4 Things I Wish I had Done my First Year in Handmade Business

Creative Entrepreneurship, DIY + Education | 21 comments

This is for the new-on-the-scene handmade business folks. While I say “first year”, let’s just go with “the sooner the better”…

As many of you know, Merriweather Council was not a planned venture and I totally jumped in head first without a clue as to what I was doing. I learned along the way and that was great, but there are a few things I wish I had learned sooner.

Allow me to save you a year or more of time and / or frustration. Hopefully you will feel inspired to take some small actions today or in the near future!  (Truly, that’s what all of these are: small steps to begin with – they become bigger projects if you put them off. I know, I know, I sound like your mom.)

1. Start capturing emails sooner rather than later

It really couldn’t hurt to walk the walk like you are going to send an email newsletter even if you aren’t quite sure yet. Email marketing can be very effective if done properly. However, it must be done at all in order to have the chance of being done well.

This is such a huge topic, so for now I’m just sticking with inspiring you to not be shy about capturing emails for “your list.” First thing you need to do is set up a list on a service like MailChimp! Then you want to begin collecting emails. You can do this at shows (either digitally or with a pen + paper), through your blog, or through a link in your email signature. There are lots of ways to do this and I’m sure you are at least a little bit familiar.  However, you do NOT need an incentive in order to get subscribers.

Do note: If you are selling on Etsy, you can’t just take your customers’ emails and add them to your mailing list – it is against the Etsy TOU and you really just don’t want to get in trouble there. Additionally, it is illegal to add people to your list without their consent. 

List building is a huge topic, but you get the idea. Just start collecting them somehow and send a monthly email at first until you build up more content to share. JUST START NOW.

4 things I wish I had done my first year in handmade business; including email capture, Pinterest boards, organizing files, and using Pixelmator. | the merriweather council blog

Merriweather Council featured in the Knot.

2. Create a Pinterest Board for blog + media mentions

When I first started this whole shebang, Pinterest was only just becoming ‘a thing.’ And in the early days, I seem to remember it was not favorable to pin your own work and such. Now, it’s totally acceptable and expected. DO IT NOW. Create a board just for shout outs you get from other blogs or media outlets. Even if you are featured in print, there is almost always something digital that you can pin – an Instagram photo or a website mention. You can keep it secret if you prefer, but it’s a great way to keep track of features and – if the board is public – promote yourself. Here is an example.

3. Organize whatever files + photos you already have and set a system

Once you have a lot of “stuff” you will be inclined to organize it, I think that is pretty natural. However, before you even reach that point, you could put a system in place for organizing and avoid doing the same work over and over.

Organizing product photos is essential. In the thumbnails, it’s hard to tell one thing from the next, especially if they are similar photos of similar items (which they probably will / should be), so organizing these as you go is a wonderful idea and will save a lot of headache later on. Upload your photos from a session and then immediately separate them out however you see fit. Here is how I have been doing it for years. Figure out what works for you and don’t be afraid to delete the extra photos – they just take up space and you won’t remember which are the blurry ones and open them every time you go looking for a picture. You know you will.

Another thing I amassed a lot of files on: about me blurbs and intros. Create a couple of these, save them maybe in ONE document, or title them so you can easily search and find them quickly.  Maybe you have one bio written in first person and one in third. Or maybe you have an intro you can customize for blog interviews or whatnot. You’ll need this kind of thing over and over. I wrote so many “about me” blurbs – mostly the same, but not – because I didn’t keep track of the ones I had previously written. Save yourself the time and effort and just save them for grab + go in the future.

4. Get Pixelmator

Editing photos is something you will need to do over and over, everyday. You’ll need a photo editor and a place to make blog and shop banners, etc. You can use PicMonkey for free to a certain extent, yes indeed you can, but I like the idea of having a piece of software for a few reasons: you can use it sans-wifi (Hello long amtrak trip), you pay once, you can save and edit (biggest problem I see with PicMonkey is that you cannot go back in and edit something after saving it.) Just some stuff to think about.

Originally, I was still using Photoshop because I had CSwhatever in college but then I got a new computer and it was no longer compatible. Of course I panicked and tried to justify buying the newest CS but this was before subscriptions and it was a ton. Also, even now I think Pixelmator is a better option. Pixelmator is basically Photoshop with a few less bells and whistles. The average person probably wouldn’t notice these gaps. Get this app, don’t look back. A very fine investment indeed. Get it in the app store.

Don’t be intimidated, starting small is the best way to start! Get the ball rolling now, and it will be so much easier later on. You’ll thank yourself.

 If any other long-time sellers would like to pop in and add to the list, I would love it.

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hello + welcome

Oh, hi! Welcome to The Merriweather Council. I’m Danielle and I am a maker in business and mentor to other makers in business. I teach you how to turn your crafty tendencies into profits!

Oh, I’m also really into crafts, boy bands + iced coffee. Email me anytime to say hello or send cute Backstreet Boy videos or dog pictures .. or whatever! danielle (at) merriweathercouncil.com Thanks for stopping by.

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  1. Your photo organizing tip is vital–plus a plan to back them up regularly. :)

    Also,I would add that artists who hope to sell larger prints “eventually” should learn how to take raw photos of any originals you sell. I made the mistake of putting that off and now many originals are long gone to new homes, and I’m left without the ability to make large prints from the small jpegs made for listing photos. This year, I’ve been able to make prints on demand from close-up views of an original and still make the print three times as large as the original. But, you need the right resolution original photos to pull that off.

    • That’s a great point – preparing for things you might want to do in the future! Great thought.

  2. Great post……thank you for sharing this valuable information, especially the emails section……i had’nt thought of that.

    • I’m glad it was helpful! Yes, get those emails!!!

  3. Act like a professional business from the start. You don’t need to hide the fact that you’re a one-person show, but you should be careful about how you appear online. A huge number of small businesses have totally turned me off by moaning about customers on their Facebook page or having every single blog post start with “Sorry I haven’t posted for a while”.

    • That’s a great piece of advice that I wish I had heard sooner as well. Basically also not feeling like you have to do everything!

  4. The email list! I am working on that THIS week and oh how I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long! I would love another post diving more into that!

    • I started semi-collecting. Here and there I would but really it was not a priority and I wish it had been. I can post some good resources, unfortunately I can’t speak from experience on that one lol

  5. Thanks for the tips, and especially the photo ed app recommendation. I’m years behind in capturing emails … but now’s a good time to start! Thanks again.

    • best app i’ve found!!

  6. Danielle, this is GREAT information! I’m 4 years in, and my photos are so unorganized. I guess it’s never too late! Love all these tips. :)


    • thanks, Erin! It’s never too late :)

  7. Any suggestions on where to store photos? I feel like I have them everywhere!

    • I put all of my products in folder with a marker image. so let’s say i have “red necklace” and 10 photos of red necklace. I make rednecklace.jpg and red necklace (folder) I put the remaining 9 photos of red necklace in the folder. Then I add rednecklace.jpg and rednecklace folder to another folder called “inventory” and every product has a photo and a folder with the rest of the images in a larger folder where all the products are stored for easy access and identification at a glance.

    • Danielle described a good system to start with. If you are growing an art-related business with thousands of images, where product images will also be used for art licensing or print-on-demand, I would recommend also subscribing to Adobe Lightroom, and taking the time to learn about how to use “collections” and keywords (that attach to your photo file and make it findable years later). Creative Live has some great classes on this. Also, getting a system for backing up images is also important, for whatever type of business you have. Hope that helps. :)

  8. Thank you for this! I especially like #3 – organise whatever you can as early as you can. It really does make things easier later on!

  9. Thank you so much for this information. I am just starting out and this article waa helpful as i plan how to best move forward.

  10. Great post. Glad I found this as I am just starting out. Planning ahead, my Cricut gets here on Tuesday! Anyway, it appears that the photo editing software that you recommend is for Macs only. I have a PC. Do you have any recommendations on what to put on a PC for that? Photoshop scares me…it seems way complicated!

    Thanks for the advice. I look forward to reading more of your posts.


    • hi heather! awesome, congrats! Maybe photoshop elements or lightroom? Those aren’t as intense. Also picmonkey is good!

  11. I really appreciate the advice. I just launched my business a couple weeks ago and am already starting to feel a little discouraged. I’m glad to hear practical ways to start strong.

    • Stick with it!! Thanks for reading!

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