Well, it's not "the year in review," but online woodworking sales have all but dried up for the year so it seemed like a good time to sit back with my Sunday morning mug o' coffee, put on my headphones with some classic EM playing, and take a look at where Smile Moon Woodworks is at this point and perhaps make some goals for the coming year too.
But before I do, here's a quick little helpful hint for all you little snowbirds shoveling out from another couple inches every other day this winter: SILICONE SPRAY! I picked up a can of silicone lubricant spray a few years back to help with a sticky handle on the tailgate of my pickup truck. I figured out along the way that it makes a great DIY non-stick surface if you spray it on a snow shovel. Anybody who's done any snow shoveling will tell you the worst part of it is all the snow that sticks to your shovel, making it twice as heavy every time you give another scoop the old heave-ho! Spray the whole surface of the blade before you go out to shovel, and you're all set!
As for the woodworking, by all accounts, it was a pretty successful first year. Without getting into specifics, I'd have to say this year has exceeded my expectations by a long shot. When I first set up shop in March of '08, I'd anticipated that it would help me supplement my craft show sales. The advice I'd been given was simply to make sure I had some sort of an online presence to make sure customers had somewhere to find me for repeat business.
After three craft shows where I barely made my table fees back, I was starting to wonder as to the wisdom of doing this at all, but while the in-person sales were decidedly unimpressive, my online sales were starting to take off. The very first thing I listed on Etsy sold within two days of listing! Then I discovered the Custom feature on Etsy, and that took care of the slower sales periods in the spring and summer when many sellers were closing up shop. At this point, about 14% of my sales volume has been custom work, but it's accounted for nearly 70% of my online woodworking earnings for 2008.
Now that I'd have to say that Smile Moon Woodworks has been successful (as a garage shop) in 2008, I've got to wonder what would make it better in 2009. I'm not the type to set goals for myself, but if I don't give myself something to shoot for, I don't see it moving beyond where it is now. Therefore, I'm setting fingers to keyboard and making some commitments to myself:
1) Make more stock items for my shop. If nothing else, the Christmas season has taught me to be much better prepared in terms of keeping stock "on the shelves." I ended up making 4 batches of toy swords this year - 3 of which were within a month of Christmas.
2) Make a wider variety of things for the shop by creating new listings. I need to examine what sells online in general and at Etsy in particular.
3) Explore and utilize effective advertising. So far, the showcases on Etsy have been a wash, and Majaba (craftcult.com) has been uncertain in reaching potential customers, as opposed to reaching other sellers. This is going to involve finding and examining real web traffic stats and learning about other tools such as adwords, google base, twitter, project wonderful, etc.
4) Participate in really good craft shows. Last spring was pretty poorly attended by all accounts and I don't know too many folks who said they had good shows at that time either. Staying away from the fall shows didn't help my in-person sales, but I was too busy keeping up with the online sales to notice. I'll need to step it up and maintain a presence at both types of venues.
5) Streamline the woodworking process. I need to be looking at things to make my job easier and quicker in the workshop. One way is to make multiples, especially of custom items that have even slight universal appeal. I've had more requests for the custom pill boxes I made back in the summer, for example, and it always brings production costs down to make more than one of anything.
6) Streamline the packaging process. This process improved 100% over the course of the Christmas selling season, but has a long way to go to justify the absolute minimum I've been charging for "shipping & handling." I got lucky in finding somebody with access to small boxes (that he let me have for nothing!) that worked out really well for my 3-D Wooden Puzzle Cubes, but I need to see about either finding ready-made boxes for those Wooden Toy Swords or at least making up a bunch at a time ahead of time to speed the checkout process somewhat.
7) Make sure my kids' stuff is going to pass muster when the CPSIA is enacted. Not sure what to do with this one just yet, but I'm going to have to at least familiarize myself with the letter of the law and see what it's going to take. Of course, with all the petitions and talk of possible revisions to the law, who knows where all this will lead?
In addition to all these, I remain committed to my goals of working as "green" as possible, by acquiring and using materials that are cutoffs and leftovers from other jobs or rescued from the trash bin or firewood pile, buying from sources committed to sustainable harvesting when new material is needed, and using finishes that are non-toxic when finishes are called for at all.
Financially, I don't really know how achieving any of these goals will materially contribute to the bottom line, but I know that I'll feel better about the work I'm doing if I know I'm keeping busy and that my customers feel they're continuing to get good value from me. With 12 full months for Smile Moon Woodworks to play with in 2009, I hope I can double my 2008 sales volume and earnings.
Under the dome...
3 years ago