Paypal, you need to be aware that according to Paypal rules, YOU are responsible for the parcel until the customer is holding it their hot little hands.

What this means is that if the customer opens a dispute with Paypal within (I believe) 45 days of purchase, you can pretty much guarantee that Paypal will find in their favour and refund their money. Tracking or no tracking.

Second – if you’ve sold your item via a venue like Etsy or Madeit, the same rule pretty much applies. If your customer lodges a complaint, chances are the venue will find in their favour and force you to refund them.

Third – even IF you sell on your own site, and the customer pays via direct debit… well. Let’s put ourselves in the customer’s shoes for a moment. If you bought something from an online shop and it didn’t arrive – what would you expect the seller to do? I’m betting you’re thinking that you’d expect the seller to make it up to you – either by re-sending or refunding for the item that never arrived.


Can you see where I’m going with this?

Yes. Long story short – YOU as the seller are responsible for that item until your customer has it. I have to admit I always cringe a little when I read someone’s policies and they state they ‘aren’t responsible for lost parcels’. Because you ARE. You can say you’re not all you like, but it’s not just up to you – when it comes to that particular issue, you’re operating under the rules of the payment gateway (Paypal or Credit Card) and the venue you sell at. Know their rules before you start selling with them.

That means you are going to need to replace or refund for an item that never arrived.

In my mind, the only possible exception to this is when you have sent an item using some form of tracking, your postal service tells you it’s been delivered… but your customer then claims to have never received it. This is where things get sticky.

Either the post office has made a mistake, your customer has made a mistake, or – in very few instances – they’re lying to you. Thankfully, the latter is very, very rare in my experience, and I always give people the benefit of the doubt.

Having a tracked item arrive/but not actually arrive has happened to me (once or twice in my whole business career) I have done my best to help the customer play detective. Ask them questions about the delivery address. Is it possible someone else at that address has the parcel? Did it go into your neighbours PO Box? Could it have gone next door? Is it a place of business and lost in the mailroom? Did you leave it too long to collect the parcel and it’s been returned to sender? Etc. It is worth following this up with your postal service, even so, JUST to make sure they haven’t made an error somewhere along the line.

However… in this instance, I have NOT automatically refunded or replaced the item, because I have physical proof of delivery.

So. When you send without tracking, you are taking the risk that you will be liable to replace or refund. Frankly, I think it’s just good business practice, because the cost to replace or refund one item out of hundreds is pretty minuscule in the long run, and it will result in a customer who will sing your praises, rather than one who will complain about you at every turn.

I personally have a price rule about what items get tracking and which items don’t.

You see – I send the vast majority of my items as ‘large letters’ – both within Australia and internationally – which keeps my postal prices very low. That means they have no tracking. If you sell larger items and ship within Australia, parcel post now has tracking as standard, which is a new and brilliant thing (thanks AusPost!). So, any parcel you send within Australia should be tracked – it’s only when you’re tricksy like me and use the large letter option that it isn’t. Of course, international letters and parcels still don’t have tracking as standard, no matter what size they are.

Therefore – I send all items over a certain value via registered or parcel post within Australia, so I can keep track of them. And yes – the customer pays for this. I simply have a different postage rate for items under that $$ value and items over that value.

Outside of Australia, I don’t include tracking with any orders. The cheapest international tracking option we have here – Pack & Track – is over $20. For the one order in 500 that goes missing, I’d rather charge my international customers $4.50 for shipping and get more sales, than charge them over $20 and lose out on sales to US, UK, or other sellers who can charge a lot less for tracking.

It’s a bit of a risk… but so is every single part of being in business! The trick is thinking about it, and coming to terms with the level of risk you’re willing to take with your shipping. Cheaper shipping options mean more sales… but also no protection for you if things go missing.

I hope this helped, Bronwyn, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of costly news!

Thrivers – I’d love to hear how you deal with the lost parcel issue. Share with us in the comments. 

 Image source: Sylwia Bartyzel

Pin It on Pinterest