Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ever Get Burned on a Gift Exchange?

 One of the fun things about blogging is getting to know people all over the country and even the world.  I was so excited when Survey Junkie and Simply Stacie decided to host a Secret Santa Gift Exchange.  We were supposed to send the person we were matched up with a gift or gifts with a total value of around $15 and get it in the mail by December 1st.  Time got away from me and I didn't get it into the mail until December 14th.  Fortunately, it got delivered before Christmas.

Because the gift idea suggested to me was home decor, the gift I chose to send was a candle jar with a design etched into the glass by my husband.  It's a simple Nativity scene design and kind of hard to photograph, but it looks pretty cool in person.  I liked being able to send something with a more personal touch to it.

Christmas has passed and I haven't heard anything from my partner in the gift exchange.  That's always the gamble, of course, when you participate in something like this.  It's a bummer, but I'm not going to let it keep me from trying a gift exchange in the future.  I've seen a lot of blog posts by different people in exchanges for gifts, ornaments, cards, tatting, etc., and it looks like they usually have a lot of fun.  Anyone else have interesting experiences with a gift exchange?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Surviving the Christmas Chaos

This month has been a crazy one for me.  I loved the musical our students at Heritage did, but it ate up my precious free time.  Because I had Etsy orders to ship and some local orders to fulfill, they had to take priority over blog posts.  Add in some Christmas gifts that I wanted to make instead of buy and I was quickly swamped.  I'm glad I kept up on reading some posts on my favorite blogs because I discovered the perfect gift for my husband there.  I bought him a remote controlled Bigfoot (the monster, not the truck).  Photos are still on my camera and ideas are still floating in my head and I hope to share them with you now that the chaos is over.  You may have noticed some of the new items in our Etsy shop.  My dear Cricut Man made some very unique Christmas cards that have been very popular at live selling events.

I'm hoping to get on a more regular posting schedule for the new year.  If there are particular subjects that you want me to post about, please let me know.  My goal is to help other Etsy sellers to survive the madness.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Time for Small Business Saturday

Saturday, November 27, 2010, is the first ever Small Business Saturday.  I found out about it through American Express' Small Business Saturday page.  They generously offered their American Express card members the opportunity to sign up with their cards and earn $25 credit back by making a qualified purchase from a small business (see their website for details).  American Express also teamed up with Facebook to offer $100 in advertising on Facebook to some of the small businesses who registered.  You can't imagine how excited I was to get an email letting me know that Native & Pilgrim was selected to receive free Facebook advertising! 

What's the big deal about supporting small businesses?  Small businesses are the life of a community.  All of us selling on Etsy are small business owners.  What happens when people buy from us or from a small, locally owned business with a physical storefront?  The majority of our money ends up being spent locally.  We use it to buy fun things, pay bills, or even hire employees.  We advertise locally and support local events.  The Small Business Saturday site gives some great information about how the majority of businesses are small businesses, that most new jobs are created by small businesses, and more than half of all private sector employees work at small businesses.  Want to give our struggling economy a boost?  The most important thing you can do is support those small businesses in your area and online.  What will you buy?

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm So Sorry! (Mostly)

I've been pretty absent from the blog lately and I'm sorry. At my day job (Heritage Schools, Inc.), I'm up against a serious deadline to get the playbill/program for "A Christmas Carol" done and we're still trying to work on getting tickets sold.  Until the production ends on December 13th, they need my help at rehearsals as well.  Add in a Thanksgiving holiday, bunches of family visiting from out of town, and a lack of access to a computer and I've become digitally invisible.  Since most of you were busy this week as well and I don't regret spending more time with family than with my computer, I'm not feeling too bad.

The biggest apology goes out to those who signed up for the Ornament Exchange.  I am just now getting the chance to send out the information.  Please hang in there with me.  I've emailed the information to the participants now and I hope you will be able to send your ornaments out by the end of the month so they arrive in time for Christmas.  Fortunately, all the participants were in the United States, so shipping will be a little faster.

Remember the powwow we had a table at?  We sold more than some of the other vendors because we offered something different than what people usually see at a powwow. My husband was happy talking to people and getting appreciated for his work.  He even walked away with some custom orders and several people looking to place orders for his new line of pop up Christmas cards as soon as he can get them listed online.  It feels like the hard work is beginning to pay off.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the Powwow Trail

Spiritual Leader Winston Mason teaches powwow volunteers
When our kids were younger, we used to go to a lot of powwows so they could dance.  They don't seem to have time for dancing anymore, so we only manage to get to a few powwows each year.  My favorite is the one at Utah Valley University (UVU).  It is the school my husband and I both got our degrees from and it is a powwow with a great community feel to it.

In case you're wondering what a powwow is, for Native Americans it is a social gathering of sorts that includes singing and dancing.  Some of them have dance competitions which are judged. There are a variety of dances for each category of dancer and social dances that allow people to chat and mingle.  Where we live in Utah, Boy Scouts is popular and they hold merit badge powwows - completely different type of event. People often get confused between the two.

At the UVU powwow, I am in charge of registration and tabulating.  I have developed my own program for adding up all the points and determining the winners and I have loved the challenge (except for the year when an electrical problem cleared out everything I had entered and I had to start over just 15 minutes before winners were to be announced). 

This year has been a bigger challenge since we also nave a table set up in the vendor area.  My husband is watching the table most of the time and it has made for a very different powwow experience for us.  It has been fun watching him chat with people and explain his creations.  Sales are the best we've had yet and this is what we've noticed about success in this area:
  • Talk to people as they walk by your table.  They are more likely to stop and look.
  • Talk to people as they look at your items.  It can be very intimidating to the customer if they feel like you are just silently watching them and waiting for you to buy. Make them feel welcome at your "store."
  • Don't be afraid to start showing off your items as the customer is looking. Some people are more likely to buy something if they know the story/history behind it, understand how it works, etc. Help them understand how much they need what you have for sale.
  • Be open to other options.  If they can't decide which of two items to buy, offer them a deal for both. Let them know about possible custom options you may be able to offer.

    Another interesting thing that sometimes happens at powwows is a giveaway.  In the Native American community, people are expected to give back when they have been honored or have a big event in their lives. The son of one of my dearest friends was chosen to be the Head Man at this powwow and  their family gave gifts to people who had helped their son achieve this honor. The gifts ranged from handmade items to blankets, gift baskets, and food items.  The gift I was given was a beaded buckskin doll with horse hair braids.  It was the most amazing gift I have ever received! The giveaway is one of my favorite traditions because it encourages generosity and gratitude.

      Thursday, November 18, 2010

      Tips From an International Seller

      Heather Leavers of Tenterden, Kent, England, has a business called Niftyknits. If you've wandered around Etsy, you've probably noticed one of her knitted meerkats on the front page or in someone's treasury from time to time.  Her Trekkie (Star Trek) meerkats are the ultimate in geek gifts.  She has online shops on Etsy, Folksy, and Zibbet.

      Heather's blog, So much yarn, so little time, had the most helpful post today.  She gave her tips for selling internationally and several of the things she listed were completely new to me.  Did you know that in the UK (England), jewelry is spelled "jewellery?"  Knowing something like that can help you use the right tags in your product descriptions so international shoppers can more easily find your items.  She also provided a link to calculators for translating USA sizes for clothing, shoes, and other items to sizes used for other countries. Getting advice from someone outside the United States has been very helpful.  Please visit her blog to read the rest of her tips and tricks.  She is also having a sale - 10% off all items in her Zibbet store.

      From my own experience, I have noticed sellers trying to remind each other about different holidays that affect mail delivery.  I have also seen several people have difficulties in sending international packages due to prohibited items or theft.  If you are sending an expensive item, it is worth it to purchase insurance.  My son sent a PSP to someone in the Ukraine who purchased it from him on eBay. The package made it to Ukraine, but was returned with a letter from customs saying the item was damaged. Packing materials were still inside the box (which had been opened with a knife), but not the PSP.  Someone posted in the Etsy forums about having several packages seized by customs when shipping to Australia and New Zealand.  After some discussion, she learned that it was because she was adding some sort of potpourri inside the package to keep it from smelling musty.  Those island countries are very strict about what they let into their borders, so they rejected the foreign plant matter.  A little bit of research can save you a lot of headaches.

      Socializing at Bloggy Boot Camp

      One of my favorite parts of being at Bloggy Boot Camp was getting to socialize and network with other bloggers. It goes beyond just matching names with faces. After a few minutes of talking, you may find you have a lot in common with the other bloggers.  We had a chance to socialize a little at lunch, but the biggest opportunity was after the conference was over (and the night before the conference...which I missed).
      Immediately after the conference ended, Tiffany of SITS Girls was mobbed by fans. Yes, I was one of them. It looks like we were all getting Bump-Its advice from Stephanie as well.  The Las Vegas area bloggers left for home, but many of the rest of us got together for dinner at various locations.  Although I'm extremely new to Twitter, using it kept me in touch with everyone so I knew which restaurant to join them at.

      It didn't take me long to find out that several of the ladies I was sharing the dinner table with lived fairly close to me.  I also discovered that many of them had been to a variety of blog conferences and had a lot of funny stories to share.

      After dinner, we indulged ourselves at Nielsen's Frozen Yogurt and had even more fun.  The bus load of high school students from out of town that showed up while we were there looked like they were wondering what was wrong with us.  Spending the extra time together has made it easier to remember these ladies better than the ones I only swapped business cards with. 

      I believe the networking will help our business as well.  It was nice to talk about the projects my husband and I have been working on and I had opportunities to encourage other women there to try their hand at opening an Etsy shop. When at an event like this, it's no time to be a wallflower.  People who know me now may have a hard time believing it, but I used to be pretty shy.  Even now, I have to fight the urge to just hang out in the back of the room.  At Bloggy Boot Camp, nobody knew what I would be like and I had the opportunity to push myself to talk to people and even hang out with the "cool girls."  

      Sunday, November 14, 2010

      A Sneak Peek at My Bloggy Boot Camp Experience

      Over the weekend, I attended Bloggy Boot Camp in St. George, Utah.  Since I couldn't get away until Saturday morning, I had to get an early start, leaving Provo at 4:00 a.m. (yes, it does exist).  My blood was about 95% caffeine by the time I reached St. George!  Staying awake didn't become a problem until after lunch, but I made it through the whole thing without a single head nod (I'm pretty sure I would have heard about it on Twitter if I did).  Even though there was fun and great conversations after the conference ended, I found out that the activities the night before (which I missed) were the best ones.  Next time, I'm showing up early!

      There were so many great experiences at this blog conference that I can't do it justice in just one post.  Attending events like this can be expensive, so I hope that my advice helps you gain something without the expense and helps you decided if a blog conference is right for you if you're interested in attending.  A lot of what I learned can be applied to doing business online, whether you blog or not.
      I loved that the very first presentation was about blogging etiquette and Twitter etiquette.  Although I was really intimidated about being in a room full of bloggers in the beginning, this presentation by Stephanie of The Daily Blarg and Kristina Pulsipher of Pulsipher Predilections had me laughing right away and feeling right at home.  I'll be sharing those tips with you, but you won't get to experience them the way I did with the highly unicorned fake blog examples and the most talk of Bump-Its and Snuggies that I have ever experienced.

      We had table assignments for the first half of the day to help us mingle.  There was a different table assignment for each presentation and for lunch.  That allowed us to exchange business cards, although the lack of time led to more of card exchange popcorn with business cards flying across the table here and there.  Sad moments were experienced by several bloggers who forgot to bring their cards, missing an opportunity to promote themselves.  I soon discovered that there were quite a few other bloggers there who were as new (or newer) to blogging than me and even some who were feeling more lost.

      I plan to also tell you about the wonderful sponsors for Bloggy Boot Camp.  The first to make an appearance was The UPS Store.  They had their new luggage boxes and they were filled with mystery swag (free stuff) that would be shipped to the homes of those who were selected.  It launched a Twitter frenzy as we all let the Twitterverse know how much we loved UPS Store and their support.  As one of the lucky winners, I can't wait to see what my package contains when it arrives on Tuesday.  As for the other sponsors, I will be talking about Diaper Buds, Seagate, and OpenSky in future posts.

      My advice in this first post:
      • Bring business cards! Also, make sure you bring enough business cards so you don't run out.
      • There's no need to be scared. Others have been where you are now and chances are pretty good that some in the room are just as scared as you are.
      • Fun and blogging definitely go together.  In fact, I learned that it's required to have fun while blogging.
      • Driving four hours to attend a conference so you don't have to pay for a hotel room leads to caffeine overload and difficulty making it through the conference without a nap.

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      Advertising Opportunities

      One of the things keeping me insanely busy right now is promoting the musical production of "A Christmas Carol" that our students are putting on in December.  I'm also in charge of producing the playbill/program for the show.  We don't do some simple photocopied program here.  It's more like a small magazine, with pictures of all the students in the show (usually 35-70 teens); information on the performing arts program, bios on the professional directors, choreographers, scenic artist, costumer, etc.; donor acknowledgment; and ads from individuals and businesses.  Time is running out and I'm trying to fill the remaining ad spots in the next week so I can get it to the printer in time.  Check out the information on advertising and let me know if you're interested.  I usually require businesses to design their own ad content, but I will be happy to design your ad for you (my treat) just because you're following my blog. 

      I'm an Official Twit!

      Call me crazy (I've been officially diagnosed), but I'm taking a last minute trip to a blog conference.  Bloggy Boot Camp is being held in St. George, Utah, on Saturday. This was something I had heard about earlier in the year and was determined to go to.  Unfortunately, job and financial situations in our household got in the way.  Just two days ago, a series of very fortunate (nearly miraculous) events happened to make attending Bloggy Boot Camp possible.

      You may have noticed that I have a link to Twitter on the blog now.  I had decided to give it a try and now I'm glad I did.  My less technologically advanced friends have now branded me a "Twit" for making this leap.  Learning the lingo and how it all works is definitely going to take some time, but I'm impressed at how quickly I was able to connect with people.  Not only was I able to get the Bloggy Boot Camp opportunity, but I found a carpool buddy on Twitter as well.  I have a feeling that I will be learning more about Twitter this weekend and I will try to pass along some advice.  My one warning so far is that it can be addicting (maybe even more than Facebook) to watch the messages coming in...

      If you're wondering what the big deal is about attending a blog conference, let me explain why I am so excited about this.  There are so many nuances to blogging and it's so much better if you can find some help and guidance.  Blog conferences have workshops with established bloggers and you can learn a lot more about the business of blogging and how to improve what you're doing.  There are also plenty of opportunities to network with other bloggers, make friends, and have fun.  As I follow other blogs, I notice that some of the more successful ones seem to have a group of other bloggers they cross promote with.  Each one helps the other by linking and referring people to the other blogs.  Some have more formal alliances and offer companies promotional opportunities that will be shown on all blogs in that group.  How will this help my business?  More traffic coming to this blog will make more people aware of Native and Pilgrim and hopefully result in more sales.  I'm a little nervous, but I think it will be a fun weekend.

      Wednesday, November 10, 2010

      You Have to Have More to Sell More

      Did I lose you with that one?  If you look around the forums on Etsy, you'll notice a lot of the advice about having a successful shop includes having more items for sale in your shop.  At first, that really didn't make sense to me.  What difference does it make how many items I have for sale?  How can I just keep making more stuff to sell when nothing's selling?

      Kim at Everything Etsy explained it in a way that made perfect sense.  (Make sure you read her post.)  Think of the last time you walked through a craft fair, show, boutique, or bazaar.  When you're walking past all the booths and tables, how much attention do you pay to the ones with only a few items for sale?  I know I tend to only give them a quick glance and move on.  Etsy is no different.  I began in January and didn't make a sale until June.  There was only one real sale that month (the rest were cheap Alchemy jobs to build my reputation).  Last month, I had seven sales.  Sales didn't start until I had more than a handful of items and they've picked up now that I have over 70 items for sale.

      It takes money to make money and you really do need to have more in your shop in order to sell more.  If you're just starting out, hang in there!  Keep working away and the rewards will come.

      Monday, November 8, 2010

      Plenty of Trial and Error

      Success takes a lot of trial and error, but sometimes all that error can get on your nerves.  Every once in a while, I take a stab at doing something creative with my tatting that isn't in the pattern I'm using.  My biggest errors seem to come when trying to come up with something on my own, without a pattern.  I was playing around with tatting this diamond shaped motif and knew immediately that they would make great earrings.  After making a pair, I thought I had a great idea - add some beads to the chains in the middle...
      Instead of 15 ds for the chain, I had 7 beads separated by a ds on each side.  It all seemed perfect in my head, but you can see that it is a ruffled, beaded mess in reality. Oh, well...

      On the other side of the living room, Cricut Man is experiencing his own trial and error coming up with some unique cards that we can sell at an upcoming Native American powwow (at Utah Valley University).  I didn't dare take pictures of the ones that didn't work out, but he finally made it work the way he wanted.  He's worried about people stealing our work, so I had to protect it in this picture.  He still amazes me with what he comes up with!
      handmade projects

      Sunday, November 7, 2010

      Is Your Etsy Shop Breaking the Law?

      Angie at the Work at Home Wife recently had a post about home based business regulations and it made me remember what my concerns were a couple of months ago.  When does your Etsy shop turn from a fun little hobby into a real business?  The government definitely doesn't mess around when it comes to regulations for businesses.  My local newspaper had a story earlier this year about an Etsy seller who was reported to police for not delivering on sales and she ended up facing charges for fraud as well as for doing business without a license.

      I was feeling pretty overwhelmed about setting up an actual business.  One of the reasons I enjoy working for other people is that I don't have to worry about the paperwork and regulations.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a fairly easy process for me to complete since I have a small business and no employees.  The State of Utah allows you to complete the process of creating your business and getting the appropriate licenses and tax numbers online.  Then you have to complete the process of licensing your business in the city where you are established.  Since the city I live in has offices open only four days a week, I still haven't managed to turn in my paperwork there.

      You'd be amazed at the resources out there for small businesses.  SCORE is a nonprofit organization that provides counseling for small businesses.  They have a ton of great resources online and have offices all over the country.  A lot of colleges and universities have classes and groups that can be helpful and some of the major banks have small business counseling as well.  In Utah, Zion's Bank has a Business Resource Center.  Etsy's blog sometimes has articles about doing business.  Their most recent was this one about sales tax.  Talking to other sellers online is another great way to get advice. If you haven't set up your business legally, you'll want to at least do some reading so you don't end up on the wrong side of the law.

      Friday, November 5, 2010

      Blogger Appreciation Day

      I found this on Simply Stacie's blog and though it would be a great idea to recognize those blogs who are helping my little blog to grow. 

      Blogger Appreciation Day is a monthly meme where you list the blogs that gave you the most traffic for the previous month.
      Here’s how to join in:
      1. Go into your tracking service (ie. Google Analytics) and set the time period for October 1 to October 31.
      2. Find the sites that have referred readers to you and put them in order from most sends to lowest.
      3. Write a post (like this one) listing your top 10 referrers.
      4. Link that post at 3 Boys and a Dog (linky posted around the 5th of the month).
      5. Grab the Blogger Appreciation Day picture and add it to your site.
      So here’s the list of the top blogs that referred me the most traffic for the month of October:

      Let's Have An Ornament Exchange

      One of the things I love about holidays is family traditions.  For Halloween, my mom used to make homemade donuts and hot apple cider for when we were done trick or treating.  Thanksgiving is coming soon and there are certain foods (like my mom's water chestnut and mushroom stuffing) that HAVE to be on the dinner table.  Christmas is pretty much the ultimate holiday for our little family and I love the traditions we have established. 

      Years ago, my sister used to send us a handmade ornament every year for Christmas.  Each one was different and several of them were personalized.  I looked forward to getting those ornaments more than any present she sent with it.  My kids can tell you that I'm the only one allowed to put those particular ornaments on the tree.

      I was thinking that it would be really fun to put together an ornament exchange with anyone who wants to play along. Cookie exchanges always seemed like fun, but I'm a lousy cook.  Trading ornaments seems much more fun.  This is how it works:
      • Fill out the form below in order to participate. (Information from this form will not be given or sold to others and I will not be bugging you other than to send you information about the exchange)
      • You need to enter by November 19.
      • Ornaments need to be mailed by November 25.
      • I hate to set any sort of dollar amount guideline for this.  Let's try to keep it handmade, if possible. 
      • Include a note with your ornament to tell the recipient how you made it, why you chose it, what it means, etc.
      • If you do a blog post on the ornament(s) you send and/or receive, please send me a link so we all can see it.  I'll try to learn how to do that Linky thing by then...
      Ready to sign up?  Here you go...

      Wednesday, November 3, 2010

      Did You Notice My Blog Went On A Diet?

      Since I first started this blog, it got a little chubby.  I didn't want to hold back on cool stuff I found, but things were getting so busy on the sidebar with links and buttons and gadgets and widgets.....  Time to put this blog on a diet!!

      I've spent weeks searching for the best "diet aids."  Here is what I found:
      • My absolute favorite is the scrolling blog buttonsSmart & Trendy Moms had the code for that one.  I'm glad I will now be able to add my favorite blog buttons and not hold back because of concerns on how cluttered my blog might get.  I think people will notice them more now that they scroll. One tip I will give you on this is to paste the code in Notepad so you can work on adding in all the blog buttons and adjust the size of the scroll box.  Don't use Word for this (or any other html projects)!  Word adds in a lot of other code that you don't see and Blogger will refuse to save it with those extra codes in there. 

      Is Etsy For Me?

      Whether you want to work at a hobby level or work towards quitting your day job, Etsy is a pretty good fit for most people with something to sell.  What you sell must be handmade, vintage, or supplies, but that covers a lot.  Some people I meet are intimidated at the thought of selling online.  Here is what they are concerned about and my answer to those concerns:
      • I don't want to have to handle payments or get burned by someone who doesn't pay me or bounces their check.  Fortunately, the primary payment method on Etsy is through Paypal.  Paypal processes the payments for you, keeping you safe from bounced checks and providing security for the buyer's credit card or bank information.  Your customer doesn't even have to create a Paypal account unless they want to.  Both Etsy and Paypal have policies in place to protect both buyers and sellers from fraud.  Paypal takes a percentage of the money you are getting, but its comparable to what you would pay to do credit card processing on your own.  
      • I don't make enough stuff to sell.  You only need to list what you have or what you are willing to make if someone orders it.  Your shop will do better with more items, but you can do what's comfortable for you.  Some shops even sit empty for periods of time.

      Tuesday, November 2, 2010

      What's an Etsy and Is It Contagious?

      The more excited I get about my little Etsy business, the more I run into people who wonder what language I'm speaking.  Mention Etsy and you will either get a smile and a comment about how addicting it is to shop there or a blank look and a question about what an Etsy is.  Here is the official description of Etsy:
      • Etsy is the world's most vibrant handmade marketplace. We connect consumers with independent creators and designers to find the very best in handmade goods, while providing these artists with the technology and information they need to start and grow their own businesses.
      • Etsy is a community that actively supports one another in the shared goal of offering alternatives to mass-produced objects. We work to highlight the true value of handmade goods and their creators and encourage awareness of the social and environmental implications of production and consumption.
      • We created Etsy to reconnect producer and consumer, and swing the pendulum back to a time when we bought our bread from the baker, food from the farmer, and shoes from the cobbler.
      Etsy is basically like an online version of an arts and crafts fair/boutique/bazaar with a vintage shop and places to buy supplies added in. A look at today's front page on Etsy will give you an idea of the amazing/weird diversity there.  An ornate paper crown, paper sculptures, placecards, and more, all with a paper theme.  By the time you see this post, the front page will have changed, but there is always an interesting assortment there.

      Sunday, October 31, 2010

      Happy Halloween - a day for memories!

      This is my first Halloween with both of my children all grown up.  I found myself thinking back on all those years when I was scrambling to put together costumes and the changes from when I was a little girl to how Halloween is done now.

      The first picture is the only Halloween one I have from my childhood.  I used to tease my sister about the fact that I got to be an angel and she was a clown.  Back then, we waited until it got dark and then collected candy door to door until we just couldn't walk anymore.  Homemade treats were very common until I was a teenager and the razor blade in the apples stories scared everyone.

      Wednesday, October 27, 2010

      Have You Noticed the Changes at Etsy?

      Etsy has been doing some fine tuning lately.  Fortunately, they don't make big changes as often as Facebook and Etsy does seem to try harder to listen to its members.  Some changes are minor while others help with shop appearances.

      Free Stickers for Your Packages

      I love it when people share with their fellow Etsians!  Over on the blog Apples of My Eyes, they are celebrating their 150th blog post by sharing a free download of hand drawn labels that are perfect for putting on your packages for customers.  They are accented with Etsy's signature orange color. 

      Tuesday, October 26, 2010

      Reasons to Be Happy

      Pay It ForwardFor those of you who read my last post (Pay It Forward), I'm happy to report that all that positive energy sent towards Ellen (Jemyl), made a huge difference.  I noticed that a lot of her jewelry sold and she had this to say on her blog today: 

      Well, I am so grateful for the jewelry sales and all the good words and donations that wonderful people have given, ordered and posted. Y'all have no idea how much your expressions of support mean to me and how y'all have touched my heart. Tonight I was able to catch up my Lions club dues. Yesterday I initiated a transfer from my PayPal account to my bank enough money to be able to catch up my mortgage, i.e. bring it current, and get a good start on the home insurance. I still can't fix the garage roof or afford a homeowners' type policy. That is way, way above my means this year. It also looks like I might just be able to buy a bed control so that I can move the position of my bed at long last.

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      Pay It Forward

      One of my favorite movies is "Pay It Forward." The concept of doing something nice for someone and then they do something nice and so on is like being able to watch miracles happen. There's a television commercial that shows this concept. Each person that sees a good deed happen is inspired to do a good deed of their own and it keeps the good karma going. With the economy being the way it is right now and all the other problems happening in my life, it's very humbling to know that it could always be worse and that there are people out there who are struggling even more.

      I subscribe to a blog called Kind Over Matter that I find inspirational.  Today they had a post about someone in desperate need of support.  They were participating in "dropping a LOVE BOMB" on this person by leaving supportive comments on her blog.  I noticed that she has a website to sell jewelry to help pay her bills.  Her medical condition is preventing her from working outside the home and she may be about to lose her home, so I want to help her by at least having everyone take a look at her site.  If you're inclined to buy, please do so.  Her prices seem very reasonable.  Let the Good Karma roll!!

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      Need Someone to Talk to?

      Etsy Exposed: 50 Ways to Start Making More Etsy Sales Than You Can Handle: Tips and Tricks for Selling on Etsy.comGetting started on Etsy is challenging and somewhat lonely.  If you're sitting there, staring at your computer screen and wondering what to do next, this post is definitely for you.  People tell me that I'm unusual because I just kind of jump right in and try stuff.  Part of why I can do that is that I love research.  I am a total information junkie and will search until I find the answers I need.

      Where do you turn for help if you aren't such an information junkie?  I think the best resource is to talk to other Etsians (Etsy sellers).  Etsy has a community section with forums for bulletin board type posts, but I find myself lost there in a sea of people with nothing better to do and people who only want to promote their shops.  A new online community has been created for Etsy sellers called Etsypreneur.  They bill themselves as "an uplifting and helpful community of Etsy sellers."   After spending some time there, I have to agree.  Groups have been created for different kinds of handicrafts as well as different types of needs.  One that I really like is the "Website and Blog Techy Stuff" group.  You can post any technical question and not feel stupid at all.  People jump in to answer your questions or at least point you toward helpful resources.  I like having people actually answer and you can even create new groups if you feel there's a need.  Don't suffer in silence.  Join the Etsypreneur community and have someone to talk to.

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      Winner of My Birthday Giveaway

      I had fun with this giveaway.  It gave me a chance to meet some new people and I've received some wonderful comments on the blog and from visitors to my Etsy shop. Thank you to all of you for stopping by and supporting me.  There was more response to this giveaway than to my first one.  I'm not sure what you thought about my use of a Google form for the entries instead of the "leave a comment" system, but I liked it.  Please let me know if you prefer this way of entering or if you missed being able to see all the other contest entries.  All feedback is welcome.

      And the winner is...
      I have emailed Jessica and she has 72 hours to respond.  She chose the scrapbooking package.

      Sunday, October 17, 2010

      One Great Way to Add Drama to Your Product Photos

      The struggle with product photography continues, but I stumbled across a great photo editing tip that I love.  (Unfortunately, I can't find the original article I read about it to give them credit.

      The best way to tell you about it is to show you.  First, take a look at the picture of a necklace from my shop.  Amazingly enough, it sold quickly (yippee!), but I've listed another one in the shop using photos edited my new favorite way.  Color pictures are absolutely the best way to go when listing your products.  You want to give the customer an idea of the vibrancy and color of your products.  Depending on your background, your item could get lost in the photo.  It's kind of like those ads you see on TV where you can't figure out what they're selling.  You think they're selling clothes, but it turns out to be perfume...

      The trick I learned was to turn the background of the photo to black and white so only the product is in color.  The background remains interesting, but your product really pops!  Even if you're shooting against objects that are black or white, it makes a significant difference.  In the back of each of these photos is a white sheet.  The color photo gives a warm color to the white sheet.

      Saturday, October 16, 2010

      What is Your Workspace Like?

      I follow a blog called Paper n Stitch that has a feature called "Workspace Wednesday" where she shows off pictures of different work spaces she finds.  Most of the time, I'm jealous of those pictures.  I live in a 1200 sq. ft. house that's over 100 years old, has no storage, and is not roomy at all.  My workspace for blogging and all computer related stuff is a cluttered desk in the corner of our little living room.  When I want to work on my tatting or other creations, I walk about 4 feet from the computer desk to the couch and use a TV tray to hold my supplies.  To use the Cricut, I use the kitchen table.

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      Exciting Day and Learning From Others

      This has been an exciting day for me.  I love the guest post that Angie did for me and Anna of Classy Career Girl invited me to do a guest post for her blog.  Classy Career Girl has a lot of great career information and advice for women like "Does your resume stand out?" "Companies and tuition reimbursement" "Finding time to work out" and "Salary negotiation tips."  I shared my experiences with going back to college for my business degree while continuing to work full time and trying to keep up with my teenage kids.  If you want to know more about me or see me in my cap and gown, go over to Classy Career Girl to check it out.  I've learned a lot from meeting these other bloggers and I hope you will, too.

      My most exciting moment for today was a really personal one.  My "little" brother (he towers over me) returned today from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Six months of constantly worrying about him (and being frustrated with the skewed way the media reports about the war over there) was finally over.  Until you have someone close to you go off to serve in a war zone, you just can't comprehend these feelings.  Watching his kids (ages 5 and 7) run at full speed to hug him and his wife tearfully embracing him was one of the best moments in my life.  His kids would not let go of him for even a second for the longest time.  I've had some personal frustrations lately and I really needed a wonderful day like this!

      Guest Blogger: Developing an Online Marketing Strategy

      I have been participating in The SITS Girls "How to Successfully Network With Your Tribe" activities.  We started by being placed into Tribes that fit our blogging niche and then launched into daily activities designed to help build a network of other bloggers we could go to for help, advice, support, and more.  Earlier this week, we coordinated with the other girls in our tribe to do a guest blog post.  I'm honored to have the most organized and helpful business blogger of the group doing a guest post for me today:

      Angie Nelson is a Virtual Assistant and Freelance Writer. You are invited to visit her blog, The Work at Home Wife, for more Internet Marketing Tactics.


      The last few years, you may have noticed a shift in how we market our businesses. Even offline businesses have joined us in the online world. These changes have taken us from the previous paid advertising spots, to these free opportunities we call online networking or social marketing. As bloggers or business owner’s we can all reap the rewards. However, you may find yourself confused as to the best online marketing strategy.

      How am I Supposed to Keep Up?

      For those of you who think I manage to juggle everything, I guess I have you fooled a bit.  Working full time and then finding time to keep up with my Etsy shop and this blog without neglecting my hard!  The number of blogs I am subscribed to just keeps multiplying and I have to do some major speed reading to get through all the posts.  My projects to make things for the shop have to be postponed to weekends.

      One thing that has come out of being this busy is that the hubby is taking more of an interest in how all the marketing and social networking stuff works.  It's kind of fun sharing what I've learned with him and showing him all the great ideas I stumble across.

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