Friday 11 May 2012

Shop Focus: Laura from Say It

Hello Laura!  Tell us what you sell and where you and your shop can be found

Say it sells handmade cards and gifts. It's mainly paper products such as cards, postcards and notebooks, with a little bit of beaded jewellery too. The newest range to be added to the shop is packs of magnets, made using fimo, buttons and a little bit of material. With such a variety of items, you're sure to find something you like!

You can buy say it goodies in my Folksy shop. There's also the Say it blog where you can find out the latest news, see upcoming products, hear about any special offers and get some behind the scenes glimpses at how things are made. And we're on Facebook too as Sayitonline. Do come and say hello!

How much of your time goes into your business?  Is it full time/part time?  Juggling act?

I run the business part time, probably spending around 20 hours a week making things and sorting out the admin, finances and advertising. I think I'm slowly spending more and more time working on the business, but I try to make sure it doesn't take over life too much. For example, I don't work at weekends (but I often can't resist checking emails to see if I've sold anything!). I'm not aiming to go global and become the next big handmade name - I just think it's great that I can turn a hobby into my job!

What have you learned since opening your online shop?

The say it shop opened in September 2011, and I have learnt so so much since then. I didn't really know anything about the business side of things when I started, I just liked making things! 

I think the main thing I've learnt is that no-one knows you're there unless you tell them - and advertising takes far more time than you could ever imagine. I now spend more time advertising my products than I do making them. 

I've learnt quite a lot about keeping financial records. I'm very lucky that my husband is an accountant, so he makes sure I do things properly! But I've realised how important it is to keep track of stock, sales and expenditure. 

And finally, I've learnt that photographs are very very important. When people buy online that's all they have to judge your item, so you need to make your photos as good as your products. My initial photos were pretty poor, as I just took them quickly not realising that they mattered so much. Since then I've read a lot about photography (which has been a struggle because it's not something I'm naturally interested in!) and tried very hard to improve my photos. They're still not perfect, but they're a lot better than they were. 

Approximately what percentage of your sales are online?

About one third of my sales are online. It varies from month to month, depending on what offline selling I'm doing and where I've focused my promotion. 

What do you think your biggest challenges are?

The biggest challenge is definitely reaching people and letting them know that my shop exists. The handmade market is full of wonderful creations at the moment, so it can be very hard to get noticed. Over the next 6 months I really need to concentrate on improving my advertising. 

I'd also say that it's quite a challenge to make sure you're doing your own thing, and not just copying others. It's a tough balance, because you want to follow trends in the market (which everyone else does too) but you also need to add something original, both in terms of what you make and how you sell it.

What are your main ways of promoting your shop?  Which methods do you think have the most success?

Don't underestimate the power of the people you know! Tell all your friends and family, and if they like what you do they'll tell others about it. I make sure that I give out little packs of business cards to people who are likely to mention my business to others, so that they can pass them out for me. Word of mouth can be a very effective way to promote your shop. I do quite a lot of online advertising.  The blog and Facebook page are great ways to network and are my main mouthpiece for shouting about what I do.  I'm not on Twitter yet, but I don't think it'll be long before I'm investing in it! Craftjuice can be quite effective as they do Facebook shoutouts for you.  And I've joined some of the handmade/crafting websites that have directories, showcases and forums. The Crafty Network and Crafty Bitz are two of my favourites at the moment.  I did try Google Adwords, which brought lots of traffic but no sales, so I've decided it's not worth the high costs.

Forums and Facebook bring the most traffic to my folksy shop, but friends and family are probably my most successful promoters.

What other outlets do you use for selling (if any)?

I don't sell through any other online sites, as I find that keeping one shop up to date takes up quite enough of my time. 

At the moment my offline sales mainly come through informal opportunities - I'm often asked to take my box of stock when I visit family or friends, and I find myself setting up temporary shops in homes or cafes! And I'm planning a more organised open house event soon for local people to come and see what I sell. 

What tips do you have for others hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Definitely do it! It's great being your own boss and doing something that you love for a job. Just be aware though that it doesn't come with a guaranteed income, and you're likely to earn well below the minimum wage! In the early stages it's not a reliable income because you never know when someone is going to buy something. And for some unknown reason sales tend to cluster - I had a fortnight in February that was mad, with trips to the post office nearly every day, and then I sold nothing online for the next two weeks! 

I've learnt a lot from other people trying to do a similar thing. So I'd recommend joining in with crafting forums and following the blogs of other sellers, as they are very willing to share their expertise. Find one or two shops that you really admire, and follow everything they do! 

What are your plans for the future?

More of the same really. I'd like to spend a greater proportion of my time designing and making, and less time on the computer, but I don't think it's going to happen realistically. I'm going to concentrate on getting new designs into the shop regularly and listening to what my customers want. My aim is to have a manageable business that I can run from home flexibly to fit around other things - so in a strange way I hope I don't become too successful! 

Which other shops (handmade or supplies) do you admire?

Love Craft have some gorgeous ribbons and buttons, and Craftwork Cards are great for essentials such as card blanks. 

On Folksy, I particularly love Pants and Paper and Merry Berry and the Little Panda - I think it's because they make such lovely fabric items, which is something I can't do at all. They are also successful sellers and I'd love to find out more about how they've achieved what they have.  

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to everyone who's taken the time to look at my shop, and a massive thank you to Wendy for running such a super blog and for featuring my little shop. 

You're so welcome Laura - it's a pleasure; thank you for dropping in and sharing your lovely shop with us.  I adore your Fimo button magnets!  I am also a fan of Pants and Paper - I love her designs.  I'm going to check out Merry Berry, too, as that's a new one to me.


say it said...

Gosh I can talk a lot! Thanks so much Wendy for featuring me. I love reading your interviews and I'm very excited that I get to take part too :-)

Wendy said...

It was an absolute pleasure to feature you Laura, thanks so much for taking part - it was lovely that you shared loads of great tips for others, and gave us some great links to visit too! x