Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Sugar Plum Fairies

Sugar plum fairies are for winter story telling but this fun color definitely isn't stuck in the cold season.  This year, wear purples throughout spring and summer to stay in sync with the fashion pulse.  Check out some of this great wearable and decorative art from Etsy in different shades of purple:


What do you have in your shop(s) in purple?  Share a link to your items in the comments!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Turquoise Dreams

Consumers and sellers alike should be aware of popular fashion trends.  Whether or not you're designing the latest cell phone cover or buying the right jewelry to stand out at a special event, you should be aware of what's hot and what's not in order to maximize your sales and/or your fashionista status.

For 2010, the subtle blue and bright green turquoise shades are extremely popular.  Here I've collected a few wearable items, art, and housewares that feature this beautiful color and hopefully spark inspiration for your creative process (whether that's putting together the right outfit or fashioning that perfect color for your latest soap).

11. Refraction - 8x10 Fine Art Print by Lori411


15. Turquoise and Green Hand Knit Pom Pom Handbag/Baguette by Anytime Accessory

Be sure to post a link to your latest treasury or turquoise item in the comments!

Until next time,

Friday, March 26, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: How to Stay Sane, Promote, and Still Have Time for Crafting - Part 1

The question of balancing time between promoting and crafting comes up all the time.  How do people Facebook, blog, Twitter, promote on forums, participate in teams/guilds, photograph and list, and still have time for crafting?  We're not superhumans so there are only so many hours in the day.  I have a full time job in addition to this business, so I'll explain how I do it and you can implement the things you think would help you in your life situation.

The first post in this series is all about the tools you can use to maximize your time and promote quickly and sometimes even automatically:

1. TwitterFeed: Contrary to the way the name sounds, this feature can help you regardless of whether or not you Twitter.

TwitterFeed is an application I use to take my RSS feeds and promote them on Twitter and Facebook.  For example, I have RSS feeds associated with my blog, Etsy, and ArtFire.  I enter them in TwitterFeed and tell TF where to post new information from the feeds.  Now when I post a new blog entry or list a new item on Etsy or ArtFire, it automatically posts to my Facebook Fan Page and also sends a tweet to my followers.  A one time set up allows me to promote without any extra effort on my part.  If you are not using TwitterFeed, I highly recommend it as it will save you time and energy.

2. MyTweeple: This is a Twitter application that allows you to see who is following you, who you are following, and whether or not the following is mutual.

I use MyTweeple to manage my Twitter followers.  If someone has followed me and they either seem interesting based on their profile, have a link to a handmade shop in their description, or tweet about an issue I care about, I can follow them back with a click of a button.  Conversely, if I've followed someone during the week, say based on Follow Friday recommendations or chat room link postings, and they have decided not to follow me back, I can unfollow them with a click of a button.  The ability to unfollow is important to me.  I believe things should be as mutual as possible on Twitter because they are that way on any other social networking site where you add friends.  If you are interested in what I have to say and I am interested in what you have to say, we'll have the chance to network and learn from each other.  If we're not going to interact (and you're not someone famous or exceedingly interesting) and you're just abusing the follow back etiquette to get more followers, there's no point in me continuing to follow you.  If you use MyTweeple weekly, the time it takes to manage your following/follower lists is minimal.

3. HootSuite: This is the best Twitter application I've ever discovered because it's online-based so I can use it whether I'm at home, at work, or on someone else's computer. No downloads required.

You do not need to be chained to your computer 24/7 in order to Twitter effectively!  Seriously!  HootSuite allows you to schedule your tweets in advance and send them pretty much any time of day you'd like.  You can set up your self-promotion for the week about your latest blog post or the newest thing you've added to your website and you can have it sent for you when you're not at your desk.  The columns also allow you to see who has @ mentioned you so you never miss another one, what DMs you've received, what you're sent and pending tweets are, and so much more all on the same page.  You can also retweet the old fashioned way (using RT) without copying and pasting.  Get on this app while it's still in Beta and is still free.

4. TweetMeme:  Let other people promote for you!

TweetMeme buttons can be added to your blog entries so that if people like them, they click the button and easily tweet the article to their followers.  It's an easy way to get people to promote the entries of yours they like.  Check the top of this post to see what I'm talking about - it's right next to the Digg button and serves the same purpose for Twitter.  Read this information to find out how you can get this button yourself or Google "add TweetMeme to Blogger."

Use these tools to help maximize your promoting and stay on top of your game without going crazy.  Be sure to follow my blog via Blogger Follow, Google Friend Connect, or RSS in order to catch the next post in this series - an explanation from me on how I manage my promotion with these tools and more.

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Springtime in Raleigh

I love the "Shop Local" feature on Etsy.  It's how buyers have found my shop in the past and it's a great way to support local art.  I was browsing today and came across these pink, springtime lovelies:

How nice would these items have been in a treasury?  Alas, I missed the chance today so I made the above ByHand spotlight which you can click on to be connected to each item and seller.

Do you shop locally?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reasons to Consider Blogger for Your Business Blog Host

I have used Blogger on and off since high school and even though it doesn't always work right in Google Chrome (which is ridiculous considering Blogger is now a Google product), I still highly recommend it for artisans looking for a free place to host their blog.  Here's why:

1. Everyone else is using it.  Okay, that's a bad thing to say generally in life, but when you're talking about building a following it makes sense.  Tons of people you know or should know are already on Blogger, can see your latest posts right from their Blogger homepage, and can easily subscribe to your blog even without Google Friend Connect or RSS.  I've been to WordPress hosted blogs before that didn't have Google Friend Connect and ended up never going back because I couldn't find a way to subscribe without creating an account or getting an RSS reader - neither of which am I ever going to remember to check.  Also, people tend to like what they're familiar with.  If your blog is a Blogger blog (that's a mouthful) the potential subscriber is likely already familiar with the format and style and is comfortable knowing how to find you easily again.  Blogger is sort of it's own little community and that sense of belonging is always beneficial to your business.

2. There is a post scheduling feature.  One of the things I love about the Twitter app Hootsuite is that I can schedule tweets to send when I'm away from the computer and continue to get traffic to my blog, Treasury, website, etc.  Blogger does the same thing with posts.  I can blog about my opinion on something and schedule it to post the next day or a week from now, spreading out my posts evenly and providing steady, fresh content without being chained to my computer every night writing.  It's especially great if you have a weekly feature like I have with the EB Friday Hotlist.  I can start writing my post whenever I want and lets say I finish on Wednesday.  I can set the post to publish on Friday at 8:00 am (or 5:23 pm, it doesn't matter) and my post will automatically appear at that time.  In order for this to work correctly, make sure you set your time zone when you configure your account settings.  You can also save posts as drafts for quick posting whenever you need some content.  It's good to have timeless posts (posts that aren't time sensitive, this would be an example of one) in reserve in draft mode so that when you hit a mental block or you can't find the time to write, you can just schedule one of them to publish and move on with your day.

3. It's idiot proof.  In this world of technology and funky things like CSS and FTP and a bunch of other acronyms I only sort of get, Blogger lets me take a break and take it easy.  I can see the HTML code and edit it if I want to, but if I just want to format my post, add some links and pictures, and adjust my font color, I can do that without any knowledge or application of computer code whatsoever.  It's a very user friendly site and it's easy enough even for the computer challenged to get the basics down.  I promise, if you don't get Blogger on your own, someone can teach it to you and it will be one of the easiest things you learn to do online.

4. It's customizable.  No not like WordPress - I think they have Google beat with customization.  But again, for those of us using free templates or simple custom designs, Blogger is perfect.  You can set up a 2 or 3 column layout (with a little bit of effort if the goal is 3) and add links, graphics, HTML code, Etsy minis, widgets, Google Calendar, webpages, etc.   You can also set how many posts you want to appear per page.  I recently realized my blog was loading so slow because it was set at 7 posts per page instead of 3 like it is now.  I use pictures and tons of text in my posts, as you know, so having the ability to choose how much shows up when someone loads my page can be the difference between a reader and someone clicking the back button on their browser because it looks like a dead site.

5. It's convenient.  As a Google user, having a Blogger blog is really just the easiest for me.  I get an email every time someone posts a comment which makes it easy for me to respond to each one without missing a bunch.  I don't have to create an additional account, I just sign in with my Gmail information.  Google Friend Connect allows people to sign into my blog with an AOL, Twitter, or other social networking accounts and I can send out polls or newsletters to update my subscribers on what's going on with the blog.  I had a WordPress account previously and never remembered to use it, but since I'm already an avid Google user it's super convenient for me to pop on over to Blogger and update.

Now if you already have a successful blog on your ArtFire page, I don't recommend stopping and switching to Blogger.  Having a blog on your studio/shop webpage is a great idea because it allows you to draw people into your store very easily when you post good, relevant content. This recommendation of setting up Blogger is only for those who don't already have a successful blog somewhere else.  Also make sure you note that Google hates duplicate content so don't just copy and paste from one blog to the other either or you'll be lowering your search engine optimization.

Do you have a Blogger blog?  Post your link in the comments!

Until next time,

Friday, March 19, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Tips for Online Selling

This week I'm doing something a little different.  Part of the goal of this blog is to promote great websites and great tips for running your own online business.  Here are some of my favorite tips I've come across this week and where you can read more:

"Fill out your profile and have clear store policies set up. If you can, always try to include a return policy. Not having one may scare a buyer off."

(About advertising) "Don’t overspend. There’s no point in spending $100 per month on a site that doesn't reach your target audience."

"Get in touch with your local SBA, state government, or chamber of commerce to find out exactly what you need to do from a legal standpoint to get started as a business. You need to make sure you are clear on taxes and any permits and licenses you may need."

I've also participated in quite a few virtual labs and chats on Etsy in the past week.  This is some of what I've learned:

1. Facebook ads allow you to set your own price and can be a successful way to get traffic to your shop.
2. Packaging is important.  Consider saving one of your photos to show your potential buyers how professional your packaging looks in order to convince them that your item will make a nice gift.
3. You should advertise offline for your online business.  Hand out your business cards and if you're shy, stick to posting your information around in different shops and businesses.
4. Wear your product.  When you get compliments, give out business cards.  Be a walking advertisement for your business (if feasible).
5. Everyone's business is different and so is everyone's advice.  Don't just take every piece of advice you get - be selective and do what you think will work for you.

Take place in the virtual labs on Etsy yourself by going to this link:

Have any great tips or things you've learned this week?  Post your ideas and tips in the comments!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

State Farmers Market Craft Spring Craft Fair and Tips for Your First Show

So the State Farmer's Market craft show took a lot of time to prepare for.  I made and packaged items like crazy to get ready for it.  I suppose it was worth it.  I made 8 sales, a very modest profit, and learned a lot about selling outdoors in March.  The good news is I made enough to put some money towards a new camera.  Now I just need to decide what I want so I can save the rest.

My grandparents were awesome enough to come visit me, buy me lunch, and bring me an extra table and tablecloth so I could put out all of my items.  I really have few members of my family I interact with, but the ones I do are just incredibly supportive of my business and my dreams.

For the benefit of my NC artisan friends, let me just say this.  Be prepared.  There was quite a bit of traffic from the Farmer's Market customers but virtually no one came specifically interested in buying arts and crafts.  The show is poorly organized and poorly advertised.  The upside?  It's cheap at $30/day.  I'd recommend what I did and just do Saturday.  I heard Friday traffic was dismal and Sunday is notorious for being slow especially during the morning hours due to church activities.  I made back my $30 so it's worth taking a stab if you've got a pretty original, low priced, weather appropriate craft.  If you do sign up, the organizer will tell you to make your display windproof but she doesn't emphasize this enough.  NAIL/GLUE/STAPLE EVERYTHING DOWN.  My prices kept flying away as did my tablecloth (until I taped it down).  Other people's stuff was going all over the place too.  It's a wind tunnel this time of year so ignore the weather and bring a sweater and a coat and lots of stuff to weigh your display down.

Check out some pictures of my preparation, items, and display:

Me in the mirror with a bunch of fabric flower petals draped over my shoulders

New Fabric Flowers I made for the show

A couple of items that sold

My display!

Here are the top 10 things I learned from doing this show:

1. Always dress in layers and avoid opened toed shows until it's hot outside.  It's not warm in March even when the weatherman says it's going to be in the high 60s.
2. Bring snacks.  When you're a vegetarian and the only thing you can find to eat at the show is nachos, you'll quickly find why you need them.  Did you know how awkward really cheesy nachos are to eat in front of customers by the way?
3. It's always good to have a friend with you or to make one with the person in the booth next to you so you have someone to watch your stuff while you pee. (Some lady got her purse stolen from the bathroom right across from my table during the show.  Yikes!!)
4. If you sell jewelry, you should invest in a mirror.  They're cheap and easy to find.  People want to see how the necklaces look on them and they want to hold up the earrings to their face.
5. Have variety in your price range.  I sold some earrings for $2 and a necklace set for $30.  I wouldn't have sold anything more expensive to the $2 customer and there was someone there willing to pay a good price for some of my nicer things.
6. People say they're coming back.  They really aren't.  It's okay, just don't take it personally.  You probably have done it too.
7. Bring drinks.  I can't believe I forgot water.  This is self explanatory.
8. Take a camera.  It's cool to have pictures to show later and it's a way to keep a visual record of what you've done.  It's also good so that you can look back on your old displays and improve them.
9. Bring lots and lots and lots of promotional materials.  People wanted my business cards and my business card magnets and I included some with every order.  Some that didn't buy wanted to know if they could call me for custom orders and if I did club meetings.  They may or may not turn out to be customers in the future but they definitely won't if my contact information isn't readily available in a professional format (i.e. not on the back of a receipt or piece of notebook paper).
10. Make sure to have change.  I stopped at the gas station on the way and got ones and I was really, really glad I did.  The first order I got was paid for with a $20 and so were half of the sales I made all day.  Lack of change might have cost me sales.

Have any craft show tips?  Share them in the comments!

Until next time,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weekly Treasures: In Bloom managed an impossible feat Thursday - I went to the treasury and it immediately opened!  Check out the flower-related items I selected:

4. Poppy Earrings by drtyawsm
6. Hit the Target Bouquet by Jillianns

I hope you enjoy!

Until next time,

Friday, March 12, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Flickr

I  am still not 100% convinced that Flickr leads to sales, but it's worth a try anyway. Some sellers have mentioned success with it. If you're not already familiar with Flickr, it's a photo sharing website for personal photos. I have to stress the personal part. If you create an account DO NOT mention your shop anywhere but in your profile. If you put it in the item descriptions and they find out, you'll be shut down. That's the one downside I've seen so far, but pretty much everyone knows now to click on your profile.

Clearly the main benefit of Flickr is the ability to upload photos. Free accounts have 200 pictures max at a time, but for $25 you get unlimited access to your pictures for a year - which comes out to about $2/month. My advice is to keep a basic account until you exceed the 200 picture mark. You'll know when this happens because an annoying red banner will show up at the top of your page telling you about Pro accounts. Then I'd go ahead and take them up on the offer, as it's pretty cheap for a year's worth of hosting.

Flickr allows you to add contacts, so be sure to search for some of your Twitter friends or Etsy team members to get connected. Their recent pictures will be shown to you at the bottom of your start page, giving you easy access to what your friends have been working on. If they add you as a contact, your pictures will show up at the bottom of their page as well, maybe prompting them to check out your shop to get that new pendant you just wrapped.

Groups are another great feature of Flickr. Different groups have different rules, but you can find a group for just about anything you're interested in. I'm in Adopt North Carolina Animals, Art of Pride, Artisan Jewelry on Etsy, Collaborators In Cahoots, Etsy - Look and Learn, Flickr Ideas, NC Triangle Street Team, North Carolina Artists, North Carolina Jewelry Artist, Sweet Figments, and Zibbet Your Arts and Crafts Here. As you can see, I'm in groups that are international, local groups, and groups that are based around a common interest. I strongly recommend searching through groups for your city (if it's a metropolitan area) or your state (if your town is not so huge). Note that almost every single sale I've made online so far on any venue has been from people in my state - the handmade community loves to shop locally. Once you've joined the groups, upload pictures to their photostream to gain some exposure and let your team members see what you've been up to. The added benefit to this is that often a member may be using the pictures as promotional tools on another site. For example, the NC Triangle Street Team Flickr stream is visible on their blogspot blog. If I've uploaded a picture recently, it shows up early in that slide show and I get my product shown to all the people frequenting the blog.

You can, of course, make your own slide shows. Your pictures can be organized into sets and collections which you can then use to make widgets of a specific set of pictures. The widget can be displayed on your blog or another website. If you'd prefer to promote the group, it's always appreciated by other members for you to do that too. Cross promotion is more than just good karma, it's good business sense. Often when you promote someone else, they become interested in promoting you in return.

There are some other features Flickr has like ordering prints and a company blog, but I haven't really explored these. Take the time to look through Flickr on your own and be sure to leave a comment if you notice something I've left out.

If you don't have a Flickr profile, I highly recommend signing up for one. It's an easy to use, cheap promotional tool. If you have one, please post your link in the comments so we can all connect!  Mine is here.

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Gifts Perfect for Men

Let's face it, the handmade community is made up primarily of women participating in traditionally female-dominated crafts (jewelry making, crocheting, knitting, sewing, etc.).  It's pretty easy for us to focus on making items that are more feminine or "girly" in appearance and appeal and the "pretty" items are often the ones chosen for treasuries and front page features.  However, there are many creative men on the handmade scene and multiple genders who make products designed for them.  Women aren't just shopping for themselves and (some) men do shop.  So where do masculine or unisex items fit into the the world of handmade?  The people who sell them are at a huge advantage when it comes to grabbing the attention of gift givers!  Check out some of these great products I found on Zibbet this week that your favorite guy isn't going to be embarrassed to wear or have around the house:

Have any great unisex or men's oriented items in your shop?  Know of any great places to find some?  Post some links in the comments!

Until next time,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Hoppity Hop Hop Easter Gift Guide

You may remember the Tuesday Edition of the Hotlist I posted about IndieSpotting and My Shopping Connection.  At that time, I wasn't able to review the gift guide process because I hadn't participated in it.  I was able to snag an early spot in the Easter Gift Guide though which went live on Friday. The submission process was virtually the same as submitting a picture for the regular section of the site (plus the $5 payment).  The gift guide will be live for the next month and should create more exposure for my Etsy shop and my Sweet Blue Barrette.  We'll see!


Know of any other gift guides for March and April?  Been featured in any online galleries or blogs?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

Saturday, March 6, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: Free Craft Fair

The name might sound a little cheesy (at least it did to me), but it's got some features that may help you out as a seller.

Since it's late and I'm tired, I'm going to try and hit the highlights and leave it at that.  I know, a brief post!  Let's see if I can do it.

1. Crafting Information: On the site you'll find jewelry, knitting, sewing, and paper craft tutorials in the form of YouTube videos.  You'll also find product reviews and ideas from other crafters that may inspire you.


2. RL Business Info:  RL stands for real life.  There are tips about how to prepare for an in-person craft show and even a search so that you can find shows locally.  You can find information about offline advertising ideas, where to get business cards, how to develop a business plan, what you should to to keep great accounting records, and more.  Many of these tips can also be applied to online selling as information about advertising, accounting, etc. are just as important online as off.

3. Online Directory: While the Free Craft Fair directory does require participation in the form of linking back to the directory from your site, it does still cost my favorite price - absolutely nothing.  Directory listings are in text format and include your shop link and a description.

4. Project Wonderful Advertising:  If you've read my Hotlist post about Project Wonderful, you know I regularly use them for advertising because I'm able to set my own budget and sometimes even get free ad views depending on current bids.  Free Craft Fair utilizes Project Wonderful advertising on their site so you can get extra exposure by bidding on a graphic ad space if you wish.

5. Feature Opportunities: Free Craft Fair also runs features on artisans who do all different types of crafts.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I saved this benefit for last because I'm really not sure how the artisans are selected for the features.  However, I'm sure that question could be answered and even a feature possibly lined up by simply listing yourself in the directory and then dropping a line to the owners via the contact form.

I hope though this week's Hotlist post was less wordy that you still found it informational.  I definitely recommend you checking out Free Craft Fair in more detail over the weekend.  As always, please leave any thoughts you may have in the comments!

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Weekly Treasures: Queer and Sexy

I got another treasury this week!  This one features my other Etsy Team, the Queer Etsy Street Team.  It's a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, androgynous, asexual, and other queer folks.  We have a team store where we donate some of our items for charity (customer gets the item, charity gets the profit) and we raised almost $75 for Haiti last month. Check out the team blog too!


Did you get a Treasury West tonight?  A Treasury at all this week?  Post the link the comments for us to comment on!

Until next time,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Running Your Business on a Budget: Pricing Your Work

How do you price your work?  Do you use a formula?  Do you remember to charge for your labor?  How much do your materials cost and do you mark them up when you sell?

I may increase my prices when I get more comfortable with my work and produce more advanced styles of jewelry and accessories.  I increased my prices slightly when I started making my fabric flowers at a higher level of quality and one immediately sold.  It's as if people are willing to pay the fair prices for the work that we do (imagine that) and understand that sites like Etsy are for high quality handmade goods and not for getting bargain bin prices for manufacturer throwaways.  That's one of the reasons I continue to sell there in spite of some of the weaknesses you'll discover on your own if you spend just 5 minutes perusing the forums (we've had problems with manufactured throwaways sneaking onto the site for ages, up to and including NutriSystem meals -_-).  It's on Etsy that I was encouraged to charge more for my work than I had originally because I was taking into account the cost of supplies and the cost of shipping but not the cost of labor.  A bag of beads and wire is not worth nearly the same as a beaded necklace that took time to plan, design, and execute and that should be reflected in the jewelry artisan's pricing structure.  On the same token if a scarf and glove accessory designer is pricing, he must consider that his work is valuable to the degree that a ball of yarn is worth less than a finished winter scarf I can wear out in this still chilly March weather.

People equate higher prices with higher quality and you should let your pictures do the talking for you as to why your prices are fair.  You don't want to overprice your work either though, for example, by charging $200 for a simple pair of sterling silver earrings with manufactured findings and Swarovski crystals that took you a quarter of an hour to make.  There is a balance to be struck and as a businessperson you have to figure out what that balance is.  Research your competitors and find out what they're charging for similar work.  (Don't just do what they do because they have a lot of sales.  There are jewelry artists out there who sell only $1 and $2 earrings and they aren't the ones you want to emulate because they aren't making a profit.)  There are formulas out there you can find in forum threads and probably in a Google search that indicate what might be a reasonable price structure.  If you find one that resonates with you and you don't mind doing the calculations, go for it!  Find a way to make your pricing make sense (i.e. not arbitrary) and that gives both you and your customers a fair deal.

How do you price your work?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,