How to Build a Business While Learning Your Craft

Lesson 24/30 - How to Handle an Evolution in Your Craft


How to Build a Business While Learning Your Craft


Lesson Info

How to Handle an Evolution in Your Craft

- [Megan] So what constitutes an evolution in your craft? So there's a lot of different ways that you could evolve. It could be a new style, a new product line, a new price point, maybe it's a completely new type of product. But it's doing something different that is going to require a little bit of nurturing on the part of your existing audience. That's really how I look at the difference between focus and evolution. If your entire audience is going to be gung-ho for it, even if it's a different product type, that's really not an evolution, it's just expanding your focus a little. So in your case, Jordan, if your audience is going to be gung-ho, if it's in exactly, that's not creeping outside your focus, that's just serving your existing audience even better. And the same thing with you, Denise, right? Your case, now you understand my focus is everything for your bathroom, right? I got you covered there, girl. That's what you're doing. But if you're doing something that feels like you...

r existing audience isn't going to be 100% ready to buy, they're going to need to be warmed up, they're going to need to be carried along, that's really what the evolution is about. Or if in order to really have success with where you're going, you have to get rid of something else, that also constitutes an evolution. So if you're like, "Okay, I want to add more products, but now it's getting out of hand, and I've got to ditch some stuff," that's definitely an evolution because now you're letting some things go. So you can do this evolution in one of two ways. And again, one is not better than the other, it's just important to know where you're at. So one is you can go from a focus, have a little evolution, and then you're still focused. The second one is that you have a focus, you go through a period of experimentation, which then requires an evolution because you're leading to a new focus that's a little bit different. Right? So an evolution, a focus evolution focus definitely looks more like keeping a product line tight, right? So if I decide I'm going from here, I'm going to move over, now I'm starting to work with these stones, I'm starting to work with more stones, this is really going from focus, just evolving, focus again. It's still an evolution because this is a very different price point than this, right? This is $100 range, and this is $600, $1800, that's a very different price range. But it didn't come out of a crazy period of experimentation, it was just a natural evolution of wanting to do something a little bit different in my line. But now, this was a slight shift in focus based on an experimentation, right? So I was like, "I'm going to be a painter for a year." And then I was like, "Let's make some other wearable things and sell them." So that was a new focus out of a period of experimentation. So again, neither one is better or worse, it's just important to know where you're at because some of them require a few more leaps of faith from your customer, right? If my stores haven't seen me in a year and I show up at a tradeshow with this, that's fairly understandable, right? It is a logical leap, it's a different price point, I still got a little work to do, but it's pretty understandable. When I show up to a show and the stores haven't seen me in a year and I'm like, "Hey, I'm making scarves now." They're like, "What is going on with you?" So it's important to understand where you're coming from because that's is going to determine the audience reaction, right? So when is it okay to make an evolution in your craft? So first of all, if you're evolving every few months, this isn't evolution, it's experimentation. Let's call a spade a spade, okay? So if you're like, "I keep evolving," a couple of months isn't enough time to do anything to stick. So acknowledge that you're in experimentation phase and go back to those pointers that we talked about, okay? But sometimes you do need to make an evolution. And there's a couple of reasons to do that. One is that sales have flattened, right? I talked about this. If you don't evolve every so often, something that's going to be 30 years from now, you're going to be making stuff that look like you designed it in 2010. You're going to hit a recession, and that's it, game over. So at some point, you do have to evolve. Sometimes customers start asking for something new and I don't mean they're asking for something specifically new, I just mean they're literally like, "I'm ready for something new." The first words out of the mouth of every buyer when they walk into your tradeshow booth is, what's new? What's annoying is, sometimes it's, "What's new? Cool, I'm going to buy all the same old stuff." It's a different problem. But the first words out of their mouth are usually, "What's new?" Sometimes your customers want to see new, they want to see new things. And you know what, it's okay to make it evolution if you're feeling bored or it's okay to acknowledge that you don't want to make the same thing forever. It's okay for Jordan to say, "I'm going to make bunnies for the rest of my life." That's okay. I don't want you to have to make bunnies for the rest of your life if you don't want to. It's okay. So let's talk about how to handle an evolution in your craft. There are a couple of challenges. The first one is that it's getting your audience to recognize you for your new work. And different audiences are going to understand this differently than others, and it also, again, depends on where the evolution comes from. If you're at a point of focus and you're just going through an evolution that doesn't feel such a big leap, it's pretty easy, right? So if I go from making stuff only in metal to making stuff in metal and stones, it's pretty recognizable still as my work. But if you're making a bigger leap, if you're saying, "Okay, I made jewelry out of metal and now here are these painted scarves," now you have to train your audience to recognize you for that new thing. And that's a challenge. You also have a challenge of handling audience demand for old work. "Hey, I still want this thing. Can I have it?" "Hey, I found these bracelets that you made 10 years ago off of Pinterest from your Etsy sold things, can I have them?" Here's the deal with this, you get to decide if they can have it or not. There's actually no right or wrong answer here, and we're going to talk about that a little bit more in a minute. But ultimately, you get to decide, "I want to say no, so I'm going to say no." You don't want to make rainbow art anymore, you want to make black and white stuff. That's okay. That's your prerogative as an artist. You might also have a challenge of getting rid of excess inventory of old work. So maybe, so you might have this problem, right? Stuff sold and now you don't have any more and people still want it, or stuff didn't sell and you're over it and now it's sitting around your house. That might a challenge that you have to encounter. We're going to talk about that in a minute. And you also might have to think about overcoming major changes in price point. If it's very different, that creates some challenges. So how do you handle sharing the new direction with your audience? It really depends on your audience growth strategy. But no matter what, I like to think of this idea of tease then release. So don't just fling new products out from left field, right? Let people know things are coming. Now, tease and release is super-easy on social media, right, especially on Instagram. So easy to tease then release, "This is what I'm working on, guys. Here, it's coming, you can join the mailing list, you can get on that, it is happening," right? It just feels really natural, it's the whole point of something like Instagram. It's also pretty natural via email, I didn't throw these in here but literally in the same timeframe where I was teasing out those new pieces with the stones on social media, I was also teasing them out in email. And I actually think that, in my class, "Make a Living Selling What You Make," I go actually really dive deep into the entire launch strategy for that new line. So if you want more resources, you can definitely check that class out as well. So it works easiest in those platforms but it can and should be done with other audience building techniques as well. So maybe you've been working on pitching the press, and now you've got a few media contacts. You can reach out to them letting them know that something new is coming. And may even then want to feature your product on the day it's released. It's a good way to make some money, right? Thing drops, here's some press. You should also think about sending preview images to your stores, right? Don't assume your stores are following you on social media, a lot of them aren't, they're busy. It's hard to be a storeowner. They're busy, they have stuff to do, they're not all paying attention. Actually send them emails, send your stores emails letting them know that new stuff is coming. Get them excited about it. You can also think about things like writing preview blog posts that are optimized for search, right? Teasing it out that way. So there's ways to tease things out beyond social media. And really, that's the biggest challenge. So the biggest challenge of handling an evolution in what you do, is figuring out what to do with your old work. And there are two potential challenges, and I tried to write this in some clever way and then I realized let's just say what it is. You either have demand and no supply, which means people want to buy the things but you don't have any more and you don't want to make them. Or you have supply but no demand, you made a bunch of stuff and nobody's buying it. So if you have demand but no supply... Actually, before we go on to that, I have a question. So those of you guys who are maybe in an evolution, you guys, either of you, do you have either one of these problems? Is anyone dealing with this? Richelle's nodding. Richelle, what do you have? - [Richelle] Supply but no demand. - Okay. Karen? - [Karen] Also supply and no demand. - Tony has the same thing. Yeah. So that's a big one but it's not the only one. So let's talk about the other one first, let's talk about demand but no supply. This is something that's been happening to me lately. Where I'm like, "I want to get rid of this thing, and people still want to buy it. I have nothing left," right? So you have a couple of options here if this is the case that you're in. And this happens I think a lot...the places where demand but no supply happens a lot are things like, if you are selling to stores, right, stores, stores want to keep buying the same thing. And so, because they know it sells, they like things in the store that sell. This happens a lot if you're really well-optimized for things like search. This is the problem that Tiffany had for a long time in her work, people still wanted those feather hoops, man. And she's like, "I'm so tired of making feather hoops." So there's certain audience growth strategies where this happens more so you can be mindful that that might happen. And then those of you who are in the supply but no demand problem are so jealous of this problem, but it's still an issue, it's still something you have to make decisions about. So there are a few decisions that you can make. So one is that you can outsource production. You can say, "I'm going to make this available but I'm going to let someone else do it. I'm going to hire a seamstress to work on this for me. I'm going to hire an assistant. I'm going to outsource production in some way." Another one is to raise prices. To, hopefully, drop demand a little. Now, sometimes this backfires, sometimes you raise prices and you still have more of a demand. See, that one, then you might end up jumping into another one. But that's always an option, right? You could always raise prices. If you really want to get rid of it, you can announce a cutoff date for ordering. But the thing you have to remember with that one is that's actually going to increase demand. So if you're like, "Hey..." This is the problem that I've been through. I have a whole bunch of pieces I want to cut from my line and I want to tell people that I'm getting rid of them, but I don't actually want them to order them. And I know, as soon as I say they're going away, it's going to increase orders. So if you don't want to deal with that, the last thing is, you just let it go. It's just gone and you say no. And all of these are personal preference, you have the choice, and you might do some hybrid. So for me, I'm trying to transition out of some of my old work, so I raise the prices on some things. Some of them are just too good of a seller to get rid of, I just can't. But I raise the prices a little, if people want them, they're going to pay me more. And then a few things I just let go off. All right. So if you have the opposite problem, if you have supply but no demand, you can do a couple of things. One is, you can hold a time-sensitive sample sale. Time-sensitive is the big key with this kind of sale, and we're going to talk about that more in a minute. The other one is, quite frankly, sometimes you just give it away. Sometimes you're like, "I'm so tired of this being in my house. Merry Christmas, everybody." Right? It's a viable option. I know we want to get paid for everything we've made, and truly, I want you to get paid for everything you made. But if it's really creating a lot of baggage for you, just give it away, give it to someone else. Let them get excited about it. But, of course, we want to try to recoup some money. So let's talk about the sample sale. And you can do this both in person and online. So you could actually literally do a craft show that you treat as a sample sale, right? I'm going to do this craft show or I'm going to do this farmers' market this weekend, where I get myself in front of people, and it's all the stuff I want to get rid of and I made it cheap, right? You could do that, you can literally do an in-person sample sale. Or you could put everything together in your studio and you could ask your friends to invite all of their friends, bring them into your studio, do an in-person sale. So you don't have to do this online. And most of these dos and don'ts would actually apply to an in-person one as well. But the most important thing with any sample sale is that there is this time-bound component. So what I see people do is they're like, "Well, I don't want this anymore, so I'm just going to mark it down and stick it in my Etsy shop," right? And a few people are going to buy but there's still no motivation, right? Because it's going to be there for a while, I can get it next week. But when you say, "At the end of this sample sale, this is going away," that motivates people. Here's the thing about that, it doesn't have to go away forever. So I have a box that sits on the floor of my studio because it just sits on the floor in front of my inventory. And when I come across things in my studio that I'm not making any more, samples, or if it feels like there's excess inventory, they go in the box, it's my sample sale box. Once a year, I decide I'm going to have a sample sale, I inventory it, I do the sample sale. We're going to talk about that in a second. Anything that doesn't sale in the sample sale gets taken off the website and it stays in that box. I spend the next year tossing stuff in the box. So once a year, it comes back, right? So a couple of dos and don'ts for the sample sale. First of all, do tease your audience so they know the sale is coming, right? Get people excited. You know what the biggest driver of sign-ups to my email list is? When I do my sample sale. It's like my sample sale, my birthday sale, they get to shop first. Oh, you get the sample sale an hour before everybody else? Yes, please, put me on your email list, I want to be first because stuff sold out. So tease them, let them know it's coming, have them get so excited that they put it on their calendar, right? That's the goal. Don't make the sale last longer than a few days. I actually like to make mine 24 hours. Because truthfully, if you've done this first step right, most of your sales are going to come in the first hour anyway, first hour or two, if you've done this part right. So I like to keep it short, 24 to 48 hours. Anything after that, people forget. Do make sure you've done a thorough inventory. There's nothing worse than putting something in your sample sale, getting the number wrong, and then realizing you have to make one now. Because you only had two in the box and you put three, right? So actually do that inventory. This is the hardest part, or the longest part of a sample sale is inventorying. And I will say, with a sample sale, I have no shame about less-than-stellar product photography. Anything that I already have an image for, I use. If I don't have an image. That's when I get out the iPhone and the quick weird neck selfie so they can see it. Or quick on the mannequin, little time at editing, boom, it's up. Because I've probably put it if I'm doing... If I'm at that stage, I'm probably giving it out at about 50% off retail. When I do my sample sale, I'm usually anywhere between 30% to 50% off retail, but you can pick where you want to be on that. But get it up there quick but make sure you do the inventory. And then don't be afraid to email your list and post on social media multiple times about the sale. So what I do anytime I'm doing something like a sample sale is, I push it out on social media and let people know, get on my email list, they get it first. So then, say, at 11 on that day, the email goes out. Then if it's a 24-hour sale, I might send one more email. So what I'll do is, the next morning, I'll send the second email. Here's why I love MailChimp so much, because I can go into MailChimp and I can say, "Only send this email to people who haven't bought a product in the last 24 hours." And MailChimp and Shopify talk to each other and they know that. So I'm not bothering people who already bought, right? So I'll go in, I'll send the email. If I'm doing, say, a 48-hour sale, I might go first day, second day, maybe, or that morning of the second day, only to people who didn't open the first email. And then I'll do, say, a third "this is ending" email to everyone who hasn't bought in the last 48 hours. So not all those emails go out to everybody, but I'm not only emailing once because people miss things. Same thing with your social media posts, post multiple times. If there's ever a day where you're going to do three or four posts in a day, it's when you're having a big sale like this. So I just want to show you a couple of these teaser posts. So literally, can I keep these things simple, right? I'm holding my annual online sample sale this Friday, excess inventory, experimental stuff, 30% to 50% off. Mailing list members to get to shop an hour early. Join the list. Real simple. And actually, when we were talking before about how to make graphics. This is one that I actually made in Canva because it was super-simple. And then, actually, this is the case where I reused an Instagram picture because I was like, "Oh, I'm putting this necklace in the sample sale, but all I have is this awkward selfie of me. So I'm just going to repost it and talk about the sample sale, right?" We're going to ignore my really dry lips. All right. The other thing to keep in mind is that it's okay. Now, obviously, if you have a ton of inventory, this is not what I'm talking about. But it's okay to keep some of your old work for your archives. I feel like this is a thing where none of us think we're important enough to need archives, right? But you don't know, you might get really famous in the next 20 years. And then you're going to want to have held on to some of that old stuff. A, because it could be worth more, and B, because someone is going to come along and be like, "I need to curate and document all your stuff because you're so famous now." You guys are all going to be famous in 20 years. So sell most of it, but it's okay if you have a few pieces laying around, it's okay to have some things in your archives. Because you just never know, so that's something to keep in mind. All right. Any questions about this idea of hanging on evolution or even the specifics of having a sale? Denise? - [Denise] You call it a sample sale. - Yes. - I feel like, for my line, that my... - You can't call it that. - That might be confusing because I do actually have samples that I send out that say "sample" on it, so what would you suggest calling it? Like an inventory sale or? - Or a second sale or even... Let's see. Sample. I think I would just call it, "I'm running a sale in excess inventory," that's probably what I would just say, like, "Hey, we got a bunch of extra stuff, we're going to run this special sale." Any of you guys that have a thought on that? My mind is drawing a slight, "What?" - Clearance? You could call it clearance, it's not my favorite word. What I would actually probably do is, actually, clearance is a better way to start. And then I would throw the word clearance into a thesaurus and see what else comes up. That's my favorite trick when I'm like, "I don't know." The dictionary app is always up on my computer, but always set to the thesaurus tab. - I think if you were going to put it on your post and your picture, just be like, "Sale," and then explain into the thing. Like, "Oh, yeah, it's a sale of these products that we have too much of." - Yeah. Actually, that makes me think, (inaudible) calls, "We made too much." Which is a really clever way to think about it, too. So, other questions. Let's turn to a couple from our online audience. Okay. "So I'm considering producing limited-edition collections of my photographic art. Does this create a bigger demand of my time if I ever get to the demand but no supply stage?" I'm trying to understand that question. "Limited-edition collections of my photographic art. Does this create a bigger demand of my time if I ever get to the demand but no supply stage?" If you are physically producing them, then yes, it could create a problem for you if you have to produce more than others. But I think the beauty of it is, if you're truly doing limited-edition, you get to say when the edition is over so you can actually stop it. If you get to this demand but no supply stage, you just say, "It was a limited-edition, supply is over." So I actually think, in this case, it probably doesn't really create more work for you if you just frame it right. Sometimes it's all about how you frame things, but good question. Kelly, all right, so, "Should you not show the work when it's not for sale? So only show it when you're teasing it and getting ready for the launch?" Yes. So what I do with the sample sale is, so some of my sample sale is excess inventory and some of it is literally things where I made something to test it out and it didn't make it into my line. And so what happens is, I show the work when I'm teasing it out, it literally only lands on my website during the sale, and then it completely disappears from the website. So that's the time-sensitive piece. But most of the other times, if I'm not teasing, I don't talk about it because it's hiding in the box, right? It's actually out of sight, out of mind, and people will forget, too. So you really only want to show it when you're teasing. And then when the sale is over, it totally disappears from the website. Good question. Sirloin says," I am a digital artist, oil pastel, and soft pastel artist. I'm a portrait artist, animal artist, and photographer." That's a lot of stuff. "I love everything I do, it's all artwork and my soul all over the place. Should I focus on one area?" Yes. That is a lot of words to describe what you do, right? So if you have to take all of these things, that's really a good sign of a lack of focus. So you should focus on one area if you're trying to build your business. If you're still in experimental stage, you can be all of those things, and then just tell people you're an artist, right? But if you're trying to focus and grow your brand and grow your business, you're going to need to focus and pick one. So what I would say is you need to pick one from this top category, are you focusing on digital, are you focusing on oil pastel, are you focusing on soft pastel? You might be able to make mix these two up a little bit because here's the thing, this is a really technical term that people don't understand anyway. So basically, either you're creating art on your computer or you're creating drawings, that's how your customer is going to see it. So that's choice number one. And then choice number two is, are you portraits or are you animal? Actually, photographer goes up there. So if you're a digital artist, you're drawing or you're a photographer. And then pick a subject matter, either it's portraits or it's animal. Unless you decide to be the person who only does portraits of people holding animals. You could put that together if you wanted to. But it's still, "I don't do portraits and animals, I do both or I do one." So yes, but you should definitely pick a focus if you're actually trying to build your business. And remember, you don't have to pick that focus forever. Settle on it for six months to a year. And then if you're like, "Oh, I miss the animals," go back to them. Matt. - [Matt] Yeah, (inaudible) because I do primarily small illustration work, and that's what I sell, that's my thing. It's just, the originals are maybe 9 inches by 12 inches, that's about as big as it gets. But then I do bigger paintings, too. So the other time I throw up like, "Oh, I did this original painting." And then you get an email the next day being like, "Hey, I want a big painting as well." And like, "Cha-ching, awesome, sweet." But it's not something that I push because it's not something that I have the time to do all the time, but I like doing it. So if you have all these external things you want to do, I think just teasing it out. Like, "Oh, yeah, I did this thing," and it's good to keep that as a thing that you can do. So in case it comes up and you want to do it, but not, yeah, it's too much to say that you do everything. Because, yeah. - Exactly. And I think the other reason that that works for you is... And again, sorry, Sirloin, I haven't seen your work so I can't speak to this specifically, but, Matt, you have a really clear-defined esthetic. So even though you do the illustration and then you might do some paintings. When I go to your site or when I look at your Instagram, I'm like, "Yup, that's Matt, I get it." So you can get away with a little bit more of this as long as the esthetic is really tight. But when you start listing all of these things, it definitely makes me feel a little nervous, we got to hone that in a little.

Class Description

Are you a maker in the first phase of starting a business? You have a great business idea or beautiful product to sell, but not enough time to focus on both your craft AND selling your product. Well, this class is for you. 

Considered one of the most respected crafters in the business, Megan Auman will show you how you can concurrently work on your craft, grow sales, and focus on marketing initiatives that will get customers in the door. Megan is a designer, metalsmith, educator, and entrepreneur who has built a multi-faceted business around her passion for great design and sustainable business. Her designs have been featured in Design Sponge, Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, and more. 

In this class, she will show you:
  • The who, where, and when of your business; who you should be selling to, where you should sell, and the right time to launch 
  • How to adapt your business and your product line as your business grows 
  • How to make money in the beginning stages of your business that allows you to justify spending more time on your craft
Learn the essential skills needed for having a successful craft business. There's no better time than now, so reserve your spot and turn your craft into a profitable business.


Kristen Girard

Fantastic class! If you have never taken a Megan Auman class, this is the perfect one to start with. It filled in some knowledge gaps that I didn't know I had. Lots of great basic knowledge that I haven't been able to find elsewhere. Super helpful!

Maike Armstrong

First of all, it's so fun to learn from Megan! She is so motivating and enthusiastic – making you feel great about your business even when you are just starting out. The class is well put together, easy to follow and has simple, actionable steps to follow in order to actually move forward. I definitely recommend you check it out for yourself!

Shelby Anderson

Megan's class has given me such a great start and very practical how-to's for starting as a solopreneur. I've been so overwhelmed by all there is to do and all the tips, tricks, and knowledge; she was great at explaining and giving some real life and real time examples of how to step out and be great as a creative. Thank you Megan!