Monday, June 06, 2016

Make the Switch to a Business Mindset


Make the Switch to a Business Mindset

You know, it was so long ago that I made this switch, I forget how difficult it can be. I decided in high school that it was possible to make a living by making things and selling them. I'm not sure how I came to that conclusion exactly, I didn't know anyone who was doing that. But at 18 I was starting to believe (as I do still) that anything is possible. Why couldn't I? As an art major in college, about mid way through I decided to quit waitressing and try to work at only art-related jobs. And I did that. So by the time I graduated and started working on my current business, I had already made the switch. I was already used to getting paid for my art skills. I had already started a pre-business during college, selling my crochet hats and beaded jewelry to friends, online, and even a few craft shows. But really, it started when I made that decision in high school. That I could do what I love, what I'm good at, and get paid for it. I never felt the need to explain or defend, I just do what I do.


But in talking with newer art and craft business people, especially, I get a glimpse of that insecurity. The idea is often thrust upon us creative types that hobbies are nice, but work is something else. Even today, I get the feeling often from others that if I'm not suffering a 9 to 5 existence, I must not be doing it right. I'm indulging my fantasies by following through on my dreams. It's rarely expressed directly (though sometimes it is, esp by strangers at shows), but society says so every day everywhere you look. Dreams are for suckers, suffer or starve, etc. I have two words for that... Bull. Loney.

So, anyway, here's what I mean when I talk about Making the Switch. Taking your dreams from hobby to business... it's all in your mindset, your attitude, what YOU say about it, how you present yourself. Here are some things that I believe can help switch you from halfassed dreamer, to respected businessperson. And thus help your business thrive. 


Stop Apologizing
Please. This just breaks my heart. Maybe you aren't expressly apologizing for selling things you make (or you might be!), but I see the general lack of confidence all the time. There is no need to feel guilty or sorry for asking to be paid for your hard work and creative talent. The reason there are SO many craft shows out there, and etsy is SO crazy popular, is because people love and appreciate handmade things!

I know I keep repeating myself, but please don't charge low low garage sale prices! Stand tall, know your worth, use a good pricing formula so you know it's a fair price. Someone who really values it will pay. Choose selling venues that support your price points, your style of work. In time you will learn who the right audience is for what you make, they are out there.

Don't feel bad about charging your friends either. They are your biggest fans and your life long customers. Sure, give them discounts occasionally, donate to their raffles or whatnot. But, if they WANT to support you by buying your artwork, let them!

And please. Please, just because you love what you are doing, and would do it even for free... don't assume it is worth *less*. That's a weird false idea our culture promotes. If you love your job, you aren't working hard enough (or something). Anyone is free to follow their heart, you should be proud and strong that you have made that choice!  


Make It Easy
By this I mean, make it easy for your customers to buy things from you. The main difference between a hobby and a business, is getting paid baby! When someone wants to buy something from you, have a simple way to get it done. 

It's not that hard in today's age of technology. Get yourself a web site, or at least start an Etsy or facebook page. You need a place to send people when they want to buy from you. Everyone has an online presence, or should, because customers expect it. It's free! Have some decent photos there, and a way to order. Tell people what to do, if it isn't obvious.    Inform them about where they can shop in person (shows, galleries, etc). Then, add the web address to your business cards or flyers, share it on fb, add it to your email tag line, etc. This is really basic stuff you must have if you want to sell things and be taken seriously.

Also, make yourself a paypal account. Lordy. I can't believe I still meet vendors who have never used paypal. What?? Welcome to the 90s my friend. Paypal is trusted and easy to use for your customers, they don't even need an account. They also have lots of cool doohickies to take payments on your web site, blog, email, wherever. And even a credit card swiper you can use on your phone when at shows.

And finally... please pay attention now... you really need to learn to follow through! When someone wants to buy something from you, don't dilly dally. Call them back, send them the info, whatever is needed to allow them to follow through with the sale. So your friend at that party last night ooohed and aaaahed over your necklace and kept saying they wanted one? Follow through. Send a message or email in a day or two, offering a simple way to order. "Hey, if you really want a necklace, here's my etsy page. Let me know if you want to see some in person. Great seeing you last night." Done! Nothing pushy about it, they asked YOU after all. Why not at least make it easy for them? I sell plenty of things this way. This also goes for any other possible business connection... someone in your booth wants a custom order, someone with a shop wants to carry your goods, etc. Always get their information and contact THEM. I can't tell you how many times someone told me they'd contact me about such things and didn't. Like 99% of the time. Make it easy for them to do business with you and follow through.

My good friend & great businesswoman, Sandy of Drakes Glenn Chocolate.

Get Your Records Organized
Are you still reading? Because I know this one made you cringe a little. haha. I totally get it! And so far I haven't gotten into the nitty gritty of business legalities, mostly because it will be different depending on where you live, how much you sell, etc. Generally, if you want to work above board, you need a state tax ID (if your state requires one) and to file your business with the IRS. I know some people avoid this for a long time, and I get it. But it's really not that much to do, especially when your business is young. And having a legal business allows you to buy supplies at wholesale prices, and write off all your business and travel expenses at tax time.

 The record keeping part is really pretty simple. You need to keep track of your sales and your expenses. Now, depending on how much you sell, you might not have to file at all or at least not pay out. But, if you do file, you must be able to show what you earned, and also what you spent on business expenses by category (materials, office supplies, travel, etc). For this reason, it's easier to use some kind of accounting software like Quickbooks. But again, today there are tons of easy to use and free options available online. Even excel will do the job. Don't be intimidated. 

Looking at the numbers is definitely not just dirty work, it's essential for seeing what is really going on with your business. What are your biggest costs? What show really worked out the best after travel expenses? Which items should you consider making differently, or not at all? I always *feel* like I have a good handle on what my biz is doing... but going over *actual* numbers is for real. It can really wake you up.

I know this isn't the fun part, but believe me, knowing you have your paperwork under control will help you sleep better at night in the long run.  As well as boost your confidence as a true business owner. 

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