Make sure you’re ahead of the game and make the most of every creative opportunity by getting organised.
With the craziness of Christmas now a distant memory, it’s time to start planning the year ahead for your craft business. Whether you have to-do lists as long as your arm or sticky notes all over the place, it’s easy to get caught up in less important tasks, while missing the big opportunities to grow your business.
Being organised is key to increasing sales, so Mollie Makes caught up with the three successful makers behind And Smile, Pygmy Cloud and Clara and Macy to find out how they plan their year to keep the sales coming in…
Pick a system
When it comes to getting organised, you need to find the method that works for you and helps you stay on top of tasks. “I’m a bit spreadsheet crazy!” admits Diana Stainton (Pygmy Cloud), who uses Google Docs to access her spreadsheets and share them with others. You may prefer sticking to pen and paper, like Laura Clempson of Clara and Macy — and if that means feeding your stationery habit then so be it! “I’m old fashioned and love my day per page Moleskine diary,” says Laura.
“I need visual reminders like calendars, white boards, and sticky notes. I have them everywhere – sometimes even on the kettle! I’ve tried a few different apps and planning software, but I can’t get to grips with it, so I keep it simple! It doesn’t matter if no-one else organises their business by making a calendar out of multi-coloured notes on the wall, if it works for you then go for it.”
Get social media savvy
While going with the flow is fun, getting some key dates in your diary can help you make the most of online events. “I have a separate diary for social media and marketing where I jot down ideas for Instagram, newsletters, my blog and my website a week or so in advance to keep me on track,” explains Viktorija Semjonova (And Smile). “I also use Hootsuite for scheduling posts, so they go up at the perfect times.”
Diana also suggests that as well as listing key events in your diary, such as Mother’s Day, you also note down events such as National Friendship Day and Small Business Saturday and their hashtags. “I have a huge spreadsheet with dates, relevant hashtags, and what I need to do,” she explains.
“If I want to do a promotion or post for an event like London Craft Week or Wool Week, I make sure I have their hashtags and plan posts in advance so they’re ready to go.”
The time to design
Inspiration can hit at any time! E.g. you may have a great Christmas idea in November but you won’t have enough time to make the most of sales. Stockists, publications and online sales platforms are all looking for Christmas ideas in July, so get creative in spring. “I love designing new products, so always leave plenty of time to do it without any deadlines. By designing products around nine months in advance it gives you enough time to really enjoy the process,” explains Laura.
When to be hands on
While people are thinking about hitting the beach, summer is the best time to get making ready for the festive season. “I try and prepare as much in advance as possible, even down to things like pre-labelling packaging boxes,” says Laura.
“I have hundreds of templates stored on my computer, especially for my personalised products, so I can easily alter wording, or the design to suit.”
There’s nothing worse than spotting the perfect market for you, then realising you’ve just missed the application deadline. “For Christmas markets booking and applying starts around August,” reveals Viktorija.
“I follow all the main fairs on social media and sign up to their newsletters, so you know as soon as applications open.”
Be photo ready
Good pictures are key to boosting sales. As soon as you have your new products at the ready, get snapping. If you’re not handy with a camera you can always ask someone who is to help. “I always take a few group shots, which can be used for multiple things such as social media giveaways, listings, my catalogue and my website. A few key pictures can save a lot of time,” explains Diana.
“I also keep a Dropbox folder of all my high resolution images and cutouts, so I can access them wherever I am.”
And Smile’s handy month-by-month guide
January: I try to take some time off and see what I did the year before, what worked and what didn’t. It’s time to reflect and dream a little.
February: Write a detailed plan for the following year. Plan your blog posts and key social media events.
March: Develop new products for summer, autumn and winter.
April: Launch spring range or test the grounds for new products, submit and organise your accounts.
May: Finalise your seasonal products, have a photo session, create your wholesale catalogue.
June: Start approaching potential stockists.
July: Keep working on Christmas stock.
August: Check stock, plan for the busy period, apply to fairs and events.
September: Start taking custom commissions and orders for festive season. Launch your festive products.
October: Get in touch with your existing stockists to check if they want to top up on stock for the festive season. Order supplies for packing, sending and making.
November: Prepare stock, keep track of all online platforms and make the most of social media to push your products.
December: Work like crazy fulfilling orders and making all those wonderful Christmas presents for people!