August 28, 2016

9 Ways to Work Less and Make More Money in Your Handmade Business


cobbler

In almost any business, the goal is to “work less make more.” And if any type of entrepreneur truly needed to focus  on this principal, it’s handmade business owners who make the products they sell. You don’t have to be a handmade business owner to crave more cash, but for makers, the issues are compounded because so much time is spent making products that there is little left over for actually leading the business. Even small changes can produce big results.

Check out these nine ways to work less and make more money.

Automate as Much as Possible

Many handmade entrepreneurs avoid automating certain aspects of the customer service process because they think it will place a sterile barrier between them and their customers. But a little common sense automation need not compromise the personal touch, especially if it kills multiple birds with one stone. For example, many ecommerce hosting companies, including Big Commerce and Shopify, offer automated product review apps that allow you to send automated email requests to customers to review your products. The reviews are then automatically published at your website after you approve them.

Automated product review apps save lots of time manually requesting reviews. They also boost sales by allowing the buyer to see positive product reviews right next to the “buy” button. Since people are more likely to purchase a product that others say is a good buying decision, making this process seamless and easy for you and your customers is a no-brainer.

Eliminate Products that Don’t Sell Well

When you make the products you sell, a lot of your time is eaten up by the manufacturing process. An easy way to shorten your work week is to consistently eliminate products that don’t sell well. On at least a quarterly basis, schedule a review of your sales numbers for the specific purpose of eliminating products that people are not buying. Put them on sale to make room for the products your customers are actually buying. You’ll make more money and save the time and headache of trying to force the sales of products that customers are just not interested in.

Schedule Social Media Posts in Advance

Nothing eats up a workday like working your social media on the fly. Set up a daily calendar showing when and what you will post to your main social media outlets, and then schedule as much of it in advance as possible.

You can use a free service like Google Calendar to color code social media outlets and posts throughout the week, and cue them up all at one time using a service like HootSuite.

Newer services, like Edgar, have a built in library and calendar so you can recycle your most engaging posts without having to type them in fresh each time you want to share them. (And, yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to recycle your most popular social media posts!)

“Scheduling social media posts will shave hours off of your workweek,” says Dawn Fitch, author of The S Factor: How to Effectively Use Social Media to Grow Your Business and CEO of Pooka Pure and Simple in Orange New Jersey.

Says Fitch, “My four social media categories are events, sales/promotional, blog posts, and general marketing. My calendar pinpoints certain times during each day that I will share in each category. Each week, I invest two hours only on social media, by changing the entries for each time in each category. This saves me hours each week, and once I am done for the week, all I have to do is be responsive to people who are engaging with my brand.”

Stop Sending Traffic to Other Sites

Many handmade entrepreneurs sell their products at their own branded websites, and also at other sites like Etsy, Artfire, or Amazon. If you are just starting out in business, sales via third party sties can offer valuable confidence boosts in the beginning. They are easy to set up, require no up front investment, and you only pay when you sell something.

The proverbial (and unavoidable) elephant in the room, however, is that because you don’t own third party sites, you are at their mercy. Any one of them can force you to make unwanted changes to your business model overnight and without any advance notice. That’s no way to secure the long term future of your business.

If you want to build a brand that you can define, direct, and lead into the future, put your resources into a website of your own, where you call the shots and where your brand is not diluted by people selling everything from hairy coffee cups to Hello Kitty T-shirts.

Not only will consolidating traffic at your site build your customer list, it will also save you a ton of time because you won’t have to maintain different product listings at multiple websites. You won’t have to read emails about new seller policies. You won’t be at the mercy of their price hikes. You can change the customer experience when you want to, and not when someone else says you have to. This kind of entrepreneurial freedom will shave tons of time from your work week, and give you the peace of mind that you are in full control of your destiny.

By giving your customers a consistent experience, you will also increase sales and more naturally be able to expand your customer base as you grow.

Hire an Assistant (or Two)

You may not think you can afford to hire an assistant, but the truth is that you cannot afford not to. Sure, you may have to wear every single hat at the very start of your business, but once you get things moving, your first goal should be to hire someone who can take on some of the tasks that you don’t want to do, don’t know how to do, or don’t like to do. Doing everything yourself may save in the short term, but it will quickly burn you out, and a burned out entrepreneur cannot make money.

A key to success in business is learning the art of delegation. Doing it all yourself limits your ability to leverage new opportunities and eventually, ensures that you run out of time to accomplish your goals every single week.

Schedule Every Single Business Task

Start each morning with very specific goals for that particular day. Knowing what you want to achieve daily helps you stay focused and on task. It also prevents you from ending a work week with a bunch of unfinished projects.

Use time blocking to maximize results from this process. For example, block out 90 minutes in the morning to complete 15 sales calls, and block off the next 30 minutes for a walk or a chat with a friend. After that, block off a second 90-minute period for another specific task and so forth. At the end of the day, you will have completed three important tasks for your business, and you’ll have enjoyed some downtime to boot. This frees up your evenings to enjoy your family and hobbies.

Create a schedule like this for every day of the week so you don’t spend any time wondering what to do on any given day. If this seems like too much organization for you, I challenge you to try it for just one day. I believe you’ll notice a significant difference in how productive you feel but also in how productive you actually are.

Minimize Multi-tasking

Who doesn’t want to get more done in less time? But while doing three or four things at once may save time on the front end, it ends up costing much more than it saves in the long run. Research, including this Stanford University Report, found that multitasking reduces efficiency and performance and may damage your brain, since it can really only focus on one mental task at a time. So, if you are simultaneously making a product and making a sales call, you may accomplish both tasks, but the chances that you did an excellent job on either are minimized because you performed them at the same time.

Follow Up on Everything

It’s amazing how many opportunities are missed by not following up on the ones right in front of you. Here’s an example of how powerful the follow up is. Stacia Guzzo of Handcrafted Honey Bee in Tehachapi, California recently pitched a story in response to a query from the popular PR service, Help a Reporter. The journalist included Stacia in the story which appeared earlier this week in the Huffington Post, and Stacia quickly sent an email thanking the reporter for including her. The reporter quickly responded by inviting Stacia to speak at an upcoming business conference. Who knows how many more sales Stacia will enjoy simply because she took the time to send a simple follow up note?

Use a Timer

Once you know how long a particular task should take, use a timer to stick as close as possible to that time going forward. This will help you stay on schedule (see number 6, above), and help you retain the good “flow” as you do the task. Using a timer also gives you a fun way to compete with yourself. Challenging yourself to stay on task and on schedule will help you do so. You can use a kitchen timer or a fancy app or browser extension for this, but I find it easy to use the timer installed on my smart phone. It’s quick and easy to set, and I don’t have one more tech thing taking up space on my phone or laptop.

I bet you can think of other ways to “work less make more” in your business. What works for you?

Cobbler Photo via Shutterstock

16 Comments ▼
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Donna Maria Coles Johnson


Donna Maria Coles Johnson Donna Maria is the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, a trade organization providing mentoring and coaching services, and affordable product liability insurance, to makers and creative entrepreneurs across North America. An award-winning small business advocate, Donna Maria has hosted the Indie Business Podcast since 2005. She blogs at Indie Business Blog.

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16 Reactions

  1. Thanks for the useful tips. I’ve been using Edgar to schedule my social media posts for the past month. It has a bit of a learning curve, but I’m enjoying it. It saves me so much time, and I’m posting more than I used to and getting more engagement. I also use a timer for certain tasks, especially ones I don’t like doing very much. I tell myself you can do this for 15 minutes, it’s only 15 minutes. So I set the timer on my phone and go at it. It’s amazing how much you can get done in 15 minutes.

    • Donna Maria Coles Johnson

      Thanks Donna! And isn’t it amazing how, when you say you have 20 minutes to do it, it often ends up taking just 20 minutes? It’s like your mind and body (and even the universe in general) cooperates with you more when you are intentional and focused on getting the job done — in an efficient way. I have found this to be so true!!

  2. These really hit home – especially weeding out products that are not selling as well. I he one product that I love making, but is just not a big seller. Time to let it go. Great article! Thank you!

  3. Thanks. These are really practical tips that are possible to do. I’ve found recently that lists are good, I used to try to remember what I needed to do, but now a list is good and there is a great amount of satisfaction when I can cross something off.

  4. I recently “retired” my Laney Line of soaps. It was a difficult decision, but the right one for my business. As much as I love them and the story behind them, they didn’t sell as well as my Classic Line of soaps.

  5. I am trying so hard to schedule my day like that. It is a work in progress, but at least it’s on my mind. 🙂 Love the suggestions!

  6. Aira Bongco

    There is no way for you to grow if you do everything yourself. You have to outsource and automate. that’s the only way for you to grow.

  7. Thank you for the helpful post, Donna Maria.

    I cannot agree with you more. Schedule social media and set a timer! Schedule everything. There is no way we can work randomly, or spend unlimited hours on social media, and claim the prize of productive progress.

  8. Great article reminding us of the simple yet effective tools for keeping us sane in a day. With so much multi-tasking it is imperative to have a mapped out plan and these hlped as a reminder to make it happen! Thanks Donna Maria!

  9. Great tips, Donna Maria. Awhile back I learned a trick from a top notch (and very busy) executive assistant who uses a steno pad as a to do list. The ones with clear, see through covers work best. Create your list for the day on the top page, crossing off tasks as they’re completed. At the end of the day (or when planning the next day) copy the items that you were unable to complete on the next page, and remove the top page. I place an asterisk the items on the new page, one asterisk per day not completed. That way I can see which items I’ve been procrastinating on, and make them a priority. This in-your-face method is low tech, but really works and doesn’t let me become distracted by other apps in my phone, or on my computer.

  10. Martin Lindeskog

    Dona: I will show your post to my best friend, Christer Sjoback. He has a gold & silver handicrafts business called SJC (his precious metal certification stamp initials) Aurum.

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