It’s no secret that wholesale has my heart. While there is a LOT of work involved, one of the many reasons I love wholesale is that it has the ability to substantially grow your business!
That said, how do you go from dreaming of big sales to seeing your product on the shelves of your favorite store when a Google search is enough to make your head spin?! Well, m’dear, it’s time to get excited because I’m giving you a step by step guide to setting your wholesale biz up for success!
Step 1: Start with Market Research
It’s SO exciting when people love what you make and will give you money for it! When thinking about going the wholesale route, you’ll want to test the waters to see how total strangers feel about your product. If you have an online store or Etsy shop, you probably already have a good idea about how people feel about your products (you may have even received a few wholesale requests already!). Also consider what kind of problem your product solves. Does it bring a little joy to someone’s day in the form of a card, or a little beauty to their wall in the form of artwork? The problem doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, your product just has to meet a need. You’ll probably also notice that there are many other small businesses in your niche, but don’t let that keep you from throwing your hat in the ring!
Step 2: Get your Pricing in Check
Ahh, pricing. It’s one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of this kind of business. It can take hours out of your day and, even once you’ve set your prices, you are almost always second guessing yourself (Am I charging too much? Not enough? How is Sally charging half of what I am for the same product?!).
When it comes to pricing there are three things that I want you to keep in mind:
- YOU (not a friend, not a social media thread, and not the competition) should decide on the retail price that works best for your business.
- Your wholesale price will typically be half of your retail price
- Doing the legwork NOW will save you a lot of headaches in the future.
Start by doing a little comparison shopping to learn what similar products are selling for in the marketplace. I’m willing to bet that you’ll find a pretty broad range of prices! These prices are a great way to help you learn what the market is looking for and willing to pay.
To calculate your wholesale price quickly, look at the retails listed in your Etsy and online shops and cut them in half. Industry standards dictate that if you sell a print for $12 retail, a buyer would expect to purchase it from you for $6. If you don’t have an online shop yet that’s totally ok! Pick a retail you like for your product and work backwards—you can always make adjustments as you crunch the numbers.
Step 3: Decide What You Want to Offer Wholesale.
Now that you’ve researched your target market and worked out your pricing, take a hard look at the styles you want to include in your wholesale assortment. You may realize that some of the styles you originally planned to include no longer work with your pricing and/or market strategy. Once you decide what stays or might go, you can dedicate your design efforts to developing more prints and patterns for the styles you want for wholesale.
Step 4: Create a Line Sheet or Catalog
One of the greatest selling tools you have at your disposal is your line sheet/catalog. They visually tell your story and highlight your product assortment, making it easy to see the full scope of what you offer and your sweet design skills! While we can do so much digitally these days, there are still some buyers who prefer a hard copy. They can circle what they like, make notes and have something on hand to reference. Don't feel you have to spend a lot of money to create one, a simple PDF is a great starting point.
So, what do you include? Here are a few of my musts:
- Clear images of your products – shot on a clean, white background
- Style numbers and a brief description – a notecard can easily look like a print!
- Any specific or special details – sold in packs of 6, metallic foil, reversible, etc.
- Your company information – a logo in the header, contact information in the footer.
It’s also important to include your pricing. While you can add it directly to your line sheet, I suggest creating a supplemental list with pricing and packing details.
Step 5: Decide Who You Want to Target
Holy options, Batman! There are SO many retailers out there that it’s important to start by focusing on the stores that complement your product assortment. I like to say, “Every store with a door is not the answer!” Maybe you decide to focus on stores within a 100-mile radius of your studio so you can visit them personally, or perhaps independent stationery shops are your jam. Keep a running list of all the stores you encounter and want to target, then break them down into different categories to help keep you focused and minimize overwhelm.
Step 6: Develop Your Pitching Style and Sales Strategy
Raise your hand if selling kind of freaks you out! For many creatives, this part of the process is the most gut wrenching because it becomes so personal. When a buyer passes on your product or makes a comment about the design it can really sting because you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating it. When a buyer says no, try not to take it personally. It may not be the right time, might not work with their budget or it’s too similar to something they already carry. Even if you leave without an order, the buyer will remember the experience of working with you. Find ways to keep in touch and stay on their radar. You never know, something may change and when it does you want to be the first person they think of!
I also think that selling can feel scary because salespeople, in general, get a bad rap. Being successful in sales doesn't mean you have to be pushy, sleazy or underhanded. Make the sales process easier by developing a strategy for how you want to approach and sell to new accounts. Sell in the way that’s most comfortable for you (pro tip: it shouldn't feel salesy!) and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through! When the nerves kick in, try reminding yourself that it’s just like having a conversation with a friend.
Step 7: Develop Your Follow-Up Strategy
You know that feeling after a first date when you’re SO excited, but that voice in your head whispers, “You’ve got to play it cool!”? Following up with a buyer can bring back a similar feeling. You want to find that magic balance between not being too pushy but still keeping in touch. If you’ve promised them some additional info, by all means, send it through ASAP. If they need some time to review and get back to you, decide how long you want to wait before touching base.
Pro tip: Try not to follow up with buyers on a Monday. They are busy reviewing last week's sales prepping for the new week, so they may not have time to speak with you. Unless it’s absolutely urgent, waiting a day can set you up to get better results.
Step 8: Tweak and Repeat
Regardless of the outcome with your buyer, you should be proud that you’ve taken a HUGE step in growing your wholesale business. Use this opportunity to identify what worked well for you, where you still may be a little uncomfortable, and anything you’d like to do differently next time. You may decide that selling is something you’d prefer to outsource or that you need to add a VA to your team. Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for growth, you or a member of your team can hit the ground running and grow your wholesale account list!