What I learned from my first holiday season running my business full time….
I have had so many people reach out to ask me questions regarding how my first holiday season running my business full time went. I’ve been getting asked the same 2 questions by other makers a lot recently: 1. Advice on having a successful holiday season, and 2. Hot to Turn a side hustle into a full time job.
I’ve been getting asked by other makers for any advice for the holiday season, tips and tricks, and how to turn a side hustle into a full time job. So here I am writing a long, wordy, blog post for you.
Inventory! The four months straight of 16 hour days I spent crocheting and macraming were not fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love crocheting and am blown away with how crazy turning a side hustle into a full job was, but 16 hours a day crocheting is pretty awful for your body and mind.
Essentially, I had no inventory built up prior to September and put myself into a hole with market prep, online orders, and wholesale orders. Prep, prep, and prep even more during the off season. Set yourself up with an inventory amount you want to hit by certain dates and hold yourself accountable to it. I had a six week lead time at the worst of it and lost out on some really amazing wholesale deals because of it.
I have multiple herniated discs in my neck and back that actually make crocheting and macraming a bit rough on my buddy. I have a very solid yoga practice (I also teach yoga), and a wonderful acupuncturist who helps save my body. I got to the point where the highlight of my day would be taking a shower because it was my only break from making. My body felt awful, I wasn’t enjoying making, and I just knew I had to get through it. I was in a lot of pain and didn’t have time for any of my self care that keeps me physically and mentally okay.
Lesson learned….have a large inventory ready to go for the holidays and your body, mind, friends, and family will be very thankful.
Holiday Markets….It is so hard to figure out what markets you will do well at and what ones will be a fail. I thought I spent 2017 figuring out what holiday markets worked for me, but I found out in 2018 that even the ones you did well at the year before aren’t guaranteed to be a success again the following year.
I applied to too many holiday markets and even committed myself to ones I had a feeling I wouldn’t sell great at. Bad idea. Why I thought my products would sell at markets I wouldn’t as a consumer shop at is a mystery to me and was a learning experience. I didn’t lose any money at any particular markets, but I definitely learned how much money I need to make at one for it to be worth it for me. The setup, prep time, and even working your own booth at a market all adds up with costs, money, and time.
If you can, share a booth with another maker whose products compliment yours. It keeps your costs down, but also allows you to have someone to chat with all day and help cover when you need to take a bathroom break.
This was my first year realizing it is better to do less markets and be a bit choosier about that ones you do. Find markets that align with your brand, your consumers, and that make you enough money to make it worth it. Markets are a lot of work, hard work, but you get your brand out to so many amazing people by doing them.
Befriend other makers in your community. I can’t even begin to explain how important this is. My community of other makers have helped me out so incredibly much and are an amazing support system. When you own and run your business by yourself, sometimes you just need to bounce ideas off others that understand your world. I got some amazing advice from markers in my community and have built some long lasting friendships.
Also, be nice to other makers! Just because you make a similar product to someone in the same community doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly and help each other out. My biggest competitor in my area and I are friends, help eachother out, and are often at the same markets. There is room for more than just one person who makes a particular product. No need to be rude, block them on Instagram, walking past their booths at markets investigating their products and not saying anything. We are all trying to grow and run our own business and you never know who will help you out or what sort of connection will lead to something in the long run.
Buy what you can at wholesale pricing..I had no idea until this year I could buy my yarn at wholesale pricing and not have to coupon stack at Michaels and JoAnn’s. Almost all large yarn brands offer this if you can give them an EIN number. This made a huge difference for me with cost of producing products, as well as having a large stock of yarn ready to go for orders. I only had a few hiccups with running out of yarn for orders due to some colors being discontinued, but fortunately I had some very understanding customers!
This shit is hard and not for everyone. I was blown away with turning something that I had previously given 25% of my time and effort to into something I was giving 100% to. I sold more product then I knew I could make, donated more money to Planned Parenthood (the organization I donate 5% of my sales to) than I ever thought I would, and worked longer days without a break then I ever had. I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive husband, family, and friends, because it takes an army. My husband learned to make a crucial item for my products to help me, helped setup and breakdown at almost every market, took over all our house duties, and basically ran our lives for four months. My friends that stayed with us during that time stamped bags for markets, wrote out pricing tags, cooked me food, and came to support me at markets. Running your own business is hard and not for the faint of heart, but if you love it, you 100% should do it.
I hope this helps answer so many of the questions I get about the holidays and running your business.