A Big Mistake I Made in the First Year of Selling
I had started my business and began selling SVGs and vinyl decals.
As a business owner, you look to branch out and see how you can expand your business and I felt that the next natural progression for my business was shirts. I was getting wholesale orders from a large customer and they seemed to be pretty consistent. During one of the many talks with my buyer, the time frame of how long orders took was brought up.
The process for my other orders up until this point was like this:
- I would order the shirts after payment
- The shirts would come in 3 – 5 days
- Then I would process the shirts within 3-5 days after they came in.
I thought this was pretty good but I could understand the customer’s concerns. Then the consistency of the orders was brought up and **here** is where I made the mistake.
I ordered over one HUNDRED shirts in various colors based on projected orders without money in hand!
After these shirts arrived, the wholesale account STOPPED all of their orders. *insert panic screams!*
Typically this wouldn’t have been a huge deal, money comes and goes especially in business, but this was a lot of money in my early days!
My office space was not equipped to handle boxes of t-shirts. They were not only in sizes that I personally didn’t get a lot of orders for, but they were also in colors that my shop DID NOT sell.
So I was left with not only my own shirts taking up space but also those shirts in the promised orders to come. In my head, it was a temporary setback, and we would recover rather quickly – “No big deal.” As time went on though, much of what I purchased on the wholesale promise has never sold. In fact, I still have boxes of those shirts to this day.
Don’t Accept Promises
Payment must always be upfront – even with friends and family.
Yes, it’s wonderful when family wants to support you and you know them so well you’ll knock this project out of the park – but once money becomes involved, you enter into a sticky situation.
I have had my own family informally ask for merch. So one time in particular I purchased the shirts for work uniforms and (you guessed it), they only “needed” one of each when initially it was five.
I’m not saying that this will happen to you, or that you shouldn’t do business with family, just don’t put yourself in a position to get burned.
You Don’t Need to Keep an Inventory…
…at least until you have a proven market to sell it.
Don’t spend money stocking up for a rainy day – buy what you need as you need it. When the orders become consistent, buy based on the sizes / colors that sell well. This will cost you a little bit more and lower your profit margins initially, however, it beats sitting on inventory that may not sell (in my opinion).
Utilize Mockups and Presales…
…to test the waters for what might sell well.
You can find mockups for just a few dollars (shameless self-plug ^__^ ), and others with seasonal props to really sell the point. You won’t need to create the item, although you should know that you can create the project before starting. Doing this will allow you to build up some excitement with seasonal collections so you can focus on one theme at a time.
Have Someone Else Print It!
If you don’t have the space to house vinyl and shirts, look into POD services such as Printful, Printify, or Printed Mint. They print your design and ship it for you, to your customer! It’s super convenient especially if you want to deal with more of the creative side of designs.
Just be sure your design license covers POD services.
To summarize, there’s never a clear path to success. Sometimes you have to take the lumps to your pride and continue on.
I hope that even if you don’t take this advice, it gives you something to think about and helps you prepare your business to grow and thrive!