[133] Outsourcing Production with Britta Boeckmann

Have you ever thought about outsourcing the production of your handmade goods?

Maybe you want to grow beyond what one person can achieve. Perhaps you want to outsource the making so you can spend more time dreaming and designing.

Whatever the reason, figuring out exactly HOW to do this is a big challenge.

My guest on the show today – Britta Boeckmann – has done exactly that.

She has worked out how to outsource the making of her beautiful resin-based jewellery overseas in a way that is affordable and ethical. And in this episode, she shares her experiences of the process.

BONUS: Britta is going to be joining me and the Thriver Circle community for a live chat this Friday the 19th of January at 12 Noon, AEST (the time in Brisbane, Australia). If you’d like to join us for that, make sure you’re a member of the Circle, and look for the event in the Circle FB group.

 

 

 

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You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts + Stitcher or any other Android App.)

 


Heads up! I’m going to be giving a 10% discount off the cost of my Shop Scrutiny service to Thriver Circle members in February.

So if you want me to critique your online handmade shop, make sure that you’re a member of the Circle in February to get access to this special offer!


 

 

Quotes and Highlights from this Episode:

  • As demand for her product outstripped her manufacturing capacity, Britta changed the direction of her business by bringing on a business partner, Michael, and exploring outsourced production.
  • It took eight months to find the right production partner including research, liaison and site visits in the Philippines.
  • Have clear guidelines as to what you need from a production partner including working conditions, wages, sustainability of resources and technical expertise.
  • To kick start the partnership, Britta designed and made a collection and sent these pieces and the technical drawings to the production partner. They, in turn, created a sample set and returned it for approval.
  • “When you start something like this you have to be aware that its never going to go completely smoothly” {Britta}
  • There are significant investments of time and money when pursuing outsourced production but there are significant benefits.
  • “Outsourced production frees you up for more design work” {Jess}
  • Take a long view with your business and plan accordingly for growth.
  • “You need to have a vision otherwise it is very hard to invest the time” {Britta}
  • After having her work profile grew, Britta saw lot of replication of her designs. This spurred outsourcing production to free up creative time to develop new ideas.
  • “There is no reason to be sad about it – when you do something good there will always be copiers” {Britta}
  • BoldB’s designs do not work to fashion house seasons – if the design is selling it is continued for sale.
  • “If you want to be successful you need to put all your energy in the one idea” {Britta}
  • See Britta’s work on Etsy and her website.

 

 

[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}

 

 

 

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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.

 

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

PicMonkey Vs. Canva – What to Use When in your Handmade Business

PicMonkey vs. Canva

 

Do you use PicMonkey or Canva? Have you tried them both and decided that one’s your ‘thing’ and you just don’t get the other one at all? And even though you love a whole bunch of things about the one you do use, there’s some tasks that you can’t do in it and it just frustrates you?

They’re quite different beasts for sure – and the difference really stems from their purpose. PicMonkey is aimed at everyday photo-editing – so it covers all your basic edits plus filters and overlays (including a few special tricks especially designed for correcting/enhancing photos of people), whereas Canva is aimed more at producing graphics that are suitable for a range of digital and print applications such as images for social media and blogs, infographics, special document layouts, letterheads, business cards, posters, etc.

In both systems, you can upload your own images, layer things, and alter their transparency to create interesting texture and effects. Both allow you to do basic edits to photos, adjusting qualities such as brightness, contrast, saturation and more, and both offer a range of pre-set filters.

But as you’ve no doubt discovered, each platform has its limitations.

So, have you ever considered using them in tandem?

PicMonkey to do the the things that Canva can’t, and vice versa? Their capabilities are quite complementary, if you’re looking for cheap/free image editing solutions. I’ve put together a summary of the best points of each, as well as some of things I find the most limiting/annoying.

Also, I’ll mention that in each system, the paid versions extend their functionality considerably, so you might want to consider that option too (PicMonkey Royale is $64AUD/year and Canva is $157AUD/year… although if you’re prepared to fork out moola, I’d probably get a sub to Photoshop CC instead as it’s around the same price as Canva for Work and has a huge amount more functionality).

 

Canva

 

Some things I love…

  • The huge array of perfectly pre-sized canvases for almost any application you can think of, from social media posts to e-books to desktop wallpapers to business stationery and a whole bunch more
  • Intuitive layout, easy to find your way around and get what you want
  • The great series of tutorials on design, as well as a fab blog on various aspects of graphic design
  • Some nice pre-made (and free) graphic templates, so all you need to do is alter the text and colours to suit your needs and you’re done
  • A fabulous ‘snap’ functionality, which helps you centre your work, or snap it to the edge of the canvas
  • A good range of preset filters, with a dialogue box that shows you what changes the filter has made to the image, and allows you to tweak aspects such as brightness/saturation/contrast/tint/blur/etc at the same time
    you can create a free account, which will always keep the graphics you’ve already made (AND they remain editable), as well as all of your own images that you’ve uploaded
  • Canva auto-saves your work as you go. Download it whenever you want

 

Some things I don’t like about Canva

  • You can’t stretch many of your elements; photos can be resized by holding down the shift key and dragging, and lines can be extended; but generally, the rest of the elements you can only resize them in their correct proportions
  • You can’t upload your own fonts in the free version (you can in the paid Canva for Work)
    you can’t make an image with a transparent background, so creating logos is not an option (you can in Canva for Work)
  • You can’t change the image size once you start (you can in Canva for Work), although you do have the option to save for either low quality (.jpg) or higher quality (.png), and in two different resolutions for PDFs
  • Making a text mask (where you have an image showing through text) is painfully slow, and you can only use the one block font they offer frames in

 

 

PicMonkey

 

Some things I love

  • You can make overlays with transparent backgrounds for your brand which you can use for your images wherever you need them. You could also make a simple logo in PicMonkey which you can overlay onto any graphic you choose. Consistently branded images are great for blog posts, social media, etc
  • You can use your own fonts from your computer
  • Stretching anything to fit is easy – hold down the shift key while dragging a corner of the image or overlay
  • Making a text mask is a piece of cake, and you can use any font and any image you like
  • A MASSIVE range of filters and effects, so you can really make your images distinctive
  • A draw tool, and an eraser tool so you can do spot-editing, pixel by pixel
  • A good series of tutorials, written for non-designers

 

Some things I don’t like

  • You can’t save any of your designs into their system, and you can’t save editable images to finish later – when you save, the layers are automatically flattened before it’s downloaded to your computer
  • Update: you can now save editable files in their Hub, which is an add-on to PicMonkey Royale (the paid version)
  • It’s SUPER hard to centre anything (like text, or shapes) – PicMonkey doesn’t have any ‘snap’ function, nor any other easy way of figuring out if things are lined up (and that’s why I made this handy overlay grid a little while ago. You’re welcome)
  • It’s much harder to find your way around because you have to click in and out of the individual sections each time to test the effect of each one, and some effects and overlays are also hidden in the Themes section

 

What I’d use when

 

Creating logos

Firstly, I would definitely use PicMonkey to create any sort of logo, or other brand element that you intend to use as an overlay in your graphics, because it allows you to create a shape with a transparent background.

The thing that you need to remember when you’re saving your shape with its transparent background is that it needs to be saved as a .png file – if you try to save it as a .jpg, it will automatically convert your transparent background to solid white – which means that it becomes completely useless as an overlay.

With this example, there are two steps – first creating the separate shape file so you can use it again and again; and then creating a new file for your chosen image including the overlay.

simple logo example

In the first step, I used PicMonkey’s Design option to create a canvas with a transparent background, then into Text. Click on ‘My Own’ at the top of the side panel, before choosing the fonts you want (I used a combination of Goblin, Times New Roman, and Helvetica Neue). To do this, you’ll need to load up three separate text boxes so that you can make them different colours, change their sizes slightly, and layer them up. After moving them around, then I simply save (remember, it has to be a .png to preserve the transparent background).

Once you’ve saved your logo, every time you need to use it on an image, you can simply go into Overlay / My Own, and choose it from your files (but you’ll have to load it up again, every time you need to make a new graphic).

2016 aug - graphic

EVEN BETTER, switch over to Canva now, and upload it into your Canva account – that way you’ll always have it handy for every graphic you want to produce!

 

Image editing

PicMonkey every time. Canva will only add filters or change simple aspects such as brightness, contrast, tint, and blur to a WHOLE image; there’s no “Draw” tool to add in your own bits.

PicMonkey has a “Draw” tool in Effects; you can change the size and colour of the tool, and you can alter things as small as 1 pixel. It also has an eraser so you can erase parts of one layer or effect so that the original image shows through. Clever use of the eraser and the pencil together can create elements that look like they wrap around each other.

 

Templates

Always, always in Canva for this! For two reasons:

1. It always keeps your files editable, so all you need to do is make a copy of your original template (from the main page that shows all your designs, click on the little arrow in the top right of the image you want, and “Make a copy”).

2. Good graphics need good alignment, and I LOVE their snap tools to help you get everything centred/justified. Perfect for when you need to change text and other elements around frequently.

 

Resizing

As I pointed out earlier, once you’ve chosen your canvas size in Canva, you’re stuck with it. If you want to resize things, or start with a flexible size because you’re not really sure what you want to end up with (like when you’re creating a logo) use PicMonkey, every time.

These are a few of the specific situations I’d choose one over the other. There are many, many other specific situations where the flexibility of one outweighs the flexibility of the other – it’s up to you to choose what suits you best. Hopefully the list of likes/dislikes above will help you figure that out.

 

Have you used the two in tandem? Have you only stuck to one and now you want to try the other? If you have combined them already, I would LOVE to hear what you’ve made and why. Pop a comment below!

 

[54] 5 Ways to Increase Your Profits

Ep 54 - Create & Thrive Podcast

You could be eating away at your profits without even realising it. However, there are lots of ways you can make little tweaks to your handmade business in order to increase your profit margin.

I ran a week-long free course a few years back on this topic, and I thought it was time to bring these ideas to you in the podcast.

By following these five steps you will be able to cut out wasted time, reduce your expenses, and therefore increase your profit margin.

For more detail on each point, the links to the course lessons are in the show notes below.

If you have any other ideas for ways that we as makers can cut expenses and increase our profit margins – while still maintaining the integrity of our business – please share them below!

 

Ep 54 quote - Jess

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • 1. Streamline and organise
  • Disorganisation will eat into your profits.
  • Decrease the time spent to make the same amount of money by being streamlined in your work practices.
  • This includes organisation of your digital life.
  • Work out what you can do today to become more streamlined and organised.
  • Pinterest is a great resource for finding ideas to create a more organised space.
  • 2. Plan your packaging.
  • ‘Packaging can put a huge dent into your profits.’ {Jess}
  • You need to make sure you account for your packaging costs in the cost of your postage or the item itself.
  • Make sure you always have what you need on hand and try and buy in bulk.
  • Don’t forget to add in the time it takes to package the item.
  • 3. Do your calculations and price your work properly.
  • ‘You don’t want to be leaving money on the table.’ {Jess}
  • It is important to get realistic about how much it is costing you to make your products.
  • You need to cover the time you spend marketing and planning not just making.
  • 4. Can you make it reproducible?
  • This is especially important when selling work online.
  • Can you recreate your item?
  • If you can it will increase your production capacity saving time on each item.
  • These items can then become your bread and butter range.
  • Make sure you keep detailed notes so you can easily reproduce work.
  • Think about minimising materials used across your product range.
  • 5. Buy in wholesale or buy in bulk.
  • This will usually involve planning ahead.
  • Do your research, are there things you can cut out?
  • ‘We always have to place our creative and business integrity above our profit margins.’ {Jess}
  • Only you can decide where you can reduce expenses and save money.

 

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