When I Started My Business, I Didn't Have Production Partners
If you're anything like me, and you're building (or have built) your business from scratch in the spare room of your apartment, chances are, you most likely aren't going to have production partners at first.
When I first started Freckled Fuchsia, I block-printed many of my first art prints, greeting cards and tea towels myself, which was so much fun and an amazing way to physically experiment with new patterns and not spend a ton of money stocking inventory. Producing all of my own products allowed me to test what was being well-received, and what was not. This was a lean way to see what to continue to produce more of without spending much money upfront.
However, as online sales started to increase, and I decided to take on more wholesale accounts, block printing many of my products quickly became exhausting, repetitive and unenjoyable to a certain extent. Production labor became the thing I spent most of my time on, and it didn’t leave me much time or energy for much else. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to sustainably scale my business in the ways that I was hoping to if I didn't begin to make some changes. And with that, I started looking into how I could hand off much of the labor-intensive tasks to a collective of production partners that I could trust, while maintaining quality, and hitting deadlines.
What’s a Production Partner?
You might be wondering what a “production partner” is. In short, a production partner is a company, or individual, that helps you to physically produce your products based on your own, original designs.
How to Build Trust
The internet is a large, and vast place with so many options and it can be hard to know who to trust if you don't have peer recommendations. From experience, I understand that handing off your work for someone else to produce can be scary, especially if you don’t know them well, or haven’t worked with them before. To begin building this trust before you spend a dime, I recommend:
- Give them a call. Briefly describe your needs, and ask about next steps and the best way to get in touch. This ensures that you make the connection right away, instead of shooting off an email into a black hole.
- Be super specific with what you want, the deadlines you’re trying to hit and don’t assume that anything is common knowledge. It's better to be over-specific at first.
- Ask questions! If anything seems even the slightest bit murky, don't hesitate to ask for clarification before something goes into production so that you can prevent any costly mistakes. And if you feel like you’re being annoying with all the questions, you’re not. Trust me.
- Always, ALWAYS ask for a sample. And even if you can’t get a sample of your product specifically, often times your production partner can send you a “sample pack” of past work they've done so that you can get an idea of quality, texture, size, etc.
- Double, triple (maybe even quadruple) check the proofs you receive from your vendor, before approving production. It would be a huge bummer if 500 of something comes back to you with a weird spelling error. Oops! it happens, and it's frustrating, but it can avoided.
Why We Outsource Our ProductionBecause we’re so small, we don’t have the space, time, or funds to physically produce our products, design collateral and packaging in-house. It’s more cost-effective and time-efficient to work with folks who have the right tools for the job, and who are the experts in these areas. In return, this gives us more time to focus on illustrating new designs, marketing our products and the many (many) other tasks that already come with running a business.
Our Production PartnersWe value working with other small businesses that are aligned with our vision, and who take into account the importance of sustainably sourced materials. Below is a handful of the folks we work with to print our tea towels, art prints, greeting cards, belly bands and more.
Textile Screen Printing
Tea Towel Packaging
3 Signs It's Time to Start Outsourcing Work
If you feel like you've been hitting production capacity, working several late nights or working through the weekend, it might be time to consider outsourcing a task, two if:
You have a tedious and/or repetitive task that requires too much of your time and mental energy, and you find yourself day-dreaming about someone else doing it
Production labor is taking up the majority of your time, and physical energy
You're looking to wholesale your products, but making them yourself is too time-consuming or expensive
Why Outsourcing Might Save Your Business, and Your Sanity
Okay, I'll keep this brief because I could probably write a novel on how and why outsourcing and delegation have saved my butt time and time again, and this could most likely be a whole other blog post, but here are three things to consider if you're teetering on the edge of whether or not you should start to outsource some work:
- You WILL drive yourself nuts trying to maintain control of every aspect of your business as you grow. Give yourself permission to loosen your vice grip on your business, and let others help. You are one person, and you can't (and shouldn't) do it all
- If you want to prevent burn-out, I highly recommend starting to delegate tasks, and start with the tasks that you dont' particularly enjoy. You will thank youself once some of this weight is off your shoulders.
- Time IS money. The less time you spend on tedious labor, the more time you can spend on devising a plan to grow your business, and explore other avenues of marketing, content creation, or maybe even just rest (which is essential to productivity)
Thanks for reading! Let me know if this was helpful in the comments.