I wrote recently about business milestones I reached with my vintage business, BackGarage, in 2010.
I by no means am an expert on all businesses nor am I an expert on yours, but I’ve been hawking vintage for a few years now and have found that each of the following 5 things made all the difference between running a mildly successful business and dabbling in a hobby.
If you’re ready to get rull surrious about your vintage business in 2011, time to do the following:
1. Keep financial records.
If you’re not keeping track of your expenses, revenue, mileage, and inventory, you should set up a system this year to keep track of it. I use a free, online bookkeeping program called Outright which simplifies everything. I track my inventory in my online shop by printing out .csv documents at tax time, but some other people use Google Docs or an Excel spreadsheet to record and tag each item.
2. Set up a separate bank account for your business.
This may seem like a huge step, but it’s really not a huge deal and it helps immensely in keeping financial track of your business. Call your bank in advance to find out what documents they’ll require from you to open a business account, or just open a separate checking account to use exclusively for the business. This really helps as you grow an expand — I’ve heard people who loan money, if they still exist, like to see an early track record of separate financial history between you and your business.
3. Allow yourself the space you need.
Bam! Be honest with yourself about how much space your business requires. If you’re storing every vintage item you sell on Etsy in a front hall closet, you’re putting yourself in a mental state that says, “Buying and selling and storing things is a hassle.” For me, opening a garage space was a huge step that paid off. Maybe this means renting a two-bedroom apartment, a storage space, a separate studio, or talking to your landlords about that unused corner of the basement. But whatever it is realize that when your business occupies the amount of space it requires, it makes more money. (I promise that’s true.)
4. Brand yourself.
Business cards. Your own domain name. A Twitter account. A Facebook page for your business. An email list. Logo design. These are just a few of the things you should think about doing in an effort to brand your business. You shouldn’t expect that listing a few things every week on Etsy will allow you to quit your day job. You need to cultivate a following, and you can’t do that until your audience has a brand to get behind. Start with a good logo or mark and go from there.
5. Master the art of shipping.
This is the part of vintage business that most people hate. But especially for businesses that don’t have open storefronts, you need to know how to ship the items you sell. Invest in shipping supplies from Uline.com. Buy a 10 lb. postage scale (usually about $30). Sign up for Endicia or Stamps.com so you can print postage from home. Research shipping rates and get familiar with weights and rates to different parts of the country. Don’t skimp on packaging, pack things well so they arrive without breaking. Remember: it takes years to get really, really good at shipping. Each package is a different challenge and no one, unless they own a warehouse that ships the same 12 things regularly for 15 years, is an expert at this. But if you’re up for the challenge and don’t mind shipping a glass bowl to Australia, your revenue is bound to increase.
Okay — so what about you guys? Any tips you have? Things you did for your vintage business that made for a big boost in revenue? Questions? Leave them in the comments!