Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Too Much Branching Out?

In July of 2008 I decided to try my hand at running a small business from home. This has always been a dream of mine, and although I knew I had to start out small and grow slowly, I didn't realize how hard it would be to just grow period. So I made a website, opened a business account got my tax ID, signed up to be a reseller of printed items through a well known online company and started advertising.

My first newspaper ad in my small town brought in absolutely nothing. Seriously, $50+ down the drain and not even a phone call. So I found a list of e-mail addresses of local businesses through the chamber of commerce website and sent them all a friendly e-flyer advertising my business. Later I learned that this is kind of spammy and I really shouldn't do it, but hey, I did get an order from it.

Ok, so there really isn't much of a demand for straight up graphic design in my small little farming county, so I started looking into other marketable product that required graphics to some degree. I already new how to sell cast plaques, so I added those first, then gradually got into other types of signs. Vinyl wall designs were getting popular and I thought these were right in line with what I liked and knew how to do - graphic design and selling signs. So I bought a vinyl cutter and taught myself how to use it pretty fast.

Most of my orders were, and still are, from my local community through word of mouth. But I felt like I needed to expand my target market (which encompasses a wide range) so I went online and found Etsy.

Let me say that again ... I found ETSY! (insert excited squeal here)

I made myself wait for a month, until after I did some research on the handmade site and learned how things worked. I told myself not to get into too much, but I could sell my vinyl wall designs and my graphic design on Etsy to a larger audience (who were specifically looking for handmade things) so I couldn't resist jumping into it.

Etsy has added new meaning to the word advertising. I spend loads of time promoting, connecting and sharing my products with other online creatives like me and while I completely enjoy it, sometimes I can get lost in it. My sales don't reflect the time I spend on the site yet, so I need to take a step back every now and then to look at what I should be doing (more creating) vs. what I am doing (promoting a lot!)so I don't get sucked into the black hole of lost time. Don't get me wrong, there is a happy medium between the two, but I sometimes have issues with time management.

Now I have such a wide variety of products with a diverse customer base, I wonder if I've branched out too far? Yes, my sales have increased as I've added each new product line, but my sales are still not really steady overall. Also, I can't tell that one specific product sells better than another.

I've read that most businesses start out with a lot of different products, then as they grow, narrow down to a few specific products that they do really well.

So the big question is.... how much is too much branching out? Do I narrow down now, or wait until I have more sales to see what works best? I don't know how to choose, and luckily, at this point I don't have to yet. But I'm sure the time will come when I am either fed up with trying to make my business successful, or so busy that my head spins and I have to make a major change. I guess for now I will just "keep calm and carry on".

1 comment:

  1. I understand about getting lost in Etsy and promoting more than creating. I have issues too. You'll know when the time is right to make that big decision. Enjoy the journey in the meantime!