Twitter is a flighty beast so your first task is to master it
So respect it
Decide what you want it to do
Recognise what your readers want from it
If you secretly think Twitter is for air heads Think again. It’s where you keep abreast of the world when you are in a hurry. It has levels, but much is deadly serious eg @BBC Breaking News. It’s a place for people power; a place to vent; a place to inform and a place to be funny. It often works as a sign post to what is worthwhile and of interest. It’s egalitarian. So stop being snooty and try to get good at it.
What do you want Twitter to do for you?
Companionship and advice of other crafters
Keep my existing buyers connected
Persuade local people to come and buy
Have a say on issues that matter to me and my work
Drive people to my online selling place
Can Twitter supply?
Twitter can do all of the above but you must hone some of your posts to your goals and keep reasonably focused.
Readers do not entirely share your goals. They really don’t want to read about your product daily but if they find you good company they will accept a thin trickle of your self promotion.
Think of Twitter as a social event. You can’t walk up to your target tell them what you want them to hear and walk away. You have to do all the chit-chat to slip in the core message, otherwise they will avoid you in future
It’s not about big follower numbers, it’s about the quality and suitability of your audience.
Some people follow you only to get you to follow them. No actual reading of tweets is happening.
Some are robot triggered ( set up to follow anyone who uses their target word in a message)
If you seem to be posting into a deathly void, don’t despair. Twitter is an iceberg. Most people read and don’t respond unless they are personally addressed
Some people just use Twitter as a way of reading your latest blog posts expecting you to post the link.
Growth will just happen. Add your Twitter address here and there, but never on your online shop. Never ever send people away from your shop.
Twitter is fickle. It is low commitment. Your task is attention seeking, while seeming not to be.
Frankly don’t bother, life is too short
Twitter’s job for the craftsman is to be a kind of rope bridge slung across the abyss to keep your business in focus for customers and fellow craftspeople. If it feels helpful, it probably is
Tweeting dos and don’ts
Be outspoken. Share your real opinions, not just fluffy pink kitty chat.
You want to be remembered and nice is bland is unmemorable.
If people feel akin to you they will respond to your product.
React, be current. As in Good morning…
Don’t run endless @ conversations which exclude
Happy Tweet when drunk but never ever Anti ones
If a tiny corner of your mind says maybe this is a bit risky then Listen and do not send
Never picture product without price and dimension
Assume people will want to know. That confidence spreads to buyers
Questions work well and draw in the lurking silent
Don’t offer a diet of undigested links
Twitter needs to be instant gratification
Loose the offers and freebies for followers
You make great stuff so act as if you do
Don’t re-tweet other people’s praise of you
It’s already out there in the Tweetisphere doing good
Re-tweeting it looks needy and boastful
Do punch over your weight on who you follow so you will learn to Tweet well
Don’t follow for a follow that is defeatist.
Check their tweets, only follow if they amuse and interest you
Don’t hog people’s timeline or they will get sick of you
Don’t make those awful Follow Friday lists
Why would your followers check them out because you list them, you are not the Dali Lama.
Use Twitter in its own right, as an end in itself, not as a clearing station
Don’t link up with Facebook, keep it live
Welcome new followers if you must ( I don’t, but I am rude) but in a direct message NOT in your twitter stream
as those welcome lists look self-congratulatory and are a waste of your followers ‘time
The core sell on Twitter is to direct followers to new stock online
“Fantastic collection of knitted teapots ready now (link)”
No gushing with !!! No little girly meaningless xxx because it is inane and insincere.
Here is a good Twitter slice You have from (bottom) question, then selling, then being current
Here is a totally brilliant Twitter slice, brilliant because its me
From bottom up
You have opinion and being current
then personal engagement,
then intro of the product( ie my advice)
then the disingenuous repeating of the pitch
Hopefully it is gently done and recognising that my Tweets should seem a mirror of me
Eg of a great Tweet : “gloriously melting pig cheeks” @NigelSlater it has the man and his message
Another Tweet hero is @hannahmcandrew a Scottish slipware potter with her “flip, fliperty, flip” she has constructed an accident prone, potter struggling to keep abreast of the demands and difficulties of her craft. Which is a wonderful pretext for showing us lots of product. She is very weak on dimensions and price though
Now you know how to add that vital T you need a couple handyman tricks to maintain your account
follow @support as that tells you when Twitter is sick and updates you on changes
If your Twitter is hacked
CHANGE your PASSWORD immediately
You do that by clicking on the Gear icon on the top right of your screen
Click Password from the menu on the left and put in new password
If your account has been suspended because Twitter suspects you were hacked,
visit Twitter support to fill out a form to regain access.
Once you regain control of your account Delete the spurious posts
you delete them by going to your Profile, hovering over the offending tweet and clicking Delete
Do everything you can to warn people what has happened so that you can minimise the damage and tell them how to put it right if they are infected by clicking on the phishing link
Do I Have to Tweet?
Actually no you don’t.
If you get it right and enjoy it, then do, but it’s really for good writers so if you are a great craftsperson and a useless writer then walk away from Twitter
Doing it badly will not help you at all.
You can’t Tweet for Success you can only Tweet for a bit more attention and its “softly, softly, catchee monkey” all the way.
Now that should be your Twitter all sorted if you have more questions then ask away in the comments.
If you want to know where Tweeting fits in read this post Online brick by brick
This is the stuff I say over and over again when you ask me to take a look at your online shop.
If you have a suspicion your online shop needs a bit of attention
Heres your toolbox:
Take good pictures ( yeah, yeah, you know that) Anything less than good, is a total waste of everyone’s time
Your lead picture must make it obvious what the product is, so if its five cards for the price, fan to show five
Don’t be too arty . Pictures, are tiny before click-through, so less styling, more product
Don’t ruin the look of your pictures with clumsy mean-spirited watermarks
This is the cool way to keep tabs on your pictures
At least one pic should be product in use I have to see the necklace worn, to know how it falls
Don’t take pictures that date so no snowy backgardens. Unless you’re keen to show how long its been unsold
The first two words are crucial as the headline gets shortened before click-through
Don’t duplicate what the picture tells the viewer in the headline
Here, the fact that it is a handkerchief, has been entirely lost.
The headline only tells us what the picture does
Keep text short, people are skimming
Don’t say anything that people can see for themselves
You must have size and what it is made of
A brief bit of attitude breaks you out of the pack
The Cameron hankie seller says ‘Keep them close to your heart in your top pocket, or blow your nose all over their face to make yourself feel much better!’
Write as if purchase is a foregone conclusion, no loser statements like “ pop in again sometime“
Don’t suggest use, as in ” a perfect wedding gift” as that limits, not extends, your market
Please no “smoke free, pet free, anthrax free”
Don’t emphasise packaging or insurance It does not reassure, it reminds buyers of risks
The word unique is banned and ! is on the suspicious objects list
Don’t go into how its made detail because it suggests to customers that they could make it themselves
Don’t complicate by offering custom-made options.
Remember that people click-through on several items so repeat yourself as little as possible
Don’t say anything apologetic or amateur
such as “my nan taught me to crochet, I have always liked making things” (Clearly not money)
Do not mention any medical problems
Don’t try to be the reader’s best friend
Don’t direct the visitor anywhere else of yours online. They are at your shop, let them buy
Every word on your online site should be there to sell, your profile is no exception
Buyers respond to a confident talented expert. It is a commercial transaction
“Hello my name is …I am a wife, mother, nana and an obsessive crafter…I am self-taught which has resulted in numerous mistakes, but hey you know what they say ” you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette”. I persevere and more often than not I am pleased with the results”
I promise its not made up. It sounds like Alcoholics Anonymous. It makes out that the maker is an obsessive hit and miss amateur.
How are you getting on? Ready to face a few more running repairs?
My advice on pricing is here Pricing for Failure
Round prices up, no odd amounts, that’s for supermarkets
Consider doing dollars on Etsy for the US market and £ on Folksy
Never put SOLD OUT as that suggests mass production.
Dont make postage free, make it inexpensive and simple
Don’t put off international buyers unnecessarily by making them contact you
Hide some of the postage cost in the item price
It is easy to loose a sale mid process if the postage cost looks greedy or out of proportion to the purchase value
You may be able to charge a flat rate across your buyers and come out smiling
The US are used to high postal charges.
Take a view on compensation. Sometimes it is better to reimburse for lost packages rather than always pay for the track and insure route. Undeliverable post mostly comes back to sender in the end.
Signed for can be a nightmare for the recipient
Consider using Royal Mail online to print out postage but you need to buy postal scales and ask at the post office for a roll of Customs Declaration labels.
Sales don’t help See Special Offers and other Disasters
Don’t put in vouchers or freebie gifts with your deliveries. It makes the buyer feel they over paid.
Don’t plague your buyers, they are busy people.
Reams of conditions are pointless. Don’t try to manage a complaint before its happened
When something goes wrong be generous, suppress your suspicions. If the mistake is yours, say so and apologise.
Give yourself time to respond to orders. You will not always be in a position to post immediately
Don’t try to prove you are honest and trustworthy, it looks suspicious
You need to offer unity of product Split your offer into different shops if it doesn’t sit comfortably together.
You need a recognisable style running through your work, you can change themes by offering collections
Clear out non-sellers regularly The ones that in your heart you know don’t cut it. It should be your show case and far too public a place to cheap off your second-rate.
Regularly review the way you make your list searchable. Kill categories with less than three entries
Pay attention how you upload new product. You need that first page to reflect your general offer.
Here the gift tokens have been uploaded en bloc and so dominate the product
Some advice given by the site may benefit the site owner’s interests more than yours.
If they suggest free postage or lots of mutual liking and treasuries between sellers what is that really doing for you?
Promotion of your shop on their site essentially promotes them more than you. If you ask a customer where did you buy that? They say Etsy / Folksy etc not you. All the e-commerce sites are leaky. There are trap doors all over the place where your customer vanishes to another shop.
Using these outlets is a step toward your own website which will not be leaky. See Online Brick by Brick
Thats it !
Goodness what an improvement. Do recommend this garage to your fellow car owners
By the way if you want to get Handmade Lives emailed Extra Pickings then sign up
Also if you want a proper private review of your Empire think about a £50 Meal Deal ( its me, but you pay)
There is something I want you to do.
So I am going to show you lots of pictures of Pandas
This is you, a lonely craftsperson trying to make your way in a world
where people seem keen to keep their money in their pockets
Sometimes it feels like you are not winning and you could do with some help
What if you could get some help for free,
that would be amusing and easy to understand
and would only waste your time to make you smile
but would sometimes be helpful
And would make you feel less isolated and not the only craftsperson facing difficulties
So this thing that I am suggesting, you would give it a try wouldn’t you?
It’s really quite nice
In fact it definitely is
Its called Extra Pickings
It comes to your mail box
It has the pick of Handmade Lives’ contributions
Which have not appeared here
As you have better things to do than chase round after Handmade Lives all day to see what I said
So what do you need to do ?
Just click here and Extra Pickings will be yours
Now all you have to do is relax and wait for the next mailing
Lucky you, I have to write it
Why Sales rarely help.
Some horrible truths
The mostly likely reason for something not selling is the public simply don’t like it. Not its price
People lie. They say they can’t afford something as the kindest way not to buy .
Cutting prices makes existing customers regret their purchase and wait for the sale next time
Special offers are for Baked Beans. They are not a quick sales fix for handmade craft that isn’t selling
The Why, How & Where of Sales
WHY are you having a sale?
You have to decide what you want to achieve
Do you want to move stock that isn’t selling?
Is it priced above your better sellers? If it is, it could be that the price is too high for your market place. You have a choice: try reducing the price, or try another market place.
Can you afford to reduce the price and still make a reasonable profit? If you can’t, withdraw the stock. Thats cheaper than running a sale that can’t make any money and better than drawing attention to unloved product.
Selling at a price just to recoup the cost of materials has to be done out of the spotlight or it will tarnish your other products
Do you want to get more interest in your online shop/website?
When sales dry up its hard to resist taking action.
Having a sale to draw attention to products which aren’t selling is the equivalent of hitching your skirt up a bit further. The horrible truth is, if you didn’t excite much interest initially, you still won’t.
If your products aren’t selling you need to develop new product or change the market place, having a sale is just moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may just be a seasonal issue in which case keep your nerve and wait it out.
A reasonably successful site can try a short offer which will increase attention and widen interest BUT you have to construct it really carefully
I like POST FREE. At best that will persuade the buyers on the brink to come out and pay.
But take anything off the shop whose profit won’t survive the offer.
HOW do you do a sale?
First of all you have to decide on your offer and that means a really careful examination of what you can afford. You must work from your profit margins, not from your prices.
If you make a 10% reduction on an item with 10% profit you lose your profit entirely.
You need to use your sale to promote your site in a positive way .
Sales must be stylish, not bargain basement
This sale feels like an oportunity, without any loss of status.
Notice it says nothing what so ever about price
Here is a small craftsperson keeping her sale up market
WHERE Do you have your Sale?
It is important to regularly spring clean your online sites taking down any poor sellers. Online is your shop window and it’s where you have to look your best. Thats why any reductions have to be very carefully presented.
It is not the place to cheap off your poor sellers. You do that in person at a show which has not gone well where you already know your customers are not there. The last depressing day you put out some of this stock and you cheap it off in the hope of getting your stall fee, or you deliberately choose a pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap market stall.
This is your equivalent of factory outlet stores. Keep the unsuccessful stuff well away from your winners.
Sometimes its better to bite the bullet on non -selling stock
I really don’t like these either, especially the ones that are put in with the product to encourage the customer to buy again. To me these are a way of saying you have just overpaid.
No Discounts Ever?
Almost, except you are allowed to do a little sweetener to get people to purchase at a show, or open studios, rather than buying online at their leisure. You want them to know about your website but you need them to buy right now, so you offer a discount if you can afford one.
How do you evaluate a sale?
There is no certain way of knowing how many of those buyers would have bought at full price
Even if it produced more sales than usual, how do you know that wasn’t due to the extra publicity you gave the sale?
It is always saltatory to work out after a so-called successful sale how much profit you gave away. I made this much, rather than this much. Don’t deal in percent as that is a great cover for a nasty reality.
Next time you feel a sale coming on
Announce that you are going to put all your prices up in a month’s time.
It will have exactly the same effect as a sale and will save you a lot of money.
Okay that’s my take on Sales tell me your experiences of them, good and bad
Read also Pricing For Failure and you will be ahead of the pack
I like responding to comments but sometimes I get a bit carried away
Here is a round-up of this year’s crop
“ Your website is so eerie, everyone seems to have left, just one or two overlooked products have stayed behind. It’s partly the design, which is über clinical, but there is no trace of warmth, or a human being anywhere. Most new makers are over chatty but you are totally absent.”
”I would like you to rethink your About the Artist. Without meaning to it is carries a sad little parade: cancer, stroke, death, caring for elderly parents. This is not the place for that, I want to believe in you as a craftswoman, passionate and knowledgable about your work”
“I looked at your website and it needs to be sharpened. At the moment it is a bit like holding a slippery fish. It is hard to be quite sure what you are offering.”
“O Blank, I think you might have defeated me. You are so muddled! You have even driven me to use an exclamation mark .”
”Don’t sell wholesale at all. You can’t afford to. If you don’t make a sensible profit DO NOT SELL. All you are doing is enabling that business to take your profit. I thought slavery was dead but clearly not, its ideals are alive and kicking in your bit of London.”
“I think you are suffering from Potter’s Syndrome, something I’ve come across before. The patient is so deeply in love with the creative process and that moment when the kiln door is opened and his children emerge, that everything else is relegated. Potters pot to pot, not to make money and that is disastrous.”
“You seem to have spawned the most gigantic tarantula which has sprawled all over the web, links to you seem to mean links to another of your websites, it’s all so hopeless and baffling.” (arachnophobes thank me, no picture of a tarantula as I am merciful)
Also never waste your viewer’s time. I clicked through on New book project to be greeted by
This is my book project and I will be updating this space soon… Priority this evening is to work on some of the other parts of the website so please check back later for more on this space and this project!
Blessings don’t abound, you have just treated my time as less important than yours. Don’t make a link live, until there is something there.”
“You are selling Cards and Candles but there is so much superfluous material here I have to concentrate really hard. What is the colour chakras stuff doing there? Frankly what on earth are you talking about? Then the essential oils section, (which you don’t sell) why is that there? I came to buy a card, or perhaps a candle and you seem intent on telling me what illness it is associated with WHY?”
“A couple of comments on your descriptions. Don’t address negatives such as doesn’t stand alone, just make it evident from the pictures. Also get rid of that awful “Thank you for stopping by” Be very, very English, not mid Atlantic and that is so redolent of the expectation of their not buying”.
“I feel you are pouring all this family stuff, wit, and new projects at me and I would just like to see what you want to sell me. You need to justify every single word of text not pour it merrily over everything as if it’s a jug of cream. Cream is great but please make very clear whats underneath.”
“Don’t tell me its machine embroidered or that it’s not pure cotton and certainly not that its smoke free and pet free. They are all negatives. You think the last, smoke free and pet free are positive, but the idea of smoking and cat hairs are negative. If people have extreme allergies they can check with you.
Its equivalent of a baker having a notice up saying I made this with clean hands.”
All too negative? Not always, read this bit
Perfect. Completely and utterly perfect.
On message all the way through. Friendly, enthusiastic, completely confident, visually interesting.
I wanted to stay and explore, I wanted to wander off anywhere you chose to send me. Good pricing, Loved the gentle messages saying how much work you have “Your personalised goodies are taking 4 weeks” Completely unified product, if I see one of your pieces I would know its yours.
What can I say? Apart from “I resign, you take over.”
So for 2012′s bits of advice that helped… You are welcome
For any comments that upset… I am really sorry,
For all the smiles you cracked I grinned too
For the future… here goes
Its going to be tricky…
Dare you ask for MORE?
Check if you are pricing for failure here
Any NOs to the following questions indicate you are probably underpricing The more NOs the worst the underpricing.
Are you making a living? YES/NO
Are you factoring your materials cost realistically? YES/NO
If you buy materials in bulk the unit cost per product is not the low figure until the whole bulk order is used – Look
If you spent all your making time on each of your products would you cover your living costs ? YES/NO
Dont cheat by using every hour you work a week as making time, as no business can survive that, you need to spend most of your time selling.
The answer to her problem is simplify her product to halve her making time so she can then afford to sell it for half the price as £75 is simply too high for an apron. She could certainly sell some aprons for £75 but probably not four a week.
When you Google each of your products in up-market shops, is each in the top half of prices you find? YES/NO
Anything below middle is too low as you are individually hand making.
You will be amazed by the price of things in up market shops.
If you changed your packaging would it be impossible to increase your price? YES/NO
If you sold in more upmarket venues would it be impossible to raise your price? YES/NO
Picture taken by Hen’s Teeth at Woburn Abbey
Incidentally there is a good list of online sales places here if you want to try somewhere new
Have you asked successful fellow craftspeople what they think about your prices? YES/NO
Are you selling to customers just like you? YES/NO
Really? Unless you have a substantial private income or are a very successful craftsperson indeed, is that such a great idea?
Why try to sell to other people who are barely managing to cover their bills? When there are plenty of people out there with spare money ( even if they are not waving it around in the air.)
To find them you have to GO TO THEM (See Customer Segment post)
Would a really substantial order at your current wholesale prices greatly improve your profits? YES/NO
- Cost of materials
- Impact of time taken making on other income generating activity
- Possible need to out source the making and the consequent impact on costs
- Your enjoyment of repetitive making
- The loss of exclusive supply of that product
- Restrictions on your own retail price
- Waiting for payment
- Delivery costs
A really big order at the wrong price can destroy you more surely than no sales at all
Build in a little bit of extra fat into your price even when you have done all your sums as there is always something that will cost you more which you haven’t allowed for.
Don’t be bullied by the retailer into selling too cheaply. Nobody needs a big order at the wrong price
Do you feel proud of the Quality of your work? YES/NO
Under confidence lies at the bottom of all underpricing. Just as arrogance lies at the bottom of all over pricing.
The injustice is that some over priced goods will sell, just as some under priced goods will. But the under priced maker goes out of business
(To boost your confidence levels read this Coat of Arrogance )
Do you think you can just whack* your prices up anytime you like? YES/NO
*Sorry this subject seems to have bought out my inner Jamie Oliver
You can, I will show you in the next section
OKAY so that’s eleven questions, quite enough to be going on with.
So how many NOs ?
Please take any NOs seriously.
Not to beat yourself up
But to enter Wonderland where your prices work
Its nice here in Wonderland, do join us, each year we make a little more money and don’t have to work quite as hard as the year before
Lose the last of your resistance to increasing your prices here
You don’t need handmade items, there is always a cheaper mass-produced alternative, there is also always a cheaper handmade alternative
For the craft buyer it is not about price it is about DESIRE.
There you are, what a brilliant teacher, just look at those talented drawings
You do get it don’t you? After all you are not stupid
How to put your prices up
Nobody minds if you put your prices up.
Previous buyers coming back for more will simply feel that they were clever to have been in on your beginning when your prices were lower.
There will be some customers who will come back and find your prices might now be too high for them.
That’s okay because you couldn’t afford to sell to them at the old price AND the new price will bring in replacement customers. (Keep reading)
Be experimental about putting your prices up.
Try three different prices at the same time on similar pieces and you will find your customers don’t automatically buy the cheapest.
A Harrods customer knows that Primark sell clothes cheaper but that isn’t what it’s about for them.
Most people assume that a cheap price means a shoddy object. ESPECIALLY ONLINE where you can’t see or handle it.
Very few people have the self-confidence to buy a wedding tiara from the Poundshop.
Most people think that PRICE = QUALITY
Just as your sense of self-worth is linked to how much you earn. Its stupid, but it is how it is.
So for every person who is enabled to buy by a low price you will lose another who NEEDS TO PAY MORE
The clever thing is to have a few entry-level pieces and some middle range and some absolute stinkers with huge price tickets
Everything will be brought up by those high level pieces.
WHAT IS THE SENSE in having everything at knock down, hardly worth making prices?
And What of Sales? I know, that will be another post. There is enough here for now ( but I am against them)
I hope that helps, pricing is really difficult, there is no magic formula, it really comes down to common sense and optimism.
If you would like my guess on the sort of price you could ask for a specific product then leave me a link in the comments and I will tell you what I think an affluent middle class customer would be prepared to pay and if it’s the sort of thing they would buy. Its my best guess, it’s up to you to try it out. You must try it in the right place with the right packaging and for heaven’s sake remember to re factor in any change in costs that means.
A better life is just round the corner just take the risk, take your hand off the rail and skate out to it by SIMPLY PUTTING YOUR PRICES UP Yeah!
Making Your Business work
Angela Townsend a Stained Glass Artist
Has a lovely studio in the back garden ( a present from her musician husband) Based in Watford.
Started working with glass five and a half years ago. Her business Red Hen Glass has been going three years but she is still working two days a week at the Institute of Physics so she can pay the bills.
Last year she earned about £700 from her business working 15 hours a week.
Red Hen Glass has a website here which seeks stained glass commissions chiefly for door panels and offers small glass pieces for sale with no dimensions or prices with a link to the Folksy site where there are only sun catchers for sale.
A Folksy store here which sells her sun catchers
A Blog here
We talked about her previous work experience, she has an engineering background and had done an apprenticeship where if something was not right, you had to do it again until you had perfected it. That gives her the patience to master the technicalities of glass work and to be a perfectionist about the finish.
Having been made redundant she then worked in a builder’s merchant. That gives her insight into building projects and how they are organised which will help in the world of architectural glass
She and her husband moved down to Cornwall and she worked in a craft store which is where she learnt how much help customers need to choose products.
Returning to London she re trained as a teacher but was stifled by the limitations of the curriculum but that means if one day she wishes to run workshops she will have a useful background
Architectural glass work
We talked about this piece which she said she would sell for £85 to £90 I asked her how much you would have to pay a tradesman to install that and she thought about £50 Then I gave her THE FACE the one that means you are bonkers. The tradesman is paid better by far than she is.
I got her to describe the commission process breaking it down to time spent Here it is :
- Initial sketches ( face to face with client our heroine travels to them) 90 mins (excluding travel time)
- If the client is not happy another set of roughs are produced ( but lets assume they are bowled over)
- Full scale colour version of sketch 120 mins with recommendations for the glass and colour “I am not a bully but you have to guide people to what is going to work”
- Cartoon drawing 15 mins
- Cutting the glass pieces 180 mins
- Leading 240 mins
- Cement 60 mins
- Solder and finish 30 mins
- So time taken to actually produce this piece 12 hours and 25 minutes.
- There is no materials cost in there and no marketing time allowed.
So the price is hopelessly out and to survive she needs to radically increase it which will mean a change in her clients. She has to go for The Fired Earth customer who pays £450 per square meter for their kitchen glass mosaics ( I kid you not, here is the link Fired Earth)
The sad truth is that people who live in little terraces out-of-town are simply not in a position to commission glass artists to make bespoke pieces for their houses.
My friends, your customers simply can’t be people like you.
I also advised her to take payment in three stages: at initial drawing, at finished drawing and on the completed piece. This does two things: improves the cash flow, and covers you if the commission crashes and burns.
These are for sale on her Folksy store for £18 this size and if there is an extra border around £25.95 Yeah, she got THE FACE again, obviously the price is too low but the issue is the odd amount. It reeks of mass-produced and imported. NEVER use an odd figure artists simply don’t.
Now I really like these pieces I like their Victorian glass antecedents I think they are very different and instantly recognisable. BUT they are sun catchers. Nobody grand has sun catchers therefore you cannot grace them with a hefty price. Also curtains and blinds and window sill depths and window openings make them difficult to place.
So we needed to come up with a different product and dear reader we did! Exactly the same glass lantern picture tile but presented on the square like this
With a stand ( details dead secret but plotted and all can be made in-house) which will allow it to be displayed on the mantlepiece, in the bathroom with a night-light behind, or on a window sill with daylight coming through. Suddenly it is liberated from sun catcher to light and picture with many more options for where it can go in the house. And, better still, an entirely different price potential. I am advocating £60 for the larger tile and £40 for the smaller and a simplification of the design so they take less time to produce.
If I was a footballer I would be running round the field making ridiculous gestures at this point. Angela was wobbly on the price but when we planned her year to come she was converted.
Here’s another they are lovely aren’t they? All handmade, hand painted. You have to like it, it’s very charming.
I persuaded her that she needed two distinct sites and identities Angela Townsend Glass Artist architectural glass site with her hobnobbing with the likely target to be found in the Design Council, Spitalfields Trust, English Heritage, Interiors magazine world and Red Hen Glass selling its fabulous product directly off the already existent Red Hen Glass site and getting editorial roundup mentions to fuel custom. And taking a stall in the likes of Selvedge Magazine fairs and other up market fairs to the Waitrose classes.
The more we plotted and planned the more myriad the tasks became and I said how are you going to get all this organised and she said I feel a Gantt chart coming on. her turn to make THE FACE at me I don’t know what that is, but I do now and its a hell of a useful aid
It turns out a Gantt chart is a glorified to do list with lots of lovely colouring in.
- Angela showed me how this is done in Excel but the principles are simple.
- Down the left hand side you write all the main areas of things you have to do. These are your headings.
- Then under each heading you break down all the elements you need to do to achieve your goal in that area
- Then with in each heading you consider the order you have to do the tasks in. Some tasks will be dependent on others having been completed .
- Then think about how the first tasks under all the headings interrelate. For example on the chart Angela and I started under marketing it says research fairs, well that has a knock on effect for lots of other activities as the chosen fair date will be a deadline for sorting out the product
- Then block up the coming month of work days across the top. Colour in a few spaces for catch up ( as there are always other things that have to be done) and fill in what you want to get done in that time just by colouring enough squares in line with the task to get it done.
- Then consult you chart and beaver away knowing that you have everything covered and you are progressing to where you want to be.
There is no need to follow this exactly adapt it for your own needs
I asked Angela where she would like to be this time next year this is her answer
- To have done craft events put my products in front of the customer and got their feedback
- To have developed a separate architectural glass site and worked out some standard designs
- To sort out the Red Hen website so that it offers the small products and to have a bigger selection of designs to offer
All laudable aims but do you see what is missing? I kept prompting her thinking surely she will see the gap but she didn’t. And that is the hub of the matter she made no mention of INCOME.
Nobody anywhere can get a business off the starting blocks if they don’t think and plan for an income.
You have to work out how can I afford to be the best craftsman in the world?
SO we worked on the money. Angela needs £1000 a month to live on. That money currently comes from her two-day a week job. Her aim has to be to give up that job to liberate two more working days into her glass business. How is she going to achieve that?
My view was she should concentrate purely on the Red Hen side and get that up and earning properly. I think it is the fastest route. We have an adapted product which I thought could bring in much higher prices if repositioned if you remember I advocated £60 for the larger tile and £40 for the smaller. So she would need to sell 20 large tiles a month or 30 small ones to produce £1000 thats a big ask to achieve in a year consistently in fact its near impossible. She just might achieve that rate by the end of the year but it’s not going to happen in the early months.
So move one is MODIFY YOUR GOAL aiming for the unattainable is for idiots. So we dropped the income to be achieved to £500 a month. Which means she has to continue her outside work for another two years. BUT while she does so as her craft income increases she will achieve a reserve to help her through the low times, holidays and illness.
That goal of £500 means selling 10 large tiles a month that suddenly seems possible. She makes her Gantt chart and off she goes. Pushing with a narrow focus on that product.
How will she do? What are my reservations? At the moment she takes quite a bit of the weekend off she is not driven but that maybe because she fears failure if she really goes for it I think she has about a 80% chance.
Up till now her glass making has effectively been a hobby. Will she dislike the business side of things so much that she let’s go of the idea of being a self-supporting craftsperson? Its her determination I question, not her ability. I actually think she has a great and saleable product. Buts its going to be dull for a couple of years, no architectural glass until she can afford to liberate those two days from her outside job.
Heres hoping she will liberate her inner business woman.
Further help in these posts:
More on the customers I am suggesting Angela should aim for Juicy Customer Segment
Your crafts business not making you a living yet? diagnostic Chart to help you pin point where its going wrong Not making a living HELP
Want to read about another glass craftsman who is making a living ? Slump Glass Artist
On the brink of starting out? Check your chances Will your crafts business succeed?
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