Tips for surviving the holiday season as a new shop owner
The holidays are upon us. Yes, it’s only the beginning of November but the Christmas music has started playing, the commercials are starting to sell, and if you own an Etsy shop or any creative business, you’ve been prepping for weeks (maybe months) for the rush of Christmas shopping.
Last year was my first real holiday season in business, and the first time I had dealt with the rush and stress that goes along with that. There is something so exciting and fulfilling about making gifts for people this time of year. But along with all the successes, I have a few horror stories of orders gone wrong, nightmare customers (Lord, help me) and inventory screw-ups. We all have to learn from our mistakes, right? I did. At least my mistakes from last year…I may have a new list next year.
SO here are my top 3 tips for surviving the holiday season if you’re a new business owner:
1. Order more than you need
I keep repeating this mistake, every season. So at this point, I truly can’t stress this enough. If you have an item that is selling “pretty well” regularly or a seasonal item that sold pretty well last year- STOCK UP, and stock up now.
Last year, my rose gold ornaments sold super well and fairly early in the season (I was not prepared for this). Instead of restocking while they were still available, I played it safe…because I understand how tight money can be as a new business owner. It can be hard to take the risk of holding onto inventory. But guess what? If it’s a fairly classic item, and you don’t sell out, you can always store it and have a head start on your inventory for next year.
Real life example: Last year, although I was still very new on Etsy, I sold more pink pumpkins than anything else I had sold so far. This year, now a full-time business owner and even more aware of every dollar going out, I decided to play it safe and only buy a small inventory of pink pumpkins (“what if people don’t want pink pumpkins this year!?” I thought). They sold out by September, and then I had tons of people messaging me asking if I would be restocking them (naturally, since there were still several weeks until Halloween). And you know what? By that time, my supplier was sold out of pink pumpkins. I lost out on a lot of potential revenue.
The thing about owning a business with seasonal items is that you have to stock early, especially if you’re buying from a craft store…because they will stop stocking at some point in the season. And you will likely still have buyers wanting that item later in the season. If you don’t stock early it might be too late.
2. Slow WAY down when packing
If you’re packing and shipping a lot of items that all look the same but are ya know, different colors or personalized, it is really easy to mix up shipments. I did this twice last year and it was so nerve wracking and embarrassing. Again, I had never gotten so many orders at once at that point in my business and I was getting a lot of personalized ornament orders. Even though I thought I was being careful with which ornament went in which box, and then which label went on which box…I just wasn’t careful enough. The extra time you take to make sure your shipping out the the right item to the right person is 100% worth it over the stress of having to track down a wrong shipment after getting the message that says “I received my order today, but it has the wrong saying on it”, ya know?
Pro tip: If I’m shipping out a bunch of the same thing, but all with different variation here’s my process.
- Line all the items up to ship that day
- Print out the packing slip AND shipping label
- Put the item, packing slip and shipping label together in a pile
- Put together your boxes, and put each item pile in front of one of the boxes
- Then go down the line and put together each one--- Check packing slip and shipping label, make sure the name/address match each other—put item in box, put packing slip in box, tape label to box.
- This is literally foolproof. You just need to slow down and take the time to make sure everything matches
3. Oh, girl. Store up some grace.
Let me start with this, 99% of my customers are AMAZING. Like somehow I truly believe I attract the kind of customers I dream about. We just get each other. But holiday shopping tends to bring out that 1% who I have nightmares about. I am not going to get into any specifics, but trust me if you own a shop, you will eventually have an unhappy customer.
So it’s December, you’re shipping out tons of personalized items, you hand make each one with detail and care. Nothing can bring you down…but then you open a message from a very unkind customer who hates what you made, it is the worst thing they’ve ever seen and they want you to make it right (I’ve never gotten this severe of a message, this is how it feels when someone’s unhappy at all). Or maybe you never even hear from the customer directly but then they leave a one star review on Etsy with a not very nice description attached. Either way, negative client feedback is the WORST. It literally makes me want to cry. I’ve been lucky and have only had a handful of bad experiences, but they really stick with you.
What I’ve learned from all of these is one major thing: Grace. Sometimes a grumpy client just needs some grace. It is absolutely easier to get caught up in the moment, respond in anger and attempt to make your customer feel as bad as you feel. But I promise you, you will not feel better in the end. I 100% believe there are situations where you need to stand up for yourself and your products, but most times you can do this from a place of grace and kindness.
Want to know what’s helped me respond this way? After reading something negative, I open a word doc and write my immediate response. JUST LET IT ALL OUT GIRL. It’s usually not pretty. Then I wait a few hours, settle down. I start to weigh the options of how I can potentially reconcile this customer’s experience. And then I respond with as kind of a response as possible. And guess what? I’ve changed the customers mind several times by responding with grace and I still have my self-respect in tack.
Every season of business is full of lessons. If you’re new to this, the learning lessons will feel constant. I hope this helps even just a little bit! Do you have some tips of your own or have a specific question for me? Just shoot me an email at Aislinn@properletterco.com. I’d love to chat with you!