Hey y’all! Hope you’ve been well 🙂 Yes, that’s right – another post on having (or starting) a #HandmadeBiz or #GirlBossBiz ! This post is focused on how to boost your business, how to get out of a slump, and how to make your business WORK for you! This is coming from a place of experience and honesty. I am telling you exactly what I wish I had been told at the start!
I have been on an epic roller-coaster ride ever since the beginning of my business almost 4 years ago. I have been broke, very broke, managing, coasting along, and even somewhat well-off enough financially for an international holiday, new sewing machinery, new bedroom furniture… and (most other) financial situations imaginable in-between. I want to share with you, through my many business focused posts to come, my journey – plus any advice I can muster to help you get through the epic learning curve of starting your own creative business.
Now you might be thinking what qualifications do I have to be giving advice? Well, none really. I am by no means a business expert. I can only tell you what I have learnt that worked for me! But I do have experience in starting, running and owning a global-selling, multi-faceted, micro business that pays the bills. I made it sound fancy …but really it’s what most business owners have! I have 3 online shops (between approx. 1-3.5 years old) with a collective of almost 600 orders – that’s not including the quantity in the 1 sale – some people have ordered 3, 50, 60, 75+ of the same item. I have sold triple that amount in person at markets, and through consignment in stores… Obviously I’m no millionaire, but one day I hope to be getting my goal income! I don’t say any of this to brag (it’s not really actually very brag worthy anyway) – I have a LONG way to go (especially in the branding department! I don’t even have a logo!). I just want to show you why I can share my advice with you… I have been in slumps! Been so broke I couldn’t go out and do things with friends. Been in a massive rut going around in circles, believing that my business will fail! I WANT you to succeed and not fall into the traps I fell into! And if I can help anyone with my business blog posts, darn right I’m going to share it! 🙂
Do you do make stuff? Or perhaps you sell a service? Maybe you’re a vintage seller or craft supply seller? Have you tried market stalls, or perhaps home parties/trunk shows? How about your own website, Ebay store, or even a brick & mortar shop? Maybe you have tried Etsy? If these are working for you, that’s great news – if not, maybe it’s time to re-think your strategies in order to get ahead. From my own experiences in my first year of business, I had to – what I was doing just was NOT working. I was too busy getting in my own way! If I kept going the way I was going, I would not still have my business today. I have been through a lot of things that haven’t worked for me…. A. LOT. I’m in my fourth year of business now and some things STILL aren’t working. I am by no means where I want to be with my handmade creative business. But I know one day I will. And I have a pretty good road map beginning (in my brain!). I am not the type who has a written business plan! Maybe I should? Maybe one day I will! But for now I am just doing one thing at a time.
All of the above mentioned avenues of selling are part of a cash flow “root system” – all leading back to your business – the big, beautiful, ever-green and growing tree. You want to nurture it, feed it, and be able to stand back and say – “wow” – I grew this, it’s magnificent, and it is thriving from year to year. I can support others and live a great comfortable life with all the fruit my big “business tree” bears. This financial root system will assist in building your brand, income, energy & profit. Do you want to expand and build on your business cash flow avenues? I am a strong believer in not putting all your eggs in one basket! If one cash flow slows down, or even gets cut off completely – your business will struggle to survive. I am writing from a place of experience – I have been there!
Now, I hate this statistic (and any mention of it), but many small businesses fail within the first few years. I was determined that it wouldn’t be me. There was a time where I thought it would be me, but I learnt very quickly that those negative thoughts would not get me anywhere. In-fact, they would actually be my downfall. Now that’s not to say “staying positive” is the only factor – you also can’t live in fairy land as a business owner. I know, I lived in fairy land for a while. It was nice, but it wasn’t helping my wallet at all. You know, that special place – where you get to do everything you want to do, whenever you want to do it, but aren’t actually getting where you want to be in the long run. The place where “it will work out eventually” and you don’t have to change a darn thing. I was there for almost the whole first year of my business start-up. You need to align yourself with a critical thinking mindset, early on, so you can see your business clearly from a consumer and CEO point of view. Is this working? What can I change?
Now – with all this speak of trees, root systems and branching out – you’re probably thinking, yeah well – that’s nice – but how can I make this idea of “branching out” my cash flow avenues work for me? How will this technique help my business and make me more money?? Let me give you an example:
Say you are a massage therapist… you work at a clinic (either your own or contracted out to someone else’s clinic) and maybe get paid fully or a cut of the cost of the massage per client (this depends on whether you work for your own business of course). What else could you do to make more money/profit? Say perhaps it’s your own clinic – do you have another room/space in the building you could rent out to another holistic wellness practitioner? Maybe a yoga instructor, a waxer, or even another massage therapist? Maybe you only have wall space or shelf space to work with – look into buying related products through wholesale avenues – perhaps candles, incense, books, essential oils or cds. Boom. You instantly have another income revenue with only minimal resources available. Your client loved the scent of oil you used today? Here. It’s $15.95, take your own home to enjoy the experience even more.
Maybe you don’t own the clinic, maybe you’re contracted out on your own ABN, in your downtime of course, you could offer other clients your services from home. Maybe you also are experienced in card readings, reiki, crystal healing or mediumship? This is another stream of income you could supply yourself with. Give your client a combo deal when ordering one or the other. Boom. Just up-sold, while leaving your client stoked they only have to travel to one place, for 2 services they have an interest to purchase. Only have limited time/space? Offer your card readings by e-mail. Want to share your skills and knowledge? Offer classes on intuitive card reading, offer classes on easy DIY massage techniques, start a workshop on couples massage.
Now let me be honest and share what my revenue streams are:
–Clothing alterations. Simple mending, to large jobs like pageant gown hems, take-ins & beading work. Replacing zips, buttons and even altering/upcycling the style of garment. Quick turn-around and helping the people fix their favourite garments, help the environment from excess waste, and of course making $$. I stand behind my strong make do & mend ethos!
–Custom made garments & gowns – bridal, ball & pageant. Client brings in a design, theme or idea and I source the fabrics and bring the design to life for their special occasion.
–Costumes, cosplay & accessories/props. I love cosplay and did work placement in a costumerie. So it only made sense to offer my services to the public. I love making custom cosplay for people!!! I love being crafty so this was a win for me.
–Sample machining & production – specifically for designers. Designer gets in touch with a sketch, I make the pattern and create the garment or gown for their next collection. I have done everything from gowns to swimwear, underwear, streetwear, homewares and even as simple as labelling.
–Fashion label – BettieKawaii, on Etsy, markets, consignment in shops etc. My kawaii, geeky range of clothing & accessories. Even through 1 revenue (my label) I am using other offshoots to sell (Etsy, markets, consigment in boutiques).
–Fashion label – Bettie Dreadful, on Etsy, markets, consignments in shops etc. My darker, retro vintage themed clothing, homewares & accessories.
–Making artisan dollhouse miniatures, on Etsy, etc. One of my hobbies turned business. I love making tiny things! 🙂
–Sewing lessons. I offer skills & expertise complete with handouts and notes, samples, etc.
–Contracting myself out! Once a week I go to a client’s shop & studio space, to sew and be the retail assistant at her brick & mortar store. A great break out of my own studio space!
Basically that is all of what I do in a nutshell (a huge nutshell!!). Obviously this was not my original business plan, but it makes me money to create the business model and structure that I imagine myself having in the future… All the while I still get to be my own boss, work from home and set my own hours. It’s a start. My big dream of course was to have my 3 online shops and do some great markets – local and international. Well I can’t quite afford to do that yet, but my several revenue streams are helping me get there!
The list is endless! Create a brainstorm for your business – what are your skills, interests, resources, ideas, and knowledge/qualifications? I did not start out doing this, and I so wish I had! I literally had my eye on one prize – and that was markets. Instant money makers. Meet and greet your lovely customers. Get rid of stock quickly and in person. All sorts of fashion events, handmade markets, vintage styled events and the like. I loved doing them, I still do, but unless you literally have one/two per week and make $400-800 profit each time, it’s not going to sustain your business. Remember you need to be paying your home rent/mortgage, food, bills, going out/fun money, your personal wage, business space rent, business supplies and inventory, profit for your business… plus much more! I was making an average of $800 – $1500 each market – yet they were every 1 – 2 or even 3 months! I needed to not only do those markets, but come up with another way/s to make money in-between!
Clearly I didn’t do my numbers. That was when I got my kick in the butt, and had to branch out into other ways of making money from the skills and knowledge I already had. It was sink or swim time, and I doggy-paddled my way to other ways to make money! If you can’t offer a service – either think of one, or find another avenue to sell your wares! Seriously, it’s 2016 – get your wares ONLINE!!! If you aren’t selling it in person, at least pop it in your online store. You can’t have product sitting there unseen. No one is going to go digging deep in your sewing room crates trying to find that skirt you made 3 months ago. I wish it were so, but my stored inventory will remain a hidden secret, unavailable to purchase until I can be bothered to list it up in my online shops. Put EVERYTHING online. Those items are then available, globally, 24/7, 3-6-5. Without you constantly having to haul yourself to market. Yes it takes time to list them, yes postage is high and outrageous – but believe me, if they want it – they will pay for it, yes it takes time to photograph, measure and describe – but everyone who sells online HAS to do it too. It’s part of the deal when you sell online. Once you build your shop then people can buy your items!!! Items sold = money in your pocket = stock cleared = new stock arrivals = more money to make.
#1 tip for creative business start-ups – do what makes you money NOW. Even if it’s not your ideal business model, you will still be working for yourself, keeping your business afloat, and working towards a business model you much prefer – because you are making money.
I hope this strategy can help you in your #CreativeBusiness, I hope my advice and honesty has opened up (possibly) a new door for your business – I want to see small, creative businesses succeed with all my heart! I love you all and you so inspire me every day!
Leave a comment on what new avenues you are thinking of #BranchingOut to! x 🙂