Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3 pieces of advice that changed my design career

2011 marks the sixth calendar year that EPQD has been, well, EPQD, rather than just "Beth sewing in the basement like a drone". Not that sewing in the basement like a drone doesn't have its place and its joys, especially when in doing so one is allowing one's husband to take over the childcare for an hour or two. But, as usual, I digress.

So much has changed for this little design company since I took the Quilt University online class called "Make money quilting" or some such thing. It was a fabulous class and I really enjoyed getting perspectives from all sorts of quilt would-be professionals. The class homework centered around creating your business plan, and if it weren't for being forced to do it, I am sure I never would have started off on such a relatively strong footing, knowing what I wanted to do and how I was going to go about it all written down for me.

Now I look at that business plan and it is pretty outdated, and yeah, I should take the advice of the instructor of the class to rewrite it for my current business goals, but who has time? I'd rather quilt, frankly. So that's some advice that I am choosing NOT to take at this time. But as for the best pieces of advice I've received.....those are with me every day, and I would love to share them with you.

1. "Just because you are new doesn't mean you aren't good."

This bit of wisdom was shared on a yahoo list for quilt designers of which I am a member, and it was in relation to a discussion about how much to charge for trunk show lectures. I only wish I remember who said it. It came at a time when I had been lecturing for about 6 months, had worked out several kinks from the first few shows, and was getting praise and sharing joy whereever I went with my lecture. I had started with a pretty low price, comparatively, and was considering raising it a bit to be more in line with most lecturers I considered to be my compatriots, but I wasn't sure if I was allowed to do so quite yet. This advice kicked me in the right direction. When I considered the feedback I got after each lecture, I knew that yeah, I was new, but people seemed to really enjoy me, so I couldn't be completely bad. I decided to go for it, and raised my price all of $50. It's funny the things that you stress over sometimes!

2. "Free is not a business plan."

Also some advice recently found on the designers list, this one I do recall was shared by Maria Peagler. I think most quilters and quilt designers are nice people in general, and we just want to please our customers. I would like to think I am no exception, and I will admit that I have a hard time saying no to requests for pattern or book donations when I receive such things. But I am getting better about being pickier about who I give them to, because, well, free is not a business plan. (And if you see my lead in paragraphs, it's pretty much the only business plan I have right now.) I also no longer feel guilty when I insist on upfront payment for first time wholesale orders or any retail orders. With this bit of advice I know better than to give away the farm, and can see EPQD sales for what they are - commercial, just like Amazon or Overstock.com. And THEY don't send you products unless you pay first, right?

3. "Beth, they don't know. Just bull$%^ them."

Perhaps my favorite advice of all time, although the one I use the least, is this tidbit from my friend and the owner of Bunkhouse Quilt Shop, Wanda Makela. I was getting ready to make my Perfection is Overrated trunk show live several years ago and I was justifiably nervous that people would not take me seriously as a lecturer because I was not an expert in all areas of quilting. Not only did Wanda make me guffaw when she came out with this, she was right. No one is an expert in any area, and I can only talk to what I believe and know about quilting. If they ask something I don't know, there is always an option to make something up. Although I have to admit I don't believe I have ever actually made anything up, I remember this advice every time I stand in front of an audience, just in case. :)

I would love to know if you have any sage advice from others you keep in your back pocket for use either in quilting or your quilting career. The best way to learn is from those who have been there, after all!

2 comments:

Jeanne Lex said...

Hey, Beth ~
Jo Morton gave me some very sage advice re: freebies...
"Free doesn't pay my bills."
I say,
"Free doesn't put gas in my tank."
And, Beth, thanks for your wise words...

Beth Helfter said...

Glad you enjoyed it. It really goes for any business, really, and I am a bit embarrassed that I singled out the quilt ones, but hey, you write what you know.

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