Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 Holiday Message for Buyers

With the coming of Winter just around the corner (seriously it's only about 2 months away) it's time to get to that last minute shopping.  While it's normal for people to shop a bit more in the latter part of the year it cause us a little off guard and there was a bit of a scramble.  To remedy this we're instituting a few parameters to guide along your holiday shopping experience.

The first important point is that we will not accept custom orders beyond November 15, that gives a generous month to complete and ship any orders.

Continuing on that vein, while the store will not be closed during any holiday we will cut off holiday shipping on: Dec 15 for orders in th US and Dec 1 for international orders.  Both of these dates allow us a few extra days to get to the post office or have packages picked up.  Any orders placed after these dates will be accepted but we will not guarantee that your items will reach you by Dec 25.

Our final goal for this year is to have our stock "bulked up" by November 1.  Anything we can or have been planning on making multiples of will be available then.

Looking forward to a fruitful holiday season with you!

Faith Works

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Value of Handmade...

Recently it came to my attention that I needed to really re-work my business model.  As you may have noticed I've been a bit in a flutter about this lately as ideas and inspiration are pouring into my psyche about how to get to where I wish to be.

In this issue coming up I received a bit of a "rude awakening" at how I was putting myself in a hole when dealing with a custom order recently.  The long and short of it is that the consumer wanted to pay half of my quote.  This figure only just covered materials costs and some hidden fees I as a seller have to pay.  The remaining amount didn't cover the skill or effort I'd put forth thus far by a long shot, but as I had given the estimate prior to re-working my pricing formula I wasn't about to go back on it now.

The nitty gritty behind the issue is that I am an artist & crafter dealing with a non-artist.  Now I've had this issue before, even when dealing with another artist.  In general people don't understand art or what they're asking and paying for.  When the average person goes to work it's for 8 hours and aside from management or anything complex it's a so-so level of effort or skill involved.  (And please don't think I'm downgrading anyone's work.)  But to be frank, going into the office to type things up, file, deal with customers, or anything remotely clerical doesn't involve a lot of hard skill.  It doesn't require you to go to school to do, you learn mostly on the job.  For those things where education or extensive training is required most of the time you learn what you need to and that's it.  You then go to work and apply this knowledge.  Innovations while they are present aren't such that it's necessarily a norm in non-art industries.

When I work for 8 hours I can easily get a nominal portion done.  This in part is due to the nature of my particular work.  Fiber arts are notorious for taking a lot of time to be done handmade.  And while some of them, like weaving and knitting, may be done via machinery things like crochet and cross stitch/needlepoint cannot.

Another factor of the problem is trying to compare output of handmade versus machine made.  A person's hands in nearly all cases just cannot keep up with a mechanized version.  They are literally two different animals and comparing them is a moot point.  But while you get speed and efficiency as well as consistency of product every time for mechanized work you cannot get the human element.  (Thankfully!)  When  you go to Target they have shelves and racks full of garments.  Garments that likely took a machine less than an 8 hour workday to make, which would take a person several weeks depending.  When you shop handmade you'll likely find one or two of a single type of item and often in a wider range of colors or styles versus a huge stock of green sweaters.  However, one of the big differences between the two is you're unlikely to find anything handmade in a major store.  Where you could find something made by a simple machine in a handmade store.

This is perhaps a good and bad thing.  While it lends uniqueness to the work it also adds scarcity (ever wonder why handmade items cost so much?)  This on top of other factors like wage (based on skill, experience, and time) factored in make a big difference in cost.  Also consider that your typical artist, even when in business for themselves is typically a small business.  Not equipped to mass produce anything complicated.  They also may or may not be able to get anything wholesale in the way of supplies or may be limited by other factors (like space).

So when you go to Target, Walmart, or wherever next time and you see that cute sweater for 20.00 realize the actual value of it.

Time To Get Serious...

I recently had a loved one tell me that my business was nothing more than an aggrandized hobby.  Not his exact words but he was looking at it from a purely financial perspective.

At first I balked at this appraisal.  I was shocked, and frankly offended that he would say that to me, especially about something I loved so much...but after staying up late into the night last night and doing a bunch of reading courtesy Etsy's Blog I realize it was in fact true.  Much to my chagrin.

I'm a reasonably intelligent individual, so why am I having such trouble.  A look at my old pricing model and the new one I'm developing as well as an analysis of the effort (and where it's been going) I have put into my business tells me why.  For one I was severely underpricing myself, not charging labor, and cutting deals where I (from a financial perspective alone) shouldn't have.  Two I was cheapening my work by doing this, making the expectations of customers low.  And I spend hours upon hours in the creative process and virtually no time on the actual business aspect of it.  So I'm doing a double disservice, to myself and to my customers.  While my work and effort are both of good quality there are many kinks and hiccups that could be otherwise avoided were I to "put my money where my mouth is" and buckle down across the board rather than focusing and bottlenecking my efforts.  Surely if I spent several hours on my business aspect I would be making a good deal more and at the very least would have that part "taken care of" rather than the apparent shambles it's in now.

So I've opted to spend a week going through Etsy's "Seller's Handbook" tackling each applicable major topic, reading through their offerings, doing my own research and correcting (at least beginning to correct) the problems.

Here's to financial abundance and overall success!

Valuing Your (My) Work as an Artist/Business

This post is not out of desperation, but rather explanation...

As you'll soon note and if you had noticed from my prior post major changes are happening here at Faith Works.  Having read through about eight or nine articles concerning pricing (thank you I decided it was time to put that resource to good use.  Even when I was selling on Etsy I rarely went through their blog, despite it being chockful of good pointers from the staff and myriads of sellers.  But having recently re-thought where I stood with my business endeavors I decided it was more than high time.

First beast to tackle...pricing.  Like some dread ornery dragon pricing one's work can be super difficult for an artist.  If you have read through articles this point is usually touched on, as is that of most artists underpricing themselves.  Now yes I bring it up here but I also go into some of the important points that are part of the reasonings behind these issues that don't necessarily get covered.  Sure as an artist I underprice myself...but why.  Obviously the only way to fix it is to get to the source otherwise I'll continue whatever habit is causing it.

I think for me the biggest issues is the way in which I, and many other artists, think about their work.  Knitting for example.  It's been around quite some time, lots of people in lots of countries do it.  With the plethora of information available between libraries and the internet both via written texts, pictures, and YouTube videos it's easy enough to learn.  Just get a stranded fiber (it doesn't even have to be yarn) and two knitting needles (or pencils, pens, chopsticks even) and go to town.  For the knitter, you know how to do it so it doesn't seem like that big a deal.  It's not that hard frankly.  But you can't simply look at your artform from the perspective of someone who knows how to do quote one of the articles ' "You are not always your target market." '  After all, chances are if you can do it you would rather than paying someone else to do it.  Sure this doesn't promise that you wouldn't as a knitter buy someone else's knitting.  Maybe you really like that sweater or shawl or cardigan and don't have the patience, skill, time, or resources to make it yourself.  Or perhaps you just would like to support them and don't mind buying it simply because it's easier.  Regardless, if you have a decent amount of experience in knitting you know how long it takes to do a large piece like that cardigan by hand.

The other portion of it comes from considering that that garment in the store was likely mass produced, likely by some machine or at the very least for ridiculous cheap labor.  Chances are the person who makes the sweater you see hanging on the rack didn't do it strictly by hand or from scratch.  The fiber was made synthetically, machine processed into fiber, which was put through another machine to make the fabric, and possibly a final one to sew.  What could add up to 80 actual man hours with the use of machines and assembly line processing takes a fractional amount of that time.  So of course that sweater is only 20.00-25.00, that had you made it start to finish could have realistically cost twice that.  Mind you even many handmade crafters don't tend the sheep, sheer, spin, knit and then sew every thing they make, it's still a good deal more work than what a machine can do.  So in essence you really can't compare the amount of work put forth between the two.

So it comes down to the fact that I, as an artist & crafter, get paid for what you don't/won't/can't do.  There's nothing wrong with this, there are plenty of things that the average person doesn't do or knows little about and the purpose of any training or education allows someone to do it.  So as long as it gets done by someone yourself or someone else it's fine.

In general my items are not for the faint of wallet or quick fixers.  Walmart and Target serve those needs.  I make fine quality, heart felt gifts be they for yourself or someone else.  When you buy from me you get an experience, not just a product.

Major Re-Vamps...

The story I'm about to tell is a rather detailed and gets farther into the mind of the artist than you may be expecting.  But part of the allure of dealing with an artist is that they are in fact a person.  With hopes and dreams, trials and tribulations - the spice of life...

Since the birth of my son life has slowed down a bit, in all areas.  My production, including filling an existing order and taking on new ones has slowed to an extreme crawl it seems but for good reason.  If you're a parent, especially a SAHM (stay at home mom) you know why.  Kids are a handful at any age, but newborns even more so.  No sooner are they tended to than it seems you are tending to them again.  And that is with them healthy.  But I'm coming back, slowly but surely.

My time away has served a dual purpose though.  Sure it's allowed me to adjust to this new small person around me, it's also put life into perspective and work.  During my pregnancy I have had a very hard time working.  The only work I've managed to be able to muster the strength to do is that which deals with my art and healing center.  And even the work done there has been so so.  Normally a super industrious person (note the late hour of this posting) coupled with my insomnia makes me super productive at times.  For my very Type A (at times) personality that is quite attractive.  My eyes glaze over and I drool hungrily at the prospect of getting even more done in a day.  It has also allowed me to do some much needed reflecting and brainstorming.  Both of which I had put off severely and to my own detriment now that I look at it.

While my store has been in existence since January of 2009 nearly all of my efforts have been focused at the creative aspect of it.  From innovating designs, creating them, and spending time describing and photographing. Don't get me wrong, there has been a business element worked on, including noting inventory, pricing, and what not.  But not nearly as much as I should have been.  Most notably the financial aspect of my business is more than a bit lacking.  I have severely underpriced myself and just not taken certain things into account that if I were working elsewhere would be noted.  I straddle halfway between hobby and business.  Working creatively as much as business, yet financially as much as a hobby.  I have neither taken note of the amount of time I put forth into anything.  Or considered what I ought to be paid hourly or my overhead (which thankfully is very little at this point).  And now I see how I have put myself in a hole over it.

So many changes are going to happen, pricing is being reworked, and I plan to make use of more of my resources (such as the blog option on Artfire), coupons, sales, featured items, and some updating of policies as well as the addition of some new products.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Coming together?

I reserve this blog specifically for things about the business, but nothing overtly personal.  It's not a matter of not being the full me all the time so much as a desire to compartmentalize.  If you're interested in my personal thoughts as an artist I have a blog just for that, which at times includes rants even...

It's true, while I don't really want to admit it, that I haven't invested as much time or effort into growing this business - or it's sister company.  While my products and services are good, great even marketing and putting myself out there just isn't my forte.  This occurred to me as part of the reason for the mediocrity of my success. Sure I sell things, sure people like what I sell, or my work, but how many people (who know me personally) even know what I do?  Sure the few who know me exceedingly well and talk to me often have likely heard me talk about it or even been on the phone/messenger with me while I've been working on something.  But I know a lot more than just those and honestly for the sake of getting my name out there it should be one of the most commonly known things about me shouldn't it?  Yes.

In that light I have noticed that a lot of things seem to be coming through lately.  While I can't say that the decision to focus more on the business aspect, rather than just the creative, of my business has landed me this sudden influx of consumers other types of things have been coming through.  Such as this article about using one's blog to get business.  There have been a handful of other things, such as new contacts via Facebook and LinkedIn, new followers on Twitter and with Google+, and likes to my pages and website.  All "baby steps" in the grand scheme of getting out there and reigning in success.

So do you have any tips?  What's worked for you?  Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for tuning in! :D