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Learning curve

Bugger me if I haven’t learned a lot of things about running a craft business in the last nine months. As no, that gestation period isn’t just a coincidence because it feels as if I have given birth what with all of the puffing, panting, hollering, cutting, gawping and sewing up that I’ve experienced. Fact is that while I was a freelance journalist for the ten years before Kraken Kreations sprung into life (so I knew what it was like to work alone while being deeply self motivated and determined) it has still been such a steep learning curve that I’m actually bleeding from the nose.  So do you want to know what I’ve learned about running Kraken Kreations? Oh go on then. Throw me a biscuit and I’ll tell you:

I spend 70 per cent of my time networking and 30 per cent of my time sewing because without the networking no one will see what I sew. It’s a cold, hard fact Kraken lovers.

I’ve needed to be a people person because personality goes a long way to selling my products. It means me wanting to tell some customers to bollock the shit off but not doing it.

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I am that loon who makes a thousand lists. They’ve saved me weeping at midnight in my sewing shed because I’ve muddled up three last minute orders (although I learned the hard way).

I need a new hobby. Kraken Kreations was borne from a hobby which means I need a new way to occupy my spare time. Any suggestions?

Just because I work from home it doesn’t mean I have to work every time I am at home. I’ve learned to shut the door of the sewing shed and not look back. It’s what stands between me and mental carnage.

Sewing shed Cath Janes

I’m prepared to work so hard that there are days when I want to weep in the toilet. I’ve realised that every second of interest in my business has to be generated by me and me alone.

I see myself as a business person as well as a crafter. Yeah, it’s charming and quirky to be driven by the muse but my customers won’t think so if their products don’t turn up on time.

I’m cool with not being liked. After all, I despise every string of pink, vintage, floral bunting I have ever set eyes on and I expect some people to despise sweary brooches. There’s room for all of us.

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Yeah, the market is crowded but I haven’t let that put me off. I’m just determined to battle through it.

I’ve never coped anyone else. EVER. The marketplace is full of people who copy and not only are they hated by crafters but they are devoid of originality, manners, curiosity, courtesy and intelligence. FACT.

I take risks. I used to spend lots of time worrying about whether customers would like my quirkier products. Now I give them a go and if they don’t sell I move onto something else.

I talk. And talk. Oh, and talk. In fact I spend every day having conversations with potential customers because making the effort demonstrates that I’ll also make the effort in my sewing.

I’m not scared of asking for help. The crafting community is nothing if not generous. It doesn’t matter if I’m stuck on bias binding, ceramic glazes or woordturning. Someone will help me with it.

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I won’t be cheeky. I know crafters who are actually contacted by people demanding to know their suppliers so they can start their own businesses. Just do the work yourself, OK?

I’m not scared of dumping a project. If I’m halfway through a product and it’s not working I’ll save my time, effort and materials by starting again.

I want to have fun. Yeah, I have to do the dull, uncrafty admin but I also need to love what I do because I intend to do a lot of it for a very long time.

If I think I’m networking a lot on social media, I’ll network some more. Seriously, I can’t do enough of it because my orders depend on it. I just try to make it engaging, fun, informative and something the customer wants on their timeline.

I try to not be stingy with what I’ve learned. Customers want to see what’s behind the product so I invite them into my workspace by taking pics, giving them insights and offering advice.

Cath Janes sewing shed 3

I give yourself a schedule and continually asses if it is working for me.  When I started Kraken Kreations I crafted like mad and did less networking. It didn’t make me any sales so I reviewed my activity, righted it and sales started climbing.

I try to take heart from past successes. Lots of things impact upon sales such as post-Crimbo slumps and school holidays. If I have a slow week I remind myself that when I do all the right things it will get better.

I’ve created an inspirational working space. My sewing shed is a massive source of inspiration because I have plastered the walls with pics, cards and posters that make my brain ping.

I’ve made sure my family knows that just because I’m working at home it doesn’t mean I’m eating biscuits in front of Jeremy Kyle. I’ve set working times when I’m not to be disturbed and I bloody well stick to them.

If I lack inspiration I nip out for a coffee and distance myself from my work. Invariably I’ll spot something that sparks an idea and off I go again.

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I trade on my individuality. When I started Kraken Kreations I didn’t know whether to refer to myself as ‘I’ or ‘We’ to give the illusion of a bigger company. I went for ‘I’ because I just wanted to be myself.

I keep my personal Facebook profile separate to my professional profile but not vice versa. I’ve seen professional pages stuffed with kid pics which offer nothing to the customer. I’ll share my professional updates on my personal page, though, because this attracts shares and ‘likes’.

I NEVER copy. Did I say that already. Of course I did. Well, I’m telling you again. I NEVER copy.

I take the best photos I can. I’ve learned to do the basics on a camera but rely mostly on a great background, good light, patience and a great editing package.

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I’m learning to be patient. Building up an audience has taken me time and it can be painfully slow but it’s worth it. Oh, and I won’t play the ‘likes’ game on Facebook where pages try to ratchet up their numbers as fast as possible. They’re empty likes and worthless.

I’m honest with myself about how my business is going. Am I spending more than I’m making? When was the last time I sold something?  Could I network better? I try to face up to the difficult issues and then resolve how to overcome them.

I watch how other, successful businesses do things. What do they offer customers? What do they Tweet about? Is it fun to communicate with them? Then I try to emulate them.

I have a project book with sections for designs, blog posts, ideas, orders, accounts, to do lists, research and development. It’s like my entire business in paper form and it stops me running about like a crack-addicted chicken.

I work as far in advance as Ican. There’s no point launching my Easter decorations in April because people start buying them much earlier than that. In fact, as I write this I already know crafters who have closed their order books for Crimbo. No, really.  CHRISTMAS.

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I’m trying to spot my mistakes. Making a mistake is Ok. Ignoring it and not learning from it is not. Running a business is a journey for me and I want every day to be a step forward not backwards.

I know that every day is a new start. If yesterday a bad selling day, this morning I get the chance to start again. I just try to keep moving forwards and upwards, even in the teeniest baby steps.

I finally believe in myself. I have a product that I love to make and others love to see, so I keep trying to sell it. I almost talked myself out of starting Kraken Kreations with a lack of confidence but Conjugal Kraken talked me back into it. He was right. Learning to sell what I make really was the way forward after all.

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