I’m frequently asked, how can I wholesale my handmade products? I can’t make my prices work for wholesale and I don’t know where to start. Although I don’t think there’s a one answer fits all in this post I will be talking about five steps I think you can start off with to start working towards your goal of wholesaling. These steps are a great way to scale your business even if you don’t plan on making wholesale a part of your growth and even if you don’t make your product by yourself you might pick up a few tips in this post on how to streamline your business, save time, increase capacity and make more sales.
Now, this is probably the most controversial thing I will suggest in this post and you might not like it but hear me out.
You only have two hands and a set time of hours you can physically make something so what can you do in your manufacturing to save time and increase the number of products you can produce?
Look for ways that you can streamline your production, in this post we will be talking a lot about batching your work. The same goes for your manufacturing. If you have a personalised product, I’m sure there are steps in your production that are still the same for all your products, batch-make up to this point. Being able to forecast your needs will help you get familiar with how much you should have “pre-made” and we will talk a little bit more about that later.
Here comes the controversial part, can someone else partially make your product? Can you outsource elements of your production? For example, if you make children’s clothes, can you outsource the cutting of the fabric? Or if you make candles, can you order the vessels already labelled and ready to be poured into? These might seem like small things but every little helps. If you can save just a few hours a week in your manufacturing, you can spend that time selling and coming up with new product ideas.
Most products on the market today are handmade to a certain degree, even the mass-produced ones. You might be surprised to hear just how much is still handmade or at the very least, hand-finished and almost most definitely hand packaged. Take fashion for example, all garments are still hand-made, perhaps not with the same love and care that you put into your products, but they are still hand-made. Screen-printed tea-towels from India are still hand screen-printed and novelty lip balms in shapes of unicorns are usually hand-painted.
Just because, you outsource part of your manufacturing it doesn’t make your product any less handmade and if you want to scale your business you will reach a point where you will have to either outsource or hire in-house help.
2. Shipping and shipping schedule
To save time and to not jump from task to task consider setting up dedicated shipping days, this will save you lots of time, particularly if you drop your products off at the post office. Even if you don’t use a drop-off service and have a collection, having one every other day instead of every day will save you time, particularly if you are a one-woman team as you will be able to batch your packing and making.
Do you use the same sized boxes over and over again? If so, can you pre-build a whole bunch one evening in front of the telly, or get your children involved in building boxes after school. If you place the same stickers or stamp on each box this can also be done in advance and during quieter times. Batching things is one of the easiest time-savers and something big distribution centres do all the time.
Another way to batch things would be to pick more than one order at a time, you can save a lot of time by picking all the orders with the same items together. If you can sort these before you print the shipping labels, then great, print them in batches or print them all and then sort them before you start picking. Even if you don’t ship a lot of orders each day, get into the habit of batching your order processing early on and I promise it will help you in the lead-up to Christmas. It will also really help if you have family and friends helping you that are not as familiar with your product and help reduce miss-picks and mistakes.
It’s great to offer a range of different products but if a customer has too many options it can lead to overwhelm and indecisiveness and ultimately to a loss of a sale. When you start looking at scaling your business look for things to simplify and streamline your range. We already touched on this earlier with shipping and manufacturing, but you can also look at your product range.
You only have so much time and capacity to hand make your product, so you need to find alternatives that won’t take as long to make. A good place to start is with your bestseller, if this is a personalised item, what can you do to make it have the same feel but offer an option that is not personalised to each customer. Perhaps you can offer a monogrammed version instead and keep the most popular letters in stock? Making a version of your best-selling product that could ship on your next shipping day is a great and relatively safe way to increase your sales.
Another way is to add in an entry-level product, an initial buy-in product if you will, that is less expensive than your handmade products and that you can have ready to ship right away. For example. If you hand-embroider hoops, can your embroidery be photographed or turned into artwork for greeting cards? Or if you make candles, can you make smaller tea-lights or travel candles that you keep in stock in your most popular scents? For most handmade products there could be an option if you’re happy to think outside the box. A customer might buy into this before investing in one of your more unique and higher priced pieces.
These entry level products or less personalised items are ones that will be easier to wholesale, and this can then add a whole other revenue stream to your business and help you scale even further. If you want to start to wholesale and you don’t know where to begin, sign up to my newsletter to get 15% off my ebook, "A beginner’s guide to wholesale".
As your sales grow you want to start forecasting what stock you will need for the next few months or even longer. This will help you buy in materials in bulk and hopefully means less time spent buying in supplies and better prices. It will also allow you to keep bestsellers in stock, partially made so you can ship quicker and therefore make more sales and get really prepared for busy times of the year so you can continue to serve your customers without delays throughout those times.
Having products that are ready to ship quicker will also help your marketing, you can sell things closer to big sale dates in the year, for example. If your normal cut-off date for Christmas is 1st December but you have things that are already partially made or ready to ship you can market yourself all the way up to a few days before Christmas and this is something that will have a huge impact on your business. Being able to do this for Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s day for example will give you several weeks of extra marketing and selling time each year.
There are a lot of things that you can do to streamline your business and increase sales even if you hand make your products. It might mean that you have to think with your business hat on rather than your heart, but you can scale a handmade business without losing that care and quality and without “selling-out”.