It feels really good to be working again. Even though that I have been piddling around sort of, kind of working, it seems that everyone is getting back into full swing again. These past couple of weeks were understandably slow, with several days of no orders or customer contact. Everyone was busy with family and friends and I am sure that the week prior to Christmas that few people would be buying more patterns an that what wasn’t already made would need to wait for next year. That made it very quiet around here.
It is funny how much things have changed over the past year or so. I have had my website for several years now and up until last year, it was somewhat of an appendix of my business, with maybe two to three orders trickling in each month. It barely paid for its own operating costs. It was hardly what I would call a substantial part of my business. But then why would it be? I had not focused much effort at all into it and the dismal return should be somewhat expected.
But since taking a serious look at the scope of what it has to offer and making a conscious effort to develop that side of my business, it has shown a great deal of promise. It is fun to look at the figures and see that sales have more than quadrupled in the past year. Before you are all so impressed though, you should realize that it is fairly easy to show quadruple growth from practically nothing. Even with the incredibly positive rate that it is growing, it is still just in its infancy. Now the trick will be to make it quadruple again in the year 2011. That will be a great accomplishment – especially with the still lagging economy.
We watched a movie last week called “Social Network” which was the story about the inventor of Facebook and how it came to be what it is today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it was a rags-to-riches story about how one person started and developed what came to be a multi-billion dollar business. For those of us who are entrepreneurs, it is what many of us only dream about – taking an idea and watching it grow and turn into a successful business. Although I realize that much of the plot must have been exaggerated for Hollywood, I couldn’t help but feel good about the Cinderella-type outcome of the little guy achieving success. I found myself cheering for him and hoping that things would work out well, seeing the work and dedication and drive that he was portrayed in having. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was always the case?
It’s fun to dream, isn’t it?
Yesterday was filled with customer correspondence and phone calls. I had mailed out my newsletter to the first half of my customers and I am sure that spurred much of the activity, but I also noticed that I acquired probably ten new mailing list customers. That meant that they were NOT the ones who received the notice of the site update through the newsletter and had either heard about it through my Facebook business page or just happen upon it through Google searching or otherwise. Part of me wants to add a “where did you hear from us” question box on the email sign up form just to see where they came from. I don’t like asking too many questions there however, as I realize that people do like their privacy and I don’t want new prospective customers to feel as if they are required to give too much information. It would be quite helpful though in helping me understand which way to market myself. I need to consider it.
I enjoy the daily communication with customers. Last week, I had a call from a customer who had a lot of experience in doing intarsia. He was a regular on one of the woodworking sites and his projects stood out above the others. They are all beautifully done and each one is a work of art.
He called because a neighbor of his saw our latest project in the magazine and was going to attempt to make it. However, he found the instructions somewhat confusing. When he brought it to my customers, it turned out they were both confused. My customer called me to clarify things with me and find out what was up. I still haven’t even received my issue of the magazine, so I couldn’t even see how things were presented. All I had to go on was the text files that were sent to me for final proofreading prior to publication.
Long story short, we went over the instructions point by point and I did find several things that were changed from our original instructions that would be somewhat confusing to someone – especially if they were new to the process. Naturally, I felt badly about this. Both my partner and I had reread the instructions to proof them prior to publication, but without the pictures there and after reading them over and over again, we missed some points and additions that were thrown in by the editors at the magazine – some of which could be very confusing to someone.
I took the blame myself. After all, it is my name on the pattern. Although the customer wasn’t angry, he stated that he just wanted to point these things out and I was very grateful he did. When my partner got home, we went over the original written instructions as well as what was published and we did indeed find some things that could have been worded better.
After our patterns are published, we always need to rewrite the instructions somewhat and put them into pattern packet format. We did this prior to updating the site, as the pattern was to be added there. I sent the new copy of the instructions to the customer for he and his friend to use and received a very nice letter back from him stating his appreciation. So all is well.
However, it just shows me how easily things can get away from me if I am not on top of them. You can be sure that when we receive the proofs from the magazine in the future, we will be going over them with a fine tooth comb to make sure they are how we need them to be. After almost fifteen years of being published, I will admit to you that I have become somewhat complacent in this regard. After all, they should know what they are doing, right? Perhaps their way of explaining is better than mine?
But I am seeing that that isn’t always the case. I wonder how many of the editors there have actually cut and assembled some of the projects that are printed in the magazine. This was a good example of why they probably have that check and balance system in place. I am truly going to be more dedicated in this area of my work in the future to make sure that things are right. I feel it is my responsibility and “the buck stops here”.
I always have so much to learn!
So today will be working on some custom things that I need to do. I still haven’t put my rates up on the site, which I need to do, but I have some small drawing jobs that I need to finish for customers that I want to get off of the books. I am also sending out my second mailing today, so things will probably (hopefully) be busy in that department.
I truly appreciate the feedback that I receive from my customers. It is so hard to see things from every perspective and they do help me see things in different ways. When comments and suggestions are given in the right tone, it is very easy to work with people and makes things better for everyone.
Happy Monday to you all!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"