Handmade entrepreneurship requires massive amounts of time and energy, but simplifying things will help you conserve some of that precious time and energy. It will also help you simplify your life … always a good thing, right?
Traditional entrepreneurship has usually meant that you sell the products, but you do not physically make them. When you physically make what you sell, not only must you be concerned with serving customers and increasing sales, but you also have manufacturing and safety concerns that sellers only do not have. To have a successful and sustainable business, you must simplify your processes as much as possible, both on the making side and on the marketing and sales side. Here are some tips and strategies to help you do that.
1. Start each day with a list of specific goals
I don't know where I would be without a specific and intentional list of things to do each day. For example, I release a new podcast every Wednesday. I send a private update to my members every Monday. I post a Promotion Day announcement in our private member Facebook group every Friday. I have a routine, a system, that I follow each day. This keeps me on track and it makes it simple for me to say “NO” to things that interfere with my list.
2. Limit random social media use
A 2012 study found that the main reasons we use social media are: interpersonal communication, self-expression, boredom and entertainment. You could spend all day doing each of those four things on social media, and not accomplish a single thing for your business. Unless it's discretionary personal time, set a timer each time you log onto social media during business hours. Be intentional when you log on, accomplish a specific business purpose, and then leave.
Don't get me wrong; it's not that social media is bad. It's just that when you have a business, watching cat videos during work time, instead of doing something intentional for your business, complicates your day with extraneous (even if interesting) activities. Make a commitment to yourself. During business hours, you will check social media for business purposes. Simple as that.
3. Maintain a manageable product line
It's easy to create a bunch of product lines when you first start your business. Time is plentiful. You don't have thousands of people asking for product information or emailing you about their lost shipments. But after sales start to ramp up, do you really want to have so many products in your line that you cannot keep up with marketing them? Do you want to have so many products in your line that you cannot afford quality product photos or upscale labels for everything?
Keeping your product line manageable keeps your life and your business simple. Do it.
4. Stop trying to follow everyone's advice
The other day, I was in the kitchen with my husband, my home helper and my daughter. We were all preparing a separate meal, and we were stepping all over each other. It was a hot mess. Similar messiness ensues when you get email newsletters from 50 experts, and you sign up for every free webinar, and you buy an hour of coaching from 10 different people. If there are too many cooks in your entrepreneurial kitchen, everyone will eat except you.
Choose your teachers and mentors based on what you need short and long term in your business. Don't choose coaches because they are popular. Choose them because they can deliver what you want. Anything else over complicates things.
Donna Maria, Indie Business Network
5. Set specific sales goals and prioritize activities that feed into them
As a Maker and Handmade Entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats, but the biggest hat is your sales hat. Awesome blog posts, wonderfully made products and an amazing Instagram page mean nothing if no one is buying. Set specific sales goals. Write them down and then break them down to the hour. Not to the month or to the week, but to the hour. For example, if you want to gross $75,000 a year, then you can break things down as follows:
- $75,000 divided by 12 = $6,250 in sales per month
- $6,250 divided by 4 = $1,562.50 in sales per week
- $1,562.50 divided by 7 = $223.21 in sales per day
- $223.21 divided by 24 = $9.30 in sales per hour
No matter what kind of business you have, this works. Writing down your sales goals and empowering yourself to know exactly where you stand every single hour of every single day is a powerful motivator. It also keeps things simple. You are either under your sales goals, over your sales goals, or you are meeting your sales goals. How simple is that?
Know where you are at all times so you know what you have to do to meet your goals each and every day, and then just do that. Nothing more. Nothing less. Simple.
6. Stop trying to satisfy everyone
Not everyone will like your products. Not everyone will like you. It's OK. Life is simpler when you can focus on one type of product and one type of customer. It's called a niche, and the tighter and more defined yours is, the better.
A niche is a specific corner of the market place. It could be men with facial hair (for a men's beard grooming company) or women with a particular skin type.
One of the most well defined niches I have seen is the one occupied by our member, Jennifer Waller at Celtic Complexion. Her niche is fair-skinned women of Irish descent. Who knew, right? Jennifer sells facial skincare to women in this very specific realm of the world. It's not that someone like me won't buy and enjoy her products. it's just that she reserves the majority of her marketing resources to reach women of Irish descent. They are everywhere, and since there is no other skincare line that caters specifically to them, Jennifer has a very loyal group of customers who happily tell their friends about her products. Beauty bloggers love her products because they are not the “same old same old” that others are selling.
7. Create and use a thorough Frequently Asked Questions page
As your business grows, you will start to get the same questions about your products, over and over again. As these questions come in, add them to your FAQ as a way to help your customers and minimize the number of email messages and phone calls needed to get them the answers they need. This is a super way to simplify your life, and when you get a question via email that is answered in your FAQ, you can simply cut and paste the FAQ answer right in the email message and move onto the next thing.
8. Schedule your social media outreach
Use the native scheduler on Facebook to engage with your customers on your Facebook business page. Use HootSuite, Buffer or some other tool to schedule Tweets. (I prefer HootSuite.) This is an easy and inexpensive way to simplify your life because it means you can log into both Twitter and Facebook no more than once a day for a specific period of time (use a timer) to do most of your posting and engaging. It's a super time saver since you can post things to several social media outlets at once.
As an entrepreneur, your most valuable asset is time. Simplifying how you handle everyday tasks and refusing to be sucked down rabbit holes or diverted by shiny objects will help you get more done in the same amount of time. It will help you stay focused on the tasks at hand so you'll have more free time and energy to enjoy other aspects of your life after your business day ends.
How do you simplify your life? What steps do you take to make sure you are not unnecessarily over-complicating things? Did I miss any strategies worth mentioning? I would love to know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.