Small Business Tips

From @instagram to shipping boxes, I’ve got you covered with some advice from a few years of learning small business!

A friend of mine on Instagram recently asked me for some Small Business Tips, so I thought I would turn my response email into a blog post.


Small Business Tips on gaining Instagram followers?

My experience has been to just stay engaged.  Liking photos, following other people or accounts as well as posting at least once a day is really helpful.  I also think using relevant hashtags to get your photo associated with the things you want to be connected with or to let other people come across your feed if they search a hashtag that you used.  I have looked at big accounts for ways to find good hashtags to use.

I also think working hard on your quality is key.  I try hard to do well with my photography and have invested in a good camera.  I take cues from what seems to be working with popular accounts or just take inspiration from great folks and accounts I follow.   If you want to know what camera gear I use, check out this older post HERE.

The giveaway thing helps, although I wouldn’t say it is a game changer.  I think steady and engaged is a better option.  My giveaways are truly to give back and if we get exposed to a larger audience, that is a bonus.

I also think that consistent quality as well as creative variety helps keep your existing audience engaged as well as your new followers interested.

Tips on gaining sales through IG/Etsy?

I have found the best way to get sales from IG is just to be honest about when stuff is listed, what is on sale or a brand new item.  As far as Etsy goes, a quality photo is huge.  And having a constant presence on Etsy is a big deal as well.  If you don’t have a product listed, no-one can see your work. You can also trying “promoted” listings where you pay to get your items exposed better to searches. Learn more about that HERE.

Tips on keeping shipping costs down/buying boxes in bulk?  

I use Uline for all my bulk shipping needs.  I am thankful they are a good company too.  When we were located in Texas, I used a local box company to help me supplement the products I didn’t need to get from Uline.  Sometimes you just don’t need 20 boxes.  Finding a local provider is a great supplement and I love being able support local business. I also keep box sizing and shipping cost (based on size and weight) in mind any time I develop new products.

We use Endicia shipping software and a DYMO 4XL to ship and print all of our labels for USPS and then we use FedEx when needed for larger items.  You can usually get a good idea of what it will ship something by going to the USPS mailing page online HERE.

We also have a built in plug in on our site store that allows each order to be calculated for shipping rates based upon sizing and dimension that we plug in.  When we decided to break free from just having ETSY as a market, and we were looking at other options, this was a BIG reason why I did not go to Big Cartel or Shopify for my online store but rather built my own store through wordpress and woo commerce.

So now we sell items in two markets: ETSY and our own personal SITE STORE.  I have found that I really like this model.

Also, is there a different way to ship products that I haven’t thought about?

I don’t think so.  Really you have the option of USPS, FedEx and UPS.  We have done very well using USPS priority mail for most items.  First Class is great too if you can keep the weight of your product down to under 13oz. But that is not always easy for large home goods or wood working.

How do you guesstimate shipping cost for your sawhorse desk?  I’m just thinking for the future when we start shipping furniture to customers. 

I used the same principle as before.  When I set out to design and build the saw horse desk, I actually sized the saw horse desk to be able to fit in the only box available from Uline. We recently worked on a bid for making over 1,000 items for Papa Johns and a lot of our design was based on what it would take to ship it in terms of size, weight and packing supplies available.  This is the stuff that very few people think about or don’t understand from a consumer standpoint or from a starting a small business standpoint.  The product is only a piece of the puzzle in terms of the overall customer experience and actually getting it into their hands safely.

After I built the saw horse desk, I simulated the entire packing and shipping process, measured and sealed the box, then was able to get an estimate on what it would cost by putting in a random address.  It is usually good to put in an address as far away as you can.  That is if you are setting your own shipping rate.

Good luck to you, my friend!

Hope you enjoyed a few of my Small Business Tips!  If there is something else you want to know, please feel free to comment below!