Every year, I get a little bit better at running my shop. It's a constant learning process and something that I struggle with a bit because my personality is very much : Quickly figure out what works and then do it until it doesn't work anymore.
I don't like to "research" options. Usually, seeing all the choices just overwhelms me to the point where I worry about "picking wrong" or "never getting started." To avoid this, I often settle on the first plan I find that seems logical. This is good and bad, depending on how you look at it. It's good because it means I don't get discouraged and find it easy to dive into new ventures. But it's bad because "settling" for the first decent option means I miss out on all of the other possible options that could be better, more efficient or less expensive.
So something I have been working on a lot this year is getting outside of the comfort zone I have built for my business over the past four years. It's a process - that is for sure. And I totally believe that baby steps are key here. Doing a complete business overhaul all at once isn't my style. I need to make little changes, see their success and then make a more little changes.
I have done a lot this year to save time and reduce my expenses (therefore increasing my net income) and I wanted to share these changes here on the blog in case anyone out there is looking for some small steps that can make a big difference for their own (ad)ventures.
#1 / I started supply ordering through Amazon. Before this year, I was purchasing my packaging supplies through Uline.com (and before that, it was just through an office supply store). The savings that came from buying in bulk with Uline were crazy and I was glad to make that change in 2010. Recently though, I found that the Amazon prices were comparable (or less!) than Uline and with Amazon Prime, I can usually get two day shipping for free. This represented decent savings because while Uline offered next day shipping, it cost at least $15. I can also buy items like book rings & manilla tabbed cards in bulk from Amazon, which I couldn't find through Uline.
#2 / I started ordering business cards and thank you notes through overnightprints.com. I have used and loved moo.com for the past few years and still highly recommend them. I liked the option that they would print various designs for the front of my cards. BUT, and this is a big but, the cards were pretty expensive. And for someone like me (who was just making fun graphics for the different cards and not even sharing product/portfolio photos) the multi-design option just didn't make sense. I realized that I could order WAY more cards (like 600 more) for way less (like $80 less) without sacraficing quality if I went with overnightprints.com. This extra savings meant I could create fun thank you notes to pack with each order and still be reducing expenses. It also means that my cards are cheap and I am totally willing to hand them out in bulk (or let folks take handfuls at craft fairs).
As for quality, I noticed a slight color variation in my batch of 1000. For me, this is not big deal at all, but I know it might be for some. The paper stock and texture for both my new business cards and my 4x6 thank you post cards is fantastic. The only thing I'll note is that "over-night prints" is not exactly right. You can get your order over-night, but it will cost you. I always select the slowest shipping option and usually get my order in about two weeks.
#3 / I started shipping through paypal.com. This is the big one for me this year. Since I started selling online, I have been trekking to the post office with orders or adding my own postage stamps right to the packaging. It took forever, was a crazy hassle & cost a lot. Now, I am shipping all domestic orders directly through paypal and using their multi-order shipping option to do so. The only expense on my end was a $15 scale (and of course paper and black ink for my printer). It's seriously the easiest thing and truly, no tutorial is necessary. Just follow directions through paypal and you're set.
I was so resistant to get started printing my own shipping labels. I thought for sure it would be crazy complicated, and yes, I hated going to the post office, but at least I knew it worked. I took a few minutes to get acquainted with the shipping platform and found that it's a bit LESS expensive to print your own shipping labels at home AND it includes package tracking and delivery confirmation. Can't beat it.
#4 / I jumped out of Etsy and into a self-hosted shop. I talked more about this over the summer, when I made the change to selling from a blog instead of Etsy, but an even bigger step came this fall when I started selling everything though elisejoy.com. Prior to this, I was paying hosting fees for elisejoy.com, fees to e.junkie (the company I use to sell instant downloadable products), fees to host this blog, fees to paypal for every transaction AND shop fees to etsy (to list items plus a percentage of every sale). It's a large amount of fees and I definitely recognize that they are all part of the cost of doing business. But being able to cut out the etsy fees represented a huge savings (my estimate is about $1600 so far).
Plus, I love the idea that everything is all under the same umbrella and uses a shared checkout - easy for me, easy for potential customers. My shop is SUPER simple and it's never going to win any design awards, but that's not my goal. I wanted to create something that was clean, organized and easy to navigate (plus I just wanted to test my coding muscles!).
I recognize that coding a shop isn't a realistic option for everyone! (Every. Single. Day. I am grateful for the web-design courses I took in college.) But the real takeaway here is to consider different options (like Big Cartel) or even a blog that doubles as a shop (like I had this summer). And of course, there are tons of benefits to being part of a community like Etsy. For me though, this step was an important one to help reduce my expenses and grow my business.
I am totally excited to see what's next.