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.