Until next time,
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.
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,
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:
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:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/drtyawsmI managed an impossible feat Thursday - I went to the treasury and it immediately opened! Check out the flower-related items I selected:
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:
The name FreeCraftFair.com 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.
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,