I had quite a busy day yesterday. It was one of those days when I had planned to have a quiet day of writing instructions for my two latest designs so that we can do a site update tomorrow (Wednesday).
It has been a fabulous week. I truly can't believe how nice things are going. It seems that all the 'feelers' that I put out in the past several months and all the seeds that I have planted are really beginning to pay off. And there are many more things that I have planned as well. So I suppose I am excited.
I have been writing here for over four years now, and during that time I have gone through many, many transitions. I wish I had a nickle for every time someone asked me the question "how do you succeed in making a (woodworking/painting) business? I suppose that is why I began writing in the first place, but nonetheless, it still gets asked. My best answer to everyone is that you need to love what you do and you need to try things in several different directions and not count on only one thing to sustain your business.
That may sound exhausting – and sometimes it is – but I do believe that even with things like leaving one of our largest distributors and losing our magazine that we worked with for over fifteen years, we are continuing to grow our business and slowly (YES – I said S-L-O-W-L-Y) beginning to feel good about the direction we are heading.
There is no 'magic formula' for succeeding. There is no quick answer, either. It is a trial and error and try again and fine tuning and slowly chipping away at options while with the other hand you are lining more options up. What works for me in all honesty won't really work for anyone else. Because each person is unique in their strengths and weaknesses and talents and how each of us play them up and use them within our business is as unique as one snowflake is to another. I think it is important to understand that.
If there is any 'trick', it is to realize this and have the wherewithal to run with what you are strongest at and in the mean time try to read what is right for your area and your business using the resources that are available to you. It may take time, but with some perseverance it could probably work out well.
One of the strongest tools that I have discovered and used over the past several years is 'networking'. Fortunately, we live in a time when social media is right at our fingertips. Never before have we been able to communicate so well with so many people so easily. I recently joined a group on Facebook that was discussing how to encourage customers to use and trust social networking as a way of perpetuating and growing the painting industry. (But this can easily apply to the woodworking industry as well.) For myself, places like Facebook groups and Lumberjocks.com (my woodworking forum) and Steve Good's scroll saw forum had not only helped those of us who are already involved in the industry, but have brought a huge amount of new people into it as well.
Things like online classes, question and answer discussions, review of new products, etc., etc., all help encourage new people and keep them interested and grow the industry. While trade show attendance may be declining, we have to understand that there is a huge amount of opportunity to showcase ourselves as well as our new patterns, products and techniques by properly using social media. It is as if our computers are continual trade shows where each day new customers can 'tune in' to see what new and exciting things we have to offer. And I believe that is a GOOD thing!
The opportunities are right there for us to take, by answering questions, offering advice, or sharing tutorials. And it doesn't have to be just our own products either. We all have other artists and designers we admire. I always like promoting those people that I feel are good for the industry and give people options. Why would I want to do that? Because I think it is a good and honest thing to do and I think that happy and satisfied people will want to continue in their crafts and in the long run keep the industry healthy. And that is good for ALL of us.
We all have different styles of designing – whether it be painting designs or woodworking designs. But no matter how hard we work or how many designs we create, there is no way in the world that we will always have the right design for every person's need. So why not recommend other designers? After all – isn't it other designers that got US interested in what we were doing in the first place? I truly think that there is room for everyone and I think it just comes down to the fact that we need to have enough faith in our own talents to sometimes admit to a customer that we don't have what they are looking for. If we know who does, I think it is wise to share that with the customer, even if it means sending them somewhere else. While from the outside it may seem like I am losing a customer or sale, (trust me on this!) many times that customer will be so happy that you honestly helped them that when they DO have a need you can fill, they will be back. Or they will tell their friends that may have a different preference then they do about you. I have seen this happen more times than I can count.
It appears that I have gone off on a little tangent here, but I have been asked about these things so often recently (especially after the closing of the magazines) that I felt it was good to discuss them for a little bit here. I am sure I can continue on for a while, but we can certainly do that later on.
Today I have to spend time writing the instructions for my cool witch boots:
As well as my MUD Autumn Leaves:
Since I am also going to be offering wood kits for these pieces for my painters, there has been a lot of planning and preparation. I have been LOVING that more people have asked me to cut wood pieces for them. Not only does it give me a little more time at the saw (which I also LOVE) but it helps keep our business growing as well. The other day I showed some of my friends the project that I was painting from a wonderful Terrye French pattern called "Harvest Pull Toys" (available on her Etsy site – click the link if you are interested!)
I love Terrye's patterns and I decided to create my little pull toys in 3-d pieces. So I cut them out of 1/2" wood and painted them separately. I got to finish all but one last year, but I hope to get it done soon:
I think they came out adorable and I plan to have them along the top of my kitchen cabinets for the autumn season.
After my friends saw them, they asked if I would cut the wood pieces for them, and I happily agreed. I now have several sets ordered and as soon as my update is complete, I am going to be doing some cutting. It will be a nice change of pace and a good way for me to take a 'breather' from designing for a day. I love doing these little jobs and I love being able to provide others with pieces that they can't always obtain. I suppose the only drawback is the shipping, as it can be a bit expensive, but I try to charge just what I pay and so far that has worked out pretty well. After all – people realize that shipping costs are high and it is just the way things are.
Kieth and I spent the day yesterday shopping for and prepping wood for both the boots and leaves and for other things that I will be offering wood pieces for. We wanted to have a full stock ready before the cold weather strikes so we will be able to easily continue filling orders.
So with that said, I had better sign off for today. I have all my photographs ready for the patterns and I really want to finish getting the patterns ready today. I want to thank everyone who commented and showed their support on yesterday's blog. I sometimes wonder if I am writing about things that are of interest and I am glad that the post touched so many of you. I appreciate you all.
Today is overcast it seems, as the sun just came up. But that has been the way it is early and many times it changes during the day and the sun wins out. When we were driving to do our errands yesterday, we saw the first evidence of the trees beginning to turn. It won't be long until our area is beautifully colored in yellows, oranges and reds. I can't wait!
I wish you all a wonderful day today! Have fun and try to take some time to do what you love!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"