Friday, February 26, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Craftopolis

I'm huge fan of Craftopolis, which unfortunately I didn't know about until a week or two ago.  There aren't many features on the website, but what they have is very useful for Etsians.  (Sorry to my other readers, but this site is really Etsy-only except for advertising.)

Feature #1 is the Treasury search.  While other sites like CraftCult can let you know if a Treasury you've been featured in made it to the front page, Craftopolis will tell you if you're currently in a Treasury at all.  It includes both the main and west Treasury sites AND notifies you if you're an alternate.  So far this is the only site I've found that does all this and it's the only way I've been successful in finding treasuries of which I'm a part.  It can save you a ton of clicking through pages searching for something that may or may not be there:

Treasury clocks are another really cool feature of Craftopolis.  They show you how many treasuries are taken without having to wait for the actual Treasury and Treasury West pages to load each time you're curious (which takes too long for my patience on my internet connection).  You can monitor occasionally throughout your day how many have expired and snag one up pretty quickly when it's time...or you can determine it's going to be too long to stay up until 3 am just for a treasury and you're just better off going to sleep than waiting.  You can get this same information right through Etsy, but like with finding out if you're in a Treasury, Craftopolis just makes it easier.

The estimated time isn't something to which I pay too much attention.  I prefer to check it on the Etsy site once it's getting really close, but you can use the clocks for longer term planning if you prefer.  Just be clear that the first number is hours, the second number is minutes, and the third is seconds.  Don't get confused and think the first number is minutes or you'll be waiting up for days!

The clock looks like this (see image above) both right before and for a little while after the Treasury window is open.  If you go to the clock and see the red section flashing, click on the center of the clock immediately to be taken straight to the page on Etsy to see if the Treasury is about to become available.  As stated on the Craftopolis website, there is no guarantee because of potential delays in updating.  Wednesday night, I watched to see how bad the delay was.  It took several minutes for everyone's new treasuries to be added once "T-Main" opened up (or "dropped" - oh, Etsy slang LOL).  First the Etsy page showed 332 treasuries, then 600+ then 800+.  It took several minutes as well for the clock to update on Craftopolis and it went straight from 334 to 800+.  Therefore there is more of a time delay on the clock than on the site.  So I say all that to say that it's always best to go to the Treasury right before the needle gets to the red zone if you're really hoping to get one. 

The other main feature on Craftopolis is Shop/Item Lovers.  You can find similar features on other sites as well, so it's not completely unique.  This feature allows you to see how many shop hearts and item hearts you've gotten on a particular day or in a particular month:

It's a cute chart form they put it in here on Craftopolis.  When you click on a day that you received hearts, the avatar of the person(s) that favorited you will show up below the chart.  Hovering over the avatar with your mouse will let you see the shop name.  Please exercise good etiquette when discovering this information and don't assume this person wants to know about your sales or be bombarded with convos.  Sending people messages just for hearting you is considered spam and it's bad form.  If you want to say thanks, heart them back.  Otherwise, just feel good about it and quietly use the information to your advantage.  For example, the promotion I did Tuesday on the Etsy forums was something I did differently than usual and it seems to have gotten more exposure to my shop as evidenced by the three new hearts.  This tells me I should post more there in the future to keep my visibility up.  Whatever you're doing on days you get lots more hearts than usual is probably something you should continue to do in the future.

The other thing Craftopolis offers is advertising.  I haven't tried it because I know of cheaper places to advertise so I won't be reviewing that part of the site.  I recommend using Project Wonderful or Indie Smiles as cheaper advertising alternatives.

Like or hate Craftopolis?  Know of a similar site for another artisan venue?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Weekly Treasures: NC Triangle Street Team

I'm on two different Etsy teams, one of which is the NC Triangle Street Team.  We're a local group of Etsy sellers in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and surrounding areas in the heart of North Carolina.  I did this treasury to promote some of my fabulous team members and their wares that feature year's must-have colors: turquoise, aqua, and clover green.

5. Dinner Time Chimes: Peek A Boo Bowl (Silverplate Spoon Wind Chime in Blue)

10. Anna Kay CreationsGreen and Brass Necklace Chain Set


14. Cinnamon Spice: OOAK Baby Boy Scrapbook Photo Frame - 9 x 12

15. Brooke FrecklesIndividual Valentine Crayon Favors for the Wee Ones or Classrooms

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Vintage Goodies

My grandmother used to be a seamstress before she developed arthritis.  Up until recently she'd done virtually all the sewing for my extended family.  She never really expected that any of her grandchildren would develop an interest in sewing and crafting but I eventually did decide to take it up.  She gave me one of her antique sewing machines a few months back, and this weekend she gave me my choice of a wide variety of vintage buttons to use with my brooches and barrettes.

All of these buttons, beads, and findings are older than me - a fact that I find quite exciting.  Some of them certainly would have interesting stories to tell if they could talk.  I appreciate vintage items because each and every one of them has an associated history.  Perhaps you'll never know the story behind them, but it's still fun to imagine and speculate and dream.

Vintage doesn't always have to be more expensive either.  Thrift stores are one of my favorite places to discover vintage charms, shoes, fabrics, and many other items that can be used creatively in their present form or after they're taken apart.  Sometimes I go back in forth in my mind on whether or not it's more important to protect the integrity of the object, but (unless it's a very valuable antique) you'll likely come to the same conclusion I have - it's much better to see these items have a new life than to sit on a shelf or a rack and collect dust.  Or even worse - end up in a landfill.  Reusing vintage items in new, creative ways is definitely eco-friendly and a fun way to spice up your crafting.

These are some of my favorite vintage supply sellers:

Sorry but my grandmother's findings are not for sale. ;)

Do you have any vintage sellers or supply sellers you particularly like?  Are you someone with a vintage shop?  Do you sell items with vintage components?  Leave shop links in the comments!

Until next time,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Spotlight on Passion For Beads

Today I'm featuring a kind individual that I've gotten to know a little bit over the past few weeks.  Passion For Beads is a jewelry artisan specializing in Swarovski cystral designs.  I've purchased both earrings and a bracelet from her and I love them!

I asked Passion For Beads to write up a bio for me and she was happy to oblige:

My name is Sally. I am a Christian crafter and a stay at home mom with two gorgeous boys, 7 and 4 years old! I am originally from Hong Kong, and lived in Canada since 2001. I have been beading for about 7 years.

Passion For Beads is my very first online shop which established in March 2009 and is selling Swarovski crystal beaded jewelry. I enjoy working with Swarovski crystal beads because they are so beautiful and sparkly. I have been trying very hard to add more varieties in my shops and right now there are different styles of bracelets, necklaces, chokers, earrings, brooches and cell phone charms or zipper/purse pulls to choose from. All of my jewelry are perfect for daily wear and for special occasions. I do custom orders too.

A lot of people asked me what inspires me and where do I get the ideas. Oh well, most of the time, my inspiration and ideas come from craft books. I read a lot of craft books, including those from other countries to get ideas. When I find a pattern that I like, I start working with the beads. To create a piece of work can be just a few hours or it can be days! Sometimes it is hard, but I enjoyed the whole process.

I am currently selling on Artfire ( and Madeitmyself ( I am always exploring for new ideas and new styles, so please come and visit my shops often for more additions. You can also find me on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Be sure to check out Passion For Beads when you're looking for new, colorful jewelry!

Until next time,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Project Wonderful

If you're not familiar with Project Wonderful advertising, this is a must read article.  Project Wonderful is a quite wonderful method of advertising that allows you to set your price and only spend as much as you have in your budget on promotion.  (I couldn't resist using the word wonderful. :P)  On many craft-related websites, including artisan blogs, you'll see this text under a series of graphic ads:

This only appears under advertising done by Project Wonderful.  Website owners, blog operators, and anyone else with webspace can apply to become a publisher.  As a publisher, you provide space on your website for other people to advertise.  You can elect to approve/deny each ad that goes on your site or you can set up your account to auto-approve submissions. You're able to set a minimum bid (like requiring advertisers to bid at least $0.50 USD per day, for example) or you can decline to do so.  If the publisher does not require a minimum bid, it's possible to get free advertising on their website.  Free.  Pretty wonderful, right?  (Last time, I promise! :P)

When you're an advertiser on Project Wonderful ad boxes, you select the amount you're willing to pay per day for that ad spot.  When you have the high bid, your ad is displayed at the lowest possible cost.  For example, if there is an ad box with an active advertisement at a maximum bid of 30 cents per day and I come along and bid on the same spot with a maximum of 50 cents per day, my ad will display at 40 cents per day until someone else comes along and makes a higher maximum bid.  If they set a maximum bid of 40 cents, my price goes up to 50 cents/day.  If they set a maximum bid of 60 cents, my ad won't be displayed until they cancel their bid, I raise my bid, or their bid expires.  You can set bids up to expire when you reach a certain spending limit (limit must be $1 or more) or after a certain number of days.  I hope that all made sense and is clear.  If not say so in the comments, and I'll try to clarify.

So let's say someone has an ad box with no ad displaying yet (perhaps they just became a publisher) and they do not require a minimum bid.  You can then come along and place a bid at a maximum of, let's say, 1 cent.  Your ad will then display on the website for free.  If someone comes along and makes a higher bid, your ad won't display of course, but during the time you are the high bidder you pay nothing for the traffic and views you're getting.  This is one of the things that makes Project Wonderful great - if you are unable to come up with money for an advertising budget, you're still able to get some extra exposure through free advertising opportunities.

So how do you find places to advertise?  When you're on your favorite blogs and websites, look for the "Your ad here, right now" text.  It will give you an indication of how much you'll need to bid and will provide a link to Project Wonderful where you can sign in to your account and place that bid.  There is also a search engine on the website which allows you to search for advertising opportunities in your niche.  I find the search engine to be incredibly useful.  For example, when I wanted to start promoting my queer pride jewelry I conducted a search for gay and lesbian websites.  I came across a few blogs about gay and lesbian issues, sites featuring queer and transgender comics, etc. that had decent traffic and placed bids on those ad spots.  Then my target market, LGBT consumers, had access to my advertising at a few cents per day.  These are some of my best performing ads so make sure to utilize the search feature.

You can either reduce your bids manually when your funds are running low or have your ads temporarily suspended (not as consequential as it sounds) when your funds run out.  This keeps you from spending more than your monthly advertising budget.  You should have a variety of bids in your account ranging from more expensive ($1 or so per day) to less expensive (free) so that your ads are always being displayed somewhere regardless of how much money is in your account.  You should also take advantage of the statistics feature which will show you how many page views the site gets and how many views your ad gets in the USA, Europe, and Canada separately, and the rest of the world lumped together.  Stats will also show you how many visitors clicked on your ads.  You can then adjust your spending so that your higher bids are on the sites where you have the most success.

Project Wonderful is really a great resource for crafters and can be a much cheaper alternative to paying $20-$50 per month on a large artisan website.  I've gotten more traffic and clicks by having my ads on lots of smaller websites than I've gotten by paying the big bucks for weekly promotions on huge sites like ArtFire.  Promoting on a budget is important to a lot of us, so I hope you find Project Wonderful as useful as I have.

Do you know of any other great places to get free or very cheap graphic advertising?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

If you need graphics/advertisements made up, The Ash Grove is the one who makes the majority of mine.  She's very talented in graphic design and she's fair with her pricing.  Check out her Etsy shop and send her a convo about the possibility of custom work if your own Photoshop skills are a little lacking.  She'll be able to design something that fits your particular brand.  For an example of her work, visit  The website design and banner were all done by The Ash Grove.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hotlist Delayed

The post is not complete.  I spent all day working at my day job and then traveled out of town to visit my grandparents.  My apologies!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Microblogging: Tips for Promoting Your Brand on Twitter

I love Twitter!  A large percentage of the views on my product links come from Twitter - for me it's second only to Google.  The microblogging platform is a big deal in 2010 and if you haven't tried it you should.  I believe that microblogging shares a same major principle with blogging - if you really believe it can do nothing to help your business, you don't understand how to use it right.  Contrary to what most of my family believes, it's not just a bunch of people tweeting about what they ate for lunch or what they're doing at 6:45 pm today.  The ones that just tweet mundane details are people who don't last long on Twitter.  To me, Twitter's about social interaction, sharing of good information, and revolutionizing the way people chat online.

So, for the novices, there are plenty of guides you can get for free or a low cost (don't pay more than a couple of $), so check them out via Google if you need to know how to set up a Twitter account, how to follow other users, and other basic information.  Once you have signed up and read about how the interface works, these are some of my tips for Twitter success based on what I've observed, how I use Twitter, and what I've read from the experts in social media:

1. Fill out your profile completely.  I cannot stress this enough.  Add a picture (preferably of your face, but of your product if you're extremely shy).  People are trying to connect with you and your business and you're not branding very well if your photo is the stock "tweety bird."  Then get a background, preferably one other than the ones provided by Twitter.  My backgrounds are usually free blog backgrounds that I edit in Photoshop, but you can find some great free backgrounds already made up if you just do a Google search.  Most importantly, fill out the 160 character text about yourself.  Fill it with keywords like "Etsy" and "handmade" so that people who are searching Twitter for new people to follow will find you and instantly know you are someone they want to follow.  Most people, including myself, tend not to follow back people who don't fill out this portion of text.  It only takes a few seconds, so don't forget to do it.

2. There are tons of websites out there like tinyurl or which you can use to shorten your links.  Always try to remember to shorten them.  Some Twitter apps like HootSuite (my favorite) have a link-shorten feature built right into the interface.  Why does this matter?  Well you want people to RT  (retweet) your tweets and using smaller URLs make it easier for your friends to do just that.  Remember, when someone RTs from an outside application like HootSuite or TweetDeck, your name is appended to the tweet.  If you've used all 140 characters because your link is so long, it makes it a hassle to RT your tweet because I'll be over the character limit.  I either have to edit the tweet and delete some of your text or shorten the URL for you.  You don't want to lose out, so make it as easy as possible for us fellow Twitter users to click that button and send your message to all of our followers.

3. Use hashtags properly!  Don't waste space in your tweet adding hashtags for words already in your tweet.  For example, if you post "Check out my new Zibbet shop!", you don't also need to add the hashtag #zibbet because people who search for "zibbet" will find your tweet without it.  Use that space for someone to type a response when RTing or add a hashtag for a word that's not already somewhere else in your tweet (like "jewelry").  Twitter is based on efficiency and being able to maximize 140 characters to send meaningful messages.  Redundancy is not so efficient.

4. Talk to people!  Follow some people and read their current tweets.  Reply to one of them.  RT tweets of theirs that you find interesting, funny, helpful, or otherwise great.  This builds up your credibility on Twitter, because people that follow you will benefit from the content you're sharing.  Now, when you reply to someone else's tweet, sometimes the person will reply and sometimes they won't.  Focus on building relationships with the ones who do.  Chances are they will follow you back and if your tweets are worthwhile, they'll respond and/or RT.  You really want those RTs because they allow you to reach other people's followers with your business-related messages - you're able to spread your influence to a much larger number of people than you could otherwise.  You can find people to talk to in lots of ways: using the search feature, browsing directories, following lists, etc.  If you really can't find anyone to tweet with and you want to get started, just send a message to @ellexmarie and I'll chat with you and help point you in the right direction.  Or, check out my Twitter followers and follow the ones who look interesting.  Most of them will follow you back.

5. Be professional and personal at the same time.  What I mean is, it's okay to talk about your personal life on Twitter.  Just remember that when someone Googles your shop name, your tweets will come up in the search.  Make sure that whatever you say is something you don't mind being attached to your business and brand.  Remember, the things you say could keep someone from shopping in your store so be professional even when you don't feel like it. Be yourself but use discretion.  If I'm not being clear enough let me give an example - it's okay for you to tell us that your significant other dumped you (we'll reach out to support you), but don't tell us about your latest sexcapade because only your best friend should hear about it (not your potential customers.)

I hope these tips help you avoid some of the common artisan Twitter faux-pas and maximize your use of the powerful social networking tool.  Do you already use Twitter?  Share one of your tips for new tweeps! (That's Twitter + peeps.)  Did you just sign up recently?  Let us know your username so we can give you some followers!

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Fashionable Recycling

I am so exhausted this week!  Since yesterday morning my left eyelid has been twitching like crazy.  This only happens to me when I'm overtired so I guess I need to get more rest.

One thing I love to do when relaxing is to look through different venues for great products.  This week with the introduction of the multi-item shopping cart feature, I've been paying more attention to Zibbet.  If you've never heard of this relatively new online marketplace, check out my top 5 reasons I'm a seller there

Not too many folks have tagged items as "recycled" yet but the items that were are definitely Spolight worthy.  Check out these 9 items from my fellow Zibbeters that are either recycled, upcycled, or all-new products designed to help people maintain green lifestyles:

I hope you'll enjoy browsing through these and other Zibbet shops as much as I did!  I listed a couple of recycled items myself last night.  I use my Zibbet shop for my handmade magnets, many of which are upcycled bottle caps.  They have the same funky sense of style that comes through in my jewelry and accessories:

 Have you discovered or created any great green products lately?  Share them in the comments!

Until next time,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pay It Forward - I've Been Given the Sunshine Award!

Thanks to the fabulous Creations with Heart blogger Julie, I've been given the Sunshine Award!  This is another Pay it Forward award which allows the recipient to nominate 12 of their favorite blogs.  In order to keep things fun and mention some people I haven't yet, I'm not going to repeat anyone from my Kreativ Blogger award nominations list.  Just so I can clarify, neither that list nor this list are in any sort of order based on how much I like the blog or how often I read it.  I have a long blog roll of great writers and I'm just featuring some of the ones I think are outstanding.

Note: As I've been writing this I've seen that at least one of my award nominees has already received this award before (quite recently).  If you have, don't feel as if you have to post another 12 blogs just because I give you the award again - and if you want to do it go for it! :)

1. Try Handmade:
This blog features artisans and their products.  It's a very professional looking, attractive blog with stunning photography and fun interviews.  If you like handmade or are curious about it, this is a good one to subscribe to.

This blog is really a directory with a different shop in each post.  I haven't decided for sure, but it's on my short list for an EB Hotlist review.  It's an opportunity to get yourself featured so go ahead and check it out.

Tutorials, handmade finds, and giveaways make this blog a good choice for subscription.

4. NC Triangle Street Team
I'm in this Etsy team and the members are quite creative and talented.  The blog features treasuries with our items and information about where we're going to be selling in person around the state.  It's a must-subscribe for NC lovers of handmade.

If you've seen my fabric flower listings on Etsy, you know how much I LOVE this store in Durham.  They're all about reusing and upcycling and sell artisans the tools they need to do it.  The blog features some great people and ideas that show how eco-friendly art can be a strong positive force in the handmade community and the world.

Kim is truly great gal who really works hard to get unknown or low sales shops exposure and support with the blog, Facebook, Crazy Train Team, VoteHandmade, and our Artfire Guild.  I have an incredible amount of respect for her for how she's assisted others and how she's been so open to helping me.  Her blog has great features on artisans like me who have no or few sales on ArtFire, so be sure to check her out.  She's very open to adding people to her lists of artisans to feature. (*Hint, hint*)

Like one of the other graphic artists I'm fond of, this lady doesn't blog a whole lot.  However her posts often include graphics that you can use for free in your promotional materials.  She's really great about helping other less design-savvy artisans with their graphics.  She also offers services for purchase.

8. Queer Etsy Street Team
As you can see, I've got to plug my awesome teams.  Queer Team has a team shop where members donate items for sale and the proceeds go to charities we select.  On the blog, you'll find artisan features, links to all of our Etsy shops, and links to all of our members' blogs.  It's a great resource for finding us on Etsy and Blogger and getting connected.

Well, this one is obvious.  If you like free stuff, you should subscribe to this blog.  They frequently post handmade giveaways in which you can enter to win gorgeous handmade products (and if you don't win, you might have found a great new shop you want to purchase from).

This mom isn't a crafter but she's always interesting to read.  She's environmentally conscious which is a huge plus in my book.  She's intelligent and opinionated, so you'll probably enjoy reading her whether or not you agree with what she says.

This blog has a feature known as "Covet Tuesday" where products that interest the blogger are featured.  There seems to be quite a range, so they may be good to swing by every now and then.

This chick is an online friend of mine with an up and coming blog.  Features, giveaways, and business tips are regular posts on this blog.  I'm very appreciative of blogs that give readers tips on how to improve their business, blogging, etc. because that's how I've learned virtually everything I know about the subjects.

So that's my list of 12.  It took me a while to write this, but I just want to extend appreciation and thanks to Creations With Heart for finding my blog useful enough to nominate for this award.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Until next time,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Funky Fabric Flowers and Etsy Success

It's been a few months now that I've had a shop on Etsy and I picked the worst time of year really to get started online.  Things get kind of slow in the winter, even for some people who make a living doing their craft.  I have sold a couple of jewelry pieces to a friend, but until yesterday those were the only sales I had made.  I'm really excited to say that I've sold one of my fabric flower barrettes!  I knew there had to be someone out there that was just as quirky fashion-wise as me!

In the spirit of being eco-friendly, I reused this really fun note card box for packaging the barrette.  I mailed everything off right away, keeping my fingers crossed that she likes it as much in person as she did online.  I think I'm more nervous after a sale than I am leading up to one!

I've made a couple more in the past week.  Check them out:

Now I make these flowers because I think it's fun to use recycled materials and I learned how to make these from a tutorial I've posted here before.  The flowers are very different looking and they aren't going to appeal to everyone.  There's a debate I've heard rehashed on different forums and venues about whether you should make things that make you happy or make things you can sell easily for profit (or a balance of the two).  I don't know if the reason I haven't had very many sales is that I'm really making what makes me happy and not what appeals to the masses.  What do you think?

Until next time,

Friday, February 12, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: ByHand (

ByHand is a website with a similar goal to SoopSee -it seeks to combine your shop(s), blog, Twitter, and other sites together in one place.  The developer intends for it to be like a free homepage/domain where artisans can direct their potential customers who will then get everything they need to know about you, your products, and your social network without having to type in a bunch of different site links.  To help accomplish their central goal, ByHand (obviously) offers a profile page for every user where you can post links, photos, and other important content.  The one major advantage ByHand has over SoopSee is that they allow a wide variety of artisan venues, while SoopSee only offers links to Etsy shops.  The free "domain" is an interesting concept but it's not the only thing this site offers.  Even those who already have a domain may find this site very useful.

ByHand also has an artisan directory where you can list information about your business.  The screenshot below is of my directory entry.  I'm able to easily have all of my shop links and social networking profiles as a part of this entry and I can update it as my information changes.  Directory entries also have the advantage of allowing you to post an image of your product and visitors are able to rate your business right from this page.  Search engines can likely pick up these directory entries and the additional, unique links to your shop can help your page rank in sites like Google.

If you zoomed in on the image, you might have noticed I'm mentioned in the Facebook badge on the far right of the page.  This leads me to my favorite feature of ByHand: Spotlights!  The Etsy Treasury system is the closest related resource I've tried so far, but there are numerous reasons why I think Spotlights are better.  If you know what a Treasury is, skip down to point #1.  If you don't keep reading.  A Spotlight is like a gallery of products from different artisans that fit well together (i.e. because they're all blue or they all relate to horses in some way).  An artisan showcases other artisans work and can display some of their favorite handmade items in a very cool, artistic way.  It's a way to not only earn yourself goodwill and karma points, but to promote yourself indirectly.  Remember how in my last blog entry I said that one of the major mistakes artisan bloggers make is talking only about themselves and what their products look like as if a blog is just a multi-page advertisement?  That strategy doesn't make you any friends because it's really annoying.  That goes for Twitter, Facebook and any other social media of which you may be a part.  Spotlighting your favorite products from other people and then promoting that Spotlight will make people more interested in you and more likely to click on your links on the occasions that you do tweet or post one of your own items.  Artisans that you've featured may also decide to return the favor and promote you via a Spotlight or tweet.  And, as artisans promote the Spotlights they are a part of, the creator gets some extra exposure as well since their name and profile are attached to it.  Okay, now for the reasons I'm in love with this feature:

1. You can feature any items you want.  Etsy, ArtFire, Zibbet, Dawanda, Made It Myself, 1000Markets...yep, all supported.  Want to put an item you saw on iCraft alongside one you found on Zibbet?  You can do that too.  You're given 9 spaces to use and it appears that items from all of the most popular crafting sites will work.

2. ByHand promotes your spotlights for you on their Facebook fan page (only if you want).  This ideally can lead to people clicking on your spotlight, then your ByHand profile, then your shop.  Your spotlight can be posted whether or not your items are "front-page worthy" in the eyes of site staff members.

3. There's no restriction on how many of your own items you can put in.  (Etsy treasuries limit you to one and even including one is seen as bad form.)  If you want to do a whole 9 image set with items from your shop(s), go for it.  It might be a good way to get a gallery image of your work without having to edit and piece together the images yourself in an editing program.

4. Spotlights never expire.  They can be deleted, but unless you click that button your spotlight will be available for viewing long after an Etsy treasury would have expired.

5. You can make a spotlight whenever you want and make as many of them as you want.  It's not like the Treasury where you have to get in at a certain time or like Poster Sketch where you can only create a gallery of one set of images at a time.  Spotlights have a lot more flexibility.

If Spotlights aren't enough to make you interested in the site, there are also some pretty handy features with ByHand such as RSS support.  You can add your blog feed, for example, and your latest entries will show up on your profile page.  I definitely recommend checking out this site - it's free, so there's no risk of wasting any money.  If you end up liking it though, you should consider making a small donation to keep it free for others like you.

Note: You may have trouble accessing this website in Internet Explorer.  Make sure your security settings are set to allow mixed content.  If you still cannot access your profile page, you probably need to use a different browser.

Do you have any experience with ByHand?  Share your knowledge with us by posting a comment.  Want to be in my next Spotlight?  Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Elle, What Should I Blog About? - Artisan Crash Course

I'm starting to get variations of this question asked to me often enough that it deserves a post of it's own.  Let's start with the points I think you absolutely need to know.

1. You're not going to be perfect but you will get better with time and hard work.
The first thing you've got to do is stop beating yourself up because you don't have followers yet or your blog stats aren't that great.  Everything takes time and I'm working to improve just like you are.  You've got to promote your blog for people to find it and interact with other bloggers by following them and commenting on their posts.  It can be time consuming, but it's worth it if you want to build an audience.  There are numerous tips out there on the wondrous "interweb" about how to write better articles, improve your spelling, and be more colorful with your language.  For example, writing your posts in Word allows you to check your spelling with the spell check tool before you post.  Seek out the information you need to help shore up the weaknesses in your writing by using Google.  If you can't figure out what your weaknesses are, have a friend, family member, someone in the Etsy or ArtFire forums, or a Twitter tweep to take a look over your last three posts and give you honest feedback.  Don't be all sensitive though and allow your feelings to get hurt because someone is blunt with you - the criticism will help you grow and develop as a blogger.  Focus on doing better not lamenting the past.  (Have you seen my first EB blog posts?  You should read and see the difference.  It'll make you feel better, I promise!)

2. I've read dozens of articles and even a couple of paid guides about blogging for the online seller.  They ALL say you need to blog about your passion.
While poor grammar and spelling can distract readers, a few small errors here and there are not a big deal - especially if people are aware that English is not your first language!  What's most important is your content.  The way to be interesting is to blog about things you're interested in.  If you're an artisan it's CRUCIAL that you don't make the mistake a lot of craft bloggers make - to get followers, you need to ensure that your blog is not only self-promotion.  It's cool if occasionally you show me what you made over the weekend and post a tutorial about how I can make something similar.  It's not cool if virtually every post you write seems like a shop ad for your products.  If I wanted to see that, I'd already be in your store, right?  If you make jewelry you can write about techniques, materials, other artisans, etc.  If you crochet maybe you can post tutorials, features, reviews, etc.  Put some effort into thinking about this and really just find out what interests you and write about it.  Once you jump in, you'll be able to find out what readers respond to and what they don't.  And save the majority of your personal horn tooting for your sidebar(s) with an Etsy mini, Zibbet graphic, etc.

3. Blog often.
Too often I find a blog via Google that looks like it is awesome and then I find that their last update was two months or even two years ago.  I typically unsubscribe to blogs if they haven't posted in 4 weeks and haven't posted a reason (childbirth, illness, financial troubles, etc.).  It's not that I'm all about the $$$ and think everyone has to be actively interacting with me.  Let's be reasonable though.  If you're only posting sporadically, I don't know if I can expect to get more good content from you.  So I become uninterested and unconcerned.  I like to keep my blog roll full of fresh, interesting content and if you're not providing it regularly I'm not going to be clicking on your blog link.  What if you can't remember to update?  Do what I do and make a schedule for yourself and tweak it as needed.  I have had blogs in the past and this is the only one that I've updated frequently and gotten some readers from and my schedule was essential to that.  My readers know that barring a personal emergency, I'm going to at least post a review once a week.  The goal according to the experts is to blog at least 3-4 times per week,  but I say at minimum you should plan one day a week to post a really good blog post...full of SEO keywords, of course!  This consistency will encourage first-time visitors to return on a regular basis.

4. Narrow your focus.
So let's say you're interested in gardening, politics, and the vintage finds you sell on Etsy.  In your personal blog, feel free to ramble on about any of these topics at any time.  On the blog you want to use to promote your business, however, you need to have a more specific focus.  My blog's main focus is reviewing tools and resources I've tried that can benefit (or be useless to) fellow artisans.  In addition to that #1 priority, I work in my interest in the environmental movement by talking about eco-friendly handmade topics and products.  I'm still posting relevant content about the handmade community so I don't think it detracts from what my blog is trying to do.  (Other people may say things contrary to this, but I believe in variety - just in reasonable doses.)  Be fair to your readers.  If you cannot relate your love for gardening to what you sell on Etsy, you should keep it out of your business blog.  You want people interested in your product plus your competition (i.e. fellow artisans) to be the ones reading your blog because that's where you're trying to generate your sales!  If I'm searching for vintage finds on Google, click on your blog link, and then I find your most recent post (or half of your posts) is about petunias, I'm going to click the back button pretty quickly.

This guy has more than 2000 followers.  I don't 100% support all of his endeavors, but it's obvious he knows his stuff!  He is a must read.

5. Be personal.  And personable.  But not too personal.
Your blog is a tool that cannot be underestimated.  Through your blog you have a way to connect with current and potential customers on a personal level that you'll never be able to achieve via a shop announcement or posted bio.  For example, you might consider adding turning your straightforward, matter-of-fact blog entry about the rising popularity of online craft selling into a semi-"self feature" that shares some of your online selling experiences and tips for newbies you wish you'd know when you started out.  It makes you more interesting by humanizing you.  The internet can be personal when it's used correctly and that's what we're trying to achieve in the handmade community - something more personal and special than large-scale manufacturing.  Just...don't go overboard.  There needs to be a balance here.  Be friendly, engaging, and positive (yes, positive...the rebel "bitchy" blogger is only amusing for so long).  You'll soon make your readers aware that you're more than just the products you've listed and they'll be more likely to buy from you than a competitor to whom they don't feel a connection.  Don't write post after post about your life (i.e. how you had a fun time at the dog park or the wonderful religious experience you just had.)  More often than not, your bloggers aren't going to care.  This goes back to point #4.  Narrowing your focus means toning down on the deep personal information that doesn't relate to your blog's subject matter at all - that's what your personal blog is for.

These are my top 5 tips but as I wrote this I thought of another two points you really need to consider.  These are the optional tips but they give you a way to become a valued contributing member of the blogging community.

Bonus tip: Respond to everyone that comments on your blog.
You might not have to do this if you have upwards of 200 active followers, but if you're already that successful you're probably not reading this post.  You need to think of blogging as a social networking tool.  If you're using social networking correctly you're not just posting but interacting with others.  Instead you're following other blogs and responding to posts with relevant and thoughtful comments.  You're also responding to every person that comments on your blog by replying to them and potentially by commenting on one of their blog entries to return the good will.  Not only can you learn a great deal from reading other people's content, but you also have an opportunity to stake out your competition so to speak.  For example, if you crochet scarves some of the bloggers you follow should be fellow scarf-makers.  You should study the posts the more successful artisans make (people with more followers and sales than you) and try to improve your content to be on par with theirs.

Optional point to consider: Be helpful!
People are going to need a reason to follow you out of the thousands of blogs that exist.  You should want your posts to benefit other people in some way.  This can work for you by encouraging them to stick around and potentially end up in your shop.  Do you post about other artisan's work?  People who are looking for the products you're promoting will like your blog.  Do you post about social networking resources and how they can benefit my business?  I'm going to want to subscribe.  Do you have links to crafty tutorials on your blog?  People will be coming back again and again looking for instructions on fun things to make.  Being helpful tends to pay off, so consider what your expertise is and post about that.  You're knowledgeable about something I promise!  And there are people out there who will benefit from you posting it.  Plus, it's just good karma. :)

What are your tips for new bloggers?  Do you think your blog directly benefits your business?  Post in the comments and share your answers to these question with us!  Don't forget to leave your blog link in your comment.  You never know which bloggers allow trackbacks!

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Upcycled Love

Fall in love...with the earth!  My favorite causes are environmental, especially when it comes to climate change and recycling.  Upcycled products help keep items out of landfills and encourage alternatives to mass production - factories, coal, emissions, ozone; you get the connection. This spotlight features upcycled items ranging from inexpensive at $5 and rather upscale at $200+.

I hope you enjoy browsing these shops as much as I did!  Have you found anything unique lately?  Have something eco-friendly in your shop?  Post it in the comments.  I may decide to put it in a similar feature.

Until next time,

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Love is in the Air!

Okay, so I should start this off by saying I hate Valentine's Day.  I mean really hate it.  I think last year I had a personal Saw marathon and I probably drank.  I don't really remember.  My beef is not that it's a manufactured holiday designed to prey on the sentimentality of consumers...okay well, that's a big part of it.  My other reason for not liking the holiday is the fact that I've only had the opportunity to celebrate it once.  Every other year, I've felt constantly bombarded with messages on television, in the theatres, in every store, at work, etc. that I'm alone and I should be in a relationship.  It's annoying.  People don't want to start dating you this time of year anyway out of fear that you'll expect candy or flowers and some kind of expensive dinner.  Maybe that's a cynical point of view, but I believe it to be the case.  So in the spirit of my less than romantic take on V-Day, I'm featuring treasuries that are more anti-love this week.  Sorry if the title misled you. ;)  Maybe I should change it to "Weekly Treasures: I'm Jealous!"

In order to preserve the treasuries since they may expire before you have time to explore this post, if you click on the image you'll be able to view a larger version of the screenshot.  This will let you know who a seller is and what the name of the product you like is even after the treasury is no longer available on the website.  To be taken to the treasury link on Etsy, click on the text below the photo.


Now, I'm offering two sales during the month of February.  The first is a free worldwide shipping promotion on select items in my Etsy shop.  The second is an Anti-Valentine's Day Sale on Artfire - I promise it's not as bitter as it sounds!  It's just my way of rebelling against putting everything that has a heart on it or red in it on sale this month.  If you purchase any item marked with the word coupon in my shop (including PRIDE jewelry) you can use the coupon code ANTIVDAY to get 40% off!  All of the items on sale feature either black or blue in some way.

Visit ellesbeads's Studio
SAVE 40.00 % On Select Studio Items
Use Coupon Code:
during checkout.
Visit the EB Studio

Unfortunately ArtFire doesn't allow you to edit coupons to add new listings to the list of "Select Studio Items" on sale so this code will only work on items tagged with the orange coupon banner.

Happy shopping! Are you having any Valentine's Day or February sales? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, February 5, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: BlogCatalog

One of my readers has requested that I post about blogging.  So for this week's Hotlist, I'm going to be talking about BlogCatalog.  This will be the first in a series of posts about blogging - make sure to subscribe so you won't miss anything!

BlogCatalog is both an online directory of blogs and a social networking site for blog writers.  Unlike some resources which are artisan only, this site includes blogs from all different areas of interest.  This is one of its strengths though, not its weaknesses.  I follow and have been followed by bloggers that write about completely different subject matter than I do because of networking on this site.  If you use that to your advantage, you may find you're able to bring in traffic and potential customers from unexpected sources.

BlogCatalog offers both paid and free accounts.  As of now, I've only taken advantage of the free options so that's what I'm going to focus on in this review.  With a free account you're able to set up a profile and (once approved) link to your blog.  My profile is in the process of updating now, so it won't jump out at you, but your blog description and a screenshot of what the blog looks like are showcased on your profile page.  You're also able to add a blurb about yourself and links to your other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  On the side of your profile is a "shoutbox," which is similar to a bulletin board where people can post messages for you.

The whole reason that people are here on this site is to get more traffic to their blogs.  They'll attempt to do this with link exchanges, private requests in the shoutbox, etc.  Just like with any other site, some people are able to get traffic from here and some aren't based on the way they interact with others.  The two main keys are participation and reciprocation - and they apply to all social networking sites, not just BlogCatalog.  You must participate in the community and if others follow you or comment on your blog, you generally should do the same in return.

BlogCatalog has a few ways in which you're able to find other people with similar interests and their blogs.  One way is through groups.  There's a directory which can be accessed from any page on the website that will allow you to browse user-created groups under certain categories.  Business, Hobbies and Crafts, Search Engine Optimization - the list of categories and groups that may be applicable to your online business is pretty extensive.  I'm in handmade/homemade, Etsy, Twitter, Blogspot, Google Friend Connect, Traffic, and RSS groups.  Each group features a list of members, a discussion board, and a shoutbox.  The last time I was in the discussion boards there was a comment spam problem so be forewarned.  There are plenty of opportunities though within these boards to leave your blog and shop links, participate in exchanges (i.e.  I'll comment on your blog if you read an entry and leave a comment on mine), and find feature opportunities.  Business-specific groups may even give you some valuable information on how to improve the way you run your online shop.  The groups do have their flaws and the boards are not the most pleasing on the eyes, but something can be gained from them if they're used correctly.

The second easy and obvious way to network on BlogCatalog is by browsing through the directory.  This can be a little more time consuming, but it's a good way to find other blogs you should be reading.  Right now there are 795 blogs in the Jewelry category and 644 under Knitting, so don't expect to hit every blog on the site in one sitting!  Each person that submits their blog to the directory has an opportunity to write a short description of their blog.  This allows you to quickly scan through the directory to find the handmade blogs with the focus you're looking for.  Click on a few of the blogs and do some research - after all, these people are your competition!  Compare blogs to find out which ones are more successful in getting followers and carefully observe the popular ones to find out what you can improve in your own blog.  For example, you'll notice that blogs that essentially just post listings of the jewelry they've made are nowhere near as successful as the blogs that provide useful information like tutorials or business tips.  If you find a blog you're interested in, you can follow it via RSS, Google Friend Connect, or whatever options that blogger has available.  Don't stop there though.  Go ahead and add the blogger as a friend on BlogCatalog by clicking on the author's name and then clicking the link in the top right corner of the page that says "Add as a Friend."  Like on Twitter, most people will add you back  This is a way to build up your social network and keep a list of people at your fingertips who you can learn from and who may provide you with opportunities to be featured, exchange comments, etc.  Now for a monthly fee you can be listed at the top of the category results, but otherwise it's free to list your blog and I highly recommend using the free option.

In addition to paying for a directory listing, you can also have a paid membership.  This would entail spending $6/month and in exchange ads would be removed from the site for you and you'd get some other features I'm not all that impressed with.  To me the best other feature listed is statistics, which I'm already getting from Google Analytics for free.  Really I think you get a considerable amount of BlogCatalog's benefit just by having a free account.  I'm not recommending paid membership at this time but if you're interested, check out the features here:

In short, I have seeen BlogCatalog help my site by bringing in a modest number of subscribers I would not have otherwise found.  I'm not very active in the community at all so I assume that if one wanted to put time and effort into it, a free account and directory listing could pay off in a huge way.  If you join, be sure to add me as a friend!

Do you belong to any blog directories you'd like to recommend?  Let us know in the comments!