My Adventure in Mail-Order-Land
I used to own my own business, KLW Enterprises. I designed and sold buttons and bumper stickers to the pagan and new age markets. It was an experiment in running a small business, and was successful in that it confirmed some theories I had and disproved others (even though as a business venture it was a flop).
Some things I learned the hard way:
I had fun running KLW Enterprises, and I'm glad I did, but I think I'll wait for something more lucrative and/or more satisfying before I jump into my own business again. Perhaps I could have made it a relative success if I had been willing to devote more time and energy to it, but it would have quite a high bar to jump over to beat software QA on an hour-by-hour basis.
- My time is worth money. If I'm going to sell goods, I want to make sure that I'm paid for the time it takes to make them, to process and fill each order, and to run the business (buying supplies, going to the shipping service, looking for and talking to advertisers, filling out tax forms, etc.)
- Volume orders can make all the difference. The expenses above swamp the cost of the materials if each order is for only one or two items. If an order is for 100 identical items, the time spent per item is much less.
- Advertising gets expensive fast. I was much too optimistic about its effectiveness. Start with the circulation of the publication, estimate the percentage of people who will read the ad, the percentage of those who will want to order, and the percentage of those who will actually get around to it.