Grow Your Profits Week – Lesson 2 – Plan Your Packaging

Lesson 2 Plan Your Packaging

{This post is part of a FREE 5-part e-course on growing the profits in your online handmade business, running on Create & Thrive this week. Subscribe to our email updates to make sure you don’t miss a lesson. You can see Lesson 1 here.}

Welcome to Day 2 of our 5-day course!

Today we’re talking packaging. Specifically – how you can make sure you’re not spending too much money – or time – on your packaging.

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Packaging can put a big dent in your profits.

Of course, we all want to have beautiful packaging to wrap our gorgeous handmade goodies in. However, we need to be smart about how much that packaging is cutting into our profit margins.

Say, for example, that you sell clothing. Currently, you pack all your clothes in a box, wrapped with a ribbon, as well as a little handwritten note and a business card. This is then put into another envelope/box and addressed. When you add all that packaging up, it adds up to $5 (as an example – you need to work out your own costs).

That’s $5 you’ve got to earn – either by covering it in your shipping prices, your item price… or you’ll taking it out of your profits.

Now, what if you changed so that you didn’t buy a box, but simply wrapped your clothes in some brown paper or tissue paper, with a ribbon. And perhaps you can make your own business info cards, print them on paper, and write your note on the back of each one. This is what I do. Sure, I have professional, gorgeous business cards… but I don’t bother putting them in with online orders.

Why? Because as far as I’m concerned, those business cards are to give to new people who haven’t ever seen my business before. The point is to entice them to check out my website. Someone who’s bought from me has ALREADY checked out my website, and been impressed enough to buy from me. I don’t need to give them a business card. They know where to find me. 99.5% of them will just throw it in the bin. Honestly – how many business cards do you keep and USE that you get in online order parcels?

But back to the main event…

If you don’t do this already already, go add at least another dollar or so on top of your shipping charges. Go on, I’ll wait.

*pause accompanied by chillin’ to Matt Corby*

Why am I asking you to do this?

Simple. You should already be charging at least what it actually costs you at the post office to ship your goods. This additional dollar is the start of covering your packaging costs. It may be you need to add a bit more. I don’t know – and you certainly won’t know – until you do the maths.

Undercharging on shipping is a common mistake that will consistently eat away at your profits. (And if you offer ‘free shipping’? Make sure your shipping costs are calculated into the price you’re selling your goods for.)

Also, as a follow on from our earlier lesson – Get Organised – make sure you have all your packaging materials set up together, so it’s easy and quick to package your orders. Make sure you’re always stocked up on tape, wrapping materials/ribbon, envelopes etc, so that you don’t have to make a mad dash to buy more supplies! (I speak from experience…)

Also – you should be buying your shipping materials either at wholesale prices, or at least in bulk. This will save you both time and money.

The first time I bought a box of 1,000 bubble mailers, I almost hyperventilated. It seemed like a HUGE expense at the time, and I wondered if I’d ever use them all. Let me tell you – I used them all. And these days I don’t bat an eyelid when buying that box of 1,000 bubble mailers. Because I KNOW that buying them in bulk is saving a HUGE amount of money in the long-term.

A crucial thing to remember though – you can’t scrimp on safe packaging. It is paramount that your item arrives at your customer’s door in top-notch condition!

ACTION STEPS

1. Sit down and actually calculate how much your shipping materials are costing you per item shipped. Don’t forget to also add in the time it takes you do package everything!

Are you currently covering that cost in your shipping charges?

If not, could you increase your shipping charges to cover the cost? Or put the cost onto the item price?

If you don’t think you can, then you really need to look at altering your packaging. Take 10-20 minutes and brainstorm alternatives that will save you money. Perhaps search for similar shops and find out how they package their goods.

2. Go and organise your packaging, if you haven’t already.

Put your return address on envelopes in one sitting, pre-print and write any care sheets or discount coupons and have them in a pile ready to go. This will save you time down the track.

Grow Your Profits Week – Lesson 1 – Get Organised & Streamline Your Processes

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{This post is part of a FREE 5-part e-course on growing the profits in your online handmade business, running on Create & Thrive this week. Subscribe to our email updates to make sure you don’t miss a lesson.}

Welcome to Day 1 of our 5-day course!

This week I’ll be taking you through five simple steps that you can take to quickly and (relatively) painlessly increase the profits you’re bringing in in your online handmade business.

Let’s start with a fundamental – something you may never have considered is eating into your profits.

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Let’s get it out there straight away – I’m going to take a big bet that your workspace looks a tad messy right now.

Am I right?

Creative people tend to be a bit messy by nature – we have idea after idea, and we jump from one to the other – often forgetting to ‘clean up’ after ourselves as we go!

I am the queen of mess.

One of my best friends even calls me ‘Messy Bessie’. Yep.

My whole life I’ve always had a messy desk, messy room… but a while back I decided enough was enough.

When I realised that I was spending twice as long trying to find a component or tool than it actually took me to make a piece of jewellery, it hit me that this was a problem!

One way to increase profits is to decrease the time spent to earn the same amount of money.

The time we spend shuffling things around in our studios is time wasted. Time we could be spending more profitably – by making more product, blogging, marketing, designing… you name it.

But – I hear you say – I love having everything right in front of me! I gain inspiration from having beads/yarn/pencils/paints strewn all about!

You know what, I do too! But there’s no reason we can’t have them all strewn around in an organised fashion.

ACTION STEPS

Step back and take an objective look at your workspace.

1. Can you organise it right now?
2. Do you need to invest in buying/making storage solutions?
3. Do you need to re-arrange how you use the space?
4. …Or even find a new space altogether?

Work out what storage you need to make your space organised and easy to use. Consider your working style and position.

For example – do you work sitting down? How can you organise your tools/materials so you need to move around as little as possible – basically having as much at your fingertips as possible?

Do you have a bin? If not, get one, and put rubbish in there straight away. And then empty it! (So many times my poor husband Nick has gotten fed up with my overflowing bin and emptied it for me…)

For a little inspiration, here’s a picture of my current workspace. This was taken over a year ago (by Paul Harris for an article in Smarter Business Ideas), but it’s pretty similar still.

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You can find more workspace inspiration on my ‘Workspaces’ Pin board here.

Questions? Thoughts? Share with us on the Create & Thrive FB Page, or in the comments below.

Starting Monday – A FREE 5-Day E-Course – Grow Your Profits

Grow Your Profits Blog Image - Create and Thrive

Let’s talk e-courses.

I’ve got a number of courses lined up to offer you over the next year. I’ll be sharing all sorts of hard-won wisdom about marketing, organisation, business planning and product development, fostering creativity, dynamic work-life balance, and more.

All of my courses are e-mail-based – which means that when you sign up for the course, you get the lessons direct to your email, rather than downloading a course guide or reading them off a website. Some will be live and have interaction with me and your classmates. Some will be self-directed, which you can take at any time. Some will be longer – some short and sweet.

You may have checked out the flagship C&T e-course – Set Up Shop. You may have even taken it. If you have, you’ll know what it’s like to take a C&T course.

If you haven’t – I thought it was time that I gave you the opportunity to have a taste of what a C&T e-course is like… so I’m giving you one. For free.

Next week – Monday-Friday – I’m running a FREE e-course that will teach you 5 simple ways to grow the profits in your handmade business.

This e-course is all about how to increase your profits – so let’s start off by defining what profit actually is, and why it’s important to your business.

Profit – simply – is the money that is left over once all your expenses are subtracted from your turnover.

Let’s clarify what turnover (gross income) and profit (net income) are, and how you get from one to the other.

Your turnover is all the money your business makes. This is your gross income.

In order to find your net – or profit – you subtract all expenses from your gross income. This includes:

  • materials costs
  • tools/equipment costs
  • overheads (electricity, internet, phone, fees)
  • salary (you do pay yourself, right?)
  • any other business-related expenses
  • taxes

Once all of this is paid for, any money left is profit.

So – why is profit important?

Without profit, your business can’t grow.

You can’t afford to re-invest that money in advertising, upgrading your tools, hiring an assistant.

And, of course, the more profit you make as a micro-business owner, the more money you can either pay yourself, or save.

Profit is not something to be ashamed of – you’re running a business here – you should be proud of the fruit of your labour!

Some of us in the craft community somehow ‘feel bad’ when we charge what our work is really worth – but I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t.

You are worth it, your work is worth it, and – ultimately – if you want to be a success, it’s absolutely imperative to grow your profits.

This 5-day e-course will give you five straightforward, actionable steps to increase your profit margin.

There are five areas of your business for you to analyse and work on.

Each lesson consists of some background info and food for thought, along with some action steps for you to take!

There are 2 ways to take the course.

1. Sign up for the C&T Email Updates – and you’ll get all 5 lessons straight to your inbox next week – Monday to Friday. This is the most fail-safe way… and the best, because you’ll also be getting regular useful + juicy info sent to you each week. This will give you the most authentic ‘course’ experience.

2. Alternatively… subscribe to the blog via rss or bloglovin/follow on FB/twitter/G+… or just remember to come back here to the blog each day next week! Heck, put it in your diary, on your calendar, set an alarm on your phone – whatever works for ya!

Make SURE to check out the FB page each day, as I’ll be putting up each lesson for community discussion over there each day.

Good luck, and I hope I can help you grow the profits in your crafty micro-biz! See you on Monday!

Jess xx

Ever Wondered How to Pitch Blogs? Here’s How I Do It…

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Beautiful interior photographs by Twig Hutchison

{Editor’s Note – I have had Megan working with me for a few years now, and she’s pitched umpteen blogs for me – she knows her stuff! Do what she does and you’ll be well on your way to getting your work out there in the blogosphere! Jess}

One of my favorite ways to get press and market my creative business is to pitch blogs.

Now is the time to start polishing your pitching procedure so that you’re ready in October to share your holiday gift items with bloggers.  So today I thought I’d share my process with you to give you an idea of how easy it is!  Personally, I pitch one blog a day every other month to make sure my business is constantly getting the attention of customers.

Whether you’re pitching a guest post or a product, the steps are the same.

I start my pitching process by finding a blog!  I do a simple Google search (using the ‘blog’ setting to refine my look) for the topic I’m pitching.  If I’m looking to share my embroidery patterns, I search ’embroidery,’ ‘sewing,’ ‘crafting,’ etc.  I will also look through the blogs I’m already following and reading because I’ve probably commented a few times and built up a repertoire with them.

Then I have to decide if that blog is a good fit.  How do you know if a blog is a good fit?  I look for:

  • commenting readers
  • nice pictures
  • featured products or guest posts in the previous posts
  • regular updates
  • similar aesthetic to my business
  • they have the same target market (it’s not worth my time to pitch to a blog whose readers will not like my work)

If I feel the blog is a good fit, I will next look at the about page to get a better sense of the blogger.  Do I have anything in common with them I can mention in the pitch?  Is there a milestone they just celebrated that I can congratulate them on?  Most importantly, when I write my pitch, I want to make sure that I get across the point that I am helping them by giving them content.

This is what most makers are afraid of.

They feel that they are bothering bloggers.  But guess what?  The blogger’s job is to write up and share amazing content with their readers.  By sharing your work with them, you’re saving them time and energy!  You’re making their life easier!  Plus, you’re sending your readers and fans to their site as well because goodness knows if you get featured, you’re going to share it on social media.

So in your pitch, you want to send them a low-res image of your work along with a link back to your shop.  You want to explain why your work will make their readers happy.  Remember, it’s not about how this blogger can help you but how you can help the blogger and their readers.  Keep your pitch short and sweet.  Bloggers are busy and, like all of us, we tend to glaze over long emails.

Now it’s your turn!

Start small.  Pitch one blog a week.  See what happens.  Oh, and remember that October and November is the time to pitch bloggers for inclusion in their holiday gift guides and present posts.  If you wait until December, it’s far too late.

Bonus points: Look through the blogger’s list of links or sponsors.  You’re likely to find many more great blogs to pitch in there that fit your target market.

 

Success Stories ~ Sandra Dieckmann

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Sandra Dieckmann

Sandra Dieckmann contacted us personally a few weeks back to share her amazing success story with you on Create & Thrive.  As soon as Jess and I saw her work and website, we knew she would have a great story to tell you.  We hope you enjoy this interview with this extremely skilled UK artist.

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

Hello, my name is Sandra Dieckmann and I’m a freelance illustrator and artist in London.

My story started in a rural setting in the north of Germany. There I walked across the rainbow, lived in the tops of evergreen trees, and flew with the birds. I slept under a blanket of twinkling stars and swam in deep black lakes at night. Or something like that.

Suddenly, I was older, mom had died, home wasn’t home, and the world was waiting. I took a suitcase, then a plane, and in 2002 touched down in London. I worked here and there and decided after a couple of years to wake up from my slumber and get back to creating, which was what I had always been doing naturally.

A pre-foundation, a foundation, half a BA(Hons) in Fashion Design, a BA(Hons) Graphic Design and finally some Illustration till I graduated in 2009 after six years, first class honours from my degree.

I started putting my work out there pretty much straightaway and became active on social networking sites and it’s been getting more and more interesting and busy since then.

Time has passed very quickly and looking back I sometimes look at my portfolio and think .. wow … So much work! I’m just enjoying what I’m doing really. I have never sent out any kind of promotional material as such apart from promoting myself online and I’m really enjoying the variety of opportunities that present themselves.

I now live in East London and run a small studio here that I share with two other illustrators.

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

I don’t know. I think I haven’t overcome most of them yet and the ones that I have I probably don’t remember because there are so many more 😉

There is the time management problem, bookkeeping, work and life balance and so many more difficult aspects of working for yourself and working alone.

The business side of illustration I’m least interested in as it has never been and will never be about making a profit for me. I just want to survive doing what I do but it is so  easy to overwork and not realise that you need to separate yourself, sometimes completely, when your passion is also your business. It’s easy to work all the hours of the days and nights and your body really suffers from all the hours of sitting down staring at the screen. I’m now running, doing Yoga, and very consciously eat well.

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Crowned Crane Note Card

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

Being high on life is the highlight and being allowed to do what I love all the time! It’s such a privilege.

When you work for yourself and you are  doing your thing even a high flying job that is better paid will never compare in my opinion because you aren’t doing it for yourself and you aren’t living your life to your full potential. If you feel the need to be creative to stay happy take that seriously … it’s you!

Maybe also a highlight for me was turning down a big contract that would have seen my illustrations washed all over the shops. It’s so hard when integrity collides with potential income but I think it’s important to stay true to your art.

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?

There is so much I want to do, of course, but I try not to worry about the when and how.

I think fear is completely counter-productive and will stop you in your tracks. I trust myself to be inventive enough to always somehow get by and to remember that riches don’t come in material ways.

Creatively, everybody that is actively working will always be changing. That’s just the way of evolution and you don’t have to have everything mapped out. I don’t have a business plan and like to re-evaluate where I’m going all the time.  I’m often  thinking about making time for the actual act of creation because the busier you get, the more things there are to do that you don’t want to do. If there is one focus then that is it.

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Moon print

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

Oh wow! I always have too many ideas and I’m so sad that most of the time I don’t have the time to turn them into images any more. All the other things just seem to get in the way so I have to allocate special ‘making days’ now where emails etc. take a back seat. I guess that is some kind of creative rut?…hahaha

My advice otherwise would be to procrastinate, procrastinate, and know that it’s not doing nothing. Call it procrasti-working if you may. Do something completely unrelated … I believe it’s part of the process and your mind subconsciously puts things together for you.

Be soft with yourself! I’m still learning that the hard way.

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

That is my life lesson at the moment. It’s a big one. I thought I was super woman and I could do it all, all the time. Now I know how important getting away is. Going for a walk, spending time with friends not talking about work, exercising and generally refreshing your system. No one can function all the time. It helps making a schedule. I colour code times for things in my calendar now. Some days I will spend hours on emails, invoices, contracts and other days are completely free for drawing. I don’t have a usual day as such and I always get into my studio later then I would like to.

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

Ohh the internet and social networking- a love and hate relationship. Without it, I would have to go knocking on doors and be annoying people on the phone. Work would be double as hard and twice as slow. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Blogger, Etsy, Society6 and my own website. I try to update everything as much as I can and it’s a great way to stay in touch with fellow creatives but it can be it bit much.

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Magic Wood pocket mirror

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

Don’t be disillusioned. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Be strong. Do it for yourself and no one else. Don’t think about the money. That will never work. If it’s a performance from your site keep in mind that in time you’ll be exhausted. Fashion comes and goes. Be yourself, speak your mind, have an opinion and for your own sake be honest to yourself and others! Create what you find aesthetically pleasing!

Just do it! Don’t think about your motives. If it’s bursting out of you, make it. You will make sense of it slowly. Maybe never but not everything needs to be explained.

Few succeed and I believe talent is not learned; it is innate. There is nothing wrong with creating a brand, being a business but just don’t start that way it will happen anyway.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Find the end of the rainbow. Walk up the rainbow. Climb from there onto a mountain and slide back down through the snow. No, really …

I just want to have fun while working as hard as time and energy permit. I’m really open to anything! More exhibitions, making books and zines, doing fares, commissions, a spot of travel maybe … whatever life has in store I’m ready!

You can find more of Sandra’s work online:

In her online shop: Sandra Dieckmann Illustration

In her Etsy shop: Sandra Dieckmann

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