Unlike almost every other industry, which mostly lags during the month of December, the craft business is its busiest right around the holiday season. As everyone flocks to Etsy to purchase their beautiful handmade gifts, the sellers are caught in a whirlwind of furious fulfillment. But as soon as the last-minute-present season ends, you may find yourself with some time on your hands.
Once the storm passes, it’s a good idea to take a deep breath — then start planning for next year.
Analyze last year. And the year before that.
Sitting down with your books may not scream “festive holiday activity,” but taking a peek back at your business — what worked? What did people respond most to? What were your best sellers? Which products saw a decline in popularity last year? — can help you get an idea of what to offer in the future, and how much of your products to make. Looking at your most popular/most shared/most pinned items can also help you come up with smart advertising strategies. Consider highlighting your most-sold item in your next paid Facebook ad, or on the front page of your website or Etsy page, or possibly try out some new product photos for the less purchased, but more highly-reviewed items.
Invest in branding.
Once you’re no longer making and shipping goods like a fiend, you’ll finally have time to really examine your social media marketing. Are you blogging, tweeting, connecting with clients, and keeping your Etsy page up-to-date and attractive? Check out Etsy’s top tips for sellers to see if there are any ways to revamp your brand in the new year — or just to confirm that you’re doing it right. Come up with a few social media campaigns to launch next year — Mother’s Day Sale? Graduation gifts? — and even write some of the copy. Your later self will thank you.
This is also a good time to take photos or have photos of your products taken and make them easily available through a Dropbox or other readily-searched database. Having images ready to tweet or share on Facebook can help make your social media work quicker and more convenient.
Create buyer personas.
Borrow a tip from craft business consultant and author Kari Chapin and come up with some ideas for who you’d like to sell to in the coming year. In her Creative Live class, Kari recommended using Pinterest to help give you a clear idea of what other kinds of goods or products your ideal customer might be looking for, and try to see what it is about those companies or items that might be appealing.
“It is always hard to make up people to represent your ideal client, but using Pinterest helps visualize that person – how they live and what they like,” says Kari. “Knowing these things will help me sell to them.”
If you’re still having a hard time with this crucial marketing step, metalsmith and small business consultant Megan Auman has some key questions to ask yourself to help create a more clear vision of this person, including “what kind of job do they have?” or “what do they do for fun?” and “what do you think their home looks like?”
Buy it on sale.
Year-end sales are pretty huge, and so are sales of holiday-themed craft supplies as soon as Christmas wraps. Plan way ahead and buy some materials while the getting is good, then sock it all away for next year.
Put it on your calendar.
Craft shows can be huge for your handmade business, but if the application sneaks up on you, you might not be as prepared as you’d like. Search for some of the craft shows you’ve always wanted to check out, then see when their application dates usually open. Put them on your calendar way in advance — along with reminders a few weeks out — and you’ll never be surprised by a deadline again.
Look for ways to speed it up.
If you find yourself with idle hands after the busy holiday rush, it might be wise to see if you can streamline your process at all to help speed shipping and fulfillment. First, think about what you spend the most time on — then, see if you can cut it back at all. Are there small steps you can take to help you create your products? Is there an easier or more efficient way you could be packaging materials? What about creating some (still friendly, personal) canned responses to often-asked questions? Could you add an FAQ page to your site to cut down on customer emails? Are you wasting valuable minutes hunting for certain supplies every time — and is there a better way for you to store your odds and ends? Remember: when you’re a small business, your time is your money, so any amount of time you can save will mean more potential income in the new year.