Hi guys! Every so often, I get these intriguing questions that I attempt to answer. But I think this one has lots of value for most anyone that is wishing to fire up doing something they love for their life’s work.
So after Paula’s permission, here is her question… and my answers.
I also invite any suggestions you may have for Paula too!
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How can I grow my ‘making things’ business?
Good Afternoon Donna,
Dear Paula, or any wanna be entrepreneur out there…
First of all, I’m completely honoured you’d even dream of asking me how to grow your business!
I honestly had no business plan. I was working full time, when I just started dabbling at this junk thing in my spare time. Once my passion took hold, I started putting more time into the blog vs. my main job. Once they made equal amounts, I left the dayjob, and have never (had time to) look back!
Read: How to build a dreamjob when you work a dayjob. This is EXACTLY how I did it.
A blogger’s business is structured a little differently than one just selling merchandise, but I believe I can offer you some valuable tips that can help expand the great work you’ve already done.
Note: Paula works from home, and sells her creations strictly through Facebook, with pickup by appointment only.
1. Create a permanent home base online.
Facebook is a great place to test the waters biz wise. Most anyone hangs out on Facebook these days!
But being that Facebook belongs to another, it’s really important to establish a home base for just yourself online, as in a website, blog, or store of your own.
If Facebook disappeared one day, where would your business be? You want to build your own secure foundation.
Website, store, blog, or all?
For a website, the minimum suggested would be to have areas of About, Contact, Location, Hours, and a portfolio of your work.
For a blog, you’ll want to make regular entries, so those that follow you get alerted to your new creations. If you create your posts in tutorial form, they will become even more valuable than simply showing after shots. Teaching is very powerful, but it also takes more time.
For a store, you have options, for different reasons…
Etsy is a self run community, so if you are just beginning, this choice can help you greatly if you learn how to use it effectively. Etsy is fee driven, based on sales.
Big Cartel is an online presence, much like a website, that will require your own shout outs for visitors to find you. Big Cartel is free for up to so many items for sale, then becomes x amount for x amount of items. It’s very easy and cost effective imo.
So once you assess which way you wish to head….
1. Purchase a url, via .com if possible.
2. At the least, build a website, or blog. You can build a blog for free using Blogger if you desire. I personally use WordPress, but I started with Blogger, because it was free, and I could do it myself.
3. Brand everything with the same name, look, artwork, etc. This will strengthen your brand and become recognizable at a glance. I like to suggest a professionally done logo, but do the best you can until you can afford that.
Then start using social media as a tool to guide your customers to your home base.
Even if you don’t use your website to sell, think of it as a place to find out more about you, and what you sell. People love to know that there’s a person behind a product.
What I do:
a) I share my how-tos on my blog. Like this writeup. 🙂
b) I started my store, Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils on Big Cartel HERE, when I was ready to sell a product. (because it was super easy to set up myself) I pay $19.99 / mo. for under 25 products.
c) I create cool things on my blog, but link back to the store if I use a stencil I sell.
d) I use social media to highlight new blog posts on the blog, sending folks to my home base.
e) I use ALL the social medias to some degree. I rotate new projects with older ones, so newer readers can learn from them too.
2. Grow your Social Media presence.
Social media is imperative! Imagine if a store stocked goods, but never advertised the store was even there. No one would know.
You need to shout out your own work from the rooftops. So join every social media you can. Even if you don’t use them, at the very least, you’ve snagged your name so no one else can.
And do use your business name for business, for easy brand recognition.
Facebook – Starting a biz page is a must, which is different than your personal profile. Most are on FB, so you need to be on this bandwagon.
Instagram – showcase enticing beauty shots for the most fuel.
Pinterest – create boards with just your product so they are easy to find and advertise.
Twitter – tweet out new additions to your store or website.
G+ – valuable to build SEO, so you are retrieved in google searches moreso
Periscope – broadcast something you are currently working on, sharing a small, valuable tip
The best way to grow your social media presence is to use them! This takes lots of learning, trial and error, and diligence. But basically put, the higher your numbers, the more that see your work. Advertise your own social medias from time to time too.
What I do:
I use them all, even if not all daily. Each one serves its own community, so they all have value. I showcase things I make AND sell, but generally within a tutorial setting.
Here is my Pinterest board of my work.
Here is my Facebook business page.
It’s time to sell…YOU. There’s loads of free space on any ABOUT area on any social media platform, so fill it out to the hilt!
The most overlooked area is on a personal facebook profile. If you use your personal profile for ANY biz, your info needs to be on that page. Please don’t make it hard for readers and customers to try and remember your personal name vs your biz name. Connect the dots!
What I do:
I do it all. Blatantly! 🙂 See above.
3. Up your photo staging
I work from home, so I know how difficult it is to find a blank wall with great lighting.
But if you are selling things online, good, clear, sharp photos are your only selling tool. The better your photos and staging is, the more you will sell.
I gutted a south facing room I now call my photo studio, that offers good light all day, where I can carry smaller projects to be photographed.
But when possible, I like to stage the product in my home, so others can see how I personally put it to work.
Quick photo tips:
Natural lighting is key!
Using a tripod is a must for sharp photos.
You can still use phone pictures, but I suggest to move one step up to what you have when you can afford it. Better cameras let in more light with interior shots.
What cameras I started with:
I started with a point and shoot. I’m glad it broke, because it pushed me into getting my first DSLR which I was long ready for. When that one broke, I was more than ready to purchase a DSLR fullframe.
See a trend? I waited until my cameras broke! Don’t be like me. Get what you can afford… NOW! You know it’s time to upgrade, when you can’t get more out of your camera.
4. Stage your projects doing something productive
See the above 3 projects? They all possess something I sell. (the stencils). But I’ve created projects with them, that not only are fun to look at, they are productive. And that is the key.
This is hard to do in tight spaces, but if you can, hang a project doing something valuable, vs. just being there.
When others see how they can use that item, or how it looks positioned on a real wall, they will be more likely to purchase it.
I do this with every one of my projects, even when I don’t sell a specific product.
You can see how I stage ALL MY PROJECTS HERE.
5. Consider having products available somewhere in town for the public to browse.
It’s ok to work from home. I do too! But when you are talking products that people would love to feel and hold, it may be in your best interest to place your items in a booth or commission store. Or, attend local craft or vintage shows.
How I sell:
When I sold stuff I made, I placed them in a local restaurant, so basically, she got free decorating for selling my stuff. Win-win!
Today, I just sell stencils in my online store. But.. they will soon be open to retailers, so they will soon be avail in many stores for my readers to check out in person.
Wish to sell my stencils? Sign up HERE
Wish to find a retailer? Find them HERE
Also, consider an online store, such as Etsy or Big Cartel, so you can sell beyond locals.
So… here is Paula’s page. Her creations are darling! But they need a larger audience.
Like Beach and Barn on Facebook HERE and comment on a few of her wonderful creations, and let’s help her grow a little more today!
One day I’ll write about the merits of interaction on Facebook… if you wish to hear more wordy words! 🙂
Did you guys find these business tips helpful?
Do you have any tips for Paula to consider trying?