As an entrepreneur, I have learned several hard lessons. But, there is one particular lesson that has really stuck with me over the years. It the lesson that has become the basis for the majority of the decisions that I make in my handmade business. When I learned this lesson, it hit me hard and kind of hurt my feelings. While it was a difficult lesson for me to learn, I am extremely thankful for it. This lesson has helped to keep me true to myself and my mission as my business has grown.
Now, if you are going to succeed in business you’re going to need to learn this tough lesson too. You will need to keep it in the back of your mind and refer to it whenever you are faced with decisions.
So, what’s the big lesson?
The most important lesson you can learn as an entrepreneur is that no one loves your business as much as you do.
Kind of harsh, right?
It may sound callous, but it’s an unfortunate reality of life as an entrepreneur. It’s just the cold hard facts.
I don’t know about you, but my handmade business feels like an actual limb of my body. It started out as an idea and a dream and then developed into a living being that now takes daily care and attention. No matter what I’m doing, it’s always at the back of my mind. While there are people who have witnessed how much time I’ve spent growing my business, I’m really the only one who understands what has gone into its growth. I’m the only one who understands how much building my business has really consumed my life.
The truth is that no one else in the world truly knows the number of hours or blood, sweat, tears, and anxiety attacks that have been poured into building my handmade business. I have no doubt that you can say the same thing for your business as well. As an entrepreneur, you know your business inside and out. You know every little detail that has gone into making every single product. This includes all the hours you spent learning your craft to begin with it. Depending on what you make, you may have spent years learning your artistry before you were able to sell it.
This is exactly why you are the only one in the world who will treat your business with the utmost care, respect, and attention that it deserves. You know exactly what it has taken to build it. To everyone else, it’s just another thing.
I don’t say this to be flippant. I say this to make you aware that you are the best person to make decisions for your business. You are also the best salesperson for your business.
Let me give you an example. When I first started my handmade business, I offered my products in a few local shops. I would spend hours and hours trying to make my booth look trendy and inviting. No matter how I styled my booth, my items sold horribly. I was barely making back my booth rent. My products were selling really well on Etsy, so I couldn’t figure out what the issue was when people were seeing my product in person. It was the same product after all. So, I tried redecorating, repricing, everything I could think of for my little booths and nothing worked. It was still nothing but crickets.
Determined to figure it out (and prevent the shops from being a total money suck), I decided to spend a few days working at the shops to get a better idea of what was happening from day-to-day. Lo and behold, I had really good sales numbers on the days that I was on site.
Do you know why? Because someone was actually there to bring customers to my products. I was there to say I have the perfect item for you. Let me take you to it. Then, I could explain why my items were so great. The front desk girls, while lovely, were just pointing to the back of the store saying, “Yeah, I think there’s something like that over there” and leaving the customer to figure it out for herself. The front desk clerks had no skin in the game. They didn’t love my products like I did.
After this happened, I had a huge realization that I needed to be in charge of selling my handmade items. My online sales were better because I was in charge of getting the listing in front of customers and I was in charge of communicating with the customers. It was unrealistic for me to be at the booth every day, so I ultimately decided to remove my products from booths and focus solely online. The decision to take full control of my business allowed me to grow to the next level.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of selling online. Etsy, Shopify, Amazon Handmade, wherever you sell online… that platform doesn’t care about your business as much as you do either.
Jeff Bezos? He doesn’t care about your sales.
Josh Silverman? He’s certainly not worrying about your sales when he lays his head down at night.
While Bezos and Silverman are happy to collect your fees for listing and selling your products, they are really not all that concerned with your overall sales numbers.
So, who is concerned about your shop stats and the how you pay your bills? That would be you, my friend.
Is this a little depressing? Maybe. But, once you realize this and accept it, you can begin to take control of your handmade business and work on growing your sales.
So, if they don’t care about your business, what’s the point?
The point is that they give you the key to the door. These platforms give you the opportunity to set up your shop and have access to their customers. Customers who trust making purchases on those platforms. The customers feel safe putting their bank information on that platform and know they will be protected if something goes wrong. This is what you receive in exchange for paying to post your products on their platform.
Then, once you have posted your items, you are responsible for doing the rest of the work. Etsy and Amazon aren’t going to sell your products for you.
That’s where you and your love for the products you sell comes in to play.
Remember, the lovely ladies at the shop who just pointed to the products in the corner?
That’s what happens when you search for something on Etsy or Amazon. Someone types “monogrammed bracelet” in the search bar and Etsy brings up thousands of results for the customer to sift through. This is Etsy essentially saying, “Look in this general direction. You’ll probably find something you like. Good luck!” You can’t plan on consistent sales if you count on this business model alone.
If you want to sell online, you will need to choose a platform to sell on. That’s just par for the course. Even having your own website requires learning how to be found on Google.
But, once you set up shop, you also have to become the best salesperson for your business. You can’t depend on the platform to do it for you.
How do you do this? By taking charge of your business and not relying on the platforms to do the work for you. If you wait on other people to do it for you, you will be sorely disappointed in the outcome.
So, how do you take charge of your business?
DRIVE YOUR OWN TRAFFIC
The first way to take charge of your business, is to drive your own traffic to your shop. There are several ways to do this. Don’t feel like you need to do all the things. As a solopreneur, if you try to do every single thing in the world, you will burn yourself out really quickly. Just try to focus on two or three traffic sources that suit your handmade business best and learn them well. You can drive your own traffic by posting on social media platforms (i.e. Instagram or Facebook) or Pinterest. If you have a bigger budget to work with, you can also use paid advertising by way of paying for promoted ads or sponsored posts. To be the most effective at driving your own traffic, it is important to research your target audience and learn where they spend their time online.
You also want to be sure to interact with your customers when you are posting online. If you just post and run, this comes off as spammy and customers will not find your brand to be genuine. Respond to comments and questions as much as possible so that customers know that you are a real person running a real shop.
BUILD CUSTOMER LOYALTY
The second way to take charge of your shop is to build brand loyalty. This is a long-term strategy that takes time and patience. Building a business of repeat customers means that you are not having to constantly work for new customers. Sounds amazing, right? These are people who already love your product and are coming back for more. You aren’t having to pay to advertise to these customers. Consumer research shows that it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to get a sale from an existing customer. Even more exciting, repeat customers also spend about 33% more than new customers. So, you want to work on impressing your customers and rewarding them for returning to your shop. You can build customer loyalty through amazing customer service, quality products, interacting with your customers online, and VIP programs.
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LISTEN TO
Everyone has an opinion, right? But, not all advice is good advice and it’s important to be able to tell the difference especially when you are making business decisions. Don’t listen to everyone – Find a handful of artisans or coaches that give good information and stay on track. This can be general business coaches, artisans in your niche, or just someone who you find inspirational. The most important thing is to follow people who are where you want to be and listen to them. The people complaining on the forums are usually not the people you want to get advice from. People who are doing well typically do not have time to sit on the forums and complain all day. Find someone who is successful and soak up as much knowledge as you can.
When you realize that no one loves your business as much as you do, it makes it much easier to get crystal clear about your goals and the decisions that need to be made. You can start to better discern who to listen to and who to tune out. You can also get super focused on building your own customer base and stop worrying about someone else bringing in your sales. There is a ton of freedom that comes with knowing you are in charge of your business, not the people who run the platform. After all, you started your business to be your own boss, right? Once you take charge of your business in this way, then you can maintain your stats no matter what the platform throws your way. Take that, Etsy 😉