Etsy: Product Calendars

I can’t even remember what part this is in my ongoing series on running your Etsy shop (also applicable to any online small biz, IMO), but you can check out the other posts here!

Today’s post is inspired by the delightfully talented & incredibly savvy Amber Housley.  At the Stationery Academy this past summer, she gave a terrific talk on marketing and media, but one of the most important things that stuck with me was her emphasis on having a product calendar.  The light bulb totally went on for me.

I don’t know about you, but when I started my Etsy shop, I started adding things kinda willy nilly. I’d get an idea, and think, “Oh! I should add that to the shop!”  I wasn’t terribly organized when it came to holidays and new product launches. All of a sudden a certain holiday would come up and I missed out on potential sales because I didn’t have any holiday-specific items that buyers were looking for. But as time has gone on and I’ve gotten busier, I’m finding that being prepared for each new season is becoming very important, especially when it comes to preparing for the holidays.

Everybody’s sales “bell curve” is different. For me, sales are busiest during the school year, crescendoing from November to February, and then going down to May. The summer months are very slooooow and then begin to pick up again in September. Many Etsy sellers find this summer slowdown to actually be helpful in preparing for the upcoming craziness of the fall and holiday months.  I’m only just now feeling like I can accurately review my stats with accuracy after being in business for nearly 2 years.

Takeaway No. 1 in prepping your product calendar: Be aware of your sales statistics and use them to benefit you.

Ok. So now that you’ve reviewed your sales statistics and you can see where your busy periods are, how are you going to be ready for all those shoppers?  Some designers have the luxury of designing up to a year in advance. (And while that sounds absolutely heavenly to me right this second, I don’t know how that’s really feasible for me at this point. Chime in with your thoughts in the comments — I’d love to hear).  But if you don’t have that luxury, get out your calendars and take a good look.

First, determine the big dates: Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s, End of School, Back to School, etc. Most of this will be specific to your own product line.  From there, decide what’s going to be a reasonable time frame for you to produce items and then ship them.  For me, Christmas is insane. And due to the custom nature of my product line, I have to have every order for Christmas in by no later than the first week of December. Does it seem early? Sure – BUT! This guarantees that with regular standard shipping costs I can reasonably get items to their customers AND also have enough wiggle room to rectify it in case something goes wrong.  Be sure to give yourself a little padding for turnaround times; you don’t want to be stressed out of your gourd in case something goes wrong. And trust me, it will.

Secondly, look at that calendar again. What can you be promoting a month in advance of the specific holiday? Two months in advance? When will you need to have product samples in to photograph? Are you going to do any sales or giveaways? What kind of marketing?  It’s overwhelming to think about.

Takeaway No. 2: Stay on top of sales by being aware of your own personal restrictions.

Amber gave us a great model to base our own calendars off of, which I have modified to suit my own particular needs. You can see a pared-down version here of my plan for the Fall launch which happened in September.

I’ve designed a pretty little graphic for the blog’s purpose here, but I actually keep track of everything in Evernote so I can access it from any of my devices. In my notebook called “Product Calendar”, I have a few different files entitled “Fall Launch”, “Holiday Launch”, “Spring Launch, etc.”  I also keep a running checklist there of what needs to be photographed, etc. It helps me get my head in order!

I’d love to hear how you stay organized and on top of product launches. Are you more of a free spirit and like to stay spontaneous? Or do you need the structure of a schedule? Tell me in the comments!