Time Management for Craft Sellers
Welcome to Episode 18 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. And it is a bumper episode!
I will be exploring some of the popular ways entrepreneurs and business owners manage their time. As with all podcast episodes I will of course be concentrating on craft sellers and their needs.
Listen to the Time Management for Craft Sellers podcast here, download it for later or read the transcript below.
Listen on iTunes
To see the other episodes available – Craft Seller Success Podcast Main Page
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number eighteen – Time Management for Craft Sellers
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
Go on, admit it, you have said “I wish I had more time”. I think we all say it now and then.
Time is a tricky commodity. We only have a finite amount of it. Once we have used it, it is gone forever. It sometimes seems to go far more quickly than we expect. And when you are a craft seller it doesn’t seem to matter how much you have, it is never quite enough to do all the things you want.
No matter who you are, we all only have 24 hours in a day. And a good chunk of those hours need to be used for little things like sleeping, eating, cleaning ourselves and our surroundings, being with our families, friends and, for many craft sellers, a full or part-time job.
You may be working full time on your craft selling business. You may do a few hours here and there, working around other commitments. Or somewhere in between. Whoever you are, managing your time is an essential part of running your own business.
Sadly, I can’t offer you some magic secret sauce that will grant you any more hours, if only I could! But hopefully, this podcast episode will have some ideas, tools and techniques which may help you to squeeze a few more productive hours out of your days, and help you to get more done when you are working.
And yes, I am aware of the irony that the episode on Time Management is the longest one so far! Sit back for a bumper episode…
What is Time Management?
Many people have rather negative associations with the phrase “time management”. Perhaps it brings up memories of working for a big company and having to fill in endless time sheets, documenting every time you went to the loo or how long you were there!
Or maybe it is the idea that time management means having every minute of your day planned out. So no spontaneity, no flexibility, no fun.
Hey, this is Time Management for Craft Sellers. You are your own boss here. You get to decide what time management means for you.
In this episode, I am going to be talking about some of the tried and tested techniques for getting the most out of your precious time. Some may be very handy for you. And some may not suit you at all.
Although we may all be craft sellers, we all have very different business models, sell in different niches, work differing numbers of hours and have totally different circumstances in our daily lives.
Thinking about time management definitely can help pretty much everyone. As a small business owner, you already do think about it – you have to!
So hopefully I can offer some new ideas and tools that will benefit you – but feel free to totally ignore anything that doesn’t sound relevant to you, or you just don’t like the sound of, hehe.
Some Time Management Tools You Can Try
Use a planning tool
You probably use some sort of planning tool already, most craft sellers do. This can be a physical item such as a planner, bullet journal, diary or calendar. Or maybe you prefer a digital tool on your computer, tablet and/or phone.
Amongst the many things you can use your planner for you might include:
- Important deadlines such as tax returns
- When bills are due
- Meetings – in person or online
- Seminars and courses
- When your sales, promotions and marketing campaigns will start and stop
- When you need to do your accounts or record statistics about your business
- Holidays and other dates that affect your business, such as Black Friday
- Social media schedules
- When your favourite podcasts come out
Being able to plan ahead has been proven time and again to have a significant effect on whether a business or indeed sales campaign succeeds or not.
What do I use?
I have a physical planner and have done so for about 10 years now. This year, 2018, I have been using a Busy Days planner (there is a review of this on the Tin Teddy Blog if you would like to know more about it, just click the link) and next year I will be using a hybrid of a traditional Filofax planner and a bullet journal.
I like the Filofax system because I can easily insert pages throughout the year. I not only have my daily planner in the Filofax case but also lots of information for my business, contact details, checklists and more. So I only need to replace the planner pages each year, the rest can stay if still valid.
Bullet Journals and Trackers
Bullet journals, often abbreviated to Bujos, are very popular right now. They are super cheap and require no special equipment, just a notebook and pen really. But they do take some time to set up and utilize. They tend to mainly be used by those who want to enjoy taking the time to decorate and enhance them, but that is definitely not a must – I suspect my bullet journal pages will start of all pretty but end up purely functional by the end of the year!
The feature of bullet journals that I wanted to “steal” for my own time management planner system was the use of trackers. Trackers are simple grids where you can mark off that you have done things that you need to do regularly. So you track that you are doing them.
I have set up some daily trackers. I printed out a simple grid with the numbers 1 to 31 down one side, for each day of the month. The columns of the grid are labelled with things I would like to do daily in 2019.
So, for example, I have columns for processing craft shop sales, one for checking my email, another for pinning to Pinterest and so on. Each day I can colour in the box to show I have done the task.
I have also set up trackers to help me ensure I do important tasks like an antivirus scan each week, backups and saving important data, and various social media tasks that I want to be sure I do regularly.
You can also set up trackers to record information over time. So I have one where I can write in the names of all the business books I read throughout 2019. Whilst this is not really essential information, I think it would be interesting to look back on in years to come.
I will be doing a detailed blog post about my hybrid planner and how it helps me with my craft businesses early in 2019 when I have been using it for a while and know if it works!
There are many tutorials and guides to bullet journals on blogs, YouTube and so on. I have a board on my Tin Teddy Pinterest account with lots of links to bullet journal tutorials, ideas and inspiration. I have another about Planners in general.
Set and Use SMART Goals
Episode 14 of the podcast was Goal Setting For Craft Sellers. In that episode I talked about how to set SMART goals – SMART goals are basically goals that work.
I discussed how I was using goal setting to plan, create and populate a new craft shop on Etsy – which I indeed did, it is Tin Teddy Die Cuts.
If you haven’t listened to this episode, or read the full transcript on the Tin Teddy Blog, you may like to do so. Using goal setting can make it much easier to break your big tasks down into manageable blocks, to prioritise what to do next and to motivate you to actually get on and do them.
Use a To Do List
Ah, the much loved, and dreaded, to-do-list.
Many of us use a to-do-list, indeed I am sure a lot of people are like me and would be forgetting things all over the place without one.
I personally use a digital to-do list, an app called ToDoIst. I have this set up on my phone and my computer. If I think of something I need to do when I am out an about I can easily add it on my phone and it will be there on the list when I sit down to work at my computer.
Last thing every night I look at my to-do list and reassess it. Sometimes things that were once important are no longer needed and can be deleted. I make sure that I know which few things are the must-dos the next day – and that they are clearly marked as such. Spending a bit of time tidying up the list and ensuring it doesn’t get too long is well worth doing. A shorter, more organized to do list is more likely to get done.
One of the most common reasons that a to-do list doesn’t work out is having too many things on it and not knowing which to actually do next.
So, the important thing with such a list is knowing how to prioritize the items on it. Otherwise, it is easy to have an ever growing list that will soon seem too overwhelming to tackle. I know I have done this in the past.
So let’s look at ways to help us…
Not prioritizing your tasks is one of the easiest ways to find that you don’t get as much done with your time as you wanted. I am sure we have all had one of those days where you have been busy, busy, busy all day, wearing yourself to a frazzle, but at the end of the day you look back and realise you really didn’t get much done at all. This is very frustrating.
The system I found that helped me prioritize my tasks, and one that is hugely popular, is called the….
It is nice and simple to remember and use. You basically only need to learn two simple things.
1 – All of your tasks can be considered either urgent or not urgent.
2 – All of your tasks can also be considered either important, or.. you guessed it.. not important.
Urgent is when something needs to be done very soon. You can not put it off for long. There is a deadline and it is jolly close.
So if you have a red bill for your electricity, saying that you must pay before tomorrow or your power will be cut off – that is urgent. You have a strict time limit that you can not ignore.
If you spot a sweater you really like, on eBay, and the auction is ending at 6 pm tonight, that is also urgent. You must bid by 6 pm or your chance at the sweater is gone.
Important means that if you do the task it will have a significant positive effect for you – or that not doing the task will have a significant negative effect for you.
So if you don’t pay that red electricity bill you will lose your power, which I assume you would not want. So this task is important, as well as urgent.
If you don’t bid on the sweater, well, let’s face it, there will be other sweaters. Although bidding is urgent, it is not really important. You will not suffer greatly if you don’t bid – no matter how cute it looks….
With these two criteria, urgent and important, we can allocate all our tasks as having one of four states.
Urgent and Important
– these are the biggies. This is something that should be done right away. Prioritize this task and get on with it as soon as you can!
An example might be shipping out a customer order on the last day of your shipping window – this is urgent and important. You must do it today to be inside your promised shipping times, and it is important because customer orders are always important.
Urgent but not Important
This task does need to be done quickly, but as it is not important you should not prioritize it over things that are both urgent and important. You might even be able to delegate it to someone else.
An example of this might be attending this evening ’s free online seminar on your niche. It will almost certainly not contain anything that you didn’t know already but might be a bit interesting. This is urgent because the seminar is today and only today. But it is probably not important if you are already familiar with the likely content. If you are not busy with anything important at the time of the seminar then you could consider going… but if you have some urgent and important things that need doing then it is probably best to give it a miss.
Not urgent and important
schedule when you intend to do this type of task. Be sure you have a deadline. Whilst you should be focusing on the urgent important things first, this sort of task will need to be dealt with once they are out of the way.
An example could be listing my new Christmas lines in July – this is not urgent but it is important. I could list them tomorrow, or next week, it is still a long time until Christmas shopping tends to start so I am not in a hurry… but it is important because I have spent valuable time making the items and if I don’t post them at all I can not sell them.
Listing these lines will become urgent later on in the year though.
Not urgent and not important
make a note of this task but don’t bother with it for now. Add it to a list to reassess at a later date, perhaps. It may become more urgent or important over time. This is a task that you should only do when you have no others that need your time more. If you are very busy, consider just deleting it.
An example that comes to mind is making a new product from an idea I have just had – this is not urgent or important. I would make a note of this in an “Ideas for Future Products” list and then reconsider it when I have am not busy with other things.
You may disagree with some of my definitions here. Obviously, there are numerous factors that affect the decisions, these were very simplistic examples.
Next time you are struggling to prioritise your to-do list or to know what task to do next, try the Eisenhower Box method to see if that helps.
The Getting Things Done system
There is a popular time management system called Getting Things Done. This was devised by David Allen in his range of books of the same name – see Amazon links at the bottom of this article.
Basically Getting Things Done uses multiple to-do lists. You assess the lists every day, moving items from one to another to ensure that you tackle the priorities first. There are lists for short term, medium term and various long-term tasks.
Personally, I found the system to be very time-consuming in itself, but I know a lot of people use it and swear by it. And I have used a few ideas from the book.
If you find it very hard to prioritise or manage your to-do lists, you may want to check it out and see if it would work for you.
Procrastination and Frogs
For many years procrastination was my biggest headache. Time and again I found myself getting very frustrated as I had plenty of things I needed to do but was somehow just not getting on and doing them. I would find myself looking for other things to do instead. Or just continually telling myself I would “do it a little later” or “best to start that tomorrow”.
Procrastination can be crippling. It is annoying, upsetting and for many people very hard indeed to get past. Most people have problems with it to some degree, at some point in their life.
Lots of people find that having very clearly defined goals and prioritised to-do lists helps them avoid a lot of procrastination. When you know what you should be doing next it is easier to get on with it. It is when you have to make an on-the-spot decision as to what to do that procrastination can sneak in and hamper you.
I am not going to say I don’t ever have procrastination problems nowadays, because I do, now and then. But I certainly am a lot better than I once was. A lot of that is down to one little book that I discovered. It is such as cliche to say it changed my life, but it did, so I guess it is ok to say it.
The book was Eat That Frog by Brian Tracey (links at the end of the show notes). It is a small book and an easy read. The basic principle is to imagine if you had to eat a disgusting, slimy frog every day. You have to. It is therefore probably best to eat the frog as soon as you get up, then the rest of the day you don’t have to worry about it. if you put off eating the frog until the last minute you will be continually fretting and dreading the upcoming experience, it will ruin the whole day.
And it is the same for those very important tasks too. The ones you really should do. The ones that will make the biggest difference to your business. The ones you have been putting off. They are your frogs.
If every day you start by tackling the biggest, ugliest frog you have, in other words, the most important but also most uninviting task on your list, you will get it out of the way and the rest of the day’s tasks will seem much easier and more pleasant in contrast.
There is of course much more in the book, with lots of interesting examples and many additional tips and ideas for time management. I reread it a couple of times every year to re-inspire and motivate me.
Implementing the “eat that frog” principle made a massive difference to my business. Like with so many things I was doubtful at first that it would, but was so pleased with the results that I have now been scoffing frogs for years.
The Pomodoro Technique
This is another very popular time management system which you might find useful. It is good for helping you focus on a task, whilst not getting fatigued.
It requires your setting a timer before starting a task that needs to be done. Traditionally the timer is for 25 minutes, but you could have course change that if you prefer.
Then you knuckle down and work hard on the task, until the timer goes off.
Then you make a mark on a scrap of paper, take a short break of about 5 minutes, then reset the timer and get back to work.
You repeat this process until you have 4 checkmarks on the paper, in other words you have done 4 working sessions.
Then you have a longer break, usually 15-30 minutes.
And, if your task is not finished.. you reset the timer and start again.
There are of course quite a few variations on this now, and numerous apps that you can get for it. A quick search of “pomodoro technique” will bring many up.
If you are wondering about the unusual name, pomodoro is Italian for “tomato”. When this technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, he used a tomato shaped timer!
A technique that I have found has helped me save time, and improve my efficiency is the use of checklists and procedure lists. I have found two scenarios where they particularly help.
1 – I have created checklists of all the stages that I need to do for complex, multi-stage tasks. For example, listing a new product on Etsy or creating and publishing an episode of this podcast.
The checklist has everything I need to do in the order in which I need to do it. I print them out and laminate them. Then I can tick things off with a water-based marker as I go along. I don’t end up forgetting to pin my new listing to Pinterest, or to spell check the podcast show notes.
2 – I have procedure lists for complex tasks that I don’t do very often, and so am inclined to forget how to do.
For example, I have one that details what I need to do, in the right order, to set up a new WordPress website. I have done this quite a few times now, for myself and family members, but there can be quite a time gap in between. My procedure list means I don’t waste time having to double check how to do things or trying to remember where things are on my web host’s site.
I can adjust the checklists and procedures if things change over time, add to them or remove from them too.
Other Time Management Techniques
Here are some other time management techniques and tips that you may find helpful.
Store Things Properly
One of the most frustrating wastes of time is when you find yourself searching high and low for something you have lost. I have experienced this annoying situation more times than I care to admit.
When it comes to your craft business, try to keep things organized to prevent this unnecessary waste of your time.
Ensure your materials and supplies, your finished stock and your packaging supplies are all safely stored. Make sure they are not only safe but that you can easily find them when you want them. Label boxes, colour code, create SKUs, whatever you need to find things quickly and painlessly.
Declutter and Organize
Try to keep your working areas as clear as possible. A surprising amount of time can be wasted when one has to keep moving things to get to what you want or trying to find something in amongst chaos.
Many people swear that spending a few minutes at the end of each working day tidying your desk or workspace saves you far more time the following day.
Make sure the tools and supplies you use the most are near to hand
I like to do some watercolour painting now and then. One day I reached to get water on my brush and splashed some onto my work in progress, ruining it. After saying a few choice swear words, I realised that I had been doing something very silly.. for years. My water pot had always stood on the left side of my painting. I am right-handed. This means that I was continually reaching over the painting to get to the water. Not only was this dangerous.. as had just been proved.. but it was a waste of time. Moving my water pot to the right side of the painting, next to my paints, meant each brush-fill took only a third as long as before. Over the course of a painting that could add up to quite a bit of wasted time.
For a long time, I found it very hard to focus on one task at a time. I would start something then think of something else that needed doing and swap to that. Then another idea would pop in my head and I would down tools and start on the new thing… and so on.
Studies have shown that when one concentrates on just one task, from beginning to end, and only then swap to another task, one gets a lot more done overall… which to be honest is probably common sense. Every time you swap from one task to another there is a wasted period of transition. During this you are stopping thinking about the first task, maybe physically putting down tools, switching computer windows or moving things around, and then firing your brain up to think about the new thing. The first little while of working on a new task may not be very productive because you are still “getting in the groove”.
By using a prioritised to do list I have found it much easier to focus on one task at a time.
Now I look at my list, do the first task, then the second and so on. I try to completely finish each task wherever I can.
I love ticking things off my list, well actually I delete them as it is a digital list. Seeing it getting shorter throughout the day is very motivating. The more I do, the more I want to crack on and do.
Again I will mention that to do lists are not carved in stone. You can change things as you go along if you need. Whilst they can really help you stay on track and get the important jobs done, remember, you are still the boss of your own time management!
The Pareto Principle
I will briefly mention the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, because many entrepreneurs have found it useful to think about, so you might also.
Basically, an Italian economist called Vilfredo Pareto noticed that around 80% of all the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. He went on to study many other statistics and again and again, he found this 80/20 coming up.
In 1997, Richard Koch published his groundbreaking book “The 80/20 Principle” in which he suggested that in business, 80% of sales tend to come from 20% of the business’s customers.
Similarly, in many businesses, 80% of the revenue is generated by just 20% of the products they sell.
Have a look at your own product lines. Do you have some that bring in far more than the others? You probably do.
Using this theory, many retailers have changed their business models so that they concentrate more of their efforts on the 20% of their products or services that are generating the most revenue for them.
You may also hear of the Pareto Principle when people say that, for many of us, just 20% of our productive time creates 80% of our useful output. Being aware of this, and then working to use our time on the more productive tasks can greatly increase one’s business success and save time.
There is much talk of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule in business magazines, books and courses. You may want to read up more on it and how understanding it can help you get more from your precious time.
Many self-employed people find that having something of a schedule really can help them manage their time better. So it may be worth considering if you don’t do this already.
There are a few different ways to schedule stuff.
Working Week Schedule
Firstly there is creating a “working week” schedule for yourself. When working for someone else, many jobs have set times. You may always start at 9 am and work to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, for example. With a couple of tea breaks, a lunch break and weekends off. This is the traditional “9 to 5”. Nowadays not so many people actually work literally 9-5 though.
Some self-employed craft sellers find that they get more done when they echo this type of structure.
So they set themselves specific work hours. As your own boss, you get to set these hours. Although, of course, you may well have to fit them around other commitments such as another job, childcare and.. don’t forget it! sleep and eating.
So a craft seller who works from home and her craft shop is her only job may set herself working hours of… start work at 10 am and finish at 7 with a two-hour break for lunch during which she goes to the post office with orders most days.
A craft seller who has a regular 9-5 job and works for 2 hours every evening on her craft shop might decide that as she gets in at 5:30, she will have dinner then work on her shop from 8-10 every evening. And, she decides, she will work 9-3 on Saturdays and take Sunday off.
If you are finding that you procrastinate about starting work, or are easily distracted by “just one more episode on Netflix” or “I will just check Facebook again first” then having predefined working hours may make it much easier to get in that craft room and start work.
Another time management technique is to consider allocating particular activities to particular days.
For example, you might always do your accounts on a Friday afternoon. Or schedule Tuesday to work on upcoming blog posts. Or perhaps you tackle all your social media posts at weekends.
And another way to schedule your time is to allocate specific time periods for certain tasks.
So a full-time craft seller might decide that she will work on creating products in the mornings, do packaging and posting of orders in the early afternoon then spend the rest of the day on marketing.
You can of course mix and match these techniques to create a schedule that suits you.
And here is the great thing. Remember how I said you are your own boss? Well, this means you can be flexible with your schedule – you created it, after all. You can adapt it if things change. You can change it if you find it is not working as you would like. And you can improve it, expand it or ignore it as you see fit.
The other really great thing about having a schedule like this is you can ensure you are making time for yourself and your family and friends.
I am sure that many of you will relate when I say how easy it is, as a self-employed craft seller, to find yourself working every hour you possibly can… perhaps staying up very late or missing out on family fun.
Of course, there may be times when we have to burn the candle at both ends. Many craft sellers, for example, have to relinquish their usual schedules and work much longer hours than usual at Christmas time. If this is something that happens to you, please do check out Episode 13 – Preparing for Christmas Time Selling as there are lots of ideas in there to help with this busy time – many could, of course, be equally applicable for other busy times too.
But we all know that working non-stop is not good for us, can lead to feeling burnt out and exhausted, exasperate health issues and of course, upset our family and friends.Me-time, family-time and friends-time are legitimate and important uses of your time.Click To Tweet
Scheduling allows you to be sure you have time for these important things.
If you have preset working hours you get to “clock out” and relax without feeling so guilty as you previously might have. You know that when you are out with your kids on a Sunday afternoon that this is part of your schedule and you need not be fretting about work. Me-time, family-time and friends-time are legitimate and important uses of your time. Add them into your schedule then enjoy them!
One way to squeeze a bit more time into your day is to think about multitasking.
This simply means doing more than one thing at once.
You may be thinking that earlier on I said that it is often considered beneficial to concentrate on one thing at a time… and indeed it is. Multitasking works well when you can still concentrate on one thing at a time, but are actually getting multiple tasks done. Let me explain what I mean…
You may have tasks that can be stacked. Here are some common ones:
- You may be able to listen to business podcasts (like this one) or audio books, whilst doing some crafts, such as knitting
- Some crafters are able to create whilst watching documentaries on the tv too – or at least listen to them and look up now and then!
- Similarly, you could perhaps listen to the radio to stay up to date on current affairs, or internet radio that is connected to your niche
- You can fill in the rest of your Etsy listing whilst the photos are still uploading
- Maybe you could tidy up your emails, or check social networks whilst waiting in a queue on the phone
- You could pin a few items to Pinterest whilst waiting for the bath to fill or your kettle to boil
- You could tidy your work area for the day whilst waiting for the dinner to cook
- Podcasts and audiobooks are great on journeys
- And if you are on public transport, ie not driving, you may be able to read digital books on your phone or a tablet …. or grab a notebook and brainstorm new ideas!
One way to really get more from your precious time is to let modern technology help you out a bit.
There are numerous programs and apps that can automatically do things so you don’t have to. Here are a few examples:
There are quite a few services that will automate your social media postings for you. This means you can schedule a bunch of posts at once, and the service will then post them to your chosen social network over a period of time. Some are free, but usually somewhat limited. Others require a monthly fee. if you find you are spending a lot of time on social media you may well find an automatic scheduler quite a time booster.
I have used the free version of Hootsuite and found it easy and reliable. There are other very similar services available such as Buffer and Sprout: just search online for “social media scheduling” to find lots of options.
Many Pinterest users swear by Tailwind. This has a monthly fee but does seem to offer quite a lot of different tools that may be useful to you, so it is worth checking out. For more information on using Pinterest with your craft business, check out episode 12 Pinterest for Craft Sellers.
WordPress and other blogging platforms can post your blog posts whenever you require. Many bloggers write a bunch of posts at once then use this feature to publish them over time. You can also get quite a few different scheduling plugins with additional features such as calendars.
Your antivirus, backup and other computer utility programmes may be able to be automated. Having these basic housekeeping tasks running automatically in the background can again save you quite a bit of time over a year.
Use a bookmark or shortcut on your computer so you can quickly go to your online shop. I use different browsers for each of my 3 Etsy shops and each has the dashboard of the shop in question as the home page and customized shortcut bars for that shop. I also have shortcuts to other sites I use a lot such as my Amazon author site, Todoist, my main Tin Teddy site and so on.
One useful little time saver that I really like is the use of a text expander. This is a little program that runs in the background and allows you to type lengthy snippets with just a few keypresses. There are many of these available. I am currently trying out Phrase Express on my Windows PC and so far have found it to be very useful indeed.
Let me give you an example of how they work. Let’s say you often get people asking about what colours you can make your polymer clay dragons in. You have a list of available colours. Rather than having to retype the whole list every time someone asks, you could set up the list in your text expander, with a shortcut – let’s say “claylist”. Then you only need type “claylist” and the program will instead type the full list for you.
Sure, you could have the list in a document and copy and paste it each time, but using a text expander is much faster.
I have mine set up with things like my name and address, links to my shops, details of the last posting dates for Christmas and many more things that I find myself typing again and again.
Saving Time Whilst Creating Your Crafts
For many craft sellers, one of the biggest uses of their time is creating the crafted products they sell.
Your potential earnings from your crafts are restricted to how many you can actually make. So finding ways to produce your wares a bit quicker can make a big difference to your business, both short term and long term.
Here are some ideas for speeding up your crafting:
1 Can you do any stages of your products in a batch? Very often creating 10 of something in one go does not take ten times longer than creating just one. You only have to get your equipment out (and put it away) once. You can concentrate on just one process at a time.
2 Make the most of quiet times when you have few sales, to create popular stock or partially prepare items you will finish later. Even if you usually make your products to order, you may be able to have some stock on hand of the items you know you regularly sell.
In Episode 13, Preparing for Christmas Time Craft Selling, I mentioned my friend who creates lovely knitted Christmas stockings. She knits the bottom part of the socks during the quiet summer months. Then when orders come in near Christmas she can grab a sock and knit the top, which has the recipient’s name on it. This makes her busy Christmas period much easier and quicker.
3 Keep a close eye on your stocks of crafting materials and supplies. If you run out of something you will usually need to either wait for more to arrive by post or take time out to go buy some locally. Many craft sellers do a regular stock check of their supplies, especially when coming up to busy periods.
4 If you have tools that are easily lost or broken, but important for your crafting, consider investing in spares.
The loss of an important tool will cause a delay in creating products whilst you acquire a new one.
So if you do most of your crochet on a size 3mm hook, be sure you have a spare or two in your crochet bag in case you lose or break the one you mainly use.
Many full-time sewists keep an older sewing machine on hand as an emergency spare in case their newer, main one should develop a fault in the middle of a big order.
A rather different type of tool… I can do most things for my online business on either my main computer or my Android tablet. And a lot of them can be done on my (actually very basic) phone too. If my main PC died, I can carry on until I can fix it or replace it.
And this leads me nicely to the other thing I always do in case of computer problems….
Backup Listings and Sites
If you sell on Etsy, take a few seconds to regularly download your listing data, especially if you ever use bulk editors. Go to Shop manager, settings, options, download data, Currently for Sale Listings “Download CSV” This file will contain all the data for each listing. If you ever accidentally delete a listing you can use this to easily recreate it. Also, if Etsy ever closes, or. heaven forbid, you are banned for some reason, you can use this data to help you set up on a new marketplace.
If you sell on other marketplaces they well may have something similar.
If you sell via a standalone site, look for ways to back up the site if you don’t already. I have backups for all my WordPress sites scheduled in my planner. I back up both to my physical hard drive and also to cloud storage. There are many tools to help you do this. There are even some that will do it totally automatically for you, such as the premium version of the WordPress plugin, Jetpack. Your web server host may also offer this service.
Having to try to recreate multiple listings, or a whole website, without this sort of backup can take ages – and is rather soul-destroying work. Please don’t think it will never happen to you.
Outsourcing and VAs
Finally, I am going to mention outsourcing and VAs – Virtual Assistants, as I know that quite a few small business owners now use these.
There may be some tasks that need to be done in your craft selling business, but which don’t really need you, yourself, to do them.
Many craft sellers have family members or friends who help them at busy times with these delegatable tasks.
Others employ someone. This may be a physical assistant who comes to your house, studio or wherever you run your business and helps you. If you want to employ someone like this, most countries and states will have laws and regulations that you need to check up on first.
A cheaper and easier option is to use a VA. VA stands for Virtual Assistant, and as you will probably guess this means you do not meet with them in person but all the work is done via the internet. The VA may be in a different country to you.
VAs can do many routine tasks including answering emails, writing copy, listing items in your shop, doing accounts, SEO and keyword research, Social Media and web design.
There are numerous companies that can put you in touch with reliable Virtual Assistants, and help you decide what tasks you are going to outsource to them.
You will, of course, need to consider the security of your business when doing this. Take extreme care if you will be allowing someone else to access admin areas of your shop or website. In particular, make sure they can not access your financial information such as credit card details.
I have not personally used a VA, but have it on my long-term plans should I need this sort of assistance.
A great source of information on VAs, what they can do for you and how to find and employ one, is in Tim Ferriss’s bestselling book “The 4 Hour Work Week”. Because it is very important to me that I am honest with you guys, I will say that there is quite a bit in the book that will probably not be usable for the average craft seller, and I am also going to add that there are some suggestions that I personally would not feel comfortable with using. Having said that, it does have a lot of info on VAs and time management and many, many entrepreneurs consider this book a must-read. And I have learnt some very useful things from it myself.
There is a lot more info on organizing the various aspects of your craft business in episode 28, The Organized Craft Seller.
A power or internet outage, computer failure, illness or injury can threaten your craft business. Check out episode 27, Dealing with Emergencies for Craft Sellers for lots of hints and tips on how to plan to prevent or lessen the damage.
I hope that you have heard a few ideas that sound like they might work for you. I would love to hear more about your own Time Management techniques. Please do comment on the show notes on the Tin Teddy Blog.
Links to all the sites mentioned, and a full transcript is in the Show Notes on the Tin Teddy Blog.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast, episode 19 is called Argh, I got a bad review in my craft shop!
All craft sellers dread getting a less than stellar review, but if you trade online long enough it is bound to one day happen. I will be talking about how to handle such a review, and how many can be turned around to actually be assets to your business – yes, seriously.
This episode will be out on the 25th December 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
Original music by Matthew French
Craft Seller Success from Tin Teddy
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The books mentioned in this article
Below are links to some of the products used, on Amazon.com (top) and Amazon.co.uk (bottom). If you use these links to go to Amazon and buy, I will receive a small commission for sending a customer their way. This is at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you.