How to Stay Organized and on Task in Your Small Craft Business
Written By, Alyssa Ficcaglia
The number one question fellow small craft business owners ask me is, "how do you stay organized and on task as orders begin to pour in?". Staying organized has been a constant battle for me. I can't work in clutter and while I can function in chaos, I can only handle so much of it.
My organization strategies are always changing, but there are a few things I do that have been constant throughout this journey. This blog post will focus on how I keep orders organized, how I track in-person orders, and stay on top of day to day communication with customers. This post will focus less on how I organize my space and more on what tools I use to keep my creative process on track.
First and foremost, get yourself a calendar! If you are a shop that accepts custom order requests, or a shop that accepts both in-person and online orders, a calendar is the most important thing you need to avoid chaos down the road. Google calendars is a great tool, but if you are like me and need to physically write things down, then purchasing a cheap little planner from Target or Walmart will work wonders.
A calendar is the easiest way to avoid missing deadlines and staying on top of your weekly to-dos. I personally use a planner so I can bring it with me to meetings, but a desk or wall calendar is great too. Prior to actually deciding to use a planner, I was just relying on my brain to remember orders and when they were due. All it took was one close call to realize I needed to change. When a client I completely forgot about reached out and asked how the sign was coming along I panicked. I got it done in time, but at the expense of the timeline for the rest of my pending orders. Which brings me to my next must-have for staying organized.
The best thing I have ever done for my workflow process was purchase a whiteboard. It's tiny but it serves it's purpose. Whether you get a whiteboard or a chalkboard, get one! I use my whiteboard to keep track of things like local orders, custom order requests, address changes, rush dates, and special requests to orders. My biggest problem as orders started picking up was losing messages from customers on Etsy asking to change their address, or requesting a change to their sign because they forgot to leave a custom note. Take it from me, you will not remember in 5-7 days that Ashley M. needed her address changed. Write it on the whiteboard as soon as you get the message. If you have multiple social media pages and get messages on every single one, it's easy to miss someone or forget about them.
Whenever a message for a custom order comes in from any of your social media pages, write it on the whiteboard. Use your whiteboard to jot down important reminders for yourself as well. Then erase each task as you complete them. Between your Etsy "Orders & Shipping" page and your whiteboard you will be less likely to miss something important. I have included a photo of an example of what my whiteboard looks like on any given day. My whiteboard has saved me on many occasions and has really helped me keep my sanity.
Finally, set realistic and achievable daily goals and come up with a daily schedule of how you want to accomplish those goals. Mapping out your day can help make sure you are staying on track and not wasting any valuable time. In my sign making process my daily schedule looks something like this:
- 9 am - Edit Designs/Work on Custom Order Designs
- 10 am - Prep Stencils for Today's Orders (1-2 hrs)
- 12 pm - Prep Sign Backers for Painting (1-2 hrs)
- LUNCH AT SOME POINT
- 2 pm - Put Signs Together/Add Hangers
- 3 pm - Begin Packaging for Shipping
- Package As Many As Possible Until 5:30
- 5:45 pm - Deliver Packages to Post Office (Or Schedule a Pick-Up)
Creating a schedule like this has helped me stay on track so I am not rushing around by the end of the day. These times get adjusted as the day goes on, but the most important thing is to set a max amount of time you want to allow yourself for a task and not exceed that. If I set a max time of 2 hours to get 15 stencils prepped but only get to 10, that's all that's getting done. Don't beat yourself up if you can't get to something or can't finish something in the allotted time. Save it for tomorrow and move on to the next task, to avoid messing up the rest of the day's schedule.
Everyone works differently so taking the time to figure out where in your workflow you need improvement will help save you a lot of time in the long run. In a later post I will be sharing how I stay organized during shipping, which is a whole different kind of beast.
I would love to hear what things you do to stay organized and on task in your creative/professional life, so leave a comment below.