The ‘C’ Word (Part 2)
So Part 1 of this blog talked about how you can start to prepare in advance for the Christmas Period and start building your inventory early.
Part 2 will look at how you can preserve your all important time for revenue generating activities by improving your productivity and reducing your admin. So how can you do this?
5. PLAN YOUR PROMO & OFFERS
A. CREATE YOUR MARKETING CALENDAR
I am a big advocate of planning your marketing and social media in advance, but it is even more critical you do this for the Christmas period so that you aren’t frantically worrying about what to post and when to post when you have a million other things to do. Get a big calendar and plot out the big events (remember Black Friday and Cyber Monday as these are great events for sales), and your special offers to coax people into buying.
For example, I offered Free Shipping (Special Delivery) for any purchases in November and a free polishing and ﬁnishing kit in December plus free gift wrapping. Some people offer free up-sell items such as stud earrings. You may also offer early bird discounts for ordering early. I essentially had what I wanted to post on social media plotted out including my newsletters (high level content at the very least) well in advance so I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to post on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on any given day.
B. CREATE ALL YOUR COPY, GRAPHICS AND IMAGES IN ADVANCE
Once you have plotted out what you want to post, spend some time drafting compelling copy (you will always need to review and tweak just before you post but that takes minute) and creating images in advance using the likes of Canva (they even do an app for the iPhone!) or Picmonkey.
I blocked out a couple of days in September to take festive pictures of my jewellery and taking behind the scenes shots so that I had everything prepared in advance. Of course I left a little space to add in impromptu photos of Christmas fairs, custom pieces and work in progress, but I had 80% of my content planned in advance.
Then every Sunday I blocked out time to schedule the week ahead and I blocked out an hour each day to respond to comments and engage with my customers and followers. Time blocking really helped me make the most out of my time and meant that I could focus on social media time on engaging with people rather than writing and posting content.
C. DECIDE ON YOUR KEY DATES (INCLUDING LAST ORDER DATES!)
It is essential that you decide on the key dates for your business including last order date for custom pieces, last order date from your regular collections and when your shop will be closed to orders for the Christmas period. Then you know what the boundaries are and you can communicate these to your customers well in advance.
6. DECIDE ON YOUR PROCESSES
You have ordered your supplies and built your inventory, but there is another way you can streamline your work and that is by planning your processes or manufacturing operations in advance (can you tell I used to work in operations !?).
1. YOUR WORK SCHEDULE
Planning out your weekly work schedule can really help you organise your working week and working day. I tend to spend the ﬁrst hour of every day responding to emails and spending time on social media.
Then I have dedicated workbench slots or days.
I like to batch together similar tasks such as soldering on cufﬂink backs or ear pins and do multiples of each task. I usually end up have 1 day of manufacturing (soldering, piercing, etc) and another day each week for polishing ﬁnishing and stone setting.
I then have a posting and packing day where pieces go to the assay ofﬁce and post ofﬁce) each week.
You have to be a little bit ﬂexible, but by blocking out time for different tasks and doing what you can in bulk means you are usually more productive overall.
2. YOUR PROCESSES
Don’t make the mistake of wasting precious time trying to remember how to make each piece. Spend some time jotting down the process you follow to make and produce each piece of jewellery. It doesn’t need to be fancy – even a handwritten page in a notebook is ﬁne – you can always work to having typed instructions later. Key information to include is:
A. Materials and dimensions – this way you can look up the dimensions and what the piece is made of (components and raw materials) and you can check your inventory and/ or start making the piece straight away without having to faff around measuring samples etc (or order the right materials and not forget anything!).
B. Time to make the piece including any parts that can be batch produced in advance
C. Step by step instructions on how to make the piece (include drawings or photographs if it helps) so each piece is as similar as possible.
D. Important notes such as alternate suppliers and any other relevant notes.
Also think about your order process end to end – I have a massive planner that is dedicate to my business and when an order comes through I enter the order in the calendar and add the piece to my workﬂow and diarise when I will make the piece (hopefully using pre-fabricated components), when I will assemble, polish and ﬁnish the piece (including setting any stones) and when the item is due to ship. I usually aim to do this well in advance of the maximum shipping date including in my listing so no order ever gets the stage where I am rushing to ﬁnish it in time. I have set up all of my email templates in advance too including ato-responder emails as part of the purchase and dispatch process.
I also have 3 trays for papers – 1 for invoices for supplies or tools ordered, 1 for in progress orders and 1 for completed orders. This means I can easily ﬁle all my paper work at the end of each week without having sort through it carefully as I am doing this as I go. I put these papers in monthly folders which helps with my accounting each month – one of the ﬁrst things to slip when things get busy!
3. OUTSOURCE WHAT YOU CAN?
You may want to look at any aspects of the process that you can outsource. For example, if pieces are being cast you may want to ask the caster to remove the sprue for you. Or get your pieces polished by a polisher. Or get a stonesetter to set your stones.
Find out the cost of this work and then establish if there are any processes you can get done more cheaply (or quickly) than if you were to do it yourself and try a few test pieces to see what the quality is like.
Even some help packing parcels a couple of hours a week or looking after your social media can be a big help. It can be a big leap mentally to do this (I really struggled with it) but at the end of the day your jewellery is still handmade, you have still designed it and done most of the work (certainly each piece has been quality checked by your hands) so it is worthwhile considering doing so that you can focus on the parts of the jewellery making process you are best at and enjoy doing particularly is your brand is taking off and you need to free up capacity to stay on top of your orders.
You never know, one day you may even hire bench jewellers to work for you so it is something you might need to get your head around sooner or later! The main thing I would emphasise is that if you do as much as you can in advance will really take some of the stress out of this busy time and make the Christmas period more enjoyable (and scalable!).
Do let us know of any tips and tricks you have learned to survive the Christmas period in the comments below!