I get asked often about how I've grown my handmade business to the place it's at, six figures in sales. I'm shooting for seven figures by the end on 2018!
I started selling on Etsy in 2012 as a hobby with one product; an eyeshadow and sales trickled in. As I added more shades and new products, sales grew quickly. Today, my eyeshadows are still my best-selling product; and I have six hundred, amazing cruelty free cosmetics in my line.
If you had told me a few years ago what my business would be like today, I wouldn't believe you. I really wouldn't think it's possible. I've been featured in magazines, popular blogs, famous websites, podcasts and have received over 15,000 reviews from customers all around the world. I'm blessed and truly grateful. I love connecting with people who sharing my passion for handmade, small batch brands.
I hope this post gives you ideas for your small business; also inspires you to that there is tremendous possibility and potential for handmade businesses.
1) Consumable products. Having a consumable product makes a big difference, 25-30% of my monthly orders are repeat buyers. If you have a product that is a gift or timeless purchase like jewelry, art or handbags; it can be a challenge to get customers to keep coming back to buy from you repeatedly. You will have to think creatively to retain them as a customer and keep them coming back.
2) Find your unique voice. My best advice to anyone looking to create and sell handmade goods is to find your own voice. If you’re going to create a similar product to what’s already out there, make it your own. Be a first class you rather than a second class of somebody else. Your creativity is was what drove you to sell handmade products in the first place, and when you use that creativity your audience will be excited about what you’ve created.
3) Humanize your brand. I let my customers know I'm a typical mom, like them. I share personal info about myself, my family, my pets and my life so that people can relate to me and remember me. I work hard to build emotional connections with my customers.
If you place an order, you'll get a simple three line email from me. It's automated; yet I get dozens of responses every month. I respond to each and every one, personally. I have conversations. I'm genuine. When you make great things, and you connect with your customers on this level, they love you. They write about you. They tell their friends.
4) Ship fast, even though it's handmade. I know that when customers buy online, they want to get it fast, like yesterday. That's why I ship quickly. If you order on a weekday, I can typically get your order out the very same day. I ship anywhere from 500-1000 orders a month (so some days this is easier said then done). I've streamlined my shipping process with ShipStation. It's really fast and efficient. Even so, prepare for hiccups. On Black Friday I packed and shipped orders from midnight until to 2PM the next afternoon to keep up with orders --good times!
5) Customer service. Provide excellent customer service. I pride myself on having amazing customer service, so I can keep my customers happy. I respond to emails daily. Word of mouth and person-to-person referrals are the one of the main reason for our success. I also reward customers that refer new customers with a simple referral program.
6) Collect leads. While not all leads will convert into sales, they are the best starting point for a small business owner seeking new business. I can not stress how important it is to collect email addresses. For your business to thrive and grow, you need a constant flow of new leads.
I have several "funnels" setup to collect leads. But there's no need to get fancy or overwhelmed, just start. Over the years I've worked to streamline my process for collecting email addresses and sending newsletters. Today I have an automated system that's on autopilot. I have a list of 28,000 subscribers; and can contribute 25% of my monthly sales to email marketing. I don't constantly sell. I really try to think like my customer and provide useful tips and information that would interest them.
7) DIY PR. I researched PR agencies in the beginning and quickly realized how expensive it was. So, I took matters into my own hands. I set up a blogger / vlogger outreach program on my website.
In the beginning, my goal was to reach out to 10 bloggers a month. Today I average over 100 requests a month; and they come to me. I have a dedicated VA that manages the process for me. To date, Orglamix has been featured in over a thousand different blogs.
It takes a few months to get the momentum going, so don't give up! Every so often, I catch a break. I've been lucky to be featured on several influential websites including Refinery29, Stylelist and Lucky. These features were a high point for me because they really helped to put my brand on the map. I am so grateful for those opportunities. That said, do not underestimate the power of small blogs or accounts. Typically they have a small, but highly engaged audience. When considering a new opportunity, I'll take great engagement over a large number of followers.
8) Curate content. Instead of just featuring my products, I try to curate a cohesive, lifestyle approach. I do this by featuring things my customers love: healthy food recipes, yoga, spa treatments, animals. They're busy, creative moms so I feature things that appeal to them while keeping them updated about new products, current sales, and what’s happening behind the scenes. I also involve my customers in this process with my Instagram brand ambassador program. I choose new people every month to promote my products on Instagram.
9) Social media has been a huge help for me. Instagram and Pinterest in particular have been wonderful. I post my products regularly and link my website, and that has lead to a huge boost in traffic and sales. Doing so also allowed me to reach out to bloggers and gain attention. My sales have been steadily increasing mainly by social media, blog reviews, and participating in giveaways.
I think customers like seeing my journey, glimpses of day to day life, or just pretty pictures. All of my pictures are taken with my iPhone, but but I highly recommend learning what makes a great image. You can check out my images @orglamix.
8) Drive quality traffic. I thought that if I made beautiful products they'd practically sell themselves. Boy was I wrong. It takes a lot of work to drive qualified traffic to your site, it's not something that happens overnight. SEO is a constantly evolving process. The good news? You can fast track traffic and sales with paid advertising, even if you're on a budget. Start small, on one platform like Facebook or Pinterest and spend $5 a day to start learning the ropes.
9) Streamline your handmade business. I didn't realize the need for processes until I become extremely overwhelmed. Slowly, I've been able to streamline my business. I do this by automating everything I can from social media to shipping to marketing. I use a variety of tools and apps including IFFT. I also try and batch everything from ordering supplies to making products to shipping. It saves time; and my sanity.
10) Listen and respond with action. It's one thing to provide the opportunity for your customers and community to give their feedback and voice their desires. It's entirely another to show them you've listened by responding through action. When you truly listen to someone, you gain their trust, and more importantly, their respect. I crowdsource in order to design the next products and shades in my line.
11) Fail forward. When I first started selling online, I made so many mistakes: from under-pricing to poor photos and crappy copywriting. I've made plenty of mistakes in my journey. At first they used to make me cringe and I was ashamed of them. Today, I've learned to embrace my mistakes and think of them in terms of stepping stones for success.
One of my biggest mistakes was not being prepared for the demand of my product. I looked at my business as something small, but when popularity hit I wasn’t able to keep up, and people were really upset when they couldn’t order. Anytime you have to pause your business you lose crucial momentum. So plan ahead for this possibility.
Now it’s your chance to turn your passion into profit.
If you’re a maker that wants to start a business or you want to get your handmade business to the next level business, let me know in the comments below. Tell me what's holding you back from that next step?