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.
We’re so close to our work it’s hard to take a step back, look at the big picture and see where we’re off track. Sometimes the answers to our problems are staring us right in the face.
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. Which means, you must be strategic about how you spend your time and money.
Check in and see if you’re committing any of these mistakes.
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 and you have proof in the form of sales.
Making products, setting them up at a craft show or posting them on Etsy and then sharing on social media, does not typically lead to sales rolling in.
It takes a lot more marketing, sales channels and effort put into those sales channels 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. Uncover how your product is different and why people need it in their lives, and then make it your mission to get out there and help people discover it.
And 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.
Imagine if Sarah create the first pair of Spanx underwear, listed it on Etsy, didn’t make a sale and then started creating 100 more pairs. 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 and started making regular underwear or socks?
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. Along with, pulling together display props from around my home last minute to set up and sell at craft fairs, contacting retailers to sell wholesale, and several other important tasks that were rushed through.
There isn’t a right number, but I think a good balance 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 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:
For a list of tasks that may need to be on your business’ to-do list, check out:
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). However, the majority of business tasks should give you a ROI.
To know if a task is 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, actually gave you a good ROI.
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.
If the Facebook post wasn’t getting likes, comments, clicks, reach, etc. then it would indeed be a low-value task. And if playing with the type of content posted, when it’s posted, how frequently it’s posted, etc. doesn’t improve website traffic, 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.
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 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’s 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 likely a high-value task that leads to more sales.
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 don’t have a proven sales method or the product doesn’t have a good track record of selling, 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.
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 myself feel like I’m not successful enough and felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me the rest of the day.
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.
I strongly believe that if we have a desire and goal to achieve something, it means we’re meant to be/do/have it. I’ve never wanted to be a doctor, a professional athlete or a model…and for good reasons. I can clearly see why I would fail to reach any of those goals.
But I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and business owner. 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 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.
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.
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’s 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 knowing how you want people to feel when they interact with your business and finding ways to evoke that feeling in everything you do.
For example, let’s say I started a business selling knitted scarves, mittens and hats. The reason I started making scarves was because I’m an animal lover and didn’t like how sheep were treated in the making 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.
So 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 harmed in the making of traditional wool, but at the same time, uplift people and leave them feeling happy about supporting a good cause.
From my logo to the way I would dress and talk about my products, my cute, animal loving brand that evokes happiness, would come through in all aspects of my business.
Once you have clearly defined your brand, then you can work on branding.
Branding is about building brand awareness. Branding is like marketing or advertising but instead of promoting your products, you’re promoting your brand. You’re telling the story of your brand and getting the message out.
In the example of my made up knitting business (let’s call it Erin’s Flock), I may share a post to Facebook that is an image of a cute sheep, my logo in the corner and a message that reads:
I need my fur more than you do.
Erin’s Flock ~ cruelty-free winter accessories
I’d be promoting my brand, which promotes love towards animals.
Although it’s not directly selling a product, it is building awareness for the fact that I sell cruelty-free products and getting my message out there.
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.
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When I ran 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 decide accordingly.
An event organizer needs to sell all their 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 not necessarily about you reaching your target audience and getting money in your pockets.
A last minute shopper needs a gift like, yesterday so their friend doesn’t think they forgot about their birthday. They’re 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:
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