How to Pivot your handmade business.
I have made the decision to stop selling made to order items. When I started Whimsy North just 3 short months ago I was all over the map as to what exactly I wanted it to be. Now three months in I have found that it may be time to pivot.
In the beginning, I knew that I wanted to incorporate knitted items as that was my main passion, however, I also enjoyed DIY and making home decor so I mixed in some garlands and other decor items at a lower price point in order to have options for everyone.
Selling made to order items – What other successful Etsy shops are doing.
I did a lot of research in the beginning as to what other Etsy sellers where doing and what could possibly be successful. Many sellers had a set product line that when a customer ordered a particular item the seller would custom make it and ship it out within a week or two. I figured this would be a good way to go. It would save me time on product photos and listings if I only had a set line of the same products that re-listed each time one sold. It also would allow me to curate a consistent brand.
There’s something to be said about wanting to emulate the successful shops and do exactly what they are doing. Clearly they have something figured out. This isn’t a bad route to go, however, if it doesn’t work for you or your business then it may be the wrong route.
What I’ve learned after 3 months in business.
I’m busy. Aren’t we all? I like being busy. I’m the person that makes up a to do list even for days I should be relaxing. I own it. That’s my personality.
Being busy with a job, kid’s activities and life in general is that when an order comes through your website you are faced with mixed emotions. It’s exciting! You just made a sale! Someone likes your stuff! (Insert happy dance that makes my kid’s eyes roll) Then you start to feel a little anxiety. Ok, when am I going to create this item? If I work on it while cooking dinner tonight and after the kid’s bedtime and then tomorrow quickly before work can I get it done in time to ship it?
When it rains it pours.
One Monday in April, I said yes to test knit a cowl for an Instagram friend, then a few hours later I got an email that I was chosen to test knit a sweater for another knitwear designer and an hour after that a joint ready to ship and custom hat order was placed on my website.
I texted my husband and said “when it rains it pours!” It was exciting but I also felt unsure as to how I was going to do it all. I ended up creating a timeline for when everything was due, what was most important to start first and when I could squeeze in the time to complete it all. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do laundry that whole week.
That experience led me to take a step back and analyze what was working and what maybe wasn’t.
What was working.
Test knitting was something I felt strongly about continuing to do as I love encouraging other designers and I’m growing so much in my craft by doing it. However, I needed to take the time into consideration and start saying no sometimes so that I wasn’t scrambling to finish a test knit. (To learn more about test knitting check out this post)
Ready to Ship
When an item that was already created sold on my website there wasn’t any anxiety attached to it just excitement. I had already found the time and materials to create it and now all that was left was to ship it off to the new owner. Easy peasy. (View my Ready to Ship inventory on Etsy)
A year ago I was talking with a friend who had recently opened an interior design firm. It is a passion of hers and she is amazing at it. At one point during our conversation about her new business she asked me “if you could quit your job and do one thing what would that be?” I answered, “I would become a knitwear designer.” I’ll never forget her face. She was a little taken aback I think. She encouraged me to just go for it!
Now here I am taking the leap into knitting pattern designs and I’m loving every second of it. However, I wish I had more time to devote to it. There is a lot that goes into designing a pattern and it takes time. I knew this was some place I wanted my business to go so in order to find more time something had to give. (Find my Knitting Designs on Ravelry & Etsy)
What wasn’t working.
Made to Order and Custom Orders
Custom orders and made to order items were causing me anxiety, that I knew. I also knew however that Etsy sellers have high conversions on custom orders because many people that search on Etsy are looking for just that. Since Etsy sellers create things by hand and typically offer smaller quantities they have the ability to custom make things. People that want something original aren’t going to look on Amazon for it they are going to look on Etsy.
I was afraid that if I removed my made to order items that I would get decreased sales and traffic. I can tell you that my garlands received the most likes of all my items. However, they weren’t selling like hot cakes and every time I received a like I started thinking about the amount of time I would have to make it if someone actually purchased the item.
Watching other makers leave the game.
In March a fellow maker announced on Instagram that they were closing their shop indefinitely. Many were sad to see this person leave. The maker expressed that they too were sad but just couldn’t keep up with the hustle any longer.
As I took a look at their shop I was left wondering what would cause them to leave. They had been in business for a few years. Had made thousands of sales. Their shop featured patterns that were simply digital downloads and therefore were zero work for her once they sold. The perfect example of passive income.
The only thing I could think of was custom orders. Also, the pressure to stay active on social media in order to keep your shop relevant can be real. I didn’t want to turn into that maker who simply threw in the towel when what they were doing wasn’t working anymore. This is when I started to think about how I could best scale my business without sacrificing my personal time.
Knowing when to Pivot.
I knew that if I promoted my made to order items and worked on a cohesive product line that I could probably make more sales. On the other hand, I knew that selling made to order items could potentially add more stress. This business is a passion project and something I want to love doing every day. Yes it’s still a business and I want to run it like one but it’s my business. Nobody else is telling me what I should be doing and I like it that way.
After three months of being open, making garlands just didn’t excite me anymore. What did excite me was my original love of becoming a knitwear designer. Therefore, this week I decided to put all of my effort into that original dream and in doing so needed to create white space in my life.
The next chapter.
All of my custom and made to order listings have been removed from my shop. Any sample items of my garlands are now listed as ready to ship and are the one and only item in stock for that design. Going forward, you will see that all knitted items will be ready to ship and more patterns will be added.
This change will give me the time freedom to design and also the ability to take have days to focus on just my family if needed.
I still love creating DIY and decor items. Here and there you will see a new ready to ship item in my shop. I will most likely also feature a tutorial on this blog.
Thank you for following along on my business journey!
- To check out my Ready to Ship items click here.
- For Knitting Patterns click here.
- For my latest DIY tutorial click here.