So, you’ve decided to take the leap and expand your handmade business. Perhaps you plan on selling some of your work in a few local shops, or you are planning to introduce your handmade goods to the wholesale trade show market. In either case, you will need a reliable, easy-to-use inventory management system. It is important to also check with the tax and legal requirements in your state. An account or business attorney can give you the advice you need. Inventory management is perpetual — it is not a series of figures that resets each year on January 1. It is a moving, evolving entity.

Handmade businesses face some unique challenges with inventory management, like keeping up with production and selling the same items across multiple venues. For example, you might take orders at wholesale shows, on your website, and on an e-commerce site like Etsy. You might also be inspired to create something new and ask yourself, “Do I have the supplies on hand to create this?” This needs to be a little more sophisticated and efficient than manually sifting through your studio or workshop. After all, time is money, and you’d rather spend your time creating and selling rather than digging through bins and drawers, right?

This article also ran in the March 2019 issue.

Start with the basics of inventory management

You may already be using a simple spreadsheet-based system, such as Excel or Google Sheets to manage your inventory. A very basic spreadsheet should include columns labeled with: date, description, ordered, consigned, total, material cost, and notes. Feel free to customize these tabs to meet your own needs. You might want to add additional columns for price point, item or SKU number, quantity, craft/trade show sale, or discount. Be sure to consider if you offer the same item in different colors or sizes; each of these should be treated as a unique item. You might even want to include thumbnail images for each item for easy and quick identification.

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