Keep orders flowing and on time with this simple method of scheduling.
Occasionally an artist will express the fear that if they start wholesaling, they will be overwhelmed with orders, and unable to fulfill them. That fear, however, is largely unfounded because as the business owner, you are in control of the orders you accept, your studio production and shipping.
Make sure that you know how much can be produced each day and each week in your studio. If you are just starting out and want to become more efficient, plan your production studio carefully. Make items in multiples, and create a studio setup that flows well for each step in the process. Keep your production capability in mind when taking orders.
As you plan for the upcoming season (or year), it’s a good idea to fill out a Production Calendar, blocking time as orders are placed by retailers. This helps to avoid that sense of overwhelm.
When you go to a wholesale show, keep your production schedule (it can simply be a calendar if you like) in your booth to record orders for each month going forward.When an order is placed, work backwards from the date the customer wants to receive their order, allowing sufficient time to produce, pack and ship so that it arrives at the store when needed.
Let your customers know when you can fit their order into your schedule. Be realistic about your capabilities, and build in a little wiggle room to allow for unexpected delays.
If you accept commission work, or custom retail orders, add them to your calendar as well to keep your schedule organized and your orders going out on time. If you exhibit at retail fairs, allow for time to make inventory for these events too.
Build in a few weeks during the year for vacation, family time and as a buffer if things get hectic. During slow times, work on growing your inventory, especially your bestsellers, so that you are ready to fulfill demand at both wholesale and retail.
Keep in mind that you can always turn down business if your schedule is too booked. You also might suggest alternatives, like shipping several smaller orders if that can be fit into your Production Calendar.
Sometimes artists book up very quickly at the beginning of the season. A good example is blacksmith Al Stephens who has pre-booked orders before his wholesale shows even start for the year. By communicating with his regular wholesale customers about his Production Calendar upfront and getting a commitment for a dollar amount of their order, Al can assure them a spot on his schedule even before they have chosen the items they need. They will meet him at his wholesale show to view new designs and write the actual order with him. This allows him to accommodate his existing customers, and to keep their stores filled with his merchandise.
Feeling overwhelmed in your own studio business? Consider our business consulting services to get organized and grow your small creative business.