I made this list based on areas I wasted my time when starting my handmade business. I was able to see positive changes when I corrected them so I think the changes can be beneficial to your business too. I also based it on the mistakes I commonly see other handmade businesses make.
We’re so close to our work it’s hard to take a step back, look at the big picture and see where we’re off track. Sometimes the answers to our problems are staring us right in the face.
I wish someone had pointed out these common time/money wasters to me years ago. But hopefully this list helps guide you in the right direction quicker than I got there.
There are only so many hours in a day and I know many of you are running your businesses as a side project. Which means, you must be strategic about how you spend your time and money.
Check in and see if you’re committing any of these mistakes.
#1 TIME & MONEY WASTER: CREATING
Creating products is a necessity (and one of the best parts of a handmade business), but creating more when you haven’t sold the first round of products is the biggest time and money waster I see small businesses make.
Creating stock for the sake of creating stock isn’t beneficial. Creating stock is beneficial when you know there’s demand for it (here are 5 ways to check) and you have proof in the form of sales.
Making products, setting them up at a craft show or posting them on Etsy and then sharing on social media, does not typically lead to sales rolling in.
It takes a lot more marketing, sales channels, and effort to see consistent sales.
Imagine Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, made a few pairs of Spanx, listed them on Etsy and waited for sales to come in. We likely wouldn’t be aware of Spanx today, nor would it be a billion dollar business. Sara had to work hard, every step of the way, to get people to notice, understand, and take a chance on her product. And it’s grown to a billion dollar business without advertising.
You don’t need a revolutionary product to make money selling your work. But you do need a desire to get it out there.
Assume that no one is searching for your product, they’re not even aware it exists.
No one was searching for “Spanx” or even “shape-wear” when it first came out. Sara had to work to get her product in front of each potential customer and for each sale.
Even if you’re selling knitted scarves or bars of soap, treat your business the same; assume people are unaware of your business and aren’t searching for your products. With all the competition out there, it’s easy for a small business to get lost. So you have to find a way to stand out or alter your product to be one people are searching for.
When someone is searching for a bar of soap, they’ll find hundreds of thousands of options on Etsy alone.
When someone is searching for “activated charcoal soap” because they read an article on how it’s beneficial for oily skin, there are only a couple thousand options. (Be sure to follow label laws if you make soap or skincare products).
Give consumers a reason to buy your products over the others on the market.
Determine which target market you want to serve, what it is they’re searching for and need/want, and create products that align with that.
Don’t keep creating new products until you determine exactly what it is people love about the ones you’ve already sold, or don’t love about the ones you haven’t sold.
Imagine if Sarah created the first pair of Spanx underwear, listed it on Etsy, didn’t make a sale, and then started creating 100 more pairs in different styles, colors, and with different features. If she hadn’t figured out her path to selling one pair, what would she do with 100 more?
Or worse yet, what if she scrapped the entire idea of Spanx and started making regular underwear?
Before you give up on a product or add more to your collection, make sure you’ve given your all to market and sell what you already have.
I would say I used to spend about 80% of my time creating stock and 20% quickly snapping photos, uploading them, writing a quick description, and listing them online. I would also rush through planning my display for craft fairs, contacting retailers to sell wholesale, and several other important tasks.
To be successful when running a small business on your own, creating cannot take up the majority of your time. There are too many other tasks that need your attention and are necessary to sell your products.
There isn’t a right number, but I think a good place to start is 50/50
50% of your time is spent creating
50% of your time is spent marketing and selling
Of course, those numbers can vary depending on type of business, products, etc. But if you have 40 hours to work on your business in a month, you’re missing out on sales and growth opportunities if at least 20 of those hours aren’t used for tasks such as:
- Taking professional photos
- Writing powerful descriptions (how to, examples & template here)
- Testing different social media platforms and interacting with followers (check out 5 STEPS TO VIRAL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS)
- Sending press releases to gain media exposure
- Cross promoting with other businesses
- Writing blog posts
- Starting, growing and sending newsletters
- Working on SEO to grow traffic to your website
- Researching and applying to new craft shows
- Getting your products into retailers (researching retail stores, creating lookbooks, sending samples, meeting with owners, etc.)
- Packaging and shipping orders
- Retaining existing customers (you can use an automated sales funnel for that)
- Planning and preparing for growth
If you need help determining the other areas of business/types of tasks you should be working on and how to get your business organized, check out:
TIME & MONEY WASTER #2: LOW-VALUE TASKS
Think of low-value tasks as ones that give you little or no return on investment (ROI).
There will be some tasks that are considered low value but absolutely still deserve your time and money, such as paying your bills or legally setting up your business (check out LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE). However, the majority of business tasks should give you a ROI.
To know if a task is high value and giving you a return on time or money investment, you must be tracking results.
A post to Facebook may seem like a waste of time when not one “like” or comment pops up. But if you take a closer look at insights and realize 50 people actually clicked the link and visited your website, those five minutes it took to write and publish the post may actually give you a return on investment.
If those 50 visits didn’t result in a sale or newsletter sign up, then you may determine that your listing’s photos, description, newsletter opt-in, or maybe even your website design, are actually where the problem lies.
If the Facebook post wasn’t getting likes, comments, clicks, reach, etc. then it would indeed be a low-value task. And if playing with the type of content posted, when it’s posted, how frequently it’s posted, etc. doesn’t improve website traffic, then posting to Facebook may prove to be such a low-value task that doesn’t deserve any of your time.
For the majority of tasks, there should be a clear path to a sale.
Before you know the value of the tasks you’re working into your day and if they’re actually leading to a sale, you need to know numbers such as the ROI of a task.
To know the ROI of a task, you must know how much time and money you spent on a task, how much revenue it produced, and how much of that revenue is profit.
Not knowing the numbers of your business is sort of like baking a cake without knowing the numbers of a recipe.
Could you bake something that resembles a cake without knowing how much flour to add, how many eggs, the temperature to bake it at and for how long? Maybe…but it likely wouldn’t be something people want seconds of 😉
But if you want a cake you know will come out of the oven perfectly, every time, and will taste amazing on the first try, you’re better off knowing the recipe’s numbers.
Numbers apply to a business in the same way. You can create something that resembles a business without knowing your numbers, but you’ll have much more success (and less stress) if you know your numbers and let them guide where to spend your time and money.
If the number side of the business is something you tend to ignore and just hope it works out (no shame, I used to) THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help you track important numbers, calculate important equations (e.g. ROI) and best of all, understand them.
VALUES OF TASKS
Here are a few examples of common tasks, where they rate on the value scale and why.
Commenting on Instagram posts = medium to low value
If you’re commenting on a business account you hope to collaborate with and you’re commenting with the intention of building awareness of your business, opening a conversation, and starting an online relationship with them, it could lead to many sales if that relationship blossoms and they feature your products.
Writing “nice photo” on 100’s of posts/day in hopes each account will check out your account, click the link to your website and buy, is a low-value task. It’s unlikely a sale will come from a spammy comment and if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
Posting non-promotional posts to Facebook = medium value
Non-promotional posts are required to keep your followers engaged and interested, but even when you’re posting a funny meme, there should be a purpose behind it:
more likes = more reach
more reach = new followers
new followers = more eyes on promotional posts
Sharing someone else’s content isn’t likely to lead to a sale but if it’s improving engagement and growing your followers, which may then lead to a sale when you put a promotional post in front of new followers, it has some value.
Contacting retailers = high value
Not every retailer will say yes to carrying your products in their store but when one does say yes, it’s a direct path to several sales.
Blog post = medium value
A blog post may not directly lead to a sale but it can boost your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) to grow your traffic and get more people on your newsletter list. And sending out a newsletter is a high-value task that should lead to sales (when done correctly).
Creating stock = ? (it depends)
The value of this task depends on your sales. If you have a proven method of selling those products then it would be a high-value task because the creation of a product is likely to equal the sale of a product. However, if you haven’t sold the ones you made last week, don’t have a proven sales method, are creating without a clear purpose or without some proof that the product is likely to sell, it’s likely a low-value task. You’re spending time and money creating a product you’re not sure will sell.
Think about what you work on in a week and rate each task as a high, medium or low value. Any that are low should be given less time in your schedule, while high-value tasks should get the majority of your attention. THE SUCCESS PLANNER will help you determine the value of your tasks and when to work on them.
TIME & MONEY WASTER #3: COMPETITION
I actually fell into this trap just the other day. I got sucked down a path of looking to see what others in a similar industry are doing, made myself feel like I’m not successful enough, and felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me the rest of the day.
Prior to that, I was feeling great about my accomplishments, the path I was on, and my business’ plans for the future. Then all of a sudden I started questioning everything, and my abilities.
I strongly believe that if we have a desire and goal to achieve something, it means we’re meant to be/do/have it. I’ve never wanted to be a doctor, a professional athlete, or a model…and for good reasons. I can clearly see why I would fail to reach any of those goals.
But I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and business owner. The more I believe I can be successful, in whichever business venture I’m working on, and appreciate all the ways I’m different from competitors, recognize what I’m great at, and in general, have a positive outlook and attitude about my ventures, the better business gets.
It’s almost impossible to do that when I’m focused on what others are doing and paying attention to what they’re great at, which only triggers a sense of lack or being “not good enough”.
Be aware of what’s going on in your industry so you can continue to strengthen your unique selling position, but don’t go down paths that have you looking at how many social media followers, Etsy sales, or newsletter subscribers another business similar to yours has.
It’s a waste of time.
TIME & MONEY WASTER #4: BRANDING
Should you spend time and money on your brand? Absolutely! But it must be done purposefully, otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money.
Many handmade business owners put the cart before the horse when it comes to their brand and branding.
First, you must define what your brand is.
And to do that, you must have a clear idea of what you offer, how it’s different from what’s out there and why it matters to consumers. In other words: you must be very clear on your USP (unique selling position) before you start defining your brand.
If you haven’t thought about those aspects, you’re likely wasting time and money having a logo designed and plastering it on your business cards, packaging, website, etc.
For help setting up or determining the key elements your brand should be built on, sign up for my FREE 5-day email challenge BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES.
Don’t underestimate the power of a brand, there are a lot of important elements that go into it.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your brand and it doesn’t require a lot of money. It simply requires you knowing how you want people to feel when they interact with your business and finding ways to evoke that feeling in everything you do.
For example, let’s say I started a business selling knitted scarves, mittens, and hats. The reason I started making scarves is because I’m an animal lover and didn’t like how sheep are typically treated in the harvesting of wool. I love animals and want them to live happy healthy lives. “Love”, “animals”, “cute” and “happy” may be words my brand is built on.
Once you have clearly defined your brand, then you can work on branding.
There are many different ways brand vs. branding is defined or looked at. I like to think of branding as the act of applying your brand and getting your brand’s message out.
>>When choosing a logo, I would want it to be cute, use happy colors, and maybe work a heart or sheep icon in.
>>When selecting materials, I would choose synthetic materials or cruelty-free wool.
>>When choosing names for my products or writing descriptions, I’d want to be sure they were written in a cheerful, playful tone and express my love for animals.
>>When selling at a craft fair, I would want my display to communicate “cute”, show my love for animals and have conversations with shoppers that share how sheep are often harmed in the harvesting of wool, but at the same time, uplift people and leave them feeling happy about supporting a good cause.
>>When marketing on Facebook I’d choose images and messages that point out my focus on cruelty-free wool and tell the story of my brand.
From my logo to the way I would dress and talk about my products, my cute, animal-loving brand that evokes happiness, would come through in all aspects of my business.
So, branding is important, but it’s a waste of time unless you’re crystal clear on your brand. And building your brand is a waste of time unless you know your USP.
TIME & MONEY WASTER #5: SAYING YES
When I ran my handmade business, I didn’t want to risk losing a single sale, so I said yes to everything.
Yes to events that weren’t a fit, yes to custom orders I had no interest in making, yes to marketing opportunities that made me feel extremely uncomfortable, yes to replying to emails at all hours, etc.
Saying “yes” without thoroughly thinking through what I was saying yes to, meant I was unnecessarily putting a lot of low-value tasks on my plate.
Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”.
Remember that people are thinking about what’s best for their business or lives when they contact you. Sometimes the stars align and something is a benefit to both parties. But only you know if it’s best for your side and must make decisions accordingly.
An event organizer needs to sell all their spaces to make a profit, so asking you, last minute, to participate in their not-quite-full craft show is likely more about putting money in their pockets and may not be the best fit for your business.
A last-minute shopper who needs a gift like, yesterday so their friend doesn’t think they forgot about their birthday, is not thinking about the extra hours you have to work to finish an order, the rush hour traffic you have to sit in to make it to the post office and mail one item, or the other tasks that get off track because of their poor planning.
If you’d like a list of other areas that I believe, as handmade business owners, we can all be a little too flexible and saying yes can sometimes lead to a time/money waster, check out: 10 TIMES A CRAFT SHOW VENDOR SHOULD SAY “NO”
Let me know, are you wasting time and money on any of these things?
Any other handmade business tasks you’ve discovered aren’t worth your time? Share in the comments!