What To Do if Your Small Business is Under Attack on Social Media

If you are a small handmade business owner you probably have multiple social media accounts and ways for people to contact you to inquire about your products and request custom orders. Unfortunately all these ways of being contacted can open you up to receiving nasty social media attacks. Fortunately this rarely happens but when it does it’s a shock and you may not have all your wits about you so here is a post to refer to if this ever happens to you.

I am a member of several small business Facebook groups and see posts from time-to-time of other small business owners asking for help with how to handle their business being under attack on social media. This blog post covers a few do’s and don’ts when this happens.

If you follow my blog you probably saw Monday’s post where I describe some unpleasant things that happened to me last week when I was falsely accused of copying someone’s quilt pattern. This post is kind of a “Part 2” to that post.

I received a message on Instagram early in the morning on May 9th accusing me of copying the message writer’s pattern. Shortly after that I received an email from a woman named Sara (not the original poster) who accused me again, called me a vulgar name and said she “wished me every unhappiness in life.” Then I had this same Sara request to join my Facebook Group (which I declined). Then another person requested to join my Facebook group (again I declined). The second person then signed up for my newsletter (I went into Mailchimp and unsubscribed her.) This was all in a matter of minutes. Three more messages came in on Instagram posts from Sara and a third woman! None of these people were the original person who was accusing me of copying her pattern.

As you can imagine this was quite alarming and upsetting at first. It is important get the situation under control as much as you can as soon as possible.

Here are my tips for small businesses under attack on social media:

Tip 1 Stay Calm:

Stay calm, keep your head and do not respond to any messages. It is very tempting to tell these people exactly what you think of them but don’t do it. They can screenshot anything to write to them and post it all over the place online.

Tip 2 email:

For email: mark messages as spam and do not reply (unless it’s a death threat… see below)

Tip 3 Instagram:

For Instagram posts: Take a screenshot of their username so you can remember it. Delete their comments. Then block their account. This is important because for one of my posts I blocked a comment writer before I deleted their post and then I couldn’t see their comment to delete it but others can still see it. So I had to turn off comments on that Instagram photo all together. So remember: Delete comments first, then block the person.

If people send you private Instagram messages it’s even easier. Just decline their message and block their account right from Instagram messages.

Tip 4 Facebook:

For Facebook Posts: As above… delete comments first then ban the person from your page if you wish. To do this you must be in your Facebook pages app. Click their profile picture and an option will come up to ban from page. You can also ban from page through Facebook messenger on your page if they send you a private message.

Remember: These are your social media accounts and you control what gets posted on them. It is not your job to present an unbiased post that takes the other side into consideration. You are defending yourself under attack and now is not the time to give patient consideration to the other side of the story! Your social media accounts are for your own self promotion. Use them that way.

The only comments that I left on my social media accounts that favored the other side were comments I replied to in my own defence and I wrote my replies for future people reading them rather than to the comment writer in particular. Much in the same way that you write a response to a bad review on Etsy… you are writing to future customers more so than the customer who left the bad review.

Tip 5 Manage Follow Requests:

If you get any other odd followers, subscribers or group join requests that seem suspicious do not hesitate to decline and/or block.

Tip 6 Find the Source:

Once you have dealt with the immediate influx of hate messages get searching and find the original source as quickly as you can. Within minutes I found the Facebook business page of the woman accusing me of copying and there was a post there in which she named my business. There was a stream of hateful comments on that post and who was writing them? All the people who had sent me nasty messages! Start reporting anything that names your business or encourages other people to attack you online to Facebook for harassment right away. Even if Facebook deems it to not be harassment they will hide the posts while they look into it and that took them three days. By the time they ruled against me the whole thing had blown over (and some they did take down). I notice that after I published Monday’s post this post I am writing about here disappeared from her Facebook page.

Tip 7 Blog:

For your own blog I suggest having comment moderation turned on. If nasty or unwanted comments come through mark them as spam and/or delete. With moderating comments there is no chance a comment can be published and seen by others before you get a chance to approve it. Again, this is your blog and you decide what gets published on it. In my case, I own my blog domain and pay to have it so I definitely do not allow comments against me.

Tip 8: People who adopt a mob mentality have short attention spans.

After 12 hours things had settled down so keep this in mind: The people who insert themselves into other people’s “scandals” and jump on the mob attack mindset are also people with short attention spans who get bored very easily. They will get bored of this scandal and will be moving onto the next witch hunt that comes along very quickly so take comfort in that.

A few more things that can happen but did not happen to me:

Tip 9 Death Threats:

If you get death threats: take screenshots of everything. Do not delete emails or messages in this case. Report everything to the police. This is not something to be taken lightly and charges should be laid.

Tip 10 Facebook Reviews:

If you have Facebook reviews turned on and people start leaving fake reviews. Report all fake reviews to Facebook, request they be deleted and turn your reviews off to quell the damage.

Tip 11 Etsy Convos:

If people are sending you harassing messages through Etsy: tell them not to contact you again and report to Etsy. In many cases Etsy will close down their account.

I hope this post helps you if this unfortunate situation ever befalls you. If you are reading this and are under attack I’m sorry this is happening to you and I hope it’s over soon.

What To Do If You Think Someone May Have Copied Your Quilt Pattern

I was recently falsely accused of stealing someone’s quilt pattern and using it as my own. This person handled the situation so badly that I was actually embarrassed for her as a business woman. I thought maybe she could use some advice and perhaps there are others out there who would possibly make the same bad decisions. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. For legal advice please consult a lawyer.

Here are three simple business tips on the topic.

Tip 1:

Determine if they actually copied your pattern by downloading the pattern you think is possibly a copy. Either download their free pattern or purchase their pattern. If they have copied your pattern (images and instructions) then you have a copyright issue. Also look at their pattern image and your own. Are they actually the same? The pattern in question is my Pixelated Skull Quilt pattern which was a free download for my newsletter subscribers but I have now decided to make it free to anyone. (Another thing that could backfire on you if you falsely accuse someone… you may inadvertently cause more interest in the free pattern you wanted to quash!) In my case mine is quite obviously different from hers but she jumped to conclusions that mine was a copy without even taking a closer look.

If she had downloaded my pattern she would have been able to see that it was not a copy as I have never seen her pattern before and my written instructions would have been totally different from hers.

Tip 2:

If you have determined that the person actually did copy your pattern or is sharing your pattern file send them a private message in which you calmly and professionally state that you believe they have copied your pattern and as the copyright holder you request that they remove the pattern from all platforms and stop distributing it immediately.

Do not send a passive aggressive public comment on a social media post that says “Thanks for copying my pattern out since 2015. Not cool.” This will not get you anywhere and is very unprofessional and childish. In my case I simply deleted the post she commented on and created a new one which got way more traction than the original post did.

If the person does not comply then send a cease and desist letter yourself or hire a lawyer to do it. There are templates for this out on the internet. You can also send a take down notice to any platforms that are hosting the pattern. Again, templates for that can be found on the internet. Only do this if there was actually a copyright infringement. A design being “similar” or a “similar” idea is not a copyright infringement.

If they still do not comply then you have to ask yourself if it’s worth pursuing further. Are you actually losing enough money from this to make the expensive legal fees and hassle (and possibly bad press) worthwhile?

My design is free and I am not making money from it. Also, Pixelated skulls are a very common design. Google says there are over 2 million images when I do an image search.

In her case, she owns the copyright to her images and written words. She does not own the copyright to the idea of a Pixelated Skull quilt. Ideas and techniques cannot be copyrighted.

Tip 3:

Regardless of the outcome or whether you decide to pursue further legal action do not call the person out on social media or any public forum. This makes you look bad and is bad for your business.

This woman, let’s call her “she who must not be named,” put a public post on her Facebook business page and her personal Facebook page in which she named my business. She also encouraged her followers who said they were sending me hate emails and social media messages. You will notice that although it is tempting to publicly shame this person Daydreams of Quilts is taking the high road here and not stooping to her level.

Later that day I put out photos showing where my free quilt pattern inspiration came from and it was not even a quilt. It was a plastic perler bead craft. The nasty messages stopped pretty quickly after that! She has made herself, and her followers who publicly commented negatively, look very bad. They have all portrayed themselves as having low intelligence and being unable think critically and were quick to adopt a lynch mob mentality. This is not an image a small business owner wants to portray to current and potential customers.

I spend thousands of dollars in the sewing industry every year and often give shout outs to my suppliers on social media. She who must not be named has guaranteed that not of those thousands of dollars will ever be hitting her bank account.

8 Ideas to Consider When Pricing Handmade Quilts

Pricing handmade goods is not as simple as it might seem. There are a lot of things to consider. In this post I discuss:

8 ideas to consider when pricing handmade quilts

I sell both handmade and the supplies to make things handmade. Pricing supplies is certainly easier in some ways than pricing handmade but in this post I will be talking about pricing handmade quilts. This was a topic request that came in on my reader survey.

The general pricing formula for pricing handmade is:

(cost of supplies + time) x 2 = wholesale x 2 = retail

If you are selling jewelry, for example, and you are able to purchase or create the components for your pieces fairly inexpensively then this formula will probably work for you. You will even be able to offer a wholesale line sheet to wholesale customers and still turn a good profit.

In the case of quilts, and even bags, it is not so simple. Most of us pay retail prices for our supplies and it takes at least 20 hours to make most quilts from start to finish.

If supplies are $170 (a low estimate) and you spend about 20 hours and you are paying yourself $15/hr (also low in my opinion but that’s what I pay myself) you are looking at $470 just in time and supplies. You might be able to double that to $940 and still receive that price but doubling that again is probably well out of the realm of what most people will pay.

So what can you do?

Eight Ideas to Consider When Pricing Handmade quilts

One: Firstly, I think that wholesaling handmade quilts is pretty much out of the question. You might be able to wholesale baby quilts, table runners and smaller items like mini quilts and pillows but even that could be a stretch. If there is anyone out there who actually sells quilts wholesale to retailers at a profit (and who isn’t a factory in China) I’d be very interested to hear from you.

Two:  If you are selling handmade quilts while buying supplies at retail you are basically going to be able to charge for supplies with perhaps a small mark-up of maybe 15% and your time.

Three: If you plan to do this as your main income over a longer period of time it would be advisable to register your business, get a GST number and open wholesale accounts for purchasing your supplies. Or, wait for clearance sales on supplies. That way you can at least mark up your supplies to what you would have paid retail and make a profit there plus get paid for your time.

Four: In my experience (since 2011) you cannot make and sell quilts as your exclusive income. You need other income streams as well. Again, if anyone out there is making a full time living doing this I would be very interested to talk to you!

Five: Check what others are charging for their quilts on Etsy or other market places. Don’t undercut your pricing because that makes it hard for everyone to get a fair price and you will not be happy when you sell your quilt at that price. Price fairly, at a number you are willing to accept for your hard work.

Six: There are customers out there who do realize the value of a quality handmade quilt and they will pay a fair price. You need to provide excellent photos, great product descriptions and fantastic service in order to receive that price. You also need to be prepared to wait. My quilts always sell eventually but sometimes it can take a year or more.

A note about this: There are so many (annoying!) people who will tell you “I can get a blanket at Walmart for $50!” Understand that these people are not your customers. Try your best to ignore these comments and waste as little time as possible talking to them so you can be focused on people who ARE your customers.

Seven: Free shipping is also a good idea. When they’ve finally decided to spend a few hundred dollars on your beautiful quilt you don’t want to kill the deal by asking for another $20 or $30 for shipping at checkout. If they’re shopping on Etsy you might not even know you had a deal that you lost! Now that Etsy has abandoned cart coupons you may be able to tell how many people walked away from your shop at check-out by running that promotion on your shop but you may never know the reason why they left. So eliminate as much chance of this happening as you can by offering free shipping on higher priced items.

Eight: Keep the quilts simple so you can keep your prices low. Generally, if a quilt is super hard to make there is no way I would consider selling it anyway. Quilts under $400 sell much quicker than quilts closer to $1000. Just making back your supplies is not sustainable over the long term so keep it simple and be as efficient as possible with your time.

Edited to add: @cedarforksarah on Instagram sent me a message with another great idea! She says she uses this formula to price her quilts:

(length in inches x width in inches) x .10 cents

I tried this with my Canadian Flag quilts which are 52″ square.

52″ x 52″ = 2704″

2704 x .10 = $270.40

I charge $250.00 so I’m not far off. I am talking about Canadian dollars and I think Sarah is talking about American dollars so I may even be a bit too low on my price but the Canadian flag quilts are simple to make so I am okay with that.

Sarah says this is helpful for quoting on quilts not yet made as well. I really like this idea!

In the case of my tulip quilt, which I sent out for long arming, this formula will not work for me at .10 cents an inch as I need to recoup my long arming costs. That quilt is priced at $700 so I would need to use .14 or .15 cents in the formula. If it doesn’t sell in about a year I will probably pull it out of the shop and put it on my daughter’s bed as I am not willing to lose money on it. (Something else to keep in mind if you are considering sending your quilts out for long arming. They may wind up priced outside the range people are willing to pay.)

If you are struggling with pricing I hope this post has been helpful. Let me know if it has or if there are other issues you are struggling with that you would like me to write about. Leave a comment or send me an email.

Happy sewing! 🙂

 

Top 12 Tips for Selling Handmade on Consignment

Hello! I have gained some more experience that I am sharing with you today. This time I am talking about selling handmade items on consignment in a local shop. And once again I will start off by telling you that this particular experience was not a success but I have learned quite a few things so that is the positive side.

Here is the backstory. This shop was opened in my town and my husband and I are acquaintances of the owners so when they approached us about putting my handmade items in their shop on consignment we thought we would give it a try. I was feeling a bit trepidatious because they are a new shop and they didn’t seem to have much sales experience behind them but it doesn’t hurt to try.

They stated clearly up front that they would be taking a 20% commission on anything that sold and that was fine with me. In fact, I wouldn’t be willing to go much more than that as that would cause me to have to raise my prices out of the range that local people would be willing to pay. They also stated that if anything was stolen or damaged that they would still pay me my 80% for the item. None of this was put in writing and even though nothing went wrong, in hindsight I think we should have had a written contract and I would advise you to do that.

The shop owners asked me to provide my own display so I used a quilt ladder that we had offered for sale but that didn’t sell and I just strung some small ropes with clothes pins to hold smaller items and larger items were in baskets tied to the quilt ladder. This was something that was already built by my husband and on hand so that is why I went with that. (The ladder was also for sale.)

From October to March (this month) I made about $100.00 so as you can imagine I do not feel that this was worth it. Here are some of the things that frustrated me so you know what to watch out for.

The need for display. That kind of threw me because this opportunity came out of the blue and I wasn’t prepared to invest in a professional retail display. Plus, there was a small space (about two square feet floor space) allotted to me and I didn’t want to impose by asking for more space. Because of this I don’t think that my products were displayed to their best advantage. I acknowledge that is is partly my own fault.

The ladder I used for display.

The other products in the store. The main premise of this shop is locally grown and produced vegetables and foods. So quilts, pillows and Christmas stockings did not really fit in with that. I sold a couple of coffee sleeves, a Christmas stocking and a couple of pillows before Christmas. The pillows were discounted and then I received 80% of that so really didn’t make much profit after you account for the cost of supplies.

Special requests for me to make things. After Christmas the shop owner seemed in a hurry to get the Christmas themed items out so I picked all of them up during Boxing week (the week between Christmas and New Years). There was no attempt at a Boxing Day sale or anything like that. Then the shop owner asked me to make baby themed items and dog bandanas because those were selling fairly well. I complied by making baby bibs, dog bandanas and kitchen aprons which I though would sell since it was a food store. These are not things that I normally offer for sale in my online shops or at craft shows. The quilt ladder also came home with me and there was a request to bring in bags and a display for them.

Buffalo Plaid Deer pillow
One of the Buffalo Plaid Deer Pillows that sold. Originally I wanted $30 for these pillows. I wound up putting them on sale for 20% off making them $24.00 and then only received 80% of that after consignment. I was not happy with that price in the end.

So now I had my husband building me a sort of a coat rack hanging display which took him a week to get finished. I hung the bags and aprons on the coat rack display which again took up only about two square feet of floor space. None of them sold. Two dog bandanas and two baby bibs sold between Christmas and now for a total income after commission of about $26.00.

This was so not worth all that work!

Shop owners competing with me and other vendors. Another things that really annoyed me was that the shop owners were bringing in all these different handmade items on consignment and then they were attempting to create their own versions of these items thus competing with their own vendors. Granted, these versions were not as well done but they were priced quite a bit lower which was not cool in my opinion.

Not working for their commission. The shop owners seem to have no sales or merchandising training. They basically expect the products to sell themselves. I mean, literally, they just stand behind their counter and wait for the customers to approach them to buy. When I worked in retail sales positions this was an absolute no-no. You should only be behind the counter when someone is actually paying you for their products. Otherwise a shop owner should be walking around the shop interacting with the customers and sharing the features and benefits of the products. This also helps to prevent theft.

I really do appreciate having been invited into their shop and having had the opportunity. However, I think you can hear the tone of frustration in my blog post with this experience. In the spirit of saving others from the same and also preserving this for future reference for myself my tips follow below.

My 12 Tips for you for selling handmade on consignment:

  1. Ensure the shop wants to sell what you want to make and that your items are a good fit with their customer base. If they are asking you to make things that you don’t normally sell don’t enter into that (unless you actually want to start making and selling those things.)
  2. Ensure you have a contract with all agreements in writing.
  3. Check into what is expected of you regarding displays before getting into a contract. Or, if you already have a display that works well for your products is the shop open to having that display in their store?
  4. Ensure that the commission amount is acceptable to you. Are you able to raise your prices to cover the commission and still sell your items?
  5. Find out what kind of sales history and merchandising experience the shop owners have. Will they be actively working to sell your products? Or will they just stick your items on a shelf and expect them to sell themselves?
  6. Will they be advertising and marketing your product? Or what exactly are they doing to earn their commission?
  7. Start out with a two or three month trial basis and have this stipulated in the contract in case things are not working out.
  8. Do you need to pay rent for the space in their store that you are using? I would be cautious of that plus paying commission as you could wind up making very little money or even losing money. But if they really do sell a lot of your product this could be worth it.
  9. Make sure that you have an accurate inventory and that the shop has a reliable way of keeping track of what has sold so everything is transparent and easy to understand for both yourself and the shop owner. When you are dropping products off have an inventory list ready to provide to the shop owner and ask them to confirm that the list is accurate.
  10. When you receive a payout ask the shop owner for a list of what sold so you can keep your inventory updated and also know which items are selling well.
  11. Make sure to create price tags for your items with your logo, your website information and other small bits of information about you or the product. (ie. handmade in “town name”, organic cotton, makes a great baby gift etc.).
  12. Before you approach the shop research them by visiting a few times and seeing what else they are offering. Are your products a good fit for their shop? Be prepared as you would be for a job interview if you are approaching the shop. (In my case the shop approached me and I was pretty sure it was not the best fit but decided to try it anyway.)