Preparing for Christmas Time Craft Selling
Welcome to Episode 13 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. For many craft sellers, Christmas time and the holiday season are very busy indeed. In this episode of the podcast I am discussing lots of ways to start preparing now so as to maximise sales, lower stress levels and make your life easier.
Download a printable checklist for this podcast – Tin Teddy Christmas Preparation Checklist
Listen to the Preparing for Christmas Time Craft Selling 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 thirteen Preparing for Christmas Time Craft Selling
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
For many craft sellers, the busiest time of the year for sales is the couple of months leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, often known as the holiday season.
Having a bumper crop of sales is exciting and many craft seller’s dream. But it can also be a lot of work, stressful and even a little scary.
In this episode of the podcast I will be talking about some ways to prepare for Christmas time now, so that you are better able to deal with a sudden influx of orders.
There is a printable checklist to go with this podcast, click the link here – Tin Teddy Christmas Preparation Checklist.
What to Expect
Some product types are not really affected by the season. If you sell, for example, only personalized wedding stationery, then you are probably not going to see a lot of extra sales at Christmas time.
Many new craft sellers assume that they will suddenly get a huge pile of orders once the Christmas season comes around. They might. But not all sellers do. It depends, as is always the case in retail, on what you sell and how you sell it.
Products that are great as gifts tend to do the best, as you might expect. A lot of Christmas shoppers buy handmade because they want things that are unique or special, original, exciting and definitely something the intended recipient will not already have. Personalized products are particularly popular as gifts.
There is also a market for handmade products that are designed for use during the Christmas season such as decorations, tree ornaments, Christmas cards and so on.
If you have been selling your crafts for a few years, you can look back at your previous Christmas times to get an idea of how the season affects your sales.
If this will be your first Christmas as a craft seller, or you are selling new products now, you will not have any previous data to use.
Please be aware that if you are struggling to get sales now, the Christmas season does not mean you will magically suddenly get loads. If there are problems or bottlenecks that are preventing you getting sales, they will still affect Christmas sales. If you are not getting sales already, be sure to do some research now into online craft selling to try to get the ball rolling before the potentially busy season so as to take the best advantage of it.
Check out the other episodes of the Craft Seller Success Podcast for lots of info, and the Tin Teddy Blog for even more.
If you are worried about investing in creating stock that then doesn’t actually sell, consider concentrating on products that you can continue to offer for sale after Christmas. In particular avoid products that must be sold now, such as anything with the year marked on, ie a tree ornament that says “Merry Christmas 2018”. Or anything that is perishable and would not last until next year, if not sold now.
Before making a lot of extra stock for Christmas, be aware of how you will store that stock – especially if you do not sell it all. Will you be able to sell it during the year? Will you be able to put it somewhere safe until next Christmas time?
Keep notes as you go along as reference for next years preparation.
Preparing Your Products
Try to have your Christmas stock up for sale in your online store in plenty of time. Remember that people will be shopping online earlier than they might in “real life” because of the posting times.
If you sell on Etsy or a similar marketplace site, you may want to take into account the length of time of any listing fees. On Etsy it is 20c to list an item for 4 months. Therefore if you list your Christmas products around the end of August you will get the most exposure for your 20c.
Ensure you have any supplies you will need ready well in advance. If you get supplies from far away, perhaps from overseas, order them in plenty of time. Without the necessary supplies your whole shop can grind to a halt.
Store your supplies carefully so they are safe and so that you can find what you require when you need it.
If you make your products to order, can you prepare any parts of your most popular lines in advance? For example, if you sell hand-painted house signs then you obviously can’t finish the product until the buyer has provided you with their house name. But maybe you can create a stock of prepared painted wooden bases, ready to add the names too. This idea is especially useful if you sell the same products all year and will get around to using up all the prepared bases, even after Christmas time.
A friend who makes necklaces pre-cuts the chain and adds the fasteners of the most popular necklace lengths in advance. When orders come in she only has to make the pendant parts.
Another friend, who makes popular knitted Christmas stockings with names knitted into the design, has a big pile of the foot parts of the stockings, pre knitted and stored on stitch holders. When an order comes in she can grab a foot and start knitting on the personalized part. This allows her to knit a lot of feet during the summer so she is able to have a much faster turnaround of orders when Christmas time comes around. Doing this has enabled her to handle far more orders than she would if she had to knit every single stocking from scratch each time.
Even if you always create your products made-to-order, if you have products that you know (or strongly suspect) are good Christmas time sellers, try and make a few in advance now.
For some crafts, making multiples is more time-saving than making one after another. For example painting a wooden box may take you half an hour. But you might be able to paint two boxes in ¾ of an hour, ie less than twice the time, because you only need to get the paint out, get prepared and tidy up the once.
Consider whether making items in batches may work out quicker for the products you sell. Or for part of the making process.Making multiple craft products at once may be faster than making one after another.Click To Tweet
Take time to organize your product storage. Every year I see sellers in online selling forums, upset because they have received a valuable order but misplaced the product. Ensure your stock (and supplies) are somewhere that is safe, dry and not crushable. Label boxes or containers so you can easily find everything again. Note down the location of anything you think you may later forget.
If you sell online, go through your shop and check that everything is up to date and at its best. If you have time, do a full shop audit (more on this process in a later podcast, by the way). Look at your pictures, do they pop? Have you really shown off your products?
Look at your SEO, your Search Engine Optimization. Be sure you have used your most potent keyphrases in your listings so you can be found.
There are a number of articles on the Tin Teddy Blog which can help you with this. I will link to them in the shownotes, or just head over to the blog and click on the “online selling” category of posts. (There are more links at the bottom of this blog post)
Preparing Your Packaging
Be sure you have plenty of packaging materials on hand before the busy period starts. If you get a bunch of orders, you don’t want to be stuck for boxes or labels.
Order things that take a while to get to you as soon as possible, to be on the safe side. Don’t forget the smaller notions too, such as sticky tape and marker pens.
Buying larger quantities of packaging materials can also work out more economical in the long run as you may qualify for bulk discounts. If you don’t need quite enough to get the discounts, consider joining up with a craft seller friend and buying your packaging together so you can benefit from any bulk discounts.
Store your packaging carefully. It must be kept dry and clean and be easy to find, and get to, when you want it.
Consider where you will be doing the packaging. If you have the room, could you set up a little packaging station for the duration of the busy season? With all your packaging on hand and ready to go.
Are there any packaging aspects that you can prepare in advance? For example, if your shipping boxes come to you flat, is it worth sticking a few together ready to use? Can you precut pieces of bubble wrap to the size you usually need? Can you add your return address in advance to the envelopes or boxes you will be using for posting?
If you do not already do so, consider having return address labels printed for you (or print your own, of course). Having to write your address on each parcel individually takes a lot more time than just adding a sticker.
Consider how you are going to post the parcels. If you travel to a post office, work out how often you can do so, assuming you had orders every day. This will enable you to be sure the shipping times stated in your shop are right.
If you usually get a product sale now and then, you may pop to the post office as soon as each order is ready. But if you are much busier, going every day could use up far too much of your valuable time, and petrol/gas. Can you post once a week? Twice a week? Could a family member do it for you, perhaps on their way from work?
In many countries the postal companies offer various services that may be very useful at this busy time of the year – assuming you are not using them already anyway!
Check out the website for your country/state’s postal service to see what they might offer. If you sell on a marketplace site like Etsy, check to see if they have any postal service offers that might be usable for your shop.
Can you purchase postage labels online? For smaller parcels this will mean a trip to a post box rather than to a post office (I know that for me there is a post box much nearer than a post office). Some postal companies will even pick up your parcels from your house for you – this is a massive time saver.
Some craft sellers like to include seasonal extras in with their Christmassy orders, such as a Christmas card, stickers, a small decoration of some sort, a Christmassy themed mini product and so on. If you intend to do this, please do bear a couple of important things in mind:
1 – not everyone celebrates Christmas, and may not be shopping for presents
2 – increasing the weight of the parcel can increase the shipping cost
3 – adding items to international orders may increase the value of the order for customs and import duty purposes, costing the buyer more in import fees
4 – some free gifts can be unwelcome. These include:
a – any food products such as sweets. Many countries have laws about selling food , even if you are calling it a free gift)
b – glitter. I personally do not like glitter bomb parcels, those where you open it and get covered in glitter or something. I am not alone in this
c – smelly things – unless you sell smelly things anyway, such as bath and beauty
d religious items – again, unless this is what you actually are selling anyway
Preparing Your Marketing
Plan your marketing in advance. Whilst it is ideal to have a good marketing plan all year around, it is especially useful to do so at Christmas.
Think well in advance of what you are going to do to get your products seen in the crowds of other handmade items, and more.
Remember that with online selling there is usually shipping times to consider. Your international customers may be shopping a lot earlier than your domestic ones. Plan your marketing to cover these earlier shoppers as well as the last minute ones.
Consider if there are any marketing ideas that you don’t usually use but wish to employ just for this busy time of the year. Many sellers who usually do not pay for marketing, for example, will take out a paid Facebook or Google ad in the run up to Christmas.
Be sure you know what the “last postal delivery date for Christmas” deadlines are for the various countries that you ship to. They may be sooner than you think. Many sellers will add this information to their shop and listings to try to prevent customers buying too late. But be warned, some shoppers do leave things to the last moment. Be prepared to cancel a sale rather than make a promise about a delivery that you potentially will not be able to keep.
You may want to display the last shipping dates for your shop on your social media and blog or website too.
If you blog then it can be worth having a few blog posts ready in advance so you can just publish them during the busy times. Many blogging platforms will let you schedule the posts so you can prepare then all now, then not worry at all about it until the busy season dies down again.
For many shops there are some questions that you will get asked time and again by your customers and potential customers. Prepare in advance some canned replies so you can just cut and paste them as required. This can save quite a bit of time. You might be able to rope a family member into dealing with these enquiries if you get a lot of them!
Some replies you might prepare could be – the last dates for posting , notice of holiday postal delays, similar for bad weather delays, sorry you are not taking any more custom orders this year, reminders about your policies, and forms for requesting required personalization information.
Look into using a scheduling app such as Hootsuite or Buffer to handle your social media marketing. Have a social media marketing plan ready in advance. Check out episode 8, Social Media for Craft Sellers 101 if you haven’t already done so.
Some craft sellers like to give their shops and branding a seasonal make-over. If you intend to do this, prepare it now so you can switch over seamlessly when ready. You may be considering seasonal headers for your website, shop or social media, a Christmassy avatar, or one that features a Christmas product, a change to your receipt or packing slip, your email signature and so on.
Make a note to remove the seasonal stuff after Christmas though!
If you can, take quick pictures whilst making products, preparing stuff and packaging things up. You can use these for later social media and blog posts. Having a bunch of “in progress” shots can be really handy throughout the year if you haven’t got anything current to post (no one will know you made the items a while back) – “A beautiful Fair Isle scarf in progress, this one will be extra warm!”
Because people often buy gifts quite a bit before Christmas itself, you might want to consider expanding your returns window over the holiday season. Many big companies do this and it can encourage a shopper to risk buying from you rather than someone else.
However, if you are selling items that are specifically seasonal, ie they will be hard to sell after the Christmas period, you may be more nervous about the risk of getting returns then. You will need to weight this up against the chances of getting more sales due to the extra confidence that a longer returns period will give potential customers.
Remember: If your products are well made and well described you should get very few returns, so be sure your descriptions and photos really show the customer what they will be getting.
Reorganize and tidy your working spaces. Ensure that everything you will need is where it should be, and properly labelled. Remove from the working area things that are not going to be needed during this busy season, if you can. Keep it all clear and raring to go for maximum efficiency.
Think about things like where you store you tools – are they easy to grab when you need them. Are all your supplies in reach?
Check that all the tools you use for making your products are in good repair and ready to use. Now is the time to get any replacements if needed. If you depend on a particular tool and it is not too expensive, you might want to consider having a spare on hand, just in case. For example, if you do most of your knitting on size 4mm needles, then having a spare pair is very handy, just in case you lose one, or accidentally stand on one and snap it (yes, I have managed to do just this).
If you will be making regular purchases during the busy time, perhaps for postage or supplies, then you may find it easier to not try to deal with the accounting until after the rush dies down. I grab a small box file (labelled of course) and put all my postal receipts in. I can then add them to my online accounts system and file them properly when I have time. And they won’t get lost until them.
Have a notebook ready (or a note taking program on your computer or phone) so you can note down anything you may want to remember for next year. What is proving to not be working out? What is really helping? You may want to do a more considered write up of the season afterwards. This can prove very useful when doing next year’s prep work.
Check that the freezer is stocker and you have food and drink supplies in. If you get very busy for a while, be sure you have what you need to survive if you can’t find time to get to the shops. Supermaket home-delivery services can come in very handy.
Now is the time to be thinking about whether you may need help. If you think there is any chance that you might, who would it be and do they need a heads-up now? Remember that if you have to pay people to help this will affect your profit margins – do this maths now if you think there is a chance it will apply.
Talk to family and household members about the upcoming busy season. Explain (if they might not know) how important this could be to your business and that you may well be working longer hours for a little while. Consider a “Busy” sign to hang on your craftroom, studio or workspace door.
Can any family members help you out? This may be with the production of your orders, with the packaging, with posting or with marketing or admin chores. Or could they help you out with household or “normal life” things so you are free to get on with your business?
Stock up on healthy snacks to keep energy levels from flagging. I obviously can’t recommend you get chocolate and wine in. So if you do that, it was not because I suggested it. OK?
Be sure to schedule in some free and family time. Although a busy craft seller may indeed have to burn the candle at both ends to keep up with orders, it is very important that your health and happiness don’t suffer.
Many crafters have a cut off point each day, after which they will do no more work, but instead relax and spend time with friends and family.
Perhaps get some nice bubble-bath in so you can have a few long soaks, maybe with a good book. Spending a little while pampering yourself now and then will invigorate you and help you be more productive.
If you like to listen to podcasts (cough) or audible books whilst you are crafting, you may want to look into getting some ready.
Preparing your Personal Life
If you will be celebrating Christmas, Thanksgiving or some another holiday at this time of the year, you may want to consider planning and preparing this now so you don’t need to worry about it when you are busy.
Plan your Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner now. Can anything be bought or made and frozen ready? Can family members be roped in to get or cook other bits?
If you suspect you will be busy with your craft selling shop right up until the last minute, do your own Christmas shopping now. If everything is bought and wrapped you will not be fretting about it in the back of your mind when you want to be concentrating on creating and working. You will also be able to boast about it on your social media and annoy your friends, lol.
If you make your own Christmas cards, I strongly recommend you start as soon as possible. If you are a crafter who usually makes cards and this is your first year as an online craft seller, perhaps consider only making them for the “special family members and friends” and buying for everyone else. I realise that for some of you that is a dreadful suggestion, hehe, I have been making all my cards for many years and I suspect that if I sent someone a bought one now they would feel a bit offended. So I am making Christmas cards now, nearly done them all.
If you can delegate, do so.
For lots more ideas on getting more from your time, check out episode 18, Time Management for Craft Sellers.
If you are not getting the sales you expected take a deep breath and see If you can work out where the bottle-neck is occurring.
Firstly consider whether you are actually getting visitors to your shop and products. Look at your stats and analytics to see how people are coming to you.
If you are not getting many visitors then the problem could well be with your marketing. Concentrate on getting your products out there. If you use Google Analytics you can see whether your different social media campaigns are working. If they are not bringing in the people, change them.
Consider whether a paid advert on Facebook, Google or elsewhere might help. If you sell on a marketing platform such as Etsy, consider whether using promotional listings would be worth it for the season.
Look hard at your SEO and see if you can improve this, especially if you are not getting many visitors from searches.
Double check your product pictures. Are they bright and attractive? Do they pop? Do they show off the features of your products? Take a quick look at some of your competitors’ pictures. How do yours compare?
If you are getting plenty of visitors, but they are not actually buying, take a look at what might be stopping them. Are your prices competitive, and, more importantly, are you spelling out why they are great value for money? Check out Episode 7, 5 Ways to add value to your craft products for more ideas on this.
If you are getting too many sales and starting to feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Firstly, consider closing your shop whilst you catch up. I know a lot of sellers are really nervous about doing this, but it is essential that you do not let things get out of control. If you are failing to fulfil open orders you will start to get angry customers, bad feedback, open cases and bad publicity. This can easily kill a shop. Prevent it by not taking any more orders until you can safely handle them.If you get too many craft product orders to cope with, close your shop until you can regain control.Click To Tweet
De-active any made-to-order products if you are getting snowed under. Only have the ready made and in stock products available.
Call on friends and family to help you if you can. Plan what needs doing and delegate as necessary.
Keep in contact with any customers who will be affected by delays etc. This can alleviate many problems. Never let your customers think you are ignoring them. If you really can not fulfil an order, politely and sincerely apologize, cancel it and refund in full.
Take action the moment you start to feel you are struggling. Never wait until you start getting angry customers.
I hope that some of these suggestions and ideas help your Christmas season run a little more smoothly, whether it is your first or you are a hardened Christmas seller.
If you would like to give your craft selling shop a more thorough audit before the Christmas period begins, check out episode 15, A Shop Audit for Craft Sellers which talks about tihngs to look for to make sure you shop is at its best and ready to go. There is a printable checklist too.
Here’s to a very profitable Christmas season.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 14 I will be talking Goal Setting for Craft Sellers. This episode will be out on the 30 October 2018.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson and Matthew French
Original music by Matthew French
Craft Seller Success from Tin Teddy
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