Monthly Plan & Checklist for a Handmade Business
“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. You should have a plan well before you go into a month and have implemented tasks that are going to bring you sales.
Sales are not instant.
Sure, you can send a newsletter to your email list and generate a few sales instantly. But getting those people signed up for your newsletter, creating content and building trust and interest so subscribers open your newsletter, click links and buy, typically takes months of work.
To get sales next month, you should already have a plan and be implementing the steps.
Let’s stop treating our businesses as 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.
DOWNLOAD THE WORKSHEETS HERE:
The free checklist & planner worksheets no longer include the weekly calendars to plan each day of your week. For a full planner and explanation on how to plan your entire year, right down to each day, please view THE SUCCESS 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 the months that have passed and distribute the remaining amount between the months that are left, 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/March, you’d divide $11,500 by 9 (for the 9 remaining months from April – December) 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 May with a $1756 goal and $1278 for June.
*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.
Each month, you must pay attention to your:
- Return on Investment (ROI) for tasks you spend your time and/or money on
- Conversion rates
Please check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER if you need help understanding your profits, ROI, or conversion rates, how to calculate them and how to improve them.
Use the printable worksheets (Monthly Checklist & Planner) to:
1) Write down your sales goal from last month
What did you hope to earn last month?
2) Write down what your actual sales were for last month
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 next month’s goal to stay on track for your yearly goal. Or that $200 may be distributed evenly among the remaining months.
3) Write down your sales goal for this month
What do you hope to earn this month?
4) Write down your main focus for this month
If Mother’s Day is a holiday that generates a lot of sales for your business, “Mother’s Day sales” might be your focus for May.
If the upcoming month is typically slow for your business, you may focus on “product planning” or “producing stock” to prepare for upcoming busy months.
List one or two areas of business that will get your focus this month.
5) Write down your focus for each week of the month
Look at the current/upcoming month 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 – Update online shop with new seasonal theme
Week 2 – Run promotion to clear out last season’s stock
Week 3 – Launch new collection
Week 4 – Participating in craft show this week
6) Write down important to-do’s for this month
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, take sewing machine in for servicing, etc.).
7) Write down important dates in upcoming months
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 a month without a plan. This month you should be prepping for next month (e.g. prepping stock), planning for the month after that (e.g. planning new product lines) and have the month after that in the back of your thoughts (e.g. be aware of events you want to participate in or important dates).
List important events, holidays, deadlines, etc. for the 3 months following the month you’re about to head into. For example, if you’re heading into, or are in the beginning of May, look ahead to June, July & August.
To help stay organized, I’ve found it helpful to look at business in three main areas:
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 or THE SUCCESS PLANNER
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 (which are broken into: online, events, & retail on the checklist) and read my suggestions for tasks you could work on this month when it comes to planning, preparing and presenting: creating tasks, marketing tasks and selling tasks.
I would love to say I’m always this organized and am always prepared months in advance, but of course, there are times I get off track, become overwhelmed, lazy, etc. It happens to all of us.
Don’t let this plan, or anyone else’s, let you feel like you’re off track or doing something wrong.
If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed, eliminate low-value tasks and focus on ones that are going to make you money. Before you go into any task, question whether it will directly or indirectly lead to a sale.
Are you spending time posting to Facebook when no one seems to be paying attention to your posts and it always leads to distractions? Maybe skip Facebook posts for now and focus on that next newsletter, which always seems to generate a couple of sales.
Are you spending time in your craft room making more products when you haven’t sold any of the first ones or figured out why they’re not selling? Take a break from creating and focus on your USP, brand, marketing skills, sales channels, etc.
It’s easy to feel like you have to do it all in order to be successful. But the successful businesses got to where they are by prioritizing what’s most important to get those sales, getting their head above water and then slowly building on.
Look ahead 3+ month in advance and start thinking about new products you may want to introduce based on holidays or shopping events.
Begin creating stock for next month. Purchase materials at the beginning of this month (if they haven’t already been purchased) and begin production (or continue with production).
Tag and package current product so it’s ready to be shipped.
Prototypes for next month’s 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 this month or beginning of next month.
Start planning your marketing for 3+ months in advance, based on the marketing channels and methods you currently use.
Plan your newsletter schedule and topics.
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 plan to have an issue of a magazine drafted.
Generally, you should be planning 4 – 6 months in advance for any magazine issues you’d like to be featured in. For example, if it’s the end of May, it’s likely too late to be featured in magazines issues coming out before September; it will be less rushed for you to focus on pitching ideas for October, November and December issues.
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 marketing for next month. If you’re running ads, prepare the text and images so they’re ready to go.
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.
Draft blog posts for next month.
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 but if you’re hoping to build your organic traffic through SEO, get those time-sensitive posts up weeks before a holiday so Google has time to pick them up and show them in search results.
If you rely on the press for marketing, start drafting press releases for issues 4+ months away so you’re ready to send them next month (remember, magazines typically work 3 – 6 months in advance so you must follow their schedule if you hope to be featured).
*Search the name of the magazine you want to pitch to along with “media kit 2018 (or current year)” 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. If their November issue is all about Thanksgiving and winter prep (hair, skin, wardrobe, etc.) you should be thinking about product or story ideas that can fit within the Thanksgiving/winter prep theme.
You should be marketing your current products by sharing them on social media posts, in blog articles, in newsletters, etc.
Send any press releases this month to meet closing dates for issues coming out in 3+ months.
Look ahead 2 – 3 months and determine what type of online shopping events are coming up.
Plan what it means for your shop to implement a new theme based on the season, a holiday, a shopping event, etc. Will you need to update your banner, props in your photos, run a promotion?
Photoshoots for next month’s products should be scheduled this month. Photos should be edited and uploaded so you’re ready to create listings and update your banner at the end of the month or beginning of next month.
Be sure you don’t go overboard with props or themes and keep everything on-brand. Here are some tips on properly photographing your products.
The banner or home page image can get a refresh, shop announcements may be updated with order deadlines to receive shipments in time for certain holidays, promotions you’re running, listings updated with new images, titles, tags, etc. to align with current month/season/holiday and what people are searching for.
For example, you may be selling the same product in summer as you did in spring but updating the images to use more colorful/summery props or changing titles from “Bridesmaid Earrings for Spring Wedding” to “Bridesmaid Earrings for Summer Wedding” may give your listings a boost.
You may want to clear or give less of a spotlight to last month’s products so your online shop doesn’t look outdated. You may run a promotion and mark down stock, move listings to a different category/page of website/location, or simply update photos and listings to give them a refresh.
Start thinking about and researching products for events you plan to sell at that are 3+ months away. If you’re participating in Farmer’s Markets and outdoor festivals in the summer, 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.
Work on building stock for any events coming up next month, or even the month after.
If you’re participating in craft shows this month, stock should be completed. Work on finishing details for that stock: tagging, packaging, pricing and packing into containers for transport.
If you have craft shows coming up in 3+ months, plan when, where and how you’ll market the event to your fans, followers and existing customers.
You may roughly mark the week that marketing will begin through social media, newsletters, etc. plan when to start sending mailers or handing out flyers, etc.
Marketing materials should be prepared this month for any events coming up next month. 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 upcoming trends? Be sure to share the benefit in your marketing.
If you’re participating in craft shows this month, 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. What you post and how often will depend on the marketing platform. MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS explains in detail how to properly market for a craft show.
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.).
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.
If you have events scheduled in the next few months, 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.
If you’re participating in a craft show this month, 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.
Retailers typically buy product for their stores 3 – 6 months in advance. The bigger the retailer, the further in advance they shop for and buy product.
If you’re planning to work with small boutiques, they may buy a month or two in advance. You’ll have to get to know each retailer you want to get your products into and inquire about their buying schedule.
Prepare prototypes so you’re able to create lookbooks and line sheets for seasons that are 3 – 6 months away.
You may be continuing to work on stock for orders placed last month/this month.
Retailers typically update their sales floor with seasonal stock, a couple of months before the season arrives. For example, summer stock typically hits the sales floor in April or May.
Be sure your product is completed and ready to be shipped so it arrives at stores in time for when they’re updating their sales floor.
Define how you will market your upcoming (3 – 6 months away) 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?
Set up appointments with any local retailers to stop by with the *appropriate season’s lookbook, line sheets and/or samples. (*appropriate meaning if it’s May and they complete their buying 3-6 months in advance, you’re presenting fall or winter products). Here are 10 steps for getting your products into new stores.
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, by email or after your meeting).
You may follow up with retailers you’ve met with but who haven’t been in touch to place orders. Check to ensure they received your lookbook (if you mailed/emailed it) or ask if they have any questions/want to place an order if you had an in-person meeting.
Plan which retailers you will approach in 3 – 6 months and how you would like to expand the retail side of your business, 3 – 6 months down the road.
Prepare invoices for retailers you’ve sold the current season’s or upcoming season’s stock 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) so prepare invoices to be sent based on the payment terms you agreed to.
Each retailer will specify when they want orders shipped so prepare any orders so they can be shipped and arrive at their store on time. You may be shipping seasonal stock 1 – 3 months before the season arrives.
If it’s been 30 days since your order arrived at a retailer with net 30 terms, send the invoice this month. If it’s been 60 days since your order arrived at a retailer with net 60 terms, send the invoice this month. And if it’s been 90 days since your order arrived at a retailer with net 90 terms, send the invoice this month.
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.
If you’d like an even more detailed guide, additional worksheets, and a plan that makes hitting your sales goals inevitable, please check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
When you’re not sure what a business like yours should do when it comes to creating, marketing, and selling (e.g. you’re not sure which social media platforms to use), try researching your competitors. This article will walk you through how to uncover your business’s best practices before you even launch your business.
Have been reading and following your tips and advice for several weeks now.
Have been working on a new Shabby Chic line of practical items, not just
frou frou shelf sitters. I am giving this line one year to succeed. If it does not go over in this southwestern little mountain community I will use it in my own living room and sewing room as they are already Shabby chic and have been for over 20 years LOL I just didn’t know it at the time I put together this look.
I appreciate all the good advice you have given us and will let you know if this
season is better than last and try to analyze why it is so I can continue to be successful. Thank goodness Hubby and I do not have to make a living at this. We are retired and doing it for fun, and a way to stay brain active.
Thank you so much for this post! It is awesome to see it written out this way, so precise and easy to follow. This will help me get more organized and boy do I need that!
Such detail is so appreciated!
Erin; Thanks for another great update on organization. I hope to approach some retail businesses for my Garden Artwork. I thought of a new aspect to make it different from others in the market place.
I am getting positive feedback from my newsletter. Joyce
wowwwww Thank you so much I really appreciate all the good advice you have given. Sometimes we need to recognize the simple true in life,
and that is THERE IS ANGELS AMONG US, people who love to help others, and are there quiet helping, Made Urban THANK YOU so much!!!