Saturday, 2 February 2013

Business Tips - Part Two - Keeping Records, Methods of Selling and Getting Organised

Welcome to Part Two in a series of business tips.

Before I throw myself full force into part two in this series of business tips, I want to thank everyone who not only took the time to read part one but also to comment.  I had many comments on the blog post, emails and Facebook messages, which were just lovely, very encouraging and I am just so pleased that its been of some help to some of you. 

Also, I just wanted to mention that all opinions expressed in this blog are my own unless otherwise stated, that not all procedures and ways of working will be suitable for everyone else, my tips are just there to guide you.  And I've added in some pretty pictures of some more of my work too!

Right then, down to business…

How to keep records

I can not stress the importance of keeping careful and accurate records.  It is such a chore and does take a while to get into a routine but updating your records little and often is far less stressful than leaving it build up for several months and having a panic because you have millions of receipts, post it notes and scrap bits of paper stuffed in a shoebox, not in any order and you then have to spend days sorting it out which then impacts on your working time.  Been there, done it, several times actually and I stress about it every time. 

This is how I keep records…

Each time I receive an order I pop the details in an order book which looks like one of these. 

I tear off the top slip and it gets placed in my “to do” pile.  When an order is completed I send that top copy to my customer with their order as a receipt.  I then set aside time each week to transfer the information from the duplicate page of orders received that week into an A4 book which has columns to help me keep track of my earnings.

This is the information I record for each order…

  • Date
  • Name
  • Order Details
  • Cost of Order
  • Postage and Paypal Costs
  • Running Total (this figure is taken from the "cost of the order" column only)

I also pop my earnings made from any craft fairs in this book to keep everything in one place.

I then do something similar in an A4 book for business expenses.  I keep a list which details this information…

  • Date
  • Where        (i.e. shop I bought from)
  • Spend Details (i.e. what I bought)
  • Cost
  • Running Total

At the end of the month it is so much easier to see how much I have earned from the running totals.  I finish off the month by making a note in the A4 books which looks like this: -

Money Earned     £
(This is your turnover from the running total from all the orders received)

Money Spent               £
(This is for supplies, Paypal charges, postage etc)

Profit                        £
(This is money earned minus money spent)

At present my business has not yet made a profit so I also pop on my running total carried over from previous months of trading so I know each month how much more money I need to make to break even and start making profit so currently my overall profit figure is a minus (-) figure.

If you make an effort to set aside some time each week, for example dedicate one hour each Sunday to updating these records then you will find that come the end of the tax year you already have all your figures ready for your tax return which I think you will agree is far less stressful!

I am still a little behind the times as I am still shock horror keeping solely paper records but I am setting up spreadsheets using Excel in readiness for April where all the information stated above will be kept electronically. 

It does not really matter how you keep the records, paper or electronically but just very important that you do actually keep them in some shape or form. 

Methods of Selling

Things have changed dramatically in the last few years.  Ask yourself how you would have set up your business and have got yourself known 10 years ago.  I believe it would have been much harder, cost a lot more money, time and effort as I think concentrating of different methods of advertising would have been more common.  Now, we have the option of social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.  We have access to blogs, Pinterest, selling platforms such as Folksy, Etsy, Not on the High Street and of course we do still have access to the wonderful world of Ebay.  The social media sites remember are FREE so use them to your advantage.

The way in which websites can be designed has also changed.  I remember a time when I was researching how to build a website many years ago at college and how it was all based around HTML codes which I didn’t and still don’t understand and that getting in a web designer would have been my only option.  Now of course it has been made so much easier to build your own.  With a little patience to play around with a bit of software you can now build your own for little cash.  If you have the money to invest in your business getting one professionally created I think would be the way forward but if you are on a budget like me then there are so many hosts you can find to set one up yourself.  To name a few you could look at - Weebly, Mr Site, 1&1.  I use Moonfruit which I find very easy to update. 

My website if you wanted a browse -

Tracy who runs Handmade Hearts has some great tips for selling on Etsy if you want to take a look.  Here is a link to her blog post – 

Apart from online you could try craft fairs, supplying to trade, which could be as simple as agreeing to a sell or return basis.  I have tried this but only with local shops that I trust.

How to Set Up a Facebook Business Page

When I first started up I set up a brand new Facebook account for my business which gave me a personal profile but with a business name.  This is NOT the way to do it.  Facebook does not like it and they also don’t like you to run a business page through a group either.

  • Log into your personal Facebook account
  • In the search bar (where it says “search for people, places or things”) type in the words “Create New Facebook Page”.
  • You will get a screen which looks like this: -

  • Click on the option that suits you best.  For me it was the second one but I guess I could fit into the third category also.
  • Fill in the fields as requested and click “get started”
  • Choose to upload a profile picture.  You can skip this bit and add one later if you prefer.
  • Add a description of your business next.
  • Next, choose a Facebook web address.  I think this is quite important.  If you are at a craft fair for example and someone asks you if you are on Facebook it can be difficult to find your page using your business name if its not something completely unusual so having this set up is useful.  Mine is because its relevant to what I do – tells people my business name and that is a handmade business all at once.
  • On the next screen I skipped the “enabled ads” bit as its something I will go back to look at later on. 

Well done – you  now have a proper Facebook Business Page

Now the fun starts.

At the top of your Facebook page under the little star like looking icon which you use to sign out you will see you business page listed which you click on the star.  Here you have the option to use your page in business mode.  Click it. 

You will have a control panel at the top of the page which will become very useful the longer you use your page and as you learn how it works.  You can now start uploading pictures, post status updates, start by inviting your friends to like your new page.

 If you want to switch back to personal mode, simply go back to the star shaped icon at the top of your Facebook page and click on the option to use Facebook as yourself again.  Its very easy to use and in the long run so much easier and safer that opening up a personal page or a group for your business.  From experience I have found that more people are willing to “like” a page rather than join a group and overall that’s far better for business!

I will be posting tips in a future blog on running your page now you have set one up, how to network etc so keep an eye out for that but in the meantime there is a feature on scheduling posts below which you may find useful.

 Time Keeping and Getting Organised

Have you ever looked at the clock and cursed because those pesky fairies have been in turning the hands again?  Do you ever wish you could make time stand still even just for 30 minutes to catch your breath? Are you fed up of being unorganised, no real routine, feeling like you are constantly rushing around, post it note reminders stuck all over the house and then having to set reminders on your phone to remind you of the sticky notes stuck on your fridge, your computer screen, your bedside table?

Get yourself a diary.  How many of you purchase a diary but don’t look at it daily or don’t even write anything in it?  Go and get it now and on your way back to the PC collect every sticky note, scrap of paper and any other reminders you have.  Get them all written in your diary right now – both personal and business related, that way you have everything in one place and can simply refer to just one place once a day to check what’s coming up next.

I now want you to create a time keeping sheet that looks like this.  You can copy and paste this image into your own document and print out or write it out in a page in your diary etc.

 Test it out over the next two days filling in your general day to day activities and you will be surprised where time is wasted.  How much time do you waste on Facebook?  How many hours have you lost to Pinterest drooling over gorgeous inspiring pictures?  Whilst these things are most fun it’s not really helping your business is it?  I am still on a learning curve with this.  It is so hard to prise yourself away and yes it is important to spend time online to network and get yourself known but there is a time when you have to turn the screen off and get your butt in gear. 

When you have completed a day or twos worth, you need to look carefully and start reorganising your day.  Print off another couple of sheets and write down all the things you HAVE to do in your day.  It may be worth doing it for a full week if you have a varied week like mine.  Pop in all the times you may be at the day job, school runs, set aside time for breakfast, lunch and dinner and any other important commitments you have to make.  Is there anything you can change in your routine, for example, can you try online food shopping rather than going along to the supermarket?  I have not been to a supermarket to do a full food shop for at least 6 months now and I don’t think I could now either.  I have all my regular items I buy in my favourites folder, add them all to the basket, add in anything extra I need and checkout.  It takes 20 minutes and turns up at the time that’s most convenient to me.  Yes, you pay a delivery charge but convert that money into time saved spending 2 hours or more travelling to and from the supermarket, doing the shop, loading the trolley, unloading onto the belt, packing it away, putting it in the car, when you can spend all this time getting your business up and running instead.  There are probably lots of things in your day to day life that you could change/reorganise to make more time for your business.  If you have a day job, could you use your lunch break to do business related things?  I work 3 days a week at a law firm and often use my lunch break to do my banking, post parcels, shop for business supplies and have even been known to take in a batch of hand sewing!

 I have a place for everything.  Ribbon is stored in one place, buttons are stored in jars which are colour coordinated, fabric is stored in one place neatly folded, packaging supplies are kept together and I keep a file full of templates, labels and other bits and bobs that I often use, including a box full of thank you cards and business cards.  Being organised at the outset again means more time can be spent doing more important things.

Planning planning planning and keeping organised is key to any business.

Good luck and have fun with it because if its not fun is it really worth doing?

Coming Up Next Week

Products, Branding and Pricing


  1. Really enjoying your blogs, thanks :) can I ask, do you find it demoralising not making a profit, or does the long term aim see you through? I'm really struggling with this at the moment!! Xxx

    1. I'm glad you are enjoying the read. No, not at all because my start up costs were several thousand pounds because it included lots of high quality fabrics, materials i.e. range of Fiskars scissors (which are not cheap), range of sewing threads, ribbons, packaging materials, decent sewing machine, good quality business cards, website costs, insurance and lots of other things. The figure is coming down every month and I am getting ever closer to making a profit which I will for certain start making by the summer of 2013 so I am not worried about this at all and it is for the benefit of the business xxx

  2. Love love love your blog, so clear to understand and so useful, just brilliant

  3. Hi

    This made very interesting reading. I desperately need to get organised as it has stopped me making.

    Could I ask where on the sheet you put your wage, how you calculate that and do you cost each item individually?



  4. Hi

    This made very interesting reading. I desperately need to get organised as it has stopped me making.

    Could I ask where on the sheet you put your wage, how you calculate that and do you cost each item individually?



    1. Hi Kate, my earnings are the running total of the cost of items sold in my order book. I have a way of pricing my products to ensure I make a profit on each item which I work out for each product I make in a separate book which accounts for materials used, time spent and skill. I have a blog post coming up soon which explains how I do this. Currently everything I earn from selling products is going towards paying off my business start up costs so I do not take a wage/drawings from the business at present but I am on target to be doing so by the summer :-) x

  5. Again, interesting reading. I am sure you are helping many people with all this imformation. You are very generous. I love all your makes! Mandy x

  6. Really informative, thanks! Especially the Facebook part, I don't use it at the mo as it totally bamboozles me, so thanks for explaining the business page layout - it may be something for me to use in the future.

    Oh and I really love your buttons in the last pic, how did you make them you clever thing?

    Have a fab day, Estelle xx

  7. Excellent blog again, I cannot tell you how many hours I lose to facebook and Pinterest! Definitely going to get myself a diary now. Can I ask, what's the most successful way of driving business to your website? We've just launched ours after struggling with sales on online market places such as Folksy and Etsy (one seems really quiet and the other is really big!) and currently use twitter and facebook, but I'm sure there are other ways of doing it as well.

    thanks, Paula x

    1. Hi Paula, most of my customers come via Facebook funnily enough. Even the people who order via the website have usually found me via Facebook first. I carry business cards everywhere and lots get picked up at craft fairs which has resulted in online sales. I do get quite a lot of orders through the website but I think customers prefer to order through social media sites because they like to chat and ask questions first xx

  8. Another fantastic blog - I really really need to get more organised!! Thank you for sharing my Etsy selling tips :)
    Looking forward to your next post xx

  9. This is really a good post to read! Keeping track of records is a little stressing, but it should be performed accordingly because this is where you consult the success of your business. Good luck!

    Cameron Scott


Your comments are always welcome and most appreciated x