Ms. Haldeman, step in to my office

It’s time for my annual review!
How did I do this year, y’all? Fantastic? Perfectly? Awesome! 37% raise!
HAHAHAHAHAHA but really tho.

I know I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging lately, so I wanted to do this out here in blogland instead of just in my planner, so y’all can see some of the things I work through as a one-person show.

What are some of the most memorable moments of last year?
Going to Disney in February with Tim and Aunt Gay and Uncle Joe and Denise and Tarrant. Going to Disney in September with Donna. Going to Disney for my birthday in October. Going to Disney in November with Dacia and Dov. Uhm, I’m sensing a non-work theme here….! Oh! Going over to Gulf Breeze in February to help a friend. And going up to South Bend in late March to see Tim’s brother get married was fun (and not Disney-related). Seeing the Indigo Girls in February with Susan and again in May with Jenn was also fun, and also not about Disney. Jenn and I going to see our friend Bill in the care center every couple of weeks. Work wise? Memorable events include Spring GLAM in April… Fiber-In in September… the utter Murphy’s Law of the Snow Flurries crate in November… Winter GLAM just a couple of weeks ago.

What were your biggest challenges of the past year?
Time. The time it actually takes to make everything by hand, versus the time that I think I need, which, you know, you’d THINK I’d have worked out by now, but… for some reason I thought that I could keep HaldeCraft running at the same pace as always and also start writing a book. By June or July I was starting to feel a little behind in a few things, by about September I was having to choose to just not get some things done, and at this point I feel behind in almost everything I have left on my list. So next year, something is going to have to go — either some things need to be totally phased out, or I need to let go of my insistence that I can do everything all the time and be OK with that.
Shop Cats. They’re adorable and I love kitties but they sure did break a lot of ceramics and pee on a lot of things. And someone just WILL NOT STOP pooping in the sink. At least it’s easy to clean…. But still. Sigh. Challenging.

What worked or brought joy to the year? List five things that went better this year than you even thought they would. Can you continue those into the next year?
Writing went better than I thought it would. I set a goal of a chapter a month, with a bonus chapter on months with five Sundays (full disclosure, those months are a little harder than others). Ideally in a day’s schedule I would stop working on HaldeCraft by about 3 PM every day, and write until 6. That doesn’t always happen (see above about feeling behind in some things) but when I do sit down, the words are there. For that I’m grateful, and I plan to keep riding that wave next year.
In fact, Patreon in general went better. Up until November when I lost the ability to do anything on time, it was going at a good pace. I shuffled around a few things in late summer, tiers and benefits, and feel it’s better for it. I started a yarn-only tier that’s more of a yarn club than anything else (they don’t have access to the fiction, just a skien of yarn every month). I just started that and have already had a few people sign up for that level, so I plan on talking about that more in the coming months. And keeping up with Patreon posts overall. Ahem. Starting in January. Sorry.
GLAM went better than I thought it would (and I expected it to be pretty awesome). I had a record year, financially – almost double what I did last year, and I was happy last year. But then in looking over my totals, most of what I did in December I did at GLAM… so now I’m more relieved than happy, because it means I can pay bills in January.
Walking on a more regular basis worked better than I thought it would. First off, the more I do something, the more I want to do something – so the more I walk, the more I want to walk, and then the more I walk. If I take two days off, though? Ugh, it is hard to get restarted. BUT! I have discovered that bling is the way to get me to walk. Between YesFit and Virtual Strides, I’ve racked up a good handful of medals this year… what will next year bring? Besides me actually blogging about the walking, which I still need to do. But going forward next year I’ll definitely keep carrot-and-sticking myself with medals.
Having a Shop Elf definitely brought joy to the year. It’s been not just useful to me in the shop (glazing, bathing tortoises, sweeping, glazing more) but also fun to have around and good to talk to. Our brains work a lot of the same ways, and it’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of. And I’m loving it branch out and make some of it’s own stuff, too – some mushroom things it’s not done with yet, and the gaycos… things like that.

What didn’t work or didn’t bring joy to the year? List five things that didn’t go as well as you wanted. How might you do things differently in the future?
I’d had a plan to paint a whole lot of bisque I had sitting around; I was going to start painting in October and get a whole bunch of things done and listed in the shop… and I got about half as much as I wanted finished. Half? Maybe more about a third. Very disappointed in myself and my ability to juggle things… But. It was a lesson learned. How I might do things differently in the future, if I want to glaze that much, is to maybe leave the pieces where they were on the storage shelf and not put them all out on one of my work tables. Just take them down as I have time to paint them, so that I’m not also minus one entire work surface.
Overall, HaldeCrate did not go as well as I wanted it to. Either it’s not a good idea, or I’m not really explaining it well, and I’m not sure which one of those two it is. Or it is a good idea and I’m explaining it fine, it’s just that people aren’t intrigued by what I’m putting in the crate (quite possible). So how might I do things differently in the future? Well, I’ve already decided to combine the Mug of the Month with HaldeCrate (it’ll be a mug every three months now, and themed to the Crate), and decided to always have some set things: always a mug, always a soap dish, always a soap and lotion set, always yarn. Then maybe something else different each time (a set of stitch markers, a yarn bowl, yadda yadda). How I might do HaldeCrate differently in the future, as far as advertising goes, is maybe… more blog posts, more newsletters, and more showing off of the finished objects prior to the cut-off for pre-orders (which means finishing them before the cut-off date, which brings me to…..)
The Snow Flurries Crate was a disaster from start to finish and did not bring joy. It started off awesome! Such a great ceramic texture pattern. Such fun designs with snack tray and mug. Such a great color of yarn. And the ceramics kept breaking as I was making them, and the yarn wouldn’t stop crocking when I was dyeing it, and y’all, I almost refunded everyone rather than send things out. But I did send things out, and then things broke in the mail. It just … kept getting worse. What can I do differently about that? One thing I’ve already done — giving myself more time between the end of pre-orders and when it ships: 80% of the orders for this crate came within the last three days of pre-orders being closed, which meant that suddenly I had 14 days to make and ship about 20 ceramic pieces. Mostly the turnaround on things made from scratch is about six weeks. Because I wasn’t getting pre-orders, I wasn’t making pieces. I mean, I don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of stuff that isn’t going to sell, right? So, going forward, more time between the close of pre-ordres and the ship date, to give me more time to make orders that come in during that last week.
And it’s not work related (other than taking care of myself, and taking care of myself means I can work better) but my new fitness tracker, the Bellabeat Leaf, was frustrating AF and did not bring joy. I’ve already done a couple of posts about that so I’ll leave it at that.
That’s four… what’s a fifth thing that didn’t work as well as I wanted? The Tiki Collection didn’t sell a thing this last year, but that’s a line I brought in the year before. Or maybe even the year before that? So can I really call it a fail for this year? Or worse, a two year fail? Things I could do differently about that next year would be to post more about them (I sort of stopped posting when the posts stopped being responded to), or mark them down and move them out, or sell what I have and paint them differently next time (perhaps more detailed work). I’m leaning towards marking them down and moving them out.
Oh! I know what the fifth thing is (I’m not counting the Tiki stuff since that’s not from this year). Fiber-In. Not a very good time at Fiber-In this year (financially or emotionally)… to the point where in charting the financial decline over the years, if next year drops as much as it has been dropping, it will cost me more money to go than I’d make. What can I do differently….? I could try to drum up more business with more advertising, more in-person specials at Fiber-In only, more blog posts about it (maybe a paid Facebook campaign). Or I could just choose not to go this year, which is the option that feels more likely. I enjoy the event, but I’m there as a business, and if I’m not making money, it’s not worth it for me to go (as a business). I wouldn’t completely write off me going just to go and have fun and see friends, but I think this was my last year vending there for a while.

What were the best lessons you learned?
I am maybe a better person than I sometimes give myself credit for. I stand by and shelter the people I love. I trust my value. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who does no harm but takes no shit, and I seem to actually have become that person without paying much attention to it.

What generated the least amount of income? What are some ideas you have for next year that you suspect you shouldn’t actually do?
The Tiki Collection. Fiber-In. Which I already talked about above.
I’d say spinning fiber and notions (buttons, stitch markers) were the lowest sellers. Part of that is that my distributor stopped making some of the fiber, and while I bought new fiber in the same blend, it’s top and not pencil roving, so I didn’t want to dye restocks until completely sold out… and I’m not completely out. I suspect I shouldn’t dye more, but… maybe that’s the problem? Maybe I should? Or maybe I should dye it all up in One Hit Wonders, but in roving, and move it all out? I suspect that if I could market it correctly, spinning fiber would do well. But to market it correctly, I need time for researching and advertising. Oh – I did briefly look into advertising on Knitty, in addition to Ravelry. Maybe if I followed through on that…? Or just… dyed them all up and moved them out. Ugh.
Old yarn colorways didn’t sell very well, either. One Hit Wonders did amazingly, but I really worked hard on switching them out a lot. And the reason I had a lot was that I still had stock from unsold discontinued colors that I overdyed. I suspect that I shouldn’t spend a lot of energy restocking three or four of the colors in the coming year; ones that according to my running tally I haven’t dyed more than once or twice in 2019 – that instead, I should watch if/how often they sell, and if after a set time period (six months?) I have less than half of what I should have in that colorway, then dye it. But not check in bi-monthly and restock often.
For a time this year I actually considered reopening my Etsy shop. Even though it’s a nightmare to run two different online stores with two different inventories that are stored in the same place (and made by the same person). I still feel like I should, even if I’m just posting four or five things to be seen. But I equally feel that oh heck no, no I should not, bury that thought. So that’s a “feel like I should but probably shouldn’t” checkmark.

What generated some income, but could have done better? What are some ideas you have for next year that might or might not be worth pursuing?
Fiber-In generated some income, but I’ve definitely had better years. I’m sure there are things I could have done to make that better — blog posts, advertising, building up excitement with my followers like I do with GLAM. But, to be fair (to me), I didn’t get the confirmation that I’d actually BE vending there until three days before the event. So it was tough to walk that line of “what do I make” and “what do I tell people” when I couldn’t get an answer about whether or not I was on the list. I didn’t want to make a bunch of new stuff or advertise I was going to be there while I didn’t know if I was, and three days is just not a lot of lead time for making or advertising.
I’ve started vending weekly at a local farmer’s market, and while it hasn’t generated HUGE BAGS OF CASH, I’ve sold something three out of the five times I’ve been there, which is more than I thought I would the first couple of months. I think going forward next year, because I want to continue to do this at least until March or April, I want to figure out a good stable of products to have there that will work. Either things at a lower price point, or things I only carry there… I’m not sure what/how shape/form it’ll take yet, but… I’m thinking about it. Definitely more kitchen things — the egg trays and butter dishes have been garnering the most interest. Maybe this would be a good place for those teabag containers?
The Mug of the Month did meh/OK. It either sold out or just sat there, and most sold out. But I feel like I really struggled with it. It’s another one of those things that either I didn’t explain very well, or, well, no, that’s it, I must have just never explained it very well as far as it being limited stock and pre-orders. And I still love the idea of it, or I love the idea of it working well, but I’ve decided to take the fun part (making limited edition pieces) and fold that into the HaldeCrate.
Where should I put soap in this? Soap sold well, I was always restocking it, but thanks to massively raised prices from a distributor, it didn’t really make me a lot of money. I mean, there were other things I fell behind on because I was making so much soap restocks — soap, with all the wrapping and labeling, takes a big chunk of time. It can’t take any less time; it needs to be shrinkwrapped in order to protect it from ambient humidity, and it needs to be labeled so people know what it is. I did raise the price on it this year, and while it’s not what I should be charging according to my calculations, it’s really towards the upper end of what I feel I can charge. The only thing I am really thinking of doing is maybe, instead of making soap every time I run out of something, making soap just a few times a year. Wrapping will take a larger chunk of time if I’m making soap four times a year instead of twice a month, but it’ll be a larger chunk of time all at once. Not a little bit here and a little bit there and a little bit the next week and oh I didn’t have time to do those so….
Speaking of soap – the Soap Subscription Service. I didn’t offer that this Fall, which may be adding to lackluster sales. Taking from sales, making them lackluster? You know what I mean. I decided not to offer it next year, for a couple of reasons. USPS usually raises it’s rates in January, but I tend to sell these in December. Meaning I lose money on shipping, having to pay out of pocket for a good chunk of it because I’m not going to email someone and say “hey this thing you bought a few weeks ago now costs more to mail, can I have more monies please”. Another reason is that this last year I had a lot of problems with my soap distributors (uh, see previous paragraph) and I’m still not sure how that’s going to play out. Most likely in a reduction of how much soap I have on a regular basis. So I didn’t want to take people’s money in December for something that I may have real problems producing by May.

What generated the most income? What are some ideas you have for next year that are definitely worth pursuing?
Ceramics and Patreon generated the most income for me.
Patreon was steady, with a slight dip down here and there but mostly growing, holding steady, and growing. It’s been good to have a known quantity of money coming in at a known time. I mean, it’s not a gabillion dollars, but just knowing what’s coming, when, has been good.
Ceramics did great in some areas (soap dishes were a big hit this year, which makes me feel vindicated) and okay in others (see above, the Mug of the Month) and not okay in others (see above, the Tiki Collection). Ideas I have that I think are worth pursuing are more of the textured slab-rolled pieces I’ve been working on.

What should you say no to next year?
Things that the moment someone mentions them to me, my gut reaction is “awwww hell no”. I should listen to myself when I get a bad feeling about something.

What should you say yes to, more often?
Evaluating and letting go of things (products, ideas, plans) that aren’t serving me well. I tend to hold on to things in sort of… an emotional “sunk cost theory” and I don’t need to. I should say yes to letting go of things.

3 Comments

  1. Lloyd

    do not discount the mental cleansing of the Farmers Market gig… Also the possibility of meeting helpful people. Possibly someone there might take a few not so breakable things on consignment during the months you don’t go?
    I imagine you’ve thought of that.

    • I’m really digging the farmer’s market more than I thought I would. I don’t mind that it’s small, I actually kind of like it. I’m getting to know a new handful of people, I’m meeting some locals and getting my name out there and talking about my process. Sometimes people walk by and they think I’m selling used stuff until they stop and talk to me and I bust out with “hey, yes, I am a new vendor, thanks for noticing. I make ceramics in three different ways…” and start talking about slipcasting vs throwing vs handbuilding, and they’re always intrigued and give my stuff a second look. And it’s kind of nice to get out of the studio for a couple of hours!

  2. Quinn

    For the cats breaking things, would it be possible AND easy to make something like chicken wire or screen door fabric doors to put around the wall shelves? And maybe something similar to put on work tables that could possibly latch with just a hook or carabiner? Enough to keep things from being broken, but you could still see them and they could get air for drying.

    I love your year end review. You’re hard but fair on yourself. You’re definitely the person with the strong will, take no shit, and always there for your loved ones. Even the asshole Shop Cats.

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