The Gift of Slow Times
No matter what your medium, where/how you sell, or what your business model is, sooner or later you’ll face a slow time. I’ve heard/seen/read about people in all kinds of businesses complaining about slow times of as little as a couple of days up to many months. A slow time isn’t a bad thing; it’s not a curse. Put to good use, a slow time can be a blessing in disguise. “But wait… how can it be good when I’m not selling anything?” you ask.
Take a Mental Health Break
Artists are people first. People need a break every now and then to collect their thoughts, and just unwind. People who are artists need this break even more. The artists’ brain seems to never rest; we eat, sleep and dream our medium. Strangely enough, this consumption with our craft can lead to serious creative blocks. The old adage, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” is so true. A slow time is a perfect opportunity to cleanse and refresh, so that those creative juices can begin anew. The best mental health break is to get out of your usual environment so that you’re not reminded about your reality from the things around you. Something simple like a walk in the woods can do wonders.
Inventory Your Supplies
A major complaint during a slow time is that you have to sell something so that you can buy more supplies. More supplies? What’s wrong with the supplies you already have? A slow time can be a wonderfully satisfying creative experience. What can you make using only what you have on hand? What new thing can you invent? Several things are accomplished here… you clean out your supply area, you get the satisfaction of creating, and you increase your inventory with no additional cash investment. It wouldn’t be the first time that a best seller was invented almost by accident.
Evaluate Your Stock on Hand
Those wonderful widgets were such a fabulous idea, everyone’s going to have to have one! But they’ve been for sale for a year and you still have all of them. This is a great time to reevaluate your market. Are the sitting items so unique that there’s a limited market out there? Is there something you can add/remove that would broaden the appeal of your work. Or is the reverse true… yours’ are a little different that the 3,000 variations readily available. If you’re dealing with a saturated market, you may want to consider repricing your version. If the market is so saturated, can you reclaim the parts of the items and use them for something completely different? Or is there a way to make your item more unique in the market it’s in? All of these things can be considered and addressed during slow times.
Tell the World About You
Many of us complain that marketing is so tedious and time consuming and I’m an artist, not a salesman, and I just don’t understand how all of these things work, and………
You have the time! Advertising (in “nicer” terms, promotion) is so incredibly important. Maybe that widget is in fact so unique and everybody really is going to have to have one. But they will never know that unless you tell them. There are countless blogs, forums, social networking, and advertising sites that would be happy to give you some time, and many of them are absolutely free. It’s a matter of taking the time to find them. What are your competitors doing? Do they have a .com, a blog, this page, that page, another page? A successful business is a terrific example of where to start to get noticed.
Not good about promoting yourself? You’re not alone! So don’t promote yourself; promote someone else, or many someone elses. Your name is there as doing the promotion. The artist you promoted will be thankful, and sooner or later will return the favor. The arts community is probably the most wonderful example of “what goes around, comes around.”
Your Business Plan
I used the term, “Business Plan,” in the first paragraph of this article. A business plan can be something as simple as, “I need to make enough money to fund my addiction to [insert your medium here]. It can be incredibly complicated and detailed with goals, benchmarks, timelines, and growth indicators. It can be something in between.
A business plan gives you some direction, even if it’s only a little direction. You need to have a business plan if for no other reason than to focus on the future. A slow time is a great time to create one. If you already have a business plan, are you on track – are some adjustments necessary?
Consider a Test Market
Design a survey and get permission to collect data in a busy location. Take a few of your pieces and ask respondents what they would expect to pay, what kind of person would want this, where would you expect to find something like this, if you were searching for this on the internet, what search words would you use? Even if you end up with a very small survey base, you never know where the perfect idea will come from.
Consider Your Delivery Method
Do you only sell online? Maybe it’s time to branch out – especially this time of year. You don’t have to find a fancy (and expensive) arts festival. A church bizarre or a farmer’s market might work. Is there a coffee shop or bookstore that would allow you to do an arts presentation (code for ‘show off your work’). You have a business, and it takes money to make money. Finding a spot to try a different sales venue is a simply an investment in yourself.
Give Up … Or Not
If your slow time is going on and on, and you’ve done everything you can think of, it may be time to quit. Maybe what you love to do is a hobby after all. Pulling out of the sales arena is not failing. It’s more a matter of redefining who you are and what you do. In fact, giving up is starting anew. Without the pressures of having to sell, you may find a whole new avenue of creative expression that may put you back in the market at some point in the future.
Slow times are a fact of life, whether you’re a handmade artisan or Sears Roebuck. It’s what you do with that time that determines the future.
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