March 23, 2018

April Checklist & Planner for Small Handmade Businesses

Spring has arrived (in the Northern hemisphere) and it’s a great time for renewal. Change doesn’t have to wait for a new year, new month or new season, but those times can spark inspiration. Let’s take a look at your plans for April and use the checklist & planner to get organized and dream big this spring!

 

 

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“Organization” may not be at the top of everyone’s goal list by I’m sure “making money” is.

 

In order to make money and run a profitable business…you must be organized.

 

Let’s stop treating our businesses like a hobby and flying by the seat of our pants.

 

Instead, let’s take a hard look at our numbers, what we need to make in revenue and profit to be able to call our operations a successful business and determine what it will take to get there this month.

 

This is a general guide for a handmade business BUT it absolutely requires your expertise.

 

Depending on the type of business you run, the products you make and the schedule you follow, you may be able to use all of the ideas mentioned here, some or none of them.

 

No one (myself included) can give you be-all and end-all advice to run your business. Use articles like this to inspire and guide you but apply your expertise and knowledge to make the ideas work for you.

 

Spring has arrived & it's time for a productive April, to prepare for May & plan what June will look like. Here's how plus a checklist & planner. 

GOALS & PLANS

You should already have a sales goal you’d like to hit for the year. If you don’t, set that goal now, subtract your earnings from January, February & March and distribute the remaining amount between 9 months, giving a higher goal for busy months and a lower goal for slower months.

 

For example, if you’d like to earn $15,000 for the year and you made $3500 in January/February/April, you’d divide $11,500 by 9 to have a goal of $1278 each month. But you may know April is a slow month, May is busy and June falls in between. So you might set your sales goal to $800 for April, make up that $478 in April with a $1756 goal and $1278 for May.

 

*Be sure you’re mindful of revenue vs. profit when setting goals. If you’ve priced your products following the popular formula: materials + time = costs x 2 = wholesale price x 2 = retail price, your profits will be 75% of your revenue.

 

Meaning, if you sell $1250 revenue, you profit $937.50. If you want $1250 profit, you must sell $1667 in revenue.

 

 

Use the printable worksheets to:

 

1) Write down your sales goal from March

 What did you hope to earn in March?

 

2) Write down what your actual sales were for March

Did you hit your goal? Exceed it? Come in under? Adjust your future goals accordingly.

 

For example, if you were $200 under your goal, you may tack that $200 on to your April goal to stay on track for your yearly goal. Or that $200 may be distributed evenly among the next 9 months, adding $22 onto each month’s goal.

 

3) Write down your sales goal for April

 What do you hope to earn in April? 

 

4) Write down your main focus for April

If Easter is a holiday that generates a lot of sales for your business, “Easter sales” might be your focus along with launching a new spring line after Easter.

 

If April is a slow month because you sell summer products, “planning and prepping summer product lines” may be your focus this month.

 

List one or two areas of business that will get your focus in April.

 

5) Write down your focus for each week in April

Look at April by week 1, 2, 3 and 4. What are the important tasks, events, dates, etc. of each week?

 

You don’t need to get into details, simply write the big events for each week. For example:

 

Week 1 – Easter Craft Show / Remove Easter theme from shop

Week 2 – Run promotion to clear out Easter stock

Week 3 – Launch new spring collection

Week 4 – Market new spring line

 

 

6) Write down important to-do’s for April

List any important tasks that must be completed this month.

 

Again, don’t get into details, simply jot down anything you must remember (e.g. application deadline for Father’s Day craft show).

 

 

7) Write down important dates for May, June & July

Look at least 3 months ahead to see what’s coming up and what impacts your “plan” and “prepare” tasks.

 

You don’t want to go into May without a plan for Mother’s Day or any other events relevant to your business. In April, we want to start prepping for May, planning for June and looking at July.

 

List important events, holidays, deadlines, etc. for May, June & July.

 

 

BUSINESS STAGES

To help stay organized, I’ve found it helpful to look at business in three main areas:

  • Create
  • Market
  • Sell

 

First you must create a product, then you must market that product so people are aware of it and then you must sell that product.

 

Each area (create, market & sell) requires your attention each month. The tasks that fall under each area will depend on the sales channel(s) you use. Here I’ll cover the main channels for handmade businesses:

  • Online (e.g. your website or Etsy shop)
  • Events (e.g. craft shows, farmers’ markets, etc.)
  • Retail (e.g. selling wholesale to shops & boutiques)

 

For more sales channels, marketing channels and marketing methods handmade businesses should be using, check out HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY. You can also join the free 5 day challenge: BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES, to receive a free sample chapter and a few lessons from HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY. Check out details and join the challenge here

 

To ensure I’m not just focusing on tasks that need my immediate attention, I like to break tasks into:

  • Plan – looking 3+ months in advance, these are tasks that require thought, but not a lot of action yet. 
  • Prepare – looking 1+ month(s) in advance, these are tasks that must be completed for next month. Working on them now ensures I’m prepared and staying ahead of schedule. 
  • Present – looking at the current month, these are tasks that must be completed this month. 

 

Take a look at the sales channel(s) you use and read my suggestions for tasks you could work on in March when it comes to planning, preparing and presenting: creating tasks, marketing tasks and selling tasks.

 

 

 

ONLINE

CREATE

Plan

Look ahead to June and July and start thinking about new products you may want to introduce based on holidays or shopping events. For example, Father’s Day, Canada Day or 4th of July themed products.

 

Prepare

Begin creating stock for May. Purchase materials at the beginning of the month and begin production. Mother’s Day or spring product may be your focus.

 

Present

Tagging and packaging spring themed products and other April stock so it’s ready to be shipped.

 

Prototypes for May products should be completed so they can be photographed and photos can be uploaded and edited in time to update your shop at the end of April or beginning of May.

 

 

MARKET

Plan

Start planning your marketing for June, based on the marketing channels and methods you currently use.

 

Plan your newsletter schedule and topics. If you send a weekly newsletter and have products that make great Father’s Day gifts, plan to send a Father’s Day related newsletter the first and second week of June. 

 

Look ahead several months if you plan to send press releases. Magazines operate similar to retailers; several months in advance. Download the media kits of magazines you’d love to be featured in and get an idea of when deadlines are for advertising. Although you’re hoping to be featured, not advertise, it gives you an idea of when they hope to have an issue of a magazine drafted. You should be looking at issues for September forward. 

 

If you need help in the marketing department and ideas on marketing channels and methods, check out HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY or join the free 5 day challenge to receive a sample chapter and a few key lessons from the ebook.

 

Prepare

Prepare marketing for May. If you’re running ads, prepare the text and images so they’re ready to go. Mother’s Day or spring related content.

 

Do you need to prepare images or text for social media marketing? For any social media platforms that allow you to schedule posts in advance, do so.

 

Do you need to draft blog posts? A few blog post ideas to plan for May could be:

  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gift roundup posts 
  • Spring trends for your industry
  • A peek at summer trends coming up
  • Preparing for summer – can apply to:
    • Art – how to brighten your home for summer or decorating a lake house
    • Accessories – why you should change your handbag with each season
    • Bath & body products – how to change your skin care routine for warmer weather

 

Keep in mind, with blogging, it takes time for your blog post to bring in traffic. You can generate immediate traffic to a blog post through your newsletter (send a link to your Mother’s Day post on May 7thor post a link to Facebook and see an instant flood of traffic ) but if you’re hoping to build your organic traffic through SEO, get those time sensitive posts up weeks before a holiday. “The best Father’s Day gifts for 2018” can be posted at the beginning of April to generate organic traffic but shared with your newsletter list beginning of June.

 

If you rely on press for marketing, start drafting press releases for August issues so it’s ready to be sent in May.

 

  • Summer related products (food, clothes, jewelry, etc.)
  • Trends to watch for in Fall
  • Preparing for back-t0-school

 

*Search the name of the magazine you want to pitch to along with “media kit 2018” to see if they post their media kit online. In their media kit, they may share the topics that are covered in each issue of their magazine or the general theme for each month, which gives you a good guideline to follow.

 

Present

You should be marketing your Easter or Spring-themed products by posting Easter or Spring related social media posts, blog articles, sending newsletters, etc.

 

Press releases you worked on in March should be sent in April if you hope to appear in a July issue of a magazine, as closing dates are generally end of April.

 

 

SELL

Plan

Look ahead 2 – 3 months and determine what type of online shopping events are coming up. You may also consider:

 

June – Father’s Day, wedding season is in full-swing, start of summer, etc.

July – Canada Day, Independence Day, summer in full swing, etc.

 

Or search holidays you may be able to relate to your products. For example:

 

June

  • World Environment Day – could be a fit for someone selling environmentally friendly products such as soap or items made from recycled materials
  • International Day of Yoga – could be a fit for someone selling yoga bags, fabric headbands, organic bath & body products, etc.
  • Hug your Cat Day – cat themed products

 

July

  • National Ice Cream Day – offer ice cream inspired colors, scents, etc.

 

Plan what it means for your shop to implement a summer theme or June/July holiday related theme. Do you need to update your banner, props in your photos, run a promotion?

 

 

Prepare

Photo shoots for May-themed products should be scheduled in this month. Photos should be edited and uploaded so you’re ready to create listings and update your banner once Easter is over. May photo shoots may incorporate:

  • Pastel colors
  • Tulips, cherry blossoms or other spring flowers

Be sure you don’t go overboard with props or themes and keep everything on brand. 

 

Present

Before the beginning of April, your shop should be updated with an Easter or Spring theme, if it’s a fit for your products and business. The banner or home page image can get a refresh, shop announcements may be updated with order deadlines to receive shipments in time for Easter, promotions you’re running, listings updated with spring images, titles, tags, etc.

 

After April 1st, Easter products should be cleared out so your online shop doesn’t look outdated. You may run a promotion and mark down stock or simply update photos and listings to turn products back to a spring theme, instead of Easter theme.

  

 *Mark April 2nd in your calendar to remove an Easter theme from online shop

 

 

EVENTS

CREATE

Plan

Start thinking about and researching products for July (and beyond) events you plan to participate in. If you’re participating in Farmer’s Markets and outdoor festivals, keep in mind; people likely don’t want to haul big or heavy objects around the market or festival so you may want to plan some smaller, impulse-buy items.

 

Prepare

If you’re participating in May or June craft shows, work on building stock. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and spring themed items may be your focus.

 

Present

If you’re participating in April craft shows, stock should be completed. Work on finishing details for that stock: tagging, packaging, pricing and packing into containers for transport.

 

 

MARKET

Plan

If you have craft shows in June, plan when and how you’ll market the event to your fans, followers and existing customers.

 

Promoting the event as a great place to find unique Father’s Day gifts could be a good marketing angle.

 

You may roughly mark the week marketing will begin through social media, newsletters, etc. plan when to start sending mailers or handing out flyers, etc.

 

Prepare

Marketing materials should be prepared this month for any events in May. You’ll need flyers, images to share on social media, newsletter drafts, etc. What’s the benefit of someone visiting you at the event? Are they going to find some of the best spring trends? Be sure to share the benefit in your marketing.

 

Present

If you’re participating in April craft shows, your marketing can begin now. Start posting to social media, encouraging people to mark the date in their calendar and post reminders in the days leading up to the event. 

 

Mailers to existing (local) customers should be sent and flyers for the event should be handed out.

 

A newsletter should be sent this month, the week of the event, to encourage local customers to show up. Give them an incentive to shop with you at the event, instead of online (e.g. special discount if they print a coupon you share, new products available at the event only, etc.).

 

Again, be sure to share the benefit (e.g. be the first to own Spring 2018 trends, etc.). 

 

 

SELL

Plan

Look ahead at least 1 – 3 months to be aware of upcoming events you’d like to participate in and mark the application deadlines in your calendar. It’s also never too early to start thinking about how you might create an attractive display. Event organizers love to hear you’re putting thought into it.

 

Farmers’ Markets and summer festivals may be accepting applications so start planning which ones might be the best fit for you and your products. You could even reach out to vendors who participated in the market last year to get feedback on whether they would recommend applying and what to expect.

 

Prepare

If you have events scheduled for May, June or July, you should be working on your display and gathering props, display fixtures, signage, etc.

 

Consider props and colors that will be a fit for the month or holiday the event is organized around. Soft pastels, spring flowers, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, summer, etc.

 

Present

If you’re participating in an April craft show, you’ll be setting up your display and selling on those allotted days. Be sure all display props are gathered and ready to go. You should also have your sales pitches determined (if selling doesn’t come naturally to you).

 

If you need help when it comes to researching, applying, preparing and selling at craft shows, check out MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS or sign up for the free 5-day challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY. It’ll walk you through how to create an amazing display with a strong message.

 

 

RETAIL

CREATE

Plan

Retailers typically buy product for their stores 3 – 6 months in advance. The bigger the retailer, the further in advance they shop and buy product.

 

You should have your fall product lines planned, unless you’re approaching small boutiques who work a month or two in advance, in which case, you may be planning fall products this month.

 

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) (as well as London’s and Milan’s) was in February so there will be lots of photos online of fall 2018 trends.

 

Prepare

Prepare fall prototypes so you’re able to create lookbooks and line sheets.

 

You may be continuing to work on stock for orders placed last month/this month for your spring/summer products. 

 

Present

Retailers typically update their sales floor with summer stock in April. Summer product should be completed and ready to ship for retailers who placed summer stock orders. 

 

If you’re working with smaller boutiques, you may be completing spring orders and shipping them out this month.

 

 

MARKET

Plan

Define how you will market your fall product line to retailers and which retailers you will market to. What’s the theme of your lookbook? When is your photoshoot and do you need to line up a photographer or props?

 

Prepare

Depending on the retailers you work with, you may set up appointments (with local ones) to stop by with a fall lookbook, line sheets and/or samples.

 

Mark dates in your calendar to follow up with retailers after you’ve had your initial contact (after they’ve received your lookbook in the mail or after your meeting).

 

If the retailers you work with, or would like to work with, don’t work quite as far in advance, hold off on this step and schedule appointments and follow ups to fit their schedule.

 

Present

Your summer lookbook and line sheets should have been sent to retailers. Now you must follow up if they haven’t been in touch to place orders. Check to ensure they received your lookbook (if you mailed it) or ask if they have any questions/want to place an order if you had an in-person meeting.

 

If you’re working with smaller boutiques, you may be mailing or dropping by with samples this month.

 

 

SELL

Plan

Look ahead 3 – 6 months as that’s generally the schedule retailers follow (smaller retailers and boutiques may not buy quite as far in advance). In April, most retailers are receiving summer stock and getting ready to update their shop with it.

 

Plan which retailers you will approach in fall or even winter 2018 and how you would like to expand the retail side of your business in 3 – 6 months.

 

Prepare

If you’ve sold spring/summer products to retailers, you’ll need to prepare invoices based on the terms you agreed to. Some retailers will want to pay net 30, 60 or 90 (meaning they pay their invoice 30, 60 or 90 days after they receive your product). 

 

Present

Each retailer will specify when they want orders shipped but generally, spring product orders should be completed this month and summer may be starting to ship.

 

If you sell wholesale with net 30/60/90 terms, you’ll need to send invoices to retailers you sent product to in March with net 30 terms, February with net 60 terms, or January with net 90 terms.

 

 

 

There you have it, that’s a mock business plan for a handmade business in April.

 

As mentioned, be sure you’re not blindly following the plan and you’re adjusting it to fit your business.

 

This article does not cover any operational tasks, such as paying bills, filing taxes, answering emails, etc. Please be sure to mark any important operational tasks in your calendar as well.

 

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to download the free printable April Planner worksheets.

 

 

Please comment if you enjoyed this article and the free printables and would like to continue to see them for upcoming months 🙂

 





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Comments

5 thoughts on “April Checklist & Planner for Small Handmade Businesses”

  1. Love these posts – I’m finding these and the worksheets very handy to help me focus and plan, and they pair really well with the ebook of yours that I bought to help me make money at craft fairs!

  2. I look forward to each and every blog post from you! I have your books and love the information in them as well. My business is moving forward due to your steps for handmade businesses. Looking forward to the next one!

  3. This is a wealth of information! I like that you say “stop treating your business like a hobby”. I agree. I will be implementing your ideas over the next few months as I am devoting my time to my two business full-time now! Thanks for this!

  4. Thanks for reading Kelly, Leigh and Laurie! I’m glad to hear these posts and printables are helpful 🙂

    Erin

  5. I just found your blog and books today and am excited to really get into the books I ordered.
    This April checklist and planner have lots of good information and I am looking forward to future posts to keep me organized and moving in the right direction and show me some “best practices”

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