Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weekly BEST: Arm Candy For You

This week I have the opportunity to feature a business specializing in "arm candy" - purses, clutches, and handbags galore!  Arm Candy For You is based in India and features beautiful bags made by Priti, an engineer turned entrepreneur.  Now that she is a stay at home mom, she has been able to find time to express her creativity with materials like silk and leather.  Each bag is handmade and one of a kind - no two bags in the same pattern, color, and fabric are ever made.  Each is a unique work of art.  I've picked out a few favorites to share with you below:

 Purse Bag Rubber Rose Printed Pleated Water Resistant by Arm Candy For You on Etsy

Clutch Purse Vegan Leather Black Wedding Fascinator Clip by Arm Candy For You on Etsy

Clutch Purse Pure Silk Indian Sea Green Sequins Shells by Arm Candy For You on Etsy

 Wristlet Clutch Purse Velvet Teal Zippered Pleated Fall  Autumn by Arm Candy For You on Etsy

Be sure to check out the shop and snap up a treat for you or a friend this holiday season.  Here are the links you need for all things Arm Candy:

Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/armcandyforyou
Blog: http://armcandyforyou.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/armcandyforyou
Twitter: http://twitter.com/armcandyforyou
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51064949@N04

There are some truly beautiful bags in this shop suitable for every day use, business and professional wear, and even semi-formal or formal attire.  Let me know in the comments what kind of bags you typically carry and which bag from Arm Candy For You you'd love to add to your wardrobe!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mini EB Friday Hotlist: Three Quick Tips for Getting Sales During the Online Holiday Shopping Season

Photo by the justified sinner on Flickr
Used under Creative Commons license
Online shopping tends to pick up this time of year as people start buying gifts for loved ones, friends, coworkers, teachers, secret santas, holiday parties, and more.  From Black Friday (today) and Cyber Monday through the day-after-Christmas sales, our consumer culture tends to kick into overdrive - even during a recession.  If you're working on growing your business, it would be a mistake not to capitalize on this.  Here are some quick tips for maximizing your business this holiday season:

Tip #1 Make sure you utilize your social media tools effectively.  If you're on Twitter, tweet an item a day and tag it with #handmade, #shophandmadethisholiday, #cybermonday, #(etsy, artfire, zibbet, etc.),
#(product type), etc.  Make sure you send out an email to your mailing list and/or a Facebook post to your fans letting them know about any holiday-specific sales or great gift items you have.  One fun idea is to do a 12 Days of Christmas sale with a new item on sale each day, announced that day.  It generates buzz and keeps people coming back to your social media sites...for at least 2 weeks anyway.  It's important though to remember to keep promoting on social media even if you're not having a big sale.  See Tip #3 for more information on that.

Tip #2 Check out what your selling venue provides.  Every year the major selling venues have item tags and special twitter hashtags to use to promote the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales.  There's much more available though every year, so do your research.  Did you know that Etsy now has % off coupon codes and Timothy Adam now has a site where you can promote them?  Or that Zibbet has gift guides to which premium sellers can add their own items?  (Yes, they are now live.)  Or that you can now put all of your items on sale at once in your Etsy shop via a third party site?  Do a little research on the newest features of your venue so that you can maximize your use of them this shopping season.

Wabi Sabi Gift Wrap
Photo by SSSasky on Flickr
Used under Creative Commons license
Tip #3 Offer perks for shopping with you.  Maybe you can't afford to slash prices 40% and offer free shipping just to get a few sales.  Supplies cost more than ever and, let's face it, shipping isn't free.  If you're not doing a sale, that doesn't mean you slack off on promoting until all of the % off, free shipping, BOGO frenzies are over.  Be proactive by focusing on what you can offer instead.  Maybe you're willing to ship directly to a gift recipient, making it easier for someone to buy a last minute gift.  Maybe you can provide free/low-cost gift wrapping, fancy and festive packaging, a free handmade gift tag, or options for expedited shipping at the customer's extra expense.  Get creative.  Everyone has something to offer.

I hope these three tips will help you as you take on your holiday selling adventure.  Best wishes for many, many sales!

Happy holidays!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekly BEST: From Shirlee


Warning!  If you like handmade items that can be described as adorable, professionally made, colorful, festive, shabby chic or all of the above, you cannot afford to miss this shop!  From Shirlee is a collective shop run by a mother-daughter-daughter team who trace their artisan roots to the family's grandmother, Shirlee.  Shirlee's inspiration and passion for all things crafty spread down through the next two generations to these three shop owners: Linda, Brittany, and Ashley.  I tend to really love collective shops because of their propensity to display diverse talents, and From Shirlee is no exception.  You'll find anything here from scrapbook pages to baby afghans to hair accessories.  Here are some of my favorite items from the shop:

Christmas Countdown Magnet Board

Have this Dance, premade Scrapbook pages, 12 x 12

Snowman Welcome Wall Hanging

Amigurumi Octopus

I hope you'll visit the shop and look through each category, because there are so many more fun items I don't have room to post!  Here's where you can find the From Shirlee crew around the web:

Once you've checked out the shop, come back here and let us know which item(s) you like best.  Don't forget to "heart" them if you're an Etsy user!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, November 19, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: More on Microblogging and How to Keep a Positive Brand Reputation Online, Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part article on Twitter mistakes for handmade businesses to avoid.  You can read the first half here.
Continuing on with our discussion, it is important not just to control your own content but also to control what content written by others you publicly share.

Be mindful of what you favorite and retweet.  

In other words, pay attention what other people say and make a determination on whether or not passing the tweet along has the potential to hurt your business and/or your credibility.  Twitter has some concrete ways that you can show your stamp of approval and disseminate content to others.  Making use of these tools can make you a more interesting person to follow, but they need to be used carefully and thoughtfully.

This is an example of a retweet.
Lets define our terms first.  Retweeting can be done in two ways - by using the retweet button or by typing RT, the person's @ name, and the text of their tweet.  It basically allows you to take someone else's content and share it with your followers, while still giving credit to the original speaker.  People appreciate when you share their content and may return the favor when you post something cool or interesting about your business.  Your followers will appreciate seeing what you retweet because they may benefit from the information or simply find it interesting, and may even have a new contact to follow thanks to you.  Retweeting and being retweeted can increase your status in the Twitterverse because people will find following you worthwhile.

Favoriting tweets on Twitter is quite different.  If someone tweets something you like, find funny or interesting, or for any other reason you want to keep it bookmarked, you can click a clear star that appears next to the tweet which will then turn gold.  You can go to your favorites list via the Twitter website or a third-party application and it's just like clicking the drop-down menu on your browser that lists all of your bookmarked webpages - all of your favorite tweets are right there.  While these two features are obviously very different, the advice is pretty much the same for both of them:
  • Never recommend a tweet you haven't read.  For all intents and purposes, retweeting a link means you recommend your followers take a look at it.  If you're going to share content with your followers you need to make sure that it's legit.  Check the original poster out (if that information is still with the tweet) to make sure they aren't a scammer or sending people viruses.  If you don't trust that you can click on the link without causing harm to your computer, don't share it with anyone else, please!  (We all thank you in advance.)  If you trust the link, click it and read the web page, article, photo caption, or whatever is being shared.  Make sure you're really okay with sharing the content.  Not clicking just because you trust the original twitter can cause you to spread false or misleading information, information that isn't really relevant (titles can be misleading), or just offensive material.  Here's an extra tip I read recently - show your followers that you're intelligent, well-versed in your subject matter, and interesting enough to continue following by adding your opinion in as well.  Don't just link drop.  Instead tell your followers why you cared enough to RT and why they should care enough to click (most people don't).  Can't do it in 140 characters?  Try this.
  • Never favorite something you haven't read and aren't prepared to justify.  I will qualify this by stating that until writing this post last Saturday, I didn't even know my favorites were available for the public to see.  I actually got the inspiration for this blog post after seeing this controversy surrounding Sarah Palin hit the blogosphere.  (skip down to Update 3 - the information before that is irrelevant to this discussion).  Anyway, I'm not suggesting that the news media is going to report what you favorite on Twitter, because you're probably not as famous as Gov. Palin if you're reading my blog.  Remember, I'm showing extreme real life examples to show you that it's always crucial to think then act, even though it's "just" the internet.  
    See the star?
    Now I also totally get that it's possible that you would want to bookmark something you disliked, disagreed with, or found offensive so that you could reference it later.  Be aware though that the word "favorite" is generally associated with "like."  Your potential customers might be offended by that adult-themed cartoon you found hilarious or turned off by your seeming interest in controversial social movements, regardless of whether or not you sympathize with said cause.  If you want to favorite something that might make a customer second guess supporting your business, just bookmark it in your web browser or on a site like Google Bookmarks.  Do the same thing if you don't have time to check out a link from a tweet now, but you want to later.  If your customer checks out your favorite tweets and gets a virus from a link you seemingly like, they might not ever go back to your Twitter again...or your store.  By the way, you can bookmark tweets in your browser too.  Find the link to an individual tweet by clicking on the date/time stamp (i.e. "24 seconds ago" or "4:21 PM Nov 5th"). 
What I hope you'll take away from this post is a goal to make sure you're not ostracizing your current or future clients by acting considerately and thoughtfully in your use of social media.  Stop and think about the implications of a message before you hit the tweet button.  Social media should boost your business, not hurt it.

Until next time,

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekly BEST: Chasing the Nuns

This week, I'm featuring a crafter named Sarah who runs the shop Chasing the Nuns.  She is a stay at home mom that hails from the great state of Illinois.  A unique sense of humor and personal style are reflected in her work, which includes crotchet, knitting, and sewing.  Sarah also upcycles t-shirts and turns them into fabulous shoulder bags.  Here are my favorites from the shop: 

music hand bag

 Mr. Rogers

aviator hat

crochet necklace

In addition to the shop offerings shown, Chasing the Nuns offers custom color and yarn options.  If she makes it, she can probably make it for you in your favorite color or yarn.  Even more exciting - if you're like me and have t-shirts you love but no longer wear, Sarah can preserve them for you by turning them into bags like the ones you see above.  Just ask her about custom ordering!

Check out the shop in these places around the web:

Visit the shop and check out Sarah's work.  Then come back here and let us know which item you like the most.  Also in the comments, let us know which of your t-shirts you'd most like to see turned into a bag!  For me, it would be the embroidered Montreal shirt that was brought back for me as a souvenir years ago.

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, November 12, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: More on Microblogging and How to Keep a Positive Brand Reputation Online, Part 1

This is the first half of a two-part article about how average users' mistakes on Twitter can be learning tools for handmade businesses looking to establish their social media presence.  I encourage you to check out each linked article and to check back on November 19, 2010 for the second part of this story.

Check out HautTotes on Twitter.
I've written about Twitter before and it still remains my favorite social media tool.  Since I'm currently on a semi-vacation from my jewelry business, my Twitter has definitely become more of a personal and less of a business account.  I comment back and forth almost daily with fellow fans of my favorite TV shows as they air, read hundreds of tips and tweets about the LSAT (December 11 is fast approaching!), and react to current events (midterm elections, anyone?)...all more often than I get to talk about handmade.  My Twitter started as a personal account anyway and really only developed into a business tool after starting Elle's Beads.  I really wanted to start a new account to match the all of my other branding, but the name @ellesbeads was already taken and Twitter won't let users snatch up inactive names.  I decided to stick with the commonly given advice that primarily talking about things other than your shop can actually drive business to your shop, so my @ellexmarie Twitter became a part of my marketing strategy.  Time will tell if that was a good idea for me.  I think Haut Totes is truly the master of "Twitter for handmade businesses" with almost 30,000 followers to date.  From what I notice in my timeline, she seems to have a nice mix of work and personal life, with the bulk of her tweets focused on encouraging followers to engage with her brand.  It goes to show that what some social media experts say and what actually works for each individual business doesn't always mesh.

If you're like me (i.e. not really at the 10,000+ follower level or even in shouting distance) and don't already have a strong customer base or online following to funnel into Twitter, you're probably reading forum posts, blog articles, and e-newsletters written from these aforementioned social media experts about how to navigate Twitter and increase your followers.  There are tons of them out there - and by them I mean both articles and self-declared experts.  For this blog article, I'm taking a different approach than I did last time.  While I still stand by my advice that using hashtags effectively and filling out your profile information can increase your following, not doing those things will probably not keep people from buying from you.  The things that will are the focus of this post.  I want to talk about how you can keep the followers you already have and avoid damaging your business with your tweets.  This is based on what the experts say, actual real life situations, and my personal experience using Twitter both primarily for business and primarily for social interaction.
Be careful with what you say.  

Obvious, right?  I didn't say these tips would be rocket science. :) Whether you're running a business or just chatting for fun, what you say on Twitter can really come back to bite you in the butt.  Don't think so?  Remember when Facebook started and then slowly expanded and became more popular?  Remember when law enforcement, employers, and school officials started accessing it and then started holding people
Photo by edvvc
accountable for what they posted (text, pictures, video...even outright confessions to crimes) by arresting them, firing them, or not accepting them into their universities?  If you weren't around when this all developed, that's okay.  Technology has progressed significantly over the past few years - I'm pretty young but I remember using pay phones at school because personal cell phones (the small ones that could now fit in a purse) were a luxury.  Forget the iTouch - I was so unbelievably excited to get my first portable CD player because it didn't require cassette tape rewinding like the Walkman.  And yes, if I wanted to keep a recording of a song I either had to wait for it all day on the radio and hit the record button on my radio-cassette player (aka "boom box") at just the right moment or I had to get my mom to take me to the store and purchase the tape or (by the time I got to middle school) the CD.

Anyway, now I'm digressing and feeling nostalgic.  If you don't remember the advent of the home computer, the internet, and the subsequent social media explosion dominated by MySpace and Facebook, here's a recent (as in this month) story for you to relate to: Check out what happened to this student who posted a comment on Facebook that landed him in jail, barred him from finishing college, and is basically killing his dreams for the foreseeable future.  While I doubt you or the average Facebook user will ever have these kind of consequences for what you post, it's important to bring up because there are more common, lesser consequences for less egregious behavior as well.  There are tons of personal problems you could encounter, but for the purposes of this discussion we'll focus on the repercussions for your business.

Alex Payne's tweet caused considerable backlash.
Twitter is a social media tool just like Facebook and, just like Facebook, text and photos (think TwitPic for example) as well as links to anything and everything are posted all the time.  It's easy to get complacent in the midst of all that information sharing, especially considering the fact that a very small percentage of tweets are replied to or shared by other users.  However, if you're running a business you're likely including your Twitter link on things like your mailing list emails, your Facebook fan page, your blog, and your shop.  If you want it to be a useful tool for business, you need new people to follow you and share your content.  To facilitate this, your timeline is probably "unprotected," which basically means that all of your tweets are public and users don't need your approval to view them or to follow you.  What this all means practically is that potential, current, and former customers as well as fellow artisans and competitors are following you or finding links to your tweets through your shop, mutual contacts, or even search engines like Google.  Yeah that's right - public tweets are indexed, included in searches, and sometimes show on the search page in real time via a scrolling widget (see screenshot below).  Here's what you don't want to have them see:
  • Anything absolutely stupid.  Again, if it has the potential to get you in trouble with law enforcement, your boss, or your school, just don't mention it on Twitter.  Go old school and do what I did before Xanga and Live Journal became cool - write it down with a pen in a real-life paper journal and keep it off the internet.  Remember too, it's not always the case that an offending tweet is inherently stupid and it may even be something you'd say out loud to a friend in real life.  Just take a few seconds to think
    Did you know that your tweets are in Google and Bing?
    ahead about how people may react to it or take your statement personally.  And most importantly, just like anywhere else on the internet, people can take screenshots of comments they see online, access search engine caches (i.e. images of your deleted tweet) for days and sometimes weeks, and even get around your password protections if they're really savvy.  Do not ever make the mistake of thinking that having a protected account is the same thing as privacy or that deleting an offending tweet will erase all traces of it instantly.  The internet doesn't work that way.  Think before you tweet.

  • Criticism directed towards a customer.  This is dangerous for two reasons.  The first should be obvious.  That person could come across your rant and decide to do everything they can to oppose you if they haven't already - from leaving scathing feedback to starting an active online campaign against you (I've seen it done).  Alternatively, if they are a reasonable person and would have accepted your genuine attempts to correct their dissatisfaction, you pretty much end all chance of that working out when you attack them on Twitter.  At best, you've just lost a customer and lost any business that customer might have referred to you.  The second reason is also pretty easy to figure out.  People are generally turned off by that kind of negativity.  A potential customer is going to think "Gee, look at the way she's talking about Customer X.  I don't want someone talking about me like that!  I bet she has poor customer service if that is how she treats people!"

  • Controversial topics.  Now this is going to be different for different people.  While I originally stayed away from tweets like these, I do now post about my support for LGBT issues, women's rights, and progressive political causes.  I've probably lost a few followers for that, but I don't mind.  My support
    for different issues, especially those affecting LGBT persons, is clearly reflected in both some of my work and in some of the charitable causes I'm involved in through Etsy.  If you are someone that has a problem buying from someone that holds these types of convictions, you're not going to purchase from me whether or not I'm tweeting.  And for the record, I seem to have a diverse group of Twitter followers who have all types of different belief systems.  So there is nothing wrong in theory with voicing your personal opinions on your business twitter, but keep it calm.  Don't attack other users for their views, don't bully, and try not to alienate large portions of your potential customer base.
The rest of this article is scheduled to post next Friday.  After that, the Hotlist will be on hiatus as I will be enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday studying like a mad woman for the December LSAT.  I will likely spend all of December finalizing law school applications and waiting impatiently for my test score.  Weekly BEST features will still be posted each week, but they will be scheduled in advance.  I still encourage you to post your comments!  Thank you for your understanding and I look forward to learning from and with you in the new year.  Have a safe, happy, and super profitable holiday season.

Until next time,

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Weekly BEST: LotusMira

    This week I'm featuring a fellow legal professional from our nation's capital (Washington, D.C.) who is in the process of earning both a law degree and an advanced graduate degree.  In addition to her academic pursuits, she manages to find time to nurture her creative side.  She specializes in soldered art and jewelry and uses her talents to upcycle found items and combine them with vintage images.  Check out my favorites from this shop:

    Vintage Pink Poison Labels (Double-Sided) -- One Inch Soldered Pendant - Halloween, Samhain

    Indian Hand Painted Tile Images (Double-Sided) -- One Inch Soldered Pendant

    Chiyogami Paper (Double-Sided) -- One Inch Soldered Pendant

    Vintage French Stamp (Paris) -- World Postage Stamp Series - Soldered Pendant

    These pendants are as beautiful and unique as the shop owner's name.  Lotus MiraGe is a symbolic, meaningful name which you can read all about on her Etsy profile.  Get to know this artist better by checking out her work at these locations as well:

    Shop: etsy.com/shop/lotusmira
    Blog: lotusmira.com
    Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Lotus-MiraGe-Ephemera/330807772723
    Flickr: flickr.com/photos/49115646@N04/
    Twitter: twitter.com/lotusmira

    Please visit this shop and have a look around.  Then come back and let us all know in the comments which item you would love either for yourself or as a gift for someone you know this holiday season.

    Until next time,

    I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    EB Friday Hotlist: It's Not Too Late to Advertise for the (Handmade) Holidays

    September and October came and went pretty quickly this year.  Lots of the handmade gift guides finish accepting submissions during those months, but that doesn't mean you're totally out of luck if you didn't already act.  I have a few ideas for my crafty but procrastinating readers to make a last minute effort to promote yourselves during the biggest shopping season of the year:

    If you've got something handmade, unique, and beautifully photographed, you can submit to the Handmade Gift Guide at any time for free.  If selected, your only "cost" is adding the Handmade Gift Guide button to your blog and promoting your feature - gee, shouldn't you want to do that anyway?  Go ahead and submit now and you just might have your item featured in time for the shopping season.

    Are you a member of an Etsy team?  Get your fellow members involved with Handmade Spark's Handmade Holiday Gift Guide.  Sure they've already featured tons of teams, but since they stated that there was no deadline for submissions, you should hurry up and talk to your team leader about this opportunity.   Don't wait - you don't know how many teams may already have posts lined up!

    Also, if you're a premium (paid) member on Zibbet, you can put the items of your choice into any of several gift guides.  The problem?  Customers can't actually view them yet.  When you click the front page graphic advertising the gift guides, it takes you to a "Coming Soon" page at the time of this post.  I have no idea why they already have a link up for a feature shoppers can't access with no apparent ETA, but hopefully they will post them ASAP.  And by ASAP, I'm hoping within the next week or it won't be worth much this season.  I don't recommend upgrading to access this feature because I don't know what it will look like or if it will even be ready in enough time to matter this year, but if you're already premium it costs nothing to add a few items.

    Some other ways to get noticed this holiday season include:
    • Submitting your craft project ideas to blogs and indie sites that are posting tutorial collections for Thanksgiving or one of the religious holidays this winter
    • Posting and promoting your own holiday gift guide on your blog or website
    • Guest blog for someone who is taking time off this holiday season and help keep their content interesting for readers
    • Consider investing in paid advertising on websites featuring holiday gift guides that are already full, because quite frankly, that's where the handmade-minded shoppers will be
    • Consider running a Black Friday or after-Christmas sale.  Participate in the sales promotion opportunities provided by your selling venues.
    Do you know of any other last minute places to submit your work this handmade holiday season?  Any suggestions for next year?  Let us know in the comments!

    Until next time,

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Weekly BEST: Buy Some Love


    This week I'm featuring some fellow legal professionals and jewelry artisans - a husband and wife team in or near Toronto, Ontario.  When I say that this is a team effort, I genuinely mean it - both partners have active involvement in the creative aspects of the business.  The husband contributes beaded necklaces to the shop and the wife adds her charm necklaces and earrings to the mix.

    The jewelry in this shop often features nautical and feminine, floral themes.  The use of color, pearls, charms, various metals, and a combination of simple, dainty designs alongside more complex, clustered jewelry give a variety of choices for every buyer.  As always, here is my selection of favorites from this shop:

    Turquoise and Ivory cluster with teardrop earring


    Now usually I only select 3-4 items from the featured shop, but there are some additional really cool items in this shop that I haven't seen before and to which I want to draw your attention.  Check out the unique selection of chalkboard jewelry from Buy Some Love by clicking on the image below:

    Chalkboard and Apple pendant necklace
    Real Chalkboard Jewelry $8.25 - $18.50
    Find Buy Some Love around the web at these locations:

    Shop: Buysomelove.ca
    Blog: raisingaking.blogspot.com
    Facebook: facebook.com/BuySomeLove

    Be sure to check out the shop to find out about their special, ongoing discount for loyal customers as well as the current selection of sale items.  After you do, please come back and share your favorite item(s) in the comments!

    Until next time,

    I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.