Do you remember how great it was to hear those "Cha-Ching" sounds in the busy winter season? Does it seem like a distant memory... ?
I know the feeling. Sometimes it's tough to have such a seasonal business because the year feels so unbalanced. I found myself stressed out like a crazy person last winter and instantly regretted not preparing far enough in advance for certain things. Even though the summer can be a slow season for most of us, there are still a lot of things we can do to help preserve our sanity for this upcoming fall/winter season! Doing some of the work now will help you be more prepared, professional, and help take some of the work off your plate when the winter time rolls around (and it comes quickly)! There are some things I'm in the process of doing now.. BEFORE the fall/winter season approaches for this exact reason. Maybe some of them will help you as well!
1. Marketing Materials: Business cards, hang tags, promotional material, banners, anything else you'd have to order ahead of time.
I swear, every market it seems like I'm rush-ordering business cards or tags. Try your best to get this done ahead of time and save yourself the unnecessary stress. Don't make the same mistake I did -- one time before a market, I put in a rush-order for business cards but didn't think I'd get them in time from Vistaprint and I actually put ANOTHER order in at Staples the same day "just in case" they didn't arrive in time. How ridiculous is that!? Turns out they both arrived in time, and they didn't even have my proper logo on them. I had a zillion cards that I didn't even like. (Why do I do this to myself?!) This is why you shouldn't procrastinate til the last day.. something I'm trying very hard to work on this year lol!
Ps - If you're new and don't yet have a logo, now is a good time :)
2. Pom poms!
Yarn Poms: Whether you make or buy your pom poms, the off-season is a great time to get these ready! You know what I hate making? Yarn pom poms! Even though they're so damn cute .. they are a pain in the butt to make. Dispite my preference being faux fur, I still plan on having a few hat styles with yarn pom poms so I'm trying to get them out of the way now rather than later!
Faux Fur Poms: And if you order most of your poms like I do.. I would do it now! Especially if you're planning on doing craft sales in the winter and need them in bulk, put your orders in now. It's never too early! Winter comes quicker that you think. I paid a ridiculous amount of money for rush shipping during the winter and found myself waiting for certain colours to come back in stock, likely losing potential sales because of it. I'm definitely not letting that happen again! It's May and you can bet I've already ordered all my winter pom poms ;)
DIY Faux Fur Poms: If you make your own faux fur poms, it's best to get the fabric now and make as many as you can while you have free time now. And if you sell your poms... Faux fur poms are crazy on-trend and I can almost guarantee that whatever stock you make now will quickly get snatched up by Christmas time!
3. Wooden tags, leather tags, fabric tags to sew on to your items
Something you can get ahead of time to save you the hassle of waiting for them later. Sometimes that first fall/winter order just sneaks up on you before you're ready for it.. it'll come soon enough, so let's be ready! ;)
4. Plan your winter line
The summer is fun because you get to experiment with what items you'll be selling in the upcoming winter season! To plan for the upcoming season, it helps me to write down sections (ie. hats, scarves, decor, etc) and then list each style beneath it with the possible colour combinations just to see how many items you actually have. Knowing exactly which items you'll be offering BEFORE the winter season hits will be a huge advantage to you opposed to making it up on the fly DURING the winter season!
My problem last year was that I had too many items, too many styles, too many colours, that it was nearly impossible to prepare in advance because each item had 25+ colour options. It was difficult to keep up when almost every order was a custom order. But that's just me - do what is right for you.
5. Samples + Photoshoot
Now that you know exactly what items you'll have available for the upcoming fall/winter season, take some time to get some amazing photos. Make 1 sample of each item to bring to shoot with a photographer or models (or however you like to do it). Don't underestimate the power of good product photography. Getting this done ahead of time allows you to list all your items at the very beginning of the fall season for maximum exposure!
6. Put together a portfolio/catalogue
I know this may seem above and beyond, but hear me out: Getting good product photos also allows you to put together a 2018/2019 digital portfolio/catalogue with pricing and colour options that you can send to retailers or print out and bring to markets. I know this may seem daunting in the beginning, but I really encourage you to try this! Even if you knit or crochet very part-time, if you're interested in reaching new customers it's worth it to put together!
When a potential retail partner asks you, "What items do you sell?" ... you can be ready! You can send them your exact portfolio to show them what options they have. This way, you only have to do the work once to save yourself time later when the real hustle begins. It doesn't have to be anything super fancy, just photos of what you offer with relevant information about wholesale/retail price, colour options, size, material used, etc. (Basically all the info that is included in your listings anyways!) I remember the first time a local shop asked how they could go about purchasing from me, I honestly had no idea what to say or where to begin. Preparing in advance will have you feeling more confident when it comes to business dealings!
Research local boutiques or shops that you think mesh well with your business. Sometimes they will find and approach you, but it helps to do some work yourself. Closer to fall, maybe in August, take a trip down to the shop or write them an email about why you think you're a good fit for their business and attach a digital catalogue of your work so they can easily open it up and see exactly what you can offer them in case they’d like to do business with you. Finding a good retail partner can make a huge impact on your bottom line since they usually buy in higher quantities.This past winter, I had a lot of customers purchase from me who said their very first Knits 'N Knots purchase was at a local boutique that carries my stuff. It's pretty cool being able to introduce your items to a whole new audience who may not have come across you otherwise!
7. Order yarn
Pretty self-explanatory - get your yarn early so you can start making all the pretty things! Wholesale orders can be made online if you have a business number. If you buy it in stores, take advantage of any sales going on for the yarns you typically use during your busy season. I went to the yarn store during the busy winter many times only to find that the colours I needed were out of stock. Running out of supplies is never a good thing. I know that winter yarns are typically chunky and don't go on sale til the fall, but some of them do!
8. What's Your Sales Plan?
Do you ever run promos? Free shipping? Giveaways? Discounts? Take a look at a calendar and see what days you want to have special shop events. It could be for your entire shop or just a certain product. For example, you could do a giveaway on your birthday or once your shop reaches a follower milestone. You could collaborate with other businesses to do a Christmas-themed giveaway, a Black Friday sale, a discount for any long weekend, free shipping promo, a sale on New Years, buy 1 get 1 free, etc. There are so many things you could do to keep your followers interested and engaged!
I get that not everyone wants to offer discounted prices. If that's the case, instead you could have a new product for a limited time, make one of your items in a new colour for a limited time - I've seen colour promos for "colour of the month" type things. The options are literally limitless!
9. Make some items for yourself
These last 2 points are more fun!
If you're like me, you probably have a long list of projects you want to make for yourself but you haven't gotten around to it. Don't feel bad for making yourself some fun things! Selfish knitting isn't a thing! We work hard all winter, we deserve to remind ourselves why we loved this craft in the first place. Design that new item you've been wanting to design, or go find those patterns you already bought but never got around to making.. and go make them! I've got a few dress patterns and cardigan patterns that I purchased months ago and hope to start soon :)
10. Improve Your Skill
Nobody's perfect and there's always room to improve! I'm trying to use this time to improve my pattern writing, seaming, bind offs, and other knitting and crocheting techniques that I haven't quite mastered yet! This is also why I'm excited to work on those patterns I mentioned above that I purchased months ago - so I can learn some new skills and improve my craft!
So that was my list of 10 things you could be doing in your slow season! It's never too early to start that winter prep! Are you currently doing any of these things? I’m always happy to hear your feedback. Please let me know in he comments if you found any of this helpful, I'd love to know your thoughts!