My Yearly Review – 2017 Edition

 

Since I’ve been sharing the #LookBackMoveForward process and course with you this week, I decided to also share some of my own review findings from the year just gone.

I decided at the beginning of 2017 that this would be a ‘consolidation’ year – my year of not starting anything new.

Pretty much every year since I started business – back in 2008 – I’ve started a major new project (or multiple new projects!).

This year, I wanted to solidify what I had done, and take a bit of a break from creating anything new. This was our first full year in our new home, and I’ve been loving just enjoying my home and family.

Funnily enough – alongside this, I inadvertently did the same in my personal life. I usually have at least one personal ‘project’ going at any one time, but this year, I haven’t – I’ve just been enjoying what I already have in my life.

Taking the pressure off has allowed me to have more space in my life – more time to relax and enjoy the lifestyle that my businesses allow me to have.

Now, as the year draws to a close, I’m feeling a new surge of energy, and I’ve got tons of ideas of where I want to take my work into the new year and beyond.

Let’s have a look at how my businesses went in 2017.

 

Epheriell

 

We saw sales slow down a little in the jewellery business this year, and there have been a couple of reasons for this:

 

  1. We have had 2 major vacations this year – a 3-week trip to Japan, and a 5-week trip to the UK. We had to close up shop for 5 and 7 weeks respectively for these holidays, so that was almost 3 months of the year where we weren’t earning any income from Epheriell.
  2. We released literally zero new designs in 2017. All of our orders have come from pre-existing designs.
  3. We closed the shop on our own website in October, and since then we’ve been working on a re-design, with a planned re-launch in early Jan 2018.
  4. I took a bit of a step back from marketing this year, so most of our sales have come strictly via organic traffic and searches.

 

I was originally considering taking a sabbatical from the jewellery business this year, but ultimately, decided against it. Instead, we kind of set it on auto-pilot.

Sales have still been good (a solid few thousand dollars a month) but I can, by now, see the results of this approach (i.e. a slow decline in sales), and am ready to step things up again!

I’ve put together a plan for the new year – incorporating monthly marketing tasks, regular releases of new designs, and an increase in social media and blogging.

I’m most excited about a new range of wedding rings we’re releasing in January. For those outside of Australia, you may not know, but same-sex marriage has just been (finally!) passed into law here, so we’re going to celebrate that with our new release, and we’re planning on donating a percentage of sales of this line for a period of time to a LGBTQI youth charity.

 

Create & Thrive and the Thriver Circle

 

The biggest change during 2017 was that I moved away from doing monthly video workshops, into running monthly projects for my membership community, the The Thriver Circle. This has been super-fun, and it’s been a great way for the members to work alongside each other to move their businesses forward. However, I started to feel like I wanted to get back to offering more fresh content to members each month, while only doing a few video workshops a year.

 

There are a few big changes happening in 2018:

  1. I’ve decided to experiment by moving from having membership windows to having evergreen membership. That is – rather than the doors only being open a few times a year, the doors will be open all the time! This means people can join the Circle when it suits them, rather than when it suits me. There are a number of logistical reasons why I’ve avoided doing this up to now, but I’ve decided to give it a try and see how it goes. I was getting a bit of launch fatigue (running effectively the same launch 4x per year) and I’m sure a number of my email subscribers and community were feeling the same. This way, I won’t be running so many big launches – I will be, instead, consistently reminding folks about the Circle and all the benefits of membership via the podcast, blog, email list, and social media channels, while still aiming to produce top-quality free content for everyone.
  2. I am moving from having a weekly podcast to having a twice-monthly podcast. Mostly, this is so I have more time to spend on other content. I’m going to be releasing a Q&A video on YouTube at least once a month, for example – and I plan on uploading the audio of that to the podcast feed, too. Also, it’s because I’m not sure a weekly in-depth podcast was even necessary. After all, everyone is busy! By balancing the longer, in-depth episodes with shorter bite-sized videos, I’m aiming to draw in some new people. I’m also hoping to get back to creating proper written content once in a while! This is the first proper written post I’ve done in a long time.
  3. That said, I am still going to be producing 3 meaty podcast episodes a month – but the third one will be members-only for the Thriver Circle. As I said above, I love doing the projects, but I felt that the long-term, loyal members (the ones who’ve taken all the workshops and completed the Your Year to Thrive Program) might have been missing out due to the lack of new teaching content. So – this is my way of bringing that back to the members: making my best episode each month for them, because they are the ones supporting me, and without them, the free podcast wouldn’t exist.

 

I also did a re-design on the Thriver Circle website this year, which I’ve been tweaking consistently – and will probably continue to do so until I’m completely happy with it. The Circle has been running for 3 years now, and I felt it was time for a re-fresh of the look and feel of the site.

My aim is to also update the Create & Thrive site to bring the design up to ‘the now’, since it hasn’t changed since I launched in 2013, and I feel like it’s a bit dated. My goal is to have this complete by April 2018.

I don’t currently have any plans to launch new courses in 2018… but this may change, as I’m currently going through a period of growth and ideas, so I’m open to what might arise out of this.

2018 is also the last time I plan on running the Wholesale Know-How course ‘live’. After this, I’m aiming to convert it into a self-study course.

I’m looking to work directly with more makers via my Shop Scrutiny services. (P.S. If you’re a Thriver Circle member, hold off on purchasing one of these until February… you guys are going to get a special deal!). I really love helping people improve their shops and websites, so I want to be a bit more vocal about the fact I offer this service, as I very rarely talk about it!

Finally – I will be running Set Up Shop twice in 2018 – probably March and October, though I haven’t yet set concrete dates.

And that, thrivers, is that!

I’ve been teaching this stuff here on C&T since 2013 – and for even longer on my old blog. I’m in the absolutely wonderful position now of seeing a number of makers who found me at the beginning of their businesses journey’s making a full-time living from their craft.

I’m really excited about what 2018 will bring, and about helping even more people to realise their dream of growing a thriving, profitable handmade business.

Here’s to a wonderful new year! 

~ Jess x

P.S. If you’re reading this before January 8th, and you’d like my help to set yourself up for the best year your biz has ever had, don’t miss the Handmade Biz Bootcamp. It’s a 21-day program that will help you find your focus for the year, gain clarity about the purpose of your biz, and create a rock-solid plan for your business. If you sign up now, you can get the whole bootcamp for just $15!

[120] Can you make a successful living selling OOAK items online?

 

Can you make a living selling OOAK handmade items online?

This is a question I’ve been asked many times over the years, and now that I’ve been in the handmade industry for almost 10 years, I can confirm that my stance on this remains the same.

In short: no, you can’t.

Of course, there are exceptions, and good reasons why this is the case.

In this episode, I outline the reasons why it is extremely difficult to make a living from selling OOAK items online (and I am specifically talking about online selling, not markets, wholesale etc.).

If you happen to make a living selling OOAK items online, I want to hear from you! I’ve been trying to interview someone who does on the podcast from the beginning, but I am yet to find someone. If you are that someone, or know of someone who fits the bill (makes a full-time living from their handmade business, and 90% or more of their sales online exclusively from OOAK items) then I want to hear from you!

Love the show? You can show your support by:

  • Leaving a review on the C&T FB page.
  • Leaving a review on iTunes.
  • Donating a few dollars towards the costs of producing the pod.
  • Joining the Thriver Circle – without the members of the Circle, this podcast would not be possible.

 

 

 

Quotes & Highlights from this Episode:

  • A one of a kind (OOAK) piece is a unique item of which you only make the one.
  • The hard truth, learned from my own research and experience, is that it is not really possible to make a living selling OOAK items online.
  • OOAK can absolutely be successful in handmade business. The challenge is when you move online.
  • The two exceptions to this are:
  1. Expensive items priced in the mid to high hundreds of dollars. These need to be quick to make, have a good mark up and sell daily.
  2. Makers with a large and dedicated following. Time is invested in building a presence, batch making items and managing a big release.
  • “If your OOAK items are mid to low priced, the chances of you making a successful living selling online is very small.” {Jess}
  • Selling an OOAK piece online takes far more work than selling in person.
  • Each product needs to be individually listed with photos, editing, title, keywords and tags, description notes, proofing and more and all of these little pieces of time add up.
  • When starting out there is ample time, energy and enthusiasm to experiment and create OOAK items but as your business grows this becomes less sustainable.
  • As your creativity ebbs and flows having a line of reproducible items provides you with breathing room.
  • “You should have the freedom to make and list OOAK items when the inspiration strikes and you have the time” {Jess}
  • Utilise price points to support these creative endeavours. Your OOAK items should have pricing that reflects their elevated and unique status.
  • Reproducible designs do not mean that the piece is not handmade or a labour of love.
  • If you have OOAK items, list them on your best selling venue and deactivate the listing when at markets.

 

Download or listen to this episode.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

[119] 10 Steps to Wholesale Readiness

Are you ready to sell your handmade goods wholesale? Is that even something you want to do?

In this episode, I outline 10 steps to wholesale readiness – questions you need to ask yourself to know if selling wholesale is a good choice for your handmade business, and if so, are you ready to dive in?

If you’d like a free pdf copy of the questions and thinking points, scroll down and you’ll see just how to get a hold of that.

If you do decide that you want to sell wholesale, make sure you don’t miss out joining me and Melanie Augustin for our e-course Wholesale Know-How! Class starts Monday the 28th of August (2017, if you’re reading this in the future) and we only run the course once per year.

 

Quotes & Highlights from this Episode:

  • Not sure if your products are up to scratch for the wholesale market? Scout out the stores you would like to stock your work and assess the quality of the current products.
  • Easily replicable work is quicker to resupply and build your stockist list.
  • Quality control is key with wholesale especially if you are not the only maker of your products.
  • “If you are thinking about going into wholesale you need to go back and look at your pricing structure.” {Jess}
  • You should be able to sell your products at wholesale rates and still make a profit.
  • Avoid over-extending yourself – be realistic about your timeframes for manufacture and delivery.
  • Build a social media presence to demonstrate your market reach and potential for promotional activities.
  • Finding the right stockist takes time, energy and perseverance.
  • “Be selective with the stockists you approach – start small, start local.” {Jess}
  • Practise your product pitch until you have it pat.
  • Are you willing to take on assistance when you hit your wholesale ceiling?
  • “When you focus on selling wholesale it doubles your making workload.” {Jess}
  • You can choose how much of your business to make wholesale. (Jess shares an anecdote about finding a wholesale business balance with Epheriell).
  • Be clear about your wholesale goals.
  • “Until you decide why you are doing wholesaling you will struggle with progress” {Jess}

 

 

 

Download or listen to this episode.

 

 

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

[117] Round Table Q&A with Thrivers in Winchester, England

 

This week, I’m bringing you something special!

When I was in England recently, I had a Thriver meetup – and 5 wonderful makers (who also happen to be Thriver Circle members) came along. We spent 2 hours talking all things creative business!

In the first part of the session, each maker had 15 minutes to ask questions about their business. In the second session, I opened the floor to general handmade biz questions.

I did record everything, but alas, half of the first session didn’t save (darn technology!) so today I’m sharing with you that second session – the open Q&A.

We cover some important topics – from pricing to finding and marketing to your ideal customer, to collaboration and SEO. We packed a lot in this short session!

Enjoy, and a huge thanks to my guests for not only coming along and being awesome, but being willing for me to share this with the world via the podcast. Their names and details are below – do check them out!

 

My Guests

 

Quotes and Highlights:

  • Adela sought advice on marketing her card-making business for adults, Della by Design.
  • Try bundling and marketing kits for events – hen’s parties or girls’ craft nights in.
  • Market these event packages on the website separate from the individual kits to increase reach across audience markets.
  • Victoria, of Toria by Victoria Jowett, asked about establishing a creative partnership.
  • Approach your potential partner with a concrete proposal package.
  • Ensure that collaborative partnerships are formalised in a written contract.
  • “Remember, when you’re working with someone else it doesn’t just double your problems it multiplies them as there are two people wanting to get things done.” {Jess}
  • Jo, of Stitches to Treasure, enquired about how to establish a business focus.
  • “You don’t just have to have one group of target customers. You make different ways to engage the different groups.” {Jess}
  • Use a variety of marketing messages and customers will connect with the ones that resonate to them.
  • Suze, of Suze Harris Decorative Woodwork, sought advice on how to set an hourly rate.
  • Ensure you cover all of your time not just the making.
  • In the early stage of a business your time will be skewed towards learning lessons. This will shift as you gain experience.
  • “You can do all the maths you want with your pricing but at the end of the day it’s just the starting point. It’s not the end point.” {Jess}
  • Remember business is about experimentation. Take risks. (Jess shares an anecdote about product lines that have been trialed and retired)
  • Victoria is looking to boost her SEO.
  • Ensure photos are saved with key words and your business name in the title.
  • Mix up your key words and utilise the power of the Alt Tag.
  • Adela wants to run an Instagram Christmas promotion featuring styled images with objects from other businesses.
  • Try working with a different maker each day to increase reach and build relationships.

 

Download or listen to this episode.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

[112] How to Rock Facebook Live with Jackie Muscat

 

Have you used Facebook Live to market your handmade business yet?

If so – how did it go (share with us in the comments!). If not – why not?

Is it the fear of being live on camera? Is it that you don’t know what to talk about? Is it that you’re just not into using Facebook?

Whatever the reason, I highly recommend you give this week’s episode a listen – because it might be just the thing that will encourage you to give FB live a go.

My guest is Jackie Muscat of Craft My Success, and she is a kid’s bedroom mural artist as well as an expert on how to grow your creative business using the (free!) power of Facebook.

Facebook might not be the first place you turn these days to market your business – but it should absolutely be a cornerstone of your online presence – because it is by far the most active social media in the world. And people really do expect you to be there.

 

 

Quotes & Highlights from this Episode:

 

  • Based in the UK, Jackie Muscat is the muralist and Facebook strategist behind successful creative businesses World of Wall Craft and Create My Success.
  • Through Craft my Success, Jackie helps other makers and artists get results with Facebook.
  • You can guarantee that your ideal customers are on Facebook, with statistics in Australia showing 95% are on Facebook compared to 33% for Instagram.
  • “If I am buying something online and it isn’t a household name, I go to the Facebook page and make a judgement on that…if you’re not visible on Facebook it’s going to have a negative impact”- Jackie
  • You don’t have to pay to play on Facebook, the vast majority of things you can do on Facebook are Free.
  • “If you learn the rules of play, there is no way it can’t benefit your business”- Jackie
  • After being released in April 2016, Facebook Live saw a 300% increase in live videos between January and May 2016.
  • “If you don’t add Facebook Live to your toolkits, you’re going to miss a trick”- Jackie
  • With Facebook Live, people have access to the real you.
  • Facebook live gives you the opportunity to say this is the real person behind this business- it is the closest you can get to meeting someone face to face over the internet.
  • Work out what you’re going to talk about and have a plan so you’re not flailing around in the dark.
  • Trolls: Combat trolls by calling them out and breeze on in a professional manner. Don’t let the possibility of it happening put you off because the gains to be made from Facebook Live are so much greater.
  • You don’t need to be a big gregarious character to do Facebook Live- it’s about connecting who you are with your audience.
  • Don’t stress about who is watching it live- the authenticity is still there in the replay!
  • Repurpose your videos- don’t double your workload! Download your Facebook Live video and re-use it on other channels: Youtube, Blogs, Mailing List, etc.
  • “Nobody is paying anywhere near as much attention to your business as you!”- Jess
  • Facebook live can be done on desktop or any mobile device, however you’ll need a strong internet connection.
  • Like any other video, make sure your lighting is good and you have everything you need on hand, ready to go. As much as you want to be real, you don’t want to look unprofessional!
  • Give your audience somewhere to go from your podcast- the majority of your videos should have a ‘Call to Action” For example; Sign up to my mailing list, head to my store etc.
  • “If you’re going to spend any money on advertising, spend it on Facebook!”- Jess
  • Don’t put too much weight on it- you can do it again and keep getting better, it is more important to get over the hurdle and just do it.
  • Challenge for this week: Do a Facebook Live in the next week.
  • You can find Jackie on her website Craft My Success.
  • To download Jackie’s list of Facebook Live ideas click here.

 

 

Download or listen to this episode below.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)