The Organized Craft Seller
Welcome to Episode 28 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. Lots of ideas, hints and tips on getting a little more organized. Helping you save money, save time and feel a lot less frazzled!
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10 Easy Ways to Save Time in Your Craft Selling Business
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This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number twenty-eight – 10 Easy Ways to Save Time in Your Craft Selling Business
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
Many craft sellers sort of wander into craft selling.
What I mean by this is that they make a craft as a hobby, friends and family admire the items, someone asks you how much to make one for their relative, then another person asks to buy one, and another, and then you start thinking “Hey, perhaps I should be selling these online or at a craft show”. Something like that.
With many types of self-employment, there is a period of planning and organizing before starting. Imagine if you were planning on starting a mobile hairdressers, buying a grocery store or setting up a painting and decorating company.
With all these businesses there is a lot to be worked out before opening, probably loans and financing to sort out and various legal concerns to address. You couldn’t do these things without being organized.
But with craft selling there is often very little set up required. Most craft sellers don’t need to create business plans and get legal advice just to start. It is very easy to open a shop on Etsy, or Shopify, or even to create a simple standalone online store, or to sell at craft fairs, with very little financial investment, or research.
But this can mean that many craft sellers one day find themselves with a pile of orders, a blossoming business and a feeling that they are a little out of control.
This episode of the Craft Seller Success Podcast is all about ways that a craft seller can get a little more organized. There will be lots of hints and tips on things you can do to just make your life that little bit easier. And being more organized can often lead to saving money, earning more money, getting more done and even sleeping better!
So let’s look at some areas of a craft business…
Despite the promises of a paper-free office, most of us still accumulate some paperwork in the course of running our craft businesses.
It can quickly build up and there are few things more soul-destroying than having to search through a pile of disorganized pieces of paper for that one sheet that you really, really need right now.
Have a specific place to store paperwork. Depending on how much you have, this might be a box file, a filing box, a filing cabinet or multiple boxes. Label them clearly as soon as possible!
In an ideal world, this is something you set up when you start, and it is then easy to just keep it going. But it is never too late to sort it out.
Be aware of how long you need to keep documents for. Here in the UK, for example, one is required to keep business-related records for at least 6 years from the end of the last company financial year they relate to.
In particular, keep all receipts for purchases made as part of running your craft business. You may require these if you are ever audited by the tax man. Plus they may come in useful for double checking costs later on.
Many people like to keep digital backups of important paperwork by scanning the document and storing it on their computer, a portable hard drive or a cloud-based storage system.
Your Computer Files
If you listened to the last episode of the Craft Seller Success Podcast you will have heard me talking quite a bit about the importance of, and how to back up your computer files. So I won’t go into that again now, other than to say – if it is important to you, back it up!
Organize your computer files in a tidy manner. It is very easy for this stuff to accumulate over time and end up in a disorganized mess. You will then waste time trying to find something you want.
Make the most of computer folders. Group files together in a clearly labelled folder. If you haven’t given this subject much thought before, take time to think about what you need and how best to organize it efficiently.
For example, everything to do with my business is in a folder called Tin Teddy. Within this, there are folders for the different parts of my business. So there is one for the Craft Seller Success Podcast, another for Blog posts, one each for my three Etsy shops, one for my Standalone shop, one for my books and so on.
Within the Podcast folder, there are folders for episode scripts, finished episodes, raw recordings and so on.
Within the Blog folder, there are folders for Craft Book Reviews, Craft Product Reviews, Tutorials.. you get the idea. And then within each of these folders are more folders for each individual blog post, containing all the text, pictures, research and so on for that post.
It really helps to have a proper system for naming files such as documents, images etc. The frustration of not being able to find a file because you can’t remember what you called it is very annoying. And yes, I am speaking from personal experience.
When I take photos for my Tin Teddy Die Cuts products, I have a system that makes it easy to find the files later on. The raw photos are renamed to start with the product’s SKU number, that is the unique identifier for each product, followed by 1, 2, 3 etc. The original raw photos are copied to a backup drive just in case I ever need them again.
Once I have edited the photo and turned it into a finished product picture ready to go in my shops, it is saved in a folder called “Product Photos” and named with a simple version of the product name and 1, 2, 3 etc. So the third picture of some glitter foam unicorns might be called “GlitterUnicorns3”. Or the fourth picture of some felt frogs, the smaller size I make, might be called “FeltFrogsS4” the S stands for small.
You may want to write up a little code for abbreviating some words so your file names are not too long. Once you get used to using the same abbreviations all the time, you will find it easy to find a file you want.
Now I have started to get quite a bit of stock in the Tin Teddy Die Cuts shop, I am going to divide my Product Photos folder into separate folders for felt, foam, card and any other base material I use for the products. This was an idea that came to me after doing a recent shop audit. To find out more about performing an audit on your craft shop or business, check out episode 15, A Shop Audit for Craft Sellers.
Handy Hint – I save the master templates for things like product photos, advertising images, Pinterest templates, receipts and other similar things with an exclamation mark at the start of their file names. This puts them at the front of the lists of files so they easily stand out.
Stocks and Supplies
I have spoken in previous episodes on the importance of keeping your crafting supplies and finished stock, clean, dry and safe. You also need to be able to get to it easily when you need it and to find what you are looking for quickly.
Check out episode 13 Preparing for Christmas Time Craft Selling for more info on storage and I will just add a few more ideas here now.
I have found Pinterest to be a great source of ideas for storage – whether you are looking for commercial products or do-it-yourself solutions. Efficient storage can make a big difference in keeping your craft business organized.
Remember to label all boxes, bags and files! I use a combination of handwritten and printed sticky labels, colour coded sticky dots, labels from a Dymo machine and writing on the boxes directly with a Sharpie pen. The important thing is to make it very clear what is in each box at a glance.
There is a link to the Dymo machine I have at the bottom of the page.
Sort supplies or stock into themed groups to make it easier to find a particular item. The time saved from only having to look in one themed box rather than shuffling through one or several mixed boxes can really add up.
So, for example, rather than having all of the 100 different necklaces from your store in one big box, you might have 4 smaller boxes. One has the gemstone necklaces, one has the silver metal ones, one has the gold metal one and the final box has any other necklaces. Searching for the particular necklace that has just sold now is quicker.
Consider whether you need a system to record the quantities of supplies you have in stock. Accepting a nice big order then realizing you don’t have enough supplies could be quite a problem. You may want to use a spreadsheet or computer app for this, or a simple notebook.
Don’t forget to also organize your craft tools. A few minutes spent putting your crochet hooks into a holder so you can grab the size you want will save you a lot of time of rummaging in a bag for the right size, for every project.
Handy hint – use nail polish, a Sharpy Pen or washi tape to colour code tools you use a lot. Colour code your pencils so you grab the right one every time. Colour code your knitting needles so you can quickly acquire the 4mms you use so often. And colour code your woodworking files you quickly find the grade you need for the job.
If your supplies or finished products have best before or expiry dates, be sure to store them so you can use the oldest up first. Supplies such as paint, glue, resin and foodstuffs can all be affected by this.
I have found that some supplies need to be stored in cool places or else they go funny. And some embossing pastes, for example, seem to need to be kept out of the cold or they go hard.
Other products may need to be kept out of direct sunlight. For example, clear acrylic and polymer stamps will break down and go slimy if you don’t store them in the dark.
And the makers of many brands of alcohol markers recommend they are stored horizontally so that they don’t leak and the nibs don’t dry out.
Be extra careful when storing potentially dangerous tools, chemicals and similar supplies. Especially if you have children or inquisitive pets. Some chemical supplies may actually be covered by legal requirements for safe storage, which you should, of course, follow.
If you are in any doubt about the safe storage of the items you use, look online for suggestions and tips to help you.
Many crafters have an alpha-numeric system for their stock to help them be sure which item is being referred to by a customer. A simple code is allocated to every item. This is called an SKU which stands for Stock Keeping Unit. If you have lots of similar items, I would recommend this idea. You can use the SKU in your online shop to help you identify orders, and can also add it to labels or stock lists.
The SKU can make it easier to know which product a customer is referring to when you have many that could be similar if described.
You may want to consider a similar system for identifying supplies, especially if you have lots of easily confusable items, such as many beads in varying sizes, or different sized pieces of pre-cut wood.
I use very simple SKU systems. My SKUs start with letters that are abbreviations for certain aspects of the product, which is followed by an incrementing number. I have a list of the SKUs in a notebook and backed up online.
It is important to use an SKU system that works for your particular needs. You can find lots of suggestions online for ways to set one up. Keep it as simple as possible though. It is supposed to make things clearer and easier.
Nowadays we have access to information on a scale that our ancestors would have never imagined. But acquiring, storing and then later accessing the info we need can be difficult without a little organization.
Like many craft sellers, I always have a small notebook to hand to write down ideas, thoughts and future product concepts. Some of my best ideas come to me on buses, waiting for a hospital appointment, walking in the countryside or watching films and tv. I write them down, quickly. Or else, no matter how great an idea, it will inevitably be forgotten if I don’t commit it to paper then and there.
There are some very handy apps available to help you gather and store info. I use the very popular Evernote which runs on my phone and my main computer. I can save webpage links, documents, short snippets from articles and much more to Evernote. A lot of people use this app and there are many articles and even books on how to get the most out of it.
Evernote has a free, basic plan. This allows up to 60mb of data to be uploaded per month and you can share data between two devices.
You can add more devices, more storage and other features with monthly paid plans.
Microsoft has a very similar service called OneNote that has been around for a very long time and has many loyal followers. I used to use it a few years ago but found Evernote to be a bit better for my particular uses. There is a free version of this on offer too.
Google also has a very similar service too, called Google Keep. As this is totally free, you may want to give it a try to see if you like it.
I also make a lot of use of the free version of another Google app: Google Drive. This is a cloud-based storage system that you can access from multiple devices. You can store up to 15GB of data for free, and if you need more, you can upgrade to a juicy 100GB of storage for just $1.99 a month. There are other plans too, for power users. I use the free version because Drive is not my main cloud storage system so I don’t need a lot of space on it.
Although my phone is a very basic one, it does take really good pictures. I can easily drop a picture into Google Drive and then download it on my main computer later on. This is quicker than having to remove the memory card to transfer it or emailing it to myself, and free whereas sending as an MMS would cost me.
I also have Google Drive on my Kindle Fire tablet and so can pass documents, pictures and links between all three devices very easily. I can also log in on my mother’s laptop when I am at her house, to show her pictures I have saved, very convenient that.
I also use Google Drive to store backups of various files as well as many personal things too – yes, I confess, I store videos of my guinea pigs on there.
A lot of people use DropBox which works in a similar way. There are quite a few such services available now, many free or very low priced.
Your suppliers are important people. Be sure you have the necessary contact details, web addresses or links stored somewhere safe. Especially for products that you don’t order very often and so might be more likely to forget where you got the last lot from.
Handy Hint – if one of your suppliers offers you a coupon off your next purchase, write this into your planner just before when you expect to need to renew the supplies. If, when you reach that date, you are not yet ready to buy, write the coupon code again a week later until you actually want to order, and use it. Or you could do a similar thing with the coupon code on a piece of paper that you paperclip to pages in your planner. This way you will not forget to use the code next time you order – something that I know many people do and then kick themselves about.
Making useful contacts can really help your craft business. This is known as networking.
When adding new people to computerized, or physical contact lists/books, make sure you add enough information so you can not only contact them in the future but also so you know who they actually are!
Also, include where and when you first met them, this can be very useful later on.
Store business cards somewhere safe.
I have to mention the European Union’s GDPR privacy laws at this point. There are now strict laws on the type of data you can hold, how long you can hold onto it, and how to destroy it. This can affect any data that relates to an individual person, including business cards with a person’s name on them.
I am not a lawyer, nor an expert on these new laws, so I will recommend that you do a bit of research yourself into how the new laws relate to storing business contacts. Here are a couple of useful links about this:
General Data Protection Regulation – Wikipedia
ICO Page on GDPR for Businesses
I will be doing a future episode on networking with lots more hints and tips.
Pinterest is a great, easy way to save the information you find online for future reference.
You can create themed boards to store tutorials, useful contacts, ideas for future projects and much more. I find it a very handy way of storing information for my business.
I talk much more about using Pinterest in this way in episode 12 Pinterest for Craft Sellers.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
Keeping good accounts is really important for any business. Whilst for many people the very word accounts makes them want to switch off and go do something, anything else, not keeping them in control can cost you money, time and sleep.
Luckily, for most craft sellers, it is not too hard to do most or all of your bookkeeping yourself. I will be talking much more about bookkeeping for craft sellers in a podcast episode in the near future.
Create Resource files
You may want to create some sort of resource file with info for future reference, or even a few of these.
Here are three examples that might be used by a crafter who knits.
You could create a resource file for the information bands that go around balls of yarn. You will then have this info in one tidy place. Ideal when you want to order more of a yarn you haven’t used for a while, or you can’t remember the washing instructions for a type of yarn.
Also, you could have a ring binder to store all your patterns, organized further with card dividers into sections. The patterns could also be scanned and backed up on your computer, just in case.
And you could have another resource file with pictures from magazines, printed from the internet, photos and adverts etc with images that inspire you. A magazine article on traditional Chinese costumes could, for example, inspire a colour scheme for a future project. It is easy to have all these interesting titbits scattered around. Make a file for them, give them a home, and you can easily reach for it to flick through when looking for a bit of inspiration.
Time management is a subject I covered in some depth in episode 18, Time Management for Craft Sellers. I am not going to repeat it again here, that would be silly.
I will just mention a few more hints and thoughts on the subject for now.
Be Aware of tax time
Every year I see stressed craft sellers, in online forums, panicking because it is very near to the tax declaration deadline and they haven’t sorted their figures yet. Often they are scared they will not have enough money available to pay a tax bill. Sometimes they will admit they have not looked at their figures all year.
Tax time is known well in advance. It is not a sudden surprise. Be sure you know when any taxes are due, and plan in advance when you will do any necessary paperwork. Never leave it to the last minute.
If you already have another job that puts you over any tax-free thresholds, or you are earning more than the threshold with your craft business, then you will need to pay tax.
Handy Hint – Let’s imagine the tax rate where you live is 20% (obviously it varies hugely, I am just throwing a number out there). Many self-employed people will then budget to put 20% of all their takings to one side throughout the year, ideally in an interest-paying bank account. When tax time comes the money is ready to pay out. Some craft sellers might pay a little more than they need into this account so as to get a nice windfall at tax-time. This makes a traditionally painful time rather nice J
I would always advise a craft seller to keep a close eye on their accounts, at all times. Leaving it to once a year is a recipe for disaster on so many levels. Whilst I know that many crafters find accounting boring, confusing or stressful, it is a necessary evil.
If you need to deal with state tax, VAT or GST taxes in your business, be sure you understand exactly what is required of you to collect and remit/submit them. Paying them late could result in penalties.
I will be talking more about accounting for craft sellers in a future podcast, when, hopefully, I can offer some simple ways to make the subject a lot less painful. For most small craft sellers it really doesn’t need to be the scary bugbear so many people assume it is.
You may want to check out my blog post Ten Tips for Tax Time for more hints on this subject.
Schedules and checklists
As I mentioned in episode 18, Time Management for Craft Sellers, having schedules and checklists for the tasks you regularly perform can really help. I especially like to create checklists for complex tasks that I only perform now and then, and so are very easy to forget.
It is also handy to have checklists for any jobs that you might need to ask someone else to perform for you. For example, you may ask a friend or family member to help you package your products during a busy period, such as Christmas. If you can give them a clear and simple checklist of the stages involved, you will know they are going to get it right, and they will feel reassured that they are helping and not messing stuff up.
Keep Frequently used stuff to hand
Keep the tools and materials you use the closest to hand. You would be amazed how many crafters spend valuable time going to another room for something, again and again, when it could just as easily be stored nearer to their work area. This time adds up!
Take a moment to assess your workflow. What tools and supplies do You use the most? Are they the most easily obtainable ones? Would you work faster and more efficiently if you moved stuff around?
Upcoming busy times
Be very aware of potentially busy times coming up. Be sure you have planned in advance how you will deal with these occasions and that you have made the stock or taken the necessary actions to be prepared in plenty of time. See episode 13 Preparing for Christmas Time for more info on this.
Goal setting has definitely changed my life for the better. I often used to work hard all day only to then feel I hadn’t really got anything actually done.
I am not going to go into goal setting in detail here, because I spoke at length on this subject in episode 14 Goal Setting for Craft Sellers, so you could check out that episode for more details. If you have never tried goal setting, I highly recommend giving it a little try. I was sceptical at first, but when I started to see the results I have used it regularly ever since.
A Few more Handy Hints
There are now numerous apps available to help you with various aspects of organization. These include mini-databases, portable spreadsheets, to do list makers and numerous alarms and reminder apps. Check out the app store on your phone or tablet to see if there are any that could be handy for you.
Small business forums on Reddit, marketplace sites and business magazine websites will often discuss handy apps that the users have discovered.
Here is a handy hint that worked for me, so I wanted to share it. If you find that you struggle to actually implement organizational techniques, it may help to invest in some smart or pretty products.
For example, I bought a few cheap planners, but never really used them. Then I invested in a smart, Filofax one. Because it had cost me more, I was more motivated to actually use it – and I used that particular one for about 6 years so it ended up being well worth the money.
I have included a link to my current Filofax at the bottom of the page.
You may similarly find it easier to make the most of sturdy, well-made storage boxes rather than struggling with cheap, but flimsy and ugly ones.
I am all for saving money, but sometimes having an item I really like works better than having one that is functional but I don’t really love it.
A Dedicated crafting area
I know that for many crafters, space is at a premium. When running a craft business it definitely helps to have a dedicated space for at least some aspects, if you possibly can.
With a dedicated space you can have your most used tools near to hand. You can leave partially finished projects safely to continue with them later. You will know where your stuff is, and you will probably feel more in control of things.
Of course, a large, dedicated studio is just a dream for many crafters. I too have drooled over the pictures of some people’s beautiful, huge studios.
I live in a very tiny house. Seriously. My studio or craft room is a teeny little thing. I use it mainly for storage. My computer is also in there but there is little room to actually do any crafting.
I operate my Tin Teddy Die Cuts business from my dining room table. It is just as well I don’t entertain because I now have an area that is full of felt, foam and boxes. It is neat and organized, of course (you will have to trust me on that one, hehe!). Just not a dining room any more!
Craft sellers work in many different locations. For some, it is a bedroom or spare room. Some have a summer house or shed. Others are in a basement or attic and some rent or own a studio, workshop or similar location.
If you can’t use a full room for your crafting, a corner or desk or table can be enough. I know plenty of crafters who store all their supplies in a rolling tote and then just drag it over to their armchair to craft. Obviously, this is far more doable for paper crafting or knitting rather than woodturning!
If you do use potentially dangerous tools or supplies in your crafting and have children or pets, definitely consider the possibility of having a dedicated room where you can close the door and perhaps lock it for safety. Or at least a lockable cupboard or trunk.
For More Hints
There have been numerous other hints on organizing your craft business in previous podcasts. In particular, you may want to check out episode 27, Dealing with Emergencies For Craft Sellers which has quite a bit on computer files. Episode 13 Preparing for Christmas time Craft Selling has lots on streamlining your workflow and making life more efficient and episode 18, Time Management for Craft Sellers has lots of info on organizing one’s time, as you would expect from the title.
I would love to hear some of your hints and tips for keeping your craft business organized. Please comment on the show notes on the Tin Teddy Blog.
And if there is a subject you would like me to cover in a future episode of the podcast, please do let me know.
The next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 29 is called Monetizing Your Craft Blog . It will be out on the 14th of May 2019. Whether your blog is to support your craft selling business, or if you blog about crafts just for fun, you may be able to earn a little from the blog itself. Lots of ideas and hints, including some that may surprise you! Oh, and it will be of use if you blog isn’t about crafts at all, shh, we won’t tell on ya.
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
Helping craft sellers to sell their crafts.
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