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  • Bethany Mannion

How I started my business

Hopefully this is going to be a short post about how I got started and stuff but if I ramble on I apologise.

I want to add a disclaimer that I am relatively clueless and my business is still in its infancy (I hope!) so anything I say here may be either stupid or obvious but a lot of people have asked for some tips so here goes.

Ok, first of all, if you are eager to sell your art but feel as if you need a big backlog of products before you can start selling - YOU DON’T. I started my Spilt Milk Press Etsy with one print - I had purchased 10 prints of an A3 Father John Misty watercolour I had made for about £70. If you have no start up funds then look into Drop-Shipping companies - they will print your stuff for you on a demand basis, meaning there are no upfront costs for you and although profits are minimal, you don’t have to deal with the shipping or handling of the products. I currently use drop shipping companies to print my mugs, as I do not have the space or money to accommodate buying 500 mugs in bulk and packing/shipping them myself. Again, the profit I make per mug is super super tiny, but each sale helps me to develop and purchase new products which ultimately is growing my business.

One of the biggest tips I could give you is to calculate the exact cost of everything you are putting into your business as soon as you start it. I didn’t, and I regret it. When I started I didn’t expect to make any money from my prints, so I didn’t pay enough attention to my exact profits and expenditure. For each thing you sell think about :

  • the cost of making the product

  • the price of packaging (eg. for my prints I consider the cost of each cello bag, sticker, business card and piece of grey board that goes into every print)

If you know the EXACT cost of each product you sell, then you can calculate your profits. This sounds so so simple, but when you are starting a tiny Etsy shop, you often overlook these things because the thrill of seeing a ‘New Order’ notification is exponentially more exciting than dealing with admin (it still is obvs, but now I also know that each sale is helping me to afford new exciting products).

Finally, shipping. Shipping sucks so much honestly, because you will lose items in the mail and you will be out of pocket, and you will receive an item you sent 2 months ago back in your letterbox looking completely battered with no explanation of why it’s been sent back. These things are relatively inevitable unless you send every item tracked/special delivery. I don’t for several reasons:

  1. I would have to charge way more for shipping. I currently offer free UK delivery and £5 international; each print would cost my upwards of £10 in shipping if I offered tracked.

  2. I cant drive, so I cannot always get to a post office, but I can always walk to a post box - tracked items need to be scanned in at the post office

  3. i don’t sell enough stuff at the moment to get one of the those massive royal mail bags that you can drop off at the post office, they are a total mystery to me and I want one lmao

  4. I am still v aware of the massive pandemic going around and I would much rather post my orders at a box than enter a shop and queue for half an hour next to people who still!! refuse!! to!!! wear!! masks!!!

This post is definitely a mess but tldr: JUST START. no one expects you to have 500 items available straight away; if someone likes your stuff they are going to buy it, even if it is the only thing you have in stock. AND CALCULATE YOUR COSTS WISELY ; don’t do what I did and start selling for months only to realise I was often making a loss on sales. Be smarter than me!!

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Spilt Milk Press 2019 by Bethany Mannion // art and illustration // spiltmilkpress@gmail.com // Nottingham
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