5 Things Crafters Waste their Time (& Money) On
I made this list based on areas I wasted my time when starting my handmade business. I was able to see positive changes when I corrected them so I think the changes can be beneficial to your business too. I also based it on the mistakes I commonly see other handmade businesses make.
I wish someone had pointed out these common time/money wasters to me years ago. But hopefully, this list helps guide you in the right direction quicker than I got there.
There are only so many hours in a day and I know many of you are running your businesses as a side project. This means, you must be strategic about how you spend your time and money.
Check to see if you’re committing any of these mistakes.
#1 TIME & MONEY WASTER: CREATING
Creating products is a necessity (and one of the best parts of a handmade business), but creating more when you haven’t sold the first round of products is the biggest time and money waster I see small businesses make.
Creating stock for the sake of creating stock isn’t beneficial.
Creating stock is beneficial when you know there’s demand for it (here are 5 ways to check) and you have proof in the form of sales.
Making products, setting them up at a craft show, or posting them on Etsy (here are Etsy alternatives) and then sharing on social media, does not typically lead to sales rolling in.
It takes a lot more marketing, sales channels, and effort to see consistent sales.
Imagine Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, made a few pairs of Spanx, listed them on Etsy, and waited for sales to come in.
We likely wouldn’t be aware of Spanx today, nor would it be a billion-dollar business.
Sara had to work hard, every step of the way, to get people to notice, understand, and take a chance on her product. And it’s grown to a billion-dollar business without advertising.
You don’t need a revolutionary product to make money selling your work. But you do need a desire to get it out there.
Assume that no one is searching for your product, they’re not even aware it exists.
No one was searching for “Spanx” or even “shape-wear” when it first came out. Sara had to work to get her product in front of each potential customer and for each sale.
Even if you’re selling knitted scarves or bars of soap, treat your business the same; assume people are unaware of your business and aren’t searching for your products.
With all the competition out there, it’s easy for a small business to get lost. So you have to find a way to stand out or alter your product to be one people are searching for.
When someone is searching for a bar of soap, they’ll find hundreds of thousands of options on Etsy alone.
When someone is searching for “activated charcoal soap” because they read an article on how it’s beneficial for oily skin, there are only a few thousand options. (Be sure to follow label laws if you make soap or skincare products).
Give consumers a reason to buy your products over the others on the market.
>> which target market you want to serve (here’s an easy way to find a good target market)
>> what it is they’re searching for and need/want (here’s a guide to find what your target market is search for)
Then create products that align with that.
Don’t keep creating new products until you determine exactly what it is people love about the ones you’ve already sold, or don’t love about the ones you haven’t sold.
Remember, too many products and options can actually LOWER your sales (here’s proof).
>> Here’s how to know if you’re offering too many products
Imagine if Sarah created the first pair of Spanx underwear, listed it on Etsy, didn’t make a sale, and then started creating 100 more pairs in different styles, colors, and with different features.
If she hadn’t figured out her path to selling one pair, what would she do with 100 more?
Or worse yet, what if she scrapped the entire idea of Spanx?
Before you give up on a product or add more to your collection, make sure you’ve given your all to market and sell what you already have.
I would say I used to spend about 80% of my time creating stock and 20% quickly snapping photos, uploading them, writing a quick description, and listing them online. I would also rush through planning my display for craft fairs, contacting retailers to sell wholesale, and several other important tasks.
To be successful when running a small business on your own, creating cannot take up the majority of your time. There are too many other tasks that need your attention and are necessary to sell your products.
There isn’t a right number, but I think a good place to start is 50/50
>> 50% of your time is spent creating
>> 50% of your time is spent marketing and selling
Of course, those numbers can vary depending on the type of business, products, etc. But if you have 40 hours to work on your business in a month, you’re missing out on sales and growth opportunities if at least 20 of those hours aren’t used for tasks such as:
- Writing powerful descriptions (how-to, examples & template here)
- Updating your Etsy shop announcement or home page text (here are do’s, don’ts, and examples of Etsy shop announcements)
- Testing different social media platforms and interacting with followers (check out 5 STEPS TO VIRAL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS)
- Sending press releases to gain media exposure
- Writing blog posts
- Working on SEO to grow traffic to your website (here’s a step-by-step Etsy SEO guide)
- Getting your products into retailers (researching retail stores, creating lookbooks, sending samples, meeting with owners, etc.)
- Packaging and shipping orders
- Retaining existing customers (you can use an automated sales funnel for that)
If you need help determining the other types of tasks you should be working on and how to get your business organized, check out:
TIME & MONEY WASTER #2: LOW-VALUE TASKS
Think of low-value tasks as ones that give you little or no return on investment (ROI).
There will be some tasks that are considered low value but absolutely still deserve your time and money, such as paying your bills or legally setting up your business
>> Check out LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE and this free printable checklist for setting up a successful business.
However, the majority of business tasks should give you a ROI. Meaning any task you spend money on leads to sales that earn that money back (*don’t forget, your time is worth money. If you want to be paid $20/hour and you spend an hour on a task, will you make enough sales, because of that task, to earn $20 back?).
To know if a task is of high value and giving you a return on time or money investment, you must be tracking results.
A post to Facebook may seem like a waste of time when not one “like” or comment pops up. But if you take a closer look at insights and realize 50 people actually clicked the link and visited your website, those five minutes it took to write and publish the post may actually give you a return on investment.
If those 50 visits didn’t result in a sale or newsletter sign-up, then you may determine that your listing’s photos, description, newsletter opt-in, or maybe even your website design, are actually where the problem lies.
In this scenario, the Facebook post converted; it got people to the website. It’s the website that didn’t do its job.
If the Facebook post wasn’t getting likes, comments, clicks, reach, etc. then it would indeed be a low-value task.
And if you continued to spend time on Facebook (playing with the type of content posted, when it’s posted, how frequently it’s posted, etc.) but didn’t see an improvement on website traffic because of those efforts, then posting to Facebook may prove to be such a low-value task that doesn’t deserve any of your time.
For the majority of tasks, there should be a clear path to a sale.
Before you know the value of the tasks you’re working into your day and if they’re actually leading to a sale, you need to know numbers, such as the ROI of a task.
To know the ROI of a task, you must know how much time and money you spent on a task, how much revenue it produced, and how much of that revenue is profit.
Not knowing the numbers of your business is sort of like baking a cake without knowing the numbers called for in a recipe.
Could you bake something that resembles a cake without knowing how much flour to add, how many eggs, the temperature to bake it at, and for how long?
Maybe…but it likely wouldn’t be something people want seconds of 😉
But if you want a cake you know will come out of the oven perfectly, every time, and will taste amazing on the first try, you’re better off knowing the recipe’s numbers.
Numbers apply to a business in the same way.
You can create something that resembles a business without knowing your numbers, but you’ll have much more success (and less stress) if you know your numbers and let them guide where to spend your time and money.
If the number side of the business is something you tend to ignore and just hope it works out (no shame, I used to) THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help you track important numbers, calculate important equations (e.g. ROI) and best of all, understand them.
VALUES OF TASKS
Here are a few examples of common tasks, where they rate on the value scale and why.
Commenting on Instagram posts = medium to low value
If you’re commenting on a business account you hope to collaborate with and you’re commenting with the intention of building awareness of your business, opening a conversation, and starting an online relationship with them, it could lead to many sales if that relationship blossoms and they feature your products.
Writing “nice photo” on 100’s of posts/day in hopes each account will check out your account, click the link to your website and buy, is a low-value task. It’s very unlikely a sale will come from a spammy comment and if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
Posting non-promotional posts to Facebook = medium value
Non-promotional posts are required to keep your followers engaged and interested, but even when you’re posting a funny meme, there should be a purpose behind it:
more likes = more reach
more reach = new followers
new followers = more eyes on promotional posts
Sharing someone else’s content isn’t likely to lead to a sale but if it’s improving engagement and growing your followers, which may then lead to a sale when you put a promotional post in front of new followers, it has some value.
Contacting retailers = high value
Not every retailer will say yes to carrying your products in their store but when one does say yes, it’s a direct path to several sales.
Blog post = medium value
A blog post may not directly lead to a sale but it can boost your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) to grow your traffic and get more people on your newsletter list. And sending out a newsletter is a high-value task that should lead to sales (when done correctly).
Creating stock = ? (it depends)
The value of this task depends on your sales. If you have a proven method of selling those products, then it would be a high-value task because the creation of a product is likely to equal the sale of a product. However, if you haven’t sold the ones you made last week, don’t have a proven sales method, are creating without a clear purpose or without some proof that the product is likely to sell, it’s likely a low-value task. You’re spending time and money creating a product you’re not sure will sell.
Think about what you work on in a week and rate each task as a high, medium, or low value.
Any that are low should be given less time in your schedule, while high-value tasks should get the majority of your attention.
THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help you determine the value of your tasks and when to work on them.
TIME & MONEY WASTER #3: COMPETITION
I actually fell into this trap just the other day. I got sucked down a path of looking to see what others in a similar industry are doing, made me feel like I’m not successful enough, and felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me the rest of the day.
Time is money.
Not only was it a waste of my time to look at competitors, but it also negatively impacted my work the rest of the day because I was less productive with my negative attitude.
Prior to that, I was feeling great about my accomplishments, the path I was on, and my business plans for the future. Then all of a sudden I started questioning everything, and my abilities.
The more I believe I can be successful, in whichever business venture I’m working on, and appreciate all the ways I’m different from competitors, recognize what I’m great at, and in general, have a positive outlook and attitude about my ventures, the better my business gets.
It’s almost impossible to do that when I’m focused on what others are doing and paying attention to what they’re great at, which only triggers a sense of lack or being “not good enough”.
Be aware of what’s going on in your industry so you can continue to strengthen your unique selling position, but don’t go down paths that have you looking at how many social media followers, Etsy sales, or newsletter subscribers another business similar to yours has.
It’s a waste of time.
TIME & MONEY WASTER #4: BRANDING
Should you spend time and money on your brand? Absolutely!
But it must be done purposefully, otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money.
Many handmade business owners put the cart before the horse when it comes to their brand and branding.
First, you must define what your brand is.
And to do that, you must have a clear idea of what you offer, how it’s different from what’s out there, and why it matters to consumers.
In other words: you must be very clear on your USP (unique selling position) before you start defining your brand.
>> Here’s one of my most popular articles on finding a good USP
If you haven’t thought about those aspects, you’re likely wasting time and money having a logo designed and plastering it on your business cards, packaging, website, etc.
For help setting up or determining the key elements your brand should be built on, sign up for my FREE 5-day email challenge BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES.
Don’t underestimate the power of a brand, there are a lot of important elements that go into it.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your brand and it doesn’t require a lot of money.
It simply requires you to know how you want people to feel when they interact with your business and to find ways to evoke that feeling in everything you do.
Once you have clearly defined your brand, then you can work on branding.
I like to think of branding as the act of applying your brand and getting your brand’s message out.
For example, let’s say I started a business selling knitted scarves, mittens, and hats. The reason I started making scarves is because I’m an animal lover and didn’t like how sheep are typically treated in the harvesting of wool. I love animals and want them to live happy healthy lives.
“Love”, “animals”, “cute” and “happy” may be words my brand is built on.
>>When choosing a logo, I would want it to be cute, use happy colors, and maybe work a heart or sheep icon in.
>>When selecting materials, I would choose synthetic materials or cruelty-free wool.
>>When choosing names for my products or writing descriptions, I’d want to be sure they were written in a cheerful, playful tone and express my love for animals.
>>When selling at a craft fair, I would want my display to communicate “cute”, show my love for animals, and have conversations with shoppers that share how sheep are often harmed in the harvesting of wool, but at the same time, uplift people and leave them feeling happy about supporting a good cause when they buy from me.
>>When marketing on Facebook I’d choose images and messages that point out my focus on cruelty-free wool and tell the story of my brand.
From my logo to the way I would dress (here’s what to wear to a craft fair to boost sales) and talk about my products, my cute, animal-loving brand that evokes happiness, would come through in all aspects of my business.
So, branding is important, but it’s a waste of time unless you’re crystal clear on your brand.
And building your brand is a waste of time unless you know your USP.
>> Here are tips to help you define your USP
TIME & MONEY WASTER #5: SAYING YES
When I started my handmade business, I didn’t want to risk losing a single sale, so I said yes to everything.
Yes to events that weren’t a fit, yes to custom orders I had no interest in making, yes to marketing opportunities that made me feel extremely uncomfortable, yes to replying to emails at all hours, etc.
Saying “yes” without thoroughly thinking through what I was saying yes to, meant I was unnecessarily putting a lot of low-value tasks on my plate.
Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”.
Remember that people are thinking about what’s best for their business or lives when they contact you.
Sometimes the stars align and something is a benefit to both parties. But only you know if it’s best for your side and must make decisions accordingly.
An event organizer needs to sell all their vendor spaces to make a profit, so asking you, last minute, to participate in their not-quite-full craft show is likely more about putting money in their pockets and may not be the best fit for your business.
A last-minute shopper who needs a gift like, yesterday so their friend doesn’t think they forgot about their birthday, is not thinking about the extra hours you have to work to finish an order, the rush hour traffic you have to sit in to make it to the post office and mail one item, or the other tasks that get off track because of their poor planning.
If you’d like a list of other areas that I believe, as handmade business owners, we can all be a little too flexible and saying yes can sometimes lead to a time/money waster, check out: 10 TIMES A CRAFT SHOW VENDOR SHOULD SAY “NO”
Let me know, are you wasting time and money on any of these things?
Any other handmade business tasks you’ve discovered aren’t worth your time? Share in the comments!
Brilliant, I wish I had known half this three years ago. I love the clear easy to follow way in which you put things as I’ve joined a fair number of newsletters but yours is easy to read, follow and put into action. Thank you
Thank you for the insight. I think I’ve done most of these. I’m glad I’m still new at this and don’t spend as much time on it since this is my side job/hobby. I’ll be more conscious about the mistakes you mentioned above as I put in more work on my side business.
Ditto to what Samantha said! I started my business in 2016 and made many of the above mistakes. My business has been incredibly successful considering how little I knew about running on, but I’ll definitely be implementing some of the above tips and sharing it on my pinterest board!
Your advice is always so helpful. Thank you for providing such a valuable newsletter. I always look forward to reading it!
Hey Erin, Once again you told me exactly what I needed to hear. I spent countless hours over the past four days trying to build a website for my new brand. As part of the process I looked at websites of companies that do what I do ( make leather bags and accessories). Instead of feeling inspired, I became filled with self doubt about my products, process and my ability to be successful. Oh and I forgot to mention my frustration around not being able to figure out website design. Ugh not a good place to be! Then I read time and money waster #3 – competition. You set me straight. Thank you. I got this. I’ve read several of your books and appreciate your insightful and inspirational support. . Best, Judy. Btw do you have any recommendations for a Squarespace website designer?
I’m ready to give up on Etsy now. My visits/views are 0 compared to a couple of years ago. I used to sell my tea cozies there and have gotten wonderful reviews. I recently staged great photos and listed more tea cozies = 0 views. I wasted my time. I am successful selling my aprons at craft shows but rarely sell a cozy at one. So, I am sticking to making my adorable aprons and have been brave enough to take them to a couple of shop owners who LOVED them. besides continuing with a few well attended craft shows, I am going to try my hand at setting up a booth in one shop and selling on consignment in another.
My techie husband set up my website where I have sent out sales notices to subscribers and email contacts. I’ve not spent much time with my website and feel like it might be a waste of time. I get more action from my facebook page by posting photos.
Your articles are so helpful. I appreciate you, Erin!
Yes, I needed to read this! I create more than I sell, and have ended up taking apart product and repurposing for new product after months of not selling, on more than one occasion. Yuck! I also get stuck in the Pinterest rabbit hole, saving projects that don’t reflect my brand. I’m a SAHM with two little boys, so focus is key. Thank you for this!!!!
Thanks for taking the time to comment everyone!! I’m so happy to hear from many of you that you’re enjoying my newsletter and finding my articles valuable 🙂 I really appreciate you taking the time to read my articles.
I know the feeling! One additional piece of advice I can give that I’ve found helpful when feeling overwhelmed by where “competition” is, compared to where I am, is to take it one tiny step at a time. And to base that step on what’s going to give you the best ROI (i.e. make you money). So maybe that means improving photos for your website first and finding your brand voice for descriptions. You may keep your website functionality really simple in the start because as long as it looks professional and allows people to buy, you’re in business. Website bells and whistles are nice to have but won’t give as big of an ROI. I’m not familiar with a Squarespace developer but once you find a developer, be sure to research reviews on them. Hope that helps!
I think many people share the same Etsy frustration with you. I believe there are still sellers benefiting from Etsy search traffic but in all my research, there doesn’t seem to be a clear understanding as to what gets a listing into the main feeds. I think focusing on what is working for you right now is the best way to spend your time. Your website will take several months to start showing up in Google’s search results but what I would suggest is using those Facebook posts to direct traffic to your website, where people can buy. And think about starting a newsletter so they can sign up for that when they come from Facebook to your website. A newsletter is another great way to get traffic to your personal website.
That is a great way to repurpose unsold stock though! Much better than sticking it in a bin and shoving it to the back of a closet (I have one of those bins in my downstairs closet right now;) At least this way you have the potential to cover the material costs. Good idea!
Thanks again everyone!
I love your books. Spent lots of money on on- line courses on marketing.
How to Sell Beyond Family & Friends covered everything in courses- with workbook this was best investment have made so far!
Also have 2 others- How to sell at Craft Shows
Successful Introvert- Haven’t finished yet
All great books! Love them!
Once again, a great article, Erin! I definitely spend way too much time making lol. I do sell a lot though, so that makes me happy lol. I want to focus more on online sales – still need to brush up on my SEO and photography skills. I have my products in two retail locations – one is doing pretty well, the other not so much. I’d like to invest some more time assessing how i can improve those sales.
Jo – DEFINITELY had that same thing happen to me….i would make things, and they wouldn’t sell. Eventually I decided to refocus my entire business and sell just the item that was actually selling before.
Michelle – something that i do, I take my not-as-popular cat toys and repackage them into ‘grab bags’ and mark them down. HUGELY popular lol and it helps get rid of otherwise non-moving product. I’ve tried to be careful about making too much of any particular item just in case it isn’t popular (and i can avoid too many grab bags lol).
Your articles are always spot-on and your books are so helpful! Thank you so much!
Hey Jan, thanks so much for your support! I’m so happy to hear you’ve found my ebooks helpful and the fact that you think they’ve been the best investment for your business so far is music to my ears 🙂
Thanks for reading and for your support Barbara! Glad you’re finding my articles and ebooks helpful 🙂
Thank you for this article! I’m just about ready to give up on my Etsy shop, because my sales have been so low. I’m also trying to dig myself out of the “everyone’s work is better than mine” hole I have put myself in on Instagram. In a week or two, my shop will be on vacation because we are moving, so I will take that time to work on my ISP and develop a real brand–I don’t really have one, and that’s my problem. Thanks again!
Really good article! Thank you!
Thank you! This has really helped me.
Such a nice post . Gain lot of knowledge on how I shouldn’t waste time on some of the crucial things for my business. Thanks for sharing.
I’m so glad I stumbled onto your site via Pinterest, and I love that you took the time to reply with thoughtful, helpful comments to people.
Thank you Laurie! I’m so glad you found my site too 🙂 I hope you find lots of helpful information as you work your way through the articles.