Self Help For Your Part-Time Business

Growing Ideas for Your Small Business Side Hustle

Apr 03, 2018

You have the basic idea for your new small part-time business: You know your basic product selection, or services that you want to offer. You have your business requirements set up, and you may have even started selling your products or services

Now, where do you go from there?

  • How do you keep your product selection fresh and interesting to your customers?
  • How do you keep your customers coming back to make more purchases?
  • How can you encourage your customers to spread the word about you?

Product design and product offerings
If you want your business to grow, you will need to create new products and product designs on a regular basis. The same holds true for a service-based business: You’ll need to review and improve your service offerings, and possibly add more services as time goes on.

What you can do:

  1. Take a hard look at your current products: Are they a good representation of your business? Are they uniquely you? Do they address your specific customers? Does the packaging accurately and attractively portray the product, you, and your company? Do they need improvement?
  2. Review your competition: Do they offer additional product lines, spinning off from one design? If your business is greeting cards, can you expand to offer custom invitations? Is there a holiday that you can add to your selection? Is there a twist on your service that your competitors don’t offer?
  3. Review your dream companies: If there is a maker or manufacturer that you admire, take some time to dive into their business. Are there articles about them, or interviews? Do they have a blog? Have they appeared on any podcasts? Can you find out how they manage their business—what goes on behind the scenes? How do they get inspired? Do they have product ideas that you haven’t considered? Narrow down what it is that you like about this company, and think about how you can learn from them.
  4. Shop: Visit stores or marketplaces that carry products similar to what you offer. Why did the buyer select those products? How are the products packaged? What is the design like? Are there companion products? Do they easily fit into a category? Do you see something missing from the store’s selection—a consumer need that isn’t being addressed?
  5. Be aware: Wherever you are, there’s an opportunity to learn. Each day we are surrounded with art and beauty—in nature, in design, in books and magazines, online, at museums, and out on a hike. When you are in shops, view products with an eye for new ideas for your own product line or service. Look for colors and designs in nature, in art, in architecture, in culture.
  6. Do not copy or steal ideas! Of course, we are not advocating stealing ideas or concepts. However, if you see an adorable deer stuffed animal, you might think to yourself, “I should add my own deer design to my stuffed animal product line.” Your own deer will be completely different than the deer that prompted your idea. If you are on vacation, and use a service—a special historic art tour for example—bring that general idea back and apply it to showcasing your own area.

Presenting your products or services
How you present your products or services can make or break your business. You need to entice both the consumer (to purchase your product) and the retailer (to carry your product line).

What you can do:

  1. Marketing: Marketing is how you carry your message to the consumer or the retailer. We’ve discussed this in a previous post: Make sure you are prepared and covering at least the marketing basics. Have a logo and a business card; have images of your products either online or in printed material.
  2. Packaging: Make sure your company name is on your products, and attached to your service selections. If you create greeting cards, put your company name and contact info on the back of your cards. If you create wearables, bags, stuffed animals, etc., invest in attachable labels or tags. Your product packaging should reflect your product line and your company’s identity: Do your products all feature flowers? Your packaging should as well. Does your product packaging accurately and completely convey the information it needs to convey (size, ingredients or materials, quantity, product name, company name)?
  3. Photography: Beautiful photographs of your products is necessary in today’s online world. Beautiful and thoughtful photographs help your products stand out against the competition. They attract followers on Instagram and Facebook, and buyers on online marketplaces like Etsy. Photographs will also help you get the word out about the services that you offer, in media and publications, on your website, in your blog, and in your business marketing materials. If you are unsure about how to take great product photos, or even how to take photos, there are local and online classes available, plus guidebooks and blogs. This is a very learnable skill!

Keep your customers coming back:
Excellent and thoughtful customer service not only keeps your own customers returning for additional purchases, it helps attract new customers.

What you can do:

  1. State clearly what your product is: its specs, details, and options.
  2. Plan out your customer communications: order confirmation, receipts, answering questions, customer follow-ups, and query communications.
  3. Observe your favorite stores or businesses: Get customer service ideas from them. Do they include a handwritten note and/or an extra product treat in their orders? Do they offer free returns? Do they follow up after a purchase? Do they resolve your problem quickly and easily—and just how do they do that?
  4. Make sure to keep your promises: Do what you say you will do, and when you will do it. Be honest and courteous. Even with crazy customers!
  5. Go the extra mile: Think about what the most exciting package you could receive would look like. Is it delightful and surprising to open? Are there extra “treats” inside (a postcard, a decorative business card, a discount coupon, a button, a note about a similar or coordinating product)? Is it lovingly wrapped?
  6. Always say “thank you.” And there are many ways: Say it in person, include a thank-you note in the order, mail a thank-you card, send a clever thank-you email. Always!

The Handmade Marketplace, by Kari Chapin
Grow Your Handmade Business, by Kari Chapin
The Handmade Entrepreneur, by Dani Marie
Craft Inc., by Meg Mateo Ilasco
Craft Inc. Business Planner
Starting a Business All-in-One for Dummies
Etsy Seller Handbook (online)
Online Classes
Creative Live
Creative Bug