I want to help you build a sustainable, profitable handmade business that makes you consistent income and sales. I only ever teach or recommend marketing, social media, pricing, production and branding tips that I’ve personally used successfully in my own 7-figure handmade businesses.
I'm Mei, from Los Angeles!
starting a business
get more traffic
running a business
make more sales
growing a business
mindset & productivity
pricing & money
selling on etsy
selling on amazon
I sent you an email asking if you wanted to see a 2014 year review of my handmade jewelry business, Tiny Hands.
I’ve never exposed so much of my business like this before but it can be helpful for you to have this insight into another creative business!
I received an overwhelming response to do this financial review so here it is.
My hope is that it will help you feel inspired and motivated to know that a small handmade business can really thrive and prosper.
And that you don’t have to work at a 9 to 5 corporate office job all of your life.
I’ll be talking about what worked and what didn’t for me in 2014, and that can give you a better idea of how you may want to map out your year.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your marketing. Just learn from me :-)
So here it is, the screenshot of my revenue, expenses and profit!
First, there is no such thing as overnight success and get rich quick schemes.
Let me bring you back to where this all really started.
I went full time in 2011 but spent most of the year developing my art, product line and brand.
I picked up a web design job on the side that I found on Craigslist. It allowed me to work from home while being paid a monthly retainer. Most importantly, my part time job supported me while I was still figuring things out!
At this point I already had dreams to build a thriving business.
But I wasn’t exactly sure how.
In 2012, I started creating systems within my business. I worked on documenting my processes on how I make my jewelry.
I calculated my costs and prices, and came up with a piece work rate system that I would eventually use to pay my contractors.
In April 2012, I hired my first production assistant.
I ‘graduated’ her to work from home after she completed her training with me. Unfortunately, her work became so sloppy and I didn’t set the right expectations. We went separate ways.
I spoke with a mentor, someone I admired. Her advice to me: hire more people than you think you’ll need, because half of them are going to drop out.
In 2013, I started to ramp things up:
I made about $80,000 in revenue this year. But my profit was nowhere close to what I wanted it to be for all the late nights I worked.
I quit my web design job. My husband and I start a new venture together.
All the time and energy I invested in my business finally starts to pay off. Yay!
Let’s have a close look at 2014:
2014 was the year of social media for me. In January I had 4,400 Facebook fans and 900 Instagram followers.
I started tracking my sales more closely and found that both Facebook and Instagram were bringing me sales. More and more customers told me they found me on social media!
That was when I decided to go full swing on building those pages. I currently have 25,000 Facebook fans and 11,000 Instagram followers.
Facebook is now one of my top referrers for business!
The key with all social media is to focus on curating amazing and share-worthy content to your fans.
For the three months I did very little promotional content and only published posts that I thought my audience would enjoy.
I also paid very close attention to what kinds of posts my audience likes and made sure to do more of that.
They’ll soon grow to love your brand and will be more receptive to your sales posts.
I also invest a fair bit in education. Taking e-courses, reading books, attending workshops are all important for keeping up with Internet commerce.
I could have learnt the ropes myself, but learning curves slow down progress. It would have taken me so much longer to get to where I was heading.
There is also accountability when you commit yourself to a program or course. This kept me in check every time I felt unmotivated,
Every two weeks, I meet with two friends who also run handmade businesses.
A great support network or mastermind group is super fun – I look forward to our meetings all the time!
When the shit hits the fan, I can talk to them about it. When I’ve reached a milestone, they’ll celebrate with me.
I also get some majorly lucrative ideas from them, such as my Necklace of the Month Club. Which leads me to…
I have almost 100 subscribers in my Necklace of the Month club, which generates a nice, consistent pay check for me.
This subscription model is great because you don’t have to guess where your next sale is going to be!
I also take every opportunity I get to sell in new online marketplaces such as Opensky, Vault, Amazon and Reddit, in addition to Etsy.
It’s important to me that these marketplaces don’t take up extra work to manage. So I spend almost no time promoting those sites.
I send everyone to my main website, TinyHandsOnline.com, where almost 3/4 of my revenue comes from!
I also sell wholesale, which helps expose my jewelry line to new markets.
In April 2014 I signed the contract to work with Soldsie which is yet a different way to sell online.
Using Soldsie to sell on Facebook has made me $22,000+ in revenue!
I knew that to grow my business I needed to stop being the only person that crafted my product.
I considered factories and alternate production methods like 3D printers…
It felt impossible to outsource production of something so incredibly niche like scented, handsculpted food jewelry.
When I started the process of offloading the production of my jewelry to someone else, I struggled especially when training new people.
At times when my assistants made something less than perfect, I always thought:
“If I just did it myself I could get this done so much faster.”
But with the right hires, the positive attitudes and with a lot of patience and commitment, those thoughts went away as my team became more skilled.
Now my assistants work from home and only stop by the studio to get inventory updates, pick up materials and drop off finished products.
In October – November, my husband and I made the crazy decision to take a 5 week vacation.
We went to Disney World, Florida for the first time! Then to New York, then to Malaysia for our wedding reception (we never officially had one yet) and then to Hong Kong.
The coolest part: I was completely hands off in all physical aspects of my handmade business.
Business was as usual during my absence. *wink*
I work an average of 20-30 hours per week. To make a six figure income from that is a dream come true!
It broke my heart to leave my web design job – the company was a small local business of 4 people and they really needed my help. Plus, they were so lovely to work with!
But I knew it was the right thing for me if I wanted to clear mental space and time to focus completely on my own business.
For next year I may work on lowering my expenses in advertising and finding better suppliers for my materials.
I’m aiming to divert more of my time to this blog and on the Craftivity app.
For all of 2014, I let my sales reps and my website generate wholesale sales for me. I could play a more involved role to increase my wholesale revenue!
Now that I feel comfortable with social media, I would love to tackle celebrity and TV show placement for the new year.
The freedom my team gives me allows me to continually promote my business.
Thanks to the talent and genius of the amazing people around me, Tiny Hands is all grown up!
I’m so excited for what 2015 will bring.
What are you excited for in 2015?
What are you celebrating for in 2014?
How will you spend your time in your business?
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This workshop is for anyone who makes and sells a handmade or physical product, including jewelry designers, artists, paper designers, bath & body product makers and more!
The #1 mistake people make with Etsy & social media that causes shops to FLOP
The secret to making it with your handmade shop so it's no longer just a hobby
How to make sales in your handmade shop with ease so you can finally get to 6-figures
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Right now I am very frustrated because I sold only half as much as I did last year. I don’t know how people can be casual about 5 sales a week when I don’t even have 5 sales a month. I have done everything any business person has told me but I can’t get any other Milliners to talk to me about sales or anything business wise. Right now I’m bummed out about my business. I’ve got my winter hats on sale. I’ve had 4 sales in the last 2 years and have sold exactly 2 hats through those sales. If you can tell me anything to help increase sales it would be wonderful. My sales seem to be totally random, no repeat customers and no referrals.
I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t had a great year. Can you tell me what you’ve done to promote your business? Where do you currently sell? That way I can help identify how you might be able to increase sales.
Thank you so much for allowing us to take a peek into your success!
I’m excited to use the pitching skills I learned from your In the Limelight course!
In 2014, I stopped going to craft shows since it cost too much money and I rarely recouped my expenses. I learned that I do very well with custom orders!
In 2015, after I redo my product photos, I will pitch to online blogs, magazines and explore wholesaling. I also want to launch a new product line.
Of course, Toni! I wasn’t sure if my year end review would discourage or motivate people, but the general response is a pretty good one :)
I agree completely with craft shows. I only ever do the ones that I know are totally worth it, usually only around the holidays. I’m done trying smaller shows out though!
Do you have ideas yet for your new product line? That’s always exciting to think about!
I always enjoy reading your posts because you are such a pragmatic and dynamic creative business inspiration. I am currently reviewing my product line to decide what I can do to make it more ‘original’ vs assembled..at first I was aiming to be more in line with juried shows so as to meet their criteria for participation; instead I am going to aim for a product line that might be worthy of exposure in gift shop settings and might also appeal to a more minimalist aesthetic for fashion minded bloggers to consider promoting. I haven’t traveled down that promotional road as yet as the feedback I have gotten from the brick and mortar venues I have approached so far with my existing inventory has been discouraging and I feel that I will need to improve my product before I can hope to be more successful with my promotional efforts. The downtime involved in exploring creative options worries me because I don’t want to neglect my ETSY shop and allow it to stagnate and lose my existing following while I am figuring this out. I was considering previewing some prototypes on instagram to see what might seem appealing to my audience, but often times I am not sure whether or not a lukewarm response is due to the item itself or my poor understanding of hashtag use. Hoping this doesn’t take too long to figure out and meanwhile I will introduce some items that are variations on what has sold well in the past year since opening my shop to try to keep it fresh. Also what is the best way to introduce the option for followers/customers to sign up for an email list as I understand this is an effective way to promote shop news (I am thinking no more than once or twice a month)?
In my experience with coming up with new product designs and gathering customer response is it can sometimes take time.
I launched a lower price point jewelry collection that wasn’t as detailed as my regular pieces. I didn’t really promote it. The first year I had it up on my website, I sold maybe 1 or 2 pieces. I thought it was a total flop.
The next year, I didn’t change a thing, I didn’t promote it. But the sales for it started to go up and up, until I couldn’t keep up with producing this new line, that I eventually discontinued it.
Now when I’m creating product, to a certain extent I make designs that I know people will love (because they ask for it) and also that I will personally love. There is definitely sometimes the internal struggle of creating pieces that you personally don’t love, even though it sells well.
To address your concerns, I would write down a list of what you’re currently doing with your Etsy shop to keep it active and the sales coming in.
Then try to turn those tasks into habits so you do them every day and every week.
Once you’ve created a system for that, you will be more efficient and should have the time carved out to think about your new line.
You may have to refer to Etsy’s Terms of Service on this. But I would put up a link to your newsletter opt-in/sign up page (if you sign up with a service like Mailchimp, they will give you a unique URL for your customers/fans to sign up at) on your shop announcement.
On social media you could also do a giveaway and the requirement to enter is to sign up for your mailing list. This will get you to building your list super quickly.
Hope that helps!
[…] Reading and learning from the generous sharing of Income Reports – Abby’s, Pinch of Yum’s and Mei’s. […]
All your blog post inspired me a lot, thanks for sharing all your tips and this report which seem so unbelievable!
You were my boosting thing of the night, i’m really now to do all these tasks!
I’m planning to do wholesale next year so thanks to one of your post, i now how to do it well.
Thanks for all this inspiration and motivation!
Thank you for stopping by, Aline! I’m glad to be a source of inspiration for you :)
Thank you so much for sharing this. I am into handmade jewelry business and I am sure this article is going to help me in future!
I’m interested in starting my own business with my art. I do a lot of different drawings “mainly with pen and oil based colored pencil” and I just got into drawing with a digital tablet. A friend of mine got me into setting up a booth at an event to try and sell my stuff, but, I want to find out how I can get more out of what I love to do. I have a full time job and support my wife and kids, but, I feel that I should be getting more out of my talents and hopefully support them with something I love rather than wasting away at a job that leaves me physically and mentally drained. Any advice would be helpful.
How much profit have you made in 2019, going to be 2020? I’m also starting my own homemade arts and crafts business and I was wondering if they were any tips?
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