There comes a point in your craft sales when you struggle to find time to fulfill orders, manage the business and still create new products for your shop.
This is where many small sellers face a moment of desperation: with more sales to fulfill, there’s little time for creating new stuff, to be freely creative amidst all the promotion and sales management.
Some folks stop creating new products (very important to thrive as a craft seller), some hire assistants or get help from friends or family, some quit.
But a few others use tools to automate things that can automated so that there is enough time to be creative.
That is the theme of our discussion today. Automation.
Small sellers who sell on Etsy as a side-project evolve into big-time, successful sellers who make selling on Etsy their full-time work because they’re smart enough to automate things that can be automated.
If you are struggling to find time to create new things for your shop, market and promote and do all this while managing sales and inventory, here’s what you can automate to free up a lot of time.
It’s easy to add inventory and re-list when you have just about half a dozen products on your shop. But once you have a bunch of them and the sales are coming in every day, it becomes increasingly time-consuming to check and add inventory for sold-out items. (Etsy offers auto-renew for listings that expire).
It’s not hard or difficult but it’s time-consuming. That tricks you into thinking that you can handle it manually with just the right amount of time management. But it’s really a time-suck that eats up your creative time.
Tools like BestAutoRenew can help you override this problem by automating renewal of items that are old or expired or sold-out or even specific items you pick.
Like I said before, if you are a small shop with a small set of listings and corresponding sales, it may not make sense to set up an auto-renewal tool. But when you do have a lot of regular sales and products selling out or expiring on the listing, an automated tool can be a great help.
Automate Managing your Inventory
Extending the auto-renewal is a complete inventory management suite. Although this is something only full-time sellers are prone to use, an inventory management automation can take a lot of manual calculation and bookkeeping off your shoulders.
Instead of having to enter numbers on spreadsheet every time there is a sale and tallying everything at the end of the day/week/month, you can gloss over action points. The automation informs you of the items to be restocked instead of you having to calculate the whole thing.
While tools like the Stitch app for Etsy make it easy to keep track of your item inventories, there are also apps like Craftybase which offer granular controls (where you can track inventory of raw materials too).
You can, of course, semi-automate these things with a sophisticated Google Spreadsheet too if you don’t want to shell out money for tools.
Automate “Etsy on Sale” and Coupon Promotions
Seasonal discount sales are good to spike sales and are great for promotion too. To do this, you have to list one or many of your items with a discounted price tag. This means:
– you have to change the price
– note in the description that this is an item on sale with discounts
– alter the images to reflect this change
– include call-to-actions which describe the savings (10% off etc.)
– and then once the sale is over, undo all these changes and revert back to the original listing
That’s a ton of work if you’re doing that for a bunch of items on your shop. That’s why a tool like Etsy on Sale makes sense for shoppers who routinely list their items on discount.
Automate Promoting on Social Media
For some sellers, social media just gets them a tiny bit of sales and for some it’s the primary source of all business. No matter which category you fit into, having a presence on social media helps. You can engage with your customers, your fans (who might end up becoming customers) and find new followers.
But the trick with social media promotion is to be active, consistent and interesting. Doing this manually can eat away a huge part of your day. And that’s really not worth given the fact that there’s so much automation available here.
There are lot of tools that help you schedule your products to be promoted on social media. Interestingly, most tools are designed to be generic so you can tweet or share just about anything from the web. But when it comes to promoting your products on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, this process can get a little cumbersome (you have to upload product photos, write a status with relevant tags, link it up and then schedule it).
A tool like Around.io will help you integrate with your shop so that it’s easier (and much quicker) to automate social media promotions. Not just this, you can even share interesting content from blogs and websites (things like DIY, craft ideas, new products or pinterest boards, etc.)
Profits, losses, number of sales made, average value of each sale you make, ratios of how many visits to your listings to sales made and many other numbers help you grow smartly.
Most handmade, craft sellers are artists first. And many don’t want to really get into the math side of the business. But ultimately, if you want to make sure you’re not burning through your savings and getting good value for the time you spend creating things, you have to track these numbers.
Of course, the primitive method works even if you run a moderately successful shop: Spreadsheets.
Besides being able to track things that Etsy readily offers in the Activity dashboard (sales, earnings, conversions etc.), you can create other values that you can track like:
– what search terms bring most traffic to your store?
– number of favorites vs. sales on a particular item
– average value of each sale (helps in finding out how many sales you should make to hit a particular monetary target)
Automation can be as simple as setting up charts so that you know where you are headed. Staring at Spreadsheet numbers does not give you a visual cue of where your store is going. A graph, however, does.
Automate Email Marketing
Look up any master craft seller with a successful shop and one of the first advices you’ll receive is to build an email list.
Easier said than done.
But what’s tougher is to manage this list: send out occasional updates to keep in touch with your subscribers, to create newsletters with your products in them, and if you are tracking the success of your newsletters, checking the open and click-through rates.
Now, if you are thinking about a mailing list (or have one already), you are using something like Mailchimp. That does most of the work for you. But if you’re spending a lot of time trying to pull data from your store into your Mailchimp account, there’s some scope to save time.
Tools like Mad Mimi or Craftmonkey (now defunct) help you integrate your store with your Mailchimp account so that it’s quicker to add product information (photos, mostly) into your email newsletters.
On the face of it, this might not sound like a huge benefit in saving time but in the long run the drag-and-drop templates and shop integration gives you several hours of free time that you can spend doing what you love: creating new and interesting products for your shop.
Automation: It’s Good
Automation is not something that big, busy sellers do to manage their businesses. No matter how small your shop is, you can still use automation to free up a lot of time that is otherwise spent on handling sales or doing social media promotions.
Most part-time sellers evolve into full-time businesses by smartly automating routine tasks. Hopefully, you’re on your way to automate too!
How do you use automation to save time? We’d love to hear your shop’s automation strategy!