The year before Covid I had a vague idea of expanding my business. I had been getting busier and busier and it seemed like the next logical step. I had been doing 4 Farmer’s Markets a week in different location with some large wholesale accounts. Covid hit and I stopped all Markets and put more time into my online presence-I did okay, not complaning because I did better than a lot of other businesses. Now that everything’s getting back to normal my sales are a lot, they have been since the beginning of the year. I’m getting a lot of online business in addition to normal business growth thru word of mouth and marketing. I did one market this year so far, and got cleaned out. I’m getting wholesale orders and online orders left and right. I’ve put off hiring or cutting back as long as I can. I’m making mistakes, my orders are shipping out late. Correspondences are sitting for days before I can get to them, and requests for orders are the same. I’m debating not doing any in person markets-I really can’t, I don’t have the time. But isn’t this just me throwing away money? I’ve posted to hire someone to do this, and am really needing someone else in the business in addition to this. I don’t really know how to navigate the hiring of someone though. Ideally it would be nice to have someone that can do everything I do, correspondences, run the machines, do shipping, everything that’s involved. But honestly I know how much work all this is, and how much that work is worth and I don’t think I can afford to pay someone what it’s worth. So should I separate out a position that consists of lower skills that would still help me? My other idea is to possibly hire other Glowforge users to fulfill and drop-ship some of my orders for me? Has anyone done this? How would you figure out what is a fair pay?
I would suggest that you start hiring someone to do the order work, and you focus on the work.
Look for someone who understands how your sales platform works (whether it’s your own site, or Etsy, or other), and can take emailed orders or orders received from other sources and enter them in to some sort of database so that you can receive a daily report saying you need 10 As, and 2 Bs, and 47 Cs (or whatever). That same person will take the As, Bs, and Cs you give them, print the correct shipping forms, box the items and have them ready for pickup by whomever is your shipper.
It would still be on you to do your books and the like, but you should easily be able to hire someone at $15-20/hr (depending on where you are located) to do that kind of administrative work and it probably wouldn’t even be a full time job to start - so even if they were a student they could come in at night and calculate everything for tomorrow, and pack up what you printed for tonight.
Figure double the price of a first run movie ticket is a reasonable per hour pay scale for the work you’re talking about.
Also, as your business grows larger you’ll likely want to adjust expectations on handling times. When it was just you next day is reasonable, but with a 2nd person you should be looking at 2 business days (which you can always beat) at a minimum.
Hopefully that helps!
Let me give you a different idea. Double your prices.
You will reduce your sales - but your profit will go up by way more than double. Your work load will go down. It will all become fun and manageable again.
Maybe it’s not exactly double, maybe it’s 50% more or triple.
You will be surprised by how “elastic” pricing of craft and handmade items is.
You don’t have to join the race to the bottom.
I see a product that uses 4 sheets of proofgrade. I sell it for $60.
I cannot stress to people enough that they should always look at how much PROFIT an item makes, not it’s actual price. Cheap items that make you 50c are a waste of your life.
Great perspective and something a lot of us don’t think about as an option. I’m in the process of ramping up everything for when our golf headcover and accessories website launches in mid to late summer and I’ve already been getting orders from people seeking me out after seeing someone else’s headcovers.
The market pretty much sets the price since everyone sells at about the same wholesale price to country clubs and resorts, but that’s partially because they’re all basically the same…a couple of pieces of leather with some embroidered form of the club logo or course name on them.
My intention, as of now, is to offer much more customization for retail customers but at a high price point, hence why I bought a Glowforge Pro. Some of the wholesale customers want customized stuff for big events at their clubs like patches with the golfer’s name and home club on the headcovers I am making for a member-guest tournament in October.
Nothing has made me take a bigger look at where and how to optimize my efficiencies than getting a $10K order for 250 customized headcovers and the entire production line consisting of me, a Glowforge, and a Techsew 2600 Pro Narrow Cylinder Arm sewing machine. Was supposed to have an embroidery machine by now as well, but that ship getting stuck in the Suez has delayed it until at least July.
Oh yeah, I also have a full-time day job and am trying to learn all of these different software programs (Adobe Illustrator, Chroma embroidery/digitizing, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) so I can utilize the full capabilities of all of my equipment.
So “working less” for more money in higher profit margins is definitely something I’m going to explore…as soon as I figure out what the hell I’m doing in the first place.
OK, so you are competing in a market that is full and has set a price point. You can bet that some of your competition has better equipment, cheaper supplies, cheaper labour, easier shipping etc. Which means (a) they are already making more profit than you and (b) they can drop the price or offer discounts to get the business.
So, instead of copying them, find a way of making your items special. For a kick-off just call them “deluxe” or “luxury” add in a “hand-made” and “hand-stained”.
You have to find some thing to make you special, otherwise, your entire business hinges on being the lowest price - which is no way to run a one-man business.
I’m confused. Isn’t that the bottom? PG is about that expensive.
I don’t have a problem setting myself out from the crowd. I do feel like I’m still competing somewhat with the crowd though as I’m super-niche to the point that there isn’t a good price comparison for my products except the standard products. I do often ask myself why am I price competing with this when this isn’t what I do. But I think for customers they’re always comparing and without an apples to apples comparison they look to oranges. Does that make sense?
To be precise I’m using MDF at $1 a sheet. Proofgrade is just not economical in the UK.
Congrats on having a wonderful problem!
Setting prices will always be a tricky thing–but agree you should raise them and look at your margin, or profit. You always need to raise them at least yearly for postage and material costs, and time needs to be a factor–understand how long it takes you to make each piece–if a batch item, price increase lower, but something you have to assemble/finish one at a time, be sure you’re paying yourself what you’re worth! (for a while I consigned at a small gallery and she said to figure at least $25 hour for yourself).
And you likely are experiencing thrift store shopper mentality at farmer’s markets, and you feel you’re prices are too high when someone gives the “ugh” face. If you want to still do some shows, find better shows (which can take steps to build up a “resume” to get accepted into them)–farmers markets shoppers generally want cheap… don’t sell yourself short. What would they pay for it in a nice gallery/shop? Wholesale should be 1/2 that price, and your own price at shows closer to the gallery/store price… (and your wholesale price needs to cover ALL your costs plus some margin–not selling just at cost!).
And be sure you have a card reader–years ago someone pointed out that booths that had “cards accepted here” signs got more shoppers and they’d stay longer in their booth–today many folks don’t even carry cash–but at farmer’s market I go to, I often just take cash to keep myself on a budget & for the veggies I’m there for…
Like you, until last year I did a lot of shows as well as on-line sales, and I started to reconsider reducing the # shows (when they start back up). I often enjoyed them–but it was expensive to do–time, travel, tables/display… etc. (and my cat really hated my being away ), so turns out I really wasn’t making any profit from doing them–though many were good to learn about other, better, shows, and product ideas.
I think hiring help for order fulfillment will really help you–as well as increase your lead times if necessary, too. Maybe you can get a college student studying business or has interest in doing their own small business, and can help with ideas to improve efficiency for the process too, and let you focus on what you do best!
It’s not quite as full, but there is a set price point for the given quality which is why the current draft of my website’s landing page says something along the line of:
“Luxury golf and fashion accessories handcrafted in Charleston, SC using the finest materials available”
The luxury fashion aspect is using things like Horween shell cordovan, alligator, crocodile, ostrich, etc. which I’ve also used on headcovers and scorecard holders/yardage books, rather than something like lightweight chap leather (only the veg tanned Horween goes in the GF though). The cost of production for those is higher, but the margins are exponentially higher and making fewer things for the same profit is definitely where I want to be.
Definitely need to cater to high-end private clubs to get the name out there via their huge events at less margin, but the goal is to convert them to retail/website customers via some different limited edition campaigns built around the big tournaments every year.
I promise you that you’ll never see my company on Etsy or me in any booth other than as a vendor at the PGA show starting in January 2023.
I hired a well known/respected branding and design consultant for the logo and website as well. Some of the websites of future competitors are good and some are downright awful to the point you wonder if/how they ever sell anything at full retail. I’m investing more money up front to make more on the back end.
Hopefully it all works out like I think it will and I appreciate the advice, thanks!
Here are my thoughts…
Question 1) What are you good at? Design for laser cut / artwork / cut material and package&ship to customers?
Once you have answered that in your own concept, then go about outsourcing everything else to others and focus only on what you are good at.
From my mind, some thoughts: Glowforge is great for easy of use and you get good at it fast, but it’s a very inefficient laser. With a finished design, there are a number of laser companies that can do that work for a fraction of the cost when you consider wear and tear. So if you want to do volume and have customers, focus on customer service and have stuff cut elsewhere.
For great designs there’s always Etsy… I feel that all GF owners are creating stuff in Etsy and we keep exchanging money with each other though
If you have orders for unique stuff that require a lot of design, then material is essentially “free”, so you charge for your design time, not the production itself.
with all that said, I think only “unique design and service” is a long term business endeavor for GF owners… In other areas it seems that you’ll not really make a long term business, unless you’re planning to buy a bunch of other lasers and make a bunch of items, using your GF for initial designs…
Good luck with your GF, but due the favor to yourself and answer Question 1 before you go too far in any direction. Cheers…
forgot this: find a good source for raw materials, much cheaper than GF…
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