Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting Out & Those "Favours"

Before we move onto the blogs covering some leatherwork, I wanted to mention a couple of things. The first one I wanted to cover has the potential to be a really touchy subject, one that can become a nightmare, and cause untold resentment and irritation.
Basically we are talking about our wonderful family and friends; and the even worse culprits of acquaintances, and friends of friends.

Yes I love my family, and ofc my friends. I like and respect my broader circle of contacts too, but that doesn't mean I am happy to work for just above cost because I know you. Even worse is when it's a friend of a friend, who feels that they deserve some sort of discount rate because you have a mutual friend, well they don't.
Mates rates is one thing, and of course we all give them to those we feel we want to; or if we feel there may be some benefit to us in a roundabout way, but no rates at all is another thing entirely. I'm pretty sure when you add up the hours you put in on a piece, no one would think it fair if you end up earning 1 or 2 pounds an hour, or sometimes less, after material costs are deducted. I'm absolutely certain they don't go out to work for that sort of pittance of an income, so why expect you to be happy to work for that?

I firmly believe I could well be the Queen of horrendous decisions in making items for people at almost cost price, simply because I assumed I would get some advertising out of the piece I made. More to the point I have also made things unintentionally for free, simply because it was for a friend of one of my family members. I made something for them on the understanding that it would be worn and they would tell people where they had got it from, spread my name, a little advertising, that sort of thing. I'm pretty sure when I made it I mentioned just covering the cost of materials, (who wants to be out of pocket?).
When no money, or even a mention or offer of any arises what can I do?

There are really only 2 choices. I either ask for it and possibly cause problems for the family member that knows them; which also means that they could then say derogatory  comments about your business simply because you asked for some money toward the item you made for them.
Alternatively I just keep quiet about the whole thing, and seethe internally that I feel I was taken for a ride.

Don't misunderstand me I am sure some of the pieces were commented on, hopefully even admired; but when I made the item thinking I would be paid material cost, or just over, I was sort of expecting a little bit of a push on my behalf as the real part of the return favour.
I didn't expect them to walk round with a flute doing a pied piper and bringing people to my doorstep, or wear a sandwich board advertising my site (wouldn't have stopped them though haha), but perhaps something along the lines of passing my name around, and the business cards I always send with orders. Telling them to check out the site, give me a ring, ask about our work and prices, something......anything!.
I can't even begin to describe how annoying it is, to see someone wearing your work in photo's posted on Facebook, and feeling like you just got a bit screwed over.
They got a cracking deal, and I really don't feel it was unreasonable of me to expect a little effort from them by promoting me when they are out and about wearing the item.

It's not even so much that there were no orders from these said favours, I don't mind that; the exercise was simply to get my name out there. The fact that not one person has even enquired and said "Hey I saw that item you made for such-and-such a person, how much would *X* item be?"
There was no interest generated at all, so I assume the item was duly worn, and I was forgotten as I had served my purpose.

It really is a shame though as it was supposed to be a mutually beneficial exercise, that would have worked well for both parties concerned; they get minimum cost for a new item, I get my name out there. Both of us got what we wanted from the collaboration, they just had to talk to people whilst they were already wearing the items, it's not like they had to go out of their way or make any real effort.

Needless to say I have eventually wised up a bit as I have gone along, and don't leave myself open to this anymore. I would rather have fewer orders that I am fully paid for, than lots of orders from people who expect me to work for £2 an hour.
I'm fairly certain I am not the first, nor will I be the last to come across this situation. I am not having a whinge (OK maybe a little one), but simply telling you things I have learnt from it. I would not dream of telling you how to run your business, or what steps you need to take,  I can only offer my insight into experiences I have had, to try and help you not to go down the same road, and end up feeling as supremely miffed as I was.

  • Keep your favours to a very select few, those who you genuinely don't mind if things don't go according to what you expected; but make sure that EVERYONE understands that this is your business and not a hobby (even as a hobby it's no excuse to be totally unpaid). 
  • People that you meet along the way you may well get on with very well with, share a joke, have common interests; and all of that is great. You may end up being pretty friendly, that too is fantastic but don't forget, when it comes to them asking for something to be made they then become your customer/client, and the exchange is totally separate from your friendship. 
  • You may find that once you put your business head on, they are suddenly shocked because they thought you were "good friends", and so expected a discount. If you don't see it that way, don't allow yourself to feel pressured into giving one, it may have been the only motive they had to become so friendly. 
  • People you befriend across the net are not like your real life friends (not to belittle net friends here at all, I've made some fantastic friends on the internet who I have had a great time with,. This is simply a generalisation of the majority of people you make friends with on the net). You have no idea if the tables were turned and you needed a favour, would they help you out if meant actual real life stuff like your real world friends would? You don't owe them a favour because you chat on the net.
  • Think about it in terms of how they would behave with any other business. They wouldn't ring up any other shop and say they know someone that works there, or they are a friend of a friend so can they have a discount would they? 
  • Above all, please don't forget, you do not have to feel obliged to discount/freebie anyone if you don't want to, it is done solely at your own discretion. It is your business so you get to decide if a discount is warranted or deserved, or if you feel it may be beneficial to you in some way to. If you are going to give a discount, it's not unreasonable for you to expect you to see some sort of benefit from it somewhere along the line. 

That was a much longer post than I originally intended sorry, and I'm certain I have missed lots of stuff out that I will kick myself for later, but I'm sure you get my drift at least. 

After that mammoth reading let me just lighten it up a little, and summarize.

1) You are in business to make money, being helpful, polite and friendly is good for your business. 
2) Try and keep personal and business relations as two separate entities, because if you don't some people do try to take advantage. 
3) You don't have to befriend everyone you make something for, they are paying customers and your main aim in business is to make money, not extra friends. 
4) Being knowledgeable and approachable, and providing top quality goods and service will bring repeat business. Discounts are always appreciated (at your discretion), but they have come to you for work to be done so they clearly want your work, don't be tempted to discount because you had a bit of a chat once, and certainly don't be pushed into giving one.
 5) Family and friends are pretty much always the last on the list. You are not being mean or thoughtless, you are simply prioritising. (Unless it's a Xmas/birthday present for them, in which case yes you were mean lol)

Your real family and friends will get and understand all of this, that's why they always get discounts and freebies!

Until next time, keep busy!

The Hostile Heroine x

Friday, April 12, 2013

Selling & Pricing (Part 2)

Welcome back,
Continuing from where we left off last time,

Before you decide if you are undercharging, be totally honest with yourself and appraise your work; is it really good quality?
Here comes the cold hard facts bit. A lot of people make handmade things, kids in school make them but you wouldn't pay for them would you?
Just because it has the name handmade on it, does not mean it is better, or more durable than a mass produced item. If you are selling it under that label then make sure it really is of fantastic quality, that it's unique.
You have to back up every claim you make or you are going to end up with not only a lot of returns, but a ruined name and reputation that you will likely never recover from.
So know your product, understand your field inside out so that your prospective customers can see that you do. Have a wealth of knowledge so than when you are in discussion with them, they feel fully confident in your ability to provide the service you claim you can. This is also a good tactic for selling at a better price; knowledge and being able to back that up with your product; use them and abuse them, but only if you have them!
If you don't have them? Then know your limitations, and only offer and discuss what you know you can do,  and not guess at what you can do. Be honest if they ask for something you aren't sure of, tell them and discuss alternatives, or their willingness to let you try that out. Sometimes they feel more a part of the process  because they feel they are helping you learn something, this can sometimes work in your favour too, but only if you have been honest enough to let them know.
So basically, know what you're talking about, be honest, be upfront with your client, but most of all, be excellent at what you know you can do!

So. Now you have appraised your work, hopefully in an honest way from a buyers perspective;  what do you do if you decide that you are still undercharging on that item?
Of course you prospective customer isn't going to offer you more for that underpriced item they are all busy snatching up while the going is good; they only want to pay what you are asking cause the price is too good to be true. So change that price now! Don't undervalue yourself or more importantly, your work.

If they whinge and moan after you increase your price, tell them it was an introductory offer, or you were testing out a new line of products at an almost cost price; tell them anything. Then just ignore all that objection to it and gently point out the amount of work involved.
No need for all the details, just enough that they begin to understand that your handmade item took hours as opposed to the minutes for those that are mass produced. Make sure to point out the benefits they gain whilst using one of your products.
First and most importantly appeal to their vanity,  make them aware that they are wearing/using something completely individual, that it's a talking point when they walk in a room; and that no one else has one like it.
Remind them that it smells so good and feels wonderful to handle, that it will age to look and feel even better than it did new, and lastly that it helped support a local company, and that they were buying *insert your country here* product, and so supporting the economy.

Hopefully they might get the idea, and so then understand how it is worth it for them to buy your product; that it's value is more than the money they are spending to have that individual piece.
If not just leave them be, they are obviously no longer a buyer no matter what you say; so just thank them for their previous business and move along.

I am no expert on business methods or techniques by any means, but I hope some of this helped a little. It's not intended as a guide for plotting a business, it's just my observations and experiences.

Until next blog!
Take Care :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Selling & Pricing (Part 1)

I was mulling some things over the other day, and I got to thinking about people who sit and craft their own stuff, as opposed to factory made, mass production. Obviously mass produced items will almost always be cheaper to produce, as they tend to be made abroad where labour is cheaper; materials are cheaper, and all in all the whole process costs far less.
However just because they are cheaper to make, does not mean by the time they arrive on our shores they haven't gone up a million percent (OK I'm exaggerating). Simply put a known name on it, because people will buy branded items, and boom! Huge price increase, even though it was probably pennies to make, the name pushes the price through the roof.

Making hand made goods is such a touchy subject; unless of course you have already "made it" and everyone is clamouring for your work, so how do you put a price on your time, effort and skill?
Well the starting point has to be the cost of materials, you obviously have to cover your own outlay, otherwise you are working at a a loss; but what about the time? How do you put a cost on the time and skill with which you sat and carved an item, or made your design; saddle stitched it, sweated like a broken dog to meet unrealistic deadlines?

Firstly you have to assume that it's worth to yourself is not the same as the worth to the buyer, they want to pay the smallest price possible (generally) for an item of distinct individuality, but we have to remember that they are asking, so realistically, they must WANT it.
Now have to decide if the tutting and rolling of eyes is because they actually think it's a bit overpriced, which happens; just because it's handmade shouldn't mean they need a mortgage to buy it. Or are they stalling and moaning because although they want it, they just can't afford it?
Unfortunately, although I can't tell you a magic formula for pricing up and selling your items, I think there are one or two things that we can definitely use to help us see where on the scale of skill/hand-made v pricing we need to be.
If you make an item that people seem to snatch up, or you get a lot of orders for, it's pretty safe to assume that the price is either spot on, you've landed on a very saleable item, or lastly because your price for that item is perhaps a bit low, and they are taking full advantage of that.......

That's it for this section, I will finish this post next time.
It's an interesting, if somewhat mind boggling topic that is difficult to find a definitive answer to; but I will throw in the bits I have learnt. If you have any better insights than I do, by all means leave a comment; between us we may resolve the dilemma!

Well that was quite a serious post for me, I think I need a coffee >.<

Friday, April 5, 2013

Well here we are again.

It's been a busy time lately as I have been building a new website; mainly because the previous one was likely to make your eyes bleed if you spent too long on there. Yes it truly was that bad, but it was my first and everyone has to start somewhere and learn.
The new one is much easier to look at and I'm pretty pleased with it - go me!!

Was thinking of starting to do some blogs or vids with helpful tips for leathercrafters/workers, as sometimes it's the little things you didn't know that save you sooo much time in the long run. Plus I like explaining things to people, I guess I should have been a teacher really. That would have been great, apart from you are not allowed to lock them in cupboards till home time; which is a shame really.

Anyway, long story short, at least if I decide to do some blogs they won't be all businessy and boring, I find it so hard to blog sensibly and not ramble a bit somewhere!
To get to the point though, as we are getting a little bit straighter and more organised, I wondered if anyone would actually want to read it; so I am still sort of thinking about it........

I shall keep you posted! :)