Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Top 5 Things I Learned Holiday Season 2014

The holiday season of 2014 has been my busiest yet! Things went from busy to CRAZY busy in what seemed like overnight. While I'm thrilled with the success of my shop, I will admit that I was completely overwhelmed for about 2 months! I've put together a list of the top 5 things I learned during that time and what I plan to do differently next year.

1. Order 3 times more supplies than I think I'll need
Okay, this may seem like a rookie mistake, but I ran out of supplies at some very critical times. I was so busy making things, that I forgot to restock supplies (face palm)! And then when supplies did come in, I didn't have time to put them in their proper place. My studio turned into a sea of boxes.
This year, I plan to order more supplies than I think I'll actually need. And order them early. That way I can get them put in their proper place and the excess can be organized more neatly and efficiently.

2. Plan extra time for answering emails
I did not anticipate for all the extra convos/emails that the busy-ness brings. I could spend 2-3 hours each morning answering emails, while more and more came in. My regular routine is to answer convos/emails in the morning so they are out of the way and I can begin my day. During the holiday season, I had to change the way I worked or I could spend all day just answering messages and not getting anything else accomplished. I finally had to switch up my routine and have things ready for the laser each morning so it was running while I was answering messages.

3. Revise listings for holiday shoppers
One of the reasons I was getting so many messages/questions is because shoppers tend to not read the entire listing description. Sometimes they don't read it at all! A lot of the questions I was receiving were answered in the listing, if people would just read. I finally starting putting the most important details and the most asked questions at the top of the listing before anything else. This did help some and I wish I had done it sooner. I will definitely be doing this before the holiday shopping season begins this year!

4. Have someone shipping packages 5 days a week
I was very fortunate to have a friend help me with shipping this year. The only problem was, she could only come twice a week. It was so nice having a helper to do all the packaging and labels. That allowed me 4-5 hours each day to work on actual items.
I will admit that it was VERY hard for me to give up that part of the process. Shipping is the final stage before it leaves my hands and I like to do one last quality check and make sure everything is perfect before it goes out the door. Having someone I felt confident in made all the difference in allowing to give up this part of the process. It helps she's a little OCD like me :)

5. I am not a factory
Number 4 actually leads me to number 5. While I was able to give up the shipping part of the process, there are just certain things I am not willing to give up and may never be willing to give up. When discussing the holiday craziness with a family acquaintance, they mentioned that I should have more employees and each person have a station...blah, blah, blah. I'm not running a factory and I don't want an automated, bulk-order business. I specialize in one-of-a-kind, custom items...and I like it that way.
This individual also said that I should have someone answering all my emails/convos for me. While that sounds nice, this is also an area I'm not willing to give up. When you do custom work, you have to work very closely with your customers. When I begin working on a piece, I've dealt with the customer first-hand and know each request they made because I took the request. I answered their questions. And I will give them the perfect item because I know what they want. It all comes down to customer-service and that is something I choose to keep for myself.

So going forward, I will seek help where I can and plan extra time for the things I will continue to do by myself. Being efficient is really what's key in staying sane through the holiday craziness!

Okay, if you're still with me, thank you for reading. This got a little long!
Do you have any tips you learned from the holiday season?


  1. Whew! Girl, I'm tired just reading this. Your tip about putting important information at the top of the listing is great; nothing is worse than getting a convo from somebody because they didn't read.

    I also like what you said about not being a factory. Would you ever consider putting your shop on vacation mode to catch up in the future? I've heard of shops who know they can product X number of items per month, and when those orders have all been sold, they close the shop for processing and re-ordering of materials. I'm not sure how something like that would impact you in search results now, though, since they changed the algorithm.

  2. So happy for your success.

    For 2015, I will order holiday charms a few months in advance because my vendors were out of them. But, no sales were lost, luckily.

    It's good to know what you will and won't turn over and why. I've had help producing a few pairs of earrings, but haven't needed it (yet).

  3. Edi, I learned a valuable lesson this year as well. Same - run out of supplies, time management, and communication issues with a custom orders. But I'm so glad you posted this, because it basically summarized all those issues and provided solution! I like to see our online experience as a journey do live and learn!

  4. You did learn come valuable tips this year. There's certainly some things that you just can't give up because it's your business and your reputation. Running out of supplies would give me a panic attack!

  5. These are SUCH great tips Edi. At the height of my clothing business, the holidays were so busy that I barely slept. Like you, I had to rearrange everything to make things work. I did have a staff though… And I also have an employee now to help with the card/art shop (mainly wholesale orders) and blog emails. I'm like you in that I have a hard time trusting other people to do things correctly - and I think that this is a struggle for most small business owners. But if you can find certain tasks to hand off, it makes things a million times easier, and can even make your business grow. It sounds like this what you did and will be doing again. Congrats on such a successful season! :)

  6. This was definitely a learning season for you. I felt the lack of supplies too. I was shocked I ran out of components! Over ordering is the way to go next year. It is a great idea to be more on a schedule to increase efficiency. Kudos to you getting a helper and learning to trust that person. I can only imagine that challenge! Next season you will be so organized going into it after this past year.

  7. Sadly, I learned that success in one holiday season does not necessarily mean the same level of sales the following season. As a result, I OVER-ordered supplies.
    I'm glad you had a great season, and I'm sure your sales figures will continue to grow.

  8. I'm happy to hear you had a great season and this is all great advice for new sellers! It's always fun to read about other business owners' experiences during busy seasons. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Ugh, the convos from people who could have answered their own question are so annoying!

    I totally understand not wanting to incorporate more people/wanting to keep it YOUR business. I've had people ask me if I want employees making my things and what have you and my answer is always no.

    It sounds like your holiday season was super busy. I hope you have as much success (or more!) next year, but feel a little more prepared for it. Christmas really snuck up on me this year and I definitely was not prepared and didn't make as many sales as I could have as a result. Oh, well - January has been pretty busy for me so far, so I guess it balances out.

  10. Great idea to put all information at the top of the listing that is being asked about a lot. But still, some people really don't read the discription. I've also had feedback from people complaining that in item is bigger or smaller than they thought it would be. Even though it is in all of the items description, but in inches and centimeters.... This Christmas I'll make sure I'll have lots of packaging material and stamps around. And I totally understand about wanting to do everything yourself. I was lucky to have mom helping me out with the packaging stuff :-)

  11. Posted to quickly, the but should be a both..

  12. So awesome to hear about your progress!! What i especially like is when you mentioned you are not willing to give up the aspect that help make it handmade. I think staying in contact with the customer especially for custom orders really sets you apart from retail to handmade. I definitely think you can still run efficiently while maintain all aspects of your business. It really just about how to manage it. Unfortunately, I can't give any tips except staying organized as much as possible!!

  13. I'm happy for you that your business is doing so well. I hope the steps you take for the next holiday season work out for you. And I'm glad you're not a factory!

  14. I agree that customers don't read. I try to tell my hubby that when he is making up bulletins for the church. Maybe he/we would do better too follow the journalism principles of keeping all the facts in the first few sentences and keeping it at a sixth grade reading level. :) just kidding! Anyway, I agree with your changing your listings. Great idea!


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