facing reality

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I don't know anyone who likes tax time, but even though I usually get a refund, I very much hate it. Like many creative types, I have no interest in practical matters like staying on top of the accounting. I pretty much keep my head in the sand all year until it's time to add up all my expenses in order to do the taxes. That's when I find out whether or not I made a profit. After happily running my Etsy store all year and feeling like sales have been good, it's always a rude awakening to face the numbers. It's gotten to the point where it's illogical to continue unless I can make my business into something that generates some income for my family.

So I've been doing some soul searching and some scheming and have decided to give myself one more year to make it work. During this year I have a few concrete measures I plan to take to try to improve my efficiency.

stop wasting time

Time is money, right? So I am becoming acutely aware of when I am wasting it.
I have always made lots of trips to the post office, sometimes with just one measly package, and stood in line FOR-EVER! No more. I can't believe I waited so long to get a postal scale! I love this thing! It saves me gas too, because I buy the postage online and the mailman just takes the packages from my doorstep now.

A little harder to quantify, but keeping the office & studio more clean and organized is another of my measures. I just hate spending time and energy trying to find a certain fabric or trim, even just my scissors, while the clock is ticking. 15 minutes at the end of the night folding and putting away will keep it under control (I hope).
I can't do a full-on assembly line approach to my sewing now that I've decided to stop doing shows (that was last year's hard-learned lesson) and shifted to a mostly made-to-order business. There are a few tasks I can combine, though, to make the assembly process a little quicker. One thing that takes time is constantly changing the threading on the serger for different stitches. So I've started consolidating steps like rolled edging which I use on anything ruffled. When I have one thing to do on that setting, I'll go ahead and prep for future projects that I am reasonably sure I'll get an order for, like ruffle-butt bloomers. This way I'm not committing to stocking entire garments as I can use the pieces on any size, just cut them down accordingly.

keep on top of the accounting

I really should be adding up my receipts and expenses monthly. Duh! So I know if I'm veering off track. Bad me for not doing it sooner!

stop over-buying fabric

Every time my husband comes in my studio, he remarks on how much fuller it seems. How can that be if I'm selling at a decent clip in my Etsy store? Well, because my eyes are bigger than my head when it comes to buying fabric. I overestimate how many items I can physically make in general, and I buy without a always having a specific project in mind. I have been acquiring fabric at a faster rate than my actual sales. This is the year to go the other way and use up what I already have and be more selective about what I do buy.

stock certain supplies

This is counter intuitive to what I just said above, but now that I have a good feel for what I sell a lot of and what I tend to run out of all the time, it made sense for me to stock up on certain supplies like elastic, eyelet trim, and packaging. It's cheaper to buy these things in bulk. It's a time and money waster to have to run out in the middle of a project for more lace and then to pay a premium.

rethink what I sell

This is a hard one because it really is the core of the problem as much as I hate to admit it. I can't compete on price with mass produced children's clothing. I pretty much charge the the maximum amount the market will bear for, say, an appliqued onesie. Yet these onesies take 3 hours or more to complete and if you subtract the cost of materials, I pocket minimum wage at best for my work. People like them and can tell they are better than something from Walmart, but do I want to continue on this trajectory to nowhere?

pursue other creative endeavors

I have a lot more ideas than I can actually execute for my little store, but I don't want them to languish. Knowing what the profitability of my handmade business is, taking more breaks from it to pursue other things doesn't seem so bad. Actually, it's kind of freeing. The world will go on if I take time off to do a little freelance work in the apparel world or try my hand at a book proposal. Maybe I can even go for more walks or work in my garden.

Sigh! The reality-check of tax time!


ThatGirl said...

Yes! Book Proposal! Or publish yourself (digitally)to start... You have a lot of good stuff in your tutorials here to really be off and running.
Do you get as much joy in the making as the designing? I just keep thinking you should be a design mogul-- a line of fabrics or children's clothing or whatever you love. I can also imagine your applique designs being illustrations for children's picture books... ?

Becky said...

It's certainly most gratifying the first time you make a new design. The 20th time- not so much! More designing = more fun, for sure. Thanks for the encouragement, ThatGirl!

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