9 Things I’ve learned While Becoming a 6-figure Craft Business Owner.

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My gross sales total for 2015 was $109,082. Yeah!

Here are a few things I learned over the year as I grew my numbers.

1. It’s not all rosey.

Right now I am working a LOT. (This site you’re on right now took a major backseat over the last 6 months as my craft business kept me wayyy busy.)

I’m finding it difficult to achieve balance between life and work right now, and I think it’s because I’m in a pretty big state of growth… I’m hoping it’s just a matter of working through it. For example, I’ve found that my business outgrew certain systems that I’d had in place for forever, and so I’m having to make some big changes in how I do some things.. and learning new systems and ways of doing things takes time.

I’ve also found it harder to stick to my schedule – and yet a schedule is more important now than it’s ever been. Navigating all this change has made me feel a little like an awkward teenager, straddling the line between a child-like state where I was more hobby than business…. to adulthood, with more responsibility to make smart decisions that will grow my business and turn a real profit.

Is it worth it? Oh, yes. I am working more, but I also feel more motivated and fulfilled than I ever have before.

2. It’s not all profit.

As my sales went up, so did my expenses. I think we inherently know this, but still, while we’re dreaming, it’s easy to set that aside. Aside from higher supply cost, other costs that went up for me were:

Software & website management – I had to upgrade certain parts of my online systems to handle the increased business. For example, I’m paying $50 a month now for shipping software – an expense I wouldn’t have dreamed of paying for before, when I could just ship through PayPal for free… but now I consider it a necessity. (PayPal shipping just sucks when you’re sending a lot of packages.:) )

Email management – My email list has grown a lot, and it’s now $150/month. Another necessity though.

Legal Fees & Taxes – Ugh.

Advertising – This year I really started utilizing Facebook ads. (Which I LOVE. I’ll have some more articles about using Facebook very soon.)

Tools – Yep, gone are the days when my rotary cutter blade lasted me a whole month or more. It’s amazing how expenses that were once small can start to add up when you increase production.

And, as you spend more, every penny starts to count (even more than it did). I scour for the absolute best prices I can get on shipping supplies, product supplies, etc. (And this is another reason I avoid Etsy fees all I can. That’s an unnecessary expense as far as I’m concerned.)

And when it comes to software and admin expenses, I look for the best value, not necessarily the cheapest. If it’s cheap, but adds to the amount of time I have to spend on something, it’s out.

3. More sales means a LOT more customer support needs.

I’m still struggling with this. I’ve been through two VA’s (I almost cried when my last assistant left – she was awesome and I had visions of her becoming my future COO one day).. and I’m actively searching for someone else as I type this. I know that I can’t keep making product, marketing, shipping, photographing, and still have any kind of life… AND still answer a zillion emails every day.

4. No more flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to my product creation.

Selling in higher volumes means planning is needed. Planning (ahead of time – WAY ahead of time) for more supplies, planning for when/how you’ll market the product, planning for how you’ll ship – planning becomes a necessity.

Being a creative type, I find this difficult. In fact, trying to skip the planning held me back for years. Now that I am finding myself needing to plan a year in advance for my product and marketing, I am realizing that I wouldn’t be able to grow further without it.

5. With that being said, it’s the action that breeds more growth.

Planning is necessary, but a lot of us end up stuck there. I find sometimes that I’ll be trying to plan something out, and I’ll get stuck on some stupid, tiny detail – and my mind will just totally refuse to get past it.

That’s because it’s the action that opens up the doors to creativity. New ideas begin to flow when you just sit down and start doing.

6. A marketing calendar makes life so much easier.

This is a whole post in itself. HERE is how I do my marketing calendar.

7. A mastermind group of like minded peers is business-changing.

I went on my first business mastermind retreat this past fall. I am really shy, very introverted, and was scared half to death to do it. I had all sorts of fears… that I wasn’t “far enough along” in my business, that I wouldn’t have anything to bring to the table.. even that no one would like me. (yes, a total 6th grade fear, I know.)

Oh, how I wish I’d done it sooner. Meeting these ladies was business changing, and now I consider them not just super-smart business people, but my friends, too. I have them to bring questions to, ask for help from, and to bring a new perspective to my business. And, I can strive to do the same for them, which helps me continue to learn and grow and be a better person. If you’ve ever considered joining a mastermind, or going on a business retreat, I cant recommend enough that you go for it. It will change your business and life.

8. No more getting caught up in the marketing “hype” about how to grow my business.

There are just a few people I listen to now, and they are people who have actually done what they are teaching. There are so many people out there simply re-gurgitating a bunch of crap that they heard some other marketer say, and it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not.

Well, you learn and grow by actually doing, not just listening.

I’ve gracefully deleted myself from a lot of email lists over the last year, and I strictly protect what I let influence my business decisions nowadays.

9. Setting sales goals works.

Many of the things I listed above came about as a result of deciding in the first place that yes, I am, going to make $100,000 in sales this year.

First, last spring, I wrote myself a check for $100,000 and dated it Dec 31, 2015. I stuck it to the wall right in front of my desk.

Then I thought, “How can I actually sell this much?” People say all the time that they would like to make a certain amount of money. But oftentimes they never think further than that. (I did this too, for years.) But, how can you make more money if you don’t at least get the ball rolling in that direction?

But, here’s the thing… We really don’t know exactly how to make that money. Otherwise, we’d already be making it, right?

So, my “just start somewhere” approach was to simply write down how many ornaments, ornament kits, and patterns I would actually have to sell each month to make it. I listed out actual numbers and prices.

At first, this looked completely scary and completely un-doable.

And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t. In early summer I posted an ornament picture on Facebook, and it went viral (at least, viral for me). When that happened, not only did I sell a ton of that ornament, but I sold a ton of patterns, too.

And, from the increased interactions on my website and Facebook, I learned that my followers wanted more ornament kits. Up till then, I hadn’t been focusing on ornament kits at all. I’d thought not many people would actually buy those.. not when they could go to the store and get supplies themselves. But with my new knowledge, I increased the production and marketing of my ornament kits.

By Nov 1, I had started a “Kit of the Month”, and by Dec, it had turned into a membership club. Now, two months in, we have more than 500 members, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds and I still can’t believe it.

None of these ideas had ever even entered my mind when I wrote my check last year. But, writing that check and putting the wheels in motion, and made it possible for me to see opportunities that I would have otherwise missed. Plans, ideas, and people came into my life to help me make my goal happen.

What goals do you have for this year? What would you like to happen for you and your business?

23 Responses
  • Patrick
    January 25, 2016

    Do you Wholesale? I was just curious. I still have my business on etsy but mostly because I use Etsy Wholesale for my wholesale business. That part of my business has grown greatly over the last 2 years i have been using it. I did experience many of the lessons you did this past year as my business has grown. My plans for this year is to grow my wholesale business more and put better systems in place to handle that growth.

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      January 25, 2016

      Hey Patrick 🙂 No, I don’t wholesale. That’s not to say it’s off the table though. It might be something I consider down the line when I can increase production. Congrats on the growth!

  • Tricia
    February 8, 2016

    Great article! Thank you so mug for sharing, Staci! I re-branded at the end of 2014 and when my business name officially changed in January 2015, my craft business grew exponentially!!! I made $14k in sales in 2015 (only $2000 in 2014). I’d love to at least double my sales, but $30k in sales would be awesome! I’m discouraged about it already as I don’t even know what or where to do things differently than I did last year! My sales for January this year was the same at last January. 🙁 I’d love to get some pointers on what to focus on specifically. I sell primarily on Etsy. I just opened an account on Amazon with nothing yet. I also sell on Etsy Wholesale which has been good for me. I sell at craft and farmers markets locally. I just don’t know how to achieve my goal this year and feel stuck! Do you have any further tips you’d like to share?

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      March 10, 2016

      Tricia… I replied to your email awhile back. Did you ever receive? 🙂

      • Ramone
        July 31, 2016

        Hi Staci Ann!
        This was an amaaaaazing post. Super informative and a great tips to apply to my business.
        Thanks! 🙂

  • Kamilah
    February 20, 2016

    Congrats on breaking 6 figures!! You are officially my “s-hero” 😊. I especially agree with you on number 8..there’s so much noise online how to grow your business and I now follow a very small selected few. Your accomplishments are very inspiring to me–thank you!

  • Jennifer Blanford
    March 2, 2016

    Thank you for posting this, it was eye opening. I am struggling with the decision of moving my hobby to a business. I just started to seriously sell my stuff last November and in two months had $1200 in sales. It scared me to sell that much that fast during my first try. I’ve been researching the details of what goes along with becoming a business, there’s so much to do and it’s such a big step. I am definitely going to try and find one of those groups to join for guidance first. Thank you!

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      March 10, 2016

      Congrats on the sales, Jennifer, that’s awesome! Good luck going forward, with whatever you decide to do. 🙂

  • Nadia Vanilla
    March 6, 2016

    I love that idea of writing yourself a check and dating it in the future! I think I’m going to try that as a way of setting goals for my own business!

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      March 10, 2016

      I hope you will, Nadia! It’s really quite amazing what that can do for your mindset. 🙂

  • Laurie Waddell
    March 7, 2016

    Hi Staci,
    I started my business a few years back and am always looking for ways to get views and sales. I love your goal you suggested of writing myself a check for the future! You are obviously creative in more ways than one. Happy sales 🙂 Laurie

  • Sarah
    March 18, 2016

    Hi Staci,
    I rarely comment on blogs and I am rarely inspired by anyone in the ‘creative world’ (I have been creating since I was about 6 years old and am frequently told my passion inspires people!) but you are truly, truly inspirational. You are an incredible person to have turned your life around from your earlier tragedy, spurred on by your children and not wanting to put them into childcare. I think the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ was made for you’ – seriously huge admiration.
    You have sparked so much thought into my already ‘spinning’ head – I have thought of kits for my products many times and even started writing the descriptions but never thought of selling tutorials online – even though I run workshops on my products!!! Since my youngest started school last fall, I am at a point of growth but am feeling very overwhelmed as to what direction to go in.
    My products are very different and I never see anything like it online and I am only just, after 10 years of being told repeatedly I must, starting an online presence which I struggle with technically but I am very slowly moving forwards. I have a blog which is totally organic – I have done nothing to get viewings and they are just starting to come from somewhere.
    May I ask Staci, are the online tutorials you sell, written as if you were doing a workshop – I know you have in depth ones – did you have help or was it all you (probs!).
    Much Love
    Sarah x

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      March 20, 2016

      Hi Sarah…. Did you get my reply to your email? Just wanted to make sure.

      Thank you again for the awesome comment and very kind words. 🙂

      • Sarah
        March 26, 2016

        Hi Staci,

        I did indeed receive your email thank you so much and you are very welcome! I sent you another one back about my blog Chandeliersandroses.com which you have probably been too busy to see yet, I don’t know how you answer all your comments etc personally and do all that you do – incredible! I have read your tutorials and they are just like mine so I am very excited by that and really need to get them online. Still feeling unbelievably inspired by you – it’s like a bubble of creativity has popped in my head and I am crazily creating and plotting like mad!

        Thanks again for responding personally, let me know if you didn’t get my return email and I will send again.

        Much Love,
        Sarah xx

  • Ally
    March 25, 2016

    Hi Staci,

    I’ve been scouring your posts today. I would love to have the success you have in my little business. My desire to be self employed have always been a part of my being. You mentioned you are looking for a VA? I am intrigued by this. I once considered starting down that road as part of my desire to be self employed.

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      May 2, 2016

      Hi Ally,

      I’m sorry for my slow reply, but am glad to hear you enjoyed the posts! I was indeed looking for a VA and was since lucky enough to find someone. 🙂

  • Carolin
    March 25, 2016

    I am a huge art fan and I work with artists and small businesses with facebook and marketing services. I would love to be a Virtual assistant one day for an artist as I love the networking, customer services and love sales!

    • Staci Ann Lowry
      May 2, 2016

      Awesome Carolin! I’d love to hear more about your fb and marketing service biz for artists. I love that stuff too! 🙂

  • Peanuts & Thread
    March 26, 2016

    Hi Stacie, Great article! Thanks for this morning motivation. Sending good vibes your way. Hope you can find the balance you are searching for. Meanwhile keep doing what you do and inspiring us on the way!

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