(This post contains affiliate links…in fact, it’s all about affiliate links…read on!)
It’s Mallory here with a business update from the SewHere universe. As you know, our business has been changing and evolving ever since we closed our retail store in March of 2017. This move was supposed to help us to create more online sewing media and get our creative endeavors out to the masses who found us through the Sewing Out Loud Podcast and the Self Sewn Wardrobe Facebook Group.
And it has! As we’ve progressed on our journey, we’ve learned about the trials and opportunities of running an online business (and keeping it profitable), and we’re doing some fine tuning.
We launched a Patreon page, and as of today (11/20/17) we’re 30% of the way to our monthly goal! We’ve been selling sewing supplies online, and our orders have increased, but so have the demands on our time. Shipping orders has started to take over almost every hour that Zede, Sam and I have together. We’re grateful for the “sewpport”, but we’ve come to the realization that we’re not set up to be a super efficient fulfillment center. Inventory and shipping aren’t our strong suits- but creating sewing media is!
Enter affiliate marketing! We’re using the Amazon Associates program to recommend relevant products to our listeners and viewers, and it’s been going well so far! What’s that mean? Here’s the sitch:
What’s Affiliate Marketing and What’s an Affiliate Link?
Good question! Affiliate marketing is when a business recommends a product and shares a link with a special code in it. When you click on the link and purchase the item, the person or business who recommended the item gets an commission- Amazon calls this an “advertising fee”.
You may have clicked on affiliate links from other blogs or websites and not even known it- it doesn’t affect your shopping experience in the least. However, you should have been notified by the author that it was an affiliate link, because that’s in Amazon’s terms of service.
Full disclosure, when you click through to Amazon using one of our affiliate links, we receive the “advertising fee” on anything you buy within 24 hours.
I’ve been having a ton of fun disclosing affiliate links over in the Self Sewn Facebook group. I like to be transparent about how we run our business (see this entire blog post), and I’ve found ways to gently taunt people about things like tracing paper and chunky mechanical pencils. Overall, we’re having a fabulous time.
Back to reality- here’s a few reasons why we’re incorporating affiliate links into our business.
Playing To Our Strengths
Zede has sew much sewing knowledge to share, and it should be Sam’s and my job to get that all on video, in podcasts, into eBooks, wherever! Instead of using 25 hrs + per week to fill orders, we’re going to sink all of our time into creating fabulous sewing media for you, answering questions in the Facebook group, and doing other cool stuff around the internet!
We plan to continue carrying a small number of specialty items, like kits and SewHere gifts that are unique to our brand- but we won’t be carrying every type and size of Schmetz needle, 48 colors of serger thread, 56 colors of stretch thread, etc.
Our online orders have increased to the point where they take up all of our time, but don’t provide enough income to pay for that time. Have you seen the episode of “The Office” where Michael leaves Dunder-Mifflin to start his own paper company? You should watch it- Idris Elba is in it.
Anyway, Michael tries to undercut Dunder-Mifflin’s paper prices and gets tons of paper orders- so many that he needs to hire a delivery driver. His accountant says he doesn’t have enough money to hire the driver, because his margins aren’t high enough. In fact, the accountant says “The more paper you sell, the less money you make”.
Well, our situation isn’t exactly the same- we’re not undercutting the competition- but we are trying to spread our physical and mental resources too thin to accommodate our customers.
I’d like to make everyone happy, that’s why I found a way to incorporate Idris Elba into this post…you’re welcome.
Someone in our Facebook asked a question that I’ll summarize like this: “I know affiliate links don’t have a high profit margin, I’d like to purchase from you directly”. Affiliate commissions run anywhere for 4%-10%, and honestly, the worth of our time is probably bringing our profit margins down that far. It takes 2-3 people to fulfill orders efficiently, and we’re doing it in our home studio, where we sew and create. That means less time to film online classes and instructional videos, write blog posts, or help out people in the Self Sewn group.
At this time, we think the amount of revenue made from affiliate links may outstrip what we’d make from selling individual spools of thread and needles and shipping them in a timely manner. How is this possible? People shop on Amazon anyway. In fact, when we’ve linked to products on our site, I imagine the majority of people go look for that product on Amazon. That’s totally cool- I get it- we are still friends!
We don’t have room for everything that we want to carry and recommend. We’d need a warehouse. We don’t want a warehouse. What we want to do is show people how to have fun sewing. Sometimes we’ve questioned certain tutorial ideas, because if we made the tutorial, we couldn’t support it with sales due to not carrying the product.
With the vast universe of affiliate products at our fingertips, we can feel free to create tutorials, because we don’t have to worry about actually carrying the product in order to profit from the instruction. To be clear, this is already stuff we use, but just don’t have room to carry. To be clear again, we do need to profit from our media to exist and stay solvent.
A perfect example is Annie’s Soft and Stable. I love this stuff. I use it all the time- we recorded a whole podcast about it! But it’s bulky and difficult for me to ship when I don’t have the right size box. Lucky for you and me, someone carries it on Amazon and I can use their affiliate link (affiliate link <—that’s a discolsure).
This means I can make 10 tutorials about Annie’s Soft and Stable, you can watch them for free, and if you think you want some Soft and Stable, you can buy it. It will be shipped to you in a timely manner, and all this time, we’ve been recording our hilarious podcasts and doing other cool things to entertain you!
What Does it Mean For Our Customers?
It means you’ll get the media and class add-ons that you ask for and that we keep trying to find time to produce. It’s hard to produce the Easy T Knit add-on and the Made to Measure Leggings Color Blocking add-on when our cutting table is full of cardboard boxes and packing tape. We are going to be efficient as all get-out.
If you’ve chosen to sewpport us in the past by buying goods from our online store, you may have experienced shipping delays or gotten an email from me about an inventory glitch. Believe you me, it is not my favorite part of the day when I let someone know they won’t get their order on time- and it’s a lot to keep up with.
So, if we simplify our inventory to a small number of specialty items, we’ll be able to ship faster and more accurately. When we show you how to use a product and recommend an affiliate link, someone with an efficient inventory and shipping infrastructure will fulfill your order and you’ll be satisfied.
That’s a win-win-win in my opinion.
I can also recommend the coolest things. Look at these clocks…LOOK AT THEM!!!! They are shaped like sewing machines!!! And I had to include the mixer- it’s adorable! (affiliate link)
What Could It Mean For Other Business Owners?
It means that we can be of service to the world in more than one way. I’ve started a little side blog called “Maloysious” (pronounced: mal-o-WISH-us) where I’ll be talking more in-depth about my personal life and business techniques. I’m keeping copious notes about this affiliate marketing journey, and I’ll be filling the pages of that blog with useful resources. That’s right, I might help you monetize your helpful blog with affiliate links!
So, if you’re a blogger- or you want to know what I think about polyamory- sign up for the Maloysious newsletter, and I’ll email you when the blog launches. I don’t want to clutter the SewHere universe with biz talk and bread recipes, but several of you have reached out to me for such advice, and I’m dedicating my life to content anyway!
Any thoughts on affiliate links? Let us know in the comments!