What is Saving My Product Photos

Last week, I posted on the Tiny Dino Studios facebook page about playing with my foldio, and I got a bunch of questions about how I liked it. Before this past week, I’d only used the foldio a handful of times, and mostly with my phone. And after that, I’d never taken the time to edit the photos, but holy smokes you guys, the little light box thing is totally worth it!

Mocha Morning Soap

Here is one of the new product photos I took last week using the foldio. It’s not perfect, but it is light years ahead of the photo of the same product I took a few weeks before that on my desk using the window for light.

See the difference?

Box of Chocolates Special Edition Valentine’s Day Soap

Here’s another soap that just finished curing. It’s scented with chocolate and lavender, colored with cocoa and red oxide.

Good Vibes Soap with poppy seed swirl and calendula petals

This is brand new, and has a couple weeks left on the curing shelf. I call it Good Vibes because it’s a very earthy, fresh, relaxing essential oil blend of sandalwood, eucalyptus and patchouli. I also adore how the poppy seed swirl turned out.

I’m not the most composition-minded photographer out there–and I call myself photographer in the sense that I hit the shutter on my little canon power shot and a photo results–but I’m really glad I have my foldio. While there are some of my photos where I couldn’t edit around bad composition (see below), it’s not the foldio’s fault I barely pay attention to whether my shot is in focus. It’s designed to photograph small things. That’s why it’s only ten inches wide.

See how you can see the edge of my back drop and the sides of the light box? The soap is true though!

With a little conscious effort on my part, I can really improve my product photography with the help of my little light box. So, while this is what I have, I’m going to say that any light box will help.

I’m going to keep practicing my photography, focusing on getting more usable pics out of each photo session, and paying more attention to how I line things up. But editing photos this time around was so much less frustrating than usual. Hooray!

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Thoughts on Paying Yourself by the Day

This video showed up on my facebook feed last week, and I shared it on the TDS Facebook page, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.

How have I never heard this before? Do you know how long I’ve been doing this? Maybe if I’d gone to art school?

I love how simple he makes pricing work for sale. It’s got me rethinking the prices I’d been playing with for the upcoming Tiny Dino Soapworks. Especially since I’ve already been working on how I would batch my oils for soaps and body butters, etc. to save time spent measuring oil for each new product.

Let’s play with some theoretical numbers for a moment, shall we?

If I wanted to figure out how much to charge for a bar of soap, the first thing I do is figure my cost of materials. Say a 10-bar batch costs $15 to make, including packaging. That means cost of materials on each bar is $1.50. If I were paying myself by the day, and could theoretically make 30, 10-bar batches of soap in a 10 hour day, that means I could make 300 bars in a day. That means I would pay myself .$60 per bar, raising total price of the bar to $2.10.

This is far too low. Selling your soap for that little will run you out of business, especially if you’re making closer to 3 batches of soap a day. (If you’re at a point where you’re making all 300 bars, I hope you’ve scaled up from a 10-inch mold!)

If I were to figure the price hourly, still paying myself $50/hour, I still get the cost of $2.10/bar. However, if I figure the pricing model I proposed in Why You Need Wholesale Pricing First, this number would be my starting point, and not my end point. My wholesale price per bar would be (rounding up) $4.25, the retail price $8.50.

Those are numbers I am far more comfortable with for recouping expenses.

If I were still selling handspun yarn, I would never be able to sell it using this method. I could probably spin one, maybe two skeins of yarn in one day, unless I was doing super chunky stuff. That means 1 skein would cost roughly $275. Usually, I was lucky if I could sell the yarn I spun for twice the price of materials at around $50.

For soaping and spinning, I’m not sure this model works, even though I consider those artisan crafts. However, for woodworking, for sewing, I could see how it could work very well.

What do you think? Which pricing model works best for your handmade business?

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Selling Without Fear: Why You Need Wholesale Pricing First

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Now that you are thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur and have started on your branding journey, you have to be ready to sell, right? What’s left? You’re never going to make any money if you don’t sell, right?

Correct. If you never start selling, you won’t make any money–but you know what else makes you no money? Setting your prices to low.

I know you’ve heard that your prices are probably too low before, and there is a reason for that. A lot of new entrepreneurs want to sell their work for the lowest price possible because they are afraid no one will buy it otherwise–it is a chronic problem. It is also a trap, one that I am begging you to avoid.

Prices are hard. How do you even start to quantify your hard work? Is the love that you put into your pieces worth a number? Does it matter if you would keep making those scarves, mugs, prints, earrings, lip balms, etc. even if you weren’t selling them? Yes. It matters.

If you want to continue your business long term, you have to make enough money to keep it going.

Chances are, you probably want to make enough money to quit your day job. To do that, the prices on the items you sell have to accurately reflect not just the cost of their production, but also cover your mortgage. And if you don’t want to eat ramen for every meal, it’s good to be realistic up front about how much you need to make and how much you can reasonable expect to charge for your product.

How to Figure Your Pricing:
Step 1: Figure the cost of goods sold. You need to know how much everything costs: your supplies, shipping and packaging, branding materials, website, studio space, advertising. This also includes your hourly rate, and feel free to give yourself a raise. You are working your ass off to get this business off the ground.

Add the cost of the supplies that goes into each product plus the amount of time you spent on each product plus the costs of packaging and promotion. This gives you the cost of goods sold. (The investment you have put into each individual product.)

Step 2: Do your research. How much are other makers selling similar products for? Take a look at etsy and local shops that sell items similar to what you make. What are their price points? Keep in mind that some markets vary a lot on the sort of product they can sell. A gift shop at an art museum is going to have much higher price points than a corner grocery store, which is going to be different from an artist’s collective or boutique. Where does your product fit best? If you’ve done your branding homework, this should be an easy question to answer.

Step 3: Take your cost of goods sold and multiply it by two. Then multiply it by two again. The first number is your wholesale price. The second is your retail price. Compare these numbers to your market research. If the number is too high, work to get your costs down. Look for new suppliers, make more efficient use of your time, but do not decide to pay yourself less. That hourly rate is non-negotiable.

The other thing that’s non-negotiable, is that step where you figured your wholesale pricing.

I know it’s tempting to make that wholesale price your retail price. You will probably sell twice as many $1.50 lips balms as you will $3.00 lip balms, so it’s no big deal, right? Sure, maybe you will, but then you’ll have come up with containers and oils and packaging for twice as many products on half the money. If you’re selling your lip balms at shows and online one tube at a time, $1.50 isn’t a very big return, even if you’re selling ten a day. That’s $11.50 per day vs. $30.00 per day. (See how that number more than doubled there?)

The other major thing to keep in mind is that while most artist-entrepreneurs start out at shows and online, getting into brick and mortar stores can become your bread and butter. Brick and mortar stores like to place large orders all at once. That’s good for you, because instead of getting your money in $3.00 at a time, you can sell a shop 50 tubes of lip balm at a time and you get $75.00 all at once. That’s money that it normally would have taken you three to four days to make that you just made in one.

The lump sum is the first reason you need wholesale pricing. Another is that if you don’t offer discounted pricing on your work to stores that are buying from you in bulk, they will flat out not buy from you again. If you charge a shop the same $3.00 you retail lip balm for, that means the shop has to sell it for $5.00 to $6.00 to recoup their investment. That’s getting to the high end of the lip balm spectrum and could be difficult to sell. On top of that, if customers find out that they can undercut the store by going directly to you, you might get the business of a few people buying from you one time, but you’ll lose multiple large orders from that store because they can’t sell your product. You want those consistent lump sums.

The most important reason of all that you need to know your wholesale pricing before start selling is because knowing your wholesale price gives you power. Whether you’re trying to sell at a show, working with a buyer or negotiating with a collaborator, you know the bare minimum amount that you can accept for your product, and you can even set a minimum amount that a person needs to order to get that price. Setting your terms up front makes you look good and engenders trust. When your customers trust you, they are a lot more willing to give you their money so you can pay your mortgage. And that is always a good thing.

Next week we’re talking the glory that is a line sheet. Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to be a blast.

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Selling Without Fear: Your Branding Journey

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This is not a post about how to build your brand. If you are looking for a quick guide to branding, look elsewhere. There are professionals out there who can help you do this a whole lot more effectively than me. But be warned, if you are new to selling, there are no quick fixes. Branding is a journey. When I work with artists, this is the part I pray they have done already, because it makes my job loads easier, and I literally cannot do it for them. I can interpret their brand for my store, but I can’t give them their identity. If you have a clear idea of who you are and what your company does, it makes it a million times easier to sell your work.

This is why you need things like the following:

  • a mission statement
  • a vision statement
  • a logo
  • business cards with your logo on it
  • any pertinent labeling for your product that is consistent with your logo and business cards
  • a website
  • social media accounts that reach the right demographics and a plan for how to reach them
  • and most importantly consistent presentation across all of these
An example of branding: instantly recognizable and consistent photography
An example of branding: instantly recognizable and consistent photography

Full disclosure, to me, this is the scariest part of starting a business. This is the step that takes a lot of reflection and introspection. It takes work. Real work. It is the opposite of doing all that fun creating, but deciding how you represent what you create is just as important as creating it. And yet, this interpretation is also the part that is most often skipped or half-assed. My best guess at why artists-as-entrepreneurs, myself included, have difficulty with this step is because it can be really, really scary.

If building your business were a story, this would be the part where the hero has to confront his demons before he can go on to be victorious. That is how scary I find it. It is like Harry Potter going into the Forbidden Forest to give himself over to Voldemort scary.

meteor shower trex sock yarn

Why do I find this so scary? Because I’ve read a ton of those business branding guides. I’ve got notebooks full of notes on who I think I am and what Tiny Dino Studios could be. What I have never once seen is someone deal with the emotional side of what these guides ask you to do. They ask you to knock down all of your protective barriers. They want you to demolish the walls you’ve built around yourself, take a step back, and examine your true self. They might ask you in ways that don’t feel so navel-gazey, but for each exercise they give, they are looking for an authentic answer. No perfunctory words will do.

You are not going to be good at branding unless you are 100% honest with yourself about what you want your business to be. And if you don’t like yourself, if you are afraid of what you’ll find if you lower defenses, confronting that can be the scariest thing in the world.

jurassic trex sock yarn

It takes guts to fill out one of those brand building guides and mean every word of it. It most likely won’t be quick, and a lot of it probably won’t be fun. Don’t let fear hold you back from tackling this. Just like any business, if you put in the hard work now, it makes your life easier in the long run. Developing your brand is like a good workout, getting up the motivation might be difficult, and the work is hard while you’re in it, but the way you feel stronger afterward is worth it.

It’s OK to wrestle with yourself. It’s OK to not like yourself very much or feel inadequate or scared. It’s OK to ask for help. What’s not OK is giving up before you’ve even started. No one can do this for you. They can guide you. They can coach you, but in the end, it’s just you and Voldemort.

If it feels like too much, check out my blog and business tips pinterest board. It’s full of people who break marketing and business planning down step-by-step. I’ve also found that just because the advice is for writers or bloggers or etsy sellers, doesn’t mean it won’t be compatible with your business.

Have fun. Grow. Sell!

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Selling Without Fear: Believe You Are an Entrepreneur

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Welcome to Selling Without Fear. This is my first foray into writing about specialty retail, but I’ve been working in the field for the last ten years. My particular niche in specialty retail is seeking out up-and-coming artists in my home state and getting their work into stores. While my perspective is colored by working as a buyer for a brick and mortar store, my niche is so precise, that I meet a lot of artists who are just starting out. (For brevity’s sake, we’ll call them artists, but this applies to you, reader friend, no matter what type of work you are trying to sell.)

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One of my early yarn displays from 2012

Imagine a scenario with me. You are at your first art fair. You have a table and a display and prices on your pieces. You know your pieces rock. You are confindant in your work and you are ready to sell. Your prices seem fair, your display looks nice, and you have put in a ton of work to be there. Then, someone like me walks by. A buyer. She recognizes your genius immediately. She asks for your wholesale price sheet. If you have business cards? A website? An facebook page? She might tell you that your prices are too low. She might even say that she’d like to work with you, but if you don’t have a least one, though preferably all four of the things listed above, chances are, she’s not calling you on Monday. (Or in my case, in two or three Mondays, because that’s far behind I usually am.)

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Another early yarn display

Suddenly, all of that work you did to get to the fair doesn’t seem like enough. There’s so much more to do to, and it’s not nearly as fun as making things. And honestly, it’s a little intimidating. Do you really need all of that stuff to be successful? Maybe not, but your chances improve a whole helluva lot if you do.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting with an artist who wants to sell with me and the artist has said, “I don’t really know what to sell for, I’m just an artist.” No. You are not.

If you are an artist selling your work, you are a business owner.

If you want to be successful in selling your work, you need to act like a business owner. Pull on your entrepreneur boots and start thinking beyond your product.

Yes, your product is the basis of your business, but if you don’t make it easy for shoppers (the public) and buyers (people like me who are stocking store) both to buy your products, you are doing yourself a disservice. You need a wholesale price sheet. A facebook page and possibly a website. And for the love of God, please at least have a business card with your email address on it. One that you check.

Why do you need these thing? Because they make you think about your branding.

My super simple logo
My super simple logo.

Brand. Another scary businessy sounding word. Good news is, when you’re a solo entrepreneur, a maker of handmade things, designer, a seller of one of a kind goods, words, food, etc. more often than not, you are your brand, and your products are a representation of you.

Business cards are you at a glance. They should represent your style, and tell me how to contact you and where I can find you online.

A wholesale price sheet shows that you know the value of your work down to the last penny, that you are confidant in your prices, and that you consider yourself a professional, not a hobbyist. (It doesn’t matter if you are a hobbyist. The world doesn’t need to know that. When you are selling, you are a professional.)

A facebook page and/or website is your way to connect with an audience. Share with them. Intrigue them. Let them know where you will be or if you’re developing new products. Tell them your story. The whole point of buying handmade is to buy something with a story, to give a gift with a tangible connection. Give your audience that connection.

We’re going to talk about each of these things in turn, starting with branding, then moving into pricing, and then confidence building over the next few weeks. Ask me questions, leave comments, argue with me, and feel free to email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com.

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