Mobile Friendly Website

Yesterday I finally got the new website uploaded that I’ve been working on. Purplewyvernjewels.co.uk is now a responsive website which makes it mobile friendly too. It’s been a very timely update to my website as I just read yesterday afternoon about Google changing their search algorithms to penalise websites that aren’t mobile friendly in google searches. I wasn’t aware of the google changes, so that was very lucky timing on my part.

I haven’t been able to transfer in previous customers and orders information, as due to the major database changes that I mentioned in my last post, it’s too complicated for me to try and input that information. Customers and order information is contained in a number of database tables that are interlinked, so it’s beyond my database knowledge to input that data correctly in the new database format, so that it would all work correctly.

Major Website Update

Tutorials On Etsy Update

I first wanted to quickly mention an update about my tutorials on Etsy. In my previous post I mentioned that I was having to limit my tutorials that I was selling on Etsy to being emailed out, and I was limiting them to certain countries due to the EU VAT law on digital products. I’ve now been able to change my tutorials back to digital products on Etsy so that they can be sold to any country as a downloadable product. Etsy have stated in this blog post:

Until we make the site update necessary to collect VAT from those buyers, Etsy will pay the VAT on digital items sold to buyers in the EU and delivered by automatic download. After the VAT collection process is in place on the site, we will begin collecting VAT from buyers during checkout and remitting it to the appropriate tax authorities.

This has allowed me to change things back to how I had previously been selling my tutorials on Etsy.

Website Update

I’m currently in the process of doing a major update to my website purplewyvernjewels.co.uk. There’s a new major update to the shopping cart I use for my site, which is great as the newer cart is a responsive website. This means it’s specifically coded to change it’s look depending on whether you are viewing via a computer, notebook, phone etc. Therefore, it should give a much better experience for all users, rather than being best viewed via a computer. However, there is one major downside in that it isn’t easily updatable from previous versions of the shopping cart. There is no quick update script that can be run, like there has been with previous versions as the two versions of this shopping cart are just too different. For those that are a bit technically minded, it uses a database that’s formatted differently from previously which makes it difficult to update and transfer information from the old database to the new one. Therefore, I’m having to effectively rebuild everything that I’ve placed in the database for my current website, in order to put it in to the new version. I’m a fair way through adding in my products, but I’ve still got a way to go yet. Plus, at the moment I don’t know whether I will be able to transfer previous customer and order information in to the new database yet, depending upon how the information is formatted in each database. So it will be a while before the new website is ready to go live.

The New Year Is Here

There have been some major changes as to how I sell my products, that as of 1st January 2015 have come in to effect. It’s all due to the new EU VAT legislation regarding digital products that I previously wrote about here.

Under this new EU law it states that third party sites like Craftsy and Etsy that I sell through, should be the ones responsible for dealing with collecting and paying the VAT due on any EU sales. However, both Etsy and Craftsy have stated that they won’t deal with paying the VAT. Which is one of several reasons why this law is so hard on businesses like mine, as it had assumed that third party sites would deal with the VAT and not impact micro-businesses.

As I stated previously, registering and dealing with VAT payments myself is too costly, particularly when only 1% of my digital sales goes to other EU countries (outside the UK) which would mean about £5/year or so VAT due being paid to about 10 different countries i.e. each EU country would receive pennies from these sales, it would cost the EU countries more to process and collect the payment than what is owed. It’s completely ridiculous, which is why a minimum threshold is needed. EU VAT Action is campaigning on behalf of micro businesses and consumers. I already have heard of several different sellers saying they will block EU customers entirely, so not only will EU customers find prices of digital products increase due to VAT being added on, but we’ll also find that the selection of products we can purchase be greatly reduced as other sellers refuse to sell to us. So please think about signing the petition.

Craftsy

I no longer sell my PDF tutorials on Craftsy. I can’t currently legally sell via their website. Even if I was willing to register and deal with paying the VAT due on EU sales, Craftsy don’t currently provide the appropriate customer location information that is required under the law. As they also don’t allow me to select which countries I wish to sell to (thereby not allowing me to exclude EU countries) I can no longer sell via their site. This is the reply I received from Craftsy on 23rd December 2014:

A. Our engineering team is working on building out a system that will provide you with the country that a buyer was in when purchasing your pattern which we can provide you as part of the downloadable CSV for all of your pattern sales. You will still need to determine taxes and fees appropriately. For questions see: https://www.gov.uk/vat-on-digital-services-in-the-eu

More information to come on this! We’re aiming to have this live in January, and I will work with our engineering team to see what we can do to back populate information for sales made in January before this is live.

B. As far as preventing payments to certainly countries, we’re still working with PayPal to determine if this is possible and if so, how that affects those that attempt to purchase your patterns – ie what that experience looks like to your potential customers on Craftsy.

However, with no date of when they will implement limiting to certain countries, I have had to stop selling through them.

Purple Wyvern Jewels Site

I did have purplewyvernjewels.co.uk set up to sell to anywhere in the world. However, in order to limit where I sell my PDF tutorials to, I can only do that by limiting the overall countries that the entire site sells to, as I am unable to limit based on specific listings. As I’ve only ever had UK customers purchase through this site, I’ve limited the site to UK customers only.

Etsy

Any customer can purchase my physical products via my Etsy shop. However, I have had to change my PDF tutorials to being emailed out (as you can’t limit countries if the items are downloadable), plus I’ve currently limited my tutorial items to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and USA customers as they are my target customer base. I can add other countries if a customer wishes (but not EU ones), but the way Etsy allows you to select which countries you sell to makes it difficult to exclude only a few. In this case I don’t want to sell to EU countries outside the UK, but there is no easy option to choose, instead you have to add every single other country in the world to say you will sell to them, which is why I’ve so far just added my target market countries.

Etsy wrote a blog post on 22nd December 2014 (after knowing about the EU law change since June 2014) and is the first official response they provided any of their sellers. They state:

1) Providing information on buyer countries: Beginning in January, you’ll be able to verify the country of your buyers.

2) Control over where you sell items: We’ve heard from you that you’d like to be able to control the countries in which you sell digital items. We are looking into the feasibility of this and will update you in early 2015.

However, with no date as to when they will implement any of this, it’s a little bit late for an awful lot of sellers on Etsy. I have not been impressed with their communication on the issue, and even worse some Etsy sellers only found out from an email Etsy sent out on 31st December 2014, even though they put a blog post up the week before about it all.

Payhip

Payhip is a company I came across while searching for somewhere that I could legally sell my PDF tutorials through to EU customers, preferably somewhere that allows digital downloads. I was looking for a site that would not only deal with collecting the VAT, but that would pay it on my behalf to the appropriate authorities, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the tiny amount that would be due for the amount of EU non-UK sales I typically get. So I’ve specifically set up an account on payhip at payhip.com/purplewyvernjewels for EU customers outside the UK to be able to purchase my tutorials, although anyone in the world can purchase via this site. I’ve set my prices on Payhip to be VAT inclusive, so the price you see, is the price that you pay. I’m currently still setting this up, so not all of the tutorials are currently on there, but I will be adding all of my tutorials over the next few days.

Having found a website that will still enable me to sell my tutorials to EU customers, allows me to continue selling my tutorials anywhere. As if I didn’t sell to other EU countries, I could be breaking the EU anti-discrimination law, by refusing to sell to particular EU countries. In order to comply and stay legal with selling my tutorials I will be taking a 29% loss on my digital sales by not selling on Craftsy anymore, but I’ve at least managed to find a solution that allows me to keep selling my tutorials. I have heard of others that have stopped selling entirely as they can’t currently find a solution that works for their business.

Overview Of Where You Can Purchase

Customer Location purplewyvernjewels.co.uk Etsy Site Payhip Site
UK physical & digital products physical & digital products digital products
EU (non-UK) Countries physical products digital products
Everywhere Else physical & digital products digital products

I also sell a limited selection of physical products to anyone through Dawanda.

New EU VAT Digital Selling Law Change

Tax may be a boring subject of conversation, however up until last month I was fully unaware that there were new law changes coming in to effect that would have an impact on how I run my business. It’s the EU VAT broadcasting, telecommunications and e-services rule changes that come in to effect on 1st January 2015. It’s not been widely broadcasted, I haven’t seen anything in the news about it, I happened to come across a forum post of another small handmade business discussing this issue.

Previously businesses had to deal with VAT (as appropriate) in the country where they are based for all sales they receive. The new changes mean that the VAT needs to be dealt with according to the EU country that the customer is based in, for broadcasting, telecommunications and e-services. Thereby, having to deal with multiple VAT rates and paying mulitple countries taxes when selling to customers within the EU.

My understanding was that these new rules were meant to deal with big major businesses setting up their base of operations in a country with a lower VAT rate, and therefore having an unfair advantage over smaller companies based in other EU countries with a higher VAT rate. Whilst many countries have EU VAT thresholds, like the UK (UK VAT thresholds) many EU countries have a nil threshold for a business with no fixed establishment in their country. Therefore, businesses will have to deal with all of the various EU VATs if they wish to sell within the EU.

Businesses can register individually with each EU country they wish to sell to, or if you’re based in the UK, you can use VAT MOSS, which is a one stop shop to allow easier dealing of VAT across the EU. However, in order to use this MOSS system you have to register for VAT, even if you fall well below the UK VAT threshold like myself. This would involve quarterly VAT accounting and payment of any VAT owed, plus appropriate record keeping and VAT invoicing etc.

As a very small business, it’s not in my business’s interest to register for VAT within the UK. To do so, I would have to pay an accountant in order to make sure all the appropriate paperwork and accounting is done correctly to meet the VAT rules. Whilst my business is profitable, and I’m working on building my business etc, there isn’t enough profit to employ somebody else out of the current profits. This will be the case of most “micro” businesses (as I’ve heard us called). Therefore, the impact that this new EU VAT rules have, is that I will potentially have to stop selling my digital sales (PDF tutorials). This is a hindrance and is limiting the potential of not only myself but other micro businesses who are forced to make the same decision that I have. When businesses are having to limit what they sell, that’s not good for customers either.

There is a UK petition that’s been put together on this very subject, it’s calling for Vince Cable to intervene and uphold the existing VAT Exemption Threshold for businesses supplying digital products. Therefore if you are affected by this, whether as a business or as a customer, please do sign: UK petition

** DISCLAIMER: Please note that everything written here is my own personal view. If you are a business affected by this law change, do get appropriate advice from a professional or the HMRC.

Setting Business Goals

Unfortunately I’m slacking with my blog posts as I didn’t get around to posting one for September, as I was unwell for the last week in September. So I didn’t get around to writing about the setting of business goals post I had planned. So on to discussing business goals.

When I originally started Purple Wyvern Jewels I had some goals I was aiming to achieve. They were:

  1. Become profitable
  2. Reach 100 sales on Etsy
  3. Make approximately £x* profit per month

* Where £x = the amount I earnt in a part-time cleaning job over a decade ago working 10 hours a week. (So not a large sum of money but enough that I could view it as a regular income.)

I’ve already reached goals 1 and 2 quite some time ago, so I added another goal of reaching 1000 sales on Etsy. I hope to achieve that sales goal before the end of this year. Once I reach 1000 sales I get to have my Etsy shop listed on Craft Count, as they only list sellers on Etsy who have reached 1000 sales. There are currently 260 UK shops that have reached 1000 sales, and 1160 shops that sell handmade jewellery (based anywhere in the world) that have reached 1000 sales. Today there are 665,746 (link) active shops (i.e. shops with items listed for sale). Therefore, it’s quite an achievement to reach over 1000 sales. Last month I finally hit goal 3 after 2.5 years, so I’ve changed that goal and I am now aiming for a profit per month figure to equal the last part-time job I had, working as an administrative assistant, which is a good 2.5 times larger in amount of money. I have no idea how long it will take me to achieve that profit per month goal, but it’s something to aim and work towards.

Whilst it’s good to have goals that are numbers of sales related in the early stages of your business as they are easier and quicker to meet, in the longer term, it’s best to have profit goals so that you aim to sustain your business in the long term.

Product Photography – Lightcase

I recently brought myself a new “toy” to see whether I could improve my product photos. I came across a product called the Lightcase that was raising money via Kickstarter to help launch their product idea.

The Lightcase comes flat packed, which you then unfold and clip together, and then can unclip and fold back down when you’ve finished using it. So it’s really great if you don’t have space to have something permanently set up for taking product photographs.

IMG_2618-Lightcase
IMG_2617-Lightcase

It also comes with three different backdrops that can be inserted in to the Lightcase – black, white and transparent. It also has a hole on the top, so if you use a smartphone camera you can take overhead shots of your products.

I thought it would be interesting to show some comparison shots of what photos I was able to do before, and the type of photo I can take with the Lightcase. (The photos have been taken with the same camera, using the same product etc, and also have been edited in the same way for light levels and cropped using the editing program Gimp.)

On the left is the previous photo, and on the right is the Lightcase photo:

IMG_0015-SPN057
IMG_2192-SSN057

As you can see, whilst the background which is white, is still a similar grey colour, the actual product is less shadowed and comes up a brighter silver colour.

I found that using the transparent background and placing the Lightcase on top of wood, it gave a nice background effect in my pictures.

IMG_2184-SSN057

I like the improvements the Lightcase has allowed me to make in my product photos, it really helps the metal in my products shine and pop out more, from the type of pictures I was able to do previously. The one downside I’ve found is that when the Lightcase has been put up and down a few times, it does tend to twist slightly. This hasn’t hampered me taking photographs, but it might if you tend to want to take lots of top down photos using the hole on top with a smartphone camera, as the smartphone might have issues sitting nicely on top (as the twisting that has occured on my Lightcase is near the top on the sides). However, overall I think it’s a great product and one I will be continuing to use to take product photographs with.

Craftsy & Dawanda

I have been trying out two different online selling platforms recently.

Dawanda

First up is Dawanda, which is a predominately Germany based site. It has platforms in a variety of languages, with the English platform being currently free to list on.

I have currently had two sales through there. Which considering I only had one sale through Folksy even when I had items listed in the “busy” Christmas buying season, is an improvement. I haven’t as yet fully capitalised on using the Dawanda site, I will need to translate my listings in to German and pay to list on the German platform to give myself the best chance of selling on Dawanda. So I am planning on translating my listings, and seeing what difference that makes to my sales on there.

Craftsy

Craftsy is an online place for selling tutorials and patterns. It’s free to list and free to sell on. You do need to have a PayPal account, and obviously pay PayPal fees that are associated with selling, but Craftsy don’t charge anything for selling through their site.

So far I’ve had 5 orders through Craftsy. So this site definitely enables me to reach some of my target market and fits well with me selling my pdf tutorials.