Building a wholesale business takes time and work. There will definitely be sweat. Maybe some tears.
There will be times when you want to ball the whole thing up, drop-kick it into a bin and take a job breeding hagfish.
And you will make mistakes, because it’s impossible to reach any massive, life-changing goal without repeatedly and royally screwing up along the way.
But there are rookie mistakes and there are fatal mistakes. The second kind can send your fledgling wholesale business into a serious tailspin.
Here are three fatal mistakes and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1 – Prioritising detail over “done.”
Many of the creative people I work with like to plan. They’re darn good at it too.
They’ll visualise how they want their business to look five years from now – the stockists they’ll have, the products they’ll be making, what they’ll wear to work.
Even the specific scented candle that’ll sit on the desk in their studio.
And I LOVE that.
As an artist, part of what makes you special is your jaw-dropping ability to look into the future and start building what you see in the present.
But planning isn’t doing. Planning can be a way of putting off the doing, and staying in here where it’s safe.
Plus, intricately detailed master plans have a habit of falling apart when they meet the real world, because the real world is unpredictable.
When you’re deep in planning mode, you feel bold, energised and excited about your ideas.
Three weeks later, when it’s time to actually execute your plan, you’re tired, filled with self-doubt and your allergies are playing up.
So nothing gets done, your detailed plan collapses, and you feel like a pillock who never follows through.
Speed of execution is what matters.
Ideas have expiry dates. So does your excitement about them. Neither will wait around until you feel completely ready.
The trick is to capitalise on your ideas by implementing them QUICKLY.
Run with it now! Close the gap between your initial idea and the finished product as fast as you can.
Seeing early results from the stuff you dream up will give you the momentum to stay focused, keep going and turn those ideas into a business.
Mistake # 2 – Asking people what they think.
Let me tell you this right off:
People who don’t run shops don’t know what it takes to run a shop. They think they know, but they don’t. This is how it typically goes.
You ask a regular person to look at something specific to selling to shops, like your wholesale catalogue or pitch email.
You say “Well, what do you think?”
They say “Um, maybe it’s a bit salesy?” and you get dejected.
Then your motivation fizzles out and you spend the next three months in the Swamp of Sadness.
Don’t ask regular people what they think.
Wholesale buyers are a very specific kind of customer. We overlap to some degree with your retail customers, but we’re also looking for some very particular things from you.
And our likes and dislikes around being sold to are also very different from your other customers’.
Asking your best friend or mum whether they like your wholesale catalogue is like asking a ten year old whether your 3D-printed submarine will win over the top brass in the British Navy.
They can’t really contribute anything useful because they’re not your target customer.
And in any case, whether someone likes your catalogue or pitch email is beside the point. The much more interesting question is:
“Will retailers BUY from it?”
Mistake #3 – Going it alone.
I did a poll in the Sell Like An Artist facebook community last year, asking if our members considered themselves extroverts or introverts.
My findings can be summed up as: “Are you kidding? If I could rent a cave from some bears and use it as my studio, I’d be on a flight to Canada right now.”
And I understand that because I’m an introvert too.
But the problem with entrepreneurial introverts is that we tend to think we can do everything by ourselves.
Reading blog posts, listening to podcasts and reverse-engineering what other people seem to be doing…
That stuff can only take you so far. You need direction and ideas from outside of your own brain.
You need wholesale friends who understand the business you’re building, because they’re doing the same thing.
Lone Wolfing it is a bad idea – not least because wholesale is all about relationships.
So who’s helping you? Who’s listening to you? Who’s going “That’s amazing!” when you take a tiny step forward?
If the answer is “no-one,” do something about it now.
Avoid fatal mistakes and do this instead.
Most creative people believe they have to get lucky or grind through years of trial and error, to create a wholesale business that offers freedom, time and money.
But wholesale success isn’t reserved for a few “special” artists. YOU can do it too.
There’s a future version of you who has more money, confidence and stockists than you can imagine at this point.
That’s because you’re still in the process of becoming that person. You’re in the oven but you’re not done yet.
If you’d like the timer to ping sooner rather than later…
Write down why you want to sell your work to shops in the first place. Stick that bit of paper to the wall, right behind your computer or above your desk.
That piece of paper is your signpost. Every time you spend 40 minutes aimlessly scrolling Instagram…
Every time you get into a 4 hour flame war on Facebook about whether chutney or relish is better…
Your goal will be there, saying “Why aren’t you spending time on me? (PS: it’s chutney.)”
If you want to sell your work to shops, you can have that. The first step is getting out of your own way.
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