Happy New Years to all! This is Brooke from Sunset & Vine Jewelry and I hope you are all having a wonderful, stress free holiday season. Believe it or not it is almost 2011 and if you haven't started making a list of resolutions you still have a few days left. Fret not because I have a great idea for you to consider adding to that list. Many of you TAFWT! readers are involved in crafting and possibly run an online store yourself. If you create something and you don't sell online I encourage you to check into it. Thanks to the economy more women and men for that matter are finding themselves unemployed possibly for the first time in their lives and wondering "what comes next"?
Many of you may already be running a business in your spare time to supplement your income. There is a difference though between operating a small scale internet business part-time and on the weekends to quitting your day job and becoming your own boss. After reading an article in Glamour Magazines October issue, I decided to share with you what experts believe it really takes to work for yourselves, unfortunately it isn't all passion, talent, creativity and love for your product!
- Most importantly you need to do some major soul searching to figure out if you can cut it as an entrepreneur. Ask yourself some basic questions, do you enjoy the security of working for other people, like the structure of a normal work day, enjoy vacation time, insurance and having sick days and personal days? If the answer is yes than you may want to stick with your 9 to 5 and consider running a business part-time. If the answer is no than ask yourself, are you good at time management, do you like to take risks, can you come up with solutions in times of stress, and will you be able to handle working around the clock without breaks? If the answer is yes than you will most likely be able to handle the demands of operating your own business. Being the boss does have its downsides. Sure you can set your own schedule, and you are "the boss" but you have lots of stresses too! My father has owned his business for thirty years and he didn't take a family vacation until I was 13 because he didn't feel he could leave the business for a week. He also has to pay very high monthly premiums for very crappy health insurance, he is responsible for eight employees and their health insurance and in the beginning he worked from dawn till past dark. Owning your own business can be very demanding but very rewarding. If you are looking for more information on how to get started with your business check out the U.S. Small Business Administration. They provide assistance on how to get started and it is free!!
- Once you have the basics figured out the next step is making a business plan of sorts. I say this loosely because you don't need to have a 300 page proposal but you do need to know what your goals are for your business and it wouldn't hurt to write them down. I am a journal keeper, not because I actually keep a diary that would require consistency, but I like to keep lists and that is a great start for a business plan. Make a list of your to-dos. Are you going to need a sales license so you can buy wholesale? What about basic no-brainers such as why does your business exist, who are your customers going to be, how will you make your company successful over time? As silly as they may or may not sound you will want to be able to answer these questions fully, and with competence, you never know when a potential buyer or investor is in your midst. You will also need to be able to modify these conditions over time as the economic climate, your customer base and your business change. One thing I have found in operating a business is that just like any job you will learn as you go but there is one thing you will want to have clear guidelines about from the word go. Customer service is something that is increasingly harder and harder to find and when you stumble upon a company that delivers great customer service it is the exception not the rule. With that in mind you have the power to make sure your company will be one of those that goes the extra mile and you'll never regret making that decision. Go out of your way to make your customers happy and they will remember and it will reflect in your bottom line!
- Speaking of the bottom line, what about all the money you are going to make, after all the whole point of owning your own business and working for yourself is so you can have cash flow and a lot of it, right? Wrong, well probably wrong, at least in the beginning. Most people are lucky to break even the first year between investment and the time it takes for a business to get off the ground. I started on Etsy eighteen months ago and have just now began to realize a profit. Often you have to spend money to make money, which I never took into account when I was first starting out. Between my initial investment and money I pour back into my business, advertising and product that I give away I am probably still just breaking even but the great thing is that there is finally a buzz! When you decide to start a business you have to go into it with a lot of patience and determination. I knew that I was doing this because I loved it and that helped a lot and I knew no matter how long it took I was going to stick it out because I believed in my product and I wasn't doing it for the money. Now that the sales are coming in it makes it just that much sweeter!
- Network! Network! Network! Did I say networking yet? Networking is probably the single most important thing I have done since joining Etsy. There are endless ways to meet up with other artisans, and bloggers who are friendly and helpful and will help you build and boost your business. Make treasuries and include your friends and fellow etsians that have put you in a treasury. Join in on the forums and contact a team and apply to become a member. If it weren't for blogs like Tools Are For Women Too! I wouldn't have quite the traffic in my site or the number of great friends. Browse blogs and join in on the link parties and start your own Facebook pages and blogs if you enjoy writing. Just don't forget that while it is great to gain something from a relationship you also want to remember to pay it back. Help out your fellow etsians, bloggers, and Facebook friends when they need it and you will be blessed by these awesome networking relationships!
- The Glamour article points out that it is important to build and maintain an online presence. With Etsy, Ebay, 1000 Markets and shopify.com maintaining an online presence is easier and more manageable than ever. I would counter that building and maintaining a physical presence in our communities is the challenge for some. Having a real brick and mortar shop where our fellow community members can come in and shop our wares is a goal I have for my business. To get started you could strengthen your presence in your community by doing craft shows and art exhibits when they are offered. Scout out locations in your community and see if a lease fits into your budget. Check out your competition and do some research to determine how your product would fare in that particular market. Most importantly don't give up and believe in yourself, it also doesn't hurt to have a little faith!