Business Q&A from Instagram!
I decided to ask my followers over on Instagram to submit any business questions they had for me to answer in this little blog post! I’ll be updating it as I answer them and will be finished once this sentence is deleted! :)
Q1. How many designs did it take to get your first sale?
A. I opened my shop with two stickers in august of 2020 and I did make sales that first month! Here’s what the shop approximately looked like that very first month:
And here were my sales for that first month!:
GIVEN- all three were from my irl friends! A majority if not nearly all of my first orders were from friends or mutuals even through a lot of September! :)
Q2. What was the first thing you learned was vital in starting your small business?
A. There were two things I learned really fast that can get you in a big financial hole and that’s taxes and shipping. I’ll touch on taxes in the question below, but obviously if you aren’t sure what you’re doing you can easily end up owing thousands of dollars 😭 for shipping, honestly same thing!
I ran an enamel pin Kickstarter before I’d really shipped any before and thought I could mail them via lettermail in a normal envelope (you can’t) so I only charged 1$ for shipping when I SHOULD have charged 4-5$. I ended up having to cover like 2,000$ of shipping out of my profit for the project leaving me with not much left 😔 Definitely ship new item types in small batches before committing to large quantities of orders, like a Kickstarter or preorders!
Q3. I’m most worried about the taxes! It’s the one thing stopping me currently
A. Taxes can definitely be scary and confusing but don’t let it stop you!! If I can do it I truly believe anyone can LOL. To preface, I am NOT a tax expert/legally this is not advice and consult one instead BUT I can maybe shed some light on some basics!
Obviously you have to pay taxes on any income you make! I deal with my income taxes through Quickbooks self employed. There is a certain threshold before you have to pay your federal income taxes quarterly, but it’s a good habit to get into so I recommend doing it from the start! I pay mine through QuickBooks as well :)
The biggest type of tax is the federal income tax which is by income brackets, then state income tax which has set percents. You also may need to pay County/town tax depending on where you live. THIS website is a good way to get an approximation for the percent of your income you should be putting aside: https://www.keepertax.com/self-employment-tax-rate-calculator
Mine is about 27% :) obviously you can deduct business expenses to lower your taxable income! Deducting things willy nilly is a good way to get audited so make sure you’re not writing off just anything.
Another caveat is that you can only write off products you buy AFTER they’ve sold. So if I buy 100 stickers for 100$ tomorrow, I can’t write off that 100$ automatically- I have to wait to sell them. So if I sell 3 before the year ends and I do my taxes, they cost me 1$ each, so I write off 3$. COGS or cost of goods sold is how you calculate this and I recommend doing some in depth research on it!
Sales tax is something your customers pay and you’re just a middle man between them and their state government, remitting it to the state either monthly, quarterly, or yearly depending on the state. Most cases you’ll need to do this automatically for the state you live in (but not always!) The word for that sales tax obligation is having a Nexus. For the states you DONT live in, there are thresholds you pass before you have to charge and remit taxes tax! It varies on state- some is 200 orders or more, a certain income from that state (100k for example), some are both, etc! Shopify tracks my obligations for me :) if you use Etsy, Patreon, or Big Cartel they remit sales tax for you so you don’t need to. Shopify or another independent platform and you likely need to!
That’s the gist of it! As long as you have a good idea of your total income tax % (put aside 30% if you want to be safe) and set that aside, then there isn’t TOO much that can go wrong. It isn’t as bad as it sounds! :)
Q4. When’s your next restock/how often do you restock?
I don’t have set dates or anything! I try to restock things based on demand and also if I can afford it. I usually try to order the most pressing restocks with new products each month, so like when I buy new stickers this month I’ll try to restock a few older designs :) The more expensive the product is for me to produce the longer it’ll take for a restock because I have to save the funds! (Enamel pins, journals, etc.)
Q5. How does one even start a small business? Do you need a degree for it???
A. Pretty much as soon as you make income from something, you could consider it a small business! You don’t have to immediately register it legally or anything (to my knowledge but take that with a grain of salt)- you’re a sole proprietorship by default whether you register or not :)
But you definitely do NOT need a degree whatsoever! I have a BFA in animation and did not take a single business class lol! If you post your products and people buy them that’s all there is to it, no experience required! Given, it definitely could HELP, just depending on you and your skill set :) but online classes (like skillshare, etc) can help you improve/learn marketing and all that without such a high cost of a full degree.
Q6. What file size do you normally draw on for your stickers?
A. The only real rule of thumb is to make sure the canvas you’re drawing on is bigger than the print size! I normally work at around 4000x4000 pixels for stickers and square prints :)
Q7. Do you recommend starting through Etsy or is it too much of a hassle with the fees?
A. While the fees and Etsys general .. way of running things isn’t ideal, the fees are easy to deal with by just raising your prices on there to match them! If you’re starting without an audience, the one it will give you via their marketplace is definitely worth it. I personally didn’t start on it, but now I upload things on there to tap into its user base! :)
Q8. How do you calculate the cost of shipping for items?
A. I’ve pretty much just figured it out through trial and error and slowly making my offerings more complex over time! I buy my shipping labels through Shopify and after you input the size and weight it tells you the price.
A majority of what I mail is under 3oz, so I know it’ll cost 3.15-4.50$ or so depending on where in the US it gets mailed (or 12-20$ for international). I charge a flat rate of 4.50$ for domestic which covers a majority of them to varying degrees! For any packages over 3oz, they’re normally 4.50-8.00$ for domestic depending on how much more it is and for those or just anything that comes up, I just cover the difference myself. :)
Q9. Do you have any tips on how to find good local art markets?
A. So I don’t have a TON of local market experience, but following local city/local business Facebook pages and instagrams can be a good way to discover events! Also just searching (state) festivals/events can bring up a lot too!
Another method is by looking through the Eventeny listings here: https://www.eventeny.com/events/ while definitely not every event goes through them, a lot do and it’s a good way to find some! You can sort by state and month :)
Eventbrite has some listings as well here: https://www.eventbrite.com/d/united-states/festivals/pop-up/
And for conventions, I recommend this website! https://fancons.com/events/
Q10. What do you use to print labels for packages?
A. I use a Munbyn thermal printer and 6x4 labels from Amazon! This is an affiliate link for the labels so if you buy them it helps support me at no extra cost! :3 : https://amzn.to/3rRmCt3 but there are other thermal printer brands as well, and also lots of different thermal sticker types, like circle ones for logos, etc! Thermal printers are the best because they don’t take ink 😋
Q11. How do you make your products/what suppliers do you use?
I've always shared most of my manus right in the shop FAQ! To preface, there are a lot of reasons an artist may not share their manu, and I don't share all of mine! They are proprietary business secrets due to the amount of time and money it can take to find a good manu. On top of a decrease in quality when more people use them, as well as not wanting to feel responsible for someone's possible bad experience- so please respect that! That being SAID, here's what I'll share!
- Stickers: Stickerapp and Stickerninja
- Sticker Sheets: Stickerninja
- Patches: Stadri Emblems
- Prints: Cat Print
- Notepads: Juke Box Print
- Sticky Notes: Vistaprint
- Charms/buttons/a lot of other stuff: Vograce (hit or miss)
- Enamel Pins: Stadri Emblems (middle man- hit or miss)
- Business Cards: Vistaprint
Q12. How do you keep track of your profit/inventory?
A. So when I add a new product on Shopify it tells me what my profit % is for that product, so I use a combo of that + the reports as far as making sure my margins are good. For inventory, I use a Paper + Spark inventory spreadsheet that you can find here!: https://paperandspark.com/product/resellerinventoryspreadsheet/
Q13. Tips on like advertising/markets your small biz? It feels like it's getting harder lately :'(
A. I SO know what you mean </3 Especially with Twitter destroying itself. Marketing/advertising is honestly one of the things that I struggle with the most!
At this point I'm utilizing Instagram and Tiktok the most, and also touching on Tumblr, Twitter, and Threads for big stuff. Video content as of writing this is practically the BEST way to market yourself- whether that's Insta reels, Tiktok videos, or even on Youtube! Studio vlogs, order packings, process of creating new products, etc. are all good in those areas, but it's the coming up with ideas outside of that that I definitely struggle with.
I'd recommend following as many artists/small businesses as you can to just soak in the ways that they do it! Other than video content, sometimes it's just taking the time to make sure every product gets highlighted individually over time! There have been a lot of times where I've found a product from someone and I KNOW my followers would love it, but I look on like their Instagram and it's never been posted lol!
But that's all I really have atm! It's def something I'm trying to get better at myself