This is a guest post from Chantelle Brightbill.
A few years back some of my friends told me my quilts were really good, and I should sell them. I was a stay at home mum with one child, so I dived right in, set up an account on Etsy, consigned at a local baby boutique, signed up for a show, the whole craft scene. I didn’t write a business plan because I didn’t actually have one. I was just making stuff and throwing it out there and seeing what happened. Some stuff flopped. Other items sold really well and I hated every second I worked on them. Some items sold well but paid $1/hr.
I was floundering around and hoping something would work. Miraculously, something did. A few of my designs became popular; I started selling them as fast as I could make them. I had an eight week lead time. I felt successful, if constantly stressed. But then I discovered when I added up all my costs (because, of course, I hadn’t been keeping track) that I had made a loss for the year. I was concerned, but I had been told that no one makes a profit the first year, right? But the next year wasn’t much better. I had more success at shows and selling online, but I still only broke even.
I thought I was charging enough, but I was not.
I was constantly busy, but I felt like I was chasing my tail, spinning in circles.
I had plenty of excuses for my lack of profitability. The economy is slow, I am still learning the ropes of running my own business, I had two more babies. But while those things have certainly affected my earnings, the real problem was this:
My prices were too low.
I did possibly the most terrifying thing since l signed up for my first craft show: I doubled my prices. I would love to wrap this up by saying that sales took off and I am now quite profitable. However, my sales have been very slow since. But I can think again. I am no longer spinning.
You see, I have been reading along here, and on other sites focused on the small craft business for years. I am naturally quite an introspective person, so I have taken much good advice to heart and reviewed my business periodically and thought about how to make it best serve me. I have made lists of goals and five-year plans. Inevitably they get lost under a leaning tower of sketches and invoices in the studio I am too busy to keep tidy.
Having this hiatus means that I can actually stay on track and begin working toward these goals.
I did not have a great eureka moment. I already knew everything I needed to know, but the status quo kept pulling me back.
The raise in my prices has accomplished what I could not do alone, forcing me to take time to take the steps I have needed to take for a long time. I am working on following a better path, with more thoughtfulness and linear direction and less circles and dead ends.
What about you? Have you been so busy making money that you forgot to make a profit?
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Chantelle Brightbill is a modern quilt designer with a strong commitment to sustainable materials. She wants the art you put on your bed to be as beautiful as the art you hang on your walls.