Monday, January 23, 2012

Handmade for the Holidays

I know that Christmas was a month ago, but I was impressed with news about how a lot of consumers chose to buy handmade items this year for gift giving. BusinessNewsDaily talked about the trend toward purchases of one-of-a-kind handmade gifts over the mass-produced gifts of the past. Etsy's CEO remarked that average sales per shop on Cyber Monday increased 11 percent.

This information is good to know as we launch into a new year of selling. I know that the items we make are unique and made with care in a way that can't be done in a factory. Whenever we sell in person, we are able to talk to our potential customers about what went into the creation of the piece, the inspiration, and more. I honestly believe that when customers buy from me in person, they are purchasing the background or story as well as the actual item.

One of my friends posted on Facebook that she was doing a "pay it forward" activity and would send a handmade item to the first five people to comment.  The only catch was that you had to do the same thing - post the pay it forward status and make something for five people. It didn't matter what the handmade item was - cookies, greeting card, jewelry, etc. My friend sent me a crocheted dish cloth and I am just finishing up some tatted hearts to send to my five people. I also decided to make one extra to send to the friend who connect me with this effort.  I encourage you to consider participating in this to keep handmade items in the spotlight.  Here is the text for your Facebook status:
Pay it forward 2012.... I promise to make something handmade for the first five people who comment. They must in turn post this and make something for the first five who comment on their status. *The rules are it has to be handmade by you, and they must receive it before 2012 ends.* Craft, cookies...who knows what you might receive..

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Inexpensive Help for Your Business

You can do it all yourself, right? Create products, photograph and list them online. market your products and your business, create logos/labels/packaging, etc....I didn't think so.

I recently stumbled across a website based on the concept of "What are you willing to do for $5?"  Fiverr allows you to search for the type of work you need done. You can also request your own specific "gig" and hope for someone to respond. You can sign up to offer your own services as well.

For only five dollars, it's not much of a risk. What can you get for your five dollars? Here are a few that I thought would be helpful for Etsy sellers:
  • Critique your Etsy shop
  • Create a banner for your Etsy shop
  • Tweet about your shop (some do this several times per day without end)
  • Edit your product photos
  • Design a logo for your business
  • Set up your blog
  • Record a video promoting your product/business
  • Create backlinks for your site
  • Review your product on my site
  • Write the name of your business on a sign, lips, fingernails, face....

There are some very entertaining things on there. You could get a video of somebody in a hot dog costume dancing for two minutes to the song of your choice or have someone do some of your computer programming homework. Like with any online purchase, you should read reviews from previous customers before committing to pay. I paid for someone to tweet two messages a day to her 32.000 Twitter followers every day, forever and ever. She had me send her the two different messages to tweet and the messages were sent within minutes. Those messages continue to be tweeted daily and I have seen an increase in visits to my shop and new Twitter followers.

Althout you can't expect an awesome logo or banner design for five dollars, this is an inexpensive way to get started. If you decide to sell your own services on Fiverr, you'll want to read this article that explains how much you actually make after fees. I'd love to hear from you if you decide to use Fiverr.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Improving How You Use Facebook

If you're selling on Etsy (or have a business of any kind), you need to have a Facebook page for your business. Originally, Facebook was set up more for individuals. It has adapted over the years and has what it calls "fan pages" that are great for businesses. They're also good for celebrities since they don't set a limit on how many people "like" you (yes, there are actual limits to how many "friends" you can have as a person on FB).

When I first set up a business Facebook page, I created it to support this blog. Sometimes I wonder if I should have a separate page for the Etsy shop. More work, but targeted to different audiences. The debate is still going on in my head for now.

Mashable had a great article about some of the metrics (statistics) that Facebook can provide you for your page. Knowing where your fans are coming from and how they are engaged with your information will help you not only to improve how you market your brand, but will also give you opportunities for keeping your biggest fans engaged with you.

Another great thing you can do with your Facebook page is to add a Welcome tab using an app called iFrames.  I'm working on the one for my Etsy Madness page, but you can take a look at the one I made earlier this month when I was working for Heritage School.

In looking at the statistics for my Etsy shop, I've seen that a lot of people are linking over from Facebook.  So many people comment on and share their favorite items that it really pays to be on Facebook.  I've been hearing a lot lately about how Pinterest is boosting traffic for Etsy shops.  I'm hoping to start on Pinterest, but the one drawback is that you have to receive an invitation to join. My request for an invitation put me on their waiting list, but I don't know how long it will take. 

What are your Facebook tips? And could someone please send me a Pinterest invitation....thanks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Without a Day Job

I'm a little shaken at the moment. Just as I was gearing myself up to be super positive and have a great year, my day job was eliminated. January 20, 2012, will live on in my memory as the day my job quit me.

Not having a full-time job provides me with more time for other things, but I really need to treat my job search as my new job. I've found that I actually thrive on being overly busy, so having my days less full is difficult. Getting myself organized and establishing a new schedule is going to be essential if I want to get anything done.

Today I found myself catching up on photographing and listing some of the items we've made recently but never managed to get into our Etsy shop. I also looked over some of the applications for upcoming farmers' markets and boutiques. Without a job to support me, it's even scarier to risk the money some of these places are asking from vendors.

As I move forward, I will still keep up on the blog. It's nice to have an audience out there and I hope you are all faring well in the new year.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Great Mailing App Helps You Keep Track

When I ended up with a last-minute order from a customer in Florida who needed the items to arrive in time for Christmas, I started checking the computer obsessively to see where the package was. I started wondering if there was a way to track packages from my iPhone....and yes, there was.

USPS Mobile (no, they're not paying me) has apps for the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry phones. You can scan the bar code or type in the tracking number and see where your packages are.  It also connects you to USPS resources, post office locations, order supplies, schedule pickups, and calculate shipping prices.

Thankfully, the package arrived in Florida in plenty of time to be wrapped and placed under the tree. This is such a time-saver for me since it connects so quickly and gives me my answers without having to hop all over the Internet. My iPhone has become my favorite business tool, using the USPS, Etsy, Square, and Paypal apps along with my email.  Are there other great apps out there that I've missed?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January Calendar - Better Late Than Never

At the end of 2011, I decided I wanted to create a tatting themed calendar page for each day this year. I had been using other people's calendar backgrounds as the wallpaper on my computer at work all year and wanted to do a tatting one to share with my fellow tatters and crafters.

January 2012 Tatting Calendar

Getting this first page done took longer than expected, so I hope you'll forgive me for being late.  I'll start working on future months sooner so I can keep up.  I designed it to fit a regular size sheet of printer paper (8.5" x 11") so it can be printed. My plan for using it is to have it be the wallpaper background for my laptop.  You can usually tell your computer to stretch it to fit. Clicking on the photo will take you to where I uploaded it on Flickr.

Since I didn't want to infringe on anyone's rights by using photos from online, I took photos of my own items. If you have photos of tatting that would be work for future months and you're willing to share them, let me know.

The background of this photo is a beautiful original painting by Gwen Montgomery. This painting hangs in my office and is a source of inspiration with its look of hope and new beginnings.

I've linked this up to Skip to My Lou's Made by You Monday and found that she has a printable calendar set for 2012 on her site.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Other People are Thinking Like Me

If you truly knew me, the title of this post might scare you a bit...

Seriously, though, it's always a little weird when you're cruising around the world wide web and you bump into ideas that you were sure nobody else but you would think of.  My dad once told me that there is no such thing as original music anymore. It's all been done and anything "new" now is simply an adaptation of other works. Perhaps this is true of the handmade world in some way.
earrings by KnotTherapy

With my talent for tatting and living in a Native American family, I'm always thinking of ways to combine the two worlds.  On a whim, I decided to do a search on Etsy for "tatted feather." Two of the results surprised me. They looked like things I had thought about making.

Tatting with real feathers attached? Dang...KnotTherapy did that!

necklace by FrogHoller
Tatted necklace with dangling metal feather charms? Frog Holler beat me to that one!

Maybe we're all tuned into the same inspirational feed from the universe..

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Bet You'd Love One of These

There are so many great contests online and sometimes they have amazing prizes. The Silhouette Cameo is one of the latest and greatest in the world of cutting machines. So many people want it that it's now on backorder.  I found a site where you can win a Silhouette Cameo:

Hop over there and enter. I'd wish you luck, but I want to win it, too.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sharing Talents

This Christmas, I participated in a tatted ornament exchange.It was set up through a tatters group on Facebook. Each of us was given the name and address of another tatter to send an ornament to. I received a red and white candy cane and silvery tree from Barbara. The organizer of the exchange also sent me a cute little tatted wreath.

The ornaments I tatted
For Nancy, I tatted an Asian style tree and tatted over a small glass ball ornament. We all posted photos on Facebook of the ornaments we received. It was fun to see the variety.

Exchanges like these not only develop friendships, they also expose us to the work of others. I find that it helps me to open my mind to new possibilities and to see the techniques of others.

Tatted ornaments from Barbara
As I took some time off from work, I had a chance to go through all my tatting patterns and supplies. I found an old envelope from an exchange done many years ago. It was organized in an online forum, but it was well before the days of social media communities. We exchanged stationery that had some tatted element. Each person in the exchange sent twelve items to the organizer and we received an envelope with a sample of each person's work. There were cards, postcards, and sheets of stationery. Some had simple tatted motifs and others were fancier.

I highly recommend finding ways to socialize with others who share your talents. There are Facebook pages and groups as well as bulletin board forums and blogs. Some Etsy teams focus on specific types of products as well. You might be amazed at the questions you can answer for each other in these groups and the resources and instruction that are shared.
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