wedding invitation suite in orange with bridal ring and beaded headband

How to Succeed as a Creative Small Business: Advice for Handmade Artists

Turning your hobby into a business can be daunting. When I started designing veils 15 years ago, I never dreamed it would turn into my full time profession.

If you are a fellow creative like me, then you never feel like you are doing enough for your business. It is very challenging to know when to stop, when to grow, when to say yes, and when to say no. You will never feel like you have it completely figured out.

But that is okay! You learn to live with the uncertainty and to embrace it.

One of the core reasons that business has thrived for me is because I have intentionally set high standards for communication with my clients.

This differentiates me from others. After all, we know that anyone can buy a product for cheaper on Amazon. A cheap price isn't what is going to make you stand out. If you are going to thrive in the creative industry, you need to be able to deliver personalized communication that makes people remember you.

I'm sharing some of my top secrets for delivering an experience your customers will remember. Learn easy, practical tools and tips to delight your customers and communicate effectively that will drive more business.

Tip 1: Importance of Clear and Prompt Communication

Practice proactive communication

There is NO such thing as too much communication. Always over-communicate.

Here are some times I recommend reaching out to your customers via email or phone:

  • Post-Purchase: reach out to them after they order to thank them for their business. Confirm the details of their order.
  • Shipping: notify customers when you are shipping so they can track their package. I like to "sneak" a reminder in this email with care instructions for my products. 
  • Custom Designs: if you are doing custom work, then send them photos along the way for approval.
  • Delays: delays happen! Especially for custom designs. Make sure to give timing estimates and to communicate delays immediately. If you cannot meet commitments let the customer know as soon as possible.  

How Communication Works in my Favor

I once had 75 email conversations back and forth with a bride. It took 1 year for the final sale! But she turned out to be my most loyal customer who recommends me to everyone.
Obviously, you cannot commit this amount of time to everyone. But when you are first starting out, it is smart to be generous with your time and advice.

How your Website Sets Expectations 

I recommend building a website that addresses common questions. This sets expectations and it also cuts down on the number of hours you spend at your email. Having these policies in place also inspires trust. Make sure your website has the following information:
  • shop policies (timing, exchanges and returns, what happens if they aren’t happy with your work)

  • product care instructions

  • address clients' common fears (that you run off with money, that it won't turn out as expected

  • your contact details (this is especially important for online stores)

Fast Communication

I recommend responding within 2-3 hours during your normal business hours. If you take a week to respond to someone's question, then you will likely loose the sale.

However, I don't expect you to be at your computer 24-7. Here are some ways that I work around this 2-3 hour window.

  • If you absolutely cannot respond during a few hours, then I recommend setting up an auto-responder that automatically gives a polite message. A short auto-responder that I use for Instagram says: "Thanks for messaging me! I'll get back to you as soon as I am back in my studio. Have a good day."

  • Sometimes I will write a 1-2 mini response letting brides know that I go their message and will get back to them when I’m in studio. I write that I will respond in more detail later. And then I elaborate on their questions in more detail when I am in a better place to do so.

  • Hire a virtual assistant to respond: I have a VA who helps me manage my inbox. This is a more advanced approach, but it is a good method for those who are really wanting to grow and to get some time back.

Remember, it is your job to manage customer expectations. You don’t know what the customer is thinking or what they expect, and that is why you have to actively communicate what to expect so that they’re not disappointed.

handmade wedding invitations for destination wedding

If you want more tips on how to succeed as a handmade business, then check out the Handmade Business Owner Guide. 

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