A Behind the Seams look
I am a why person.
And if you know a why person or are a why person, then you might enjoy this new group of posts that I plan on creating for 2021! I’ve noticed that I really like seeing behind the scenes of my favorite brands and creators, so I thought it would be fun to give you a Rachel Rossi Behind the Seams experience in 2021. Every few weeks you can expect a closer look at the nuts and bolts of how a quilt pattern designer runs a business.
As Rachel Rossi Designs enters into its 6th year of business, I feel like I’ve learned a thing or two as a business owner and might have some light to shed on those just entering the quilting industry. I’d love it if more experienced designers came along and gave their advice as well! So feel free to comment!
To kick 2021 off on the right foot, you’ve got to end 2020 on the right foot. That means a whole bunch of tax-related nonsense, and we’ll get there in a few weeks…for now, let’s have a little fun and make some plans for 2021!
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The Perfect Planner
Before we can make plans, I’ve got to have the perfect planner. It took me a few years to nail down a good system, but I’ve found that the Quilter’s Planner is just what I needed! This customizable planner is big enough to hold my thoughts (and scibbles) and keeps me organized all year long.
Side note: I use the Quilter’s Planner in combination with my 5 year planner, which holds all speaking engagements and trade show info!
Now, before you start marking up your shiny new planner in permanent marker, I suggest creating a spreadsheet for the year: map everything out on there (where it’s easy to change, drag, copy, paste, and all that jazz). Once you have it all figured out then it’s safe to put it in pen (or colorful markers!)
I’ve also found that when I create a spreadsheet, I can easily get an overview of how many big projects I have going at a certain time (especially helpful for figuring out pattern testing rounds), sales, and pattern releases. I think the initial spreadsheet, although not glamorous, is the key to a successful year!
What to Plan Around
Planning your business year is kind of like a game of chess. There’s a thousand good moves, but what is the best move at the best time?
When it comes to planning in the quilt industry, there are a thousand different things to keep in your view. Big ones that come to mind are:
If you work with distributors (or want to) you’ve got to be prepared for Quilt Market long before it ever comes around. I plan my pattern and product releases around Quilt Market dates for the year.
Most distributors want all of your new product info and samples in a month before market takes place, this means (for me anyway) that I need to have my ducks in a row about two months before quilt market so that I’m sure to get my newest products a good chance at showing up at Market (or at least being on the website for researching store owners).
Quilt Market contracts generally come out about 2–3 months before the actual market. When I see that contract in my inbox I fill it out as fast as humanly possible and then I make sure to get hustling on any patterns or products that I plan to release before the big event.
- Dates to Remember:
- Spring (Virtual) Market: January 26–28
- Fall Market (Houston): October 23–25
The trade shows that you plan around will vary widely based on your location, niche, style, and a thousand other factors. I keep a close eye on local quilt shows: if I’m not attending as a vendor, I try to at least get in to check it out and say hi to vendor friends! A few important larger shows to keep on your radar are:
- MAQF & AQS QuiltWeek
- MQX Quit Festival
- Quilt Market & Festival
- Sisters Quilt Show
I like to keep shows in mind that I’m not even attending because these are great times to interact with your audience that is either at the show and enjoying it or with those that are not. Special sales and events are great for those that are unable to attend certain shows…just look at the success of #missingmarket!
Are you cross promoting with another business? A great example of this is when I cross promoted my Tiny Dancer quilt pattern with Jennifer Sampou’s Spring Shimmer collection. The pattern was released a week before her fabric release and I promoted the pattern and gained her audience just because of how I timed it!
Seasons & Holidays
The change of seasons presents a million opportunities! Whether it’s a seasonal sale, a new pattern release, or what have you, the seasons present a good time to shift, release, and promote different items.
I’ve definitely not given enough attention to the change of seasons and upcoming holidays. What you really need is a plan of attack on how to utilize these times in the best way possible. For example, this year I released my Trellis Twist pattern and put it, along with the Shorthand Template, on sale right before Black Friday. What a massive oversight! I know now not to release a pattern during November! Holidays can work for or against you, so make sure to plan accordingly:
- Holidays to keep in mind:
- Valentines Day | Feb. 14
- Daylight Savings | March 14 & Nov. 7
- St. Patricks Day | March 17
- Easter | April 4
- Earth Day | April 22
- Cinco De Mayo | May 5
- Halloween | October 31
- Thanksgiving | November 25
- Christmas | December 25
Why Seasons and Holidays Are Complicated
It seems pretty straightforward: have a Black Friday sale on Black Friday. But oh my friend, it’s NOT! Quilting is a process. So, if you have a Christmas quilt pattern to release, don’t think it’s going to do very well for you in December…you want to look towards releasing that puppy in July.
This is why planning is important.
If you’re looking to get into fabric design, remember that those collections take more than a year to get into production.
If you’re looking to cross-promote your patterns with seasonal fabric, try to be at least 6 months ahead in getting in touch with your art director. I plan on diving deeper into this on a future post, so stay tuned!
Giving Tuesday isn’t the only day you can give back as a business owner. Find a way this year to get involved in your community, be it planting a tree on Arbor Day, a charitable donation or partnership with your favorite charity…get creative and work it into your schedule. These are the sorts of things that often get lost in the shuffle of a busy one-woman show.
Cue the eye roll.
I really despise taxes. I don’t know why I have to pay quarterly…surely the government understands that I have way too many things going on to pay them my few hundred bucks every 3 months. Why not a big lump sum, I have no idea…but I digress!
GET THOSE TAX DUE DATES ON YOUR SCHEDULE!
I put due dates and 1 week reminders in my planner and still procrastinate myself into late fees. Lucky for me, TaxJar has really helped me out in this area over the past year or so (more coming on this soon!)
- Dates to Remember:
- Quarter 4 (2020) Due: January 20
- Quarter 1 Due: April 20
- Quarter 2 Due: July 20
- Quarter 3 Due: October 20
2021 DATES FOR PA QUARTERLY FILING. MAKE SURE YOU CHECK YOUR LOCAL AND STATE SCHEDULES FOR YOUR EXACT DUE DATES!
In addition to tax filing, you also need to schedule a day each month to pay off credit cards, balance accounts, and check that everything on the financial side of things is up to snuff.
I’ve learned that the more I do the more I get lost in the midst of it all. Before you go filling in all the blank spots in your calendar take a BIG pause RIGHT NOW to mark out some time for yourself and your family. I thoroughly suggest a weekend for yourself, a weekend for your spouse, and if you have kids at least a week long vacation. It sounds like a lot, but we’ve found that making these “Sabbaths” a priority have changed everything for us.
What to Plan
Now that we’ve gotten everyone else’s schedules out of the way, let’s plan our business baby!
There is nothing more fun than releasing a new product, so to plan it out and not just jump in head first is a real struggle for me. I’ll go into more depth on this at another time, but here are a few things to keep in mind when planning product releases.
It doesn’t matter how many patterns you release in a year. I try to stick right around 4 quilt patterns and then a few freebies or low-cost patterns here and there. I plan what I hope to release the year before and then space them out throughout the year so that I don’t burn out or lose momentum.
It’s hard as a creator to space out your creative breaks. But I suggest putting a leash on your excitement and spacing out releases between the months of January–October. November and December are great months for sales, but not so much for releases.
Sales often go hand-in-hand with product releases and seasonal events for me (see seasons and holidays above). I find that the less I plan, the worse I do in the sales department. So, I thoroughly suggest having a thoughtful plan on what and when your sales will be. Giving enough space between sales is also an important part of not over-scheduling!
Do you have a blog? If so, you should have most of your posts planned out for the next 6 months.
I am notoriously awful at this.
Because I move on to bigger and better ideas.
So, my routine is to write out my blog post topics (in pencil) for each week for the first 6 months. This makes it way easier to plan series, product releases (and related content), etc. Committing to 6 months at a time gives me enough flexibility to flow with my creative spark when it hits me later in the year, but provides enough structure to keep things organized.
The other beauty of blog post planning is scheduling! I can get into some really bloggy moods (or be sitting in a waiting room for an hour) and get a whole lot of content written out ahead of time. It’s great to have your posts scheduled ahead of time so that you can jump right in instead of getting stuck on the planning part of things.
Newsletters are my bread and butter. Everyone in the world is trying to convince me that Facebook and Instagram are going to rock my world, but for the amount of effort I’ve put into both platforms so far, nothing translates to sales for me like newsletters. These need to be consistent and you need to make space for them in your planner every week (or every two weeks, every month…whatever it is, just be consistent!).
What Am I Missing?
I hope this gives you an your business a helpful jump-start to 2021. These are just a few of the things I take into consideration when planning out my year. What do you like to sketch out ahead of time? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!