Handmade businesses naturally lend themselves to slower production, but what happens when everyone finds out how great your handmade items are? Handling high demands when you sell your own products becomes a challenge. You can work faster, but you might sacrifice the quality and lose customers. You can limit orders, but then you’re missing out on money. Scaling a handmade business often means streamlining the process, getting help from others, and being creative with your marketing and production.
Review the Process
Customers want your handmade products because of the unique quality they can only get from you. Changing the process too much can affect the quality of your finished product, which can hurt sales. But most creatives with online handmade stores can streamline their processes without changing the final product.
Start by looking at your entire process from start to finish. Examine things like how you:
- Buy supplies
- Prepare supplies
- Make the item from start to finish
- Label or package each item
- Prepare items for shipping
Do some tasks take longer than others? Which tasks seem more difficult than they need to be? A seemingly small change to even one step can shave time off the process to get items out the door faster. You might start ordering all supplies online instead of buying them locally. Prepping all materials as soon as you receive them lets you get started on production right away. Even the packaging process gets easier when you use self-sealing boxes or a mailing label maker so you can peel and stick address labels onto boxes quickly.
Another way you can streamline the process is through faster equipment. If you do every step by hand, consider investing in a tool or piece of equipment that speeds up certain tasks. Power tools are much faster than hand tools that you power yourself. A sewing machine or serger with advanced options lets you make fabric creations faster than hand sewing or using a machine with only basic functions. Upgrade your equipment when you can to make life easier and production faster.
Expand Your Studio
Cramped studio space can hurt your productivity. Expanding your production area can help you produce more product. A dedicated space for the business is essential as you grow. You can create a storage system for your supplies and set up different work spaces. Since many handmade businesses are home-based, finding that space without making your family upset about losing room can require a little creativity. One option is to convert an unused space into your business area. Potential spaces include basements, enclosed porches, spare bedrooms, or loft spaces. If you don’t have an existing space that works, consider building a small studio in the backyard. You can convert a premade shed structure into your work space if necessary.
Sometimes you don’t have to make more product to increase your business income. Instead of focusing on increasing volume, create limited editions with small runs of a unique piece. Marketing the items as a limited-time offer with only a small number means you can increase the price. You also generate more interest since it isn’t available forever.
If you have plenty of people who want your products, a general price increase on all products can generate higher profits without increasing production. Avoid increasing the price too much at once, as you might lose customers. You can also add a small feature to justify the increased price. You might customize the wooden signs you make with a name or phrase selected by the customer. It doesn’t take any more time than it does to add the premade sayings you already use, yet customers are happy to pay more for the customization.
The product creation needs to stay handmade to maintain the spirit of your company, but other processes are easy to automate. Administrative and bookkeeping tasks often take up a lot of your time as a small business owner. Using a program to automate those necessary duties gives you more time to focus on your creative work. It can save you plenty of frustration, too.
Outsource or Hire Help
If you’ve made changes to your processes and systems but still can’t keep up, it may be time to outsource some of the workload. Outsourcing lets you take your least favorite or most time-consuming tasks off your plate. You get more time in your studio actually making product. The tasks you outsource depend on your business but may include accounting or bookkeeping, writing for your website or blog, product photography, social media management, and website design. Tasks that are outside of your expertise are ideal for outsourcing. You can learn those skills to do them yourself, but that takes more time away from your craft. Let an expert handle those tasks while you focus on your area of expertise.
Another option is hiring an assistant to handle some of the artistic work or product handling. You might hire an assistant to prep the materials, process orders, handle customer service, and manage product shipments. Some handmade business owners prefer to handle making all the products themselves, but you can also hire a team to help you with the actual production process.
Creating a physical product by hand makes growth more challenging than many other business models, but it is possible with strategic changes to the business. Find ways to save time without sacrificing product quality to keep the orders coming and boost your profits.