5 Ways to Ensure Clear Communication with your Customers

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Thinking of our art as a business can be a challenge for some of us.

While we may be experts in our craft, we are often still learning many of the aspects of running a business – especially customer service.

It is super important to protect ourselves and our businesses. We need to keep our reputation intact. We need to be organised enough to avoid mishaps. And we need to make sure us and our customer are 100% on the same page about their order.

It’s such a compliment when someone wants to buy our work or commission a custom order or supply their retail outlet, but we can’t let emotion lead us to making a poor business decision.

As creatives we often think with our hearts first – but it is important to remember these 5 steps in order to keep your business mind ticking away when it comes to customer communication.

 

1. Keep and Save

Emails, sales, conversations, whatever has transpired between you and a customer needs to be kept or taken note of. It becomes a resource for fact checking, confirming details or even just contact details. Keep everything on file for a certain amount of time to ensure you have all information available to you if needed.

Action tip:  Keep a general folder on your computer/in your email program for all customer communications and individual ones for each commission. That way any conversations will be easy to find.

 

2. Get it in Writing

So your customer wants you to make 100 of an item? Get them to email or write the figure down so that you have it on paper.

It is so easy to confuse quantities or dollar amounts. We all mumble sometimes or hear wrong. Be sure to avoid any misunderstandings.

Action tip: After you have had a phone or face to face discussion regarding an order, a commission or a sale, send them an email outlining the details. That way they can reply with a yay or a nay and you know you are on the same page.

 

3. Always Ask

If you are unsure, ask. No one will ever be annoyed that you want to confirm details. This is just you making sure you can deliver on exactly what is wanted.

Keep communication channels open at all times, build the relationship and enjoy the customer relationship.

Action tip: Keep your customer in the know at all times, that way if they have a question they can askwhenever required. Share photos of progress on social media (unless of course it is private), email photos to them, give them a call. This way there will never be any surprises.

 

4. Don’t Over-Commit

Work out realistic time frames, costs and materials. Over-committing will only cause stress and pressure to both us and ultimately customer. If you over promise you will never get anything done!

Action tip: Have a commissions schedule. Depending on what you make they can take hours, days or weeks so have some rules about how many you do a month, or even year. Customers won’t mind being on a waiting list if they are serious.

 

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5. Avoid Disputes

If you follow all of the above tips you shouldn’t end up in any disputes. If you do – fix it immediately.

You don’t want to have to leave a bad taste with anyone when it comes to your business. There will always be someone unhappy – we can’t go our whole lives avoiding conflict but a quick resolution is best. Prioritise sorting disputes. Letting them drag on is stressful. You want to be always moving forward in your creative business.

Action tip: If you get a complaint, first things first – stop and think. Don’t jump straight back into it without taking a moment to look at it from both points of view. Draft correspondence and check before sending. We all know that non verbal communication can often be taken in the wrong tone.


 

[44] The Ins and Outs of Selling Handmade Goods Wholesale… from a Retailers Perspective

Ep 44 - Create & Thrive Podcast

Meredith Ireland runs a retail space in Tasmania promoting local makers and creatives. She is also a weaver and my right-hand gal here at Create & Thrive.

In this episode, we discuss what the process of wholesaling your products looks like from a retailer’s perspective, the do’s and don’ts of approaching a retailer, and also the reasons why retailers charge what they do.

As a maker and a retailer Meredith sees both sides of this relationship and so we discuss this and how best to go about approaching retailers with a good chance of success!

If you would like to hear what it’s like to be on the other side of the handmaker-retailer relationship, don’t miss this one.

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Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Meredith Ireland runs the retail space Old Franklin Store.
  • Meredith is a weaver and also runs weaving workshops in her retail space.
  • The decision to run weaving workshops felt natural.
  • Customers wanted more than to just buy her products, they wanted to know how and why.
  • Old Franklin Store started with only consignment based suppliers to keep start up costs low but is now moving more towards wholesale.
  • Makers are selected based not only on what Meredith likes but what fits aesthetically in the space and what doesn’t directly compete with other makers work.
  • The best way to approach a retailer is via email as turning up unannounced can be confronting for both parties and the timing will almost always be wrong.
  • Within your initial contact email make sure you include good quality photographs of your work.
  • Send a back story as an attachment to the email. This means the retailer only has to read it when they want to and gives you the opportunity to keep the body of your email short, sweet and to the point.
  • Are follow ups OK? Yes! Retailers are so busy and have so many offers coming in that it is easy to put them aside even if they are very interested.
  • Never be offended if you don’t hear back. This usually has nothing to do with you or the quality of your work.
  • ‘That first contact has to be respectful of the retailers time, feelings, and energy.’ {Jess}
  • Remember that one ‘No’ is not the end of your wholesale journey.
  • ‘Having confidence in your work and letting your work speak for itself is important.’ {Meredith}
  • Social media is one Old Franklin Store’s most effective marketing tools as well as local radio and newspapers.
  • ‘It is important to start local and grow from there.’ {Meredith}
  • The time and expenses involved with running a handmade retail space are incredible. As a supplier it is important to remember this as the reason why rates are sometimes as high as 50%.
  • A big lesson for Meredith was to ride out the hard times because they make the great times worth it.
  • If you are unsure with any aspect of packaging or displays for your retailer just ask. All will be different.
  • The relationships built with suppliers and customers have been one of the biggest rewards for Meredith.
  • Old Franklin Store focuses on promoting the maker and encourages relationships between the maker and the customer.
  • Decide prior to contacting a retailer if you will sell only wholesale or consignment or both so you can be prepared.
  • Have a basic wholesale list ready with photos and pricing information
  • Don’t be afraid to approach retail spaces and put your name out there. They can only say no.
  • ‘Keep trying until you succeed.’ {Jess}

Download/Listen to this Episode

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

 

P.S. If you want to dive into the world of selling your goods to retailers, but don’t know where to start or what to do, our eCourse Wholesale Know-How is perfect for you!  Check it out here.

5 Ways to Harness Your Creativity

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Do you feel like you lack inspiration on some days because your creative business is weighed down by scheduling, accounting, packaging, or liaising with customers?

Don’t forget why you started in the first place! Get back on track and get those creative juices flowing!

Being a creative person can mean your mind never stops buzzing with ideas. Problems with inspiration and motivation arise when other factors come into play such as a tired body, your day job, your everyday chores, or even your social life.

Having a creative mind does not always mean you are motivated. Imagine if we could achieve all of those wonderful thoughts and ideas!

While this may not be possible it is important to not get stuck in a slump waiting for motivation to come to you. Sometimes you have to go seek it out for yourself.

 

Here are a few ways to light that fire.

 

1. Get Natural

Being out and about in nature is one of the best ways to take a moment to really connect with your mind and feel peace.

Sometimes our heads are filled with so many negatives, anxieties or responsibilities – how are we supposed to feel like creating! Taking a walk, sitting in a garden, watching the bird life or dipping your toes in a river can be invigorating.

A moment in nature can recharge our batteries, calm our mind and put us back on track. If you are really feeling that slump then just take a few moments in nature and you will feel it.

 

2. Start Right

First up – start out right!

We all know how getting up late, running out of time, rushing and skipping breakfast can completely ruin a day. Take charge of the day by taking some the in the morning to set your intentions.

Have a cup of tea, read a chapter, meditate, or whatever feels good for you. Even just 5 minutes of peace will make a difference. You can’t always plan how the day will go but by doing this you will be so much more prepared to face any challenges that come your way.

 

3. Just Do It

Sometimes the biggest barrier to letting the creative juices flow is just starting. Just do it.

Pick up your tools, have a play. Once you are there, because you love what you do and because you are great at what you do it will come naturally. It’s so easy to put things aside especially when you have many thing on the go at a time. Put some music on, wiggle out all your tension and just do it!

 

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4. Allocate Time

While this can be a hard one sometimes for a creative mind (how can you force yourself to be creative?!) it can work really well.

Give yourself the opportunity to be creative. Sometimes it will flow and sometimes it won’t come as easily. If it doesn’t then go back to step 2, or 3 but actually give yourself the opportunity, allocate the time to create.

 

5. Make a Mess

This is the best one by far. Just get in there and make a mess!

Try a new idea. Make something for yourself. Express yourself!

Constantly thinking about the marketability of an item or an idea can sometimes turn from pure fun and switches that business part of the brain on. Do something you won’t sell, or don’t want to sell. Make art, make it great, make it fun and make a mess. It doesn’t have to be beautiful polished product.

It can be your masterpiece – the masterpiece that helps breed creativity within your brain. Because we all know that the more we use our creativity, the more we have. Go on, make a mess.

 

How to Embrace Change in Your Creative Business

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Running a creative business will mean facing change many times along the way.

It could be a change in your efficiencies, driven by your own desires to alter your practices, or it could be a change in small business laws, taxes, or technological advances.

Change isn’t always easy, as we are creatures of habit. We take comfort in what we know and this can mean resisting change or seeing change as a barrier.

 

Here are 8 tips to help switch your mindset when it comes to change:

 

1. Accept that change will happen – Take a moment to really think about change. It is happening all around us all the time. Sometimes the change can feel like a setback and sometimes it is an exciting way forward.

You need to become aware of how change makes you feel. Is it fear, excitement, or comfort that you feel? Being aware of these feelings will help with the initial barrier that change can sometimes bring.

 

2. Challenge yourself – Make an effort to try new things on a regular basis in both your creative biz and your personal life.

While routine and schedules can help keep you on track to reach your goals, flexibility will help you move effortlessly around any barriers that arise and adapt to new ways of thinking. Go try something you have never done, experiment with your art form, cook something new, walk a different route. Mix it up!

 

3. Seek new perspectives – One of the hardest aspects of change can be to see it the way others do. Take a moment to view any changes from other points of view. This is a great way of putting it in perspective and can bring to light positives you may not have seen before.

 

4. Seek support – Talk it out with others. Sometimes just talking about it will turn a huge barrier into a small obstacle.

If you see a barrier it is likely someone else does too.

 

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5. Find the positive – Finding the silver lining can sometimes be hard.

We are working so hard to run our creative businesses that changes can feel like a burden. Remember that there is always a positive side to change – it is usually for the better. Changing the mindset is sometimes all it takes to help things work.

 

6. Understand that change takes time – Nothing is immediate.

If you need to implement new accounting systems, learn a new social media tool, or understand changes to tax law, these all take time. So be patient with yourself and understand that the process takes time to adapt. One step at a time.

 

7. Live in the moment – Enjoy change!

Seek to live your days in the moment. The past is done and the future will always be there ahead of you so stay true to the now. Embrace every new thing as it comes your way. Feeling anxious about the future will only hold you back.

 

8. Lose old ways of thinking – Clear out old files, clean up email inboxes, throw out old notes and give yourself the opportunity to move forward.

Anything that is no longer relevant to your creative business now and is clutter will just fill your mind and your workspace with irrelevant information. Take the plunge and invest in change as a way of taking your creative biz to new heights rather than a locked door holding you back.

 

How to Celebrate Your Successes – Big or Small!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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