One of the coolest things that happened since we moved to Vermont is that I’ve been able to sell my notebooks at Healthy Living Market, a natural foods store in South Burlington. It took some work to get from idea to product to store presence, but the satisfaction with the end result (seeing my notebooks on sale in a real live store! with their own bar code!) was super cool.
Since I started writing about my blog income in November and December, I’ve done a lot of thinking about working from home, having my own business, and sharing blog monetization with others. I think a lot of people want to make money through blogging and their own businesses, but don’t always know where to begin.
You can sell all kinds of things locally – a food or craft that you make (just make sure to follow your town’s regulations for making food at home to sell to the public), or a service like dog walking or personal training. Think about what you’re good at, and what you love. Usually some combination of the two makes for a perfect fit.
I thought I’d share the steps I took in this process, to help you get your products, or expertise, out there. (And I am definitely not an expert at this stuff – I just wanted to share my ideas.)
I started locally.
Since I started making my vegetable notebooks, I learned quickly that with not a high amount of traffic on my blog, it can be hard to get the word out that they even exist (and I haven’t sold them many online anyway).
After moving to Vermont and loving how big the local food movement is here, I figured I ought to try selling my notebooks around here. Even though the economy isn’t great, people do like to buy cute things, and they like to buy gifts. And lots of Vermonters support local artisans and local food.
I made the decision to try to sell, and did a bunch of research on places I thought would consider selling my notebooks. My list consisted of natural food stores and green living stores, all in our region.
I sent a bunch of emails.
My next step was to send a whole lot of emails. I found a contact email address for each of the shops on my list, and drafted an email that looked something like this:
Hi [Owner’s Name / Manager’s Name / Store’s Name]
I recently moved to [Town or City], and am a regular shopper at your store. I sell homemade recycled paper notebooks inspired by local and organic food. I think this unique, local item would be a great addition to [Store's Name], and I would love to find out your retailer guidelines.
You can also find my notebooks at [list online or store retailers if selling a product; list a reference if selling a service].
Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Your Name / phone # / email / blog address
My key point was to figure out why their shoppers would buy my notebooks and hit that point in my initial email – in this case, it was local local local. I also included links to where they could easily see images of my work, and made sure to write my phone number, email address, and blog address at the end of the email so they could easily get in touch.
I had no idea if anyone would contact me back, but when I got a response from Healthy Living Market, I wrote back right away, and I was asked for a wholesale order form. Oh right. I’d need to make one of those.
I created and emailed a wholesale form.
I looked online for a few ideas of what to include in a wholesale order form, and created my own form as a Word document including a table as the actual order part, and then turned the whole document into a PDF. The form was relatively easy to make, and it’s easily customizable for any potential future orders.
Once I had the prices determined, I emailed the blank form to Healthy Living, who sent it back to me filled in with their quantities. I added those up, and created an invoice form, which included the amount they owed me, plus a shipping cost.
I hand-delivered the notebooks.
I could have just sent the notebooks in the mail. But at the time I was living relatively close by to the store, and wanted to meet some of the staff in person. So I packaged up my product, printed a copy of the invoice, and set up a time to drop them off.
And that was that. My check arrived in the mail a few weeks later, and I was good to go.
I’m hoping to do the same thing with some local shops in the Mad River Valley or near Montpelier, and I may even send some emails to shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I figure once the initial legwork is done, it doesn’t take too long to do some research and send out additional emails.
In the coming months Josh is planning to start his own coffee company (he is a big coffee drinker, especially after I got him a French press for his birthday), so we’ll be sure to use these steps to market and sell his product. We have a few other ideas up our sleeves.
More steps to financial independence, here we come.