Lessons One Indie Business Owner Learned from Dealing with Holiday Stress

It's nearly Christmas and there's a light at the end of the holiday-rush tunnel for most of us indie business owners. How are we all feeling? Dealing with holiday stress well? Or feeling a bit crazed, depleted, burned out, perhaps never wanting to pick up the tools of our craft ever again?

There's no getting around the fact that this will always be a busy time for indie business owners, and we'll always be dealing with holiday stress in one form or another. But looking back on this holiday season, I already can see some ways that I can make next year's crunch time run just a little more smoothly:

busy craft fair

If your busy season was filled with scenes like this, as mine was, you probably are feeling the effects of
holiday-season craziness! Photo of the DIY Trunk Show courtesy of Organic Headshots (www.organicheadshots.com)

I will start my holiday prep even earlier. Last year, I completely failed at estimating how much product I'd need to stock my online store, my consignment venues, and my booths at fairs. I pulled many late nights leading up to the holidays and spent entire weekends in what I lovingly refer to as "show prep jail." This year, I resolved that wouldn't happen again, and I started cranking out holiday merchandise in August.

Great plan, right? Except I also sell Halloween-themed products, which means my busy season actually starts in September. So rather than making Christmas items, I was swamped keeping spookier creations in stock until, oh, Oct. 31 or so. Gold star for effort, but next year I'm starting even earlier. You may even catch me replenishing my ornaments stock in January!

I will not fail to eat and sleep. Yes, I know every "dealing with holiday stress as an indie business owner" article out there talks about the importance of self-care, and we all laugh and say we can't possibly cram that into our schedules. But, many of us are one-person operations, and if we collapse into a flu-ridden heap due to poor self-care, who's going to serve customers, make products, or run our online store? Next year I'm going to block out basic physical needs such as "mealtime" and "sleep" on my calendar if that's what it takes for me to fit those tasks in.

I will keep better track of craft fair information. Not only dates, times, and places, but important details such as booth size and whether the show's providing a table. Take it from me: frantically sifting through your email the night before a show to figure out whether you need to bring a table is not good when you're already dealing with holiday stress!

Also, since I often jury into different shows with different product lines, I will keep track of what products I submit on each application. My most embarrassing moment of the season came when I could NOT recall whether I'd juried into one show with only my Christmas ornaments, only my jewelry, or a little of both. I'd submitted the application months beforehand, via a form on the show's website, so I had no way of seeing it again. Trust me, that is NOT an email that you want to send to show organizers who think you're a professional indie business owner! Next year, I'm going to make myself a spreadsheet of all the shows I apply to — and make sure I add a note-to-self reminder of what I've promised to bring if accepted.

I will resist "one-more-thing-itis." This term, which I picked up from a fellow crafter, refers to that dread disease we all catch the night before an event, a website launch, or our online holiday sale. It deludes us into believing we can, and in fact should, crank out "just one more" handmade product. While this does result in having a slightly fuller table or online store, it also results in us feeling glazed-over, sleep-deprived and less able to serve our customers well. (And in my experience, that "one more thing" never sells for a while anyway.)

I will order at least twice as much printer ink, packaging, bubble wrap, business cards, and tape as I think I need — well before the holidays. Also, if I introduce a new product that is larger and heavier than the items I usually sell, I will work out a shipping method for it BEFORE I start selling lots of them. That way I will never again be caught trying to ship orders that will not quite fit in the mailers I have on hand, necessitating a late-night run to whatever store's open at that hour in hopes they'll have the right size of box.

What lessons have you learned from dealing with holiday stress this season?




 

 

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Comments

Lindsay

I found myself reading your "lessons" with a smile on my face. I have the tendency to do several of those things.
Here's to a more organized, productive, 2013!
-Lindsay

Darlene Ostrowski

Glad you enjoyed the post! We're all constantly learning new lessons, aren't we?

Inger Davich

I'll be honest--I did not read your post word-for-word. Not because you're a lousy writer or anything...because I've lived each and every thing you wrote about! I need to thank you for the new term "one-more-thing-itus". Perfectly describes just about every crafter I know. I do it constantly ("I'll pack up a few more samples before *yawn* I go to bed").

Applying to multiple shows in a short time-frame (October-December) is stressful enough, but keeping track of what you applied to sell, the booth dimensions, etc triples the stress. I started keeping a spreadsheet of the event name, application date, notification date, event date, cost (jury fee, booth rent, swag fee or donation), booth dimensions & my gross/net/sales tax collected. I also create a new folder for each photo I submit w/ the application (I name the folder w/ the event name & date) to keep myself slightly sane.

All that said, I hope you had a great sales season in 2012...and the best for 2013!

Darlene Ostrowski

It is really overwhelming, isn't it! I'm definitely doing a spreadsheet next year, and including info on whether you're expected to bring a donation or swag bag item is a great idea. I don't know about you but I noticed a big increase this year in shows asking for that, and it's embarrassing to arrive at an event and realize that you forgot you were supposed to bring something. :)

Kathy Mc

Thanks Ingrid. You are on the money. I'm working on my list of shows with all of those details and compiling my calendar to watch for conflicts, overbooking and production. Great point on noting what the show provides. I was counting on bringing my own tables, tents, etc. I'll track that too. Holy smokes, did anyone say that having your own business was easy??? If so, they aren't doing it right...

Spoon

I learned so much last season that I put into effect this season- I hired a friend who is a personal chef (http://www.fourcornerscuisine.com/) to feed me. I saved money not buying fast food, supported an artist & I was happy to stop working & eat- it was all so delicious! I started using Shipstation (http://www.shipstation.com/) to organize all my orders from Etsy & IM- this year I could print and email with one click! So many hours saved. I don't know how I did it before! I got daily pickups from UPS and used Hootsuite to schedule all my tweets & FB posts in one sitting for the whole season. I also signed up for Mint.com to keep track of my Etsy fees & other accounts. I had no idea how much I was saving by using Indiemade!

The big thing I learned was that I absolutely won't be doing craft shows next season. After keeping track of 2 years of event vs. online sales, it's way better business for me to concentrate on online shoppers. Making all that extra stock & taking time off to set up at shows just wasn't worth it for me. Doormats are heavy, so making product & setting up for one show called for moving 2500 pounds of merchandise! Oy!

Darlene Ostrowski

Those are great ideas! If I didn't have a supportive boyfriend who made sure there was always food in the house (and made sure I ate, as I'm one of those people who forgets to eat when busy), I surely would've starved. :)

I don't blame you one bit for deciding not to do shows any more. I sell much better at shows than online (though next year I'm aiming to do fewer, larger shows instead of a bazillion small ones), but I make chainmaille jewelry and all my merchandise fits in a couple of shoeboxes. I can't imagine schlepping 2500 pounds of merch to shows over and over again!

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