I love this photo of Meowmers, I took it just now, mere moments after she barfed up a hairball in two rooms of the house (including the bulk of it on my white couch, which she has ruined this way in about six months). I call this look the Look of Guilt and I thought it would be the perfect illustration for this article about how I’m terrible at something that I have no right to be terrible at, much like Meowmers really has no right to puke on my white couch every week and still expect love. Oh, but we do!
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and there are so many aspects that go into running a handmade business, however small, that no one person is going to excel at everything. You need product development, supply pricing, time management, writing skills, photography skills, networking talent, graphic design, accounting, the list goes on and on … The area (well, one area) wherein I fall wildly short is shipping. I will tell you right now: fast shipping is one of the most important elements of a handmade business, just behind having something to sell. Seriously, it’s number two on the list. I’m awful at it, at least I am right now, but it’s probably just because I’m kind of down in the dumps, because I used to be great about it.
When I had high sales volume I was pretty on top of shipping and my customers were happy, but right after I quit my job to sell online full time (three months after, specifically) my wholesale supplier doubled their prices (that’s right, switched them to retail prices) and I had to raise mine. Goodbye, craft supply business! When handmade guides tell you to diversify your product line, this is why, I had my best seller taken away overnight and, if you’re around long enough, it will happen to you too! With my sales down I started going to the post office less often (it’s 30 minutes away in each direction so I didn’t want to drive an hour to mail one envelope) and my customers started getting mad, understandably.
I touched on this in my whine-fest from this morning, but if you let down buyers of handmade they turn on you like badgers (well, some of them, others are saints). Like a lout I’ve let down both long-time customers and good friends and, overall, being terrible at shipping makes me feel like a monster. Seriously! I feel like such a jerk almost all the time. I don’t want to be terrible at it, but I just kind of am. I’ll have times when I recover, but I always seem to drift back.
In the end I think I’m going to try and be a little Tao about the whole thing. The Tao says that the wise man does not try to destroy his weaknesses, but rather, turns them into strengths. Since this is the Achilles’ Heel of my business I’ve decided to change my shipping policies and institute a cheeky, “Good things come to those who wait!” style slogan. I mean, if people expect to wait for an order and it shows up early they’ll be happy, and if it shows up in the slow but forewarned of amount of time they will at least not be mad, right?
The last thing I want is to make customers hate me and my stuff and punish them for supporting me just because I’m awful at something important. Maybe some day I’ll get lucky and have a shipping helper again (I had one for a few months once and it was so wonderful!), but until then … well wish me luck, kids!