Dealing with Emergencies for Craft Sellers
Welcome to Episode 27 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. Sadly, we can not stop emergencies from occaisionally interrupting our lives. But we may be able to take some simple steps to help prevent many emergencies from also damagaing our craft shops.
Listen to the Dealing with Emergencies for Craft Sellers podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
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To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number twenty-seven – Dealing with Emergencies for Craft Sellers
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
We never know what is around the next corner. Sometimes it is something great, but other times, sadly, life surprises us with emergencies that disrupt our lives.
In this episode of the Craft Sellers Success Podcast, I am going to be talking about two groups of emergencies and how you can prepare for them, from the point of view of a craft seller, of course.
Although lots of things can be an emergency, I am going to divide them up like this. Emergencies that affect your environment, and emergencies that affect you and your loved ones.
These are all the problems that can affect your ability to run your shops such as power outages, internet outages and computer failures.
If you sell online you are of course somewhat dependent on having an electricity supply. If your electricity is scheduled to be off for a period of time, decide beforehand whether you will need to close your shops for the duration. Prepare a list of jobs that you can get on with during the outage, rather than working online or with power tools etc.
Often electricity outages are unexpected. In these cases, it helps to have a backup plan in place.
Can you use a portable computer such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone at a neighbour, family member or friend’s house? Is there a nearby library or internet cafe that you can use in emergencies?
A mobile phone, tablet or laptop will continue to function as long as it still has power in its batteries. These devices may also be able to access the internet via mobile services.
Be sure you have your passwords to hand if you need to log into your accounts from another computer.
There are various emergency power supplies available, as well as generators. If you rely on power tools for your crafting then these might be something consider.
There are also lots of battery-based power banks available for mobile phones and tablets. Some require charging, so you would need to ensure you kept it charged up for when you needed it. Others use standard batteries, so as long as you keep some batteries on hand you can use them without other prior preparation. These will give you enough power to use the mobile internet on your phone to close a shop, get order details, contact customers or do some social media posting.
When trading online the internet is essential. As with electricity outages, it is important to consider in advance what you would do if you are disconnected from your usual web services for a short, or long period of time.
Do you have an alternative way to access the web via your smartphone service? This could be useful for temporarily closing shops, sending emails or replying to messages and accessing order details so you can still fulfil them. If your craft selling business is selling every day, or most days or you are relying on it as a serious source of income, I would recommend getting a mobile phone internet contract as an emergency back up if you don’t have one already. Be sure you have adequate mobile internet data available if you need it in an emergency.
You may also be able to get mobile internet access for a tablet or laptop.
Make sure your mobile phone has the necessary apps to access your shop, email customers and whatever else you would want to do.
As with electricity outages, be sure you know in advance of friends, neighbours or family members who’s internet you could temporarily use, or local wifi hotspots.
Handy hint – many restaurants now have wifi hotspots, as do hotels, railway stations and more. Our local bus service has them, though riding around on the bus whilst dealing with my shop might not be ideal!
Ah, computers really are wonderful things, until they go wrong. And there is so much that can potentially go wrong too.
I know everyone says this, but I am going to say it too…
Back up Your Files!
Nowadays this is cheaper and easier than ever. Not only can you buy large-sized physical external hard drives to back up files, there are a plethora of options using online cloud storage too. You may have free cloud storage with your internet provider’s package. If not there are options such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft One Drive. You may also get free cloud storage with the purchase of a mobile phone or tablet, with website hosting accounts and so on.
I have my various graphics files backed up on a bunch of physical hard drives, as well as on cloud storage that I subscribe to (cheaply) from my web host, GoDaddy. I also use Google Drive to keep additional backups of my accounts and smaller files too. Oh, and some very important files are also backed up on to memory sticks, as an extra layer of protection.
If you have a CD or Blu-ray writer you can also use these for backups. Whilst they take up more room, they are very cheap.Don't forget to back up your files regularly!Click To Tweet
Hard drives can, and do fail. You may get a warning, such as your computer making funny noises, or throwing up error messages. Or you may just find that one day it is dead. Back up anything at all that you might want to keep.
Some things you may want to back up will include – product and lifestyle photos (the originals and edited versions), accounts and other spreadsheets, templates for receipts, flyers, marketing etc, your logo, headers and other branding, templates for product pictures, important emails, contact details for suppliers and so on. If in doubt, back it up. Storage is cheap, losing a file you later really need may not be.
I recommend keeping hardcopy, ie physical records of some of this stuff too, such as contact details for where you get your supplies. Just in case.
Maintain your computer properly.
Be sure you have an up to date antivirus suite installed, and if it does not automatically do scans of your computer, note in your planner or diary etc to do it regularly. You would be amazed how many people have great antivirus software installed but still get viruses because they don’t turn it on, or don’t ever update it, or don’t actually scan with it.
I use Kaspersky Total Internet suite which has a bunch of tools for protecting my computers. (Link at the bottom of the page)
I also use Malwarebytes and Ccleaner to ensure that everything is kept protected and functioning happily.
If you are not sure what protection you need, ask a computer friend for advice, or ask on a friendly forum. There are lots of people who are happy to help you get everything set up so you are protected.
I can access my shops, message customers, see emails, post to social media and much more using either my Kindle Fire HD tablet, or my (bottom of the range, but great) Sony mobile phone. You don’t need expensive machines for these purposes. Nowadays even the lower priced items are very versatile.
Many craft sellers keep an older laptop in a cupboard for use in emergencies.
If you rely on the income from your craft business, having a back-up computer of some sort may be well worth considering.
Be sure that you have access to your passwords and details you will need to continue on another computer. Don’t forget to record the details of license numbers etc for any software you have bought and use too.
Modern computers often have options for backing up files to special parts of the hard drive, which the computer will use to attempt to recover if there is a problem. There are also various software packages that can attempt to recover files from a broken hard drive. Local computer shops may also offer this service. If your pc does die, check these options out before assuming your files are lost forever.
Storage of Supplies, Stock and More
Ensure your crafting supplies and finished stock are stored somewhere safe, dry and accessible. If something happened to these it could be both expensive and frustrating. If you hold a high value of supplies or stock, look into whether these can be insured.
Running out of supplies during a busy period can be annoying and lose you sales. Check out episode 13, Preparing for Christmas Time Craft Selling for more ideas on preparing for the busy times.
Problems with Your Shop or Website
One of the great things about selling crafts online is that people can shop 24/7. Or at least they can if our shops are open and running smoothly.
If you have a shop on a marketplace such as Etsy, Folksy, Amazon Handmade or eBay you are somewhat at the mercy of the site owners. They can, technically, choose to close your shop at any time, for example, if they feel you have broken a rule or are not selling products that fall within their accepted criteria.
Obviously, one way to prevent this is to be careful to follow all relevant rules that a marketplace site sets.
Similarly, do not sell illegal products. Many, many sellers have products that break copyright or trademark laws. If the owners of the intellectual property in question contacts the marketplace site to demand your infringing products are removed, the marketplace site may decide to close your account – temporarily or permanently. Whilst you will see lots of people who are selling stuff they probably shouldn’t, remember that any day they could have their shop closed because of it – or even face legal consequences, ouch.
Remember that your shop could also be compromised if you don’t pay the marketplace site’s bill on time. Check whether there is any sort of auto-payment, so you can’t forget to pay. Make a note in your planner or calendar to be sure you pay bills on time.
Even the biggest marketplace sites can have problems at times. The site may go down for a while or have a fault that prevents your customers from seeing your shop, adding items to their cart or checking out. Obviously, you can’t personally do anything about this. Keep an eye on the announcements that the marketplace site makes as they will usually warn you about possible disruption whenever they can, such as for updates or maintenance.
If the marketplace you are using has a lot of outages like this, you may want to consider moving to another one or opening another shop elsewhere as a backup.
Make use of backup options that the marketplace supplies. They will usually allow you to download files with all your listings, sales and possibly communications made via the site too. These could be invaluable if your shop did go and you had to rebuild somewhere else. Or even if there was some sort of data fault.
Find out now how to put your shop into vacation mode if you need to temporarily close it for a while.
Remember that companies can go bust, close down or significantly change very suddenly. Take time now to consider what you would do if your marketplace site closed down tomorrow.
Shopify, Wix and similar Shops
As with the marketplace sites you are reliant on the shop-hosting company keeping their servers up and running smoothly. If they have frequent problems that affect your shop, consider moving to another supplier.
Be sure to renew your subscriptions on time. Failure to renew may well mean your shop goes offline. Whilst you will probably be able to restart it again by paying the bill, if you leave it too long there is a possibility that your data will be lost and you will have to start again.
Use any backup systems that the shop company offers to protect your data, just in case.
Be sure you have all software, plugins themes and extensions up to date.
If you allow visitors to comment on or contribute to your site, ensure you have an anti-spamming plugin or system in place. Huge amounts of spammy comments can bring a site down.
If your web host has a lot of service outages, consider transferring to another one.
If you are using WordPress, check out episode 23 – Essential WordPress Plugins for your Craft Seller Blog or Shop.
Ensure you have something set up to put your shop into maintenance mode if you need to (for actual maintenance or any other emergency).
Shipping Your Products
Sometimes an emergency can affect our ability to ship our craft products out. This can include extreme weather conditions that make it hard to get to the post office, the post office being closed for some reason, your car breaking down and personal emergencies that require dealing with immediately.
If you are going to be late shipping a product, be sure to contact the customer as soon as possible to apologise and clarify when you hope to ship. Customers are usually sympathetic to these situations but keep your explanation simple and to the point. A long sob-story can be rather off-putting.
Consider any backups for shipping, such as the location of alternative post offices, friends who could post for you and so on.
Too Many Sales
Ah, here is an emergency that many people might think they would love to have! But if you suddenly get more sales than you can handle it can be scary and could damage or ruin your business.
I have, sadly, seen quite a few cases of craft sellers who have suddenly had a product go viral and the sales come rushing in… only to get behind on the orders and then get a flurry of negative feedback and open cases. Ouch.
Keep a very close eye on how many open orders you have at any time.
If you feel that you are starting to get more than you can easily handle, first look into how you can deal with the orders better. Plan now who you can ask to help you if you need it. Could a friend or family member help with product construction, packaging or posting?
If you really can not handle any more orders, temporarily put your shop into vacation or maintenance mode, or deactivate the product or products that are getting all the sales.
I have seen sellers worry that if they put their shop or products on hold like this it will harm their business in the longer term. Failing to cope with open orders is a far bigger risk to your business, honest.
You can actually use this situation as a little marketing boost, posting on your social media something like “I am sorry but I am unable to take any more orders for the SuperWidget for the time being due to the high volume of orders. I hope to have it back up for sale very soon!” ideally give a time when they will be available again. Nothing makes an item even more desirable than knowing it was so popular it has basically sold out! Hopefully, when you are ready to open again you will have people waiting to buy.
You might also want to consider raising your prices a bit. This can slow down sales, but keep the money coming in. It won’t always work, but sometimes it is the best solution for too many sales!
If you do find yourself falling behind on orders, keep in contact with affected customers. Explain that you will need to ship a little later than expected, and offer them the chance to cancel their order if the delay is not acceptable. You will probably find that many customers are fine with waiting a little longer. Just be sure you keep them in the loop.
Know your limits and stick to them. It is your business and you are in control.
Many new businesses have problems with cash flow. Whilst many types of craft selling business do not have the huge costs of some other industries, most require some financial investment, both up-front and ongoing.
Always keep some money on hand for your business. If a parcel goes missing or is damaged you may need to refund a customer. Try to keep enough money available to do this. Having a credit card for your business can help you defer a cost if necessary.
Again, think now of what you could do if you suddenly had a large refund to make – would you have the money available? What if you saw some useful supplies on a ridiculously good offer, but in bulk, could you get the necessary funds to take advantage of this?
Be very aware of website and shop hosting site fees, marketing and promotion costs and other ongoing business fees. Check regularly that they are being charged correctly.
Business books and courses, again and again, warn of the dangers of not considering cash flow. And this is true for a craft business too. I will be talking much more about basic accounting for craft sellers in an upcoming podcast.
These are emergencies that affect you personally or your close family or friends and can disrupt the running of your business.
Illness and Injury
A few months ago I had a minor panic over the Craft Seller Success podcast episode that was next due out. It was a complex subject and I had spent much longer on the script than usual. I was still poking it about just a few days before it was due to go live.
And then I got the flu! I was very poorly and recording podcasts was out of the question.
Luckily I felt well enough in time to record, edit and get the podcast up in time for its usual Tuesday launch. Since then I have been careful to try not to leave it until the last minute like that. Just in case.
Illness, or injury, can affect any one of us, at any time. And, of course, our ability to run our craft businesses can be disrupted if a family member or other loved one is ill or injured. Having to drop everything to go look after an elderly relative in need, to tend to a sick child or to support an injured partner are all events that well might cause a craft seller to have to put his or her usual activities on hold for a bit.
When you have a busy craft business to run, this can be quite a problem. So it pays to think about it and make some preparations as soon as possible.
If you are going to be out of action for a bit, the first priority should always be to prevent any more damage occurring than you can help.
This usually means closing one’s online shop or shops, by putting them into vacation or maintenance mode. Once closed, you do not need to worry about a pile of orders coming in that you can not deal with.
Next, existing orders should be dealt with as soon as possible. This may mean fulfilling the orders or cancelling them. Not dealing with them will lead to unhappy customers, opened cases, negative reviews and possibly bad publicity on social media.
I recommend having a checklist with all the things you would need to consider when putting your craft business “on hold” like this. In a few minutes, I will be listing some of the things you might want to include in your checklist.
Now, if you are very ill, in hospital or otherwise incapacitated, you may not be able to do anything to your shop and business yourself.
This is why I strongly recommend you have what I call a “trusted person” and an Emergency Plan ready.
A Trusted Person
This is someone that you can trust to do some necessary things for your craft business if you are unable to do so yourself.
Most people will choose a close friend or family member.
Of course, you must ask this person first. Please remember that there is a chance they may not be comfortable with accepting this role. They may be concerned at the level of responsibility it brings and be worried they might damage your business if they did something wrong. If they are not used to using computers they may also be worried that they will not be able to follow your instructions.
Prepare your Emergency Plan in advance so they can discuss it with you and hopefully this will reassure them that they will manage fine.
Your Emergency Plan
Your Emergency Plan should cover what your trusted person needs to do if you are ill, injured or otherwise unable to deal with your craft business. It may also incorporate what they should do if you are permanently incapacitated too (more on this in a bit).
As everyone’s craft business is a little different, your Emergency Plan will also need to be personal for you.
Here are links to a free, downloadable Emergency Plan template to get you started.
Some of the things you may want to include on your Emergency Plan might be:
Put shops on vacation mode or maintenance mode
How to see if there are outstanding orders
Exactly how to fulfil, or cancel outstanding orders
How to contact customers if orders are going to be cancelled or delayed
How to check for and pay any outstanding bills, or bills that could arise
How to cancel or freeze any paid-for marketing if necessary
Cancel any upcoming craft stalls, conferences, courses or anything else that you will be unable to attend
How to put a notice on social media if you want that to happen
How to deal with customer queries or how to set it so they get an automatic message
Do they need access to any affiliate plans you have on your blog or website?
Do you have any supplies that are ordered automatically that will need cancelling or postponing?
Be sure to give simple “click this then this” type instructions. You could include screenshots if you think something might be tricky.
If possible, have your Trusted Person go through the Emergency Plan with you. Get them to try accessing your shop etc and following the instructions on the plan. This way you will see if there are bits they don’t understand or that need clarifying.
You might want to go through this with them on a regular basis, maybe once a year or once every 6 months, so as to be sure they are still comfortable with what to do.
Your Trusted Person must know where to find the Emergency Plan when needed.
Physical or Digital
You will need to decide whether your Emergency Plan should be in a physical format or a digital one.. or perhaps both.
A physical copy must be readable, stored somewhere where it is easy to find and clear what it is.
It may be best to put it in a file or folder, especially if there is more than one page or additional documents are going to be included.
A digital copy must be backed up somewhere safe. You could email it to your Trusted Person in advance, or give them a memory stick with it on. Or, if they live with you or have access to your house and computer, they could just know where to look for it.
Be sure your Trusted Person knows how to open and use the file!
The Emergency Plan is useless if your Trusted Person can’t find it, can’t use it or can’t understand it.
My personal Emergency Plan is in physical form and my son (my Trusted Person) knows where to find it. There is another copy at my mother’s house. There is also a digital version that is stored in a cloud server, and again my son knows how to access this if needed.
None of us really want to think about this, but death is an unavoidable fact of life. Whilst I hope that for you, and me!, this is not for a very long time, as a small business owner, death is something that it is worth planning for now.. just in case.
Having an Emergency Plan to close your business properly can be very comforting. I personally would far rather think that Tin Teddy would fade away as a quiet, but happy memory, rather than its last traces online consisting of angry reviews and negative posts about how orders weren’t fulfilled and I “just stopped answering” and disappeared.
Leave instructions on how to close down your business properly. You can pre-write closing notices and social media posts for this purpose.
Be sure your heir or Trusted Person knows how to access bank accounts, Paypal and other online banking systems etc so as to get at the business’s money.
If a member of your family, or a friend, wants to take over the business, should you pass away, be sure you have discussed this with them properly. You will need to ensure that they will have access to everything they need to pick up where you left off.
For this, I recommend creating a file, digital or physical or perhaps both, with everything your heir will require to take over the business.
If you run your craft business with someone else, be sure that both of you have whatever you would need should something happen to the other person.
I would always advise anyone running a shop with another person to have some sort of basic contract outlining who does what and so on. This contract can also include what happens if one of you dies or leaves the business.
Be sure your family and/or next of kin knows about your partnership! I recently heard of a craft seller who passed away and her family quickly gave away all her stock and supplies. They were not aware that she actually ran the business with a close friend who was not only part owner of all that stock etc but also had every intention of continuing the business alone – something the two of them had always intended.
Your Emergency Plan will need to contain some very sensitive information such as passwords to your online shops, bank accounts and so on. Therefore it is very important that it is stored somewhere safe.
If you do not feel comfortable with giving it to your Trusted Person in advance, be sure they know where it is stored and will be able to access it without you. It is not a lot of use if it is somewhere in your filing cabinet or a file on your computer and your Trusted Person doesn’t have a key to your house.
A friend has given her neighbour her Emergency Plan, but her passwords etc are stored in a decorative box in her own house. Her neighbour knows that is where they are. My friend can easily change this piece of paper if she updates her passwords, without having to give her neighbour a new copy of the Emergency Plan and risk confusion from there being two copies.
Some Final Handy Hints
Try to keep your supplies, computer files, communications, accounts and stock all organized. This will not only make life easier for you, hehe, but also make it much easier for someone else in an emergency.
Clearly label all boxes and storage.
Keep notes of upcoming commitments and other situations in a clear location such as a planner.
Keep up to date on your accounts.
Have a system for handling orders so that it is clear to anyone stepping into your shoes which needs dealing with first etc.
I will be talking more about being organized as a craft seller in the next episode of the craft seller success podcast.
Remember to get the free Emergency Plan template from the links at the bottom of the page. Whilst you are there, please do let me know about your own craft shop emergency plans in the comments section.
If there is a subject you would like me to cover in the podcast, please do let me know.
The next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 28 is called The Organized Craft Seller. It will be out on the 30th of April 2019. Lots of hints and tips to help a busy craft seller get, and stay organized. Save time, money and sanity!
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson
Original music by Matthew French
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Links to Kaspersky Total Security
This is the antivirus and security package that I use. It is very highly rated. It is also very unobtrusive (unlike many such programs), easy to use and reliable.
Here are links to the 3 computer/1 year option from Amazon.com (left) and Amazon.co.uk (right). There are other options available.
These are affiliate links, so if you use them to buy, Amazon may pay me a small commission for sending custom their way. This is at no extra cost to yourself, thank you.
Here are links to a free, downloadable Emergency Plan template to get you started.