1. Order = Pay.
This initially took so long because we had to chase down every person who said they wanted a shirt and get them to pay for it. When we do it again, we say "place your order, pay your total, and you'll get your shirt when we hit the minimum order threshold or run out of time, whichever comes later." Pros, no chasing people. Cons, some people may demand refunds if things take too long. Which brings me to...
2. Print labels.
So every step of this process was manual, including addressing the envelopes. And yeah, that added a hell of a lot of time to things. If we print off mailing labels at the local Staples and stick them on, it'll be easier to see how many envelopes we have left to go, and also easier to fill them without worrying about whether you can read the zip code. This one simple thing should reduce mailing time by 1/3rd. You know what else will help?
3. Order mailing supplies when I send in the shirt order.
Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but I was honestly surprised when I ran out of envelopes the first time. And the second time. And the third time. This time, I will count orders, figure out how many envelopes I need, and order them all from the company that sells me mailing supplies. I can be taught!
4. Make it clear that the choices offered are the only ones.
One of the issues we had in the first batch had to do with people going "I want shirt style A, but this color from shirt style B." This, well, wasn't possible, because the shirts didn't exist, but we didn't catch that until Deborah was in the final review of the list. So if we do this again, we need to be very clear on the "what you can get is what we have said was available" issue. This will also streamline shipping, by reducing the number of possibilities.
5. Set a maximum threshold.
This was a super-large order, which also slowed things down a lot. So there needs to be a "no fewer than X, but no more than Y" point.
6. Up the price for 3XL and up.
I hate this. I tried so hard not to reach this conclusion. But...it costs more to print a shirt that's between 3XL and 6XL, and we had a lot of those. I was never expecting to make money on this, and I figured, "well, if someone who orders a S is paying the same as someone who orders a 5XL, it all comes out in the wash." And it did, as far as printing costs was concerned. What I didn't do was calculate for mailing costs. It's about three dollars more to ship a larger shirt, especially if that shirt is not being mailed alone. If I want to be able to afford to print the shirts, and mail the shirts, I need to charge more for the larger ones. I'm so sorry. It's purely financial, and it annoys me deeply.
7. Print more extras.
This time, I ordered three extra shirts, and Amy, who is smart, ordered eight for her bookstore. Amy then did a brisk business selling shirts to filkers who missed the original order, and is a happy little clam. More extras would mean a happier answer to "do you have one you can sell me?" inquires.
Some of these you may have seen before, but now that I'm actually preparing for batch #2, those items bore repeating. Also, these are the three questions I got asked most during this whole process:
1. Why is this taking so long?
2. Why did you underestimate everything?
Honestly, I was hoping for the twenty-four shirts needed to hit the shirt printer's minimum order. I was overwhelmed, and stayed overwhelmed, after that. I have a nasty tendency to underestimate my own popularity. I'm working on it. Just not very hard, because I'd rather be surprised once in a while than egotistical all the time.
3. Why don't you just use CafePress?
You know what I have? Boobs. You know what lots of other people have? Boobs. Even the "girl cut" shirts on the "print your own" shirt sites tend to be small and unforgiving of boobs. Plus their sizes and colors are very limited, and their print quality isn't as good. If I'm basically "putting my name" on these shirts by using a graphic people associate with me, I'm going to make them the best shirts they can be. That's worth a little trouble.
That's all for now.