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Well, I got home safely, and I stayed there.  The Government offers me unscheduled leave, I'm taking it.  Besides, it's going to take me half the morning to unfreeze my car.  

The disadvantage to owning a roadster and having a work schedule that starts at 5am is that none of the roads have ever melted from the night before, so... whooshSkidSlide!  Squeak in tones only audible to bats and small rodents!

So I stay home.  I have to go out later regardless, as my prescription is waiting for me at Target, and this is my own fault, since I was too lazy to go out Tuesday and get it.  I am at least putting off trekking to the post office until Monday, because I need to get new pics of the house (and the lack of the old one), print them out, and include them in the massive (and probably very expensive) package I am sending to my mother.  In London.

Yeah, that should get there sometime in February.  Fortunately, I bought my nephew's clothes a size too big, so he still won't have grown out of them (I think).

I was thinking last night about the on-line shop, and I had a massive panic attack.  I think what I'm most a-feared of is not being able to get things to people in a timely manner.  I don't know why I should be afraid of this, but it does completely make sense, considering my people-pleasing tendencies (I know!  Aren't you shocked?  But I do have them), that letting customers down would be one of my biggest fears.  I really have been putting it off for no reason except that I'm skeered of what I don't know, and unsure whether I'll be able to do it right.

Yes, those of you who have been selling on-line for years may feel free to snicker at me now.  I am so pathetic.

One of the problems is that I'm not constantly on-line at home; I'm in the habit of checking my e-mail once every three days or so, because it's such a pain to get on with dial-up.  Anything that needs more constant attention has to be run through work, because my interwebs is always there.

When we move (someday), I'll be getting DSL or something, so I can stay plugged in (and read my beloved customers_suck whenever I want, yay!) all the time, so catching orders won't be a big deal.  But postage?  I need to work that out.  And stock?  What if I can't keep things in stock and have to make people wait?

And what if I'm deluding myself, and my stock will sit, dusty and unloved, and I never get any orders?

(Which reminds me - buy Attack Laurel stuff - it's great for passive-aggressive Twelfth Night gifts!)

In the end, it will happen, and it will happen soon - my protege (hi, Brian!) is bugging me quite insistently, as is Bob.  I can't hold out much longer.

...I'd better refill my anti-anxiety medication.  8)


( 12 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Dec. 6th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
From someone who's been through this -- relax.

No, seriously. The simple fact that you're having these concerns means that you have the capacity to address them. So I'm going to hold your hand and go through them one by one.

#1 "I'm not constantly on-line at home." Neither was I when I first started my business. I was working a full-time job that required me to be online all day, and I never got online at home. Sometimes I'd only download orders once a week. So I'd download them and ship them the next day and no one ever complained.

Understand this -- your first online customers will come from your current customer base. They aren't some strangers who expect you to be the Elizabethan Walmart and overnight their dream doublet to them. They know you work a full-time job, have a brand new house, and... you know, a life! They will understand.

Add to that the fact that most of your stuff isn't something you can pull off the shelves and stuff in a box. People will wait for quality. They will wait for YOU.

#2 "But postage?" Call UPS or FedEx. You can schedule a daily or weekly pick-up at your home. You put the packages on the porch before you leave for work in the morning. I don't know how your office works, but I used to be able to ship from our company's mailroom as long as my personal UPS number was on my packages. This would save you the concern over packages being lifted off your porch if that's a worry.
(I think USPS does something like this too, but... hate them lots!)

#3 "And stock?" Don't make stock. Skip it. Unless you can put a match to the cash it takes to buy the materials, it's too much of a risk for your first time out. I just got back from a multi-period show and the biggest complaint of the clothiers was that they spent the money and time to make ready-to-wear and yet they never have the right colour/size/design the customer wants. So they end up taking custom orders and the stock sits and sits and sits...

Take custom orders only. After a while, you'll determine which of your products sell often enough that you can make stock. But people are willing to wait. Give them a timeline -- four to six weeks or six to eight weeks, depending on how your life works -- and then deliver in two or three weeks. Everyone will be thrilled!

And if you can't deliver in three, deliver in eight. I have big orders that have literally taken me six months to finish and ship and I haven't heard anything but gratefulness with the order was received.

If they give you a deadline, deliver early. People worry and you don't need to add to that. But otherwise, don't make yourself crazy. People aren't as demanding as you are expecting them to be.

You're creating. Everyone gets that.

If you need to talk or want advice or just to scream ohmygodohmygodmygod, call. Or email. I've been there. Believe me!
Dec. 6th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
I luvs jooo!
Dec. 6th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
Well, you know, you just take care of it as soon as you honestly can. As long as you're honest with your customers about your efforts and shipping expectations, the only real problems you'll ever have will be with the extremely rare snafu or the occasional customer featured over at customers_suck - and you can always fire a customer, which is a delightful thing to recall, on occasion.

I don't even try to maintain an online business presence anymore, as I got *zero* traffic that way, but I do - er, did - take orders via email and telephone. I've never had a complaint, and I think it's because I was honest with shipping expectations and because I had clearly stated parameters for shipping.

My one piece of advice to you is to require insurance for all shipped items. ALL.
Dec. 6th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
I don't do much online selling anymore, but I can tell you that the fact that you're worried about all of this stuff means you'll do just fine. :) You'll probably exceed your own expectations BECAUSE you're worried enough to do it right and within expected time limits. Just take a deep breath and do it.

Oh, and the other commenters are right... folks will understand, especially since you're offering hand-made stuff, if it's not done tomorrow. Well, most folks will. You will get the occasional person who e-mails you three days after they order, wanting to know where it is and when can they expect it, and they need it next week for some special occasion... sigh... At which point I usually offer the following: I can do the best that I can, and get it out as soon as I possibly can, or I can refund their money and they can find it elsewhere, perhaps at a big box store? :P

but those are few and far between.

You're going to do great. :)
Dec. 6th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
Post and stick to a day of the week on which you handle the online stuff.
If I know you will read and reply to my mail on, say, Tuesday, I will have a reasonable expectation of when to get a response.
If you block out a shipping day and a communications day, you will have manageable expectations of yourself.
Think in terms of weeks/months, and if you will be a week late with an item, tell the customer you will be a month late. We will understand and be delighted when it is earlier than expected, you will have a little pressure off.

Also, be willing to put a lock on orders when you are booked. When I was selling stuff, I would keep it to 6 orders. If I got more interest than that, I would keep a "wait" list, but not accept the deposit nor sign the contract.

Non-refundable 20%-50% deposits. Insurance. No matter what.

You are awesome, this just takes practice. You will be fine.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
Don't be afraid to say "no". If you get a bad 'vibe' off of someone, politely refuse their order. Follow your gut instinct. Refer them out to someone else.

This is so SO important. L, remember this one always. You gut doesn't lie. Believe us.
Dec. 6th, 2007 04:51 pm (UTC)
Have you considered using Etsy? It's what verybigjen uses for her pincushion business, and she likes it a lot.
Dec. 6th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
We can fix the "But I'm not constantly checking my email" thing. Really, we can.

You have a cell phone. You almost always have it on you. I can make whatever you end up with for an online shop send you an SMS when you get an order. Of course, if the shop does well, you'll probably want to turn it off... but thats a good thing, yes?
Dec. 6th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
Ooooo... Nice idea! Good apprentice!
Dec. 6th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
*mumbles something very very quietly about maybe kind of wanting to purchase one of your bodies patterns to help make a sixteenth cent venetian and not finding one on the attack laurel store website, and hoping that maybe they might be somewhere else? Or that begging might help?*

On the more supportive side of things, I'm sure everything will be fine. There will be stressful moments, and stupid people, but you will still have Bob, and apprentices will still cower at the mention of your name, and the people above have good advice. The rest of us will have pompoms and cookies, and chequebooks.

Dec. 6th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
Totally OT, but...love your icon!
Dec. 7th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
Your beautiful-ness-ness -- may I introduce you to the two items that have made me comfortable with online selling?

Meet the USPS Priority Flat Rate Envelope and Box.

Yes, for the reasonable rate of $4.60 for the envelope or $8.95 for the box, send anything you want that will fit inside. Anything. Sweater. Dish Network receiver. Candle sconce. First time SCA'er outfit plus feast gear. Press kits. Easter eggs. Random junk collected from around the house. It all fits, and it all sells.

Postage can either be printed out on your trusty printer or you can pick up Flat Rate stamps at the post office. And best of all -- USPS will deliver oodles of envelopes and boxes to your door, just for the asking -- no purchase necessary.

Rates increase for other countries, alas -- that envelope will cost $9 to send to Canada or $11 overseas. And that box is $23 to Canada or $37 overseas (for up to 20 pounds, alas!) -- but for sheer convenience, can't be beat.

It singlehandedly allowed me to start my life cleaning experience this past summer, my three-step plan to declutterization -- eBay, Freecycle, Goodwill. And it worked.
( 12 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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