Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review 'O the Week: Freshbooks

Each week for the next few weeks we will be posting micro-reviews of some different online services that are marketing themselves for small business and micro-business. This is certainly of interest to Etsy users who are looking for tools to minimize the time they are spending on all of those bookkeeping and correspondance and mailing and packing tasks while still maintaining that micro-business feel.

This week's review is on Freshbooks,com. It's a service that promises to ease the burden of invoicing and tracking time spent on projects that you might bill hourly for or need to track long-term.

Pros: This service is really easy to set up. Like most small business services, they offer a level that free but limited. You can only have three clients at the free level. So far I haven't run into this as a restriction though because I can segment one client as "individual" if I need to and have multiple contacts in that segment for quick updates. This site also looks really professional. You can set up an invoice that's branded to your site. Once you set up an estimate, you can either print a PDF or e-mail a system generated user name and password to your contact that has requested a project estimate. They can log in and review the estimate your provided and print out a copy on their own. Once you have agreed on a project timeline, terms, conditions, and an estimate- invoicing is just as easy. It's branded just for your site- there aren't other logos cluttering your invoice. They can pay through Google Checkout, PayPal or several other services you have set up

Cons: There are other options out there like  PayPal that also allow you to send invoices. In order to need to priced subscription levels, you would really need the integrated service that Freshbooks provides. I haven't found any specific cons- just that I would likely manage my minimal number projects on my computer with similar tools I could create myself. I think that if I was needing to manage several clients at once- I could really see the value in this tool though.

Overall: I think it's a great tool. It helps give you a professional look especially for that first wholesale request or a project that you think could lead to additional revenue down the line. Snappy! Check them out!


This post was authored by Sarah, the principal designer from Sima Design. She runs an Etsy shop focusing on crafts and jewelry design with the help of her trusty  Epilog laser engraver and authors a blog while also working full-time as a mom of two.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Canadian Postal Strike at an End

At least for now- you can breathe a sigh of relief: as Canadian postal workers are back at work as of tonight (Mon, June 27 at 8:30PM)

Something to note though- while USPS has not been accepting mail since the strike became official, they do still have a lot of mail being held in the network. That is all being released as well. I would expect much longer than normal transit times not only from the volume but I imagine the employees are still a bit disgruntled as well.



This post was authored by Sarah, the principal designer from Sima Design. She runs an Etsy shop focusing on crafts and jewelry design with the help of her trusty  Epilog laser engraver and authors a blog while also working full-time as a mom of two.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review 'O the Week: Shoeboxed

Each week for the next few weeks we will be posting micro-reviews of some different online services that are marketing themselves for small business and micro-business. This is certainly of interest to Etsy users who are looking for tools to minimize the time they are spending on all of those bookkeeping and correspondance and mailing and packing tasks while still maintaining that micro-business feel.

This week's review will be for Shoeboxed.com. Shoeboxed promises to organize your business receipts electronically which is an acceptable form of storage for IRS record-keeping. 

Pros: Shoeboxed has different levels of membership including a free level. In this level you can set up your own e-mail address that you can use when ordering online. In this manner, your receipts will end up automatically in Shoeboxed and forwarded to your real e-mail inbox. If you have online receipts that you used your real e-mail address for- you can forward them to your Shoeboxed e-mail as well. You can also scan in receipts from brick and mortar purchases and itemize each purchase. It's a pretty handy doodad. There are other services too that allow you to mail in receipts and they will scan them for you. this requires a subscription and I can see it being a real time saver if you have lots of receipts.

Cons: Sometimes (actually most of time time) when Shoeboxed gets an new electronic receipt- it doesn't get the right amount. It's not a big deal- and they provide a link to easily go in and update the information. If you have registered your shoeboxed e-mail address with an online retailer the promotional ads go there too. You get a notice from Shoeboxed that it's there but I've noticed about half of them getting picked up as receipts especially when there is a promotion like "Free Shipping for Orders Over $25" or something- Shoeboxed will see it as a receipt for a $25 order. Again, you can easily go in an fix it but it's a glitch nonetheless. I recommend using your shoeboxed e-mail only to manually forward real receipts to it- to to use as your e-mail address with retailers.

Overall: I recommend this service. There is a free level for when you are just starting out and graduated subscription plans as your business grows. You can store an unlimited number of receipts that limits the real shoeboxes you have by the end of the tax year. It is one of the tools I use to limit my need for a CPA. It's a real timesaver. Check it out!

This post was authored by Sarah, the principal designer from Sima Design. She runs an Etsy shop focusing on crafts and jewelry design with the help of her trusty  Epilog laser engraver and authors a blog while also working full-time as a mom of two. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strike in Candian Postal Service

Has the recent Canadian postal strike affected any of your business shipping? Etsy customers all over Canada today are wringing their hands as their Etsy orders can't get through due to a postal strike. Hopefully it will end soon. From Pitney-Bowes: Canada Postal workers intend to strike effective at 11:59 PM Central Time, Saturday, June 18. At that time, the US Postal Service will not accept any First-Class Mail International, Priority Mail International, or Express Mail International to Canada.

Shipping to Canada has been disabled as the USPS will refuse the package. 

UPDATE (23 June): Hopefully the strike will end next week but expect delays as the spaghetti of backed up mail unravels. A good option would be to ship via FedEx. You can request that buyers pay the extra. You can print shipping labels and more through an online account with them and you get a discount as an Etsy seller.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review 'O the Week: Outright Bookeeping Services

Each week for the next few weeks we will be posting micro-reviews of some different online services that are marketing themselves for small business and micro-business. This is certainly of interest to Etsy users who are looking for tools to minimize the time they are spending on all of those bookkeeping and correspondance and mailing and packing tasks while still maintaining that micro-business feel.

This week's review in on Outright.com which promises to ease the burden of bookeeping for small business.

I signed up for an Outright account early this year. Since I was an early adopter, I've managed to get in for no monthly fees at least through the end of the year. New users should expect to shell out $19.95 a month.

Pros: You can electronically link to just about any other service including most banking accounts, credit card accounts, Shoeboxed for receipt management and your PayPal account. You can categorize the transaction types to Cost of Goods sold and you can catalog your mileage costs so you can start to tally up those miles so you are ready for the end of the year. It also tracks your income/outgoing and gives you an indication of what your quarterly taxes are owed to the federal guys. It also looks like soon they will have a way when pulling in PayPal transactions to have it note which part is Sales Tax collected for transactions that occurred within your own state. It also has charting that shows income vs outgoing. You can also allow access to your CPA into your account.

Cons: From what I've experienced- there's no way to merge instances, charges, or income transactions. For example you may see income from your PayPal account from an Etsy transaction and you will also see it post to your bank account when you request a transfer. There's no way to merge these transactions or to itemize the transaction into PayPal fees, sales tax and net income- for example. You will also have double transactions so you will need to choose one transaction to delete- either the PayPal transaction or the bank account transaction. I didn't realize this until I had imported one of my accounts and I had to delete my PayPal account since it wouldn't catch all of my transactions and was causing a lot of manual deletion and rework. It was really obnoxious and I ended up only linking to the credit card and bank accounts since eventually the giant whirlpool of various sources of charges and income end up there.

Conclusion- I run a micro business yet on Outright the number of manual entry points is immense. There are also lots of features that I expected but I'd have to do manually on the side. It seems like it wouldn't be saving me any time as I can download those transactions from my bank and manually work them in a spreadsheet or print them out and use a traditional office-store bookeeping file. So far I can't see a $20 per month advantage to other services. It's pretty good for free for now and I like the charts it presents for charting your growth per month.


This post was authored by Sarah, the principal designer from Sima Design. She runs an Etsy shop focusing on crafts and jewelry design with the help of her trusty  Epilog laser engraver and authors a blog while also working full-time as a mom of two.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quick Tip: Pricing Workshop for Etsy Listings- Guide

I wanted to post a guide on how you can come up with a fair price for your Etsy Shop listings. I see a lot of shops struggling either with making sales or getting burned out becuase their prices are actually too low. You should do a little dance when you get an order- not wipe your brow and sigh!

I'll get straight to the point. What you will need for this min-workshop is a calculator, your receipts, and a pencil with paper. You can use the computer and an Excel sheet is you want. I have one made up for estimating jobs on the fly.

Let's get started: You need to take several things into account when pricing your shop listings. Let me know if you have additional items to think about that aren't listed here.

First- jot down a labor rate you are going to charge for you time. Be fair! Do you have a number of years in your design area? You need to price your items to include the time you spend on them.

Next- pick a product in your shop or one you want to  list- calculate the original material cost. You need to be able to price it per listing so if you purchase something in bulk, you need to break out the cost per item. Be sure to include all tangible pieces in this step including that material shipping to you or your drive to the store so you capture all of your costs. For many of my items, I purchase wood by sets of board-feet. For a listing item I will calculate the full costs of that board set and then estimate the percentage of the purchased set I used for that listing item. Voila- I've calculated the raw material costs for my single product.

Next add in any incidental costs for additional materials such as shipping envelopes or boxes, paint, glue, inks, wrapping, etc. These may not have been included in the tangible items section becuase a dollop of paint is too difficult to separate out. Mark this amount on a line title "Incidentals".

My next step is to estimate the number of minutes I spend for that particular listing item in prepping the materials for assembly and in item finishing. This may include (for me) painting, sanding, scrubbing, and other related prep and finishing steps. Yours might be sorting, gluing, assembling, or sizing. Aha! Now you have labor expenses.

Next- do you use any special machinery to create your item? Is is equipment that would be cost prohibitive for another person to pick up and use in the creation of your ship items. Perhaps you have a wood-shop with dozens of specialty tools or you use a specialty vinyl cutter, laser engraver, rotary carving tools, sewing machine, embroidery machine, or other specialty equipment. Try and come up with a fair cost of what you would charge per unit of time (minute, hour) if a custom came up to you with material prepped and a design mastered and the only thing you had to do was use your equipment to get the material to the next step. How much would you charge for that service? Multiply the unit of time by the cost for the item you plan to list. Tack that on to your item cost. As a consumer, shoppers are more likely to purchase a carved wooden post than purchase all of the tools and equipment it would require to make their own. Account for your tools in the item cost tally. This is a good area that can be adjusted for any wholesale inquiries. Mark this on a line titled "Equipment".

Next you need to account for the charges that are a part of your marketing strategy. One area you need to be charging for is your Etsy item listing fees. For sure charge for the $0.20 Etsy item listing fee. Some shops employ the marketing strategy of Etsy item "relisting" to keep items towards the top of the category pages. Multiply that listing fee by your estimated or calculated costs between item purchases. Do you think you will relist that item 5 times before a sale? Charge $1.00. Do you market your shop on blogs or purchase ad space online? Take that monthly cost and divide by the number of items in your shop. Mark this amount in a line titled "Marketing/Advertising".

Next- tally up what the differences are in the current listing price and subtract tangible material costs. This is looked at as your current  profit mark. You should be paying taxes on your earnings from your Etsy shop so tack on a 12.9% of the profits for federal, another for medicare, and yet another for social security. If you don't account for these hidden gems you will end up with nothing for your hard work at the end of a sale except fore the healthy glow of an order out the door. Mark this on a line titled "Taxes".

Finally as an online retailer, you need to account for paying all of those processing fees. You don't want this coming out of profits so tack on the 2.5% Etsy selling fee and the $0.30+2.9% Paypal credit card processing fees. Multiply the current product listing tally by your respective percentages and add it up for your listing fees. Mark this as your draft price to charge for your service or product.

The next step is to compare your prices to a couple of other benchmarks. One quick benchmark I use (And it happens to be fairly accurate once I finish my calculations) is to take the raw material costs and just multiple by 2.6. Yes- really. You may be suprised to find your calculated price coming close to this. Mark this amount as "Benchmark 1".

The next benchmark will come from doing some comparison shopping for items similar to yours. Note some of thier prices. Remember!! Your objective is not to be the low price leader but to charge a fair price for your item. Are there lots of copies? Be sure you revisit your labor charges- they may vary depending on the item you are making as others may be easier to create than others. Make note of any additional benchmarks.

Now you need to settle on a final price. You could weight each of your possible finals to come up with a total, average your benchmarks and calculated item totals, or play a game of pin the price on the listing. Whatever you decide to do- you should have more confidence in the price you are setting to make sure you are getting a reward for your hard work! Comment on this post with any additional tips- I love hearing new ideas!

Sample Pricing calculator for Etsy Listings


This post was authored by Sarah, the principal designer from Sima Design. She runs an Etsy shop focusing on crafts and jewelry design with the help of her trusty  Epilog laser engraver and authors a blog while also working full-time as a mom of two.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Make a Suitcase Picnic Basket

Just hit up DollarStore Crafts for thier article on turning a vintage suitcase into an adorable picnic set- Just in time for the kids to get out of school. Pop on over and see how adorable this weekend activity would be!

Make a Suitcase Picnic Basket




This post was authored by Sarah, the principal designer from Sima Design. She runs an Etsy shop focusing on crafts and jewelry design with the help of her trusty  Epilog laser engraver and authors a blog while also working full-time as a mom of two.