Moving Onwards and Upwards!

Now when it comes to challenges I’m usually pretty crap at sticking to them. Nanowrimo I’ve attempted and failed to complete three times, I never complete my Goodread challenges, 100 day of happiness I’ve abandoned twice, resolutions are usually forgotten by February which is why I never make them, basically I’m a complete and utter flake when it comes to challenges.
However, in October things changed, I changed, mainly my attitude. I set myself a business challenge for the four month busiest period of the retail year to double my sales and income from my business from the previous year . Also in November I decided I wasn’t going to NaNoWriMo but then someone tweeted they were doing Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day Challenge because I thought it’s easier to write thirty days in a row when given a prompt than if you have to think up the subjects yourself. During that challenge I also wrote a pledge for this year, setting myself some personal and business challenges to complete by the end of the year. It appears I went a little crazy for challenges but you know what it was just what I needed. The last year I had been coasting along not really sure what I was doing but what I really needed to as something to focus on, something to get me on my path and it worked and it was also down to planning, meticulous planning and organisation because you know what you can only wing it for so long. By winging it you’ll only ever reach a certain level and you might be happy with that but when building a business you need to be on the ball and it’s a constant learning process but you also need to be well organised and have a plan. Knowing what you’re doing will help immensely with the choosing the next direction you’re going to take and I know that should go without saying but sometimes you need to state the obvious to yourself to realise that’s what you need to do.
So how did the challenge go?
Actually really well, not only did I complete the challenge a little way after half way through, I also ended up meeting some of my stretch goals too. In the end I did more than double the sales I aimed for, instead of 40 I made 98 sales, not bad huh? I was aiming for triple but as always towards the end of January, everything began to slow down. I also made over the financial target as well, not quite double but still over and so I’m very happy with how things went especially as I’m only in my second year. I also managed to sort out my stock room, organise my supplies, and decide what I want to work on next. I’ve also have some return customers which is always a good sign. 
What did I learn?
A lot, mainly that when I put my mind to something I can achieve it. Also I’ve become a planning and organisation addict, I have a planner (from A Beautiful Mess) for my life, a planning book where I write my quarterly business plans, market plans etc and days to day desk planners for daily/weekly tasks which I don’t always use, mainly when I have a big task to complete like a market or a collection to release.
Sticking to the plan is important but so is revising the plan. If something is not working, find out why and change it. Check stats, what’s bringing customers to your shop through the search engines, what is popular what is not, small but important things. You don’t have to be stats obsessed as they don’t always tell the whole picture but they will give you a general idea if you’re heading in the right direction or not.
Also good customer service, answer all questions in a friendly but professional manner even if they just send you a one line sentence with no punctuation and grammar! Also post items as soon as possible, you might state you’ll post within three days but really that should be to cover your butt, like bad weather or meetings etc, if you can get to the post office/box everyday then try and do so. I don’t mind going, it gets me out the house which is quite important when your self employed and a hermit. Also, I now have a good relationship with the people in the Post Office and they pretty much know I need receipts and have stopped asking if my parcels contain dangerous contrabands!!
Also, although I have improved my photography a lot since first starting, I still have a little way to go. I know the standard format it white background and make it look like a catalogue as much as possible and I have photographers try and push me to send my photos for professional editing or even have me send my items to them for photography but the whole sterile look is really not my thing. Plus I like photography, I may not be the best at it but it’s a skill I like learning. Bright clear photos showing off the items true colours are a must, also I want to retake some items to show them being worn so people can see better how they look when worn. Backgrounds I think are down to the seller, I personally don’t like the whole white background, also some items don’t photograph well against a white background, so it’s all about playing around with what works and what doesn’t.

What’s next?
Well  now that I’ve managed to use up most of my old stock it’s time to start planning new designs. I’ve mentioned before that I never really wanted to be a jewellery maker but it’s been a handy skill to learn, it’s just the market is highly competitive, also I’m a sewer so it makes sense to do stuff you enjoy. This doesn’t mean I won’t be doing jewellery again but I’d rather learn some of the techniques myself to make my own beads, brooches etc.
Although the shop is rammed pack full of items and I like selling mostly one of a kind items rather than mass produced stuff, though this doesn’t mean if something is popular I won’t do it again. I do want to thin down the ranges slightly and work on creating my brand so that my work recognisable, though I know this will take sometime but it will be worth it the end.
So now I’m working on a plan for the next few months, this is my strategy, have an ultimate goal and work towards it in stages. I’m currently working on some new ideas that will be launched soon and I look forward to sharing these with you.